Geneseo welcomed alumni Curt Smith, ’73, and Karen DeWitt, ’82, for participating in an open forum discussing the status of the upcoming local and national elections.
Political Science Chair Jeff Koch hosted the Sept. 19 forum, during which Koch, DeWitt and Smith answered previously submitted questions. Associate Provost David Gordon served as moderator.
Smith, who currently teaches at the University of Rochester, has an extensive background as a political observer, commentator and author and served as a political speech writer for President George H. W. Bush. He initiated the discussion, citing that “about 5 to 8 percent of America is still undecided” while sharing his view that Americans don’t truly know all the facts regarding the upcoming presidential election.
Koch followed, commenting that political scientists use fundamentals including the economy and foreign policy to estimate the outcome of elections.
DeWitt, the capital bureau chief for the New York State Public Radio network, has been covering both state and government politics for over 20 years.
She also touched on the undecided American population, commenting that “Everything is very close and unpredictable.” According to DeWitt, a small percent of the nation will decide the election outcome.
Following opening statements, the panel launched into discussion regarding the upcoming New York state elections, including the races between Rep. Maggie Brooks and Rep. Louise Slaughter, Rep. Tom Reed and Rep. Nate Shinagawa and Senate hopefuls Kirsten Gillibrand and Wendy Long.
The speakers noted that, while Brooks and Slaughter are neck and neck, Gillibrand and Reed are currently prevailing in their respective races. Regarding the Reed and Shinagawa race, Koch said, “This is pretty much a race where Democrats feel lucky to even have a candidate to put up there.”
The discussion later turned to the presidential election, when Koch cited that President Barack Obama is currently leading by one point, as opposed to last week’s polls that showed him leading by four to five points. “I think the electorate doesn’t see any party as a savior anymore,” said DeWitt. “People still appear to be mad at [former President George W. Bush].”
Koch brought up the issue of unemployment, comparing it to the 7.4 percent unemployment rate during Reagan’s 1984 election. While the unemployment rate is currently at about 8.2 percent, Koch said the situation is not as bad as it appears.
“Presidents have little to do with the economy; you really just want to be there at the right time,” said Koch. The panelists also offered party-specific advice.
According to Smith, “Until [the Republican Party] nominates the typical middle-class American, they will continue to lose. When we nominate Ivy-League-educated people with trust funds, [the Republicans] lose.”
The panelists also noted that Romney’s decision to take on Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate has not significantly helped his campaign.
“We don’t believe that the vice presidential nomination helps you that much, except in your own state,” Koch said. Because Ryan is from Wisconsin, a state with only 10 electoral votes, the panel agreed that this will not aid Romney, who they said should be focusing on winning over large undecided states including Florida and Ohio.
Following the discussion, the panelists took questions from professors and students.
“I think that it is amazing the school offers this,” sophomore Paige-Elizabeth Avery said. “I’m very appreciative.”
Sophomore Rachel Crawford said, “I think it was really great and informative to hear balanced and truthful opinions from intelligent professionals."