Election Forecaster Calls Nomination Races 'Most Peculiar' in Memory

Release Date: January 18, 2008 This content is archived.


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Political scientist James E. Campbell calls the 2008 presidential nominations the "most peculiar" he's ever seen.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- University at Buffalo political science professor James E. Campbell has studied presidential campaigns for more than three decades and says this year's race for party nominations is the "most peculiar" he can remember.

"I've never seen anything like it; this nomination campaign is raising more questions than it has answered," says Campbell, author of "The American Campaign," released this month in its second edition.

"There are so many candidates and so many angles on both sides. It's very unusual that we haven't seen a thinning of the field to this point."

In his blog on the Encyclopedia Britannica Web site , Campbell notes that neither party has a candidate with close to half of his or her party's support.

The big question right now, he says, is who will win South Carolina and Florida before February's onslaught of primaries.

"I still count Hillary Clinton as the candidate to beat on the Democratic side, but it's a bit of a stretch to call John McCain the Republican frontrunner at this point," says Campbell, who for the past three presidential elections has produced an election forecast based on economic data and Labor Day polling numbers. His presidential vote forecast was within two-and-a-half points of the vote in both the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections.

According to Campbell, these key questions remain to be answered as the primary season hits full tilt:

* Who will drop out when, and where will their support go?

* Can Mike Huckabee draw beyond the Evangelicals?

* Can John McCain win over conservatives upset about his immigration and tax stands?

* Can Hillary Rodham Clinton convince voters she really is an agent of change?

* Can Rudy Giuliani revive his candidacy with a Florida win?

* Can Fred Thompson's campaign be revived in South Carolina?

* Can Barack Obama satisfy skeptics questioning his experience for the job?

* Will the truce between Clinton and Obama hold?

* How much of the African-American vote can Clinton draw away from Obama?

After the parties have selected a candidate, the big question will be whether the election becomes a referendum on the Bush presidency, Campbell says.

"With Bush's low approval numbers it may be impossible for a Democratic candidate not be elected," he speculates. "Certainly the Democrats seem to have an advantage; how much of an advantage may depend on how quickly the Republicans can unite around one candidate."

Campbell, chair of UB's Department of Political Science, is co-editing a special issue on election forecasting for the International Journal of Forecasting due out in May.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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