On Monday, Professors Persily and Tierney spoke about the recent election, the results, the litigation, and what clues it offers about the future. The most important issue, that Professor Persily started off with, was the issue that wasn't: electoral litigation. Despite huge amounts of pre-election electoral maneuvering, with Republicans bringing lawsuits over voter fraud and voter integrity issues, while Democrats largely sued to force counties to prepare for anticipated heavy turnout. As it turned out, election lines averaged about ten minutes nationwide, and the anticipated voter challenges did not materialize - likely because of the margin of victory as Obama carried more than enough states to take an Electoral College majority only counting states he won solidly enough no challenge would have overturned the result. As Professor Persily pointed out, had the election come down to Missouri (which still has not certified a winner), the amount of litigation would be starkly different.
Professor Persily went on to explain the demographic results of the election, arguing that far from being an atypical election, this election was a "typical Democratic national victory" (which itself is atypical), largely explainable by a four-point swing in the national vote. The increased youth and African-American turnout contributed, but not by much - what was far more important was the significantly increased margin Obama won both of these demographics by as compared to Kerry. For all the talk of increased turnout, the overall turnout was not sharply higher, as only slightly more Democrats voted, counterbalanced by a slightly smaller percentage of Republicans than in 2004.
The election largely came down to the typical political science model, focused heavily on the incumbent President's approval rating, which has been setting record lows for months, and the economy, which has fortunately not followed the same path as the approval ratings and eclipsed the records set in the Great Depression. Factors such as character attacks, foreign policy, and the like simply were unable to alter the narrative of the race.
Professor Tirney took a sharply different approach than (as he put it) "this was nearly a typical election", instead focusing on the magnitude of Obama's victory. First comparing Obama to Churchill, he focused on the natural political talents Obama has demonstrated throughout the election. Additionally, he focused on several big 'winners' of the election (Obama, Ted Kennedy, Technology, Early Voting, and Howard Dean, among others). The losers were the "Old Baby Boomers" and the era of Vietnam politics, '60s politics and the rest of the baby-boomer era political issues that failed to make an impact this election. Hillary's attempt at power broker politics - lining up the right people to secure their constituents failed as well. Lastly, public financing is dead as it currently stands, though the concern this poses is debatable - Obama's fundraising strategy, relying largely on small donors, poses less of a threat of corruption than the usual bundling and big-donor strategy (though it should be noted Obama used this strategy as well to great effect, and so it may not be as dead as has been assumed). The talk concluded with discussions over the next set of elections (2010), and the still-undecided Alaskan Senate race as Ted Stevens fights to be re-elected to the Senate despite his felony conviction.