As the presidential primaries grow more heated with each passing day, Assistant Professor of Political Science Joseph Mink, Associate Professor of Political Science DeWayne Lucas, Professor of Political Science Iva Deutchman and President Mark D. Gearan recently held an informative political discussion on the current GOP presidential nominee race at Finger Lakes Gifts & Lounge in downtown Geneva.
Each member of the panel spoke briefly on a different aspect of the primaries and upcoming presidential elections before allowing the audience to direct the conversation with questions.
“The GOP candidates have done a good job of painting the current presidency in a negative light,” Lucas explained. From high unemployment, frustration with the political system at large and a seeming lack of effort on the part of Congress, the GOP has the energy of the voters in their favor; however this does not ensure an easy race, he explained.
“The Republicans have that energy spread out over their field -and there are so many factions within the party. All are competing over what it means to be a Republican,” Lucas added.
Deutchman discussed in detail the problems Republicans are finding with current candidates – from Perry’s stance on immigration to Romney’s affiliation as a Mormon. “They are finding problems with everybody – nobody is perfect from the Tea Party perspective,” said Deutchman. “They believe everyone in the party is deeply flawed in one way or another.”
Deutchman also noted how much change the GOP has experienced in the past few decades. “It is so different. All of these Republicans claim to worship Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan – and yet would these men be allowed in the party currently? This is a question they really need to be asking themselves.”
Mink considered the changing landscape of the presidential primaries. Since 1968, early primaries have been shown to have very significant advantages. There has also been a shift in the influence of media – now it is evident that the media plays a large role in deeming a candidate viable.
Although this has led to many primaries being pushed forward, there can be advantages for the American people. “You get months of debate rather than just a few weeks,” Mink noted.
Gearan spoke about his own experiences on the Clinton campaign trail and the challenges of funding a campaign, as well as the potential for another rigorously contested primary – just as the Democratic Primary of 2008.
“Every couple of decades you have this kind of volatility, this underlying feeling of economic and global change – and voters are feeling that,” remarked Gearan. “How that will shape out to candidates, we will see.”
Audience concerns centered on who would emerge the GOP nominee – and what this could mean for President Barack Obama. Despite the large and tumultuous pool of candidates, the panel was in agreement – the most likely nominee is Mitt Romney.
Although there were questions about Romney’s religion alienating him from Tea Party members and his seeming lack of media attention, all cited his consistent performance in debates, his well-organized and loyal staff and his campaign’s steady pace as strengths that would pay off.
What, then, must President Obama do to ensure reelection? “Obama must convince liberals and moderates to break the tie,” said Lucas, who agreed with his colleagues that Romney will be a tough candidate to run against.
Other topics addressed dealt with American youth in the Conservative Evangelical movement, term limits and the influence of the media on elections.
Gearan ended the night with a memorable response to an audience member’s question in consideration of recent polls revealing an astonishingly low 11 percent approval of Congress. “American history has been fraught with ups and downs. Our political leaders need us, and we are checking out – shame on us. We need to rally now,” said Gearan. “We have faced massive problems, periods of political default. We as citizens need to demand more and expect more. If we check out as people we’ll get the government we deserve.”