Students, faculty and staff gathered to watch the election results and listen to insights from experts and special guests at Wallis Annenberg Hall on Tuesday evening prior to the election.
The hour-long panels weighed in on the role of media in the election as well as expectations the analysts had on the night’s results.
Geoffrey Cowan, a professor and the former dean of Annenberg, facilitated the first panel, entitled, “Behind the Scenes on Election Night: Journalists, Campaigns and the Special Role of the Associated Press.”
The panelists discussed the behind-the-scenes of major networks and the candidates themselves.
Susan Estrich, a Robert Kingsley professor of law and political science at the USC Gould School of Law, ran Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis’ presidential campaign in 1988. Through the lens of her experience, she recounted the candidates’ possible feelings during election day.
“All of a sudden, there’s nothing to do but wait,” she said. “He’s or she’s, hopefully, trying to look calm and relaxed,” Estrich said. “When the cameras leave, will the candidate be calm and relaxed? No. They’re sitting there, looking at six screens, making telephone calls and saying, ‘what do you hear?’”
Major news outlets send reporters all over the country to make observations and combine them with the poll results, according to Sue Cross, executive director and CEO of the Institute for Nonprofit News and former senior vice president of the Associated Press.
“Voting and counting the votes is a very grassroots thing,” she said. “There’s no federal system; it’s a vast network. The way you’re getting those numbers is from over 4,000 people trained in advance.”
Roger Smith, editor for the USC Center for Health Reporting and former national editor of the Los Angeles Times, provided the perspective from a print angle. Smith believes this election cycle focused on coverage of the people.
“There’s been a big change in the way news organizations are approaching [elections],” he said. “You have to publish constantly, all the time. And that’s what’s going on today.”
Between the two panels, students, faculty and staff gathered together to watch CNN announce the first live results.
Dan Schnur, the director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, facilitated the second panel, titled “What to Expect Tonight.”
The panelists discussed significant states and figures the audience should look for during election night, as well as the importance of various Senate races.
Justin Wallin, chief operating officer and chief marketing officer of Probolsky Research, looked to Florida and Virginia as keys for winning the White House.
“We’re really looking for Florida,” he said. “Both of [the candidates] really have to win that.”
Trump ended up winning Florida by a narrow margin, while Clinton took Virginia.
Third-year law student Chase Bakaly agreed with the importance of Florida, but also looked to his home state of Virginia for a tight race.
“The northern part of the state [has] changed immensely the past couple of years,” he said. “It’ll be interesting to see how Sen. Kaine influences that vote.”
According to Wallin, the Trump campaign will get the initial lead in Virginia, but he should feel more comfortable with the lead once poll results from Northern Virginia are reported.
“Certainly Virginia,” Wallin said. Virginia’s kind of funny. We’re expecting to see some earlier terms favoring Trump. It will be very close.”
Robert Shrum, Carmen H. and Louis Warschaw Chair in Practical Politics and political science professor, emphasized that Clinton will win through Florida.
“If she wins Florida, there’s almost no plan for Trump,” he said. “If she carries Ohio, she carries Michigan, you could be on the edge of an electoral college landslide.”
Clinton would go on to lose both Florida and Ohio, with Michigan still too close to call at press time.
Lily Vaughan, vice president of the USC College Democrats and editorial director of the Daily Trojan, said she was interested in voter turnout and margins of victory.
“In this election, I’m interested in the overall results of each state,” she said. “But, more specifically, how red the red states turn out and how blue the blue states turn out.”
The panel also discussed the importance of Senate control.
According to Bakaly, the executive and legislative branches will also have to choose at least one new Supreme Court Justice.
“The implications go far beyond tonight,” Bakaly said.
City Controller Ron Galperin also came as a special guest to speak about the importance of the election night.
“Many years from now, you are going to remember this night, and the history that is being made,” he said.