printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

State of the Race- 2018 Midterm Elections

Dr. Meena Bose, Executive Dean of Public Policy and Public Service Programs at Hofstra University
New York, New York
October 1, 2018




FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING WITH DR. MEENA BOSE, EXECUTIVE DEAN OF PUBLIC POLICY AND PUBLIC SERVICE PROGRAMS AT HOFSTRA UNIVERSITY

TOPIC: STATE OF THE RACE – 2018 MIDTERM ELECTIONS

MONDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2018, 10:30 A.M. EST

NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, 799 UNITED NATIONS PLAZA, 10TH FLOOR

MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. Thank you for being here. We are honored to have Dr. Meena Bose with us today. Dr. Bose is the Executive Dean of Public Policy and Public Service Programs at Hofstra University. She will brief us on the current state of various races across the country and will discuss the broad national issues which are leading the decisions for voters in the 2018 midterm elections. Her comments are specifically her own and do not reflect U.S. Government policy or position.

So at this time we’ll open up conversation with Dr. Bose and then transition to Q&A both here in New York and also to our friends in Washington. So Dr. Bose, thank you.

MS BOSE: Thank you, Melissa. Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to be here today. I am delighted to meet everyone and to talk about the state of American politics. I appreciate having a clock right there. I taught at West Point as a civilian for six years, and every classroom has a clock in it, and they called it “Thayer time” for the founding superintendent. And as the moment that the class time ended, people would – they wouldn’t – they would never actually pack up, but you could just see losing their attention. And my colleague and friend, Karla Schuster, who’s here, has – we’ve gone through this on events where she’ll say, “We can give it a minute or two.” And I’m kind of, “Oh no, we’re off time.” But I understand we’re on a slightly more relaxed schedule today, but we’re not – it’s not down to the wire. So I’ll try to keep my comments brief because I think there is quite a bit to discuss.

As I was preparing notes about this talk on the 2018 midterm elections in the United States and how they’ll affect presidential leadership and policy making, I was reminded of a talk that I gave a week before the presidential election in 2016, where I was asked to give – addressed a group of – it was a business group on Long Island talking about the presidential race. And I went through and gave a pretty detailed discussion about the issues, the surprises in the 2016 election and why all of the research we have in political science pointed to a victory for the Clinton campaign. So from expertise, from party support, media coverage, debates, the invisible primary – I kind of went through step by step by step about what the logical conclusion was. And people raised some questions, but it was – no one was really contesting. No one contested any of the conversation.

And then that weekend I spoke with people just personally, and some people were saying, “I’m wondering what’s going to happen in Pennsylvania,” various people talking about wanting to go volunteer. And I said, “You know, when you look at the polls, the 2016 Democratic Convention was in Philadelphia” – I taught a nonpartisan course there for the Washington Center. At the end of the summer, after the two party conventions, Hillary Clinton was ahead by about nine points, I think, in early September of 2016. It was about three weeks before we hosted the first presidential debate in that race.

And I said, “Even if that number drops, it’s such a gap, it doesn’t seem like there will be a surprise.” And this is coming from someone who started teaching at West Point. I taught at Hofstra from ’96 to 2000, then I taught at West Point. I started there in the summer of 2000 and had that presidential election, where on Election Day I had a student, a cadet, raise their hand – someone who usually did not appear awake in class but did – was alert on Election Day, and said, “Well, what happens if Al Gore wins the Electoral College and George W. Bush wins the popular vote?” And I said, “Well, people have been talking about that possibility, but we haven’t had that happen since 1888,” so my famous last words in class that day were that we will know on Wednesday morning who the president is. So I should have learned from that, from 2000 that it’s difficult to predict, but of course, in 2016 we had this happen again.

So that’s a rather long introduction, but I just – as a way of saying that I hesitate to do these pre-election talks because there is so much uncertainty, and yet at the same time how can we not discuss it? I teach an introduction to American politics course in the fall, all first-year students. We try to focus on institutions, interests, policy making, but of course we spend time talking about the news, and then what news will be lasting, right, what will go into the textbooks down the road, what is peripheral, and then what implications, what’s happening now, five weeks before Election Day, how will that affect individual races in – on November 6th, 2018.

So let me just – I have – I had eight points, but I’ll try to cut these down a little bit. What is the state of American politics today? There are so many books, right – Bob Woodward Fear – chaos, uncertainty. There is so many – there are so many questions about the future of policy making. There’s a book by the MSNBC pollster Steve Kornacki about tribalism in American politics, was just talking about it today, and dates this back to the sorting in the political parties in the early 1990s, that as the political parties have become more ideologically consistent internally, that that creates what some are now considering are these potentially unsurmountable obstacles to bipartisan governance.

So that’s the general background that we see. You have the investigations, the Mueller investigation into the 2016 election, and obviously it’s somewhat receded in immediate news coverage, but I think that will resume leading up to the election. The whole question about the Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein’s – the allegations about the memos and comments about the 25th Amendment, which sent, I think, a number of people looking to see, well, what does it actually mean if we were to exercise the fourth – 25th Amendment Section 4, right, if there were to – if there were a proposal of a conflict between the White House and Congress. White House, the White House advisors, and Congress over a president’s ability to serve, right. And that’s really what the 25th Amendment was created – was ratified, excuse me, in 1967 for the purpose of a presidential disability in reaction to the tragedy of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, has been used up until now only for medical reasons, when Ronald Reagan underwent surgery, George H.W. Bush did the same. But the question then, of course, of if there were to actually be charges that a president were not fit to serve. Not in the news today, I think, but that is also a topic that is not going to disappear.

