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Sunday, June 4, 2023

Academics & Research

Law Center, CLASS partner to host 2016 presidential campaign analysis conference

The University of Houston Law Center and the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences partnered to host a conference to analyze the 2016 presidential campaign Tuesday at the Student Center Banquet Hall exactly one week before Super Tuesday.

The conference consisted of three sessions: presidential politics and policy, Supreme Court and economic implications of presidential elections and presidential elections and Latino politics in the United States.

Law Center Dean Leonard Baynes talked about the Republican National Committee’s structure for this year’s presidential race after discovering they had such a large candidate pool.

“RNC sanctioned only 10-12 debates,” Baynes said. “Broadcast networks organized debates based on certain criteria for eligibility. Republicans had a big field of 17 candidates based on national polling undercard and main stage debates.”

Baynes analyzed the historic change in viewership in this year’s Republican debates.

“The 2016 Republican debate TV audience has broken records in terms of viewership (because) of the cable networks carrying the debates,” Baynes said. “(The) first debate on Fox News had over 24 million viewers…five of the six debates in the fall had the largest number of viewers for (a) presidential primary debate in history. (The) 2012 Republican debate TV audience never exceeded seven million views.”

The term “super fans” gets thrown around during this presidential debate season, and political science assistant professor Elizabeth Simas said the term is a stereotype. In reality, people actually see candidates in one party in a similar way and these “super fans” are those who vote on little differences.

“For the most part, a lot of people see the candidates from their own parties as representing a fairly similar set of issues, and issues do matter at primary voting,” Simas said. “If you are one of those voters who can’t necessarily distinguish between the candidates on the issues, one of those alternate criteria is that they’re….going to try to differentiate on non-policy politics.”

Simas said early primaries do matter, and contributing to voting decisions is important because it shows people a candidate’s personal qualities and what candidates are like as campaigners.

“They bring out two factors – viability and electivity. And by viability, that’s ‘Can my candidate actually win the nomination?’ and electivity is ‘If my candidate wins the nomination, can my candidate beat the other party and win the general election in November?’ Voters want to back the candidate that will win,” Simas said.

Political science associate professor Brandon Rottinghaus said although in the past Texas was one of the last states to vote and was considered less important to candidates, Texas is now a critical stake in the election when thinking about national trends.

“Delegate rules keep changing,” Rottinghaus said. “The changes shifting from winner-take-all to being proportional to being caucus-driven to being primary-driven.”

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