Plenary Session

Thursday, May 15, 8:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Enjoy a great meal and the mental stimulation that only the AAPOR conference can deliver. The floor will be open for questions following the plenary presentation.

This year's plenary will explore the conference theme, Measurement and the Role of Public Opinion in a Democracy. Our distinguished panelists have consulted and strategized on many national and local campaigns. Their work requires a keen appreciation of what the American public thinks. They have worked on presidential, congressional, gubernatorial and local races, as well as specific ballot initiatives. Their insights will help us understand how public opinion shapes discussion by their candidates and they will address the relationship between leadership and voter opinion.

AAPOR is pleased to welcome two well-known, successful political strategists and campaign consultants as our plenary speakers: GOP strategist Steve Schmidt and Democratic strategist Garry South. We are also delighted to welcome moderator, Raphael Sonenshein.

SchmidtSteve Schmidt joined Edelman in 2010 as Vice Chairman of Public Affairs. Steve provides strategic council to Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams and nonprofits. Previously he worked on Capitol Hill as a communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, served as one of the top strategists during President Bush’s 2004 re-election and as a deputy assistant to President George W. Bush and counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney. Steve directed strategic communications for the nomination of Chief Justice John Roberts and led the nomination of Justice Samuel Alito. In 2006, he was campaign manager for the re-election of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and also has served as the senior advisor to Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign.

Steve has a BA in Political Science from the University of Delaware and is a Senior Fellow at the University’s Center for Political Communication.


SouthGarry South, Principal of The Garry South Group, has been called the “Carville of California” by The New York Times and “California’s political chess master” by the Los Angeles Times. In 1998, South managed the come-from-behind victory of Gray Davis as the first Democratic governor of California elected in 20 years. In 2002, he directed Davis’ re-election effort, helping Davis become only the third Democratic governor in the state’s history to win a second four-year term. In 2000, South was a top advisor to Al Gore’s California presidential campaign, which carried the state by 12% and 1.3 million votes.

South is a member of the Council on American Politics of George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management, the author of many opinion pieces for major publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Politico and Huffington Post, and a regular guest commentator on NPR and other radio programs. South is also a member of the Advisory Board for Capitol Weekly.

A native of Montana, South graduated with honors from the University of Montana, where he served as student body president. In 2008, he was the recipient of the University’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

SonensheinRaphael J. Sonenshein is the Executive Director of the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles and Director of the Pat Brown Institute (PBI) poll. Previously, he was Chair of the Division of Politics, Administration, and Justice at California State University Fullerton where he taught political science for 29 years. He received his BA in public policy from Princeton, and his MA and PhD in political science from Yale. His book, Politics in Black and White: Race and Power in Los Angeles (Princeton University Press, 1993), received the 1994 Ralph J. Bunche Award from the American Political Science Association.

Dr. Sonenshein served as the political consultant to the election-day Los Angeles Times Exit Poll. His monthly column, “The Jewish Vote” in the Jewish Journal was nominated in 2005 for the best editorial by the Los Angeles Press Club and in 2013 for the best online political commentary.

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