John Heilemann (Medill ’87) makes no room for fatigue in his schedule. After nonstop coverage of the presidential campaign, the MSNBC political analyst, author and New York Magazine political journalist spoke and took questions Friday about the 2012 presidential campaign as part of Medill’s Crain Lecture series.
He started by discussing Obama’s personality.
“I’m not sure anyone in the world has been hugged by Barack Obama,” he said. “Michelle, Sasha, Malia: They're in the bubble maybe once a month.”
Heilemann noted that Obama’s indifference to politicking distinguished him from his more extroverted predecessors. When his talk turned towards the subject of the election, he outlined a potential road to a Republican victory.
“If there had been a really skilled, really visionary, proactive, accomplished Republican candidate who connected well with people, had a positive agenda for how to take the country forward and was a solid, B+ political performer, the Republicans would’ve won the election ... but they selected Mitt Romney,” he said.
The Democratic Party’s operation was historically good this year, Heilemann said, adding that it will “blow political science conventions apart.” For example, they increased the black vote in Ohio by 35 percent, finding people that, in Heilemann’s words, “other people didn’t even know existed.”
He then finished the speech with a look at what President Obama might accomplish in his second term. Heilemann suggested that Obama will seek to pass comprehensive immigration reform and climate change legislation. But first, he will seek a compromise with Republicans over the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and automatic military sequestration, more commonly referred to as the fiscal cliff. He thought the probability of a deal getting done was very high.
In the Q&A session, he considered possible 2016 presidential candidates. For the Republicans: Jeb Bush. For the Democrats, he thought Hillary Clinton is “by far the most likely Democratic nominee, and by for the most likely next President of the United States.”
Heilemann also answered questions about the changing nature of political coverage. In each of the six presidential campaigns he has covered, “there has been some new media paradigm shift, where it really changed the way campaigns conduct themselves and how the media covers them,” he said.
Heilemann lamented the increasing distance between the media and the candidate.
“There’s an interrelated thing about the press where if you go back and read campaign accounts, the reporters that covered the campaign spent a lot of time with the candidates," he said. "There was a lot of trust which allowed them to get to know the candidates better.”
When asked about advice Heilemann would give to aspiring journalists today, his answer was simple: Don’t settle for just blogging.
“You want to write about the guy who writes about the guy who writes on TMZ,” he said. “Really?”