The 2012 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion may be about a year away, but that hasn’t stopped politi­cians and aca­d­e­mics from ana­lyzing the race from a schol­arly perspective.

Speaking at a con­fer­ence enti­tled “The Pres­i­den­tial Elec­tion of 2012: Can­di­dates, Issues and Par­ties,” held in Raytheon Amphithe­ater last Thursday, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity polit­ical sci­ence pro­fessor William Crotty said, “The nom­i­na­tion process begins in less than two months. This is it. We’re here.”

Obama’s elec­tion was sup­posed to be a “pro­gres­sive realign­ment of national poli­cies,” added Crotty, the Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Public Life. “Well, none of that happened.”

The con­fer­ence — cospon­sored by the O’Neill Chair and the Depart­ment of Polit­ical Sci­ence — included an early morning panel dis­cus­sion on policy-​​making in the Obama admin­is­tra­tion, a lec­ture on the impact of the Occupy Wall Street move­ment on the 2012 race and an after­noon panel dis­cus­sion on pol­i­tics and the Obama pres­i­dency, which fea­tured a lec­ture by Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Polit­ical Sci­ence Michael Dukakis.

He called his expe­ri­ences as the 1988 Demo­c­ratic nom­inee for pres­i­dent both hum­bling and exhausting.

It’s an extra­or­di­nary country with extra­or­di­nary people,” Dukakis recalled. “And the worst thing about not being able to suc­ceed is dis­ap­pointing all those folks who sup­ported you and believed in you.”

The pri­mary issues in the 2012 cam­paign are still emerging, noted Scott L. McLean, chair of the phi­los­ophy and polit­ical sci­ence depart­ment at Quin­nipiac Uni­ver­sity, a highly-​​regarded center for polit­ical polling.

I largely see the 2012 elec­tion as a cam­paign to define what the issues are, and that is still changing,” McLean said. “This summer, the issue was debt and the deficit, and now this fall we’re seeing the issue is shifting toward income inequality.”

Crotty said a major factor in the upcoming cam­paign would be that Demo­c­ratic voters are far less sup­portive of Pres­i­dent Obama than they were of can­di­date Obama. Repub­lican voters, he noted, may be more eager to vote against Obama than for the even­tual GOP nom­inee, who con­fer­ence atten­dees agreed would be former Mass­a­chu­setts gov­ernor Mitt Romney.

Demo­c­ratic voters are just not enthu­si­astic about this elec­tion,” Crotty said. “Jobs will be an issue, but clearly that’s not going to work to [Obama’s] benefit.”

The impor­tance of holding con­fer­ences to dis­cuss hot-​​button polit­ical issues cannot be under­stated, noted Mary Loef­fel­holz, Northeastern’s vice provost for aca­d­emic affairs.

We’ve seen rulers top­pled in coun­tries that weren’t even on our agenda last time, plus growing unsus­tain­ability and issues of equity that have prompted wonder about our future,” she said. “Well some of us have stopped won­dering and gone on to occupy Wall Street or to spread the Tea Party’s mes­sage through the nom­i­na­tion process. These are all impor­tant discussions.”