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Panel analyzes Super Tuesday results

Brian McKenzie | Thursday, February 7, 2008

Three political experts drew a crowd of approximately 60 students to an analysis and discussion of Super Tuesday results in the Coleman-Morse Lounge Wednesday night.

Journalism professor Jack Colwell, also a political columnist for the South Bend Tribune, said 24 states held caucuses or primaries for at least one party on Super Tuesday.

On the Republican side, “Tuesday really was super for [Republican candidate John] McCain,” he said. “Barring something unforeseen, like a health scare, I don’t see any way he won’t be the nominee.”

McCain’s victories on Super Tuesday provided him a “tremendous margin that I don’t think [Republican candidate Mitt] Romney can overcome,” he said. “Losing California was the final blow for Romney,” he said.

The Democratic contest “was basically a tie,” he said. “The Democratic race could go on for some time now. It’s possible that this thing may not be decided before May 6 [the date of the Indiana primary].”

Political science professor Dianne Pinderhughes, the President of the American Political Science Association, examined the role of race and gender in the Democratic contest.

“I was surprised to the extent that identity politics is playing a role,” she said. “In exit polls, there is a significant variation among voters based on whether they are black or white or male or female,” she said.

“In a number of states, white males strongly backed [Democratic candidate Barack] Obama, but white women have been drawn to [Democratic candidate Hillary] Clinton,” she said. Clinton’s share of white women beat Obama’s by 15 to 20 percentage points, she said.

Obama’s strongest supporters were blacks, particularly black males, and exit polls are suggesting that upcoming primaries will be favorable ground for Obama, Pinderhughes said. “The District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia have very significant black populations,” she said.

Political science professor Darren Davis spoke about the shortcomings of polling information.

“We’re seeing an increasingly biased media, one that pays selective attention to polling information and tries to equate polls. But not all polls are alike,” he said. “You have internet polls, polls of likely voters, state-wide polls, national polls.”

“Polls can be awfully misleading,” he said.

Davis drew on the idea that voters are “pressured” to vote for a black candidate in this election.

“Social pressure leads voters to want to vote for a black candidate, but when they’re in a private voting booth, they frequently vote for someone else or not at all,” he said. Political scientists call that phenomenon the Bradley Effect, he said.

Freshman Chris Rhodenbaugh said Davis’ analysis of polling shortcomings stuck with him the most. “It’s interesting to hear people trying to inform us rather than CNN pundits getting us to watch the program,” he said.

Senior Mike McKenna, the NDVotes’08 student coordinator, recognized the importance of political competency in national elections.

“The focus is political competency, not just being consumers but analyzers of political news,” he said.