American007

Nine Possibilities for Time Magazine's "Person of the Year" 2009

(Speculation is always fun on a slow news day. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

It's coming up on the end of the year (believe it or not) and I thought it might be some good, lighthearted holiday discussion to think about who or what might be Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2009.

There are no real requirements for what a Person of the Year can be. It could be anything from a single person (Barack Obama, 2008), a group of people (Bono, Bill and Melinda Gates, 2005), or an abstraction (The Endangered Earth, 1988; You, 2006). The only criterion, since the establishment of the yearly issue in 1927 is that the nominee has “for better or for worse, …has done the most to influence the events of the year.”

That said, here are, in my opinion, the ten most likely contenders (in no particular order).

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Is the Big Lug too big to win? What Gov. Culver can learn from Chris Chrstie.

( - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Is being overweight a political handicap? That's the big question posed by Daniel Engber in a very interesting piece this week at Slate.com. At issue, the contentious Corzine-Christie race in New Jersey and a weighty issue that has developed between the two men. Namely, the issue of weight.

You see, Corzine (D), the incumbent governor, is an average-to-fit 62. He considers himself a “health nut”. He runs marathons. For a man who was very nearly killed in a car accident two years ago, he is in excellent health. 

His opponent, Chris Christie (R), is an obese 47-year old. He considers himself “a Jersey guy, with a Jersey gut”. He jokes about his weight. He says that he has been heavy since his teenage years, and has tried to lose the weight several times, to no avail.

The controversy all started with this ad:

The ad doesn't explicitly mention weight at all. The gist of the ad, rather, is that Christie used his power as U.S. Attorney to get out of some nasty driving tickets. However, instead of the phrase “used his power”, the ad says  “threw his weight around”. In classic attack ad fashion, the ad closes on an unnatural slow-motion image of the opponent–only this time, he's getting out of a car–and well, jiggling.

As you can see, the message is pretty clear. Christie claims this is “character assassination”. Corzine claims that he “…doesn't give a hoot about Mr. Christie's weight.”

Still, the real issue is, is it working? The answer is, very likely yes. As Engber points out, two separate polls by  Public Policy Polling (.pdf) and the New York Times both confirm–independent voters are significantly less likely to vote for an overweight candidate.

And, as Engber tells us, that bias might just be reflected already in the nation's governors. Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com recently looked at the shape of the nation's governors and found that (in his non-medical, decidedly tongue-in-cheek estimation) only 10 (or 20%) current governors are visibly overweight. (He includes Gov. Culver, who he calls “squarish”, based on this photo.)

Engbert accounts for this disparity (remember that more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight) with the following analysis:

…there's no constituency for a fat politician. Conservatives see excess weight as a sign of moral failing or a breach of personal responsibility. Liberals sneer at the bloated American lifestyle, even while imagining the war on obesity as a fight for social justice.

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Why I Shook Bob Vander Plaats' Hand this Weekend

(I love this kind of event. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

This weekend, I went home to my hometown of Centerville for our big annual Pancake Day festival. Although you've probably never heard of it, and it probably didn't bring in as many guests as the Dave Matthews concert in Des Moines, it's still a pretty big event for the southern part of the state.

The big parade starts with a cannon blast at 1 o'clock sharp, every year. In addition to all the Pancake Day Queen contestants, the local celebrities and the business floats, the parade usually brings a few local politicians or political candidates down every election year. In 2004, when I was still in high school, I marched in the parade with Dave Franker (remember him?). In 2006, Pancake Day marked the first time I had seen Dave Loebsack in person.

This being an odd-numbered year, I wasn't expecting to see any political candidates beyond our statehouse representatives and whoever is running for mayor this year. I was surprised then, to see Bob Vander Plaats round the corner of the parade route, shaking hands.

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Generation Branstad?

I was thinking about something the other day, and I thought I would share it with you. Just some numbers to consider, I'll leave the analysis to you.

62-year old Terry E. Branstad was first elected governor in 1982 and last elected governor in 1994. His last full day in office was January 14, 1999.

On Election Day 2010:

The youngest person to have voted for Branstad in 1982 would be:  46

The youngest person to have voted for Branstad ever would be: 34

The youngest person to have a political opinion of the Branstad administration (assuming political opinions form around age 12-13) would be: 24

The youngest person to have any memory from the Branstad administration (assuming memory forms around age 4 or 5, counting such memories as “that guy with the funny mustache on TV”) would be: 16

The youngest person to have been born during the Branstad administration would be:  11

 

When Terry Branstad was elected governor in 1982:

Bob Vander Plaats was 19

Chet Culver was 16

Chris Rants was 15

Christian Fong was 5

 

Chet Culver's job approval rating among 18-34 year olds ***:

Approve: 36%

Disapprove: 54%

Unsure: 10%

* This represents the age group with the lowest percentage approving and the highest percentage disapproving among those surveyed. For comparison, among those aged 35-49, Culver has a 40% approval rating in this poll.

