Seniors Prepare for the Oval Office

What does it take to become the commander in chief? That’s what students in Colleen Roche’s Political Science course asked when designing campaigns for their recent mock presidential election. 

The seniors were tasked with creating winning strategies for fictional candidates by implementing what they’ve learned from studying past presidential campaigns. “They had to juggle all they learned about electoral strategy, fundraising, advertising, etc. and take into account the current political climate,” Roche said. The Democrat group, she explained, created a candidate who could flip Texas — imagined Texas governor Michael Wallard — and the Republican group aimed to expand the party’s base and win the popular vote with the fabricated New Hampshire governor Ted Armstrong Kane. 

As with real-world campaigns, the students had to respond to various crises and navigate scandals, such as when one campaign received a Federal Election Commission fine for fundraising violations. The students also presented their candidates’ stump speeches and TV and print ads in class. 

As the Democratic campaign manager, Andrew Azzariti ’22 enjoyed “developing our candidate in order to make him the most likable character to the American people while simultaneously forming the best possible beliefs that would align with party values.” The biggest challenge they faced, Azzariti explained, was implementing a travel schedule so their candidate could visit with as many Americans as possible, since “as in real life, too much traveling would put a strain on a person.” 

Anna Drattell ’22, the Republican campaign scheduler, prioritized “travel to swing states, as my candidate could be seen as a somewhat ‘unconventional’ Republican candidate, and we wanted to make sure we gained a lot of support there.” For Drattell, the project was an eye-opening simulation of what a real-world campaign would be like, noting, for example, that “we had press releases that could affect the results of the election.”
In the end, those press releases helped Republican Kane win the election with 282 electoral votes. “I'm proud of how much effort we put into the project,” Drattell said. “I will say, though, that the other campaign was very impressive.”
“Overall, their campaigns were strikingly realistic and thoroughly designed,” Roche said. “Both groups were thinking outside the box and trying to come up with creative ways to expand upon what the parties did in the last (real) campaign.”

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