What Just Happened? Debriefing the Presidential Election

Elizabeth Field

Let’s face it: campaigns just are not what they used to be. In the most recent installment of UNH’s Current Issues Discussion titled, “What Just Happened? Debriefing the 2012 Presidential Election,” Professors Gary Fetzer, Elizabeth Barfoot Christian and Bret McCormick lead a panel on the many important factors that went into determining the 2012 presidential election.

The Current Issues Discussions have always been popular amongst UNH students and faculty, but this installment saw a much larger audience, limiting the attendees to standing room only even before the discussion began.

Beginning with Professor Gary Fetzer, each panelist gave their take on the outcome and the importance of the many factors that determined the election. Fetzer described the Obama campaign’s strategy to focus largely on the Electoral College and how that benefited their campaign. He also touched on the points of personality, religion and events leading up to the election, such as Hurricane Sandy which may have affected the opinions of voters.

“Republicans have to make a good case on how they’re going to be meaningful in the next presidential election,” Fetzer told the audience. “When you look at it, they were unable to beat a sitting president with the unemployment rate at about 9 percent…If you can’t beat a president with the unemployment rate that high, how are you going to do it when it’s an even playing field?”

Professor Elizabeth Christian, an expert in the field of communications, explained the powerful impact that growing technology and social media played in this election. With the increasing use of smart phones and the constant access to information, campaign advertising reached new levels this year.

“Obama outspent Romney 4:1 on digital advertising. He recognized the trends and there were people in his campaign who recognized this. They updated constantly on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites. A lot of the sites we use today didn’t even exist four years ago,” Christian detailed.

She went on to conclude that the Democratic Party better used social media and web presence to their advantage in comparison to the Republican candidates, which definitely attributed to the success of the incumbent president.

Dr. Brett McCormick opened the discussion for student discussion by posing the question “What are we really doing in politics? Do we care about the issues or policies or are we so superficial that we’re just swayed by whatever shiny lights appear?”

Many students offered up their opinions and the debate eventually lead to a discussion regarding the recent news surrounding possible state secession.

Overall, the most recent installment of the Current Issues Discussion was well-received by the many student and faculty members who were in attendance.