The 2016 election season draws to a close, marking a turbulent journey for the Republican and Democratic nominees, a journey that was so often marred by misconduct. To cap off the campaigns, St. Mary’s hosted a discussion of the election that included not only the individuals at the top of their party’s ticket, but also contenders vying for a spot in the House of Representatives or the Senate. Professors Susan Grogan, Matt Fehrs, and Todd Eberly lead the event that dissected multiple issues ranging from the expected margin of victory in the presidential race to the course of action the next President will take regarding the issue of hydraulic fracturing.
To begin the discussion, Professor Eberly shed light on how competitive the race for our nation’s highest office became in the week leading up to Election Day. With the saga of Hillary Clinton’s email scandal not expected to conclude before the fateful day of November 8, Donald Trump gained ground on Clinton’s lead at the expense of third party candidate Gary Johnson whose campaign floundered in the final stretch. The consequence of a public misstep of such egregious nature has been made clear in the shrinking of the gap Clinton initially gained from the Presidential debates.
While all the members of the panel predicted a victory for the Clinton camp, the margin of victory proved to be a more difficult answer to pinpoint. As of November 2, an electoral map with no “toss ups” gives the edge to Clinton by a slim margin of eight electoral votes, but many states remain contested. The 132 electoral votes from 11 states that have yet to show signs of significantly leaning towards one candidate illustrate Professor Eberly’s remark that the 2016 election has the potential to be as disputed as the 2012 election between Mitt Romney and President Obama or as lopsided as the victory by Bill Clinton in 1996.
According to the panelists, a decisive factor in the 2016 race is the get-out-the-vote apparatus that the Clinton campaign has working in their favor. Moving down the ballot, the prognosis for the Republican Party is not burdened by the polarizing candidate atop the ticket; on the contrary, the G.O.P. has the opportunity to capture 33 gubernatorial races and retain a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Both Professor Grogan and Fehrs predicted that the Democratic Party will gain back a Senate majority while Professor Eberly maintained that the Republicans would retain control.
The interactive component of the evening compelled the audience to voice any questions about the election, fostering a spirit of respectful discussion essential to the St. Mary’s campus. Perhaps the most salient detail of the evening was the reminder that a Democratic victory in the executive branch has the potential, and likelihood, to be countered by a strong Republican presence in the legislative branch.