Expert Pitch: 2016 Presidential Election

Franita Tolson is an expert on election law.
Franita Tolson is an expert on election law.

As the nation prepares for the Republican National Convention July 18-21 in Cleveland and the Democratic National Convention July 25-28 in Philadelphia, a group of Florida State University faculty experts are available to discuss various aspects of the campaigns and the election.  


Davis Houck
Professor of communication
(850) 644-1607 or (850) 980-2656,

Houck can discuss political advertising, news coverage and speech making. He is an expert on the American civil rights movement, war rhetoric, propaganda and media campaigns.

“The 2016 presidential election promises to be a media spectacle unlike the country has ever experienced. Already the nation’s collective attention has attached itself to two vastly different candidates with widely divergent rhetorical styles.”


James Gwartney
Director of the Gus A. Stavros Center for Economic Education
Professor of economics
(850) 644-7645,

Gwartney can discuss the economic issues that will be central to this year’s election. These include employment, international trade, economic growth, monetary policy, low interest rates, budget deficits and regulation. 

“This election is vitally important because economic policy exerts a major impact on the well-being and opportunity of all Americans. Counterproductive policies will slow economic growth and result in a lengthy period of stagnation.

“Misunderstanding of trade issues and the impact of various types of restrictions on trade is widespread.  We went down the trade restriction path once before: the Smoot- Hawley trade bill of 1930 opened the gates to the Great Depression. If we fail to learn from history, it could happen again.”

Randall G. Holcombe
DeVoe L. Moore Professor of Economics
(850) 644-7095,

Holcombe can discuss the effect of government activity on economic growth. He says both Clinton and Trump have taken economic positions that would harm our economy.

“Clinton proposes to increase taxes and regulatory oversight of the economy, both of which would slow economic growth. Trump’s anti-trade bias is especially disturbing. He fails to see that free trade has made the world and the United States richer and that barriers to trade will harm the American economy.”

In addition, Holcombe says Gary Johnson, Libertarian candidate for president, has the best shot at the White House of any third-party candidate since Teddy Roosevelt.

“Voter dissatisfaction with both Clinton and Trump is well known. If Johnson can get just a few electoral votes, that may be enough to prevent either Clinton or Trump from gaining an electoral majority. In that case, the House of Representatives would choose the president from the top three electoral vote recipients. The Republican House would be unlikely to choose Clinton, and might favor Johnson, a former Republican governor, over Trump. Choosing Johnson would be a way for them to claim they are being neutral by not picking a Republican or a Democrat. Sure, it’s a long shot, but because of the way the electoral college system works, it is well within the realm of possibility.”

Mark Isaac
John and Hallie Quinn Eminent Scholar for Renewal of American Heritage and American Free Enterprise
Professor and Chairman of economics
(850) 644-7081,

Isaac can discuss the national economy as it relates to energy policy and the economics of government regulation.

Milton H. Marquis
Professor of economics
(850) 645-1526,

Marquis, who served the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco as Research Department senior economist from 2000 to 2003 and as visiting scholar in 2005-2006 and 2009, can discuss national economic issues, including monetary theory and policy, and macroeconomic theory, which relates to taxes and budget deficits.

“The major economic challenges of the next president and Congress include promotion of greater international cooperation through an expansion of free-trade pacts with our major trading partners; reducing the federal debt-to-gross domestic product ratio, principally by controlling Medicare and Medicaid costs; simplifying the tax code to reduce its inefficiencies and the misallocation of resources that it generates; and continued support of Dodd-Frank and the excellent job that the Bernanke-Yellen Federal Reserve has done in dealing with the Great Recession and its aftermath.”


Franita Tolson
Betty T. Ferguson Professor of Voting Rights
(850) 644-7402,

Tolson can discuss campaign strategy, issues most likely to affect the election outcome, the politics of swing states, and any other matters that are of importance to the election.

“As the first presidential election conducted without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it is no surprise that the 2016 election season has had its share of voting-related mishaps and litigation. Indeed, voters across the country experienced numerous problems in attempting to cast a ballot. From voter purges in New York to faulty voting machines in Texas to outdated caucus systems in Maine and Kansas, virtually no state was immune to a voting-related disaster. This election, with the unprecedented rise of political outsiders who challenged the status quo, will have long-term effects on our political system, our economy and our standing in the international community. But let us not forget that the electoral process matters just as much as who wins the election. The manner in which our elections are administered plays a significant role in determining the identity of our next commander-in-chief.”


Matthew Pietryka
Assistant Professor of political science
(530) 574-6175, or

Pietryka’s research focuses on understanding how the social and political contexts of life influence the political attitudes and behavior of individuals. In particular, he studies how political discussion with friends and family can affect individual political behavior.

“I study individual-level political decision making. I can discuss why citizens support various candidates and how they decide whether to vote or abstain.”

Carol Weissert
LeRoy Collins Eminent Scholar Chair
Professor of political science
(850) 644-7320 or (850) 297-0111,

Weissert teaches American national and state politics. Her research interests include Florida politics, elections, intergovernmental relations, federalism and health policy.

“This presidential election in 2016 is like no other — with two candidates with the highest unfavorability ratings in history. The Trump candidacy is highly unorthodox and the Republican Party unusually unstable — seemingly overshadowing the fact that we have the first woman running as a major party candidate in the history of the country. As usual, Florida will play a pivotal role in the presidential outcome in addition to having a contested U.S. Senate race and an unusual number of open House seats. All eyes will be on Florida — again.”