WHEELING - Fox News host and Wheeling native Chris Stirewalt discussed what ultimately decided the 2012 presidential election and the future of the Republican and Democrat parties Wednesday at West Liberty University's Economics Club luncheon at River City restaurant.
Stirewalt said the Republican Party's distrust of former Gov. Mitt Romney may have tipped the American population toward re-electing President Barack Obama.
"A lot of people were surprised by what happened in November on both sides," Stirewalt said. "Republicans took their best hope, their best chance to beat Barack Obama, but because of their mistrust in him, (Romney) wasn't able to succeed."
SPEAKS ABOUT ELECTION — Fox News host and Wheeling native Chris Stirewalt speaks at a West Liberty University Economics Club luncheon at River City restaurant Wednesday about the results of the Nov. 6 election and the direction of the Republican and Democrat parties. -- Sarah Harmon
Stirewalt said Romney's need to prove his conservatism to the Republican Party took up too much of his time and set him back during the campaign, especially running against a president who did not need to reassure Democrats of his liberal views.
Stirewalt also said Romney's language and subjects used during the campaign were uncomfortable and off-putting to an American public already nervous about uncertain economic times.
"Mitt Romney suffered terribly in the primary campaign season. Not only did he talk about subjects that were difficult, but he talked in a way that was off-putting and disconcerting to people," Stirewalt said "Obama said, 'I want to work with you to help, to fix, to heal, amend, grow, improve.' Romney was not in a position to do that."
Historically, Stirewalt said, "ideological" candidates such as Obama use language that is "engaging, warm and open" that may have been more appealing for the electorate to hear. Stirewalt said Americans may have been scared off by words such as "cutting," "slashing" and "overhaul" that were often used during Romney's campaign.
Stirewalt also discussed how Obama used "intensive" negative campaigning against Romney that may have prompted some voters to simply stay home on Election Day. He said Romney ultimately could not recover from the negative image that had been projected on him.
Stirewalt also discussed the future direction of both parties for the 2016 presidential election.
"For Democrats, they are headed for a remaking for their party," Stirewalt said. "Democrats don't have any obvious successors to Barack Obama. There is no heir to Obama. The Democrats did not re-elect him in joy and enthusiasm, they re-elected in acceptance and unhappiness for what he had to offer. So, the Democrats need a new phase, a new look and they don't have one."
Stirewalt cited New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as formidable, if unlikely, Democratic candidates for the next election.
"Republicans have a lot. The Republicans in my lifetime have never been bigger. You have Republican governors in 30 states and you have bright stars in the Senate," said Stirewalt, who is the digital politics editor for Fox News and host of "Power Play" on foxnews.com. He began his career at The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register.