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Overview | Who will run for president in 2012? What strengths and weaknesses do potential candidates bring? How are the Republican and Democratic Parties likely to approach their presidential campaigns? In this lesson, students consider the field and the political climate and then create a class Wiki profiling the most prominent potential presidential candidates. They then take their analysis further by creating campaign strategies for the political party or specific candidate of their choice.
Materials | Computers with Internet access, projector (optional)
Warm-Up | Tell the class that President Obama has declared his intention to run for re-election, and, if desired, show the Obama campaign launch video (above).
Then ask the class: Do you think President Obama will be re-elected? Why or why not? Make two columns on the board, with the headings “Yes” and “No,” and record student answers in these columns.
Next, gauge student knowledge of the presidential campaign as a whole by asking questions like these: When is the next presidential election? When will the primary campaign take place, and when are the primaries? How often have incumbents won re-election in American history? Who do you know who is running or is likely to run against Mr. Obama? What are some of the main issues you think Americans care about most with respect to the next presidential election?
Clarify any misunderstandings, and tell students that they will now read more about how the two major political parties are approaching the 2012 presidential race.
Related | The Caucus blog posts “G.O.P.’s 2012 Strategy Puts Focus On Timing” and “Obama Launches Re-election Facing New Political Challenges” analyze the strategies of the Republican and Democratic parties going into the 2012 presidential election.
Split the class into two groups. Have one group read the first article and the other read the second, using the questions below, and then share what they learned with the entire group.
Questions | For discussion and reading comprehension:
For “G.O.P.’s 2012 Strategy Puts Focus On Timing”:
- According to the post, in what ways is the next presidential race comparable with the 1996 race? In what ways will this race be different?
- What are the two main strategies that Republicans are using to level the playing field in the campaign against President Obama? Do you think that these two strategies will work? Why or why not?
- Why are Republicans slowing down their potential candidates’ entry into the race? What are the benefits of this approach? What are the drawbacks?
- Why are Republicans slowing down the anointment of a nominee? What are the benefits of this approach? What are the drawbacks?
- If you were a campaign strategist for the Democratic Party, what would you do to counter these Republican strategies? Why?
For “Obama Launches Re-Election Facing New Political Challenges”:
- What types of messages about his candidacy is President Obama sending his supporters at the kickoff of his re-election campaign? Why?
- What are some good signs for President Obama at this early stage in the campaign?
- If you were President Obama, what would you be concerned about?
- What decisions did President Obama make during his presidency that might help or hurt him now that he is running for re-election?
- If you were a campaign strategist for a Republican candidate, what would you do to counter Mr. Obama’s approach to his re-election campaign?
Activity | Inform students that they are going to be working in pairs or small groups (depending on the size of your class) to create profiles of declared and potential 2012 presidential candidates. Give each group one of the potential Republican candidates profiled here, and assign one other group to President Obama.
Inform groups that together the class will be creating a Wiki using a resource like pbWorks or WikiSpaces, among others. The class Wiki will be a resource for young people to learn more about who is running for president. Each group will contribute a profile of one of the potential 2012 presidential candidates. Each profile must include the following:
- Current governmental or other position or activities
- Political party
- Home state
- A brief biography
- His or her positions on five key issues
- Overall philosophy of government and placement on the political spectrum
- Base(s) of support and source(s) of opposition
- Recent quotations from the candidate from a speech or an interview, and quotations about them from a politician or commentator who disagrees with their take on the issues
- Three little-known or interesting facts about the candidate
- A video of the candidate giving a speech or doing an interview
- Links to the candidate’s Web site, Facebook page and Twitter account, as applicable, and some recent online activity
- Links to at least three recent New York Times and other articles about the candidate
- Three or more questions that students would like to ask this candidate
- Available information about current polling with respect to this candidate
- Analysis by political observers about the candidate’s chances to win the White House in 2012
Direct groups to coverage of their assigned candidate in The Times, including his or her Times Topics page, Politics section profile, mentions on the politics blogs, The Caucus and FiveThirtyEight, as well as his or her official Web site, Facebook page and Twitter account, as applicable. Other useful resources include the Web sites OnTheIssues, Politico’s 2010 Live and RealClearPolitics.
When groups have completed their pages for the Wiki, have groups take turns “introducing” their candidates to the rest of the class, using the Wiki portion they created. Tell the class that they will use the material on the Wiki for their homework assignment.
Going Further | Individually or in pairs, students do one of the following, drawing on the material in the class Wiki:
Choose one of the candidates and develop a basic campaign strategy for him or her.
Choose a political party and do an overall SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis with respect to the 2012 election.
The class can also continue to update the Wiki as the election approaches.
Standards | This lesson is correlated to McREL’s national standards (it can also be aligned to the new Common Core State Standards):
1. Understands ideas about civic life, politics, and government.
9. Understands the importance of Americans sharing and supporting certain values, beliefs, and principles of American constitutional democracy.
11. Understands the role of diversity in American life and the importance of shared values, political beliefs, and civic beliefs in an increasingly diverse American society.
13. Understands the character of American political and social conflict and factors that tend to prevent or lower its intensity.
14. Understands issues concerning the disparities between ideals and reality in American political and social life.
17. Understands issues concerning the relationship between state and local governments and the national government and issues pertaining to representation at all three levels of government.
20. Understands the roles of political parties, campaigns, elections, and associations and groups in American politics.
21. Understands the formation and implementation of public policy.
27. Understands how certain character traits enhance citizens’ ability to fulfill personal and civic responsibilities.
29. Understands the importance of political leadership, public service, and a knowledgeable citizenry in American constitutional democracy.
6. Understands the roles government plays in the United States economy.
8. Understands basic concepts of United States fiscal policy and monetary policy.
1. Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies of the writing process.
4. Gathers and uses information for research purposes.
7. Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies for reading a variety of informational texts.
8. Demonstrates competence in speaking and listening as tools for learning United States history.
31. Understands economic, social, and cultural developments in the contemporary United States.
4. Understands conflict, cooperation, and interdependence among individuals, groups and institutions.
38. Understands a variety of strategies used to make long-term and short-term management decisions
40. Understands general managerial skills and strategies.
43. Understands the roles of marketing and the impact of marketing on the individual, business and society.
44. Understands how external factors and competition influence or dictate marketing decisions.
46. Understands characteristics of a market and strategies used to deal with a diversified marketplace.
Life Skills: Thinking and Reasoning
1. Understands and applies the basic principles of presenting an argument.
3. Effectively uses mental processes that are based on identifying similarities and differences.
6. Applies decision-making techniques.
Life Skills: Working With Others
1. Contributes to the overall effort of a group.
4. Displays effective interpersonal communication skills.
Teaching ideas based on New York Times content.