Mock Convention Event Lets Students Get to Know Presidential Hopefuls
Ohio Wesleyan’s Mock Convention Executive Committee hosted a two-hour “Speed Dating the Republican Candidates” event this month with OWU students portraying Republican hopefuls and discussing political issues with attendees.
This campus event was a pre-cursor to OWU’s upcoming Mock Presidential Convention, which will simulate a national nominating convention.
Members of the Mock Convention Executive Committee came up with the idea for “Speed Dating the Republican Candidates” while brainstorming ways to help educate the student body about the Republican field.
The first-of-its-kind OWU event, the speed-dating experience featured lots of lively discussion. A bell sounded every three minutes, prompting attendees to move on to the next GOP hopeful.
Emma Drongowski ’16, co-chair for Mock Convention, impersonated Ted Cruz. “I love seeing students engaging in our political system, even those who aren’t studying it,” she says.
All of the impersonators researched their candidate’s opinions beforehand to ensure they presented accurate information.
“I found it most challenging to simply know all of the things that presidential candidates have to know,” Drongowski says. “While I was very prepared, people asked really great questions about nuanced policy that I simply wasn’t familiar with.”
In addition, attendees had the chance to take an “I Side With” quiz to help determine whose political views align best with their own. In addition to the GOP candidates, the event featured posters displaying information about presidential hopefuls from the Democratic, Green, and Libertarian parties.
At each candidate’s table, students found lists of suggested discussion questions. Topics included the candidates’ opinions on women’s reproductive health, intervention in the Middle East, raising minimum wage, student loan debt, and gun-control legislation.
Chris Dobeck ’18, who impersonated Rand Paul, enjoyed when students asked off-script questions.
“Having people of varying political interest come and ‘meet’ the various Republican candidates provides a great opportunity for everyone to understand those we see in the news,” he says.
Emily Feldmesser ’16, who played John Kasich, appreciated how the event helped students learn about the candidates and the political process. However, it was difficult for her to impersonate someone with views different than her own.
“I am not conservative, so it was challenging to let people know that these weren’t my views,” she says. “I chose Kasich because he was the most moderate candidate out of the group.”
Ana Borish ’19 found it challenging to impersonate Donald Trump. “Some people got a little aggressive when I answered their questions,” she says. “They reacted as if they were actually speaking to Trump himself.”
Other candidate impersonators included Rachell Resnik ’17 as Marco Rubio, Caroline Hamilton ’17 as Jeb Bush, Nicole Liuag ’16 as Ben Carson, and Rhiannon Herbert ’16 as Carly Fiorina. Resnik posted a photo from the event on Twitter that was retweeted by Rubio himself.
Ashley Biser, associate professor of politics and government, helped organize the event. If it is repeated in the future, she thinks each speed-dating session should last five minutes instead of three as students needed more time for in-depth conversations.
Biser believes it is important for students to attend events such as “Speed Dating the Republican Candidates” and the upcoming Mock Convention because citizens have a responsibility to understand the issues at stake in the election.
During Mock Convention, OWU students will design a GOP party platform and nominate presidential and vice presidential candidates to run against the Democratic Party in November. The two-day event will be held Feb. 5-6 in Gray Chapel inside University Hall. The convention historically focuses on the party out of the White House.
“I think it is especially important to make an effort to discuss politics with people with whom you might disagree,” Biser says. “We need to be able to talk about our differences, and my hope is that events like this create the foundation for more productive political discussions based more on fact than mere opinion.”
The Mock Convention has been an OWU tradition since 1884. Learn more at www.owu.edu/mock