Title: The Republican Presidential Nomination: Gaming the Debates and Understanding the Long Game
Date: August 6, 2015
Panelists: Dr. Lara Brown, the Director of the Political Management program at the George Washington University; and Kira Nguyen, Host/Moderator
Subject: In this follow-up webinar, Dr. Lara Brown, the Director of the Political Management program at the George Washington University, as she reviews findings of the PEORIA Project report and examines the impact of debates on the campaigns’ electoral success for the candidates.
[Start of recorded material at 00:00:00]
Kira: Good afternoon, everyone. This is Kira, once again. And thank you so much for your patience. It’s now three minutes after noon. And we had to delay our start, waiting for a few registrants just trickling in. So thank you very much for your patience.
Welcome to the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management’s, Master’s in Political Management Program webinar. And thank you for taking the time to join us for the hour. I will be your moderator for the day.
We are very excited as we welcome, from Washington, D.C., Dr. Lara Brown who will be presenting to us updates on the report coming from the Graduate School of Political Management or GSPM and Zignal Labs, titled, the Public Echoes Of Rhetoric In America, PEORIA Project. As well as the very timely analysis of the impact of debates on the presidential campaign.
Before we get started with this compelling presentation, I would like to go over the logistics of the presentation and just some housekeeping items. So, as you know, all participants are currently on listen-in only mode as we want to ensure the smoother line of communication as this webinar is being recorded for later viewing. And you’ll be able to view this on our website as well.
And to communicate with me, please, use your chat box on your console. It should be at the bottom right-hand corner. And while the presentation is in progress, feel free to forward any question you have and we would be happy to go through them during the Q&A session, whether you have questions about the presentation content itself or the program information. Dr. Brown will be going through them.
And now I would like to present to you Dr. Brown, Dr. Lara Brown. Thank you so much for being here today. I know you’ve been very busy with today’s debate and you’re involved with press conferences and interviews. So I really appreciate your time. And welcome.
Now, Dr. Brown is the program director and associate professor of the Political Management Program at the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. She’s also a distinguished writer who is the full author of the recent book, titled, Jockeying for the American Presidency: The Political Opportunism of Aspirants.
Dr. Brown is also a regular contributor to US News & World Report’s Thomas Jefferson Street Blog. And is quoted regularly on leading media outlets nationwide.
She previously served as an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Villanova University. And prior to returning to academia, she worked as an education policy and public affairs consultant.
Dr. Brown also served in President William J. Clinton’s administration at the U.S. Department of Education. And she earned her BA, MA and PhD in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles. She also earned her MA in American politics and public policy from the University of Arizona.
So, once again, thank you so much, Dr. Brown. So now, please, take the stage. Thank you.
Dr. Brown: I was just saying, Kira, thanks so much for welcoming me to the call and I really appreciate everyone joining us this morning, or soon to be this afternoon, depending on where you are.
And, yes, it has been quite a busy time, as many of you know, the Republican presidential debates. And I say ‘debates’ because there are two debates this evening. One at five o’clock eastern time and one at nine o’clock eastern time will be taking place on Fox News. It’s going to be an interesting day.
Today, I’m really here to share with you some of the findings that my colleague, Dr. Michael Cornfield and I have gleaned and learned from our partner, Zignal Labs, their data platform. And I just wanted to share with you some of that information, because it does provide a different vantage point on the race, really, in terms of when you think about what’s going on, is it all just talk about Trump, does that mean anything.
We are here undergoing, sort of, a great deal of analysis on Zignal Labs platform … and I’ll explain what they do and what they collect in a minute … to essentially, measure candidate campaign messages and how those campaigns are, essentially getting their message out. So what channels are they using, are they being effective in getting a lot of retweets when they post something to Twitter. And are they getting their campaign’s website share a great deal.
All of those metrics are as important as other mentions in the media universe. We expect and anticipate that over time we will see those effective campaigns doing those other types of activities because, at the end of the day, they want people to go to their website, they want to be able to collect e-mail addresses and they want to be able to turn that interest into votes, donations and a lot more supporters.
