Eye on the Election

Leo with Professor Barbara Perry, an expert on the presidency

The Iowa Caucuses take place on February 3. The caucuses are the first nominating contest of the 2020 election season. Voters in New Hampshire will go to the polls on February 11, with other states to follow.

What are political experts watching? I asked Barbara Perry, the Director of Presidential Studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. Perry recently delivered a lecture at the University of Louisville in my home state of Kentucky. Before that, I spoke with her by phone. 

Perry explained that this year, the Democratic Party is fielding an unusually large number of candidates. She attributes this, in part, to digital media and the ease with which the candidates can spread their message.

The winner of the Democratic primaries and caucuses will face President Donald Trump in the general election on November 3. Trump, a Republican, is seeking his second term in office. 


Perry talks about the political process at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. 


Perry thinks that five Democratic candidates have the best chance of winning their party’s nomination for the presidency: former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Pete Buttigieg, who recently served as Mayor of South Bend, Indiana. “For right now, it’s coming down to them,” Perry said. 

Social media and electronic news sources are also influencing another development in presidential races. “A trend I’m seeing this year,” Perry said, “is people like President Trump, who don’t have any political experience. They can make a statement and make an impact with social media, [and be] drawn into the mix.”

One example is entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who has been drawing attention in the Democratic race with his ideas for addressing income inequality. 

Experience in the business world is helpful, Perry said, but she thinks the ideal candidate is “someone with governmental experience, political experience, and, preferably, military experience.”

Perry compares choosing an inexperienced candidate to going to your automobile mechanic for brain surgery “because he seems to be really good with tools.” 

What do you think? What qualities are important in a presidential candidate?


Photos courtesy of the author