GVL / Eric Coulter
Professor of Political Science Erika King speaks about electoral votes as Kevin den Dulk and Matt McLogan listen on. The Election Panel was hosted by the Hauenstein Center on Monday.

Eric Coulter

GVL / Eric Coulter Professor of Political Science Erika King speaks about electoral votes as Kevin den Dulk and Matt McLogan listen on. The Election Panel was hosted by the Hauenstein Center on Monday.

Austin Metz

Grand Valley State University’s Hauenstein Center played host to a pre-election panel discussion to debate and discuss different issues on the public’s minds leading up to the election.

The panel consisted of economics department chair Paul Isely, professor of political science Erika King, vice president of university relations Matt McLogan, chair and director of the Henry Institute at Calvin College, Paul B. Henry, and Calvin College religion professor Kevin den Dulk. The debate was lead by the director of the Hauenstein Center, Gleaves Whitney.

The discussion was divided into two sections, the first had each of the four panel members discussing a matter of their specialty and the second was a question and answer portion.

Erika King led off the night by explaining to the crowd the concept of the electoral college map and pointed out how both candidates are targeting the same states leading up to the election.

“I want to emphasize that even though over the next few days we are going to hear a great deal about the national public opinion polls and who is ahead and who is behind on a national level, to paraphrase somebody who we all might remember from 1992, James Carville, ‘It’s the electoral college, stupid,’” King said. “What is very interesting is that both campaigns have been targeting exactly the same states. There is no argument between the Romney camp and the Obama camp about which states fall in one category or the other.”

King said that right now, the states are divided into two categories, those that have already been decided and those states that are considered swing states.

“Fascinating then, if you look at the electoral college map for example, the states that have the largest populations in this country are not the battlegrounds on which this campaign is being fought,” King said. Decided states like California and Texas, who have a great deal of electoral college votes, are remaining virtually untouched by the candidates.

King also said that candidates are using the same tactics to try and win the election. “The candidates are tending to conduct very much the same kinds of strategies and almost identical techniques,” King said.

King said that in 2008, Obama had the advantage because of his use of micro targeting.

“It is making that decision about just in these few swing states, which ones it is you want to target,” King said. “Which types of individuals are you looking to get to the polls and also to swing to your side. This is a very tiny segment of the American public and, throughout 2012, it has been made a tiny sliver of all voters. These are the specific individuals both sides are targeting.”

King said it was these voters that Obama targeted that made the difference in that election but she explained that the Republicans have caught up and are now focusing on the same area.

“What we are seeing is an extensive campaign of micro targeting utilizing a very interesting combination of very traditional techniques but also very new or high tech aspects in all of this as well,” King said. New techniques she mentioned included reaching out to the younger audience through social media.

Next was Paul Isely, who focused on the economy and how much each candidate would spend compared to how much they would tax the public if elected.

“When economists use economic models to determine who is going to win the elections, they have done pretty well over the last 25 years,” Isely said. “This year, every single reliable model shows it is a dead heat. In other words, the economy is bad enough to erode the incumbent’s normal advantage but not so bad to erode it to the point where we have to look to the other side.”

Isley broke down each side’s economic stances into two categories, how much they would spend and how much they would tax.

“For every $100 that the Obama team would have to spend over the next ten years, the Romney team wants to spend $90,” Isley said. “So we are talking $10 to $9, $90 to $100. That’s the difference in what they want to spend. What’s the difference in what they want to tax? For every $100 the Obama administration wishes to place a tax on, the Romney administration wants to levee $95 dollars. So, the big difference, for ever $10,000 you pay in taxes, under the Obama ideal budget plan, you pay $9,500 under the Romney administration.”

Isley also focused on what each candidate would spend on national defense.

Romney’s administration would plan on spending about 55 percent of their discretionary spending on defense, whereas Obama’s would spend about 42 percent, Isley said.

The 2012 election has seen the candidates take to different routes of campaigning with the development of social media and with the evolution of cable and other venues candidates can release information on.

“Campaigns have figured this out and they have molded their campaigns to take advantage of these various pathways,” McLogan said.

“In an extremely close election, getting more of your own supporters to the polls is key,” McLogan said. “The dems are using early voting, a relatively new statutory thing. The GOP are using absentee ballots, a relatively old voting technique. Neither candidate is rallying with the middle.”

The fourth to speak was Kevin den Dulk and he touched on how religion will effect the upcoming election. “Traditional religionists vote republican,” den Dulk said. “Less traditional religionists and those without an affiliation … they vote democratic. So we have this distinction.” den Dulk explained that one of the key sectors is based with the traditional evangelicals.

“One of the reasons evangelical Christians have become such a key player on the republican side is that they have been very active in mobilization,” den Dulk said. “They have groups that are formed in part to taking to the polls and if turnout matters, that matters.”

A Q&A portion closed out the evening, with audience members asking questions ranging from the national divide the election is causing to the avoidance of talking about the possibility of being able to elect Supreme Court judges in the future.
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