And then, of course, the Supreme Court nomination, which I’m not sure that I have a lot to say on that. It’s become so contentious, and I think we’re in a period of – I see this in the news, see this in reports, in analyses that there’s a real question of: is there – is there a way to move beyond polarization in American politics? And that is a tough question.

But I will say when we look at what’s concrete, what do we know, we know we have congressional races, right, gubernatorial races, statewide races coming up on November 6th, 2016 – or 2018, excuse me. What do we know about those? What role can the president play? And what happens after the elections? I think I’ll try to just talk a little bit on each of those three points and go from there.

So I know this is all – this is not surprise information, right, but the House 435 seats up for election in the 115th Congress. We have – there are a few vacancies right now. The resignations of Charlie Dent in Pennsylvania, John Conyers’ resignation. But if we include those seats and assume that the Republicans and the Democrats hold and none of those are, to my knowledge, contested seats, 240 Republicans, 195 Democrats in the House, 23 seats needed to win the majority. Senate, of course, is – so that would seem like a tough hurdle. Senate 51 Republicans after losing the Alabama seat, Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General’s seat, last November, and 49 Democrats. So just two seats needed.

The gubernatorial races of the – there are 20 Democratic governors in the United States, 30 Republicans, 36 races this year, of which 26 are Republican and nine are Democratic. So those are the facts that we have.

Now the interesting stuff. Where are the contested races? Well, in the House – and I’ve been looking at RealClearPolitics, I look at Charlie Cook’s report. I find RealClearPolitics to be the most helpful for data. That’s where I direct my students. In 2008 when we started following – I taught a seminar, and a student actually sent me such a nice note over the summer. He said, “In the spring of 2008, I got so tired of looking at RealClearPolitics, but now I can’t stop looking at it to see what’s going to happen at the convention,” right? What would Hillary do, what would Obama say, what would happen? Then of course, the – we’re 10 years after the selection of Sarah Palin as the vice presidential nominee, and that was covered a bit over the weekend.

So in the House, there are 40 tossup seats according to RealClear, and the Democrats need to pick up 23. The magic number there of the – of those tossups, the Republican Party has to represent 26 seats that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. The Democrats have to protect 13 seats that President Trump carried. So of the – and of these 40 tossups, according to RealClear, 38 are Republican seats, including – I know there’s a lot of interest in California, Texas, and Florida. Five in California, two in New York, three in Texas, a couple of tossups in Minnesota – Democratic ones. But the Republican Party has the uphill battle in the House, even with the large number of tossup seats because there are so many prospects for the Democrats.

The Senate would seem to be an easier hurdle, if you will, for the Democrats with the need to pick up only two seats. Picking up one, 50/50, does not help the Democrats because, of course, the Vice President would cast the tiebreaking vote, so they need two. There are nine tossup races in the Senate. You have the Arizona seat, the open seat from Senator Flake; the Florida seat; Indiana, that’s – sorry, Florida is Senator Nelson’s seat; Indiana, Joe Donnelly; Missouri seat, Claire McCaskill; Montana, Jon Tester; Nevada, Dean Heller; North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp; and the Tennessee seat that Senator Corker is vacating. And then actually, Texas, Senator Cruz’s seat is now in the tossup category.

When you look at the numbers – and it’s hard to get polls on this all the time, especially for some of the ones that are lower profile, but for these, there are the ones you see on RealClear – most of these seats are under five points or even less. The Arizona seat, I just saw an article recently described as neck and neck. The Tennessee race between U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and the former – the Republican, and the former governor Phil Bredesen is a tie. The Florida race, Senator Nelson is ahead, I saw in the latest polls, by one point, but there was an article in the papers last week that Governor Scott, Rick Scott, has a double-digit lead among older Hispanic voters and that he’s building support not just among Cuban Americans who have traditionally voted Democratic but also among Puerto Rican voters. So we really just don’t know.

So the race – the question is, there – and of course, there have been questions about, is this going to be a wave election. Just for some context, in 1994, the Democratic Party lost the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. They also lost control of the Senate. This was Newt Gingrich and the Republican Party, the Contract with America. The Democrats lost 54 House seats. The Senate had been shifted in 1954 to Democratic control and then it stayed Democratic for all but six years, ’81 to ’86 when the Republicans controlled. But that was basically – ’54 to ’94 was essentially Democratic control of Congress with that small period in the ’80s for the Senate. That changed in 1994.

We see a shift back – well, in 2001, you briefly have Senator Jeffords from Vermont voting independent and then that kind of threw the whole Republican Party into disarray. But after the 2002 elections, right, they retained control until 2006 when President Bush talked about Nancy Pelosi and saying she shouldn’t get curtains – look into curtains for the speaker’s position, but of course, the Democrats won control of both chambers. And then four years later in 2010, the second year of Obama’s presidency, the Democrats lost 63 House seats and six Senate seats.

