Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is almost certain to be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016, according to political strategist James Carville.
Her chances of winning are “no worse than 50-50,” said Carville who was keynote speaker on the opening day of the sixth annual International Business Conference at Saint Leo University. This year’s conference theme was “Best Practices in Global Organizations.”
Before an audience of about 200 people, Carville entertained with funny anecdotes and blunt remarks on the dysfunctions of national politics.
The ‘ragin Cajun,” as he is sometimes called, was the Democratic strategist who led Bill Clinton’s successful presidential campaign in 1992, popularizing the slogan – “It’s the economy, stupid.” Clinton defeated incumbent President George H.W. Bush who, months before the election and in the aftermath of the first Gulf War, enjoyed more than 91 percent popularity in polls.
“I think (Hillary) has a good chance,” he said. “But running for president is enormously difficult.”
She will have to show how she is “substantively and stylistically” different from President Obama. “Whatever you may think of Obama, people are kind of looking for something different. They always are,” Carville said.
And the Republican candidate will be?
“I give (Chris) Christie no chance,” he said. “I give Jeb (Bush) less of a chance than most handicappers…and Ted Cruz a little more of a chance.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney recently backed away from a third presidential run. But Romney is waiting and watching, Carville said.
“I think Mitt is doing his knitting on the sideline. If anybody is looking for Jeb Bush to lose in New Hampshire, he is.”
Carville tagged Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as a must-win candidate in Iowa, or he will be out of the race. But like Romney, he also is counting on a Bush loss in New Hampshire’s primary.
Carville was a counterpoint to conservative pundit Tucker Carlson, who was last year’s keynote speaker at the business conference.
“It’s great for students,” said Frank Orlando, political science instructor at the university. “I want kids to pay attention to different issues. It’s important to know them.”
Emily Mincey, 21, a junior majoring in history, is focused on a career as a political strategist.
“Politics is where I want to go,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to know what was going on. I want to look for candidates who are smart. We can’t function without good politicians.”
Mincey said she doesn’t agree with Carville on every issue, but he is an example of how to be successful in politics.
Dade City resident Lex Smith also doesn’t always agree with Carville. But he said, “I always respect his opinions. I always enjoy hearing what he has to say.”
Carville’s remarks were provocative and snappy.
The country is divided, he said, with Democrats clustered in cities and Republicans in rural communities. A check of the election map in Pennsylvania in 2012 is a stark picture of the political landscape, he said.
President Obama carried the state by 5 percent of the total vote. But within 18 Congressional districts, he carried only five. It is an example of why Democrats are better positioned to win presidential elections and Republicans Congressional elections.
“Because of clusters, we don’t interact in the way we used to do,” Carville said. “Everyone is comfortable with their own coalition.”
Florida will be ground zero for Republicans in the presidential election because the state has 29 of the 270 electoral votes needed to capture the White House. “If you win Florida, you bust the numbers,” he said. “You cannot draw a map that Republicans can ever win the presidency without Florida.”
Democrats, however, can pursue strategies in swing states, such as New Hampshire, Virginia and Ohio, to create a path to win, he added.
Carville credited boxer Mike Tyson with inadvertently making the smartest comment ever about politics when Tyson said “Everybody’s got a plan until they get hit in the mouth.”
Anyone who runs for president will get hit in the mouth a lot, Carville said.
On Hillary Clinton, he said there is an understanding among Democrats that it is her turn to run for president. That is why Sen. Elizabeth Warren won’t get into the race, Carville said.
President Obama is a different kind of politician. “Most of them are in politics because they like people,” Carville said. “It’s kind of odd for someone to be in politics to not be as concerned with what people think about them as he does. It’s like being a banker and you don’t like money.”
In recent years Carville, 70, has taught political science at Tulane University in New Orleans and consulted for candidates in international elections. He is a friend of the Clintons, but said he has no plans to take on another national campaign. “I don’t want to be in centerfield with fly balls hitting me in the head,” he said.
Still, Carville said he went into politics knowing it was a contact sport.
“Didn’t nobody have more fun doing what he did than James Carville,” he said.
Published February 25, 2015