Friday, April 27, 2012

RTWH student interviewed by the Guardian newspaper in the UK

One of our RTWH students, Merida Lloyd, is interviewed in this article -- "Obama campaign leaves Mitt Romney trailing as focus shifts to November" -- published in the Guardian (UK).

Shackled by the internal battle for the GOP nomination, Romney has been closing offices in key battleground states while the president has been firing on all cylinders for months Obama campaign chicago Staff members work at Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign headquarters in Chicago. Photograph: M Spencer Green/AP Ed Pilkington in Tampa and Amanda Michel in New York Guardian Weekly, Wed 4 Apr 2012 17.05 BST Barack Obama is quietly accumulating a powerful army of field organisers and volunteers, giving his bid for a second term in the White House a substantial head start over his Republican rivals. In crucial swing states across America, the Obama re-election campaign, backed by the Democratic party, is already in full battle mode with more than 200 offices open, staff hired and thousands of election events underway. By contrast, all four Republican candidates – including the increasingly dominant frontrunner Mitt Romney – are so shackled by their internal battle over the party's nomination that they have actually been shutting down operations in critical states at the end of each primary. In the classic swing state of New Hampshire, Romney closed his only office immediately after the January 10 primary. To the astonishment of local Obama organisers, a "for lease" sign was hung outside the Romney headquarters four days before the vote was held. Obama, by contrast, has seven offices up and running in the state, with more than 25 paid staff. A Guardian survey of the activities of the Obama re-election campaign, based on data posted to, reveals 4,200 election events between now and June. Such an aggressive launch of a presidential election campaign so early in the cycle is unprecedented and threatens to leave the eventual Republican nominee far behind in terms of its grassroots organisation. At this stage, the emphasis of the Obama campaign is on phone banking and voter registration drives designed to mobilise support, as well as online organising skills and social media training. Though the events are spread across 47 states, they are heavily concentrated in the most critical battleground states that are likely to determine the outcome of the presidential election. The disparity between Obama's advanced organisation and the relative lack of any equivalent infrastructure on the Republican side devoted to the presidential election in November is stark. It helps explain the rising chorus from conservative leaders calling for a swift end to the party's nomination race and for Rick Santorum, Romney's main contender, to stand aside and let him focus on Obama. That chorus is likely to grow in volume following Romney's convincing win over Santorum in Wisconsin on Tuesday. The problem that Romney faces as the Republican nomination drags on is underlined in Florida. The sunshine state is considered by many political analysts to be the ultimate battleground state, with 29 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House. Here, the Obama re-election campaign already has 22 offices firing on all cylinders. Some opened as long ago as early 2009, four as recently as last Saturday. Between them, they claim to have put together 6,500 training sessions, planning sessions, house parties and phone banks. Events are being staged across Florida at a rate of up to 30 a day. Romney until recently had three offices in Florida, all directed to his primary battle against Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. Yet despite the fact that no Republican has won the White House while losing Florida since Calvin Coolidge in 1924, Romney closed all three offices after the January 31 primary. Calls to the main number of Romney's Florida headquarters are sent to voicemail; the mailbox is full and will not accept further messages. The headquarters was situated in an office block shaded by palm trees on one side of the Hillsborough River in Tampa. A few hundred yards away on the other side of the river is the Tampa Bay Times Forum where the Republican National Convention is expected to annoint Romney as the party's nominee in August. For prominent Floridian Republicans, the prolonged nomination contest is becoming increasingly frustrating. Art Wood, chairman of the Hillsborough County Republican party that covers Tampa, said that watching the Obama team gather their forces while his side was having to put direct campaigning on hold was "very painful. We had hoped that the nomination would be clinched by now, but that hasn't happened. "The Democrats are putting together a gigantic organisation through Obama For America. They have millions of dollars at their disposal and are solely focused on getting Obama elected. That's painful to watch as well." Hillsborough County GOP is only now installing phone lines for phone banking at its party headquarters in Tampa, and the actual work of identifying and contacting prospective voters won't begin until next month at the earliest. Wood is confident that after the Republican national convention in August, his party's declared nominee will close much of the gap in funding, organising and digital technology and by November will be better placed to take the state than in 2008 when Obama won it by just a 2.8% margin. But he still deeply regrets having to bide his time until then. The scale of the Obama team's outreach is startling by comparison to the Republicans. Rolling Stone magazine reports that Obama volunteers had already logged one million phone calls to potential supporters as early as last