Students make predictions, reflect on presidential race

By Jed Layton, Hinckley Institute Journalism Program

NAPERVILLE, ILL.8212;Michelle Obama flopped. Hillary Clinton excelled. Denver had great parties. St. Paul, Minn., had riots. The opinions of four U students who viewed firsthand the Democratic and Republican conventions couldn’t be more different, but the thing that surprised them most was how the Republicans came out on top.

U students Drew Conrad, Leslie Heath, Tom Nelson and Christine Angstman spent the last two weeks attending both conventions as interns with the U Hinckley Institute of Politics.

The four students are excited for the weeks to come. The 2008 Presidential Election is already a tight race, but all of the students agreed it will get better.

Both Angstman, who recently graduated in international business, and Conrad, a sophomore in business, said the role of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will be essential in the Republican campaign.

“The Republicans need to prove that Palin can handle the job of president,” Conrad said.

Nelson, a recent English graduate, said the Republicans need to maintain their status at the top of the media.

The students said Sen. John McCain’s choice of Palin for the vice-presidential nomination brought more attention to the Republican ticket than McCain was able to bring on his own.

“The press coverage that Palin got last week, you can’t pay for that,” Angstman said. “McCain got that much coverage the last six months.”

However, with the Democrats, Nelson said it was essential they find ways to reach out to populations that typically stay away from the polls.

“They have got to find some edge that will make people that generally do not vote to commit to their party,” said Heath, a junior in political science.

Angstman and Conrad said the Democrats need to get on the attack.

“They need to be meaner,” Angstman said. “It is important for them to keep emphasizing how McCain has voted with Bush so many times.”

While Obama campaigned in Michigan, and the McCain camp traveled through Missouri, the students headed to Indiana8212;three swing states where candidates are now vying for votes.

Reflecting back on the conventions, all the students but Heath said the Republicans came out victorious at the end of the two-week marathon. Heath said she felt the race for the presidency was tied.

“The Democrats should have been ahead,” Nelson said. “They were ahead before (the convention), and everyone thought they would be after. They put on a better show and had better speeches, but the Republican Party came out ahead because they had more hype.”

The group split in determining which party performed better in the conventions alone. Nelson and Angstman said they felt the Democrats did better by talking more about the issues and the specifics of their platforms, but Conrad and Heath said the Republicans better explained how their ideas would benefit the country and gained distance from the Bush administration.

The students felt that some speeches were inspiring and others were letdowns. Hillary Clinton, Fred Thompson, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were given top accolades from the group. Michelle Obama, Palin and McCain were the letdowns.

“Palin did nothing to convince me she could lead this country,” Nelson said. “The hockey mom and lipstick jokes didn’t really hold sway with me.”

Heath said she enjoyed hearing Obama’s historic message.

“Being there and seeing how excited people were8212;it was a once in a lifetime experience,” she said.

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Editor’s Note8212;Jed Layton is reporting from Naperville, Ill., through the Hinckley Institute of Politics and Shantou University Political Journalism Program.

The Associated Press

The announcement of Sarah Palin as John McCain?s running mate gave the campaign a new excitement.