NAPLES, Fla. - James Carville didn't hold back when he discussed President Barack Obama's win over Mitt Romney last week.
The Democratic strategist and longtime adviser to former President Bill Clinton said Obama's Nov. 6 victory was a wake-up call for the Republican Party, like a blow to the head from a two-by-four.
"The sound you heard last Tuesday night was pine on skull," Carville said Tuesday in Naples. "It was a rout. I said the morning of the election it's going to be an ass-whipping — and it was."
James Carville and Republican strategist Karl Rove spoke for about an hour at the fifth annual Global Financial Leadership Conference at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples.
Rove countered with numbers. More than 300,000 fewer 18-to-29-year-olds voted last week than in the 2008 election, he said.
Fifty-one percent of all Americans eligible to vote did so, and 1.3 million fewer blacks voted last week than they did four years ago, Rove said.
Obama was also the first sitting president to have a lower victory margin than the first term he was elected.
"Let's not view this election as a big shift," he said. "This was a narrow election. This election was an anomaly."
Carville countered that millions of votes are still being counted so Obama's victory margin will increase.
He also pointed out that Hurricane Sandy hitting the Northeast before the election affected the total number of votes.
The session began with anecdotes from past campaigns.
Rove said he watched Obama stumble in the first presidential debate with Romney, and he knew exactly why.
The Republican strategist recalled how his candidate, President George W. Bush, had a bad first debate against Democratic challenger John Kerry in 2004.
Bush, like Obama, was a sitting president running for re-election.
"You're juggling five or six balls as president," said Rove, Bush's former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff. "And then comes the debate prep and the president says, ‘Screw this.'"
Television journalist Ted Koppel, who served as moderator, opened the talk with a story about Clinton and how he and others kept waiting for him at a campaign rally in the 1990s. Koppel said he later asked Clinton what took him so long, and the former president replied that he was in the bathroom and fell asleep.
Carville told a story about the time he was walking with Clinton in Paris and noticed a woman wearing a robe a few stories above the street. Carville said he distracted Clinton, who didn't see the woman when she removed her robe, calling it the best piece of advance work he'd ever done.