Wednesday, May 22, 2013

“We’ve Only Just Begun!” The IP Graduation Speech From Hell

‘Tis the time of year when chestnuts are roasting – not the kind of chestnuts that Bing Crosby sings about in December, but the old kind that gets tossed around graduation speeches like hacky sacks at a Further concert. Yes, these are the worn-out, unimaginative clichés that riddle university campuses, positioned right after the non-denominational prayer, right before the singing of the alma mater, right around the time the frat boys start to get woozy from the wake & bake and the sorority girls realize their shoe selection was unfortunate for a four hour event where most of it is spent standing.

The world is ahead of you.
Look forward, but also look back.
It is not the end, it is the beginning.
Life is a journey.

So true. So, so true. ALSO, so freakin’ stale they make my eyes roll reflexively. Thus, this IP posting will take these hackneyed phrases and put them to good use: to address the conundrum of how to “run” for office when you are not actually “running” for anything. Because you must walk before you run. And you will fly and soar as far as your wings will take you.

Good. Lord.

OK! Cliché Numero Uno: The world is ahead of you.
This one is dedicated to my girl, HRC, whose world now consists of her “transition office,” the nation of Libya, and the ten foot circumference around Sen. Rand Paul’s tuchas. The multi-perspective view of Hillary’s world begins at the same place but ends very differently: She is aiming for the White House using her experience as evidence of greatness, and Sen. Paul is aiming for the White House using her experience as evidence of skullduggery. The fun, of course, is in the spin. She says she done good as Sec State, he says she should be in prison. Potato, potahto. The interesting story to drop recently was that some of the big-wigs from Clinton’s 2008 campaign have begged off another chance at the gold ring, but as anyone who has visited my hometown knows: The place is lousy with big-wigs. And, apparently, locusts. But let’s not get distracted.

Cliché Numero Dos: Look forward, but also look back.
This goes out to IP fave Sen. Marco Rubio who has taken advantage of the IRS kerfuffle to propose an amendment to the upcoming 2013 Farm Bill (?) that punishes IRS officials who violate the constitutional rights of Americans. Sayeth the good Senator: “This IRS scandal has destroyed the American people’s confidence in this government institution and exposed the dangers of a large, unaccountable government operating under a President and administration that routinely intimidate and harass their political opponents.” Holy cats – knocking the administration AND the IRS in one fell swoop? Nice IP play, sir! Well done. Also, and I’m just whiffing here, it seems that throwing stones at the IRS today is sort of like proposing a Fight Club brawl with Olivia, your 6 year old niece. Who is blindfolded. Sorta easy, ain’t it?

Cliché Numero Tres: It is not the end, it is the beginning.
And hellllooooo NYC Mayoral Candidate Anthony Weiner! (You didn’t think I was gonna let this one go, didja?) I only have three things to say here: One, welcome to the race of a lifetime. Hot dog, this is gonna be FUN, even from the cheap seats. Do you think the New York Post just hired four new cover editors? Two, Congressman, I was wrong about Mark Sanford. But you are no Mark Sanford. Three, are you ready for more (much more) of this? I am proud that this video nugget was created by “a former student working in political consulting or advertising or whatever.” His words not mine, because I got clearance to give him a blind-item shout out. But anyway, Anthony, strap yourself in for more of this. Much, much more. And don’t say I didn’t tell you to wait.

Finally, Cliché Numero Quatro:  Life is a journey.
In this case, a journey to Israel. Mazel Tov to Democratic Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley who recently schlepped to the Middle East in order to talk shop with the chosen people, sharpen his Foreign Policy skills, and prove he’s got what it takes to run for the White House. We haven’t spoken about O’Malley in this blog YET but apparently this is an oversight. He went to Iowa (another designated IP destination) and he’s openly talking about 2016. A bold move from a bold man… that no one outside of Maryland has ever heard of. The good news: There’s still time!

