Election Day 2016 is still ten months away, but the presidential candidates are already aggressively trying to win their respective primaries.
Our guest for “This Week” is Columbia College political science professor Dr. Terry Smith.
We started our conversation by asking Dr. Smith about the perception of some people that this election is unfolding like a reality show.
Here’s a transcript of the conversation:
DR.TERRY SMITH: First of all, let me say it’s great to be back. If I’m here, it must be an election coming up. So, I’m just delighted to be here. The reality show? Do we have to talk about Melissa Click and Tim Wolfe? I mean, seriously. Oh, you’re talking about the presidential race. You know, it’s taking on some of that shape. I mean some of that is really serious and I have a comment in a minute about how I think it might end up. I teach over at Columbia College, and I was teaching my American Government class this morning, and talking about the U.S. Constitution. We went through it word for word. And I was thinking, I didn’t say this but I was thinking “the founding fathers must be rolling over in their graves with what’s going on right now.” Because some of it has never happened before and some of it is kind of with the edge of what we would expect what would be going on with presidential campaigns at this time of the cycle.
JOEY PARKER: I love to hear that you’re teaching about the Constitution. I know that sounds elementary but it is a very important thing. And when you talk about the founding fathers rolling in their graves, I’ve always been a big supporter of (as you’ve been told since you were a child) “You can too become president!” You can grow up and become president, you shouldn’t be a life-long politician to become president to do it.
DR. TERRY SMITH: It’s increasingly true based on what we are seeing that you don’t have to have particularly political experience. But, here’s the thing about this, I really think, I mean it’s January – you know almost February – but it’s a long time and not a single delegate has been selected yet. And, so the Iowa Caucus is going to tell us a lot, after primaries it’s going to tell us a lot. But when we really are going to start finding out is when they get to other states that are more representative of the U.S. population and when delegate counts start showing up. Because historically, and Hillary Clinton found this out the hard way in 2008, I mean you can be leading in the polls, you can have all the money, and you can have the name recognition but what matters is half plus one of the delegates at your convention so the number of 2,777 is the number for the Democrats and the number 1,144 is the number for the Republicans. Half plus one; nobody’s got one right now so it’s still very, very early and I think it may sort out yet, and there will be something closer to normality by the time we talk in a couple of months.
JOEY PARKER: Would you agree that if you wrote this as fiction that people wouldn’t believe it as a presidential race?
DR. TERRY SMITH: Well, the short answer to your question is yes, you know it’s kind of like it’s an alternative universe. I was waiting before the show and I was watching “Let’s Make a Deal” and all these freaks coming down and I’m thinking well maybe that’s the debate! No, no, no, those guys have suits and ties and the ladies professional dress as well. But yes it is, we’ve never seen anything like this and Donald Trump is making a permanent change in how this is going to all go. We’ll have to be out a year or so and see what that actually means but really presidential politics because of Donald Trump will never be the same.
JOEY PARKER: Do you think his absence yesterday helped the Republicans?
DR. TERRY SMITH: You know, I think it did in the long term because I think they can see you know what that array of candidates look like without him. I mean what he did, he did on principles, so did FOX. Good for both of them. But I think that it was really good for those, for everybody up there except for Carson of course who I think is becoming less and less of a factor. To be sort of seeing without the elephant of the room who is Donald Trump and who just has an outsized influence on everything and because of what he says and the way he says it, it distorts the debate and I think you had more of a typical debate last night. So will Trump be back in the next one? Of course, it will be interesting to see the difference, and of course it will be after the caucuses and so there will actually have been some votes and delegates picked by the next time.
JOEY PARKER: And do you have any theory on why Donald Trump can say whatever he wants to say and seem to not only be not hurt by it, but in some cases be helped?
DR. TERRY SMITH: You know, I really don’t. I think that’s one of the things we are going to have to look at. Why is he getting a pass on so much of this?
JOEY PARKER: Dr. Smith I think we are going to see a lot more of you before November.
DR. TERRY SMITH: Well it’s always a pleasure.
JOEY PARKER: Alright thank you.
DR. TERRY SMITH: Your welcome.