So we appear to be – and there’s a big question now, I think, of eight years later, what will 2018 bring. Of course, in 2014 the Republicans regained control of the Senate as well. Appear to be in a period of lurching, a wave election. According to Ballotpedia, kind of the main reference source – nonpartisan reference source says that you’d need the Republicans to lose 48 House seats, seven Senate seats, seven governors’ races, and close to 500 state legislative seats. Not likely at this point that we’ll see a wave election, but certainly very possible that Republicans will lose control of the House. And the Senate is – a lot depends, I think, on what happens in the next five weeks.

Two other variables that I’d bring in to consider with that, one is early voting, actually, and then, of course, the question of the president. Early voting actually starts in Texas, where Senator Cruz is facing a challenge from U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke. They had a debate. They were supposed to have another one this past weekend. It was canceled because of the judiciary committee vote, and then I think the Cruz campaign tried to reschedule it, O’Rourke said that they had already booked something, so that’s all in place. But early voting starts in Texas on October 22nd, so three weeks from tomorrow – today, sorry, three weeks from today.

Thirty-seven states in the U.S. now have early voting, not New York. You have to have a reason for an absentee ballot in New York State. You can’t just say, “I can’t get to the polls.” But of those 37 states, three of them – Washington, Oregon, and Colorado – have all mail-in ballots. And I guess I would say that maybe that’s somewhat of a separate question about early voting, but what’s relevant here is – and this came up in the 2000 presidential race, it came up in these issues – there are a lot of reasons to give people time to vote. It’s more convenient, it’s more – it recognizes the concerns of multiple people working in a household, of school schedules.

The risk with early voting is once you’ve cast your vote, you’ve cast your vote. And if there is late-breaking news – and at a time where control of Congress is so narrow and at such a risk, a lot can change. So – but nevertheless, this is – a number of states, voters will start making their decisions a couple weeks before Election Day.

Another election that’s of interest: Maine, the second district. That was the district that cast the one vote – Maine and Nebraska have the split Electoral College votes where they give statewide votes and then also a vote based on how the district votes. For Nebraska, it’s a couple of those. But in Maine, this will be the first federal election to use ranked-choice voting, so if – where voters have the right to list alternatives, right, and to see how that plays out.

As far as specific races – and there’s a lot that I wanted to say but maybe I’ll kind of condense some of these points, but I’ll just – I mentioned the Cruz-O’Rourke race. Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat statewide since 1994, and at that – that was when George W. Bush won the governorship against Ann Richards, but the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, and the state controller were all statewide Democrats. The last Democratic presidential candidate to win Texas was actually Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Other points of interest, I think why Texas and Florida are of such great interest in this election cycle, the Republicans have said their 2020 convention will be in Charlotte, where the Democrats had it in 2012. The Democrats are looking at Houston and Miami Beach, and theirs would be – they go first. They’ll be, I think, the second week in July in 2020.

But you can see clearly that the Democrats are looking at – as we look ahead to 2020, and that’s why these congressional races and the governors’ races are so important, are looking to win Florida. And then I think there’s a big question about the direction of Texas. Now, Texas has 36 House seats; 25 are Republican, 11 are Democratic, but there are some contested seats. There have been a lot – there’s been a lot of talk about the 23rd district where the U.S. Rep. Will Hurd is in a district – that’s El Paso to San Antonio – Hillary Clinton won that district in 2016. So what will happen there? There is also, I guess, the other two districts in Texas, the 32nd where Pete Sessions is, and in Dallas and the 7th district outside of Houston, Hillary Clinton won those.

I guess on a personal note – and I should say this is just – this is not any inside information, but the 21st district in Texas, which is north of San Antonio and covers a lot of Austin, it’s right in the center of the state, that is Lamar Smith’s seat. He’s not running again, after he’s been in the House for 16 years. I just happen to know the Democratic candidate well, because he’s a former Army officer that I actually taught with at West Point, Joseph Kopser. Served in the Army for 20 years, retired, went into business, and has now entered politics. And just again, purely personally, have kind of – haven’t spoken with him probably for a year now, but have been following this race, just because it’s obviously of personal interest when there’s someone you know running, but spoke with him before he entered the race. He’s running against Chip Roy, who was a chief of staff for Senator Cruz, worked in the – worked for the senator in a number of positions.

That race, Charlie Cook, the Cook Report has that as leaning conservative. They’re expecting that to be – to go for the Republicans. Both candidates – the Democrat, Kopser, and Roy – both had to win runoff elections to become their party nominees. The district voted for Donald Trump in 2016 by nine points. Neither candidate actually lives in the district. There is no law that – there’s no national law requiring congressional House candidates to live in their district, and nor is there one in Texas.

So that – so it should be an interesting race. But that is one of the ones where I would say, again, I’m just not sure. I mean, it looks like the numbers say that the answer is pretty clear. And again, let me just say I’m not giving any – I’m not trying to give any inside information, or try – I have no position on the race except that it’s one that I’ve been following a little more closely. And it just makes me wonder, sometimes, again, how much we take from the public opinion polls, and then to what degree early voting matters, right, and how we evaluate the polls.

