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Journalist experts weigh in on ‘mother of all general elections’ in iowa

By Darwin Manning

Many Grinnellians have observed the contentious presidential debate season and some have even cast their first presidential ballots this election. All this action will ultimately lead up to Nov. 6, Election Day, when the president will finally be chosen.

Meanwhile, in reaction to this stir of activity, a panel composed of Barb Trish, Political Science, Kathie Obradovich, political columnist for the Des Moines Register and David Shribman, Executive Editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, gathered Monday evening in JRC 101 to discuss the progress of this election cycle through the topics of campaign organization, press coverage, advertising, get out the vote efforts and reflections on how elections have evolved.

Trish began the panel and highlighted how voters have been inundated with a mind-numbing mass of emails from both campaigns. She said that while President Barack Obama mastered the art of campaigning and collecting small donations in 2008, Mitt Romney has proven to be no slouch.

“The Obama campaign has sent out about 1,300 [emails] and the Romney campaign a grand amount as well, and I have received all of them,” Trish said. “Romney is no digital slouch. He has hands-on evaluations of donors.”

She pointed out that all the free events that supporters go to are not exactly free as the information that attendees supply is then used by the campaign. However, she also noted contact made to people who have already voted or have no intention of supporting a certain campaign.

“I get a little bit of perverse pleasure in the fact that the lists they have are not as accurate as they might think,” Trish said.

Obradovich detailed the hysteria that takes place surrounding the primary season in Iowa. She explained that it creates a circus atmosphere that only ends when January is through. For many Iowans, it is a welcomed reprieve, with many locals needing a “nice long vacation.”

She went on to compare this election cycle to the one in 2008.

“Four years ago, we had the mother of all caucus cycles, tons of candidates, but this time what we have is the mother of all general elections,” Obradovich said.

She highlighted the symbolic importance of Iowa to Obama, as the state where he got his start in 2008, meaning that his and Romney’s campaigns are paying close attention to how he does here. Additionally, with fewer states remaining swing states, Iowa truly becomes a battleground.

“Iowa is historically the birthplace of Barack Obama, as the state that got him started in the caucus, the first state that gave him a chance and set him on the road to the White House,” Obradovich said. “Romney can make the case that the people who brought him don’t even want him anymore.”

Shribman wrapped up the discussion by commenting on the evolution of campaigns and the establishment within the GOP. He suggested that this election is paramount because of the state of the economy and the crisis that the nation finds itself in.

“I don’t think since ’80 have we had as stark a choice at a time with as great peril,” Shribman said. “That said, these are two men who are surprisingly uninteresting and uninspiring, particularly Obama, who mastered the poetry of campaigning and was such a dud in the throes of governing, even his stauncher supporters are disappointed.”

Shribman went forth to explain that Romney is really not the center of the GOP party, though he is running for election. From his perspective there once was a strong Republican establishment, comprised of primarily white men who would decide who would be the Presidential candidate behind closed doors.

He also offered that perhaps Romney is not the most popular nomination for the party, and that many Republicans are focusing on the defeat of President Obama.

“Many Republicans are fighting for the party, rather than Romney. It’s more about beating Obama,” Shribman said.

He ended by arguing how essential the vice presidential choices are.

“This is an election where the VP matters,” he said. “The selection told us more about Romney. It answered where he stands on the economic issues and his willingness to be bold.”

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