Ken Strasma, recognizable to many 538 readers as Barack Obama’s national targeting director in 2008, is the first participant in a new series of interviews we will be conducting with consultants and experts from the field of campaigns and elections.
In this interview, Strasma describes the voter targeting approaches of the 2008 Obama campaign, explains why he thinks Montana is the top target for Obama to flip in 2012, calls Newt Gingrich an unconventional and thus potentially tough 2012 Republican nominee, and predicts that Virginia Sen. Craigh Deeds will win his state’s Democratic gubernatorial primary tomorrow.
Which Republican of the potential field of names presently under discussion-Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Haley Barbour-do you think would present the biggest obstacle to Obama in 2012?
I would love to see Sarah Palin as the Republican nominee if only for the entertainment value. In terms of who I think would be the strongest opponent, that depends on what type of environment we’re facing. If the economy is still in dire straits, and voters blame Obama, than I would worry about facing Romney. He is an inoffensive, reasonable-appearing candidate, especially compared to some of the other candidates competing for the support of the right-wing of the Republican Party.
However, I expect that the economy will begin to recover, and that Obama will continue to be a popular and successful president. In that case, the Republicans will not win by nominating an inoffensive candidate like Romney. In those circumstances, Newt Gingrich is the candidate who worries me the most. Gingrich has new and unusual ideas. While those ideas are usually dead wrong, and often quite scary, he is something different. You don’t defeat a popular incumbent with a conventional politician, so an unusual choice like Gingrich would be what would worry me the most.