All Posts Tagged Tag: ‘Democratic National Convention’

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Ow, My Head: The “Morning After” America’s Big Political Parties


The (figurative) morning after our back-to-back national political conventions seemed like a good time to hike up to third floor of Chambers Building and poke my head into the offices of two Davidson professors I met while covering Davidsonians involved in the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte (North Carolina).

I asked Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science Josh Putnam and 2012 Batten Professor of Public Policy Paul-Henri Gurian what the two conventions had in common.

Putnam, left, and Gurian take a photo op break from navigating the teeming concourses of Time-Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte (North Carolina) the day of Obama’s acceptance speech last week.

“That’s a tough one,” said Putnam, who was in Tampa with the Republicans and in Charlotte with the Democrats. “They were both very choreographed, and the delegates ate it up. Very tight messaging. The knob was turned way up in Charlotte. The Democrats got more signs.” Not signs from on high, regardless of what anybody said at the podium; real, posterboard signs. Indeed, some 150 Davidson students were slated to help hand them out to the multitudes, until a change in venue from outdoor stadium to indoor arena for the president’s speech dashed that hope.

Post-convention buzz, said Putnam, is that some scaling back of convention hoopla in future years is likely. Already the shift to three-day conventions speaks to that probability, though neither he nor Gurian were ready to predict the demise of real-time, real-space national conventions. The conventions have important PR and party functions, at the least, even if they’re not the “decider” part of the process they once were, before the rise of the primary election.

“Conventions used to be important and exciting, with gavel-to-gavel coverage,” said Gurian. “For the past 40 years, we’ve known beforehand who the nominee was going to be.”

Gurian said he went to the DNC in Charlotte (North Carolina) mostly because he could. “To me it was like watching TV, except there were 20,000 screaming people around.”

The mass appeal of showbiz is a determining feature of today’s conventions, and one of the primary benefits of the convention, he said, is to introduce challengers or newcomers to many people who really haven’t been paying much attention up to now. Conventions also still have a strong effect on partisans, said Gurian, one of whose specialities is following the bouncing polls, after conventions and other strategic moments of a campaign.

As this week’s full wave of shaken-out “bounce” stories hit print and pixels, political scientists’ careful, even fastidious, perspectives and observations are useful to remember. Here are a few:

• Don’t jump the gun; a convention’s bounce effect is not necessarily felt immediately, especially when followed hard on its heels by the other party’s. “It’s not how large it is, it’s how long it lasts,” as Putnam put it. Word.

• Net bounce is more important than absolute bounce; who went up more, and by how much?

• Compare apples to apples. Better yet, compare bushels of apples; average out many polls for the truest picture, said Gurian.

• Consider the source; a non-scientific poll is like a clock that has stopped, it’s still correct twice a day.

• Challengers usually get a bigger post-convention bounce, generally speaking, simply since there is more to learn and, potentially, to like.

• A 1 or 2 point lead is meaningless. Most scientific polls have about a ±3 percent margin of error. (And that’s real, reproducible math for a survey in the neighborhood of around 1,500. Survey 100, you’ll have a 7 point margin; survey 10,000, it drops to 1 percent.)

To hear more from Gurian on the eve of the election, mark your calendar Oct. 23 for his 2012 James K. Batten Lecture in Public Policy, “The 2012 Presidential Campaign: Voters, Candidates, States and Strategies.” Free. 7:30 p.m. in Hance Auditorium of Chambers Building. For information call 704-894-2204 or email

In the meantime, for a closer look at the electoral college numbers that will in fact decide the contest, check out Putnam’s blog Frontloading HQ.


Classy: Davidson Students Make the Best of a Rainy Day (Forecast)


This group, on Monday, were off to meet the mayors: (l-r) Dan Black ’16, Jacob Luftglass ’15, Rahael Borchers ’15, Hampton Stall ’15, Richard Hendrix ’15 and Jacob Cole ’16

Leave it to Davidson student leader Rahael Borchers ’15 and her teams of ready volunteers to a) never give up and b) be ready to make the best of a tough situation come hell or high water.

I’ve only ever seen her for two 30-second conversations, once at the Davis Café coffeepot where we shouted smilingly at one another for amped-up logistical purposes, and once for a drive-by photo op on Rich Circle, on her way to Charlotte with other students to help Mayor Anthony Foxx ’93 & Cie meet and greet at Monday’s National Democratic Mayors Convention.

Earlier today, when the Democratic National Convention announced its move of Obama’s acceptance speech tomorrow night from the 74,000-seat Bank of America stadium to the much smaller Time-Warner Cable Arena (on threat of high wind and water, literally) Borchers flashed into action.

This is the young Belk Scholar who wouldn’t take no for an answer from DNC organizers to begin with, convincing the committee to lower its “college-seniors-only” rule for interns, not just for herself, a sophomore, but for other Davidson students as well. Then, Borchers used the resulting connections to orchestrate credentials and dedicated CATS city bus transportation for 150 volunteers to spend the day on posterboard sign logistics and other duties preparatory to the nomination acceptance speech of the President of the United States.

Now, all such “community credentials” are revoked because of the weather. At last check, Borchers was still working parallel efforts, all channels open for any and all slim possibility of direct student involvement, alongside full-bore planning for the consolation alternative of a campus viewing party. Whew!

“I can’t tell you how sorry I am to have to send out this update!” Borchers wrote the massed troops of convention volunteers. “It was so exciting to have you all at the training last night… we were looking so good, and were going to be looking even better with our blue DNC shirts and credentials around our necks. If we cannot find a way to make this come through, we will quickly organize a watch party so that we can still in a way participate in the DNC as a community.”



The Waiting Room: View from a Car Dealership


I had an 8 a.m. appointment  for a car repair, so here I sit with a cup of foamy hospitality coffee (“but tasty!”), watching Good Morning America, bless my heart. I usually can’t abide this much relentless good cheer and sustained shrieking of the masses this early in the morning (or noon or night if truth be told) but I’ll count it as a warm-up up for my turn at the DNC later today, if all goes well here at the dealership. Cheer, cheer! Shriek, shriek! For now, I turned the volume way down and hid the remote under the newspaper while the other early patron was out of the room. She’s got an iPad, she’ll never go near that paper.

Her name is Vanessa. She showed me iPad pictures of her elderly father laying hands on candidate Obama at a bishop’s convention in St. Louis in 2008, shortly before her father died, and a picture of her 100-year-old grandmother, daughter of slaves, with a framed birthday card from the White House.

Out in macro-media world, Davidson connections already have imbued my perspectives this morning. On the way down Independence, I heard Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx ’93 give a shout out to alma mater on WFAE. And Jack Cobb ’85 and Bess Murchison Kercher ’93, offer dueling perspectives on all things Convention to the Charlotte Observer‘s op-ed page with their columns entitled, appropriately, respectively, Right Turn and Left Turn. So far, the conversation has been entirely civil and good-natured—reason enough these day, among many others, to be proud of fellow Davidsonians in the increasingly rough tumble of this nation’s public discourse.

Stay tuned….