We have consolidated all of our University news sources into one location called BingUNews. Inside stories published through 2016 will remain available here. Stories published in 2017 and later will be found at BingUNews. Enjoy!
Political expert analyzes 2012 presidential race
May 1, 2012Tweet
The Barack Obama-Mitt Romney presidential race will come down to a handful of swing states, a Binghamton University alumnus and national political expert told members of the Binghamton University Forum on April 26.
“The race is all over in 40 states,” said David Schultz ’80, MA ’86. “What we are going to see is 10 percent of the voters in 10 states determining who the next president of the United States is. The billions of dollars spent – and the campaign rhetoric – is going to focus on a very small number of people.”
Schultz, a professor at Hamline University School of Business in Saint Paul, Minn., has taught classes in American politics, political participation, campaigns and elections, and constitutional law. He also is the author of more than 25 books and is the editor-in-chief of The Journal of Public Affairs Education. Schultz returned to Binghamton to speak with students and discuss politics with the Forum members at Traditions at the Glen in Johnson City.
While Schultz did reveal during a question-and-answer session how he believes the November election will play out, the focus of his talk was “The Rules of Politics in the 2012 Election.”
Schultz’s first rule: “Politics is like selling beer.”
“I used to tell my students ‘Politics is like selling toothpaste,’ but nobody paid attention to that,” he said with a laugh.
The power to craft a compelling narrative is key in politics, he said.
“The essence of a great commercial is the ability to tell a story about your product,” Schultz said. “Candidates must have a powerful, compelling narrative to run for election.”
Examples of great narratives include Obama’s “change” in 2008 and Ronald Reagan’s “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” in 1980.
Both Obama and Romney are now struggling to find messages that will resonate with working-class voters.
“What’s Obama’s narrative in 2012?” Schultz asked the audience. “He can’t run on change again. He can’t run on ‘(Republicans) are nuts’ or ‘It could’ve been worse.’”
Schultz’s next two rules combined politics with pop-culture references: “Politics is proof that Annie was correct: The narrative has to be about tomorrow” and “Rod Stewart was correct: Politics is about passion,” referring to a 1981 hit by the rocker.
Schultz pointed to Reagan’s “morning in America” in 1984 and Bill Clinton’s use of Fleetwood Mac’s song “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)” as political narratives that were optimistic and focused on the future.
“The future always beats the past,” he said. “Even pessimists think about the future. They’re afraid of it, but they think about it.”
Passion is an intangible that motivates movements’ most fervent supporters, said Schultz, who added that Obama understood this in 2008 when he was “a rock star.”
“Four years later, I don’t see the same passion with Barack Obama,” he said. “He has to figure out how to rekindle that passion among his base and swing voters.”
One advantage for Obama, though, is that he is facing “one of the most passionless nominees going into a presidential race,” Schultz said. “Even Romney’s supporters aren’t excited by him.”
Schultz drew loud laughter from the Forum crowd when he addressed Romney’s inability to close the gender gap. The former Massachusetts governor trails the president by double digits among female voters.
“A lot of people want to say maybe it’s because of positions Republicans are taking on issues such as birth control,” he said. “I say Mitt Romney has a different problem with women: He reminds every woman of her first husband.”
Schultz’s other rules included base mobilization; bringing swing voters to your side; getting people to show up on Election Day; defining or being defined; using new technology to communicate messages; realizing that politics is a business; and being real.
The candidates who are most successful at following the 10 rules generally are the ones who win in November, Schultz said.
“But there is a problem here,” he said. “We have two candidates who lack passion, lack a narrative and are struggling to find a message about why they should be elected or re-elected.”
Schultz reminded the audience that an Israel-Iran conflict and changes to the economy and gas prices could affect the presidential election.
“Gas prices are an enormous variable,” he said. “(Obama advisor) David Axelrod says people aren’t going to pay attention to gas prices. Tell that to Jimmy Carter in 1980.”
So which candidate will receive the necessary 270 electoral votes and be triumphant on Nov. 6?
Schultz said he has examined the 10 “swing states” and assigned three factors to them before placing them in the Obama or Romney camps: Is the jobless rate above or below the national average? Is the median family income above or below the national average? What was the margin of victory in the state in 2008?
“My numbers come out to 272 electoral votes for Obama,” Schultz said. “That’s how close it’s going to be. In my study, the state that puts him over the top is New Mexico of all places.
“By all accounts, Barack Obama should lose this election,” he added. “The unemployment rate is above 7 percent; he’s missing a narrative; and he’s alienated some key constituencies. I don’t think he can win, but the Republicans can lose this election. And that’s what I think is going to happen.”