Move over, Iowa.
The public can attend Ohio Wesleyan University’s Republican Mock Presidential Convention today and tomorrow, Feb. 5-6, at Gray Chapel in University Hall, 61 S. Sandusky St.
The free event starts with opening ceremonies from 4 to 6 p.m. today, continuing at 7 p.m. with speeches by three Republicans: U.S. Congressman Pat Tiberi, Delaware County Commissioner President Barb Lewis and former Ohio House Speaker Joanne Davidson. The event concludes once a platform is adopted.
On Saturday, the convention resumes from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., where students will nominate and elect the GOP’s candidates for president and vice president.
“It’s not part of a class, they’re doing it because they’re interested in politics,” said Ashley Biser, OWU professor of politics and government, who serves as adviser for the event. “It happens every four years, so everybody gets a chance to do it once.”
The students were assigned to various committees, just like at an actual convention. They also attended platform hearings last fall on ISIS, immigration and student debt; as well as a “speed-dating the candidates” event in January.
Anyone can be nominated, even the Republican candidates who have exited the race following the Iowa caucus. Sometimes, the students get it right with their nominations; and other times, not so much. For example, in the 1984 Democratic convention, Geraldine Ferraro was chosen as the vice-presidential candidate a few months before Walter Mondale selected her in real life. On the other hand, political satirist Stephen Colbert was named the Republican vice-presidential candidate in 2012.
“They made a great argument in favor of him (Colbert),” Biser said. “Our main purpose isn’t to predict, but to reflect the same kinds of divisions and concerns that you would see in the Republican Party in our convention.”
OWU’s mock convention dates back to 1884, and has been held every four years since 1920. In the last couple of decades, the convention has been given for the party not occupying the White House.
“The reasoning behind that is to find the field that is going to be the most competitive,” Biser said. “The ones out of power usually have the most interesting competition. Of course, this year, we have (Bernie) Sanders and (Hillary) Clinton (for the Democrats), which would be interesting, but we can only do one (convention).”
With Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump having a close finish in Iowa, and the continuing campaigns of Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, this year’s mock convention nominations promise to be interesting.
“I have no idea how it’s going to go, and that’s the exciting part about this year,” Biser said. “Often you have an ordained candidate at this time, but we really don’t know right now. One of the reasons I find this to be really important is that it has students taking on political perspectives that may or may not be their own, and it gives them the venue to have a political conversation, which is often lacking in our current political climate.”
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.