I wanted to say a little bit – there’s another race, New Jersey 3rd district, Congressman MacArthur, who’s actually a Hofstra grad and came to speak on campus last spring. That is now described as a tossup or leans Democrat. So just a – a couple of races that I’m following personally that I think are interesting.

I wanted to say a lot more about the presidency, and maybe I’ll leave some of that for questions. But let me just say quickly I’m the third author of a textbook, the “Paradoxes of the American Presidency,” and this is a book that Tom Cronin and Michael Genovese initially published in the late ‘90s. We have just come out in our fifth edition. But we talk about the challenges of democratic presidential leadership, that in the United States we want the president to have a common touch, to connect to the public, but to also represent the best of us. We want our presidents to be above politics – if you think of Dwight D. Eisenhower saying “The word ‘politics,’ I have no… liking for that”; never ran for office except for the presidency and won two times.

But we also want presidents to get things done, to understand the political process. We want presidents to campaign effectively and then we also want them to govern for four years – possibly up to eight years. But we – even if the skills that are increasingly required to win a campaign, to win an election, are not necessarily the same qualities we look for in someone once they’re in office.

I bring up these paradoxes simply because I think that there is relevance to the congressional races. And I know I haven’t gotten to the gubernatorial, but I’ll – I’m going to I think wrap with this, and then go to questions. But it seems to me when you look at the congressional races today, the – what is it, it’s the Senate – when you look at the races right now, increasingly the campaign has overtaken the question of governance. So that the paradox we see for the president I think applies as well. Distance from politics, right. We want – we see this in discussions today. We want our representatives and senators to be able to be bipartisan, to be able to broach the party divide, but we also expect strong constituent service. We want our elected officials to show some ability to move beyond politics, but we also want them to get things done.

And I would say just to what that means is it becomes increasingly difficult as the campaign season, when we’ve already seen candidates, including the president, announce what they’ll be doing for the 2020 election, and then certainly several other potential candidates on the Democratic side have raised their questions. You can certainly see why public confidence in the government in the United States has gone down. President Trump’s job approval, from Real Clear, is at about 44 percent; the – it’s just under 44 – the high was about 46 percent at his inauguration. Low was 38 percent in December 2017, so almost one year in. So – but it’s largely stayed there. And you have polls that have marked it lower, but these are the averages I’m looking at.

Congress’s job approval is 18 percent. And it was at a high of about 36 percent, if I just look at the last decade, in the summer of 2009; low of 8 and a half percent in November 2013. So that was after the first government shutdown since ’95, ’96. Forty percent of the country, according to Real Clear, says the United States is moving in the right direction. It was a high of 45 percent in May of 2009 – again, just looking at the last decade – low of 17 percent in October 2011.

It’s difficult to know what to make of these approval ratings except to say that if less than 20 percent of the American public has confidence in what Congress is doing, it’s very – it’s hard to see how we move from elections to governance. And there’s a lot more I could say about that and about the role of the president, looking ahead to 2020, but why don’t I open it up for discussion as best as I can, to address any questions you might have.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Dr. Bose, for those opening remarks. I will monitor questions, both in New York and in Washington. If you do have a question, please raise your hand in New York, state your name and organization. In Washington, if you stand at the podium, then I’ll be able to see you, and we’ll kind of go back and forth between both organizations.

So we’ll start here in New York, questions here, and then we’ll go to Washington.

QUESTION: Hello, I’m from Vietnam television. I have a question about the result of the election. How that effect on the policy or the – president of – I mean, the administration? How the result of the election impact on the policy. Talk about the new candidate for presidency 2020, right, but what about the result – I mean, the moment, at the moment, the policy of the –

MS BOSE: Senator Warren?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS BOSE: Do you mean her statement that she --

QUESTION: No, I mean the – if the Democrat take over the House --

MS BOSE: Oh, I see. Oh, so --

QUESTION: Yeah. How is the policy be going?

MS BOSE: Depending on what happens in November.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.

MS BOSE: Oh, got it. Okay. If the Democrats win the House on November 6th, I think the question of impeachment is certainly going to be discussed. The 25th Amendment is a slightly different issue because you need a majority of the President’s cabinet and two-thirds of both chambers of Congress. Whether impeachment – there are not – I would say that you certainly have the wings of the two parties, right, the extreme ends – certainly several people have called for impeachment. I think as far as elected officials, that’s all on the Democratic side at this point. I’m not certain that those would necessarily move. You’d just need a majority vote. So if the Democrats have a majority and are able to hold their party together, it could happen. I think the discussions alone will likely mean that the prospect for legislation will be fairly slim.

And again, I mean, this is all predicated, right, on if the Democrats win the House. If they – actually, even if the Democrats were to win the Senate, and the House and the Senate, they can’t pass legislation without the President, right? I mean, in fact, if they send legislation that the President vetoes, they could override it with two-thirds. But again, then we’re getting into some real hurdles.

