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2016 Election Observer: Matthew Hall

| Thursday, February 25, 2016

Editor’s Note: Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, The Observer will sit down with Notre Dame experts to break down the election and its importance to students. In this sixth installment, News writer Rachel O’Grady asks professor of political science and director of graduate studies Matthew Hall about the consequences of the results of the Nevada caucus and the upcoming Super Tuesday primaries. 

Rachel O’Grady: Trump just pretty handily won Nevada, and this is his third win in a row. What does this mean for the Republican Party? Can Trump secure the nomination?

Matthew Hall: I’d say it means two things for the Republican Party. First, the anger and frustration the party’s base feels toward the party elites has [been] reaching an unprecedented boiling point, and the voters are rejecting their leadership’s direction. Second, if Trump succeeds, it may mean a fundamental redefinition of the party’s stance on issues such as trade, taxes and foreign policy. Can Trump win? Of course he CAN win. Technically you or I CAN win — the votes haven’t been cast yet, and anything could happen if this election goes to a brokered convention. Will he win? There’s no way to tell for sure, and if this election has taught us anything, it’s that experts can’t predict what is going to happen.

ROG: Super Tuesday is this coming Tuesday. What should we be looking for? How much does it matter?

MH: Ordinarily, Super Tuesday favors candidates who can compete on a large scale. Unlike the early states, in which retails politics can propel an unknown candidate into the spotlight, on the Super Tuesday the advantage goes to candidates with name recognition, media attention and money. That means it should be even easier for Trump to win big. The real questions: Can Rubio or Cruz win any state at all — other than Cruz winning Texas? If not, Trump appears to be unstoppable.

ROG: Looking more at the Democrats, Sanders beat Clinton significantly on young women 18 – 24 years old. What does this mean for either one of their campaigns? Will this hurt Clinton long term?

MH: I doubt Clinton’s lack of support among young voters — or specifically, young women — will hurt her if she secures the nomination. I’d wager that most of these young voters will support Clinton in a general election. The critical questions moving forward are: 1. whether young people turn out to vote in large numbers and 2. whether younger Hispanic and African American voters continue to move toward Sanders. If either or both of those things happen, Clinton may have a difficult time securing the nomination.

ROG: In your research and opinion, what do you think will be the most important issue in the general election?

MH: I think it largely depends on world events, which I cannot predict. What happens in Syria. What happens on the stock market. Usually, events drive the discussion more than anything else, so I can’t predict what the discussion of issues will look like. If it’s Trump vs. Clinton, I would expect little focus on issues at all. Instead, I’d expect a campaign of insults, posturing and scandals.

ROG: Taking it back to college campuses, particularly here at ND, primaries in many of our home states are coming up. What is something we, as college students, should be paying particular attention to?

MH: Everyone should be figuring out right now where and how they can vote. Can you register here in Indiana? Can you vote absentee back home? Our current politics look the way they do because young people don’t participate. If every college student who talked about the election on soil media actually voted, we would get wildly different outcomes.
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About Rachel O'Grady

Rachel O'Grady is a senior Political Science major living in Ryan Hall and is currently serving as an Assistant Managing Editor. Hailing from Chicago (actual Chicago, not the suburbs) she's been a Cubs fan since birth.

Contact Rachel