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Road to the White House

USC Dornsife’s Dan Schnur participated in a recent “Road to the White House” panel discussion. The noontime conversations for students and faculty are presented in part by USC Dornsife.

USC Dornsife's Dan Schnur (far right); Roberto Suro (far left), and Raphael Bostic are panelists at the semester's first "Road to the White House" discussion in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center. Photo by Dierdre Flanagan.
USC Dornsife's Dan Schnur (far right); Roberto Suro (far left), and Raphael Bostic are panelists at the semester's first "Road to the White House" discussion in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center. Photo by Dierdre Flanagan.

With just two months left in the campaign for the Oval Office, USC’s top experts in politics, media and policy recently came together to turn their crystal ball to the November election.

The Sept. 5 event continued the partnership between three USC academic units — USC Dornsife, the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and the USC Price School of Public Policy — to present noontime conversations called “Road to the White House” that began last year and will take place Wednesdays throughout the semester.

The gatherings have become a place for USC’s politicos — students and faculty alike — to respectfully banter about the latest happenings on the campaign trail. The year’s first event included the now infamous conversation between actor and director Clint Eastwood and the empty chair, the pomp of the political conventions, and the onslaught of negative advertisements from both parties.

About 100 students, faculty and staff gathered in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center for the panel, which featured Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics housed in USC Dornsife, and former communications director for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.); Raphael Bostic, a USC Price professor who served in the Obama administration; and Roberto Suro, a faculty fellow with the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy.

The panelists shared the stage with student leaders representing the USC College Democrats and USC College Republicans. The lively dialogue stayed true to the forum’s cardinal tenet: Your opponent is not your enemy.

“It’s really hard when you’re in college to stay connected and informed,” said Nathaniel Haas, a freshman majoring in political science in USC Dornsife who queried the experts about next month’s debates pitting President Barack Obama against Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

“These events really help me to stay aware of what’s going on outside of campus,” he added.

Suro said presidential debates are often the source of events that can turn the tide of an election.

“Debates often produce breakout moments,” Suro said. “And the chances the losing side will have time to recover is quite slim.”

Said Schnur: “I think debates are overrated. The only way someone is judged as a winner is if their opponent does something really stupid.”

Bostic asserted that the debates would provide a real opportunity for Romney to articulate who he is and what he stands for.

“I think people are looking for reassurance one way or the other about what [his] positions are,” Bostic said. “But the goal of all these debates is just not to mess up.”

The weekly events are a joint effort of USC Dornsife’s Unruh Institute of Politics, USC Price’s Judith and John Bedrosian Center on Governance and the Public Enterprise, and the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy.

On Sept. 12, the debate will center on which key issues, including jobs, health care and Medicare, will have the most impact on the campaign in the coming weeks. Glenn Gritzner of Mercury Public Affairs and Michael Madrid of GrassrootsLab are the scheduled panelists.

For more information on the upcoming panel discussions and to RSVP, visit dornsife.usc.edu/unruh/road-to-the-white-house-2012/.