So I guess this is kind of a long answer to your question, but I would say that the prospects are at best very limited governance, as far as kind of major policy making, and that would be if the Republicans were to keep control of both chambers, could send legislation forward, but will be sharply constrained, particularly as members of Congress start looking ahead to 2020. And if the Democrats win, then I would say more likely governance, continued governance by executive order, by the unilateral powers of the president, if you will.

MODERATOR: Okay. We’ll go to Washington.

QUESTION: Hey. I’m Jesper Steinmetz from TV2 Denmark. I guess it’s fair to say that Donald Trump won the presidency (inaudible) managed to flip Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, right? Are there any races in those three states that we should pay attention to?

MS BOSE: Oh, great question. I was looking at some of that. There are a couple of races in Minnesota. The Democratic seats that I had mentioned, the toss-ups, the 1st District of Minnesota, the 8th District of Minnesota. Pennsylvania, you have the resignations, two Republicans, Charlie Dent, who was in the 15th District – that’s the Lehigh Valley, and Patrick Meehan, who is outside Philadelphia, but I don’t think those are likely to shift. As far as Wisconsin, just commenting on the Senate race, Senator Baldwin is ahead the last I saw by 11 points.

So I would say it’s a great question. There are a couple of House seats that are worth looking at, but I’m looking more at the larger – I would say the broader map at this time.

 

Meehan, who is outside Philadelphia, but I don’t think those are likely to shift. As far as Wisconsin, just commenting on the Senate race, Senator Baldwin is ahead the last I saw by 11 points.

 

MODERATOR: Okay, here in New York.

QUESTION: Hello, Widad Franco with NHK. I was just wondering specifically about the Democratic Party and the big picture, because it was quite divided during the presidential election in the – for the primaries. Now we see there’s a wave of people seeking for more progressive policies, running for Congress, for different parts. How do you see these going to affect the prospects of the Democratic Party to get unified during the next presidential election? That’s one thing.

And another thing – another question I have is, like, do you see there’s too much of the cult of personality these days when it comes to being elected? You were talking about these paradoxes, right, and it’s like the qualities of someone to being getting elected towards the ability to govern. I think that we see a lot of people in the photo op.

MS BOSE: Right.

QUESTION: So, yeah, I just had those two questions and what your thoughts were.

MS BOSE: They’re both excellent questions and they’re both big questions, so let me see how I can address each one. I would say both of the two major political parties, the Republicans and Democrats of the United States, are – maybe a state of crisis could be seen as overblown, but certainly are sharply divided among the extreme wings in each party and the centrists. We actually see this in – and we have seen some interesting races. Obviously, the congressional race in Queens, Ocasio-Cortez winning the upset victory in the primary over Representative Crowley; the New York State legislative races in the Senate seats, the Independent – the IDC, the Independent Democratic Caucus losing in the primaries on the 13th, all but, excuse me, six of them lost I guess.

So – and then you referred to the divisions on the Democratic side; 2008 a very sharply contested run for the nomination between Obama and Clinton, really down to the last primary day, and then Clinton-Sanders in 2016, a challenge that ended sooner. There was certainly the unity going into the convention in Philadelphia, but I think that the differences from let’s say the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and the more centrist wing had not and have not been resolved.

So – and we see this with – I think I would say with Nancy Pelosi with the House Minority Leader was interviewed after Ocasio-Cortez’s victory. There was an article in Time Magazine that talked about that she called – spoke with Cortez, this was the story, and said there, “Congratulations, look forward to working with you, and there’s a lot to do.” And the interpretation of that was that there – this was kind of widely meant as nice work, want to get you to be part of the team, and it’s not going to be easy, right.

So whether – I think there’s tension between the leadership of the party and then the kind of grassroots movements, the surprise elections. How that gets resolved, not as much an issue for 2018 because it’s race by race, but I think that is the big question for the Democrats going into 2020, because, of course, the President has said he’s going to run for re-election.

It is quite possible that there will be a Republican challenger. We’ve seen that in much less contested presidencies. We saw that in 2000 when Senator McCain ran against George W. Bush, but of course, Bush wasn’t president then, but it’s difficult. So I think the Republicans are probably more likely to be unified. And the big question, I think, for the Democrats is: If they want to defeat Trump, right, can they unify, can they find a compelling candidate? And that’s not easy, because I think there is a big generational – I don’t know if I’d say it’s a battle, but a conflict within the Democrats between the current leaders – the elite, if you will – and the rising newer representatives. I have to say that I think that that’s present in the Republican Party as well. It’s kind of easier to see the fissures in the party that’s not in power, in control of the White House. But in 2016 – or, excuse me, on January 20th, 2017, the oldest person ever became president of the United States. Before that, it was Ronald Reagan, before that it was Dwight D. Eisenhower.

So I think both parties have generational challenges. The issue for the Democrats is that being the challengers in 2020 poses, I would say, a particular burden of unity just because the – holding the office, being the incumbent, if the economy is doing well, generally tends to favor the incumbent, completely recognizing that there are a lot of things that can happen between now and then.

