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Final Presidential Debate Watch Opens Global Summit on Politics, Sports Communication

As she reflected on her coverage of the 1968 presidential race between Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, and George Wallace, Emerson Distinguished Journalist-in-Residence Carole Simpson said she thought she’d never see another presidential race like it in her lifetime – until this year.

“No campaign in the history of the United States has been like this,” Simpson said. “I think historians will be studying this election for years to come.”

Simpson recounted her first experience covering an election as she delivered a “State of the Race” address to an audience at the Bright Family Screening Room on October 19, prior to the final presidential debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.

The debate watch, which featured the release of Emerson College Polling Society’s latest polls, as well as Simpson’s address, was the first event of a four-day Global Summit on Politics, Sports, and Civic Engagement, co-sponsored by the Emerson Department of Communication Studies and the Blanquerna School of Communication and International Relations at Ramon Llull University in Barcelona, Spain.

Simpson shared stories about her on-the-ground coverage of the chaos that ensued that year at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, when Humphrey accepted the nomination.

Faculty member Spencer Kimball also spoke at the event about the Emerson College Polling Society (ECPS)’s role in the primaries and general election. In particular, he talked about an ECPS poll showing Independent candidate Evan McMullin leading his native state of Utah by four points at 31 percent, with Trump polling at 27 percent and Clinton at 24. Utah, normally a Republican stronghold, is heavy with conservative values voters, many of whom are turned off by Trump, who is facing multiple sexual assault allegations.

Under Kimball’s leadership, ECPS was rated by Bloomberg as having 94 percent accuracy during the primaries, and was cited by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly and FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver.

“We’ve set very high standards for ourselves and we intend to keep going forward in that way,” Kimball said.

After hearing him speak at the event, Haley Spielberg ’17—a student in Kimball’s General Elections class, co-taught by Simpson and political strategist Iris Burnett ‘68—praised Kimball’s role in bringing the work of students of ECPS nationwide credibility.

“[His] leadership is what helped the Polling Society gain national attention,” she said. “I think his political insight is an invaluable asset to the Emerson community.”

Kat Grosso '05—a former Republican communication consultant to former Mayor of New York Rudolph Giuliani and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie—also shared her perspective with the group before the debate. She discussed the current turmoil in the Republican Party, and shared insight into keeping candidates on message as a communications consultant.

Spielberg said it was “refreshing” to hear Grosso’s perspective on the conservative side of the political spectrum.

“These conversations are important because they explore all sides of an issue,” Spielberg said. “It's easy to get caught up in the community's passion for progressive policy, but it would also be impossible to objectively analyze politics on a national scale without considering different ideologies.”

Last year, the Global Summit was held in Barcelona. Through the end of the week, several panels, guest speakers, and forums will be hosted across campus, including a panel discussion with Nepalese journalists, and a speech by Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell.

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