GOP Strategists: Republicans Should Nominate a Governor for 2016

Meanwhile, David Axelrod urges Hillary Clinton to adopt a stronger economic message at a Wall Street Journal forum.

Two top Republican strategists recommended that their party nominate a Midwestern governor as its next presidential nominee, at a Wall Street Journal breakfast with leading officials from both parties.

"I would like to run somebody from a blue or purple state who's a governor," said GOP pollster Bill McInturff, adding that a governor could talk about the types of conservative reforms taking place on the state level, and "would also get to run against Washington." The two potential candidates that fit the bill: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Scott Reed, senior political strategist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, echoed McInturff's sentiments, adding the names of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to the mix. Reed also said that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be on Republicans' minds, and that Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul should not be overlooked.

"You can't underestimate Rand Paul's ability to go out and do nontraditional things, as he's been doing for the last couple of years," Reed said, adding that Paul had been a "secret weapon" for the chamber in terms of helping Republicans keep from losing votes to libertarian candidates this fall.

The panel also featured former Obama campaign manager David Axelrod, who offered advice to Hillary Clinton's expected 2016 presidential campaign. Axelrod said Clinton's biggest challenge will be to "throw caution to the wind" and run a bold campaign with a strong economic message.

"I think the danger for Secretary Clinton is that, as was the case in 2007, her candidacy is out in front of the rationale for it," Axelrod said. "We do have an Electoral Vote advantage."¦ That should not give her solace that the job is done."

Axelrod added that the successful candidate in 2016 will be the one who "aggressively, and in a forward-thinking way" addresses key economic issues like wage stagnation and the struggling middle class, which he said are the reasons voters have been so unhappy with their government over the past few decades.

He acknowledged that Jeb Bush would be a "formidable" general-election opponent for Democrats—if he can get through the Republican primary with his positions on issues like immigration and the Common Core Standards.

Meanwhile, longtime Democratic pollster Peter Hart advised Clinton to learn from the mistakes of her 2008 race, saying she needs to choose one distinctive message for her campaign and stick to it.

"My challenge to Secretary Clinton would be, she needs to have one campaign," Hart said. "I felt that 2008 there was a different campaign every hour, every day, and I did not feel that her 2014 messages coming out of New York and New Hampshire had that same kind of resonance where it's one message."

Still, Hart said, Clinton has made progress in one key area since her last presidential bid: She's now seen as a strong executive.

"One of the things that comes from 2008 through her period as secretary of State: She has actually passed the most difficult bar, and that is, I think, she's credible as commander in chief," Hart said.