A Site for Scholarly Commentary, Debate and Media Resources for the 2016 Election

National Issues

In the election trenches

By Duke Magazine


The Candidate

Scott Peters ’90
U.S. Representative (D-California)

In 2012, Peters became the first Democrat to represent California’s 52nd Congressional District, which had been redrawn to encompass portions of central San Diego and its red-leaning suburbs. The former San Diego city council president was re-elected in 2014 in a close race—Peters wasn’t declared the winner until nearly a week after the election. Election forecasters aren’t predicting such drama this time. Both Cook Political Report and election forecaster Larry J. Sabato rate Peters’ seat as a likely win for the Dems. If that happens, expect Peters to seek to build on his reputation as a moderate and a bit of a techie. Earlier this year, he became the first in Congress to use the live-video channel Periscope as he documented Democrats’ Capitol sit-in to attempt to force a vote on gun-control measures.


The Pundit

Nia-Malika Henderson ’96
Senior political reporter, CNN

In her first election cycle with CNN, Henderson has emerged as one of the network’s go-to analysts, often appearing to have taken up permanent residence on Anderson Cooper’s set. But the multitalented reporter didn’t set out to cover politics. A cultural anthropology major at Duke, she studied history in graduate school before finding journalism in her thirties, becoming, as she describes, “the oldest intern in the history of the Washington Post.” But anthropology may have been the perfect training ground for Henderson, whose commentary usually eschews horse-race politics for deeper societal themes. “Campaigns are all about culture,” Henderson said in an interview with Duke’s Campaign Stop politics site. “It’s about the story we want to tell about ourselves and how we experience a particular moment in history.” And in an election like this one, where every tweet seems to reveal a gaping divide in American culture, that’s a rich story to tell.


The Insurgent

Stephen Miller ’09
Senior policy adviser for Donald Trump

In some ways, Miller’s emergence on the national stage parallels the upstart success of his boss’ run for the presidency. The 30-year-old conservative seemed to come from nowhere, having toiled in relatively low-profile Capitol Hill staff jobs before joining Trump’s campaign in June. Within months, he was one of Trump’s defining voices, often taking the stage at rallies and drafting Trump’s highest profile speeches, including his address at the Republican National Convention. And yet the threads of Miller’s ideology can be traced to his days at Duke, when he penned a series of provocative columns for The Chronicle voicing passionate opinions on the threat of terrorism and the excesses of political correctness. “Stephen has been saying these things for a long time,” recalled fellow Chronicle staffer David Graham ’09, now a writer for The Atlantic, in The Chronicle’s July profile of Miller. “For him to have found the candidate that so well represents him is a striking serendipity.”


The Truth Seeker

Lauren Carroll ’14
Staff writer for Politifact

It’s hard to pull one over on Lauren Carroll. As a writer for Politifact, one of the media’s most trusted fact-checking organizations, she’s developed a pretty good ear for political hogwash. “It can make me no fun at parties,” she laughs. But while Carroll has learned to bite her tongue in social settings, she’s not shy about calling out the exaggerations and half-truths of candidates across the political spectrum. Since joining the nonpartisan site, founded in May 2014 by Bill Adair, director of the Sanford School’s DeWitt Wallace Center, she’s probed the accuracy of claims involving Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server, Donald Trump’s economic policy, and even the migration patterns of monarch butterflies. And while Politifact may be best known for labeling egregious mistruths as “Pants on Fire,” Carroll says most of what she investigates falls somewhere between wholly true and outrageously false. “Every candidate, no matter the party, says things in a manner that make you think they are either this way or that. But nothing is ever black and white,” she says. “There’s almost always another side to the story.”


The Swing-State Warrior

Troy Clair ’03
Director of Hillary Clinton’s North Carolina campaign

Political junkies are fond of saying that while elections are fought over the air, they’re won on the ground—with strong grassroots organization to reach and mobilize voters. And in this election, that affords a big role for Clair, who was hired in June to lead Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the Tar Heel State, which is expected to be one of the closest races on the electoral map. “Ground game will make the difference in whether we win or lose here,” says Clair, who most recently worked as chief of staff for North Carolina Rep. G.K. Butterfield. As President Obama’s campaign did in 2008, Clinton’s team has invested heavily in local organization in the state, setting up field operations in every county. Clair’s role is making sure everyone is on the same page, coordinating message and strategy among a vast network of volunteers and staff. But the partisan divisions between Democrat and Republican voters aren’t the only gap Clair is trying to bridge. An avid Blue Devil fan, he’s doing his best to reach out to fans of that other team, as well. “That’s a tricky issue,” he laughs. “Sometimes I wear a Carolina blue tie.”


Other notable mentions:

Neil Newhouse ’74, partner and cofounder of Public Opinion Strategies, one of the top election polling firms.

Esosa Osa ’12, former Duke Student Government vice president, now a researcher in Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters.

Ashley Alman ’13, social media editor for the Huffington Post, watching how the campaigns are using (and sometimes misusing) social platforms.

Shannon Beckham ’16, featured student speaker at Duke’s May commencement, now on Hillary Clinton’s speechwriting team.

Mo Brooks ’75, congressman running for his third term representing Alabama’s 5th District.

Bradley Byrne ’77, Congressman running for re-election in Alabama’s 1st District.

Eric Greitens ’96, former Navy SEAL, is the Republican nominee for governor of Missouri.

John Harwood ’78, chief Washington correspondent for CNBC and political writer for The New York Times.

Victoria Kaplan ’04, lead campaign manager of MoveOn.org, is organizing the group’s 8 million members to push progressive candidates and causes during the election.

Betsy Klein ’12, CNN video producer, who has been following the candidates since the Iowa caucuses.

Dan Lipinski Ph.D. ’98, congressman running for re-election in Illinois’ 3rd District.

Brent McGoldrick ’97, CEO of Deep Root Analytics, which does polling and data-driven strategy for Republican candidates.

Marcus Switzer ’09, deputy national finance director for the Hillary Clinton campaign.

David Trott J.D. ’85, first-term congressman running for reelection in Michigan’s 11th District and national finance director for the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Judy Woodruff ’68, co-anchor of “PBS NewsHour,” moderated one of the primary debates.

Stephanie Xu ’13, Republican National Committee’s deputy finance director for the South.

Julie Zuckerbrod ’13, traveling videographer for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Campaign Stop 2016