Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog



By Shawn Healy
The McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum opens its latest temporary exhibit this Friday, November 9th, titled "Vote4Me!: Inside a Presidential Election." The exhibit is meant to lend clarity to an increasingly complex process by placing visitors in the shoes of candidates. The hope is that by better understanding the dynamics of the presidential race, voters will be able to sift through the smoke screen and select the candidate that best matches their political ideals.

The exhibit begins with a message from a party leader who provides an overview of the process and demands a candidate who can represent the party well and bring home a victory next November. The candidate then meets his or her staff, composed of a campaign manager, political director, press secretary, finance chair, and communications director. The staff surfaces throughout the balance of the exhibit to provide timely advice as the visitor as candidate navigates the precarious process.

An overview of the early primary season with a focus on the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire primary follows, along with a look at media relations from the perspective of both the press secretary and a reporter. The finance chair illuminates the need for a continuous flow of campaign cash to run a national contest, and the political director focuses on a dozen or so swing states that historically decide presidential races in the Electoral College.

The candidate is then welcomed into an inner sanctum called the "Briefing Room," where one is asked to hone their image using past candidates (Ike, JFK, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush 43) as models. The defensive aspect of campaigning is also detailed, and historic attacks such as LBJ's "Daisy Ad" are featured. Finally, candidates are asked to craft their issue positions and to use polling data to decide which planks to emphasize, and others to ignore or downplay.

"The Final Push" punctuated by the candidate's 72-hour plan is the final stop on the campaign before one's fate is placed in the hands of voters. Candidates are able to practice victory and concession speeches in case of either outcome.

Visitors ultimately enter through a curtain into the voter resources section of the exhibit, where they can use a computer interactive that allows them to match their issue preferences with those of the 2008 field on five different issues. Other features provide links to a polling web site, another that tracks candidate travels, and a final site that helps local voters find polling locations. Candidate collateral is available for the taking (bumper stickers, fliers, pins, etc.), and visitors may pick up voter registration forms or register with our staff on site.

The exhibit is open through Election Day in 2008, and admission to the museum and the exhibit are free starting this Friday through the end of 2007.

To see CBS 2's preview of the exhibit, featuring an interview of your's truly, click here.


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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