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Campaign 2012: Massachusetts Senate debate

The first debate of the Massachusetts Senate Democratic primary campaign will be held on Oct. 4 at UMass-Lowell. Boston University professors Fred Bayles, Tobe Berkovkitz, and John Carroll offer their insight on the debate.

Contact Bayles at 617-353-3484; bayles@bu.edu

Contact Berkovitz at 617-353-7724; tobetv@bu.edu; Twitter: @tobetv

Contact Carroll at 617-353-3493; carroll7@bu.edu; Twitter: @johncarroll_bu


Kindle Fire vs. iPad

Amazon.com introduced their new Kindle Fire tablet to compete with the Apple iPad, but at a price point of $199. N. Venkat Venkatraman, chairman of the Information Systems Department at the School of Management, offers his insight from a business perspective on how the Kindle Fire stands up to other tablets in the marketplace:

“With Kindle Fire, Amazon is firmly positioned to compete in the digital sector. Priced at $199, Fire is positioned at a different price point from Apple iPad and Android tablets from Samsung, HTC and others. Now, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Sony eReader and others have to follow suit.

“From the point of view of tablet manufacturers, it will be interesting to see how they compete against Fire in terms of the aggressive price point — albeit without communication and collaboration functionality.

“Eighteen months after Apple announced the iPad with an aggressive $499 price point, Amazon has introduced a compelling alternative at an aggressive price point supported by an extensive library of digital content and powerful cloud functionality.”

Contact Venkatraman at 617-353-7117; venkat@bu.edu; Twitter: @nvenkatatraman


OPINION: Elizabeth Warren’s Senate bid

The following opinion piece was written by Boston University journalism professor Fred Bayles. He is director of BU’s State House Program and a long-time observer of Massachusetts politics. A former AP Boston and USA Today national reporter, he is also the author of Field Guide to Covering Local News.

The Senate candidacy of Elizabeth Warren offers liberals a revenge-fantasy movie script. If Warren were to become the junior senator from Massachusetts, she would return to Washington as a colleague of the Republicans who subjected Warren to rough handling at various hearings on the Obama administration’s plans for a consumer financial protection bureau. It would have made a great campaign clip if she had ended one of these hearings with the Schwarzeneggeresque statement: “I’ll be back.”

But Warren faces a tough road back to Washington. Although she is a darling of the Beltway media set, she is not a household name in Massachusetts. She would have to garner the attention and following in a primary campaign against at least seven other Democrats. And she will have to overcome GOP Sen. Scott Brown’s advantage as a popular incumbent. But anything is possible given the seesaw swing of Massachusetts voters who elected Republican Brown in a special election then re-elected the entire Massachusetts Democratic ticket in 2010.

Warren is an engaging personality and plain speaker. She comes across well on television and should thrive in debates with both her Democratic rivals and, if she makes it to the next level, against Brown. She also will have Doug Rubin, one of the state’s best Democratic operatives, in her corner. He engineered the successful gubernatorial election of then little known Deval Patrick.

Some Massachusetts Republicans have already attacked Warren’s egghead credentials as a Harvard professor. But running against Harvard in Massachusetts isn’t necessarily the right tact to take, and Warren doesn’t come across as a cerebrally distant liberal academic in the mode of Attorney General Martha Coakley, the loser to Brown in 2010.

Warren sounded more like a populist in her work for Obama on financial reform and her spirited criticism of Wall Street and the banking cabal. Running against those institutions may give her solid traction among Massachusetts independents. It could also be the chink in Brown’s armor. Brown has remained popular in Massachusetts by navigating the tightrope act of limited partisanship as a relatively independent Republican.

But the one area Brown has toed the party line has been his support of business. That may not go down well among voters with the economy still adrift, banks reluctant to loan the cache of money they are holding, and Wall Street wise guys still commanding huge salaries and tax breaks. Warren, with her command of the issues and her engaging personality, could marshal that anti-Big Business sentiment in a run against Brown.

But Warren will have to run hard. She needs both traditional name recognition and a social media buzz to overcome Brown’s advantages. That will mean non-stop, retail campaigning and a hefty war chest to finance a media blitz to introduce her to voters and make the case why Brown should come home and she should be sent to Washington.

