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Political club leaders, professors contemplate life after Nov. 4

Kaitlynn Riely | Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Soon, the confetti will be mopped up, the balloons popped. The bottles of champagne will be drunk and discarded.

The red and blue electoral maps will be archived for perpetuity. The pollsters will get some sleep.

There will be a winner, and there will be a loser. The winner and his staff will begin preparing for the transition to the White House. The loser will go on with his life, forever in the history books as the also-ran.

And then, what will we do?

The longest presidential race in U.S. history comes to an end tonight, pending any vote tallying problems. For nearly two years, the presidential candidates have participated in the world’s longest and toughest job interview. They’ve given speeches in small towns and giant stadiums. They’ve kissed dozens of babies, appeared on “Saturday Night Live” and late night talk shows, tasted the local food and they’ve shaken more hands than most of us will shake in a lifetime.

And we’ve watched it all on television. We’ve read about it in the papers, on blogs and talked about it with our family and friends.

When the winner is decided, the long drama will be over. And then what will we watch, read and debate?

Many have followed the election in a manner bordering on obsession. Junior Ed Yap, the president of the Notre Dame College Republicans, said the election occupies his thoughts “25 hours” per day.

He has two TVs, one turned to Fox News and the other to CNN. He also watches local television stations WSBT and WNDU. Yap has a daily subscription to the Wall Street Journal, and reads the South Bend Tribune, the Indianapolis Star, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, the Washington Times and the Washington Post. Yap also subscribes to Time Magazine and National Review.

This is not an exhaustive list.

“I also check out Drudge Report every five minutes,” he said. “Every five minutes on the minute.”

After Nov. 4, these media outlets will not have daily tracking polls. They will not cover the candidates’ travels and speeches. After Nov. 4, Yap, who has been working for Luke Puckett, the Republican candidate for Congress in Indiana’s 2nd District, has no idea what he will do.

“I really don’t,” he said. “This has just been my life for the past two years. I’ll think about it.”

Online political sites are also getting plenty of hits from the co-president of the Notre Dame College Democrats, senior Spencer Howard.

“I’m addicted to the Internet,” he said. “I don’t even know how many Web sites I have bookmarked that I check multiple times a day.”

Political work will not end after the election for either Yap or Howard, who will continue running their clubs on campus. However, life post-Nov. 4 is likely to be a lot less hectic.

“Personally, I’m going to sleep more,” Howard said.

For the last two years, Dr. Susan Ohmer, a professor in Notre Dame’s Film, Television and Theatre department who teaches a class entitled “Media and the Presidency,” joked that she has spent most of her waking hours thinking about the election.

“I really want it to be over with, big time,” she said.

Today and tonight, she will be glued to the returns, waiting to see whether the polls have been accurate.

Unlike Yap, she does not have two televisions. But she does plan to set up her laptop in front of her TV to watch Election Night play out.

“You do start to feel, ‘Are we humans or are we androids?'” she quipped.

Even after all the ballots have been counted and the champagne bottles corked, Ohmer thinks there will still be plenty of political news to stave off a post-Election Day letdown.

If McCain wins, the media will focus on what happened to Obama, with his record-breaking fundraising, she said. And if Obama wins, the focus will be on analyzing his election strategy to see what future candidates can learn from it.

That analysis can go on for several weeks, and then the press will focus on the transition process and President Bush’s final days in office. The news will then turn to the next president’s inaugural address.

The topics will change, Ohmer said, but the intensity will not.

“I think we can get to Christmas on the wave of energy we’ve built up,” she said.

Only after the January inauguration, when the next president settles in and faces massive problems that require large solutions, will the energy die down, Ohmer predicted.

But the confetti has not been thrown and the balloons have not been dropped. The champagne bottles are being chilled.

The electoral maps are red and blue but also gray. The pollsters’ eyes are bloodshot and their hairlines receding.

There will be a winner, and there will be a loser. But Yap, Howard, Ohmer and the rest of the country and the world still have several hours of election coverage overload to savor.