So, with that, let me tell you a little bit about the PEORIA Project. It does, as Kira mentioned, stand for the Public Echoes Of Rhetoric In America. And for those of you who are too young to know the illusion back in the day of Vaudeville it used to be the saying that, “If it plays in Peoria, it will play around the nation.”
And so the idea of the PEORIA project was really to take a look at these campaign messages and try to determine their influence and importance. And really, at the end of the day, how often they are being echoed among the public.
Now, Zignal Labs, which is a company based in San Francisco, they have a media monitoring platform whereby they track all of the mainstream and social media mention. And from that platform we are able to see what it is people are saying, how often they are mentioning the candidates and whether or not the campaign messages are getting echoed, both in the mainstream media as well as in the social media.
So their platform, in fact, is very comprehensive. It takes in data and information from LexisNexis for about 900 different newspapers and news magazine sites. That’s one the mainstream channels. It also brings in data from all the broadcast news in video form. It also tracks the newspapers websites, like, thenewyorktimes.com or thewallstreetjournal.com. And those are the mainstream ones.
When it comes to social, they do all of Twitter, they search public Facebook and are able to bring those in. They are also able to look at social video, like, YouTube or Vimeo. And then they also bring in blogs that are, sort of, personal or partisan in nature. So it’s quite a comprehensive website.
We looked at all of this data. We are doing our second report here. And we did find that, at the end of the day, the talk about Trump in our last report period is really quite extraordinary. There is no doubt that Donald Trump has managed in, essentially, the little over a month that he has been in this campaign, taken over the website, I should say the share of mentions and the share of voice the candidates get. And I will show you this on our slide, which really shows what we’re talking about.
When you add up all these mentions, all the mentions between May 16th and July 19th, you know, you end up with … I believe it’s around 22 million mentions, if I recall correctly. And what you can see is that Donald Trump is garnering about seven million of those.
What is extraordinary about this was, as I said, he’s really only been a candidate for about half the timeframe of our report. What you have is you, in fact, have Donald Trump jumping into this race June 16th, which as I said is basically halfway through this reporting period. He had almost no mentions prior to his getting in. In fact, his most popular tweet, which we’ll see in a minute, was about the Floyd Mayweather and supporting him in his boxing fight. So one of the things that was really interesting is almost all of his mentions come after he announces and he still managed to overwhelm all of the other candidates.
That said, I think it’s important to realize that he’s not the only one in the race. You can see the other candidates that we have listed in red. Those are really the candidates who are getting double digits, in terms of share of voice and overall volume around their campaign.
Hillary Clinton, shouldn’t be any surprise, she is the frontrunner and likely nominee on the Democratic side. But what is fascinating is that Bernie Sanders is giving her quite a run for her money with regard to media mentions and social media activity. He has managed to garner about eleven percent of the conversation over this period. And you can see the next, essentially, five candidates are all in this, sort of, mid-level range and they’re all Republican.
So there is a real and vital contest, as we attempted to put this together and try to sort out who is where. When it comes to share of voice, as I said, Donald Trump dominates. There is an active and I would definitely say, kind of, vital second tier of candidates who are ready to take him on. And Hillary Clinton is certainly dominating the Democratic field but she is being talked about in relation to Bernie Sanders and his challenge.
So next, this is just another way to look at this share of voice. We present to, basically, the total mentions chart, which tracks the timeframe over the bottom of the chart and you can see when the spikes in mention are. We couldn’t resist, of course, Donald Trump is known for building his towers and his many condominium projects, hotels and apartment buildings. And what he does here is, in fact, have seven different spikes over this period of time.
His spikes are impressive in that they not only are large in volume but, in fact, they overshadowed all the other candidates’ announcements in terms of share of voice, in terms of total mentions. So there’s just no way to look at, to talk about Trump without understanding that he is dominating this presidential conversation.
In addition, he not only is dominating it but he has, essentially, muffled the announcement echoes of the other candidates. Now, how do we measure announcement echoes. Well, what we do is we basically look at, in the chart that you just saw, the time it took from the top of the spike with an announcement to, essentially, the bottom of the first peak. And that is the length of time that we consider to be an announcement echo.
As you can see in this chart, Donald Trump actually had about a six-day long echo, whereas you can see that Jim Webb only had a one-day echo. So these candidates have, sort of, different timeframes in which they’re talked about and they’re garnering a significant share of voice. And you can see that, obviously, the number of mentions also change as those times periods alter.
