Today’s post comes courtesy of Dr. Julia Azari, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Marquette University. Her exercise can be used in American politics classes that include a unit on campaigns and elections. It can be done in a single class or as a multi-day exercise. These are the instructions she gave to the students, reprinted here in full. Where page numbers are given, they refer to the text used in the class:Matt Grossmann, John Sides, Daron Shaw and Keena Lipsitz, Campaigns and Elections, WW Norton, 3rd Edition.
The scenario: In April 2019 (just a few months from now!),
President Donald Trump has once again shaken the political world by announcing
that he will not seek reelection to a second term. Citing the decisions of
Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, James K. Polk, and Rutherford B. Hayes, the
72-year-old entertainer-turned-politician said that he wanted to spend more
time with his grandchildren, missed his old life, and was satisfied with his
incredibly successful first term.
As a result, we have a 2020 election with no incumbent! After
tough primary battles on both sides, in July 2020, Republicans and Democrats are
settling in for the general election. And it just so happens that candidates
from both major parties are eager to hire consultants who have studied
political science at Marquette.
Political conditions: Economic growth is steady and no new
wars have begun. Trump’s favorability ratings have improved a bit with his
decision not to seek reelection, but have remained around 45%.
Now you have to form a consulting firm (a group with 4-5
classmates) and decide which party’s candidate you are advising. Unfortunately,
instead of collecting a handsome fee, your end goal is to turn this sheet into
me and get a participation grade for the day.
Here are the decisions you’ll need to advise the candidate
How will you do this? Who will you ask
to contribute? Do you want to make promises about your commitment to “clean
elections” or resisting a certain kind of contribution?
You can’t coordinate with
expenditure-only organizations, but how much are you comfortable with letting
them pick up the bulk of the campaign spending? Does their existence give you
some breathing room to back off of fundraising in favor of other activities? Can
you count on their help? What are some benefits and risks of counting on it?
What kinds of campaign fundraising do
you expect from your opponent? How will you respond to attacks from independent
ad buys (see page 268). What states/media markets will you focus on? Which
states do you consider safe and which will be competitive, but attainable? Will
you take a risk on running ads in states where your opponent still has the best
chance to win?
Where will you go? How many appearances will you make between Sept. 1 and the
election? (See page 269) What are the costs and benefits of this strategy?
and priorities. What issues will you emphasize? What will you say about the
status quo – knowing what you know about forecasting models? How will you
balance your appeals to swing voters and your political base?
I don’t think this is an especially plausible scenario, but I don’t this
exercise to be focused on the current president because we have other things we
need to discuss.
can speculate about who your candidate is, but again that’s not really the
point of the exercise.