Experts sum up election season

After the nation saw President Barack Obama’s victory on Election Day, some citizens, including University students, were left wondering what to make of the election season.

Those curious people gathered in the main room of the Woodlawn Mansion on Douglass Campus yesterday morning to discuss predictions for the future political landscape in the United States at the Eagleton Institute of Politics’ “The Morning After.”

Four experts — a Republican, a Democrat, and two representatives of the media — sounded off on issues at stake in the election during a discussion moderated by John Weingart, associate director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics.

Ruth Mandel, director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics, said members of the Republican Party need to rethink their approach to better reflect the changing demographics of voters in the country.

“The Republicans now will have a civil war — internal conflict — to find a path forward that recognizes the 21st Century Electorate,” she said.

That electorate, she said, includes minorities, young people raised in the digital age and a growing number of women. Women are showing they have little patience for male leaders who aim to interfere with their reproductive rights, she said.

For example, Mitt Romney said during his campaign that if elected, he would overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that allowed women the right to obtain abortions in the United States.

Women themselves are also personally leading the way to real change, Mandel said.

The number of women elected in Tuesday’s elections marks a historic shift in American politics, she said.

“The fact that Todd Akin was defeated in Missouri, and Richard Murdock was defeated in Indiana, speaks to the folly of not understanding who U.S. women are and to the importance of not insulting them, ” she said.

Panelist Jim Florio, former governor of New Jersey, said the growing influence of corporate interests in election campaigns is a disturbing trend.

He said the American people risk losing their voice in the country’s politics as super political action committees and similar organizations contribute more and more money from big businesses to candidates directly.

Social media was a huge factor in the election, said Kate Zernike, national correspondent for the New York Times. Romney learned that gaffes made in passing could be quickly recorded and disseminated throughout the Internet with unprecedented speed.

His “47 percent” comment about Americans who depend on government assistance might have cost him the election, she said.

“Governing in 140 characters is hard,” she said. “Words do matter ... I think we saw that particularly in the primaries, when one comment here or there was huge.”

The possibility of Gov. Chris Christie running for the presidency in 2016 also surfaced in the discussion.

Kevin McArdle, State House correspondent for Townsquare Media, said the Republican governor should not change anything about his politics if he wants to increase his popularity with the party base.

Panelist Brian Nelson, former executive director of the New Jersey Republican State Committee, agreed with McArdle.

“Based on what I saw in Tampa [at the Republican National Convention], I don’t think he needs to change his positions on anything,” he said.

Nelson said Christie’s recent collaboration with Obama following Hurricane Sandy should not weaken his favor among members of the GOP. He said the opposite is true, because Christie showed what a state leader should have done for the good of the people in the state.    

Giuseppe Bongiovi, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said the event was an eye-opening opportunity for him and helped clear up all of the issues of concern post-election.

Bongiovi, a moderate, said he supported Obama in the race ultimately because of his manner.

“I think the best choice was Obama,” he said.

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