But what is fascinating about this, and why we put this there and why we drew that big dark line underneath Jeb Bush is that all of the candidates above that line announced prior to Trump getting in. And, interestingly enough, their average announcement echo and share of voice was right around 31 percent. After his announcement echo all of those, with the exception of Trump, were essentially only able to garner about twelve percent share of voice.
So Donald Trump and the focus on him has also, kind of, quieted and quelled a lot of the other candidates’ potentials to get into this presidential conversation. Later on in this presentation, we’ll talk a little bit about the candidates who announced earlier, who actually announced during the sixty days of our first report, which was March 15th to May 15th. And one of the things I can tell you is that average share of voice for each candidate during that echo period in that timeframe, again, before Trump was about 35 percent.
So what we are seeing is that Trump is muting the effect of other candidates as they get into this race. And this is just another way to see this. You can see how much bush was actually hurt or muffled by Donald Trump’s announcement.
Jeb Bush announced the day before Donald Trump got into the race. That, sort of, royal blue spike shows Jeb Bush’s announcement day. You can see he garnered over eighty percent share of voice. On the very next day Donald Trump announced and Donald Trump then, essentially, took over that share of voice and Jeb Bush fell over the next three days to less than, essentially, fifteen percent.
So it’s quite extraordinary. And if you were to ask us who was the person most hurt, we would say in the immediate aftermath of the announcement it was Jeb Bush.
In addition, we have spent a lot of time, as I said, Zignal’s platform brings in different types of media. And we wanted to separate out and think about these conversations. Is the conversation in mainstream media, is it the same, does it look similar to the conversation in social media, is one of those conversations driving the other one or are they separate and independent conversations.
Frankly, we do not have an answer to those questions yet. We’re just too early in this project to know. But what we are finding is that, right now, the conversations do look different.
We do see in this chart that mainstream media gave much more attention to Jeb Bush and not as much attention to Donald Trump, as did social media. Donald Trump is, clearly, the king of social media with a 61 percent share of voice in that format and on that channel. But when it comes to mainstream media, they are attempting, or at least it would appear, to create more even coverage of the various candidates in this second announcement period.
Moving on. This chart attempts to capture not just share of voice but, in fact, what we call the echo conversion rate. The purpose of this chart and some of our calculations is we’re interested here, because this the Graduate School of Political Management, not just who is talking about who but, really, who is saying and driving the conversation.
And when we, you know, are thinking about campaigns and you’re talking about running a winning campaign what we want to see is that campaigns are, ‘a’, able to craft a coherent narrative, are able to stay on message with messages that align with their overall narrative, and then they are able to turn those messages and convert those messages into supporters who will give money, buy campaign gear and, certainly, turn out to vote for that candidate.
So what you want to see is an effective campaign organization, not just a lot of noise. And, on this scale, Donald Trump fares incredibly poorly. It would appear from, essentially, the total number of website shares he has, even though he has the most of all the candidates, when you put that over his number of total mentions the percentage drops down to point two percent. Certainly, that doesn’t seem to be a very effective campaign. In fact, he is in the bottom rung of all of the candidates that announced in the second period. You can see, he is down with Lincoln Chafee at the point two percent level.
On the other hand, some candidates who the mainstream media have ignored and/or others have, kind of, not taken all that seriously appear to be doing quite well in terms of getting their website shared, mentioned. And, really, why that matters is again because once your website is shared, once somebody clicks on your website, they hit a landing page. Once they hit a landing page, if they’re in favour of that candidate they will fill out that information and they will provide the campaign with an e-mail.
An e-mail is, essentially, the latest and best grassroots tool that a campaign can have. So what we are seeing is that some of these campaigns that are quieter in terms of share of voice and in terms of total mentions are much better in capitalizing and leveraging the mentions that they do get by bringing their campaign into it.
In addition, we really did take a look at life, sort of, before Trump and life after Trump. Let me just say one quick note. Life before Trump, we look at in terms of March 15th, all the way through June 15th. So it’s a ninety-day period. After Trump, it is essentially a 33-day period, from June 16th to July 19th. And, in that, what we really wanted to do was try to compare, kind of, the number of mentions per day, the average number of mentions a day, right, that you have across the periods.
