Photo by Bob Ritter

Campaign Trail

Students offer predictions for Super Tuesday

LSU's Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs will be hosting a Watch Party for the Super Tuesday news coverage from 6-9 p.m. in the Holliday Forum of the Journalism Building.

In late December of 2011 and early January of 2012, 24 students and four faculty and staff members from LSU's Manship School of Mass Communication, along with Robert Mann, professor and director of the Manship School's Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs, traveled to the state of Iowa to get an up-close look at beginnings of the 2012 presidential election cycle, the Iowa Caucus.

There, the students observed not only the campaign organizations of the candidates for the Republican Party nomination, but also media coverage of the process and public perceptions. They chronicled their journey on the website, as well as through social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. With March 6 marking the annual “Super Tuesday,” in which Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia will all hold their primaries, the students, along with Mann, weighed in with observations and predictions on the major Republican candidates and their campaigns.

Q: Which candidate do you think will come out of the Super Tuesday primaries with the most delegates?

Ruth Flores, senior from Mandeville: I believe that Santorum and Romney will be neck and neck through the Super Tuesday primaries. Michigan’s results certainly did not give the Romney camp the reassurance that Romney will secure the most delegates in the Super Tuesday primaries, especially since Romney is outspending Santorum by such a high margin.

Grace Montgomery, senior from Lake Charles: Earlier this year, I would have easily said Mitt Romney would be the "winner" of the Super Tuesday primaries. Now with Rick Santorum’s recent surges in popularity, I say that with more hesitation. It will be interesting to see what how voters choose and if there will be any surprises, like another rise for Newt Gingrich in popularity. 

Mann: Most likely it will be Mitt Romney with the most delegates, primarly because he has the best ground game among the Republican candidates and simply has the most people on the ground the various states. That doesn’t mean that he will necessarily run away with it, but he should do at least marginally better than the rest.

Q: Why do you think that candidate’s campaign having this success?

Andrea Gallo, sophomore from Lafayette: When we were in Iowa, we saw every candidate speak to crowds. All of them incited energy and passion, but when we saw Mitt Romney speak, there was this moment of, "welcome to the big leagues." He had a charisma and polish that resonated with all of his followers more than any of the other candidates. 

Ryan Brumley, junior from Lafayette: This is Romney’s second time around campaigning for president, and that gives his team a significant advantage over his competitors.  While attending all the rallies in Iowa, his seemed to be the most organized.  He’s obvious he has done this before and that’s helped him out a ton this time around.

Manship School Sydni Dunn interviews a prospective voter in Iowa. Students were able to gain a first-hand perspective on how the campaigns of the various Republican candidates resonated with the general public.

Mann: He has the best organization, bar none. That doesn’t mean it’s been a smooth ride for Romney. Far from it. But his organization is deep enough and he has the resources, along with the super political action committees, or super PACS, that are supporting him, to overcome quite a bit.

Q: What was it like seeing the beginnings of this campaign unfold in Iowa?

Leslie Leavoy, junior from DeRidder: Exhilarating. It was a once in a lifetime experience to see the things we did and meet the people we met. Each campaign makes history, and to be able to have the opportunity to witness the unfolding of the primary cycle was the pinnacle of my learning experience as a college student. It further confirmed my dream of working on a campaign someday. We were constantly running around trying to cover every event possible, and that adrenaline rush was unlike anything else.

Brumley: The experience in Iowa was remarkable.  It gave me a whole new perspective on the political process.  The caucus process taught me a lot about how politics affects every individuals life and shed light on how important presidential elections are.

Mann: Being "present at the creation," so to speak, was a great experience and having seen these candidates up close, I have a better appreciation for why they are succeeding or failing.

Q: How has it changed your perception of these primary races?

Mallory Logan, senior from New Orleans: I now understand there is an intimate relationship the candidates have with the voters in Iowa. Almost all of the citizens we talked to had met every candidate.

Gallo: Going to Iowa changed the way I read the news about the primaries and caucuses. My favorite memories of the trip are that of being a student journalist with my LSU press pass on and steno in my hand, standing alongside reporters from the Associated Press and the New York Times. While reporters often cover the same events, they all reach for fresh angles, and they all look for different elements of a speech or at an event. In Iowa, I would compare what I found to be the most significant angles for an event with what the other news outlets reported. Now when I read news about the campaigns, I try to identify what each reporter did differently or noticed as a stand-out at an event.

Mann: I’m more persuaded than ever that both parties should ditch the caucus process. These caucuses aren’t professional. There is too much room for error, miscounting votes, losing ballots. It also decreases voter participation.

Ryan Brumley, a junior from Lafayette, filmed uploaded videos from he and his classmates' experiences to a blog site,

Q: How do you foresee the rest of this primary campaign playing out, leading up to the Republican National Convention this summer?

Flores: It is still too early to call. Just as Iowa foreshadowed – this is going to be a close race! If you check out the delegate numbers needed and secured, we have got a ways to go. With 1,144 delegates total needed to win the nomination, Romney and Santorum have only pocketed 167 and 87 respectively, according to AP results if the Michigan delegates are split evenly. 

Romney has an issue with bringing excitement to the base, but if he can pick up that raw authenticity that is produced by Santorum, he may have a better chance at excelling among voters. Santorum, on the other hand, needs to be able to continue to raise the necessary funds for a national advertising fight to continue to compete against Romney. As campaign funds and name recognition rise, Santorum has a chance at holding his ground and continuing to excel in the polls.

Montgomery: My money is on a brokered convention. I don’t foresee enough satisfaction amongst Republican voters for one candidate to truly stand out. While this will cause trouble for the Republican Party, as a political reporter I think that situation would be the most interesting and fun to cover and experience. 

Mann: It’s too early to tell whether it will be a brokered convention. Whether or not Romney does well on Super Tuesday will tell us a great deal. If he wins big, he’s in good shape. But there are still many primaries after Super Tuesday. As this campaign has proved so far, anything can happen. You’ll go broke betting on the conventional wisdom.

Mann holds the Manship Chair in Political Communication and is the author of “Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds: LBJ, Barry Goldwater and the Ad that Changed American Politics,” which explores the infamous “Peace, Little Girl” ad from Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 presidential campaign. The book has received positive reviews from media outlets across the country from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Dallas Morning News and the National Journal, to ABC News, MSNBC, CBS, CSPAN, Campaigns and Elections Magazine and Politico. For more information, visit