By Nick Bray, Staff Reporter
With the election season in full swing, Professor of Political Science James Melcher is quite busy observing and analyzing the current ebb and flow of the political climate.
It is the most important time of year in the election cycle, where candidates and ballot issue campaigns are in the home stretch. Its nearing the time where voters must make up their minds and determine how they will cast their ballot in the voting booth on November 8th. Melcher is keeping score, and responding to interviews with reporters who are curious for a check on the pulse of the elections.
“The Lion’s share [of interviews] have been public radio, and Maine daily newspapers,” said Melcher. “But, I’ve done interviews from coast to coast.”
This election appears to be more significant than previous years. According to the Pew Research Center, this is the first presidential election where the millennial generation now matches the size of the baby boomer generation. Voter turnout for millennials is historically lower than other generations, but the divisive political climate may turn out young voters in record amounts.
Until the dust settles the day after the election, the only way to gauge how things are going is to ask the experts. Melcher has been keeping an eye on Maine Politics since he started teaching at UMF in 1999.
Just this election season alone, he has fielded over three dozen interview requests from reporters all across the region. Melcher was also quoted for a story in the Washington Post. More recently he was a guest on Maine Calling, a live call-in program on Maine Public (formerly MPBN). The topic was voter participation. Other guests included Matt Dunlap, Maine Secretary of State, and Jill Ward, President of the Maine League of Women Voters.
In the past, Melcher has been interviewed by almost all types of media sources, including some surprising blogs.
“I did an interview with a gardening blog this year about the presidential election,” said Melcher. The gardening blog asked Melcher about their theory that Bernie Sanders was popular in states where internet searches for home gardening were performed at a high rate. “It was a little random, but I came up with an explanation that they seemed interested in.”
In another strange interview, one with Wisconsin Public Radio, Melcher was part of a call-in live show, discussing humor and politics. Melcher is known for his use of humor while teaching about politics, especially his voice impersonations. “It turned out that every single caller had almost no sense of humor,” said Melcher.
Recently Melcher presented his 10th annual Supreme Court Preview and Review, which was attended by about 50 members of the UMF community. This event is put on in observance of Constitution Day each year since 2007.
Professor Chris O’Brien, chair of the division of Social Sciences and Business introduced Melcher before his talk. “If you pay attention to politics in Maine, you know Jim Melcher,” said O’Brien, “He is everywhere.”
Bonnie Washuk, education writer for the Lewiston Sun Journal was the former State House writer, and has called on Melcher’s expertise for fifteen years. She considers him one of the best sources in Maine. “He speaks in words that people can relate to,” said Washuk. “He always had a good handle on Maine politics and how they could impact people.”
Mal Leary, longtime political reporter for Maine Public, has been speaking with Melcher for several years about politics, and finds him to be a good source on bond issues. “He has spent some time researching them that others have not,” said Leary.
Professor Melcher will be on sabbatical during the spring 2017 semester. He will be working on a book about Maine and presidential elections. The book will focus on how people have voted in Maine and some of Maine’s presidential candidates.