Journalism Professor Draws Parallels Between 2012, 2016 Primaries at Roundtable

Danielle Sarver Coombs, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, was sleepless in Kent in 2011. She was up with her then one-year old and a newborn and found herself flipping through channels at all hours of the night.

“I was just fascinated with the primary process and the candidates’ rise and fall from contention,” Coombs said.  “I was particularly interested when Rick Perry entered the fray and how that affected the primary dynamics.”

This fascination led to her writing her first book, Last Man Standing: Media, Framing and the 2012 Republican Primaries, a post-election analysis published by Rowan and Littlefield.

The seeds of her book were planted when former School of Communication Studies Director Paul Haridakis suggested that Coombs join a panel discussion at the 2011 National Communication Association Conference in New Orleans. While Coombs was originally going to discuss the impact of the Tea Party on the political process, she soon changed her emphasis to how the media was framing the candidates and their ascendancy in the primaries.  After the panel discussion and presentation, she was asked to write a book extending this research.

During Coombs' Akron Roundtable presentation, she explained that Ohio has traditionally been a good predictor of who will be the new president. That success rate is the reason Ohio residents are besieged by an onslaught of campaign materials on television, in the mailbox and a deluge of phone calls. 

“It got to the point where you didn’t want to answer the phone,” she joked.

She also stressed the importance of the long series of debates in affecting how candidates suddenly burst on the scene then fell quickly.

“In August 2011, Rick Perry was supposed to swoop in and save the party,” Coombs said. “Then, he started debating, and it all fell apart.”

Coombs drew parallels between the 2012 primaries and the upcoming 2016 election cycle. In both cases, candidates who on paper should be frontrunners found it difficult to gain traction among voters.

“The loudest front-runners are going to get the majority of the coverage which marginalizes the rest,” Coombs explained. She was reluctant to predict what will happen in 2016 but did acknowledge that Ohio Governor Kasich has a very good chance of being on the presidential ballot. “However, a lot can happen in the intervening months,” she said.

Coombs addressed a full house at the Akron Roundtable on Thursday, Aug. 20 at Quaker Square and signed copies of her book after the event. She was introduced by Amy Reynolds, Ph.D., dean of the Kent State University College of Communication and Information.  Coombs holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Ohio University. She earned her Ph.D. in mass communication and public affairs from Louisiana State University in 2007.

A former director of election research for Edison Media Research, Coombs was part of the team responsible for rebuilding exit polling for use by major national news organizations, including the Associated Press, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and MSNBC in 2003.

Prior to joining Kent State, Coombs headed her own research and consumer insights company. She developed her research skills at Insight Research Group (now Insight Strategy Group) in New York City.

POSTED: Thursday, August 27, 2015 01:29 PM
Updated: Saturday, December 3, 2022 01:02 AM