During a lighthearted but fiery discussion at the Jack Morton Auditorium Thursday night, GW professors and campaign officials agreed that values played a large role in President Bush’s election victory.
Graduate School of Political Management professors Peter Fenn, Joe Rothstein and Bill Greener hosted the discussion, which also touched on advertising for both parties, the positive and negative aspects of Sen. John Kerry’s campaign and Bush’s plans for his second term.
Celinda Lake and Brian Nienaber, pollsters for GW’s Battleground Poll, participated in the talk along with Sara Taylor, deputy chief strategist for the Bush campaign and Mark Mellman, who worked on the Kerry campaign.
“The voters spoke pretty loudly and pretty clearly”, said Taylor, referring to Bush’s victory after votes cast last Tuesday gave the incumbent 286 electoral votes. Kerry received 252 votes.
Mellman argued that Republicans made the wrong choice last week by electing Bush to a second term.
“A lot of people were voting against their interests … if this president fails, his party will be punished,” Mellman said.
Focusing on Kerry’s failure, Grenner said the Democrat was unable to truly define who he was to the American people.
“Any challenger against Bush (had) to struggle to define Bush and define themselves (to America),” he said.
Rothstein added, “The opportunity was there and Kerry didn’t take full advantage of it.”
The 2004 election brings up new issues on how people vote, Fenn said. Saying that last Tuesday’s contest was primarily a “values election,” he was able to get everyone to agree that the beliefs of each candidate were key to the American people.
“This was clearly a domestic issues election,” Mellman said. “Shared values were the single most important issue in this vote.”
In numerous exit polls conducted by television news networks, values played an essential role in deciding the fate of the presidency. But the media was not always so certain in predicting the result of the election.
Some students at Thursday’s debate said they accepted the results of the election but were disappointed with Bush’s victory. They also reflected on the issue of values and morals that were discussed during the debate.
“I’m extremely worried about the next four years,” graduate student Erin Renaud said. “(Bush) seems to want to get rid of civil liberties.”
Freshman Ryan DeWerd disagreed.
“The outcome of the election was not surprising,” DeWerd said. “Bush had enough support on the critical, moral issues.”
Lake addressed the concerns of the defeated Democrats, telling the panel that the left will need to take a look at their core beliefs.
“I think America was nervous about a change in the administration,” she said. “The next step for the Democratic Party is a strong domestic policy.”