Well, life before Trump you can see that the mentions per day were actually about 212,000. You can’t see it very well in this slide but that little sign that looks like a minus is actually an about sign or an estimated sign in the mathematical world.
After Trump, that number turns to about 473,000 mentions per day. So what you see is that there’s no doubt … trump pumped up the volume. And, literally almost, the number of mentions more than doubled. Again, with this idea of, sort of, before and after, this chart looks at all of the candidates that were running up until this time. It does not John Kasich and it does not include Jim Gilmore because both of them announced after this report was completed.
But what you see on the right-hand side of the chart were the first wave of candidate announcements that came between March 15th and May 15th. On the left-hand side of the chart you see the candidates who came after that, between May 16th and July 19th.
And what is interesting is, is that prior to Trump Hillary Clinton was dominating this conversation. You can see that her spiked bar is, essentially, a darker blue. And that was really about the total number of mentions and the share of voice she was garnering before Trump got in the race. The lighter colour is actually the number of mentions and share of voice that Donald Trump received after he got in the race. And you can see it was essentially a Hillary show, now it’s the Donald show.
Beyond that, beyond looking at just the conversation itself, we wanted to look at the nature and character of the conversation. So we calculated a net sentiment variable. Now, let me just say that net sentiment is very tricky because the natural language processing that Zignal Labs uses and that all, sort of, media monitoring firms use are not very good at picking up sarcasm. They can’t really tell when somebody is, you know, referring to as, “Oh, he’s really bad,” and they’re talking about how he’s actually good, not bad. But it picks up the idea that somebody is negative rather than positive.
So in order to deal with that what we did was we actually minused the number of positives or we took the number of positives and subtracted the number of negatives in terms of total mentions, you end up with essentially a net sentiment number. And one of the things that becomes very clear about this slide is that after Trump things turn more negative.
If you look at that first wave of candidates, you can see most of them had essentially net positives in the immediate aftermath of their announcement. Whereas when you look at the second set of candidates you can see that many more of them, after they announced and after Trump came in, they had essentially negative net sentiments.
There is no doubt one of the things that appears true in this slide is that those who got into the mud with Donald Trump, including Trump himself, fared worse than those who sidestepped or stayed away from Trump.
So one of the things that’s interesting, you can see on this chart, right, is that Lindsey Graham, his net sentiment was negative sort of before Trump but, boy, after Trump it became much, much worse. And that really, likely, had to do with his engaging with Trump on the conversation about John McKay.
So this is also the other effect of Trump. Not only did he change the nature and character of the conversation, became more negative and more things were about him but he also changed the topic of conversation from an issue standpoint. Most people who are long-time presidential campaign watchers know that in the primary … this invisible primary period, finance reporting and end of, basically, financial quarters are very important. Most of the politicians, pundits, observers, other candidates watch to see how much money they each have raised.
June 30th, which fell in this timeframe, and was a couple weeks after Trump announced, meant that we should have seen a whole bunch of talks between basically July 1st and July 19th. All of the candidates’ reports become public on July 15th. And we expected, being long-time presidential observers, that the talk about the candidates and their campaign money would skyrocket and go through the roof. People would be using that as a metric to determine who was viable and who wasn’t.
Instead, it went up but it didn’t increase that much. The mentions per day increased from 7,500 up to 11,000. It’s about a 35 percent increase. When we look, however, at the issue of immigration which Trump, sort of, stumbled onto the stage and brought it out in a way that I think most of the Republicans had wished he hadn’t.
And when we look at this issue it’s really quite extraordinary. Before Trump, in this 90-day period the average mentions per day were about 205,000. After Trump, you end up with about 440,000 mentions. And, really, at the end of the day, so a doubling of the interest and conversation around immigration.
So when you, kind of, summarize all this you can basically see that after Trump we had a conversation that was about him that was much more negative and that was focused much more on the issue and the agenda that he was concerned about rather than necessarily the entire Republican field.
But then we get to this question of is Trump really leading. So it’s clear he’s dominating the conversation and he’s changing the nature of the conversation. But the real question about whether he’s leading still remains.
