Political analyst and Democratic pollster Doug Schoen tells Newsmax that while Mitt Romney is currently the strongest Republican challenger to President Obama, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is the candidate the Democrats fear the most.
Schoen also asserts that Democrats are engaging in “scare tactics” in attacking Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare overhaul proposal while offering no plan of their own, and says Republicans should offer a “less draconian” alternative to the Ryan plan.
Schoen served as an adviser during President Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign. He is a Fox News analyst and co-author, along with pollster Scott Rasmussen, of the book “Mad As Hell: How the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System.”
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Schoen was asked which GOP candidate would have the best chance of defeating President Obama in 2012.
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“Right now I think it’s Mitt Romney,” Schoen responds.
“He’s got name recognition, he’s got money, and he is a former businessman who has the ability to run on the economy. He does have the liability of having proposed a forerunner of Obamacare.
“But at this point I’d say Mitt Romney would be the toughest candidate for President Obama to beat.”
As for the potential candidate the Democrats fear the most, Schoen opines: “I think Democrats fear someone who’s not in the race, like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
“The American people are looking for fresh faces and if somebody like Chris Christie got into the race, I think there is a real chance that there could be a boomlet of excitement that could catapult him pretty quickly to the top of the polls.”
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was the top pick for president among Republicans and independents in a CNN poll released last week. Explaining the results, Schoen says: “That’s name recognition and dissatisfaction with the Republican field.
“I said Mitt Romney is the front-runner, but I didn’t say he’s enthusiastically embraced by the Republican base. He isn’t. Rudy Giuliani is remembered well for his work in New York City, fighting terrorism, helping the city recover after 9-11. There is a clear sense that he is somebody who could and should be heard from.
“The problem he has is he is perceived as too much of a centrist for an increasingly conservative Republican primary electorate.”
Schoen tells Newsmax that the Democrats’ efforts to vilify Rep. Ryan’s Medicare reform plan is a “winning strategy,” noting that a Democratic House candidate won a special election in a traditionally Republican New York district last week by focusing largely on that issue.
“They did win substantially and it was all because of Medicare. They are engaging in scare tactics. They don’t have an alternative set of policies.
“But bottom line, it’s a lot better to win than to lose in politics, and last week the Democrats won and the Republicans lost.”
He adds that the results of that election show that “people are angry and scared” about the perceived threat to Medicare.
Referring to an anti-Ryan plan TV commercial showing a grandmother in a wheelchair being dumped off a cliff, Schoen declares: “It’s probably fair game if it works, dirty pool if it doesn’t.
“But in this case both sides have engaged in extreme rhetoric. I don’t think it helps the system, but Democrats would argue it is a visual representation of what the Republicans have done with the Ryan plan. And while I don’t think it’s necessarily constructive in the broader sense of the word, in the more narrow sense it’s been effective.”
Schoen says Republicans should not stand staunchly behind the Ryan plan as it is now formulated.
“You can always revise a plan. You can always clarify a plan. I think the Republicans would do well to take the Ryan plan, go back to the drawing board, and see if they can come up with something that is a little less draconian and offer something less than the complete replacement of Medicare with a voucher system.”
Schoen also says that while President Obama has won ratings approval for the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, he remains vulnerable on the economy.
“The economy is a real drag on the president’s performance. So far he’s benefitted from the fact that there is positive economic growth, however tepid, and interest rates have stayed low.
“But if interest rates went up and gas prices continued to go up, I think we could see that this election, which is a tight one now, could get tighter still.”
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