November – fully a year before the presidential election. The Guardian's review of the Obama re-election campaign, based on a survey of activity logged on carried out at the end of last month, further illustrates the gulf. Across the country, Obama supporters are gathering in McDonalds fast-food outlets, churches, hair salons, public libraries, farmers markets, living rooms and dining rooms, retirement community centres and even a Missouri funeral parlour. More than 200 offices are actively campaigning, the majority of which are official Obama For America sites set up directly by the Obama team. About a third of these campaigning offices are run by the Democratic party. Energy is concentrated in the critical swing states. Florida is top of the events list, with 500 phone banks, voter registration drives and training sessions planned by June, almost half organised by the Obama staff and half by volunteers. Other battleground states receiving intense attention, judging from events listed on, include Colorado (287 events planned), Nevada (104), New Hampshire (93), North Carolina (269), Ohio (154), Oregon (344), Pennsylvania (302), Virginia (359) and Wisconsin (220). Illinois, the president's home state, is also rallying local support early, with some 240 events on its calendar. The gulf in the electoral readiness of the two main parties is made more extreme by a digital divide that has opened up. The Obama re-election team, based in Chicago, has invested in a vast digital data operation centred on Facebook and its potential to unleash the political power of friendship. The strategy revolves around a unified computer database that stores information of millions of committed and potential Obama voters, allowing local organisers to target messages designed to raise money, encourage volunteers and on November 6 get out the vote. On the Republican side, effort has been put into compiling similar data, but it has been fragmented. Both the prominent conservative strategist Karl Rove and the oil tycoons the Koch brothers have been putting together their own voter databases, but there is understood to be no communication between the lists, thus limiting their potency. Mitt Romney has also been generating his own voter list, but it is nowhere near as comprehensive as Obama's. The big question is whether the technical prowess of the Obama campaign this year can overcome the inevitable waning of voter passion and enthusiasm that flows from a bid for a second term. Obama's first presidential election in 2008 unleashed exceptional levels of devotion from supporters across the country, and though his senior staff claim they are already witnessing similar levels of enthusiasm this year, few independent observers expect such a spectacle to be repeated. It remains to be seen whether the Obama campaign can hustle its vast grassroots network into action and translate that into eventual votes. The Guardian's survey of all events on revealed little to no obvious activity in 20 states, though they tend to be the less electorally sensitive ones where the outcome of the election is in less doubt. About a third of all upcoming events in the campaign's website are organised by the campaign offices, suggesting that the Obama re-election team and Democratic Party remain strong top-down drivers of volunteer activity. There are exceptions in battleground states like Pennsylvania and Arizona, where the grassroots boasts far more events than both the Obama campaign and Democratic Party combined. In 2008 the Obama campaign galvanised the youth vote as never seen before, but a close review of events on also shows relatively few on campuses or oriented toward students. In Florida, too, the Obama team says it is focusing on the youth vote, a reflection of the importance of that demographic in 2008 when 15% of those who voted in Florida were under 30. Obama commanded 61% of their ballots to John McCain's 37%. At a digital training event in St Petersburg, Florida, about 30 people gathered to hear a key Obama staffer talk about the importance of Facebook and Twitter in this year's contest. One of the attendees was Merida Lloyd, aged 23, a graduate student at the University of South Florida. She was invited by the Obama campaign in January to become one of their "spring fellows" – a volunteer organiser – and now spends about 15 hours a week canvassing for the president on campus. Lloyd has set up a university Facebook page and has access to the central Obama database from which she draws the details of potential supporters in the 18 to 24 age range. "The most effective way to reach people is to go to them," she says. "So I go to the bars where they hang out and talk to people of my own age group." Aubrey Jewett, a political scientist at the University of Central Florida, said that in a close race in Florida, Obama's superiority in on-the-ground organising could prove decisive. "The bottom line for Obama is that he has to match the mobilisation he achieved in 2008 among minority and young voters. One of the best ways to do that is to have direct voter contact – that's more effective than spending millions advertising on television." But John Geer of Vanderbilt University, who has studied the impact of negative TV advertising, said it was not a matter of either/or. "Obama has a phenomenal organisational strategy, but he will also be incredibly well funded to have heavy TV advertising." Geer added that Romney still had time to play catchup. "You can get a field operation up and close the gap pretty quickly. There's a lot of uncertainty among voters out there, and in the end this election will be determined by the state of the economy and whether Obama can make a case for having four more years."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

