On Thursday, Feb. 4, students and professors gathered in Wold House to discuss the upcoming presidential elections while enjoying food from Homestyle.
The discussion was led by political science professors Zoe Oxley and Clifford Brown.
Oxley began the event, which was attended by fifteen students, by stating the American political process is very complex and complicated compared to other nations.
“Right now, it is a contest for delegates,” Oxley shared. “The candidates, especially in Iowa this past week, are trying to get their name out and gain some recognition within different communities.”
Brown told the students the Iowa caucus is all about “getting boots on the ground. The more people you get to, the better a chance you have at coming out of it strong.”
This importance of hard campaigning and traveling within a caucus context, such as Iowa, roots from the difference between a caucus and a primary.
“During a caucus, small, local groups gather to discuss which presidential candidate they want to support. These results are then used to select delegates to be present at nomination conventions for each party.”
A primary, according to Oxley, is a direct statewide process used to select candidates and delegates.
“These party nominations are often decided in March,” Oxley said.
The Iowa caucus was all about name recognition.
Brown shared that, “Ted Cruz went to all 99 counties in Iowa, while [Donald] Trump went to barely any.”
This, in Brown’s opinion, was a difference maker
when the results of the caucus came in.
“Cruz relied on local attention and won. Trump thought his national attention would be enough to win Iowa. Getting voters to turn out is key.”
Oxley noted Cruz claimed 8 delegates, while Trump and Marco Rubio each claimed 7.
Brown did comment on some of the tricks Cruz played during the caucus, one of which was issuing a vague statement suggesting Ben Carson was dropping out of the race.
“It reminded me a lot of Nixon’s dirty tricks,” Brown said.
Both Brown and Oxley were fascinated by the numbers the Democratic candidates polled in Iowa.
“The contest was close, as expected,” Oxley said. “What was amazing was the age gap between the percent of supporters who went for [Hillary] Clinton and [Bernie] Sanders.”
According to Brown, 80% of eligible voters between the age of 18 and 30 voted for Sanders.
On the flipside, Oxley said Clinton received around 60% of votes from those 60 years or above.
The supporter’s age difference really fascinated Brown and Oxley, but both agreed it was great to see so many young people actively engage in the democratic process.
With Iowa out of the way, Oxley said the candidates will be focusing on New Hampshire.
New Hampshire is the first primary in the nation.
“New Hampshire takes their role very seriously,” Brown said. “They have a civic mindedness and have an extremely close connection to politics.”
He pointed out that there were 400 representatives within the New Hampshire House of Representatives, which is a huge number on a national scale.
Both agreed Sanders would have a strong showing in New Hampshire.
Oxley shared this was due in large part to how television stations work in the state.
“There is a western part of the state whose local news channel is out of Burlington. That means they have known about Bernie for years.”
Other parts of New Hampshire receive broadcasts from Massachusetts, which is another benefit to Sanders.
Both also believed Sanders would take a hit when the candidates go down south due to less of a name recognition and minorities tending to support Clinton.
Brown is interested in seeing how Marco Rubio fares in New Hampshire because he did a lot better in Iowa than people expected.
“At this point it’s all about momentum. You want to come out of these events on a high, not going down, so it should be interesting to see how Rubio does from here on out.”
According to Brown, right now, is democracy at work.
“These events allow for actual interactions between voters and candidates without any staging.”
Oxley agreed Iowa and New Hampshire offered great opportunities for citizens to see these candidates in a raw moment.
Brown concluded the event by encouraging people to go out and partake in the process.
“Participate! Go home and vote!”