And for this what we did was we took a look at the most shared campaign tweets during this pre-Trump period and this post-Trump period. And I’m going to just go quickly through these. But what you can, basically, see is that before Trump both the second-wave candidates as well as the first-wave candidates were mostly able to stay on, kind of, issues that their campaigns were interested in or, for the most part, talk about their own campaign.
In other words, when a campaign like Hillary Clinton is able to launch a tweet that says, “I’m running for president,” and it was retweeted 95,000 times that’s pretty extraordinary stat and a pretty impressive one for a campaign that is working, and that is effective and has a sufficient number of supporters.
After Trump, what you see is that candidates are not as good at actually making sure that their campaign messages get out. Many of the most shared campaign tweet in the post-Trump period are actually about Donald Trump.
So, again, I think one of the things that’s interesting is that Donald Trump himself was able to have 10,000 retweets on his announcement. But, again, when you look at the total number of tweets Donald Trump has had it is not necessarily as impressive as, say, Hillary Clinton or Ted Cruz.
Again, this just attempts to, sort of, put this into context and to summarize this, we ask this question, is Trump leading. When you talk about share of voice, I don’t think there could be any question that he’s not in … out of all of the candidates on the Republican field, he is essentially garnering about 41 percent share of voice. And that is quite impressive.
But, again, when it comes to the campaign’s top tweets or to, in fact, the tweets by period and the mentions per period, what we in fact see is that he’s not faring quite as well as some of the other candidates in the race.
Which brings us to, essentially, our overall echo rating. Dr. Cornfield and I did confer and spent time, kind of, pouring over these data. And what we were looking at is were the campaigns a part of the conversation, were they effective in getting other people to be part of the conversation, meaning other supporters and getting people to their website. And how their sentiment, overall net sentiment has been.
When we looked at all that it became very clear to us that both Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton remain our top, sort of, echo rating candidates. And this scale, so you know, goes from one to eleven. And what you see is that Bernie Sanders comes very close behind with an eight. Donald Trump is down at a seven.
Let me just tell you that number one is essentially crickets, meaning you’re not doing very well, no one is really noticing and you need to do a lot more to really get into this conversation. Four is thought to be noticeable, meaning you’re being noticed. Number seven is memorable but number eleven is historic.
We have yet to see a candidate reach something that we believe will go down in history as essentially an effective campaign, an impressive campaign and one that becomes a model. We’re still in the beginnings of that.
So, with that, let me just say that I’m happy to take any questions. I’m going to go through the program information first so that you can know a little bit about GSPM and our political management master’s. And then I will open it up for questions and turn it back over to Kira who will help to moderate that.
So let me tell you little bit about what we do here at GSPM. The way that I describe our degrees to people is that they are really about MBA’s for politics. And what we mean by that is that if you were interested in economics solely and you were interested in why the markets work the way they do, you would go get a master’s or a PhD in the field of economics. But if you were somebody who wanted to go work in business you would, in fact, go get a degree called an MBA. You would be interested in learning the skills, the tools, the applications of economics to the real world of business.
Well, our degrees are much like that. And they are analogous to that example with regard to political science. If you are somebody like me who is fascinated by why things happen in politics, and you’re interested in doing research and building theories about politics then what you do is you pursue a master’s or a PhD in political science.
If, however, you are somebody who loves politics, and you just want to work in the field, you want to be out there, you want to be working with politicians, you want to be engaged with partisans, you want to be doing non-profit advocacy, you want to be communications directors and press secretaries then, you know what, you come to us for the application of political science into the real world of politics, because that’s what we do.
The great part about our degree, as far as I’m concerned, is that we have two platforms through which you can obtain it. You can either do the program fully online or you can come to Foggy Bottom Campus in Washington, DC and take classes here.
Both programs are structured for working professionals. And with the exception of some our international students who are prohibited from working while they are here because of their VISA requirement, almost all of our students are working either in Washington or around the country in their jobs.
There are 36 credits that are required. We have, essentially, classes and school year round, both in the online program as well as in the on-campus program. Students typically take about two classes per semester.
