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WFU professors available for election stories

By Jacob McConnico
336.758.5237
September 23, 2004

WILL THE DEBATES HELP KERRY CLOSE THE GAP? — Maybe. Maybe not. "Debates tend to reinforce the poll narratives alive at the time," says Allan Louden, an expert on campaign rhetoric and political communication. "So, if held today, the debates would reinforce Bush's new found lead." Louden, associate professor of communication and director of Wake Forest's debate team, was Elizabeth Dole's debate coach during the 2002 North Carolina Senate race. This year, he is working with Bob Brown, a candidate for governor in Montana. Louden is also teaching the course "Political Communication" at Wake Forest and via live uplink at Carroll College in Helena, Mont. He is available to provide expert comment on presidential and vice-presidential debates, candidates' communication strategies and political advertising. Wake Forest hosted presidential debates in 1988 and 2000.

Contact Louden directly at louden@wfu.edu or 406-431-2461, or through Maggie Barrett at barretmb@wfu.edu or 336-758-4393.


FEWER COMPETITIVE RACES HAMSTRING VOTER TURNOUT EFFORTS — The declining number of presidential battleground states and the lack of competitive U.S. House races make it increasingly clear that only a small percentage of Americans will be able to cast a meaningful vote in a federal election on Nov. 2, says John Dinan, Zachary T. Smith Associate Professor of Political Science at Wake Forest and an expert on voter behavior. "It is hard enough as it is to get Americans to the polls, what with week-day voting and voter registration requirements in all but one state," said Dinan, who is leading a senior seminar this semester on the 2004 elections. Recent trends in legislative redistricting, particularly the creation of safe seats for one party or the other, have ensured that fewer congressional districts are contested in any real sense. "As a result, with the exception of voters in a small number of presidential battleground states and in some hotly contested House districts around the country, there is less incentive than there might be to turn out to the polls," Dinan said.

To arrange an interview, contact Jacob McConnico at mcconnjn@wfu.edu or 336-758-5237.


NO 'GIRLIE MEN' ALLOWED: MANHOOD IN AMERICAN POLITICS — Sarah Watts, professor of history and author of the 2003 book "Rough Rider in the White House: Theodore Roosevelt and the Politics of Desire," can comment about manhood in American politics. "From the first Roosevelt to the second Bush, U.S. presidents have viewed politics as a cultural war," Watts says. "This war has been waged primarily with images, especially images that linked the nation's well-being to their own positioning as virile and virtuous men." Watts can comment on parallels between Theodore Roosevelt (George W. Bush's favorite president) and President Bush. "Roosevelt helped form and popularize the cowboy-soldier type in national and international affairs," she says. "Roosevelt's cowboy style of politics was helped along by Wild Bill Cody's Wild West Show at the turn of the 20th century, and Reagan and Bush by Hollywood in our time." Watts is teaching the freshman seminar "Manhood in American Politics" and a graduate course, "The Political Culture of the American Presidency," this fall.

To arrange an interview, contact Cheryl Walker at walkercv@wfu.edu or 336-758-5237.


YOUTH HOLD VOTING POWER — "Given that less than half of young people between the ages of 18 and 25 were registered to vote for the 2000 election, and just how close that election was, it's not surprising that campaigns see potential in this group," says Katy Harriger, professor of political science at Wake Forest. She is entering the last year of a four-year research project looking at ways of reintroducing college students into public life. Harriger also helped organize a program at Wake Forest this year that got freshmen talking about the election. The incoming students were asked to pay attention to the issues surrounding the presidential race during the summer and be ready to talk about the election at a panel discussion during their fourth day on campus. Harriger said the real challenge is not in getting college-aged people registered to vote, but in getting them to the polls. "There are a number of significant efforts by both of the parties and by a number of non-partisan groups to get this age group registered," Harriger said. "Once registered, the challenge will be to get them out to vote. For college students, that often means getting an absentee ballot and getting it back in time. The success of these efforts could make a difference in a close election."

To arrange an interview, contact Jacob McConnico at mcconnjn@wfu.edu or 336-758-5237.


RELIGION PLAYS IMPORTANT ROLE IN 2004 CAMPAIGN — A Wake Forest religion and public policy expert says religion has played a significant role in the 2004 presidential campaigns and could have a crucial impact on its outcome.  "In light of the fact that most expect the 2004 presidential election to be very close, both campaigns are making every effort to ensure that they fully turn out their political base and woo any swing voters," says Melissa Rogers, visiting professor of religion and public policy in the Wake Forest Divinity School.  "For both campaigns, a key part of this effort is reaching people in the pews.  In addition to President Bush's artful use of language that resonates in the Christian evangelical tradition, the Bush-Cheney campaign is engaged in systematic outreach to evangelicals that is in some ways unprecedented.  Senator Kerry is weaving Biblical stories and verses into his policy arguments and following in the footsteps of many of his Democratic predecessors by frequently appearing in the pulpits of traditionally African-American churches. Meanwhile, both candidates are taking every opportunity to demonstrate that they understand and honor the convictions and traditions of Catholics, many of whom fall into the swing voter category."  Rogers is also an attorney who can comment on the legal restrictions on churches' partisan political activity and the way in which a pending Congressional bill, the "Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act," would change those restrictions.  She previously served as the founding executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life in Washington, D.C.

To arrange an interview, contact Jacob McConnico at mcconnjn@wfu.edu or 336-758-5237.


HOW WILL BUSH AND KERRY USE ECONOMY TO WIN VOTERS? — "Unemployment numbers have been falling recently, so the Bush campaign is likely to tout that as a sign of economic success," says Jac Heckelman, associate professor of economics at Wake Forest. "In response, the Kerry campaign will likely play up what has been going on during the past four years." Heckelman, an expert in the connection between elections and the economy, is available for comment on how both parties will use the economy to win voters.

Contact Heckelman directly at heckeljc@wfu.edu or 336-758-5923, or through Maggie Barrett at barretmb@wfu.edu or 336-758-4393.


RELIGIOUS LIBERTY CHALLENGED DURING 2004 ELECTION — James Dunn, adjunct professor of Christianity and public policy in the Wake Forest Divinity School, says that in light of the revelation that the Bush-Cheney campaign solicited church directories from supporters, religious liberty and the separation of church and state have become increasingly important topics during this year's presidential contest. "A recent poll indicates that over 80 percent of Americans value religious freedom, recognize it as essential to the American way, but have no idea of its source or that its essential corollary is the separation of church and state," Dunn said. Dunn, a former executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs in Washington, D.C., is available to comment on issues of religious liberty and separation of church and state. He has appeared on news programs of all the major television networks and has been a frequent guest on television documentaries.

To arrange an interview, contact Jacob McConnico at mcconnjn@wfu.edu or 336-758-5237.


Editor's Note: Wake Forest University has a direct link to Microspace Communications in Raleigh for uplinking to C- and Ku- band satellite, as well as VYVX fiberoptic for television. We offer ISDN connectivity for radio through NPR member station WFDD, which broadcasts from the Wake Forest campus.


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