Political science panel shares expertise regarding ongoing election cycle

Reed Widdoes, Staff Writer

As November creeps closer, the race for the presidency does not seem to be slowing down. The Republican field has been whittled down from an unheard-of 19 candidates to just three, but the heat has yet to cool off from what has been a highly contested primary. On the Democratic side, things may be more straightforward, but in this year’s election, nothing is guaranteed.

The political science department hosted a panel discussion about the state of the ongoing elections on March 31. Faculty members including Associate Professor of Political Science Chris Ellis, Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science Lindsay Nielson, and Associate Professor of Political Science Scott Meinke spoke during the panel. They hoped to provide attendees with an explanation of the current primaries, their thoughts on possible presidential election match-ups, and a view on the race through the lenses of political scientists.

The panelists discussed how Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has continued to defy the norms of presidential elections. The panel pointed out that the problems the Republicans have collectively faced have led to the emergence of a non-traditional candidate. While many Republican voters have been torn between over a dozen choices of slightly varied candidates, Trump has been able to build a loyal base of extreme supporters and take advantage of a disjointed establishment. While this is true, the panelists also stressed the fact that Trump has the historically highest disapproval ratings of any candidate at this point in the race and they doubt his ability to unite the Republican Party and seize the election in November.

On a similar note, members of the panel suggested that Sen. Bernie Sanders has been able able to garner more support in the primaries due to his extreme beliefs. These far-off center candidates can succeed by galvanizing members of their own party, but struggle to achieve any kind of bipartisan support. Regardless of this fact, the professors also seem assured that Hillary Clinton has the nomination in the bag more or less, pointing at her extreme command of the superdelegates as the cause. These delegates, as the panel explained, are party members who vote as delegates at the convention, but are not obliged to vote for a certain candidate. Their votes, unlike normal delegates, are not dictated by the electorate.

After the comprehensive review of the race, the panel opened up to questions from the audience. Questions ranged from chances of a contested Republican convention, to the allocations of delegates whose candidates have dropped out of the race. Students seized the opportunity to hear more about the race from experts in the field.

It was great to get a chance to hear about the race from a political science angle and to learn about some of the more arcane aspects of the race,” Tyler Candelora ’19 said.

“By the end of the hour, audience members walked away with a fresh perspective on the race, and hopefully a better understanding of this strange election cycle,” Nielson said.

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