2015 Archives

SMU debate experts talk Trump as target

Emulating the Trump attack style, crafting substantial soundbites

August 5, 2015

DALLAS (SMU)SMU experts are available for interview on all things debatable in connection with Thursday’s prime time matchup between 10 GOP hopefuls. 

MATTHEW WILSON:
ATTACK TRUMP OR IGNORE HIM? 

   

Wilson says, “One interesting thing to watch for will be who goes after Trump and who ignores him.  We have a very strange dynamic right now in the Republican field--the candidate who is leading by a healthy margin is widely perceived to have no realistic chance of winning the nomination, much less the presidency.  He is, however, sucking up all the media attention… Some candidates will want to pretend he's not there, assuming he will implode eventually and choosing instead to engage the other ‘serious’ contenders.  Others may relish the attention that comes from a spat with Trump, or seek to position themselves as the party's leading alternative to the disastrous prospect of a Trump candidacy.”

Wilson is SMU sssociate professor of political science

Can Discuss:

  • Religion and Politics
  • Political Psychology
  • Voting behavior of Religious Voters
  • Public Opinion and Politics

RITA KIRK:
SOUNDBITE CULTURE AND THE DEATH OF DISCOURSE

   

Rita Kirk’s knowledge of the evolving communication landscape has made her a valuable resource in analyzing trends in politics and political communication.  As the coauthor of Soundbite Culture:  The Death of Discourse in a Wired World, she frequently discussed how candidates in debates attempt to deliver one piece of “soundbite substance” to drive the political conversations afterward.  She has served as a debate analyst in previous elections for CNN, ABC and HearstArgyle. With research partner Dan Schill, she has spent the last 8 years studying who undecided voters reach their decisions. She has the ability to adapt to story topics and specializes in political and persuasive campaigns.

Kirk is SMU professor of communication studies and director of the Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility

Can Discuss:

  • Soundbite substance
  • Undecided voters
  • Presidential debates
  • The use of second screens and social media in politics
  • Political communications

BEN VOTH:
IT’S THE 2012 DEBATE ALL OVER AGAIN

   

Ben Voth expects candidates in Thursday night’s Republican debate to position themselves as alternatives to Donald Trump, who has used his brand of American populism to surge to the front of the pack. Candidates also might emulate Trump’s direct style in the attacks they levy against him, Voth says, and will likely value appealing to the conservative base of the Republican party more than appearing presidential. Voth compares this year’s crowded Republican field to the large one from 2012, which arguably “did some damage to eventual nominee Mitt Romney, but also factored into the most decisive debate win in television history when Romney defeated president Obama 70-20 in Gallup polls tracking the first presidential debate in early October of 2012.” 

Voth is SMU associate professor of communication, director of SMU Forensics (speech & debate) and advisor to the Bush institute 

Can Discuss:

  • Debate prep
  • Debate strategy
  • Comparisons between this debate season and the 2012 election’s debate season

STEPHANIE MARTIN:
TURNING A GOOD ECONOMY INTO A PROBLEM THAT NEEDS FIXING

 
 
 

Martin says, “Beyond watching how the candidates will all try to handle, dismiss and box in Donald Trump, I will be paying particular interest to how all the candidates frame the economy. It's an interesting issue going into 2016, because economic indicators are all generally very good. Unemployment is down, the housing market is strong — prices are holding steady keeping inflation in check, only wages are not showing much growth — but Americans are generally not feeling very good about the country's economic prospects. Because of this, most people polled seem to feel like the country is ‘on the wrong track’ and seem to have what economists are calling an ‘emotional hangover’ from the 2008/09 recession. So, the candidates need to be able to speak about what they'll do for the economy, in spite of the fact that it's actually doing OK.” Trump is the only one of the group with any real experience in the private sector to call on, Martin notes. “So, how do they position themselves as better prepared to take it on than this one bullish tycoon who might say anything?”

Martin is an SMU assistant professor of Communication Studies in the Meadows School of the Arts

Can Discuss:

  • Economic messages in political campaigns

News Media Contact:

Kenny Ryan
SMU News & Communications
Tele.214-768-7641
khryan@smu.edu