CPF Former Fellow Todd S. Purdum Headshot
Center for the Political Future

Spring 2022 & Spring 2021 Fellow

Todd S. Purdum recently wrote for The Atlantic as a staff writer and California correspondent covering politics and culture. He has also been senior writer at POLITICO and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. He was formerly with The New York Times, where he worked for 23 years, covering politics from city hall to the White House. He also served as diplomatic correspondent and Los Angeles bureau chief. During the 2016 presidential election, Purdum wrote extensively about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and the legacy of Barack Obama. He has also written several books. His most recent work is Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution (2018), a revelatory portrait of the creative partnership of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II that transformed musical theater and provided the soundtrack to the American Century. He also wrote A Time of Our Choosing: America’s War in Iraq and An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Purdum is a native of Macomb, Illinois, and a graduate of Princeton University. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Dee Dee Myers, the former Clinton White House Press Secretary and former Executive Vice President and Director of Worldwide Corporate Communications and Public Affairs at Warner Bros, and their two children.


Spring 2022- Media and Message: Great Races from the Senate to the White House

This course was designed and taught by Robert Shrum, the veteran Democratic political strategist and speechwriter. This semester, it was taught from the perspective of a veteran political journalist and author. The course covered the modern era of American political campaigns, focusing on the interrelationship of media coverage, paid advertising and candidate strategy and messaging.

Through lectures, class discussion and extensive video clips, the course sought to give students a genuine sense of what happened in each of the campaigns we examined, aiming to be analytic while also conveying a human feel for events as they unfolded — and for the candidates as they were perceived, wished to project themselves, and were characterized by their opponents. We focused on presidential campaigns from 1960 to 2016, along with a series of statewide contests – for example, the politics of cultural connection that enabled Barbara Mikulski to be the first Democratic woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate on her own; the striking 1994 battle for the Senate between Ted Kennedy and Mitt Romney; and the instant political stardom of the trial lawyer John Edwards when he defeated an incumbent Senator in North Carolina in 1998.

We drew on a rich trove of film, ads, debates and polling data since 1960 – and considered whether and how “old” media is being supplemented and even supplanted by social media. From time to time, we had guest lecturers — from the media and politics — who were involved in the campaigns under consideration.

Spring 2021- Politics & The Press: How Did We Get Here, Where Are We Going?

The relationship between politics and the press has been an integral part of American democracy. But the speed and reach of modern communications poses unique challenges. This course surveyed key developments since the mid 20th century, the pressures that motivate journalists, the role of polling, political advertising, and the media’s failures in covering underserved communities. It featured guest appearances by leading journalists and political practitioners, and grappled with what comes next in the Age of Trump and beyond.

Spring 2022 & Spring 2021 Semester Recap

Group Photo of CPF Fellow Todd Purdum's Spring 2022 Study Group
Group Photo of CPF Fellow Todd Purdum’s Spring 2022 Study Group
Group Photo of CPF Fellow Todd Purdum's Spring 2021 Study Group
Group Photo of CPF Fellow Todd Purdum’s Spring 2021 Study Group

See what Spring 2022 Fellow Todd S. Purdum said about his experience at USC’s Center for the Political Future in this video highlight.

Hunter Hinson, a sophomore majoring in Political Science and Communications, said:

“The Spring 2022 CPF Fellows have been so friendly to students over the past semester. I think the thing that shocked me the most about their engagement with us was just how willing they were to learn more about us and to also share their personal life experiences. What I gained the most from Professor Purdum’s class is a greater political IQ. Through Professor Purdum’s class, I gained a greater understanding of political events and communication. My favorite part about Professor Purdum’s class is the little inside scoop that he would always give us and the context he provided to so many political instances and moments over the past few decades. Professor Purdum has so much experience within journalistic and other realms and has so much insider information that he can provide us in class, and that’s been super helpful.”


Arman Nadim, a senior majoring in Political Science, said:

“This Fellows course has been one of the most unique opportunities I’ve had during my time at USC. Being able to engage with Todd in such a small class size gave us the chance to create a strong academic relationship and a more personal one that will hopefully extend beyond this course. Engaging with Todd on a weekly basis, alongside the wide selection of amazing guest speakers, was definitely an exciting experience every week. What I gained most from this course was a strong historical perspective on the relationship between journalism and politics. Given that Todd has been working in the field for nearly four decades, he’s able to take recent developments in journalism, such as the rise of social media and give us context from two or three decades ago, which helps us as students understand how we got to this point and in what direction it seems like we’re going to in the future. My favorite part about being in this course was getting to know Todd himself. He’s very sincere, and he’s a good, decent person. He also has an understanding when it comes to the generational divide between us, but he was able to engage with us with curiosity and a mutual level of respect. He’s an open book, where anything we were curious about we could ask him tough questions and he would always give us a thoughtful and nuanced answer, which I thoroughly enjoyed throughout the course.”

VIDEO: Spring 2022 Fellow Todd S. Purdum on his experience at USC’s Center for the Political Future.

VIDEO: Spring 2021 Fellow Todd S. Purdum on his experience at USC’s Center for the Political Future.