2016 Archives

State of the Union challenge puts Trump, economy and foreign policy under spotlight at Republican Debate

January 14, 2016

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

Bernard Weinstein

BERNARD WEINSTEIN

EXPECT COUNTERPUNCHES AGAINST OBAMA'S ECONOMIC MESSAGING

bweinstein@mail.cox.smu.edu

President Barack Obama came out swinging against Republican economic messaging during Tuesday’s State of the Union address, but Weinstein says the president left plenty of room for the Republican field to throw counterpunches during tonight’s debate.

“I think the Republicans will talk about subpar economic growth and the fact that, though we’ve had a lot of job creation, we’re still just slightly above where we were before the great recession,” Weinstein says. “They’ll also talk about quality as opposed to the quantity of jobs created. They’ll talk about tax reform and the heavy hand of government regulation.” 

Weinstein also says Obama’s championing of $2 gas could prove a political piñata for Republicans who point to Obama’s anti-fossil fuel agenda and argue Obama had nothing to do with the current gas prices – which may be good for consumers, but not necessarily for the economy. 

Weinstein is an economist and associate director of SMU’s Maguire Energy Institute. He can be reached at his office during the workday.

Can Discuss:

  • energy and public policy.
  • taxation policy.
  • economic development policy.

   

Stephanie Martin

STEPHANIE MARTIN

WHEN THE ECONOMY IS STRONG, ATTACK FOREIGN POLICY

samartin@mail.smu.edu

As much as Republicans might like to attack Obama’s economic message during tonight’s debate, high employment rates and low gas prices could make that a tricky proposition. Instead, Martin suggests candidates might find success attacking Obama on the foreign policy front instead. 

“People are scared,” Martin says. “Obama has tried to make a case that this isn’t World War III against ISIS, but his opinion differs with a lot of Americans on that, so that’s a real open door for Republicans to walk through.” 

Martin also says Republican candidates are running out of time to repudiate frontrunner Donald Trump’s heated rhetoric, as South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley did during Tuesday’s official Republican response to the State of the Union. 

“It’s now or never for these candidates to stop being scared of Trump, take him on, and say they’re not a party of xenophobia and racism,” Martin says. “Though I suspect Haley’s Republican response will be heard and forgotten and nobody will say Trump is wrong (Thursday) night.” 

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

Can Discuss:

  • economic messages in political campaigns 

   

Matthew Wilson

MATTHEW WILSON

CRUZ-TRUMP TIFF WILL COMMAND CENTER STAGE

jmwilson@smu.edu 

After months of Trump and Ted Cruz public civility, the gloves have finally come off in the feud between the two to win next month’s Iowa Caucus, says Wilson.

“Ted Cruz has to be rolling his eyes at this birther idiocy,” Wilson says. “Of all the things that could have been brought up as a line of attack, I don’t think he expected this to be Trump’s attack.  But maybe he should have –  because Trump was a big birther critic of Obama.” 

As pivotal as the Cruz-Trump showdown will be for Iowa, a four-way fight between Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Jeb Bush for the New Hampshire primary could have an even greater impact on the shape of the race. A large margin of defeat there could potentially end several candidates’ ambitions.

“There’s a major battle there to see who will emerge as the center-right standard bearer as opposed to the far-right standard bearer, which would be Cruz,” Wilson says. “New Hampshire aggregates more center-right than far-right, but these four guys are dividing that vote, which creates an opening for Trump and, to a lesser extent, Cruz.” 

Wilson is an SMU associate professor of Political Science

Can Discuss:

  • religion and politics
  • political psychology
  • voting behavior of religious voters
  • public opinion and politics

   

Rita Kirk

RITA KIRK

THE MORE TRUMP IS ATTACKED, THE STRONGER HE GETS

rkirk@smu.edu

Obama’s State of the Union speech and Haley’s Republican rebuttal both contained not-so-subtle attacks on Trump’s political rhetoric.

As Kirk sees it, attacking Trump in such a way will only make his campaign stronger. 

“Americans like an underdog,” Kirk says. “The more Trump is perceived as an outsider, the stronger he’ll get.” 

This poses an interesting challenge to candidates debating against Trump tonight – a challenge lacking an easy solution. 

“The rest of the field will try to say he doesn’t represent the party,” Kirk says. “They’ll try to demonstrate how different he is from the Republican base and how they are the mainstream candidates and he isn’t. But this is an outsider campaign. Making Trump the outsider could play well for him.” 

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

BEN VOTH

AS CRUZ AND TRUMP TANGO, WILL ANYONE NOTICE RAND PAUL’S ABSENCE?

bvoth@smu.edu 

Voth expects plenty of fireworks at the top of the ticket tonight as Trump and Cruz circle each other in pursuit of the win, but what’s not happening on stage might be equally as significant, he notes. 

“There is a brewing controversy since Rand Paul has been demoted to the undercard debate,” Voth says. “The campaign for Paul has said he will refuse to debate if this is the case. That might provide some additional commentary and controversy for this debate round.” 

Voth also expects Ben Carson will attempt to recoup his lost lead, the State of the Union will be a hot topic and humorous attacks will come Cruz’s way on the Trumped-up notion that he’s not a natural-born U.S. citizen. 

Voth is SMU’s director of debate and an associate professor of corporate communications and public affairs

Can discuss:

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