Political Science Panel Discusses Ongoing Primaries


Christina Greer (left) moderates a discussion with two political strategists in McMahon 109. (STEPHAN KOZUB/THE OBSERVER)


In the ongoing speculation of a democratic socialist or an unapologetically brazen TV personality possibly being our country’s next leader, the only thing people seem to agree on is that the primaries are barely predictable.  On Jan. 28, however, Associate Professor of Political Science Christina Greer and political strategists Alexis Grenell and Jessica Proud met at Fordham to do just that and discuss the ongoing 2016 Presidential election.  

Greer explained the decision to have a partisanly diverse panel of all women.

“I’ve had several panels here before, all sponsored by the deans,” Greer said.  “The one piece where I thought I was always lacking was actually partisan diversity.  I have quite a few Republican students who consistently take my courses, and so I thought it was really important for a host of reasons to make sure that I really worked on partisan diversity because there’s a lot of reforms that can happen if Democrats and Republicans actually talk to one another.”

“And then, there’s just some really smart women who know politics, so why not introduce them to Fordham students, especially because many students have been able to get internships with various people after these forums,” Greer continued.

Grenell is a political strategist and City and State columnist.  Among her accolades are serving as Communications Director for New York State Senator Jeff Klein and Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for former Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Today, she runs her own consulting practice “focusing on issue campaigns for both elected officials and nongovernmental organizations,” according to Greer.  

Proud is a Republican strategist and Partner at the November Team.  Described as a “targeted missile” by City Hall News, she is “a veteran public affairs and crisis communications professional” and has “worked in high pressure environments for her entire career,” as stated by Greer.  She has served as Deputy Director of Public Affairs for two New York Senate Majority Leaders and as a spokeswoman for campaigns on several levels of government.  She regularly appears on TV and radio shows, and is often quoted as a communications expert.

The panel is the first event in a two-part series.  In April,  Greer, Grenell and Proud will reconvene to discuss their predictions and their thoughts on the election.  

When opening the event, Greer stated “I thought what better way to figure things out, since this is all a bit confusing for quite a few of us, than to have two brilliant women, a Democratic and Republican strategist, to help make sense of what we’re seeing.”  

The first topic discussed was, as Greer called it, “the disintegration of all types of communication and organization in the Republican Party.”

“I think what’s happening with Trump on the Republican side is also happening on the Democratic side with Bernie Sanders,” Proud said.  “People are obviously very frustrated, and they want to rage against the machine.  They don’t want the status quo.  And they view both candidates as someone who’s willing to speak out and buck that.”

Grenell followed these comments by discussing the inaccuracy of recent polls.

“Polling has been really erratic,” Grenell said, referencing the regulation that polls can only be conducted through landlines.  “This makes representative polling increasingly difficult because more and more [people] don’t have landlines.”  Due to this issue, she advised people to not “take them at first glance.”

The conversation then shifted to Trump and the media.

“What I think is really fascinating is that he doesn’t need to rely on the media, and he doesn’t need to rely on paid advertising,” Proud said.  “This is the first campaign that I’ve seen where paid ads have played such a minimal role in actually influencing voters.”

“Politicians now have ways to directly speak to the electorate,” Grenell said, referencing YouTube and Snapchat.  “We have so many resources for candidates now that they don’t have to rely on the media.”

Before shifting to the Democratic candidates, the panel discussed Trump’s absence from the Republican debate on Jan. 28.   

“You’re running for the President of the United States, and some people are like ‘how is he going to negotiate with Putin and China if he can’t handle Megyn Kelly,’ and I think that’s a valid criticism,” Proud said regarding Trump’s decision.  “This is the highest office.  If you cannot handle tough questions, then you really don’t belong in the race.”

Regarding the Democratic candidates, the possibility of Sanders’ popularity being due to Democrats seeing him as an ideal Democrat was discussed.  

“I think that both parties are changing,” Proud said.  “You’re seeing an increase in polarization on both sides and if you look at the rise of people like Elizabeth Warren [and] Bill de Blasio, the core of the Democratic vote right now is definitely becoming more liberal.”

Regarding Clinton, Proud stated that “one of her biggest flaws in this race has been she doesn’t know who she is as a candidate and she sees where the heart of the party is and she’s trying to go that way, but it comes off as very inauthentic and transparent.”

“I don’t think she’s an inauthentic person,” Grenell said in response.  “I think she’s an inauthentic candidate.”

After this discussion, Grenell and Proud made their predictions, which are as follows:

Iowa Caucus: Grenell: Clinton/Cruz; Proud: Sanders/Cruz (CORRECT)

New Hampshire Primary: Grenell: Sanders/Kasich; Proud: Sanders/Kasich

South Carolina Primary: Grenell: Clinton/Rubio; Proud: Clinton/Trump

Super Tuesday: Grenell: Clinton/Rubio; Proud: Clinton/Rubio

Democratic Nominee: Grenell: Clinton; Proud: Clinton

Republican Nominee: Grenell: Rubio or Trump; Proud: a Rubio candidate/Kasich VP ticket

Contentious DNC: Grenell: No; Proud: No

Contentious RNC: Grenell: Possibly; Proud: Yes

General Election: Grenell: Clinton; Proud: Aforementioned Rubio/Kasich ticket

The conversation then shifted to discussing former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s potential bid for the White House.  

“In this crazy election cycle, could this Jewish, billionaire, pro-choice, pro-gun control guy who had the second hardest job in America and managed a corporation win?” Grenell asked.  “He’s checking a lot of interesting boxes.”

“I think that it would certainly make the race very interesting,” Proud said, “and I do think that there’s a very large swath of voters that don’t identify with either party, and if he can present himself as a pragmatic, results driven candidate who’s actually going to fix Washington, I think he could make it a real race.”

The panel concluded with questions from students, which covered topics including Clinton’s emails and whether Trump or Cruz would be a worse candidate for the Republican Party.  To the latter topic, both Proud and Purnell answered Cruz.  

“We’ll see what happens,” Proud said regarding the possible outcomes of the election. “We’ve never had a nominee that has lost both New Hampshire and Iowa.  So if you look at the historical trends, it will be either one of those candidates.”

“But I think this year is completely unpredictable,” Proud continued.  “If there were to be a year for something crazy to happen, it would be this year.”