Charlie Cook, one of the most respected political experts in the country, believes Hillary Clinton has only a 25-30 percent chance of not running for President. Despite Clinton’s “disastrous book tour,” and other missteps, Cook still believes chances are still great that Clinton will run.
The author of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report newsletter for almost 30 years also disappointed a local audience when he did not give Jeb Bush much of a chance of gaining the Republican nomination.
“Bush has two issues working against him to win the Republican primary for the 2016 presidential election,” Cook said. “One is immigration reform, which he favors; and two, is his advocacy of education reform.”
Neither of those causes would sit well with Republican primary voters, Cook said.
He expects the next Republican nominee to be either a tea party Senator or a governor from the Midwest. He wouldn’t predict beyond that.
Cook spoke at a recent private event, which I attended. He told me beforehand that all was on the record, unless he stipulated otherwise, which he did only once. He led off his speech with remarks about Kansas and Missouri politics.
The key to Pat Roberts winning re-election, Cook said, was when they brought in the big-league professionals to take over the incumbent’s floundering campaign.
“The key was Roberts getting out the message that his opponent, independent Greg Orman, would vote with Obama and Reid,” Cook said.
The last polls ran before the election indicated a tie. That suggests independents all moved in one direction — to the Republicans, said Cook.
As for Missouri, Cook echoed what many are predicting, which is that U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill will run for Missouri governor.
As to the future of the major political parties, Cook identified challenges for each.
“Republicans face demographic changes,” he said. He pointed out that Mitt Romney garnered 59 percent of the white vote, and no candidate who had carried whites by that kind of margin had ever lost before. The non-white vote clearly made the difference.
Republicans also face a challenge with younger voters. While they don’t think government is very effective — they grew up with Hurricane Katrina — they tend to be socially tolerant, and this is a “deal-breaker” for many who might otherwise have voted Republican.
Democrats face their own challenges, particularly in midterm elections.
“Democratic turnout was in the toilet,” said Cook.
Also he said, “Democrats tended to dwell on women’s reproductive rights, which for many women came across as condescending.”
But the key for the Republican “tsunami” — or whatever you want to call it — was the referendum on President Barack Obama.
Obama’s disapproval ratings were in the mid-50’s, Cook said. He was “underwater.”
Cook explained why Obama was so unpopular.
First, Cook said, the president spent his first 18 months in office passing the Affordable Care Act, while most Americans wanted to focus on the economy.
Then, when the economy recovered, the people did not give credit to Obama, presumably because they perceived him as only interested in health care.
Cook said there is great anxiety that foreign policy is spinning out of control, and Obama is not on top of the situation.
He pointed out that Obama has no best friend on Capitol Hill, and relies on the advice of just three or four individuals who are close to him. Cook said Obama is aloof and disengaged.
Now that we have a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, what can we expect?
“The new Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is just as mean-spirited as the outgoing Majority Leader Harry Reid,” said Cook.
I can hardly wait to see how that plays out.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this column misstated Charile Cook's prediction about Hillary Clinton's chances to run for president.
To reach Steve Rose, longtime Johnson County columnist, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.