The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Preparing for the ’08 elections

Robert Schmuhl, professor of American Studies and director of the John W. Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy at the University of Notre Dame, spoke yesterday evening in Karcher Auditorium about the upcoming presidential primaries in a lecture titled: “Preparing for 2008: A Primer on Presidential Politics.” The Notre Dame Club of Dallas and the American Constitutional Society of SMU hosted the lecture as part of Notre Dame’s Hesburgh lecture series.

Schmuhl has authored nine books on politics and has written reviews, columns and features for several magazines, newspapers and radio broadcasts.

During his speech, Schmuhl answered what he called the “who, what, when, where and why” questions about the election and the primaries, which are set to begin as early as Jan. 3.

“At this stage of the 2008 presidential campaign, I will boldly say that I have far more questions than answers,” Schmuhl said. “2008 will be the first election since 1952 when an incumbent, either a president or vice president, is not on the top of the list of their parties’ nominations. The field is totally open on both sides.”

Schmuhl notes that 2008 will be an important election because “big issues create big elections.” Citing the war in Iraq, social security, healthcare and numerous other topics, he says this is one of the reasons why there is so much campaigning so early in the election process.

“Some of the observers would love to see a drawn out election process,” he said, “but I think we’ll know the nominees as early as February-after the day being billed as “Super Duper Tuesday.”

“Super Duper Tuesday,” which is on Feb. 5, is when 20 states are holding their presidential primaries, with two of the 20 holding only the Democratic primary.

“If the nominees are known on Feb. 6,” Schmuhl said, “there will be nine months before the election.”

Schmuhl points out that this leaves an opening for another potential candidate, such as current New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, to slip into the race and jump to the head of the pack because that candidate will be a new and fresh face amidst the other candidates who will have been campaigning for so long.

He also observed that since 1961, when John F. Kennedy was elected president, that 40 senators have made a bid for the White House.

“The record is zero wins and 40 losses,” Schmuhl said. “With so many senators competing in the campaign, it’s something of a bet to go against history.”

Looking at the last 30 years, Schmuhl says the Republican Party has been viewed as a more presidential party than the Democratic Party. He also notes that most of the candidates who were favored had no ties with Washington, D.C., and were somewhat opposite to the previous president.

“Elections usually come down to continuity or change,” he said. “It is pretty obvious that 2008 will be a change election. Two-thirds to three-fourths of the population reports being dissatisfied with the current presidency. Wartime presidents tend to create electoral problems for their party’s candidates.”

Another pattern Schmuhl points out is since 1980, a Bush or a Clinton has been on the national ballot as either a presidential or vice presidential candidate.

“This is a country of 300 million people and two families,” he said.

Schmuhl urges voters to consider the background of the candidates. He also encourages voters to measure the candidates against each other and probe beyond the image of a candidate.

“The presidency itself is simultaneously powerful and perilous,” he said. “The office is highly unpredictable. We need to have at least an inkling of how a person would respond to a crisis.”

Calling it the “YouTube election,” Schmuhl says that now candidates are captured whenever they go out and that this can be a good thing in seeing how candidates respond to the issues.

“Choosing a president is intensely personal for every man or woman,” he said. “Which candidate knows you and what matters to you in your own life? Choose wisely.”

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