Contact Bayles at 617-353-3484; bayles@bu.edu


Campaign 2012: Perry, Christie, and Romney

Tom Whalen, associate professor of social science, offers his analysis on Rick Perry’s recent bad performances, and the potential for New Jersey governor Chris Christie entering the GOP race for president and what it means for Mitt Romney.

Contact Whalen at 978-888-3131; tjw64@bu.edu or tjw64@comcast.net


Campaign 2012: Bad week for Rick Perry

After poor performances in recent GOP debates and losses in the Florida and Michigan straw polls, Rick Perry still appears to be the leader of the GOP field, but some question for how long. John Carroll, assistant professor of mass communication and an expert on media criticism and political advertising, offers the following observation of Perry’s campaign:

Contact Carroll at 617-353-3493; carroll7@bu.edu; Twitter: @johncarroll_bu


CEO change at HP?

Hewlett-Packard is expected to name former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman their new CEO, replacing Leo Apotheker. N. Venkat Venkatraman, chairman of the Information Systems Department at BU’s School of Management, offers the following comment:

“The real question is what can Meg Whitman do to undo some of the strategic blunders of the previous CEO?

“It is clear that they cannot back out of the Autonomy purchase at $10B without incurring huge penalties.

“Will she go back on the spin-out of PC business or make minor adjustments? Or will she go the B2B route with software and services that Leo Apotheker has laid out. If she does that, then she is admitting that the strategy was right and that the company simply blundered through in its announcement.

“The market is expecting her to deliver clarity of where HP is going. She needs to do that sooner rather than later.”

Contact Venkatraman at 617-353-7117; venkat@bu.edu; Twitter: @nvenkatraman


Alum pledges $25 million to BU; largest gift in school history

Rajen Kilachand, a Dubai-based global entrepreneur, has pledged $25 million to Boston University, announced BU President Robert A. Brown. Kilachand’s contribution, the largest in school history, will support and rename the University’s Honors College in honor of his parents, whose full name will become the Arvind and Chandan Nandlal Kilachand Honors College.

Kilachand, who earned an MBA from the Boston University Graduate School of Management in 1974 and is a member of BU’s Board of Trustees, is chair and president of the Dodsal Group, a multinational conglomerate that holds interests in engineering, mining, trading, and hospitality businesses.

“Rajen Kilachand is a person of extraordinary foresight and rare generosity. I am deeply grateful for his vision and his commitment to our Honors College, which serves our highest achieving students,” said Brown. “His magnificent gift will create an endowment for the Kilachand Honors College that will increase the quality of this innovative program and the range of opportunities it offers for all future generations of Boston University students. Equally as important as his gift, is his insightful understanding of the enduring importance of undergraduate education, both to him and to the University.”

For more information, read the complete press release here.


Twitter to sell political ads

Executives at Twitter announced they would begin selling political advertising this week. The following Boston University experts are available to offer commentary, insight and analysis on this move:

Tobe Berkovitz, associate professor of advertising and an expert on media strategy and political advertising. He can be reached at 617-353-7724; tobetv@bu.edu; Twitter: @tobetv

John Carroll, assistant professor of mass communication and an expert on media criticism and political advertising. He can be reached at 617-353-3493; carroll7@bu.edu; Twitter: @johncarroll_bu


Graham Wilson on President Obama’s deficit reduction plan

Graham Wilson, chair of the political science department and author of Only in America? American Politics in Comparative Perspective, offers the following comment on President Obama’s deficit reduction plan:

“There is no evidence that the U.S. is an over-spender on domestic programs. Its crumbling infrastructure, high child (and indeed overall) poverty rates testify to that fact. The obvious, compelling fact in understanding the deficit is that federal government revenues as a percentage of GDP are amazingly low not only by international but by U.S. historical standards.

“The repeated failure to address this fact pushes the President ever more into accepting, at least in part, GOP plans to slash government spending driven by an antipathy to ‘big government’ more than concern about the deficit. Add to this the fact that cuts in government programs are more immediately ‘job destroying’ than tax increases at a time of very high unemployment and the case for continuing to surrender the debate to the Republicans becomes dubious indeed.

“Taxing millionaires more is probably largely rhetoric but is at least a start.”

Contact Wilson at 617-353-2540; gkwilson@bu.edu