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Politics and International Relations (PIR): News


Transatlantic Seminar sheds light on US presidential elections

John Peterson, Elizabeth Bomberg, Robert Mason and Chris Carman in roundtable before a packed house.


On November 1st, a packed hall in the Appleton Tower took part in a spirited discussion on the US Elections and the likely outcomes. The event began with a roundtable discussion chaired by John Peterson with three expert panelists: Elizabeth Bomberg (University of Edinburgh); Chris Carman (University of Strathclyde); and Robert Mason (University
of Edinburgh).

Chris Carman (Strathclyde) gave a masterful presentation; analyzing the national and state level opinion polls, identifying the key trends and the main swing states. Chris's explanation of the electoral college highlighted some of the possible constitutional conundrums that could arise; if the electoral college were tied for instance, or if states wished to delay the poll due to the damage from Hurricane Sandy. Chris' conclusion was that the race is so tight, flipping a coin could give as good a prediction of the outcome as any.

TSS_2012_Pic_4Elizabeth Bomberg (Edinburgh) picked up on some of Chris' comments and recalled previous elections going back to the eighteenth century, when unusual voting constellations led to surprising outcomes. The main focus of her presentation was on the issues driving the debate and the importance of voter turnout and GOTV initiatives (Get Out The Vote). She also drew attention to the scale of electoral spending in this campaign, projected to be $6BN. Elizabeth was similarly reluctant to predict the outcome but highlighted the importance of the on-the-ground campaign in swing states like Ohio. In her view, the relative strength of the Obama campaign in this area could be decisive.

Robert Mason (Edinburgh) took a more historical approach: looking back at the debates of yore and in particular how the Republican Party Selection Conventions had wrought dramatic changes on the party's ideology, beginning with Ronald Reagan and continuing to today. The Republican Party may have chosen Mitt Romney but it remained to be seen whether Romney had captured the heart and soul of the party.

TSS_2012_Pic_3There were plenty of contributions from the audience, including from some with experience in the Obama campaign and the debate fleshed out a wide spectrum of possible outcomes including a hung electoral college, a President Romney being forced to work with a Vice President Biden and a voting cohort that may be so busy piecing their homes back together after Hurricane Sandy that they may not turn out to vote at all.

When the vote was put to the house, unsurprisingly for a European audience, Obama won hands down.

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