Saint Leo University Students Immersed in 2022 Elections in New Project
In ‘Campaigns and Elections’ political science course, students are becoming experts in 20 U.S. races; they will predict winners and analyze campaigns on Election Night.
Students in one political science class at Saint Leo University are becoming fully immersed in the November 8 election. They’re assigned to 20 races—governor and U.S. Senate—in the Campaigns and Elections course. Not only are they studying the races and the candidates, they’re also focusing on the importance of voting.
“We have a new project where they are going to be the complete experts on a certain state or race, either governor or senate,” said Frank Orlando, political science instructor. “They will be the undisputed experts. They will know who is going to win; they’ll make predictions, they’ll be able to analyze elections results, and on Election Night, they will get to play the pundits that get to tell us what is going on.”
While in past Campaigns and Elections courses, students worked in groups and participated in mock elections, this is a new twist.
“Really what we learn is what it takes to successfully drive a campaign, what it takes to push an election, or what can even lower the voting polls,” said Valentina Diaz, a junior political science major. “What makes a candidate good, and what can deter somebody from winning an election.”
Diaz is becoming the expert on the U.S. Senate race in Florida between incumbent Republican Senator Marco Rubio and U.S. Representative Val Demings, a Democrat. In addition, there are three other candidates on the ballot, and four possible write-in candidates. Diaz said that even when she was a child, she would stay up and watch debates. “This class really plays into my nerdy side, my geeky side, my obsession of what it really takes to win a race.”
She also is advocate for voting. One of my professors here at Saint Leo says that citizenship is your highest calling. I truly believe that. I’ve always been one to push people to vote. It’s Important to hear everyone’s voices.”
For Ivan Plante, a senior political science major, Saint Leo’s Campaigns and Elections course is fun. “I would probably be following some of these races anyway,” Plante said. “I’m doing work on things I already am interested in and this makes it fun and enjoyable.”
Plante is serving as the class expert on the U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania, pitting TV star, Dr. Mehmet Oz, a Republican, vs. Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, a Democrat. “I’m learning about how the geography and demographics of Pennsylvania affect the race in ways that maybe aren’t readily evident,” Plante said. “And I’m learning about looking into the various platforms of the candidates, where they stand, and what the differences are between them.”
Plante also thinks that, “every vote counts in the sense of that civic virtue that we get. It is the essence of democracy: to go to the poll, vote for the person who you think is the best for the job. Sometimes we don’t get to choose the person who exactly aligns with your view. But I still think our voice matters.”
This course is making an impact on senior political science major Rafael Soto. He is becoming the expert on the U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin which pits Mandela Barnes, the state’s Democratic lieutenant governor vs. two-term incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson.
“I think this class project brings this idea that we’re becoming better voters,” Soto said. “I think by learning about our races, it’s a job that every student should have or every voter should have—in understanding a race.”
For Orlando, the ultimate goal is “that students will have some substantive knowledge about how campaigns are run, how campaigns prioritize areas to campaign, how they think about the numbers they need to win in each county and each precinct, but I think a really important thing is the skills that they’ll learn, the ability to do the kind of quantitative analysis that happens in campaigns that can translate outside of this, but also the ability to present information, which is important no matter what you’re doing.”
The predictions of the Saint Leo students will be available Friday, November 4. On Election Night, November 8, the students will gather in TECO Hall in the Tapia College of Business building, to watch the results come in, and they’ll be presenting and analyzing their predictions.