As North Carolina State University students listened to a panel discussion led by Andy Taylor, political science department head, and Michael Cobb and Steven Greene, associate professors of political science, one thing was obvious -- the effects of a Republican woman vice presidential candidate and a black presidential candidate made this election different than any other in American history.
CHASS and the Department of Political Science sponsored the event, titled "The Obama/Palin Effects: Race and Gender in the 2008 Elections."
Sarah Palin's effect(UWIRE) -- "There's definitely a Sarah Palin effect," Greene said.
On the one hand, Palin has "energized" some Republican voters, but on the other, she is slowly losing favorability among Independent voters, he said.
Greene said the McCain campaign may have picked Palin in hopes of gaining the support of those who voted for Hillary Clinton in the primaries, but Palin's persona is not at all like Clinton's.
"One of the really big differences is for Palin, it's not woman versus everyone else," he said. "It's moms versus everyone else."
Clinton, Greene said, did not portray a "hockey mom" sense like Palin and therefore, all of Clinton's supporters will not automatically go to Palin.
And a question from the audience about whether Palin's negative publicity was coming from the fact that she was a woman was negated.
"Imagine someone running for a national office winking at you in debates," Greene said.
He did say that some of the negative publicity may be coming because of her gender but that a lot of it is self-generated because of her "colloquial" attitude about politics.
This isn't the first time, Greene said, that a politician has attracted such negative attention.
"[Former Indiana Senator Dan Quayle] did not exactly have a media love fest," he said.
Barack Obama's effect(UWIRE) -- For Obama, the issue of race does not cease to arise.
But Cobb insisted that Obama would not win based on the black vote. He said the prime reason African Americans are voting for Obama is because most African Americans vote Democratic.
"If Obama was a Republican, you would see a different dynamic," he said.
Cobb showed the audience old and recent campaign advertisements, showing how political campaigns have transitioned from subtle to more overt references to race.
But Cobb again asserted that party ID would determine the way people voted.
Forum(UWIRE) -- The forum focused on issues that are on the minds of voters and in the media as the election draws closer and it was one of importance to Taylor.
"We had a lot of students who were interested," Taylor said. "When people talk about these issues...they usually use their heart and gut rather than their heads."
And he said this was a good way to inform people on the various issues influencing the election.
Taylor said all of the issues discussed were complicated and he hoped that the students understood that there is a lot more to these issues than what is seen on the surface.