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November 28, 2014

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OTHER VOICES:

‘Campaigns at all levels seem even more willing to push the truth this cycle.’

David Damore’s take on Campaign 2012

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David Damore

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A Q+A with: David Damore

Associate professor, Department of Political Science, UNLV. On Twitter: @dfdamore. Online: faculty.unlv.edu/dfdamore/

What trends have you seen this election?

Two trends that stand out are the very early start to general election campaigning this cycle and the length to which campaigns now go to define their opponents. Nevada has been more or less saturated with advertising for the presidential and U.S. Senate races since the end of the spring. Historically, campaigns did not ramp up their advertising until late summer, if not Labor Day; not anymore. Also, following the lead of Karl Rove, campaigns at all levels now focus so much of their messaging on trying to disqualify the opposition at a personal level. The end result is that voters often end up voting against their least-preferred choice instead of voting for a candidate whom they actually like.

Any trends you are pleased with or worried about?

A trend that concerns me is the decline in disclosure and reporting for outside groups. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, there is no disclosure for around 30 percent of all spending by outside groups in the 2012 cycle. If we are going to have unlimited spending by outside entities, then at the very least we should know where all the money is coming from. Either that or require candidates, like car racers, to wear clothes with the logos of their biggest outside supporters.

Any Nevada-specific trends?

Because of the competitive federal races here, the state legislative races are getting very little attention even though the outcomes of the Assembly and state Senate elections will have an incrementally bigger impact on our lives as compared to who is or is not the president. While this is nothing new, given the magnitude of issues that will be front and center in the Nevada Legislature in the 2013 session, it is unfortunate that there is almost no discussion about the funding formulas for K-12 and higher education, tax reform and Medicaid expansion. If we do not know where our state legislative candidates stand on these issues now, then it is very difficult to hold them accountable for the choices they make in Carson City.

How would you tag this election on a blog?

A big election preceded by a campaign about very small things.

Best thing(s) you’ve seen this election?

The decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to stay U.S. District Judge Robert Jones’ ruling that Nevada’s “none of the above” voting option is unconstitutional; NOTA lives (at least for one more election cycle).

Worst thing(s) you’ve seen?

Despite the increased emphasis by various media outlets on “fact checking” campaign claims, these analyses do not seem to make much of a difference as campaigns at all levels seem even more willing to push the truth this cycle. A close second is all of the money that the political operatives are making by running so many spots of questionable veracity.

Anything else notable/memorable for you this election?

Thanks to the rise of social media, it is amazing to watch the speed by which the political class digests and interprets campaign information before it even makes it into the news cycle. For instance, the “47 percent” video was old news on Twitter before it was even reported in the mainstream media.

Campaign cliché(s) that need to be retired?

I am certainly guilty of this one, but probably the most useless analysis pundits offer is something like: “The election is going to be determined by turnout; whichever side gets its voters to the polls, will win.”

Any surprises you’ve seen so far? Any potential upsets or surprises you see on Election Day?

Probably the biggest surprise is how bad the polling in Nevada continues to be even after what happened here in 2010. A quick inspection of the crosstabs in most any poll (and this includes some of the internal polls), done here reveals one significant flaw or another. To be sure, Nevada is a very difficult state to poll, but if you cannot do it right, why spend the money to do it poorly? This is particularly problematic given the degree to which the polls frame media reporting of campaigns and elections. Without a clear sense of where some of the key races stand, there are likely to be some disappointed voters and candidates come Election Night.

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