University News

Obama/Edwards Win WIU's Mock Election Presidential Election

November 7, 2007

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MACOMB, IL -- Western Illinois University students have cast their votes … and the winner is: Barack Obama and his running mate, John Edwards.

Obama and Edwards were declared the winners of the mock presidential election, "The Road to the White Starts at Western Illinois University," during the last night of the event Nov. 5 in Western Hall. Obama and Edwards, captured the electoral votes of all but six states, ran against Rudy Giuliani, with running mate John McCain; Green Party candidate Jared Ball; and Libertarian Party candidate Ron Paul. During the evening's festivities, all four parties - - Democrat, Republican, Greens, Libertarian - - vied for their candidates' election. The event ended with thousands of balloons dropped from the rafters while the Marching Leathernecks played "Stars and Stripes Forever."

Rick Hardy, project director and chair of Western's political science department, patterned this educational extravaganza after successful - - yet smaller - - simulations he and John Hemingway, associate project director, organized at the University of Iowa in 1976, and another simulation Hardy conducted at the University of Missouri-Columbia (1988). In both scenarios, the simulation winner was, in reality, elected president.

"The entire experience was an overwhelming success," Hardy said at the conclusion of the Nov. 5 event. "Our students took an active role in the process, from start to finish. The campaign managers and the candidates' supporters took their jobs seriously and campaigned for their candidates as if this was the real thing."

The five-night simulation began Oct. 23. The event continued Oct. 25 with keynote and candidate speeches and platform adoption, and on Oct. 30 the parties nominated the presidential tickets. The Greens and Libertarians held a one-night convention Nov. 1.

"This experience has been interesting. I took what I learned this summer working for Senator Obama's campaign in Iowa and was able to put that experience to use here," said Zak Foste, a sophomore political science major from Chillicothe (IL). Foste served as the coordinator for Students for Barack Obama on the WIU campus. "This event was a great way to get other students engaged in the political process and become more aware of the candidates and the issues."

Senior political science major Brian Keller (Matino, IL), assistant campaign manager for the Giuliani camp during the mock election, will attend law school after graduating. The simulation provided him with a stepping-stone to his future political aspirations.

"Participating in this process has made me even more aware," Keller said. "A lot of times it's hard to get students interested in politics and to understand the process. The mock election was a great way to get students involved and be a part of the process from beginning to end."

Western Illinois' broadcasting department's WIUTV-3 aired live coverage of the each night's events on Channel 3 in Macomb. The professional set includes two reporters and a guest spot at an anchor desk overlooking the ballroom and a floor reporter. Approximately 15 broadcasting students worked behind the scenes in each broadcast, operating cameras; working the switcher, audio board and character generator; and keeping voter statistics. Some crew members helped gather information from the political camps.

Bill Knight, WIU journalism professor, co-coordinated about 50 journalism students' involved in reporting on the simulation on multiple media platforms: a print and online version of "News Meister" and a real-time blog.

"Participating in the mock election was valuable for our students, some who have never written and some who have journalism experience," Knight said. "After figuring out the process, the students' news judgment began to kick in. They began to notice more things going on around them, even the minor nuances. Their curiosity continued to build the more they covered the event."

The student blogs are available at "News-Meister" blog site at

"I'm proud of the involvement of our student body and with the various departments and organizations on campus," Hardy added. "I am so pleased that Western was able to provide this invaluable learning experience for the students and the community at large. It has been an exciting and amazing process."

Posted By: Darcie Shinberger (
Office of University Relations