The big difference is that students in the online program have six-week long terms. They take one class each six-week term and, essentially, they take their classes sequentially, so one after another. Those who come to campus do the same three semesters but each one of their classes lasts fourteen weeks. And, as such, they in fact do their classes simultaneously. So they take two classes a semester. The summer session is ten weeks long on campus but fall and spring are both traditional fourteen-week semesters.
Online our program is fully asynchronous, which means that students … there is no official class time, assignments, and work and reading is essentially divided up by week and students are expected to complete certain tasks each week. And professors grade each one of those in a timely manner.
The only class that is not like that is the final class in the program which is called Washington residency where you, essentially, do five weeks of the class online, you do one week here in Washington, DC.
When it comes to the on-campus classes, they are more traditional in the sense that they do meet once a week and they do meet for two and a half hours. They meet in the evenings, however, so that our working professionals can work all day and, twice a week, come to class.
Each class meets only once. You take two classes. This is where you are about two nights out of the week. We had no classes on Friday, so classes are just Monday through Thursday.
Beyond that … and I think this is a really wonderful slide which, again, describes this issue of our program being an MBA for politics. As I said, if you are somebody who is interested in theory, who wants to do research and publishing then, you know what, in fact, a political science master’s or PhD is for you, your job will likely be in academia.
If you are interested in, sort of, the what of life, meaning which policy is implemented or what is the best policy in a certain area, right, from sustainability to gun control to, you know, prolife and abortion politics, all of those things are really then more about policy and they are more about obtaining a master’s in public policy.
But it’s important to know that if you go into that field, much like a political science master’s, you will end up doing much more research, and writing and publishing then you will be doing, sort of, advocacy in the traditional sense. You may work at a think tank, you may work at places like CRS, which is the Congressional Research Service where you provide reports. But it is unlikely that you are going to be purely in an activist kind of role.
A lot of students, especially who are political science undergraduates, think they need to go to law school. What I would tell you, unless you want to be an attorney, do not go to law school. It is not the job that it used to be in terms of the entry into politics. You know, traditionally people, if they wanted to go into politics, became attorneys. The world is such that specialization matters and they won’t teach you in law school what you need to actually be to be a professional in politics.
Our programs do do that. As you can see from this slide, we have many of our alums, kind of, across the spectrum in terms of jobs in the political field, doing everything from running campaigns, to being chiefs of staff for elected officials, to in fact being executive directors for national associations, or communications directors for non-profits or government affairs directors for corporations. We do do all of those things in addition to a great deal of marketing and consulting. Our alums are very diverse.
When it comes to admissions and applying for our programs, essentially, there is an online application form. There is a fee for that that’s $75.00. The application itself includes a statement of purpose, a current resume, three letters of recommendation and a copy of your undergraduate transcripts.
Students do not have to take the GRE if their undergraduate degree had … they had a 3.0 GPA or higher. There’s also the possibility for students to wave the GRE if they have a lot of, sort of, political experience and they’re many years removed from their undergraduate.
And, with that, I will tell you that we do have, essentially, two upcoming start terms. August 31st will basically be both on campus and online. October 26th, students can also start online. And then we will enroll people for the spring term.
It is important though when you look at these deadline dates to realize that unless your application is received a full two weeks before the semester starts it is unlikely that you will be, sort of, reviewed and processed on time to, in fact, start that term.
So what you’ll want to do is if you are interested in one of our programs be sure, for instance, that you have all of your materials in to our offices by, essentially, August 17th. I don’t think that we would be able to bring you in more quickly because there are all the issues of student financial aid and other administrative aspects of a student coming to campus or joining us online.
If you have questions we do have an enrollment advisor. And if you could just let [Lelisa] know, if you send her an e-mail or you give her a call, which program you’re interested in, online or on campus, she can certainly direct you to the right place.
With that, I’m going to turn it over to Kira and ask her to moderate our question session.
Kira: Thank you so much, Dr. Brown. And we’re going to be going through the questions now and I will be queuing them for you. So, now, it’s very timely that we have this presentation today because, obviously, tonight is the GOP nominations debate. And our audience would like to hear, from your perspective, what you think Trump’s poll numbers will look like. Is it going to rise, is it going to plateau, you know, based on his performance tonight and if he shows humility during this evening’s debate. Can you give us your insights on that?