** Survey of 600 persons by SurveyUSA, released 6/18/2009 and available here.

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Early Odds on the Republican Race for Governor

(Thanks to American007 for this analysis. Be sure to click "there's more" to read the whole piece. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Today, the right-leaning news aggregator The Bean Walker ran a headline: THE CAMPAIGN KICKS OFF TODAY. The link and reference refer to a GOP fundraiser in Sac County this morning that brought together four likely candidates for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Those men are Rep. (and former Speaker of the House) Chris Rants of Sioux City; 2006 Lt. Governor candidate Bob Vander Plaats of Sioux City;Rep. Rob Roberts of Carroll; and Sen. Jerry Behn of Boone.

While the Republican primary is still months away, this unofficial first step on the long road to the nomination seems a good place to start with some early odds on the eventual winner.

Rep. Chris Rants (R-Sioux City)     3:1

Rants is the Hillary Clinton of this race. He's been a figurehead and a lightning rod within the party for almost a decade. He served as Speaker of the House during the Vilsack years, from 2002 until his party's ouster in 2007. In fact, many within the party still blame him for that defeat–even though 2006 was such a realignment that it would have been hard for the party do much better than it did under any circumstances. Much like Ms. Clinton, Rants is highly polarizing figure who has a reputation for having a “bulldozer” style of leadership, with little time or tact for those who stand in his way. Also, like Hillary, he is going to have to learn to deal with media and pundits who are less than cordial.

(The best analysis of his candidacy comes from this piece in Cityview's Civic Skinny column. It is a must read.)

Rants 2010 candidacy seems based on what Craig Robinson at the Iowa Republican calls “a kinder, gentler Chris Rants”.  According to O. Kay Henderson's liveblog of the Sac County event, Rants primary focus in the campaign is going to be economic and business issues; somewhat of a departure from his rivals. 

Analysis:  Rants is well positioned in the race to become the choice of Republicans who are turned off by Bob Vander Plaats but are hesitant to embrace a less-conservative choice. He also has a fat rolodex of fundraising contacts and a long list of favors to call in. He's in it to win it.

 

 

Bob Vander Plaats     3:1

Vander Plaats, the 2006 Lt. Governor candidate and primary candidate in his own right in 2002 and 2006, has been to the political wilderness and back several rimes. His supporters believe, however, that the third time around is the charm.

Borne aloft by the twin archangels of Iowa conservativism Steve Deace and Mike Huckabee, Vander Plaats' “plaatform” is straight-line social conservative. His primary issue thus far is putting an end to same-sex marriage rights as granted by Varnum v. Brien.  However, reactions to his plan to do so by issuing an executive order have been extremely negative outside of his core group of supporters. Many believe that his plan is patently unconstitutional. 

Analysis: Vander Plaats appeals to the basest parts of the Republican base. However, among that segment of the party he enjoys fervent, dedicated support. Unless the more moderate elements of the Republican Party can grasp the reins, Vander Plaats remains a strong contender.

 

 

Unknown Moderate     3:1

It's an open secret that there is a sizable contingent of the Republican Party that isn't happy with the current crop of candidates. This shadowy group of mostly moderates, old-money and business Republicans has been candidate shopping lately. Headed by favorite so-con punching bag (and 2002 candidate for Governor) Doug Gross, this faction has been talking to some unconventional potential candidates. Among the names being talked about: Vermeer CEO Mary Andringa, Dubuque University president Jeff Bullock, Generation Iowa Commission vice-chair Christian Fong, Farm Bureau president Craig Lang, Jeff Lamberti, Marianette Miller-Meeks and even Fmr. Gov. Terry Branstad.

The platform for such a candidate is seen through a glass darkly, but is sure to run to to the left of Rants and far to the left of Vander Plaats–a center-right agenda, with an emphasis on economic/budget/tax issues over traditional so-con fare.

Analysis: It remains to be seen who will emerge as the center-right option in this race, although Gross has promised to find a candidate by Septmber. What is certain, however, is that that candidate will enjoy significant financial and institutional support from the faction of the party that doesn't want to see the race wasted on a quixotic Vander Plaats run. In the absence of more information, I give Rants, Vander Plaats and the moderate candidate the same chances.

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Is the Big Lug in big trouble?

(Worth keeping an eye on. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

There's a batch of poll data out from SurveyUSA, and it's bad news for the Big Lug.
 

Governor Culver doesn't break even in the poll of 600 adults. 47% of voters surveyed said they disapprove of Gov. Culver's performance as governor, with 46% approving, and 7% not sure. 

What's particularly troubling is that Culver only has support from 59% of Democrats surveyed and 41% of self-identified independents. 

Seperate polls found that Sen. Grassley edges out Sen. Harkin as the state's most popular politician. Grassley carried a 71% approval rate, with Harkin ten points behind at 61%. One interesting fact from that set of polling: Grassley has a 66% approval rating among Democrats. 

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