Pizza and politics provides context for Iowa caucus results


Barbara Bell, Print Editor

As caucus results flooded in from Iowa on Feb. 1, students flocked to the LC Forum for a night of political commentary from the University’s own American political experts. Associate Professor of Political Science Christopher Ellis and Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science Lindsay Nielson co-hosted the Pizza and Policy Forum.

The Iowa caucuses marked the first formal event of the 2016 presidential election cycle and an exciting time for American politics. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, both vying for the Democratic nomination, ended in a virtual tie with Clinton slightly ahead. They were so close, in fact, that the Iowa state Democratic Party didn’t officially call the caucus until early the next morning on Feb. 2.

Sen. Ted Cruz won the majority on the Republican side, with Donald Trump falling in second place. But many thought the surprise of the night came from second runner-up on the Republican side, Sen. Marco Rubio, who closed in on Trump by a margin of 1.2 percent.

The professors openly and candidly discussed audience members’ questions about candidates on both sides. Nielson spoke on the general structure of caucuses in Iowa, as compared to other states that hold primary elections for president.

“The caucus usually ends up kind of like a town hall meeting … it takes up a lot of time,” Nielson said.

They also took audience members’ questions, many of which dealt with debunking the controversial  Republican candidates Trump and Cruz.

“One reason Trump exists is because people think the Republican Party isn’t transparent enough,” Ellis said. “The important function of Iowa is to narrow the field.” 

“Ted Cruz is so disliked by his own party that it’s leading serious people to do things that they wouldn’t otherwise do,” Ellis said in his recent quote in a Christian Science Monitor article about the sensationalism behind Trump.

“It was a great night and a tremendous idea by the Political Science Department because the professors were not only able to provide a background but students were given the place to discuss and express their ideas [in real caucus time],” Paige Banfield ’16 said.

“I love the pizza and politics events because of how relevant and informative they always are,” Brittany Hurley ’17 said. “This one was great to not only learn about the Iowa caucus but then to watch it in real time and discuss the events with friends as they occurred. We were all pretty shocked by Ted Cruz’s trumping of Trump.” 

The Department of Political Science plans to hold more student events this semester with a focus on election coverage.

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