UF Campaigning Biennial Workshop
Every two years, the UF Campaigning program brings together academics and political professionals for a day-long workshop discussing both the lessons learned from the previous election, and what is to come in the next election.
On January 30, 2015, members of academia, the political community, and other gathered along with students in the Political Campaigning Program, as well as several Political Science undergrads, for our biennial election workshop at the Hilton University of Florida. As always, the day began with a retrospective on the last election (emphasizing the race between Rick Scott and Charlie Crist for governor), and continued with a lively discus-sion of what we might look forward to in 2016 both nationally and here in Florida in 2016. Sharing their insights was an impressive mix of political experts.
Academics included UF professors Daniel Smith, Michael McDonald, and Michael Martinez, plus Susan MacManus from USF. These panelists were joined by political practitioners David Hill, Adam Goodman, David Beattie, Jim Kane, Jim Kitchens, Steve Schale, Scott Simpson, and Roger Austin. Also present were Adam Smith from the Tampa Bay Times and former Florida Senator Paula Dockery.
In the morning session, MacManus, Schale, Dockery, McDonald, and both Smiths shared their experiences and impressions of the midterm races, and of Scott’s narrow (and in some ways unlikely) win over Crist in the battle of the two governors. Apart from a consideration of campaign strategy, good and bad, on both sides, there was much speculation about what Crist might have done differently to produce a more favorable outcome. Panelists also dis-cussed the meaning of 2014’s low turnout, the forecast for 2016, and the lessons one might draw from the fact that a declining proportion of Florida voters cast their ballots on Election Day, opting instead for either absentee or early in-person voting.
After a break for lunch, participants and students re-convened for a discussion of the 2016 elections. It was still very early in the game, of course, but Beattie, Hill, Simpson, Goodman, McDonald, and Kane all made their best guess about who would be the presidential nominees (Clinton was a consensus choice for the Democrats, while the Republican field was judged to be wide open) and what might happen if Marco Rubio vacated his Senate seat in order to pursue the White House (not all panelists expected him to do so, especially with Jeb Bush in the race). There also was a spirited exchange between some panelists about the future of the Republican Party as the pace of demographic change picks up both in Florida and throughout the nation.
A variety of topics were covered at the workshop, providing attendees with a multiplicity of views about how things actually work in the real world of politics. Given the mix of academics and practitioners, and of Republicans and Democrats, it’s hardly surprising that not everyone was on the same page. Exchanges were always cordial, howev-er, and hearing the different perspectives undoubtedly proved to be of great value to those who attended.