2012 race ripe for third-party surprise, Carville says

For sheer tumult and unpredictability, the 2012 campaign may top them all, says James Carville.

Carville, of course, is the Democrat who masterminded Bill Clinton’s winning campaign in 1992. That race was hardly dull, with Ross Perot waging a competitive third-party bid and incumbent President George H.W. Bush losing office to the young upstart from Hope, Ark.

But Carville is bracing for a campaign season that defies much of what we know about American electoral politics.

“This is going to be the most tumultuous thing you can imagine,’’ Carville said in an interview Tuesday. “I wouldn’t be surprised if anything happens.’’


The presidential race is ripe for a third-party entrant, Carville said. “Damn right.’’ And he is anticipating major turnover in Congress.


“Look at the volatility out there!’’

These aren’t stable times, what with recall elections in Wisconsin, wild fluctuations in the stock market and the federal government going right to the brink of default.

A truism about politics was that voters liked their congressman, even if they disliked Congress. That may not be the case these days.

A CNN poll released Tuesday showed that only 41% believed their own legislator deserved reelection.

If, in January 2013, “someone said, ‘Hello, Speaker Pelosi. Hello Senate Majority Leader DeMint,’ that wouldn’t be out of the question at all,’’ Carville said. (Bad news for Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Harry Reid).

Carville didn’t offer a guess as to the identity of a third-party presidential candidate. Speculation has long centered on New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. But when a politician says, “I’m not going to run for president, period,’’ he doesn’t leave much wiggle room.

Reelecting Obama won’t be easy, given the poor economy, Carville added. “It’s tough,’’ he said. But Democrats have one advantage. They’re squaring off against a Republican “brand’’ that has taken a “megahit,’’ he said.

Indeed, the CNN poll showed that 59% viewed the Republican Party unfavorably, compared with 47% for Democrats.