The Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy hosted a panel on Super Tuesday and the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primaries at large Monday night, as part of Batten’s “Democracy in Perilous Times: Unprecedented Challenges and Controversies” program, which is organized by the Center for Politics and Batten. This event is also part of a Center for Politics series celebrating the centennial of Women's Suffrage.
The all-female panel was monitored by POLITICO Congress reporter Heather Caygle. Participants in the panel included Jocelyn Kiley, the associate director of research at Pew Research Center; Rohini Kosoglu, a senior advisor to Senator Kamala Harris and the chief of staff to her discontinued presidential campaign; Tara Setmayer, a CNN Political Commentator, ABC News Political Contributor and former GOP communications director on Capitol Hill and Mara Suttman-Lea, a professor at Connecticut College who studies the electoral process.
Setmayer stated that this is the most important election in half a century.
“I think the more engaged people are, the better — and any opportunity — especially to speak in front of students in a Super Tuesday state, is a great one,” Setmayer said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily.
About 100 people were at the event, with students and Charlottesville residents in attendance. First-year College student Cole DeLong chose to attend because of his interest in who will be victorious in the primary process.
“I came out because I'm really interested in this race. There are a lot of dynamics, especially with new changes that came out today,” DeLong said.
DeLong referred to the recent dropping out of Democratic candidates Amy Klobuchar and Pete Butteigeg. Both candidates announced their support for former vice president Joe Biden’s candidacy.
The panelists discussed numerous topics during their panel, including the addition of California to Super Tuesday states this election cycle, money in politics, the possibility of a brokered convention and how Virginia fits into Super Tuesday.
During the panel, panelists noted the recent endorsements for Joe Biden from both the former governor of Virginia Terry McAuliff and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine.
Setmayer noted that endorsements do not necessarily carry a ton of sway, but endorsements from individuals with “gravitas” like Kaine and McAuliff matter.
During the panel, Caygle asked Kosoglu about Kamala Harris’ plans to endorse a candidate.
“I think it's premature, but I think that her number one focus right now is on defeating Donald Trump and uniting the party as best as she can, so I think that every former candidate is just thinking about their role in terms of that,” Kosoglu said.
When it comes to the Super Tuesday primary in Virginia, Suttman-Lee believes Biden has an advantage over Sanders, whom the panelists believed was Biden’s main rival.
“I think that demographically, Virginia is a more moderate state, you know, it's recently turned blue-ish purple. And I know it's by no means guaranteed, but my sense is that Biden has an edge and for that particular reason,” Suttman-Lee said.
Suttman-Lea stated that she could see Virginia electing either a Democrat or Republican for President in 2020. Virginia has not elected a Republican president since George W. Bush was elected for a second-term in 2004. In 2019, Democrats gained control of the House of Delegates and the State Senate for the first time since 1994.
Setmayer agreed with Suttman-Lee’s characterisation of Virginia as a moderate state.
“We have so many areas of Virginia that are moderate, like here or Northern Virginia, where a lot of the votes are, there is a certain unease with having a revolution right now, and Virginia is an incredibly important state. And I think Virginia will probably go blue this election, and every electoral vote counts at this point,” Setmayer said.
Setmayer emphasized the key role engagement is going to play in the Super Tuesday elections.
“You have so many students and people in the community that came out that are interested in politics, who want to hear what the scenarios could be, and I think be encouraged that their vote matters.” Setmayer said.
“[Virginia] is a state that has shifted Democrat in recent years. We got the all-blue statehouse and a Democrat in the governor's seat. But my sense is that it's still one of those states that could go either way,” Suttman-Lea said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily.
Kiley stated that there is a lot of uncertainty going into Super Tuesday. The recent exits of Amy Klobachar, Pete Buttigieg and Tom Steyer from the race have narrowed down the options of voters.
“There's a lot more uncertainty that perhaps there was just even a couple of days ago,” Kiley said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily. “I assume a lot of U.Va. students are Virginia registered voters and what will happen [Tuesday] will depend on how you all vote.”