And then your second point about the power of personality. I think an easy short answer would be yes, but then the question becomes what do you do about the process. I mean, these have been ongoing debates in American politics, the whole process of presidential selection, for the past several decades. I think I would – you could date it back to campaign finance – the campaign finance laws of the 70s, the 2002 McCain-Feingold Law. But then you have questions about money in politics, you have questions about the role of party elites in the nomination, the superdelegates from the Democrats, right, that were of such an issue in 2008 and important in 2016, because the superdelegates supporting Hillary Clinton were necessary under the Democratic rules for her to win the nomination. You also have – so you have questions with that.

You have questions about the number of primaries, right, the fact that we start, right, with Iowa, New Hampshire, the stagger. There have been questions about a national primary day, but again, that centralizes leadership and gives more power to the party elites. And then of course, the whole question of the Electoral College, which now that we’ve seen in 2000 and 2016 this conflict between the Electoral College vote and the popular vote, there is, I think, support – we see public opinion polls that the Electoral College is dated, is outmoded, but it’s not so easy to change. You can change it by Constitutional amendment, or there’s a national popular vote movement, which would have each state – states decide to give their Electoral College vote to the winner of the popular vote, and then you don’t have to actually get rid of the Electoral College, and that movement is now almost 14 years old. There are quite a few states that have signed on, but not enough to get to the 270 threshold for the Electoral College.

I guess I’m answering your question about personality with a response about structure, because I think the point that we, I guess, as Americans, the media, scholars tend to like following the presidency. There’s a lot of interest in that in the individual, and then that pays less attention to the staff, to the cabinet, the executive office, to the work with Congress, but at the same time the ways of changing that, right, unless you’re actually talking about changing the office itself, involve dealing with the nomination process, campaign finance, parties, conventions, and none of those are easy changes to make.

So yes, I think we do – the current system of running for president highlights the importance of personality. In some ways, that was breaking free of the parties. That was the whole effort with the move to primaries and caucuses from the power of nominating conventions in the late 60s, but – so I think there’s a resistance to moving back to that, but there’s a whole question of how you balance the individual with the institution of the party they’re representing. So – sorry, it’s a long answer, but it’s – it’s not – there’s not an easy solution.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Over to Washington.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you. This is Hikari from NTV from Japan. So when I listen to – when I listen to speeches by the Republican candidates and go to their home pages, it seems like a lot of them are – they’re fighting for President Trump’s endorsement, they’re, like, all-out supporters of Trump. Well, not all of them, of course, but there’s a lot, especially like the candidate for – in Florida. They came out with a commercial that like, it’s – where the candidate is talking with their baby, with – like building a wall or like reading baby books about President Trump. And I feel like – I bet like something like that happens in every election where they would endorse their party’s presidents, but I feel like it’s kind of excessive to some extent. So I was wondering if like this was something that is happening more excessively because of President Trump or is it – do you feel it’s kind of a normal thing that happens. And if it is, I would like to know, like, if they are – like which ones might be notable other than the Floridian candidate and if this kind of all-out Trump supporting – well, not manifests, but like way of doing election is actually helping the Republicans or not.

DR BOSE: I think – I hesitate. I don’t even know how to define normal in American politics anymore. I just – I don’t know what to say, right, I mean even that term itself, word itself seems somewhat freighted. But what we know, right, we know from following American history, American politics since the kind of 1930s – the modern presidency, if you will – president’s party usually loses seats in midterm elections. There have been a few notable exceptions. 1934, FDR, the Democrats picked up seats in Congress. 1998, Bill Clinton, a month – excuse me, Bill Clinton and the Democrats, a month before he was impeached by the House, Democrats picked up seats in the House and held even in the Senate. What’s the other one? In 2002, George W. Bush, Republicans picked up seats and then were able to retain control of – they had kept control of the House and were able to retain control of the Senate, which they lost because of Jim Jeffers who went from Republican to independent.

So traditionally we don’t expect the president’s party to do well. The question came up about the president and candidates for office, and then specifically President Trump, so let me address both of those. I would say that it is kind of – academically, we know that the question about a president’s coattails when they run for office can be called into question. In midterm elections, there is pressure on members of Congress, largely from below, right, that they have to respond to about whether they have support from their district. I’m thinking in particular of the 1994 midterms, when the Democrats lost control of the House and the Senate. There was the seat, Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, Democrat in Pennsylvania outside Philadelphia. She cast the deciding vote for the Clinton budget plan that Vice President Gore then – excuse me, in the Senate – had to – I believe he cast the tie-breaking vote for that on the Senate side. But she ended up losing and there were a lot of – this was a big case study in the early 1990s about the pressure from the White House to get a member of Congress that was critical to the vote versus the pressure from within the district.

Now flash forward up to 2018, we have seen seats – I think you were referring to the governor’s race in Florida, where you have candidates who are aligning themselves very closely with the President. We’ve seen cases where that didn’t work; probably the best example of that is the Alabama Senate race, the special election in last November. But we’ve also seen cases – Mark Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina, representative now from South Carolina, certainly has had an unusual political career. I guess I can leave it at that, but certainly one with a lot of controversy – but was out-primaried, right, by someone who saw him – has been critical of the President, was more to the right. So at the same time you see the President – I would say it is selected audiences of candidates of where he is speaking. So we see that in West Virginia, saw that in I guess Michigan recently – the places where the President’s going are places where the support is likely to help the candidate. I would say there is not a clear pattern at this time that is consistent with what we’ve seen in the past, but – and I don’t know if this really addresses what you were saying – but this election has become particularly polarizing, and in some ways I guess maybe that brings in the personality. It’s the personality as much as the policies, and that is I would say a change from recent elections.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Here in New York.

