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All-Night Debate Was Publicity Stunt That Enabled Both Parties to Reach Supporters, says MU Professor

July 18, 2007

Story Contact:  Bryan Daniels, 573-882-9144,

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Senate Democrats debated all night to rally support for a bill that would bring U.S. troops home from Iraq. A University of Missouri-Columbia political science professor said the events of Tuesday night provided both parties an opportunity to send strong messages to their supporters.

“Both parties are playing to their bases,” said Marvin Overby, professor of political science at the University of Missouri-Columbia. “Both sides are playing to segments of the public — those loyal to Democrats and those who are loyal to Republicans. The Democrat base, however, is becoming angrier about the war and increasingly fed up with the Bush administration.”

The intent of Democratic leaders, Overby said, was to show supporters that the party is taking action to end the war.

“They (Democrats) know they don't have the votes to do anything right now,” he said. “It was essentially a publicity stunt.”

Republicans are using a filibuster to block Democrats from voting on the Defense Authorization bill that would result in a reduction of troops in Iraq. However, in recent months, several Republications have switched positions on the war — voicing their opposition and siding with Democrats.

“Republicans are nervous,” Overby said. “At least three have broken ranks and others are wavering.”

In addition, Overby said “these aren't very good times to be in Republican leadership.” Among his reasons: the Iraq war, Bush's low popularity, a recent poll stating the most popular GOP presidential candidate is “none of the above,” and reports last week about the resurgence of al-Qaeda — despite Republican-led efforts to fight terrorism.

Overby has been a member of MU's faculty since 2002. He teaches courses on American government, legislative processes and southern politics. His research focuses on legislative behavior, redistricting and minority politics. Overby has published articles in the American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, American Journal of Political Science, Party Politics and American Politics Quarterly. He also is the co-author of Cobblestone Leadership: Majority Rule, Minority Power.

Note: Overby is available from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. (CDT) on Wednesday. He also is available 9 to 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.