Professor attends political conventions to become 'much better teacher'

Susan MacManus, a University of South Florida political science professor

Susan MacManus, a University of South Florida political science professor

— As Susan MacManus goes through one of the handful of media interviews she's asked to do each morning, a young man interrupts to say hello.

"One of my former students," she says before picking up where she left off.

MacManus, a professor of political science at the University of South Florida for the past 25 years, is attending the Democratic National Convention and sitting in on the Florida delegation's daily breakfast meetings.

For someone in her field, a day at the convention is like a day at the amusement park to a kid.

"The most exhilarating part for me is running into my students who are now active in both parties," she said.

This week in North Carolina, she learned that one past student is now executive director of the state's Democratic Party.

MacManus has been attending major party conventions for 20 years, taking pictures and anecdotes back to the Tampa campus with her.

"It's made me a much better teacher," she said. "Educators are finally realizing they have to educate beyond the classroom."

MacManus happens to agree with the litany of speakers who have told Florida delegates they need to use a grass-roots strategy of neighbors talking to neighbors, knocking on doors and registering new voters to win Florida.

The convention gives that effort a boost, she said.

"It's important for the delegates to get to know each other. What you do is you get Florida activists talking to each other so you are on the same page," she said.

Florida's political heft is evident in the caliber of speakers that attend each party's delegation events.

"Florida sees a lot of the stars. That is very energizing," MacManus said.

Hours before the National Football League season was set to commence, she drew an analogy, describing the presidential campaigns up to this point as "the preseason."

When both conventions are over, "Now it's time for the kickoff," she said.

Florida should expect a steady stream of visits from both presidential candidates, their running mates, spouses and surrogates over the next two months.

"Donors and older voters fully expect to be courted," she said.

MacManus sees Florida as being close. "It's going to take every vote in Florida to get the job done," she said.

Looking around at the party officials, delegates and political junkies populating the banquet hall in the Marriott City Center, MacManus declares, "I love it."

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