David Burstein '11 and Jon Delano '71 are following this year's
presidential election and will have updates throughout the
Fords Follow the Road to the White House
Jon Delano: As a Pennsylvanian, the best thing about Super Tuesday is that PA is almost guaranteed to be a player in the presidential sweepstakes, at least on the Democratic side. So the surprise was the even-steven nature of the delegate count; no clear winner.
DB: Absolutely. You know a couple months ago everyone was saying Super Tuesday was going to decide everything and now here we are with states like PA, TX, VA, and OH, which will all play a big part.
JD: Indeed, the candidates thought that, too, which is why both camps are ill-prepared for what comes next.
DB: It's great for democracy.
JD: That's absolutely true. The notion that Iowa and New Hampshire pick the nominees is preposterous and anti-democratic.
DB: In Virginia you had people showing up a week early to vote. I mean these people are so excited that their states will play a role.
JD: Yes, I heard about the VA lines. Next week will be here soon enough.
DB: Can the public at large sustain their excitement and participation this long? I think momentum may die down if we go all the way to April. Media coverage may be reduced in some states.
JD: I disagree, in part because the momentum is often a state by state development. I was with Obama and Clinton delegate candidates in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, and they are just gearing up. Actually, we relish the chance to cover the candidates in PA, plus the general managers of all the TV stations are hoping for a large cash infusion of TV ads.
DB: Yes, but national media budgets start to wear out.
JD: Well, I think the networks will be all over PA if it comes down to us. Choosing a president is a huge story. Of course, I admit a personal self interest. I will get the chance to interview all of them if there's a campaign in PA.
DB: Obviously, but national media budgets have been overspent already, and there's only so far they can go.
JD: Not sure what you mean, David. Are you suggesting CBS won't cover a PA primary?
DB: Well it's not just PA, they have a lot of states between now and then, and a number of folks I've talked to at networks are going to tone down their coverage. There was a wide consensus in the planning process that Super Tuesday was going to be decisive and now they have to readjust.
JD: Well it's only natural when there's time between the primaries to cover other things, but I think coverage will continue, perhaps using their local affiliates and their reporters to some extent. As long as there is no resolution of the presidential nomination process, TV news will cover it.
DB: I think what we'll start to see is a shift towards a much more issue focused campaign. We're beginning to see that.
Hillary has proposed a debate a week for the next 5 weeks I don’t think Obama will fully accept but issues are going to be much more important.
JD: Always a sign of a desperate candidate, but Obama should not fear debating. Perhaps Haverford should host a debate, maybe in conjunction with Bryn Mawr.
So what are the big issues that separate Clinton and Obama?
DB: This is really going to boil down to two things, one is an issue face off economy vs. Iraq, and the other is money and organization.
JD: Iraq favors Obama while the Economy favors Clinton.
DB: Exactly... Obama moved Paul Tewes, his Iowa Director, who ran what many describe as the best Iowa field operation ever, to Ohio.
JD: I gather Clinton is short of cash, loaning her campaign $5 million.
DB: Obama is getting far more donors and every day raises hundreds of thousands, most days at least a million.
JD: Where are the women? You would think all my feminist friends would be giving to Hillary.
DB: Her staff also cut pay. I think in a lot of ways Obama has momentum going for him, and thus he's raising more, but Hillary is still a frontrunner in many senses.
JD: I gather she focused more on raising big bucks from the traditional donors, rather than developing a new base of givers.
DB: Yes, and that's where she failed; everyone is maxed out. Obama pursued grassroots and there are always more people who can give $20, $20 more and so on.
JD: Money won't always be determinative, but you must have threshold amounts to make a campaign doable.
DB: Well, I think we're seeing that ads are not working as well this cycle.
JD: TV ads are outrageously expensive. You may be right about that, in part because TV news covers the race. When Obama came to Pittsburgh last summer, we put him in all our newscasts, even though he gave the local media only 120 seconds of his time.
