Perspectives from political scientists

David Dulio, Department Chair

WHY IT MATTERS: It’s still our democracy. It’s still the system that we all live in and this is a big component of the most important thing in my view in our democratic process, which is an election. We’re in the middle of this election cycle, whether we like it or not.

The cycle is getting longer and longer because the stakes are high and candidates have to start raising money so they are able to compete. The reason we can’t do anything about it is called the first amendment.



Mitt Romney’s going to keep doing what he’s doing, which is play defense and not let anyone pound away at him and make games.

Those who aren’t frontrunners will go after Romney and Cain to try and knock those guys down.

You want to watch how much time each candidate gets or how much time they can carve out for themselves.

A lot of times the moderators get blamed for not permitting every candidate the same amount of time, but the candidates drive that to some extent themselves by trying to jump in or talking longer when they were supposed to.

You really can’t determine a winner, it’s all subjective. It’s total feel. You just sort of get a sense of it.  Everybody that watches will be able to see he did really well or she did great. That’s all you can do.

Herman Cain stands out as someone to watch, given the allegations flying around right now.

Gingrich’s poll numbers have started to creep up. He’s gained a spot where he could do some damage when the voting starts.

This might be the most meaningful (debate) for those two guys. You never know what’s going to happen with these things.


I think all of the debates matter. It may be at the margins, but they matter.

Where this one could really make a difference is if somebody screws up if there’s a gaffe or a big mistake. If everybody does what they’ve been doing, there might not be any movement.


John Klemanski, Professor


More time is good for voters because there’s more time to find out about a candidate and what they think and what their positions are.

One of the cardinals rules is that people don’t care that much bout politics. Most voters do pay attention a month before the election, but early on, less so.

I like what they’re doing with this debate because it’s in Michigan and they’re going to focus on the economy and jobs.

Having presidential candidates, one of whom might very well be the next president, having those folks think and talk about these issues is important to us.

It’s important to the entire country, but more to Michigan because we’ve suffered the longest.



Romney, Perry, Cain; the top tier candidates get the most media attention in stories following debates. You don’t hear about Huntsman or Santorum.

This early on, you think everybody’s got a chance.

There’s going to be a wider gap between the frontrunners and second, third tier candidates pretty soon because they won’t be able to sustain their campaign.

It’s confusing to voters to have that many people. It’s more difficult for people.



Trips in previous debates contributed to his popularity ratings (Rick Perry) so people are looking at some of his policies, but voters want to see someone who is confident, looks good, is likeable, and is trustworthy.

You can learn about those things in a way by watching the debate.

Perry is going to focus on his track record as a job creator. Romney is the native born son of Michigan. His connection to the state will help him.

I hope Herman Cain goes as far as he can; there’s lots of interesting things about him and maybe some of the stuff he’s been talking about will resonate with Michigan voters.

He’s got a compelling story.

Terry Towner, Assistant Professor

WHY IT MATTERS:  It shows not only the state, but the rest of the nation how OU feels about the democratic system, debate and cultural affairs.

The No. 1 thing is that this is going to bring a lot of interest among OU students.

We have a once in a lifetime political event coming to our university. This shows students that GOP candidates care about the state of Michigan, what our concerns are and where we want to see our country kind of go.

What we see in political science is that the higher interest among the community and American citizens, those who are interested will be much more likely to participate.


This gets young and new voters interested in politics and getting them to the polls in 2012.

Another thing we’ve seen in political science is that young voters are much less likely to turn out on election day and participate in politics.

This can stir students 18-30 to excite them and get them to the polls to participate. Those demographic groups turned out in historic numbers in 2008.

We could see the same if the Republican nominee targeted people.

Because they are coming to a higher education institution, it shows they care about this demographic and want to start pandering to this group and talk to issues we care about.



I strongly predict that Mitt Romney is going to do well. It’s sort of his home state.

He’s going to say things that are really going to appeal to Michiganders. He’s really going to do well.

He’s clearly a polished, practiced debater. Rick Perry has struggled. And isn’t quite as polished as Romney.

A lot of attention is on Herman Cain, who’s coming up in the polls, and neck-to-neck with Romney.

There will be  a lot of cuts, harsh words and attacks between the top three candidates.