With a record field of Republican candidates and a seemingly endless series of debates, the 2016 Presidential Primary Season is about to enter a new and decisive phase: actual voting.
The first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucuses are set for Feb. 1, and a nation saturated in primary coverage for the past six months eagerly awaits outcomes that have more validity than poll results or pundits’ tea leaves. So who are the most likely winners? Who will be finished before Super Tuesday? Perhaps more importantly for voters who may be experiencing primary fatigue: Is this the best we can do? Is there a better way to choose a presidential nominee?
Some answers will be provided as St. Petersburg College debuts its Distinguished Speaker Series from 7-8:30 p.m. on Jan. 28 at the Palladium Theater, 253 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. Michael Steele, former Republican National Committee chairman and respected political commentator on cable and network TV, headlines an evening of discussion about the primaries just four days before the Iowa Caucuses.
The forum, titled “Battle for the White House: A Primary Primer,” is sponsored by SPC’s Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions. Media co-sponsors are the Tampa Bay Times, WEDU-TV, and WUSF Public Media. The event is free and open to the public, but advance registration is requested.
Joining Steele in this assessment of the primaries will be Jim Davis, former Congressman from Tampa and the Democratic candidate for governor in 2006. The moderator will be Amy Hollyfield, deputy managing editor of politics and business for the Tampa Bay Times.
Eight months ago, the buzz about the Republican primaries was all about the showdown between Florida superstars Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. So sure were pundits that Florida’s favorite GOP sons would dominate the Republican field that they coined a twitter-like brand for the race: Jebio.
How long ago and far away those days seem. After a tumultuous summer and fall of debates, shifting polls and agenda-shattering world events, the early assumptions about the GOP presidential field were gone with the political winds. Near the dawn of actual voting, the race is still wide open, with a stageful of candidates still hoping that a strong showing in Iowa and New Hampshire will vault them into the lead.
On the Democratic side, a much smaller field challenging the taken-for-granted nomination of Hillary Clinton has the same hope.
In addition to assessing the horse race aspect of the primaries, the panel will discuss the disproportionate influence of small-state primaries like Iowa and New Hampshire on the nomination process, the influence of SuperPacs on the campaign, and the challenge of campaigning for Super Tuesday, when at least 11 states hold their primaries.
Advance registration is requested at http://solutions.spcollege.edu. For more information, call 727-394-6942.