University Beat Road to the White House graphic

the Road to the White House ... heads outside!

We have such a beautiful waterfront campus, but, the truth is, I spend all of my time in class and office hours (sans windows) and hardly ever have the chance to enjoy it.

On a beautiful Tuesday morning, students suggested that we move class outside.

And I agreed!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

GPDC Dinner, "The Road to the White House"

The President of the Greater Pinellas Democratic Club, Harvey Morgenstein, asked me to speak at the April dinner meeting about the "Road to the White House" course. (There are typically about 150 or more attendees at these dinner meetings.)

All of the judicial candidates were also going to be speaking at this meeting, so I was delighted that Harvey invited me to bring some of my students to the dinner meeting as well. I was able to invite my Law and Politics class (in which we study judicial campaigns and elections) as well as students in my Road to the White House class.

I briefly discussed course design and implementation and how the course has changed since I developed it in 2004. Unlike the 2004 and 2008 classes, in which I took my class up to New Hampshire where all of the students interned on presidential primary campaigns in the first-in-the-nation primary, this year, in 2012, all students in the class interned on presidential primary campaigns right here in Florida.

In many ways, the impact of this campaign internship requirement in 2012 was similar to the impact of the campaign internship requirement in my American Government class. That is, students signed up for this semester's course largely unaware that there would be any hands-on component to the class.

I shared some of the data from the pre-test/post-test surveys conducted in my American Government classes (before and after the campaign internship requirement) to explain what I learned about the ways in which the internship affected students' attitudes towards campaigns, elections, politics.

You can read the full text of an article I wrote analyzing the data ("Learning Citizenship by Doing") by clicking here

I was so pleased that some of the students in the Road to the White House class were able to join me -- and that they were able to share their experiences and what they have learned on the campaign trail.

I should note that 11 students in the class are interning for Republican candidates, 11 are interning for President Obama's re-election or the FDP Democratic Caucuses, and 1 student is interning for the Libertarian campaign.

While this was a Democratic function, I was able to invite all students to come and hear from the judicial candidates regardless of the students' party affiliation.

Coincidentally, many of the guests in the audience had been listening to NPR news on their drive to the event -- and had heard my students and me talking about the Road to the White House class as a part of Mark Schreiner's "University Beat" series.

Click here to hear the radio and to see the TV spots:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

WUSF Univerity Beat Television Spot

Click here to see the WUSF University Beat television spot by Mark Schreiner:

USF St. Petersburg Road to the White House class (courtesy Judithanne Scourield McLauchlan)
Road to the White House
Students in a USF St. Petersburg political science class are learning the nuts and bolts of presidential campaigns by volunteering for them. It’s called the “Road to the White House,” and University Beat on WUSF TV joins them on the trip.

WUSF 89.7 University Beat: Radio Spot

Click here to listen to the WUSF University Beat story by Mark Schreiner:

Road to the White House

From January’s G-O-P primary to this summer’s Republican National Convention, Florida and the Tampa Bay area are playing a major role in determining who will win the presidential election. A USF St. Petersburg political science class is getting real campaign experience, and you can join these students on the “Road to the White House” this week on University Beat on WUSF 89.7.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Florida Democratic Party Presidential Selection Caucuses: Special Guest: Rick Boylan

As we sought to understand delegate counts, delegate selection, what happens at national nominating conventions, we heard from long-time DNC staffer RICK BOYLAN.

