Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Jake Mauff at Jacob.Mauff@colorado.edu
With two debates down, the Boulder community will be looking (some non-metaphorically) at the Coors Events Center for the third Republican debate Wednesday night. Associate Professor of Journalism and Media Studies Elizabeth Skewes, who researches the effects of media on electoral politics, sat down with the CUI to talk about the debate.
Political theater is starting to become a theme in this GOP race.
“I think that’s the kind of stuff that candidates or campaigns do to try and grab attention,” Skewes said. “It may lack some substance. It’s the stuff that they think will particularly grab the media’s attention and get a little more coverage.”
The way the debates have been going, there seems to be proof in this. Carly Fiorina had the most positive second debate, and her poll numbers surged. Immediately after the debate, Fiorina polled as the third best Republican candidate. Currently, she is sixth.
“You may see some of the other candidates – Cruz, Fiorina, maybe Huckabee — trying to find ways to inject themselves into the conversation, and again, pull that spotlight,” Skewes said, going on to specifically mention Fiorina’s performance in the second debate.
Donald Trump and Ben Carson hold the GOP spotlight right now. If their theatrics didn’t get so much media attention, their policies probably wouldn’t attract so many people.
“Trump is the political theatre candidate,” Skewes said. “Governing and running programs for the public is very different than running a business. He has a lot of business acumen, but I don’t know that that’s going to translate well into ‘what are you going to do about social security and shoring that up.’”
Fringe candidates will try to improve their numbers across the board Wednesday night. John Kasich is polling ninth among the GOP candidates, and he’s also turned to some political theatre to boost his popularity. At a rally, Kasich criticized the opponents he is running against. He didn’t name any names, but talked about the problems that he sees in their policies. His opening quote was, “I’ve about had it with these people.”
“I expect there to be a few attempts to grab the microphone,” Skewes predicted. “I hope that there are some concrete plans that come out of it that people can then use to make decisions.”
This debate may feature some of the last hoorahs for the candidates not polling well. Kasich has gone on the attack in order to revive his campaigns. Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul all rank ahead of Kasich — they’re all potential targets. Chris Christie is polling behind Kasich, and will also have to turn to offensive tactics.
“People don’t get equal time,” Skewes conveyed. “So the second-tier candidates have to say some things and try to grab that microphone.”
This idea seems to play into who is turning into the debate. The second debate was almost three hours long, with candidates able to respond if someone used their name while speaking.
“For some people it’s about the theatre,” Skewes explained. “For some people it’s about the substance.”
The debate will hopefully contain some substance, and CU students will definitely take to the important issues. There are numerous events happening around campus. Though they may not affect the debate itself, they should have an impact around the Boulder community.
“This is a chance for people to pay closer attention than they might otherwise have,” Skewes stated. “It’s a good opportunity for students in particular because it’s right in their backyard.”
The college students preparing these events seem excluded from political representation. Though they are willing to make their voices known, there seems to be a lack of coverage of this millennial group.
“Most voters, people who actually go to the polls and vote, I’m going to say 30s, 40s, 50s and up,” Skewes answered. “Younger people, they may be politically savvy, but because they’re not as tied to a particular community, they often don’t remember to register to vote or they opt not to vote. . . If that group would vote with more consistency, they’d get more attention.”
The debate tonight will air on CNBC at 6 p.m. (MST). Follow the CUI for all-day debate coverage.