By Laurel O’Keefe
Assistant News editor
The race for the presidency, from candidates to outcome predictions, was analyzed in a panel that included Hofstra Senior Presidential Fellows Howard Dean and Edward J. Rollins, Glenn Thrush – chief political correspondent for Politico – and Lawrence Levy – executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies – on Thursday, March 10.
Sponsored by the Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency and the National Center for Suburban Studies, the event discussed the future of policy making and the potential change of governance this election year. The same panel last convened for a discussion of the 2014 midterm elections, before the Republican Party won control of the Senate.
“I’ve been doing this political journalism for 40 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Levy said of this year’s election. “Every experience I’ve had, every way of analyzing things just seems completely insubstantial. I don’t even trust my instincts anymore.”
Levy went on to ask candidates to elaborate and explain what he called the Trump and Sanders phenomenon, referring to the perturbation both candidates have managed to create.
“My sense today is that [the Republican nomination] has narrowed down to Trump and Cruz, the establishment and money,” Rollins, a Republican strategist that has served in the administrations of four former U.S. presidents, said.
Rollins also went on to say that the presidential race has turned into a reality show, claiming that the definition of what it takes to be a great leader has changed. To appear like you are telling it like it is, Rollins said, “don’t be a governor, don’t be a senator, be a reality TV show [persona].”
Keeping this newly developing strategy in mind, Rollins spoke on the campaigns of the leading candidates in his party, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. “Cruz has a better campaign and he’s good at winning the closed primaries, meaning the Republicans- only vote, and Trump has no campaign. Trump is basically a big personality. He’s got some nice young guys that basically do what he wants them to do. He has no real campaign, but I do think he’s definitely on the radar,” Rollins said.
Thrush, who has spent a lot of time on the road this year – particularly in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina – explained his understanding of the mentality of the citizens that are voting for Trump.
“Donald Trump’s voters are not people that are looking for power or even a result. They are looking to express some of their frustrations, anxiety and rage. These are ballots that are being cast on an emotional basis,” Thrush said.
He then wondered if citizens would demand that their president be informed. He expressed his unwillingness to believe that Trump is informed, citing what Thrush called a “depressing” interview with Anderson Cooper where Trump couldn’t provide the names of the military vices that the candidate claims he is going to get.
“When you have a president who doesn’t know anything about how to run the country, that doesn’t make them more independent or more likely to make good decisions. It makes them more dependent on staff,” Thrush said. “The people Trump brings in are those who will be running the country. I think Donald Trump being singularly uninformed will make him a singularly staff-dependent president.”
As for the other party’s “phenomenon,” Dean, a self-proclaimed Democrat and vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton, shared his thoughts.
“There’s anger and there’s also idealism on our side as young people cluster around Bernie Sanders, which is a phenomenon obviously for a long time now. Bernie’s basically given the same speech for 40 years and now it’s a huge issue with equality and everything else. Young people are idealistic and I think that’s why he’s got resonance,” he said.
Thrush commented on Sanders’ ability to keep control over his speeches and debates.
“Bernie Sanders is the slickest, most disciplined, most message-centric candidate running in either party in this election. He’s more disciplined than Barack Obama,” Thrush said.
The panel also discussed the influence of swing-vote suburban communities in the outcome of the election. Dean highlighted his candidate of choice, saying that Clinton has the ears of smaller communities, especially middle-class women.
“I think what Hillary does have a compelling narrative about is particularly issues around children’s education, the stuff she’s spent her whole life on. I think that narrative is more compelling to women voters than men voters,” Dean said.
Thrush also shared his views, emphasizing the weakness of her campaign strategy. “Hillary does actually have a coherent narrative which is that she believes her experience entitles her to be president of the United States, which is a perfectly rational narrative; but the problem is it didn’t sell in 2008 and it’s not going to sell in 2016,” he said. “The party isn’t looking for that. What people need to understand about politics is a lot of the movement comes from negative narratives. Hillary’s negative narrative for Sanders is nonexistent.”
Panelists later moved on to discuss the flaws in Republican candidate Marco Rubio’s campaign.
“Rubio is electorally a man without a country,” Thrush said. “He does well in some of the suburbs. Rubio did not have the path to the presidency.”
He went on to say that his campaign was predicated on the assumption that the Trump campaign would fail on its own and that because of this false assumption and Trump’s success, Rubio was never given a chance to succeed.
Amanda Benizzi, a sophomore public relations major who recently had the opportunity to hear Rubio in the primary debate in New Hampshire, took special interest in the panel.
“I think it’s good that panels like this are open to everyone so that it gets more students involved in politics,” Benizzi said. “It was nice to hear all the different opinions, especially from Glenn Thrush who I hadn’t heard before and looked forward to. It was cool to listen to the panelists’ insight on the candidates and political strategies.”