On February 23, the New Hampshire Institute of Politics (NHIOP) welcomed Time editor-at-large and political analyst Mark Halperin to campus for a full day of activities and an evening lecture.
Halperin began his day meeting with a small group of Student Ambassadors and members of the college faculty to discuss program ideas and political journalism. After an afternoon writing articles for Time in the NHIOP Research Center, Halperin met with a group of students and staff to discuss possible future civic education initiatives. He then participated in a video interview with Jennifer Donahue in the NHIOP Studio on President Obama’s first 100 days and then a dinner hosted by President Jonathan DeFelice, O.S.B., with guests from the campus community.
In Halperin's evening lecture, entitled “The Obama Administration—The Story So Far,” he discussed both the successes and challenges confronting the Obama administration. He also used the opportunity to discuss his thoughts concerning the New Hampshire primary for 2012. While Halperin hesitated from making any predictions, citing past experiences of predicting Hillary Clinton would not be the choice for Secretary of State, he enjoyed the prospect of discussing politics with people who “were not only interested in politics, but who understand [it] well.”
He began his lecture discussing the positives that have emerged from the Obama administration. He believes that a great strength of President Obama is that he is well suited for pressure and never overreacts. Halperin described Obama as “even,” never overreacting when things are bad, but also never getting too excited when things are good. Obama, in Halperin’s view, has not been overwhelmed by the job and has not displayed any visible sense of panic. He argued that this personality type is extremely beneficial, especially during times of crisis.
Halperin also thought that Obama had made very good choices for his appointments, calling the members of his cabinet “impressive.” He described Obama as a great boss, managing his administration well and never displaying favoritism as many past Presidents have done.
On the flip side, Halperin discussed the Obama administration's negatives so far. While he cited a few examples, he believed the biggest issue was the concern of Democrats on maintaining their majority rather than solving the economic crisis in a more bipartisan fashion. He discussed the idea that Obama has allowed Republicans to say he is not being bipartisan, and thus creating tension on Capitol Hill. “Problems can’t be solved with party line votes,” says Halperin, congressional representatives need buy in both Washington and around the country, and this will not come without working across party lines. He was surprised Obama had let it get to this point so soon, and compared the process Obama was using to that of former President Geoge W. Bush — going to Nancy Pelosi and asking how to get members of the other party’s votes. Halperin believed this move came at the great expense of bipartisanship.
As for the New Hampshire Primary, Halperin argued that even if Obama were to be unsuccessful as president, he would likely not face any democratic opposition should he decide to run for a second term. Proposing that Obama will raise close to a billion dollars for the campaign, Halperin suggested that the large sum of money and the popularity of the President will deter both Democrats and Republicans from running. Halperin finished his lecture with some great news for New Hampshire. As the primary will most likely focus on the Republicans, there will be less chance that New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation status will be encroached upon, as the debate has risen historically from the Democratic Party.