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ND Votes holds final election forum

Sarah Mervosh | Thursday, November 6, 2008

ND Votes ’08 hosted its final Pizza, Pop and Politics event in the Coleman-Morse Lounge Wednesday, which featured two professors who explained the Tuesday’s results, along with the election’s future implications.

Political science professor David Nickerson spoke about the accuracy of polling and the ability to predict results from these polls.

“If I were to take my computer and just predict what the outcome would be, I would have predicted this outcome in almost every state,” he said. “It’s just a bad year to be a Republican.”

He said Republican candidate John McCain did not have the support he needed to win, while President-elect Barack Obama was able to organize a powerful political force.

“John McCain didn’t even have a tiny fraction of the kind of support [that Bush had in 2004],” Nickerson said. “Barack Obama did an excellent job of getting people involved.”

Nickerson boiled the results of the election down to two major factors.

“You had a really unpopular president. The economy, it ain’t doing so hot,” he said. “This isn’t rocket science.”

Nickerson said many people were interested to see if the Bradley Effect, or whether many people would have trouble voting for a black candidate despite telling pollsters they would do so, would take place. Ultimately, it did not occur and polls were consistent with the results.

Professor Jack Colwell, who teaches in the Journalism, Ethics and Democracy department, spoke about the impact of the media on the results of the election.

He cited one of his students, who comes from a traditionally conservative state and family, who participated in early voting over fall break.

“She went in to vote a straight Republican ticket. She got into the voting booth and suddenly, something just kind of struck her. She thought of Tina Fey,” Colwell said. “Right in the polling booth she thought, ‘I can’t do this,’ and she voted for Obama.”

Colwell said people are increasingly getting their perception of the candidates from shows like “Saturday Night Live,” the “Daily Show” or “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

“More so than the newspapers,” he said. “I guess it’s good if they’re getting their information from somewhere. But it is a little bit scary if Tina Fey is having more effect on the election than something that appears in the New York Times.”

Colwell said Obama’s television ad campaign helped him win Indiana.

“Obama saturated Indiana with TV spots and clearly won the air war,” Colwell said.

While the air war was advertising for television spots, the ground war was physical campaigning, which he said Obama also won in Indiana, visiting the state 49 times, compared to McCain’s three visits.

Colwell said the air war played a big role in the election of governor in Indiana, which was won by Republican Mitch Daniels. Daniels dominated the airwaves.

“The ability to get on television can determine whether you have any chance at all or whether you will wind up with little chance to win,” Colwell said.

Senior Alicia Conley found the connections Colwell made between television and the success of the candidate particularly interesting because “he wasn’t talking about party or policy.”

“People are so excited about Barack Obama, you don’t really think about that if he wasn’t the candidate, the Democratic Party probably would have won,” Conley said.

Graduate student Jessica Heringer had hoped to hear more “political analysis of the current situation. I was thinking they would talk about where we go from here as a country.”

But she added that she personally benefited from the efforts of the University to educate students about voting, specifically the e-mail reminders sent out.

“I really do think that it’s great that the University does this,” Heringer said.