Media Advisory: Republican presidential debate: Wake Forest experts available

The Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Library on Wednesday, Sept. 16 will give the field of GOP candidates another chance to distinguish themselves. The GOP pack has been reshuffled some and Carly Fiorina has a spot in the 8 p.m. debate. Wake Forest University faculty experts are available to comment on the continuation of the “introduction phase,” the “Trump phenomenon,” evangelical voters, the candidates’ objectives, and related topics.

GOP candidates still in ‘introduction phase’— John Dinan, professor of politics and international affairs, can discuss candidates’ goals in a second primary debate. According to Dinan, we are still in a candidate introduction stage of the primary campaign, so that a number of candidates will still focus on introducing themselves and their personal and political background and story to a national audience. “Debate moderators will likely invite candidates to engage in comparison with other candidates and their policy views, and some candidates might accept such invitations. But, because a good portion of the electorate is still unfamiliar with many of the candidates’ background, most candidates will continue to devote a good deal of their time to introducing themselves.”

Evangelical voters, the ‘Trump phenomenon’ and nones – Bill Leonard, an expert on contemporary American religious life, says religion issues will be important in the Republican debates, but candidates face some challenges. “The ‘Trump phenomenon’ has impacted efforts by many religion-oriented candidates to get the attention of the Republican base in any focused way,” Leonard says.  But, he adds, “At Trump’s rally in Dallas, he called to the platform Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the 12,000-member First Baptist Church. Jeffress is a prominent leader of the Southern Baptist Convention and outspoken conservative critic of all things liberal in church and culture. His presence is a significant indication of evangelical/SBC-related support for Trump, another indication of the politicization of evangelicals in this election cycle and a loss to candidates such as Huckabee, Walker, and others.” Regarding evangelical voters, Leonard also says, “Overall, the evangelical vote is still important to the Republican base, but the politicians are confronted with a society in which one in five adults, and one in three millennials is a ‘none’ without religious affiliation or connection. That reality will impact this next election cycle dramatically where religion and voting blocs are concerned.” Leonard is the ​James and Marilyn Dunn Professor of Baptist Studies in Wake Forest’s School of Divinity. Widely known for his work in American, Southern and Baptist religious studies, he is the author or editor of 24 books.

Debate strategy, second round — Allan Louden, an expert on political campaigns and debates, can talk about GOP presidential debates and the Republican field. “A candidate’s best hope is to stay alive for rounds three, four . . . and more,” says Louden, professor and chair of communication who has provided expert commentary and analysis for USA TodayThe Los Angeles Times, MSNBCNewsweek and a wide range of other media outlets. He can also provide post-debate analysis and discuss campaign advertising.

Carly Fiorina on the main stage — Katy Harriger, professor and chair of politics and international affairs, can comment on women and politics and the challenges women still face when running for president. How has the landscape for women candidates changed since 2012? Will being a woman help Fiorina stand out in a crowded field, or will she face an uphill climb with Republican voters?Harriger teaches courses on Women and Politics.


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