Professors analyze 2012 election results
Published: Monday, December 3, 2012
Updated: Monday, December 3, 2012 13:12
Although the purpose of the event “Election 2012: What Did It Mean?” was to analyze the results of the 2012 local and national elections, University of Northern Iowa political science department head Donna Hoffman made it clear there is no definitive answer with this quotation from Vladimir Orlando Key, Jr.: “The vocabulary of the voice of the people consist(s) mainly of the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’; and at times, one cannot be certain which word is being uttered.”
Hoffman and political science professors Chris Larimer, Scott Peters and Justin Holmes provided a broad range of political analysis of the 2012 election to a crowd of more than 30 individuals in Sabin Hall on Nov. 28.
Peters also included insight on the retention of Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins.
Holmes addressed the issues both the Democratic and Republican parties faced during the presidential election, especially in terms of presenting themselves to the public.
According to Holmes, challenges for President Barack Obama included the economy and maintaining the coalition that elected him four years ago.
Holmes said Republicans believed that in the four years of his presidency, Obama had not delivered on his 2008 campaign slogans “Hope” and “Change” – something the Republicans used to argue against reelecting him.
In regard to maintaining votes, Holmes said young adults and racial minorities often favored Obama but were less likely to turn out to the polls, causing another challenge in the campaign.
The challenges faced by 2012 Republican Party presidential nominee Mitt Romney included lack of consistent vision, “Romneycare” and policies that were laid out with little specifications, according to Holmes.
“There was this sense that he was all over the map politically, and you weren’t sure which Mitt Romney was going to show up,” Holmes said in reference to Romney’s moderate stance as governor of Massachusetts but conservative stance in the 2011 Republican primaries.
In regard to Romney’s health care reform in Massachusetts, Holmes said it played against him as it was the pinnacle of his governorship, but during the campaign he was trying to draw a distinction between his health care policies and Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Holmes also discussed advertisements and the attempts by both candidates to portray each other in a negative light. In Obama’s advertisements about himself, Holmes said Obama tried to show that things in the job market have been getting better since 2008-2009, but he said it may not be the best idea campaign wise.
“Vote Obama — it could have been worse,” Holmes said, in regard to the message Obama gave off in his advertisements.
In their negative advertising towards Romney, Holmes said the Democratic party tried to portray him as someone who lacked empathy, especially after the “47 percent” video leaked.
“Look, Mitt Romney has umpteen houses and elevators for his cars and made lots and lots of money, and look at these things in his tax returns — he doesn’t get you,” Holmes said, summarizing the campaign’s message. “He does not understand the needs of people like you.”
With technology and microtargeting, there are new ways that campaigns can reach out to constituents, but the effectiveness is still questionable, according to Holmes.
“Beyoncé invited me to dinner. I felt flattered but I didn’t actually go,” Holmes said, joking about emails the Obama campaign sent out to voters.
On a local level, Peters discussed the ousting of three Iowa Supreme Court justices in 2010 and the retention of Wiggins this election season, even though groups like The Family Leader attempted to oust him.
“Wiggins won primarily because Democratic voters showed up in 2012, and Democratic voters didn’t show up in 2010,” Peters said.
Hoffman said there were two things that Republicans could take away as a lesson from the election: either their candidate was not conservative enough or the candidate was too conservative, and they have to find a middle ground.
“It’s not clear to me (and) it’s not clear to most people what the lesson is the (Grand Old Party) will take from the race,” Hoffman said.
During the question and answer portion, Hoffman answered a question regarding the effect media outlets like Rush Limbaugh and Fox News had on the election. In her response, Hoffman said these media outlets had a negative effect for some Republicans, as they caused different interpretations of polls and public issues.
“You don’t want to get so caught up in your own argument that you don’t understand where the other side is coming from or what information they have,” Hoffman said.
Bryant Hickie, a sophomore political communications major, enjoyed the forum.
“I’m really interested in campaigns,” Hickie said. “It’s one of the emphases in my major.”
Larimer said he hopes students learned something about the 2012 election at the lecture.
“I hope (students) got a good sense of what the 2012 election meant, both at a national level, a state level, judicial level and across all types of elections,” Larimer said.