QUESTION: Hatem El-Gamasy from New Egypt.TV. Dr. Meena, if you allow me to shift a little bit to the investigation with the Russian collusion, I would just seize the chance to ask you as an academic in politics, what do we mean by election collusion or what do – from official or legal of academic perspective, when we say there is a collusion with the election, what do we mean by that officially or what exactly Mr. Mueller is looking for at the moment? And, if you allow me, did it happen before in the history of the U.S. presidential election that any other candidate have been accused of colluding with a foreign entity? Thank you.

DR BOSE: Okay. Thank you. Big question; let me see how I can address it. Ever since the Mueller investigation was launched in the spring of ’17, I think that this question of what the independent counsel – what the special counsel will find, and how the government moves forward, has been very sharply contested. I think it’s fair to say we know – I mean, this is from FBI reports – that there were Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, right. We know about the issues with WikiLeaks and how information was released. The question here is – I would say the question for the Mueller investigation is was there a systematic effort in the part of certain advisors in the Trump campaign, right, to further that process, right, to – the collusion of working with Russian – and I just say political advocates, right – who were trying to influence the presidential election.

What – well, first of all, we’re still waiting to see the timetable of the Mueller investigation, and then once the report is released, what happens from there I would say is a fairly open question. If there were a decision – this question came up earlier about the House and if the Democrats win – if there were a possibility of impeachment charges. Impeachment is a legal process but it’s also a political process. So I hesitate to take all of these steps, but I think that if the Mueller report suggests grounds for – it’s just that there are grounds for activity that could be viewed as criminal activity, and there were questions about the President, which I’m not saying, but if that’s the conclusion, most likely you would see impeachment proceedings. And then there would be a separate question as to whether there would be criminal investigations, right. I mean, this is kind of what happened with Nixon.

To answer your – has this ever happened before about foreign influence. The 1990s campaign finance battles almost seem quaint at this point. There were a lot of issues for President Clinton about campaign donors staying at the White House, foreign efforts, foreign influence on elections. And there were some, I think, some issues there, but not – I think it is fair to say there has not been in American history a charge of systematic collusion between a presidential candidate’s campaign and a foreign government or representatives of a foreign government. So that, I think it’s fair to say, is uncharted territory.

MODERATOR: Okay, a question in Washington.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Bingru Wang with Hong Kong Phoenix TV. I would like to ask, what are those key issues during this midterm election you think would – the voters would take into consideration? We have the tax reform and trade disputes and immigration crisis, and also the Russia investigation. And we – now we are only two months away from the midterm election, and among all of those key issues, what would give the most uncertainties from now to midterm election and how would the way of handling Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination would affect voters’ decision? Thank you.

MS BOSE: It’s funny, I feel like you almost can see my notes – (laughter) – because I have a whole list here of issues – economy, immigration, national security, Kavanaugh, referendum on Trump – and I didn’t get to talk about any of that. And I think it also ties in, I have to say – I’m not sidestepping your question. I’ll get right to it, but there’s also a question of voter turnout in midterm elections, and that that’s also – as much as we’re focused on – in five weeks on election day what will happen, in the 2014 election where the Republicans won control of the Senate, between – depending on whether you look at the voting age population or the voting eligible – there’s a professor, Michael McDonald from the University of Florida, who has a whole website on this.

You can track it all there – 33 to 36 percent of voters voted. In the presidential race, it was 55 to almost 60 percent. 2012 it was 53 to 58 percent and 2010, when the Democrats lost 63 House seats and six Senate seats, voter turnout was between 38 and 41 percent. So if we were to actually have high voter turnout, if we were to get – if we’re able to get voter turnout in 2018 above 41 percent, that’ll be a wave election in and of itself regardless of what the results are. But I think – but that is a hurdle.

Of the issues that matter, again, I think we’re wrestling with the question of who votes on election day and early voting. The economy traditionally – right, if you’re a political scientist, right, retrospective voting. People tend to look for the president and the supplies to members of Congress. Well if your district, if your state is doing well, stick with the incumbent. The burden is on the challenger. The incumbent of course has the resources of the office. Even though the campaign and the governance are completely separate, obviously there’s a visibility, a connection that’s highly possible.

I would say outside of the economy, immigration has become since the 2016 election – I mean, it was there before, but has really become a key issue for many candidates, including on Long Island, where there have been a lot of issues with gang violence, MS-13. The President spoke on Long Island about that.

Kavanaugh nomination – I don’t know. There has been so much written in the past two weeks about how the nomination, depending on what happens, and really – I mean, I haven’t looked at my phone for an hour, so I don’t even know what’s happened in the past hour. But of – if Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed, the backlash from the Democrats. But if Judge Kavanaugh is not confirmed, how the Republican grassroots will respond. I would say if there’s a vote on the Kavanaugh nomination this week, or let’s even just grant it to next Tuesday – to the 9th – I’m not sure that the Kavanaugh debate, as polarizing as it is now, will be decisive in the midterm elections, because it’s race by race. Now, let me just say I think however that nomination is decided, it will certainly be a major issue in 2020. I don’t think it will go away.

