Institute of Politics to dive deep into 2012 election

Five-week examination of presidential campaigns, election begins Feb. 5

The University of Chicago’s non-partisan Institute of Politics will host a five-week, in-depth examination of the 2012 presidential campaign and election, starting Feb. 5.

Top operatives from the Obama and Romney campaigns and other high-level experts will visit campus for an intensive series of events, “Full Access: Inside the Obama & Romney Campaigns,” to dissect important components of the campaign process. Topics will include campaign strategy, polling, mobilization, messaging, media, Super PACs and political fundraising.

"Over the next five weeks, the Institute will tell the story of the 2012 campaign through the experiences of the people who lived it every day," said David Axelrod, director of the Institute of Politics. "From the candidates and ad makers, to the pollsters and fundraisers, we will cover every facet of a presidential campaign in a way that is both informative and engaging."

The Institute will kick off the series on Tuesday, Feb. 5, with “Campaign Strategists: 2012 Explained.” The event will convene the lead strategists and managers from the Obama and Romney camps in a series of discussions about what went right, what went wrong and what they learned in the process.

Moderated by NBC’s chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd, guests will include Romney campaign advisors Eric Fehrnstrom, Beth Myers, Matthew Rhoades and Stuart Stevens. Representatives from President Obama’s campaign will include Axelrod, Larry Grisolano, Jim Messina and Jen O’Malley Dillon. The event will start at 7 p.m. in the Assembly Hall at International House.

While a full schedule and updated details of events can be found here, highlights include:

“The Presidential Pollsters: Tracking Public Opinion,” Monday, Feb. 11, at 6 p.m., International House, Assembly Hall: During the 2012 election, presidential campaigns used a sophisticated mix of quantitative and qualitative data to understand voter concerns, to test ideas, and to create the most compelling messaging for their candidates. The lead pollsters from the Obama and Romney campaigns will offer a behind-the-scenes look at this process..

“A Conversation with Newt Gingrich,” Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 6 p.m., in Mandel Hall: Former Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich will sit down with his longtime strategic rival, David Axelrod, for a wide-ranging conversation about his career, his views and the future of politics.

“High-Tech and Highly Targeted,” Saturday, Feb. 23, from noon-5 p.m., at the Booth School of Business, Room 104. Lunch will be provided. This event will look at the role technology is playing in the execution of the modern day political campaign and in the 2012 elections specifically, from micro-targeting to fundraising, social media to rapid response. The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza will moderate a series of conversations that will explore the secretive, evolving science of campaigns as well as the relationship between Beltway and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, and what these teach us about who votes, why people vote and how campaigns are trying to reach us.

“The Role of Super PACs in 2012 & Beyond,” Thursday, Feb. 28, at 6 p.m., Dining Room, Quadrangle Club: For the first time since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United decision, Super PACs were able to put their mark on a presidential election with hundreds of millions of dollars in spending and a flurry of negative ads from such groups as Priorities USA and Crossroads GPS. What impact did these Super PACs have on the course of the campaign? How did they perceive their role vis-à-vis the campaigns, the parties and other interest groups? And now that this campaign is over, where do the Super PACs go next?

“A Conversation with Jon Huntsman,” Thursday, March 7, at 6 p.m, Logan Arts Center, Performance Hall: Jon Huntsman, the former Republican presidential candidate, governor of Utah and U.S. Ambassador to China, will engage in a wide-ranging conversation on the state of politics in the United States and the future of U.S.-China relations.

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NBC journalist Tom Brokaw moderated the Institute of Politics' panel discussion on gun policy last month. The IOP's upcoming events will focus on the 2012 presidential election and both the Obama and Romney campaigns.

Photo by Robert Kozloff

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