Elections Series Kicks off with Window into Campaigns, Fall Preview

With less than seven weeks until November’s midterm elections, campaign strategist Brent McGoldrick (T ’97) says political forecasting websites like Nate Silver’s 538 blog and The Washington Post’s “The Fix” have one thing in common: “They don’t know what’s going to happen.”

“Mid-term elections are about voter turn-out,” McGoldrick said. “And voter turn-out, when it’s an off-year, is hard to predict.”

David Rohde, Duke University professor of political science who studies trends in Congressional elections, agreed. The two were speaking via videoconference at the first installment of Duke University’s Election Discussion series, “The Issues. Their Impact. Our Input,” where McGoldrick said the national implications of this year’s elections would hinge on races in unlikely places. Like the Senate race in Kansas.

Rohde, who has co-authored a book on the trends in Congressional elections every cycle since 1980, said this is because without one party controlling both Congress and the Presidency, the parties are left without someone to blame — a key strategy to nationalizing elections and increasing voter mobilization.

So what does this mean for the common voter? Well, for states that have a hotly contested Senate election, like North Carolina, “things are about to get more heated,” according to McGoldrick.

That’s because, as Tommy Sowers can attest, this is the point in a campaign when the public is finally starting to pay attention. Sowers, who was the 2010 Democratic nominee for Missouri’s 8th Congressional District, says that at this point in his campaign, he was at a cross-roads. He could no longer walk into a coffee shop unrecognized, which he says “led to some colder shoulders.” And while it had been a year since he declared his candidacy, the last two months were critical. Before he had spent 12 hours a day fundraising; now, it was about being on the ground, shaking hands, and meeting as many people as possible.

Over the next seven weeks, as candidates are on the ground, the Duke University Office of Public Affairs and Government Relations, along with the Forum for Scholars and Publics and Duke in Washington, will come together each Thursday to delve into an issue central to the mid-term elections. The panels will connect Duke University faculty with experts in Washington, D.C. via teleconference to generate conversation’s between campus and the nation’s capital.

The next event will focus on Healthcare and be led on campus by Don Taylor, Associate Professor of Public Policy, Sanford School; and Associate Professor of Community and Family Medicine and Nursing, Duke Medical Center; and at Duke in Washington by Jim Capretta (G ’87), a Visiting Fellow at American Enterprise Institute.

Click here for the full line up.