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CSU professors offer perspectives on the primaries

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Gathered in groups around New-York style pizza and Coca-Cola, Clayton State University professors led students in a spirited discussion about the results of the Georgia presidential primaries.

On Wednesday, students and professors met during an optional, bi-weekly gathering entitled, "Times Talk." During the discussion, students and professors openly share their opinions about topics reported in the pages of the New York Times.

With the 2008 Georgia presidential primaries having passed earlier this week, "Super Tuesday" was at the top of discussion. Professors said this presidential race is unlike any other in history and that technology is changing the rules of the game.

"So many molds are being broken," said Gene Hatfield, head of the department of social sciences. "We're seeing more free publicity in this campaign than ever before."

Hatfield said YouTube fad sensations, such as the "Obama Girl" video have generated a buzz for candidates without them having to do the work themselves. He added that presidential candidates have been turning more toward the Internet for advertising, rather than employing expensive, traditional forms of advertising, such as television spots.

"There are almost no signs anywhere," said Hatfield. "It's obsolete. The amount of money a candidate makes is not as important as it once was." Hatfield said that fact has made it possible for candidates like Barack Obama to pick up the nomination in smaller states with traditionally low voter turnouts.

Political science professor, Joe Trachtenberg, said that the diversity of the presidential candidates has changed the rules of engagement. Once a game of winner takes all, the candidates have been forced to acknowledge boundaries and keep smear campaigns to a minimum.

"George Herbert Walker Bush said that you had to do whatever you had to do to get elected," said Trachtenberg. "This is not true anymore ... because we have a black man and a woman running, there are certain guidelines that people have to follow."

Other professors offered reasons as to why candidates, such as Mike Huckabee, won in Georgia over Republican favorite, John McCain, and why Hillary Clinton picked up a substantial amount of the Latino vote in other states.

"Latinos look favorably on the Clinton era," said political science professor, Joe Corrado. "There wasn't as many battles with immigration and the economy was much better."

Political science professor, Augustine Ayuk, said that religious conservatives in Georgia have not wholly accepted McCain and that he needs to change his strategy or find a running mate who speaks more to conservative voters.

"McCain needs to wrap up his party," said Ayuk. Before his presidential campaign, McCain "really wanted to limit the amount of money people could donate to campaigns. From the conservative standpoint, you are really limiting people's ability to participate in the political process.

"A lot of conservatives have never forgiven him for that," said Ayuk.

Trachtenberg said the 2008 presidential race has defied all expectations and that the race for the Democratic nomination, especially, has been more competitive than people ever thought it would be. He expected that a democratic front-runner would emerge only after the Pennsylvania Primary on April 22.

"This is really going to go out longer than anybody expected ... and that's a good thing," Trachtenberg said.