With the three presidential debates and a vice presidential debate now concluded, two Dalton State College professors answered questions about the election on Wednesday as part of the college’s Lunch & Learn program, moderated by Sandra Stone, vice president for academic affairs.
Ken Ellinger, associate professor of political science, supports Democratic President Barack Obama.
Tom Veve, associate professor of history, backs former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the Republican.
What are the real challenges facing the presidential candidates?
Ellinger: “Two things: Where do you want to take the country and what do you have to do to win. You can’t govern if you don’t win. It truly is a tossup after Obama’s weak showing in the first debate. He really needs to get his base charged up before the election.
“Meanwhile, true conservatives are not happy with Romney because he is too liberal on social issues, vague on his plans, and his Mormonism is a concern to them.
“That said, watching debates are no way to elect a president. I don’t have an alternative way to engage people in a significant way though. Debates are unfortunately one of the closest ways in politics that we get to know the candidates.”
Veve: “If debates have caused any rallying on your side then a lot of your work has been done, but both sides get hurt by the battleground state mentality. For Romney, he needs to continue to present himself as an alternative president and the debates worked in that favor.
“Romney needs to present himself as a unifier and present Obama as having failed to bring the country together. I think Romney did exactly those two things at the final debate, but will it pay off?”
Is the economy what the election will be won or lost over?
Ellinger: “The general consensus says the economy is the most important issue. What motivates people is the question ‘Am I better off now than I was four years ago?’
“If Obama wins it will be because enough people think it will take more than four years for him to fix the economy and that they see some improvement already.
“The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is unassailable despite recent conspiracy theories (that say Obama manipulated the numbers), clearly says unemployment is down. There might be something to the hidden unemployment rate that comes from those who have given up on the labor force, but if Obama could manipulate the numbers he would’ve sooner.
“That said, if the majority of people believe they are worse off now than four years ago any incumbent has a slim chance of winning.”
Veve: “The issue (in the 2008 election) was foreign policy and terrorism and (Republican) John McCain’s numbers were really good until the economy went south. That’s when Obama got ahead and stayed ahead.
“Now, the numbers that go with this economy — even when they are up — are bad. Although people need to know that the economy just doesn’t go up. It bends and drops on a regular basis, but the president has to mediate the damage of those downturns.”