Media Tip Sheet: Bucknell’s Election Story Ideas

LEWISBURG, Pa. — With three weeks left until election day, these are Bucknell University’s election-related story ideas that may interest you.

THE GREAT DIVIDE — President Trump has returned to the campaign trail after his bout with COVID-19. Professor Chris Ellis, political science, points out that historically, the President coming down with a serious health problem would lead to a “rally” effect, where at least some portion of the population would become more sympathetic towards him. “But this just looks like it will make things even more polarized,” says Ellis, co-director of the Bucknell Institute for Public Policy. “His opponents will be even more upset at him, since it looks like the White House didn’t take precautions to prevent this, and his base will be fired up that he ‘beat’ the virus, and maybe double down on the idea that it’s not that serious after all.” Professor Scott Meinke, political science, sees Trump’s bout with COVID-19 keeping the attention on coronavirus and the administration’s handling of it. “The pandemic is a top issue for many voters, and it is not an issue that works in Trump’s favor,” says Meinke, the department chair. Meanwhile, Trump and the GOP-controlled Senate are moving forward with the contentious confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. That may be important in a handful of Senate races according to Ellis, who reports most of the polling suggests that it probably will be a net negative for Republicans. “But it’s also clear that Mitch McConnell really doesn’t care,” he says. “Getting a justice confirmed that will fundamentally change the nature of the court for decades is the Holy Grail for Republicans, and if it means sacrificing some political power to do it, the Republican leadership has made it clear that the tradeoff is worth it.” Meinke agrees that it may impact contests for a few blue-state Republican senators already facing uphill reelection battles, but it may not move undecided voters. “The issue is one more motivator for activists on both sides, but it is less likely to be a deciding factor for undecided voters in the presidential and Senate races,” he says. CONTACTS: Ellis, 570-577-1960, chris.ellis@bucknell.edu; Meinke, 570-577-3512, scott.meinke@bucknell.edu

KAMALA AND THE CONFIRMATION — Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will be among the senators in the spotlight at Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court Senate confirmation. And while she gained political fame with her tenacious interrogation in the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh, she may need to tone down the partisan rhetoric this time according to Professor Courtney Burns, political science. “I think Harris will have to do a political balancing act in the hearings for Amy Coney Barrett,” she says. “She can’t appear to be as partisan as in the past with the election looming; however, she can use the time to continue to demonstrate her interrogation skills that she’s been lauded for in the past.” Harris hopes to continue to appeal to an important group of voters, including some potentially new voters. “She is the first woman of color to be on a major party ticket and that has created some excitement for some black voters, particularly older black voters who may not have voted in the past,” Burns says. CONTACT: Burns, 570-577-2128, c.burns@bucknell.edu

TRUMPING THE EVANGELICAL VOTE — Over 80% of white evangelical voters backed Donald Trump in 2016, and while it appears that he’ll win their majority again this year, his support may be eroding according to Professor Brantley Gasaway, religious studies, who has written on American Evangelicals in the Age of Trump. “Several recent polls indicate that as many as 25% of white evangelicals plan to vote for Joe Biden, with another 5 to 7% undecided,” Gasaway says. He reports that two similarly named groups — Evangelicals for Biden and Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden — have launched campaigns to persuade other evangelicals to support the Democratic nominee. “Among evangelicals of color, black Christians overwhelmingly continue to disapprove of President Trump and his policies,” he says. “But Trump has been more successful in courting Latino evangelicals, with one recent poll suggesting that almost half of Latino evangelicals plan to support the incumbent Republican.” Trump’s Supreme Court nomination may have also helped shore up precious support among pro-life voters. “For evangelicals active in the pro-life movement, Barrett’s nomination has confirmed their conviction that President Trump would help fulfill their goals to restrict and even to end access to legal abortions,” Gasaway says. CONTACT: Gasaway, 570-577-3180, brantley.gasaway@bucknell.edu

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CONTACT: Mike Ferlazzo, 570-238-6266 (c), mike.ferlazzo@bucknell.edu

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