Dr. Brown: Sure. I mean, I think tonight’s’ debates are going to be really fascinating. I did just write a blog that posted today on US News. And I did actually just speak on the Diane Rehm show which is a show on NPR, radio show, talking about this. But one of the things that I deeply believe is that the five o’clock debate is going to be the more interesting debate than the nine o’clock debate.
And why that is is because at five o’clock those second-tier candidates, there are seven of them, really have nothing to lose by trying to make news. So they’re going to be working very hard to get into the conversation.
They are also at an advantage in the sense that if they take a shot at Trump, right, if they talk about him talking about John McCain or they decide to go after him for the fact that he was, up until fairly recently, a registered Democrat or that he consulted President Bill Clinton on the phone before he got into this presidential race, well, I think what you will see is that they’re advantaged because Donald Trump can’t respond. The only time he can respond is in the nine o’clock hour.
And if he wastes his time in the nine o’clock hour responding to somebody from five o’clock then, in fact, that person from the five o’clock hour has probably won. They have pulled themselves into the national conversation, Donald Trump has, sort of, fallen from it and he has wasted his opportunity.
All of that said, Trump has something of a high-wire act tonight. I don’t think anybody within the nine o’clock prime time debate is going to after him. Still I think one of the things that he has to be aware of is that he has to look presidential tonight. He can’t just be this, sort of, celebrity who is something of a blowhard. Because that will not likely play well. And he especially can’t go after a Fox moderator the way that Newt Gingrich went after John King of CNN.
So I think what you’re going to see is a real question mark, can Trump be professional enough, and be civil enough and be substantive enough that people who right now are supporting his, sort of, outsider campaign will actually continue supporting him.
Kira: Perfect. Thank you, Dr. Brown. So one of our audience has a question regarding Bernie Sanders. So it seems that his campaign is growing like wildfire. One could argue that it’s just as powerful, if not as powerful than Obama’s rise in 2007. Would you say that Bernie’s numbers are on track to take over Hillary?
Dr. Brown: Well, I certainly would argue that Bernie Sanders is on fire. I mean, you’re absolutely right that he is doing a tremendous job of getting supporters, getting media attention and really, in some ways, starting to put together an effective challenge to Senator Clinton. The difference is Senator Clinton is in a very different space than she was in 2008.
Now, it doesn’t mean that everything is set. Certainly, some of the other issues for Hillary Clinton, whether it is the e-mail scandal or the possible criminal, you know, investigation that might go on regarding her e-mails and her leaking of classified information through them, that is all yet to be seen.
But with where things stand right now it would be very, very difficult for any Democratic candidate to, essentially, wrest that nomination from her. She has so much more of the party locked up today than she ever did in 2008. And Barack Obama was able to, kind of, take the nomination from her in 2008 because she really was in a weaker position then than she is now.
Kira: Perfect. So just based on the dynamic as it exists right now and the data from the PEORIA Project, who do you think would have the most to gain on tonight’s debate?
Dr. Brown: You know, I think that’s a great question. I personally think that the person who will gain the most is going to be somebody from that five o’clock hour. Everyone who is really in that nine o’clock debate is going to just, I imagine, keep their head down, try to stay on message, try to avoid Donald Trump and not lose.
So there is a big difference between trying to win and trying not to lose. And I think the candidates who are all on that nine o’clock stage realize that so long as they don’t lose they will get to continue on.
Those who are in the five o’clock debate, however, they know that they have to try to win. And that means they’re going to take more risks, they’re going to likely go bigger, and they’re going to try to alter the agenda and get into the nine o’clock conversation by something they say or something they do.
The person who I think has a shot at really mixing up things and changing things is, in fact, Carly Fiorina in that five o’clock debate, partly because she is not only the only woman, she is not only able and more free to take on Hillary Clinton in a way that, sort of, her male counterparts cannot but she has really been campaigning very hard and very effectively in Iowa and New Hampshire. People like her there, they’ve been impressed with her there. And I don’t think that there really would be any downside for her to, kind of, go big. And if she goes big that could be very important for the Republican Party. I doubt she would win the nomination but she could land herself the VP spot.
