Center for Public Policy part two: How will Obama govern?
Some Democrats might be disappointed by what they see the first six months of Barack Obama’s presidency, predicted former South Carolina governor and Obama campaign national co-chair Jim Hodges.
Hodges was the keynote speaker at the Park City Center for Public Policy post-election forum Nov. 17 and 18 at The Canyons.
Hodges predicted Monday the new president will prioritize the needs of the country over partisanship.
For one, he doesn’t expect Obama will read his victory as a mandate for liberal reform.
"The message of this is not that the country moved dramatically to the left," he said.
Obama’s victory resulted from a good campaign, voters’ dissatisfaction with the economy and anger with the current administration, but the election results still show a highly divided country. If Congress attempts to begin making liberal reforms, it will run into problems, Hodges predicted.
Another issue is how the Democratic majority in Congress will treat the Republicans. Hodges said he hears privately people say it’s time to "stick-it" to the Republicans the way they did to Democrats during the Bush years. But he thinks Obama’s Cabinet needs to reflect the diversity of the country and that the Senate Democrats should be cautious in taking advantage of their majority.
He also thinks Obama’s Cabinet picks are going to be about quality instead of party loyalty, which will offend many people who worked hard to get him elected.
With the economy being Obama’s top issue to address, Hodges said he won’t be surprised if Obama strays from his campaign rhetoric if he thinks a different approach will work better. Once that’s under control, however, he expects to see the new president look at reforming health care, education and the Middle East.
Hodges has confidence in Obama because of the way he ran his campaign.
In the early days, analysts questioned whether Obama would be able to siphon enough of the black vote away from Hillary Clinton. Blacks have historically been poor supporters of black candidates out of fear of throwing their vote away.
On top of that, Clinton’s campaign knew they’d need to knock the charismatic Obama out early to secure the nomination and avoid a schism in the party. His tremendous success in the primary in North Carolina showed that Obama would not be out early and would get black support.
"The primaries toughened him up," he said. "Like a business, if a campaign is filled with unified, happy people, you’re going to win."
Hodges said Obama used his resources well and was smart about preserving a small core of trusted advisers who stayed unified and could make decisions quickly. He also said the campaign was advanced in its use of technology to raise money and draw crowds quickly for rallies.
Hodges said these successes are indicative of how Obama will govern as president.
Ironically, Obama probably benefited from serving only one term in the Senate, he said. Senators tend to seek consensus on everything before making a decision and usually prefer patience over quick decision making. That’s why governors tend to win presidential elections over senators.
Hodges said Clinton will make a good secretary of state and foresees an important role for her in the administration. If not for the appointment, she might have been stuck a junior senator for a long time. He also predicts Sen. John McCain to seek a role. He’s too old to run for president again, and he’s never cared much about partisanship. Hodges said he’ll seek to work with Obama in passing legislation important to him.
Hodges said the West is becoming exciting because increased numbers of Latinos in key counties are tending to swing elections to Democrats. Although he expects Utah to stay a Republican stronghold, he said future elections will be hard to predict as Latino populations continue to move and grow.
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