Boylan was the first to computerize the delegate tracking system, back in 1984 (before that, records were kept on index cards). Back in those days, a mainframe computer took up a whole room!

He helped students understand the history behind some of the important rule changes (the credentials challenge in 1964, the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago) and the reasoning behind the sequential primaries/caucuses and why the national parties want to stop states from frontloading their primaries.

In the last 2 presidential election cycles, Florida violated the rules of the RNC and the DNC. Both parties penalized Florida in 2008 for violating the rules. In 2012, with the Democratic nominee assured, the Florida Democratic Party was able to come up with a new system for selecting delegates that would comply with party rules. This time, instead of being penalized, Florida actually received "bonus" delegates.

Boylan is heading up the effort to create the FDP Delegate Selection Caucuses (and 3 students in RTWH are interning with him).

Students had lots of great questions, not only about the 2012 Democratic Caucuses in Florida but also about differences between the Democratic and Republican delegate selection processes, drafting the Party platform, and what happens at the conventions.

Social Media and Presidential Campaigns: Special Guest: Larry Biddle

During our week on Media, we discussed social media and presidential campaigns.

Our expert guest speaker was LARRY BIDDLE, one of the masterminds behind the Dean campaign's revolutionary internet campaign and successful internet fundraising program.

Biddle talked with us about the Dean campaign's use of Meet Up technology and the thousands of house parties organized by the campaign all across the country using the internet-based resources.

Biddle helped us to understand this progression of technology as well as how campaigns use the social media tools available to them today (e.g., targeting facebook ads).

Media & Presidential Campaigns: Special Guest: William March, Tampa Tribune

During our week on media and presidential campaigns, we heard from WILLIAM MARCH, veteran reporter from the TAMPA TRIBUNE, who has been covering state and national politics in Florida through many election cycles. (It's rumored that March "covered God back when he was a County Commissioner.")

We talked about the importance of Florida in presidential elections. It is incredibly unlikely that a Republican presidential ticket could get to 270 electoral votes without Florida. Indeed, Florida is the only swing state of the top 4 "mega states," and it is the swingiest of swing states. Of the last 5 presidential elections in Florida, 2 went to Democrats, 2 to Republicans, and 1 was a tie. (If you combine all of the ballots cast in those last 5 elections and tallied them up, there were about 31 million ballots cast. Of those, there was a Democratic advantage of approximately 57,000 votes. 2/10 of a percentage point difference!)

And, of course, within the swing state of Florida, Tampa Bay ("anchor of the I-4 corridor") is in the battleground region of the state.

William March has been covering national and state politics from the vantage point of the Tampa Bay region, and students learned a great deal from his expert analysis of the current Republican primary and the 2012 general election -- as well as his thoughts about media coverage of campaigns and the role of the print media in the current media environment.

Student Presentations: Presidential Campaign Research Papers

In addition to their presidential campaign internships, readings/lecture material/seminar papers, students each conducted research on an historical presidential campaign.

During the week of March 26, students presented their research findings to the class.

The Election of 1800: DEPASQUALE
The Election of 1824: DILLARD
The Election of 1860: BUSCHMAN
The Election of 1888: VARTANIAN
The Election of 1896: LLOYD
The Election of 1912: SCOTT
The Election of 1916: PLANZO
The Election of 1924: ELLINGTON
The Election of 1928: MOTT
The Election of 1948: WOLF
The Election of 1960: BROCKMEIER
The Election of 1976: GUZMAN
The Election of 1980: THOMPSON
The Election of 1988: DIOSO
The Election of 1992: BICKHARDT
The Election of 1996: SHANE
The Election of 2000: BUCHWALTER
The Election of 2004: HUNTSINGER
The Election of 2008: CABRERA

By hearing from colleagues about their research papers, students learned more about each of the presidential campaigns listed above and were able to reflect on how and why presidential campaigns have changed during the 208 year span we covered.