But I do think that race by race, elected officials are going to – I mean, it’s tough because there are a lot of these narrow Senate races, and when you look at on the Democratic side, right, why Heidi Heitkamp is in a tight race in North Dakota. The Nevada race is tight. Cruz, obviously, though he’s a little bit higher in the polls. Candidates will use the issue. I’m not sure that it will be the salient issue race by race in enough – but it’s just so much – this issue is so volatile and moment by moment that I have a hard time predicting that. I do think it will be an issue in 2020 regardless.

MODERATOR: We have time for one or two more questions, and here in New York.

QUESTION: My name is Eddy Martinez. I’m with the Asahi Shimbun. I wanted to ask a little bit about – excuse me – if – sorry – if the recent murder of Mollie Tibbets has actually become any – has had any influence at all in national conversation on immigration, because I really haven’t heard too much about it since then, and possibly because her own family has come out against any sort of anti-immigrant rhetoric. So I just wanted to get your input on that as well, and also I read that a recent – crimes of people who are – who have either entered the country illegally or who have had – who were not citizens and wanted to ask if that has any sort of bearing on the conversation as well.

MS BOSE: Yeah, two big questions there, and I would say that immigration and the whole question of the wall, what was happening with DACA – right, I mean, this pretty much dominated national conversation from September 2017, when President Trump announced he’d be ending the DACA program, through last spring. I guess I would say that since then, I mean, you’ve had all the foreign policy, the summit meeting with Kim Jong-un. There have been so many other – you’ve seen the Mueller investigation, you’ve seen the – kind of the guilty pleas and the trials there, and then the whole Kavanaugh nomination taking up – it’s interesting.

I think that – and now with the budget agreement so there’s not going to be a shutdown before the election, fortunately – that immigration has become a less pressing issue at the moment, but I mean in the immediate moment. I think it is certainly going to become a flashpoint after the elections, not – almost certainly not likely for legislation, but as far as advocacy, looking ahead to 2020.

As far as the specific case that you mentioned, when you have these tragedies of people being murdered, I think the respect for the families is paramount and it’s hard to know what to say because you have the case that you bring up, where the family said, right, we don’t want this to be politicized. And that’s not to criticize families who’ve entered the political debate, right, when you look at the MS-13, the gang violence and families, right. There was a tragedy on Long Island recently. A mother of a victim was killed in a strange accident, right, in a parking lot and had become very much of an advocate for security – on security – had entered the political process.

I think the challenge for lawmakers is to – for individually and then collectively is how you integrate the personal stories with the decision of what’s in the nation interest. And we have to be guided by what people have to say, but it’s up to the lawmakers. In a funny way I’m bringing this back to kind of Federalist 10 to kind of mediate, right, what the public says and determine what’s in the best national interests. So I would just kind of take the single case that you mentioned, the Indiana case, and then the cases we’ve seen on Long Island and say that the families need to be respected and we kind of depend on our lawmakers, our elected officials to mediate and make decisions in the collective.

I don’t see that’s – I don’t see a decision-making process on immigration in the – certainly not in the next five weeks, and I think it’s a very big question whether that’ll happen in the 116th Congress as well.

MODERATOR: Thank you, and we’ll end with a question in Washington.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. This is Zhang Qi with China’s Caixin Media. I just wanted to ask you briefly about normally what role does President play in midterm election in terms of actively endorsing and actively engaging, and what’s – is there anything special this year on Trump’s presidency in terms of his role (inaudible) actively.

MS BOSE: Okay. Thank you. I would say that the president in midterm elections – it’s very much a delicate balance between what the White House wants, seeks from party members, and what candidates, whether they’re incumbents or challengers, seek to have. As I said before, traditionally, right, the president’s party loses seats. So the incumbent party in the White House – candidates are often, whether they’re incumbents or challengers, better off not – running on their own merits and associations rather than representation from the White House. And I – in that regard, I don’t know that I would say if you look at Carter, Reagan, Bush 41 or 43, Clinton – you could get into questions of kind of travel records and what the president says. We haven’t talked about social media and that’s a whole different – how the President campaigns for candidates, but – or how – what the President says – certainly different from predecessors – but I would say the kind of arm’s length relationship that many candidates have versus the very close ties of others is – again, that is not uncommon.

I haven’t looked at research on patterns of that. There are a number of ways in which President Trump is a very different president from his – the 44 presidencies, 43 individuals with the Grover Cleveland, but – the two terms, but – nonconsecutive terms, but I would say as far as his role in the midterm elections is not an anomaly, I would say.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Dr. Bose. As we wrap up, I want to introduce you to her associate Karla, who works in the public affairs office at Hofstra. If you’re interested in communicating with Dr. Bose in the future or any other academics at Hofstra, please reach out to Karla. Our friends in Washington, I’ll make sure to send that contact as well. Dr. Bose has to rush off to a train, but we just want to thank you for coming and we will provide the transcript once it’s finished. Thank you.

# # #