Pre-Presidential Debate Special: Five Questions with Samford University’s Political Science Chair Fred Shepherd

Five Questions Presidential Debate

As a preview for the third and final Presidential debate in Las Vegas tonight, Bham Now asked five questions about the state of the race and its impact on Birmingham and Alabama to Fred Shepherd, Professor and Chair of the Samford University Political Science Department.

Along with his work at Samford, Dr. Shepherd is a political analyst for Birmingham’s CBS affiliate WIAT 42. He is also author of the book, Christianity and Human Rights: Christians and the Struggle for Global Justice.

This is the final of three pre-debate five- question interviews. Our first interview was with Marty Connors, former Chair of the Alabama Republican Party. The second interview was with Richard Mauk, Chair of the Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee.

Fred Shepherd
Fred Shepherd

What does Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump need to do at the 3rd and last debate in Las Vegas this Wednesday night?

Clinton needs to keep things as they are and do no damage. She has done well in the first two debates, demonstrating her grasp of policy and her stability. This has been important to her campaign, as it has helped move things beyond the negative narrative, established by Republicans, of her years as first lady and the scandals associated with her husband. Short of a personality transplant, Trump needs some kind of breakthrough. He needs to comprehensively rattle Clinton. Alternatively, he could come through with some kind of substantive initiative that will make him seem less crazy and more presidential. But this will be a difficult tightrope act for him, because it’s not his normal MO, and might make him seem insincere or overly programmed.

How does this election compare to 2012?

The presence of Trump has dragged everything down to a far less substantive and far more personal level. This has hurt the campaigns of both parties: the Republicans are in disarray, and Democrats are frustrated that Clinton’s accomplishments as Senator and Secretary of State have been overshadowed by “scandals” going all the way back to her days as First Lady.

How will this Presidential election impact people specifically in Birmingham? In Alabama?

Alabama is one of the states that, thanks to our Electoral College system, is marginalized in the national presidential election. Given our party balance and the (gerrymandered) nature of our US Congressional districts, we have almost no competitive elections in the state. I think even some supporters of Trump will be relieved if he doesn’t win. His presence has tied many Alabama Republican Christians into knots as they have attempted to justify supporting one of the least godly people to ever run on a national ticket.

This presidential campaign season has been considered by many one of the dirtiest in history. Can you provide us with some inspirational reasons to vote in November?

This has gotten lost in the craziness of the campaign, but it’s the first time a woman has led a major party’s national ticket. My guess is that, in the event of a Clinton victory, the historical nature of this election will become more obvious as the dust clears. If she wins, it will be most likely because she has been judged the more qualified, competent and stable candidate, a truly significant moment in the history of moving past gender stereotypes.

We are three weeks away to November 8th. What are your predictions. President? Senate? House?

I am saying 90% chance of Clinton winning, 51% chance of the Senate going 50/50 (which would mean a Democrat majority of Clinton wins the White House and Tim Kaine becomes the leader of the Senate), and about a 90% chance of the Republicans keeping their majority in the House.


  • Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.