Media Advisory: Election story ideas from Wake Forest University

N.C. likely to be one of the top half-dozen senate races attracting attention on election night: Congressional elections are generally decided by candidates’ success regarding money, mobilization and messaging, according to politics professor John Dinan, and this is likely to be a good guide to the N.C. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis.

On Money: “Incumbents generally enjoy a funding advantage, and this is clearly the case in the North Carolina contest, both regarding campaign spending and independent group spending,” says Dinan. “Not only has the Hagan campaign raised and spent far more money than the Tillis campaign, but liberal groups have outspent conservative groups in this race by a considerable margin, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.”

On Mobilization: Dinan says Republican candidates have benefited from a voter turnout and mobilization advantage in mid-term elections, when the demographic composition of the electorate is more favorable to them. Republicans are also likely to benefit from the longstanding pattern in mid-term elections whereby the party not in control of the presidency invariably gains seats in mid-term congressional elections and does especially well in mid-term elections in the 6th year of a presidency.

On Message: The election outcome will be determined to a great extent by which of the campaigns is more successful  in increasing the prominence of their set of favored issues, says Dinan. “The Hagan campaign is clearly operating on the premise that education policy and to some degree women’s issues are her best route to victory. The Tillis campaign is of the view that he will do best by increasing the prominence in voters’ minds of the federal health care law and Hagan’s votes for this law and her support for other Obama administration policies.”

He said, she said – A look at the political advertisements of the N.C. senate race — Whether wacky, autobiographical or humorous, the goal of political advertisements is to convert two to three percent of voters. “For democrat Kay Hagan, she’s trying to motivate voters by making them angry,” says Allan Louden, professor of communication and political advertising expert who has written presidential debate commentaries for the Charlotte Observer. “Hagan’s attack method is atypical and what you would actually expect out of Republican challenger Thom Tillis, who instead has taken a pretty decent autobiographical approach with voters.”

Lessons for talking about politics borrowed from religion — A calm conversation about politics can often turn into a heated discussion, especially with November elections on the horizon. To avoid a fight, Wake Forest University School of Divinity professor Michelle Voss Roberts says we should take our cues from an interesting place — religion. She says that the ground rules for interreligious dialogue are relevant for creating more peaceful political discussions. Voss Roberts recommends being open-minded during discussions and warns against making unfair comparisons. She even encourages people to be self-critical of their own beliefs. “If we do not cling to preconceptions about where our differences lie, we can move beyond caricatures toward genuine conversation,” says Voss Roberts.

Talking politics: How to stay friends when your views differ — How do you diffuse political discussions gone wrong at social gatherings and with friends and family? “Humor makes a point without drawing blood,” says Sam Gladding, chair of the department of counseling. “If you can find some humor in the situation, all the better for you — without letting the views get under your skin.” Civility and the ability to listen while finding the lighter side of a conversation can help temper political conversations when they start to get uncomfortable.

Hip hop and political influence. For quite some time, hip hop has been used as a political football and a kingmaker by Republicans and Democrats, says religion professor Ron Neal. “Not a few politicians have used it to exploit public fears about moral decline in the U.S. and some politicians have employed hip hop to boost their public appeal and social capital.” Regardless of who uses it and how it is used, the fact that hip hop is exploited speaks to its growing popularity and influence over four decades in the public domain. “For good or ill, the manipulation of hip hop is not going anywhere anytime soon.”

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