DB: To be fair to those TV ad makers, the ads usually heat up in the general a little more, so it's really about getting your message out to all these states. Every state is going to get to vote in this primary. I think one of the reasons Obama won in Delaware, for instance, was that he came there. Granted, it’s not a lot of delegates, but he actually did an event there and people appreciate that. As a result he got lots of free media time and he's demonstrating he can win all over the country.
JD: That's my original point. Every state wants a campaign and that's why the interest level will not drop, state by state.
Clinton won from coast to coast, too, even though Obama won more states.
DB: I still believe we have to think about national interest dropping.
JD: The truth is, David, most Americans don't give a damn about any of this. It is a rarified group that watches political news like we do. I learned when I first did TV news a decade ago that what the public wants to see and what I want to deliver often differs.
DB: I have to disagree.
JD: Tell me about your efforts to engage 18 year olds in this election.
DB: Well, our goal is to go around the country screening this film and using that as a tool to get people involved. We work with high schools, we work with colleges, and communities all across the country to get people to see it and feel empowered. We also do a lot of stuff online.
JD: What about your film will motivate young people to vote?
DB: It’s a peer to peer appeal. It’s one that has a message that we can contribute and it’s coming from their peer, which is in large part where people have failed in young voter outreach. Adults scolding kids for not voting doesn’t work as a motivator.
JD: I like that. I hope you are successful.
DB: I do too.
JD: I used to say that everyone should vote, but as I get older I've decided that it's really a personal choice.
DB: Oh, absolutely.
JD: Lots of people choose not to vote and, to be blunt, when people don't vote, my vote becomes more powerful.
DB: I think that it’s very personal. I just think that if someone consciously chooses not to vote they in some senses, at least in my eyes, lose their complaining rights.
JD: True, but it doesn't stop them from bitching -- just ask the radio talk show hosts!
JD: LOL -- my use of the word bit--ng just got *** since when does Haverford censor?
DB: No way, that’s classic.
JD: If I wrote like they talk in a TV newsroom, nothing would be on the screen but **************. In any case, PA is a state of older voters.
DB: Yeah, but also a lot of college students who we've been seeing turning out like never before.
JD: Did you know that more than half the voters who NEVER miss an election in this state are over the age of 60?
JD: Indeed, voters under 40, let alone under 30, are sometimes in single digit percentages. As for college age voters, these voters (sadly) are not statistically relevant.
JD: Yes, as a percentage of state voters. Now, of course, in a college town, perhaps students could make a difference, if they choose to.
DB: Is PA winner take all for Democrats?
JD: No, the Democratic Party nationally prohibits winner take all. It's a GOP thing. Democratic delegates in PA are chosen by congressional district.
DB: Sorry, what I meant was, how does PA allocate its proportions?
JD: It's all based on the proportion that the presidential candidate gets in the beauty contest.
DB: So doesn’t that make young voters in college heavy districts relevant, like they were in New Hampshire and Nevada?
JD: Yes, it can, if they vote, but remember congressional districts in PA are well over 600,000 people. Haverford is how many people these days -- 1300?
JD: Yes, double the size when I was there.
DB: We also have Bryn Mawr, and Swarthmore maybe, but I mean in a place like Philadelphia, with a lot of college students, if they turn out in line with national youth voter turnout trends they could definitely make an impact.
JD: I think students can be incredibly important in an election, but not just in voting. Campaigns are for the young. My Haverford roommate's son is an advance person for Hillary. He's young and single, perfect for the job.
DB: Oh, of course, young people run campaigns.
JD: Exactly. It is great fun and very long hours and no pay. To me, when young people get involved at that level, it's both educational for them and illuminating to their elders. I learn something from my grad students every week.
DB: Without a doubt, and they are really doing it for this election.
JD: True. I see more young people than ever in both the Clinton and Obama campaigns out here. The Republican campaigns here have been rather moribund.
Well, David, my wife says it's time for me to get my teenagers to bed. As you may recall, they will stay up all night even with school tomorrow.
DB: Indeed. Let's try and talk again after the weekend contests.
JD: I'd like that alot. Keep pushing your effort -- maybe I'll get you on TV in Pittsburgh!
DB: Sounds good to me.