Kira: And the next question we have is do you think that if Biden jumps into the race he would gain enough media attention and popularity to cool the Bernie surge and Clinton being the frontrunner?
Dr. Brown: Well, I think he might dampen some of the excitement around Bernie Sanders. The truth of the matter is the more candidates that get in to be the anti-Hillary, if you will, the more they are likely to split that, kind of, coalition and the less likely any one of them is to succeed.
So part of the reason why Barack Obama was so successful in being able to upend Hillary Clinton, as I said, it wasn’t just that she wasn’t as well-positioned as she is now but it is also that there really wasn’t another alternative to Barack Obama. And I say that in the sense that, if you remember, John Edwards was the person who came in third in Iowa but he had quite a number of scandals with respect to his extramarital affair, his out-of-wedlock child, his wife undergoing breast cancer treatment at the time of all of those dalliances and scandals. And then you, essentially, saw him self-destruct as a candidate. And by the time that those things happened what you saw was that Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd were all really, effectively, out of the race.
So the, if you will, anti-Hillary sentiment was able to coalesce behind Barack Obama and he was able to win. If Bernie Sanders has any chance of winning, he has to hope that a whole bunch of other candidates, be it Vice President Joe Biden, be it Martin O’Malley or be it, you know, current Governor of California, Jerry Brown, either don’t get in or don’t catch fire.
Kira: Now, if Joe Biden decides to enter the Democratic race do you think President Obama will endorse him or do you think he’s going to endorse someone from the Democratic side?
Dr. Brown: No, I think … well, President Obama will eventually endorse the nominee. That is … I think, without a question, he will argue, and stand for and hope that he will be able to pass his presidency onto the next Democratic candidate who’s nominated.
That being said, I also image that he will stay out of the nomination race. It would be especially tricky for him if Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden were seeking his endorsement because, of course, Hillary Clinton served as his secretary of state, Joe Biden has served as his vice president. That’s a decision that I don’t think the president would want to make.
Kira: I see. And I think we have time for one more question. And it’s with regards to Donald Trump again. Do you think he is going to sink any Republican campaign for president if he goes independent?
Dr. Brown: Well, that’s a really interesting question. And it has a lot of dimensions to it. There are many people who believe that he would mostly pull his support from the Republicans, were he to run as an independent and, thus, he would then essentially make it so that a Democrat won the presidency.
I don’t think that that analysis is quite as strong as many of those who put it forward believe it is. First of all, when Ross Perot was in the race in 1992 political science has shown that he took and pulled equally from both parties. And if you recall that race, the person who was the real loser in that was actually President George W. … I mean, George H.W. Bush because he was the incumbent president.
So, you know, we have a couple things switched at this moment in time in terms of both the parties, and who’s in office and who’s not in office and how that, kind, of challenge would play. That’s number one.
Number two is that, as I think our PEORIA report shows, Donald Trump is not doing much in the way of organizing or actively putting together a campaign that will sustain the activities that he would need to garner votes.
Well, if he runs for president as an independent it is an extraordinary challenge. Not only would he have to spend a tremendous amount of money but he would have to get his name on every ballot in the country, as well as in the District of Columbia.
Ross Perot was able to do that by spending money to help his volunteers in each and every state accomplish that goal. I don’t think we’ve see any level of campaign organizational activity or management on the part of Donald Trump yet. So much of what he is at the moment is just noise.
Kira: I see. Thank you, Dr. Brown. Thank you to our audience. We’re just wrapping up now for the hour and it’s been a wonderful presentation. Do keep in mind we are currently accepting applications for a fall start date, so that you can be active participants in our political environment. With August 31st being the next start date for fall one, and we’re enrolling for both the online as well as the campus programs, and fall two for the online program, which begins on October 26th.
And, once again, the enrollment advisor is Lelisa [Ratiopo]. She can be reached at 1 888 989 7067, extension 3361. And her e-mail address is as followed. We look forward to hearing from you.
And we will be hosting relevant topics as well for next year and perhaps one more for this year. Thank you very much for your support and to Dr. Brown for delivering such, you know, insight. It’s all very relevant and very timely in context of today’s debate as well. And have yourself a wonderful rest of the day.
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