And so graduates, faculty, proud parents, and blog readers: Keep reaching for the stars. You are the future, your education is just beginning, believe in your dreams and always remember: You did it. What you did is between you and your conscience, but I’m a liberal so I say go for it.    

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Obesity and Political Viability

Much has been made about Chris Christie's recent lap band surgery in the context of the invisible primary; particularly by the class of folk who yell at each other on TV for a living, and even usually-reasonable columnists.  The obvious conclusion by the chattering classes: this was more politically than personally motivated.  The fact of the matter is that political science actually has something to say on this, and we say it based on something more than simple speculation.  Simply put, they don't know what the hell they're yelling and writing about.

This paper reporting experimental research by Miller, Lundgren, Filion, and Thompson has some interesting findings that suggests most overweight candidates don't have to worry too much about their body image management.  In fact, beanpoles like myself, may want to pack on a few extra pounds.  When shown digitally altered pictures of candidates and asked to make evaluations, respondents actually gave more positive feedback to most obese candidates than to non-obese ones.  "Most" is the important qualifier here.  Whilst obese males were systematically advantaged over their non-obese brothers (or in this case twin 'shopped' brothers), respondents had stronger negative emotional reactions to obese female candidates.  Body image is important, but it cuts in different directions for men and women.  Why am I not surprised?

Roping this all back to Gov. Christie, there's no earthly reason why he would undergo this invasive and risky procedure for simple political gain.  Even if he isn't aware of the political science out there, I can't imagine that someone of his personality, with all his political success and popularity would even begin to feel that his weight is an issue.  I for one, take him at his word.  The invisible primary explains a lot of political behavior, but not on this.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

It’s a Treadmill! No, it’s a Mobius Loop! The Never-Ending Invisible Primary

It’s the least wonderful time of the academic year when the last assignments are handed in, grades are due, students are weepy, and every single honor society and campus group hosts an awards banquet. Most of us are pie-eyed with fatigue as we ping from exam to meeting to mandatory-fun social event, but the end is nigh and in a few short weeks we get to hit the re-set button and set off for summer. This is one of the selling points of an academic career for those of us optimistic about the future: There is an actual finish line and we get to cross it, once every 14 weeks. Some of us sprint across the tape, hands held high in a Nixonian victory pose and some of us stagger in, limping and wounded. But done is done.

Not so for our friends running in the Invisible Primary, because they are never through campaigning. If 2016 seems like a long way off, set your peepers on 2020 – because that’s when some of these folks will still be running for president. Think about it this way: Mittens ran in 2008 and 2012. Jeeze, Joe Biden ran in 1988 and in 2008, and that’s a looong time in between runs to constantly position yourself as presidential. These folks are in the positioning period right now, shoring up their leaderly legacies, mounting their accomplishments on their walls like the heads of dead hunted animals, all aiming to sell themselves as the big electoral winners.

And so we turn to this week’s most notable IP contenders to see how they are presenting themselves for public consumption.

#1: Ted “Ain’t No Squishie” Cruz: The Texas firebrand jumped to the front of the “Look at Me!” pack with this National Review article announcing his “consideration” of a presidential run. One Cruz associate (Cruzzy? Cruzite? Cruzzociate?) said “Ted won’t be opening an Iowa office anytime soon, but he’s listening.” Let me translate: “TED’S RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT! GIVE HIM MONEY!” Don’t believe me? The dude is going to South Carolina to campaign. The Palmetto State (besides being the home of the newly elected rep from the Philandering Phirst District – but more on that later) is one of the early presidential primary states, thus an important one to win.

Cruz seems to be grabbing our attention thanks to this analysis (or something along these lines) from my student Amazing Antonio: “Ted Cruz is big because Marco Rubio isn’t conservative enough for the wacknuts.” Truly, Cruz seems to be making his mark through the kind of agitator politicking that garners white-hot camera lights and truckloads of attention. The only hitch in the giddy-up for Cruz is that he has about 4 minutes of experience, which tends to piss off the gray beards in the party, but he can easily parlay his 2016 IP action into a Fox News gig (ala Palin & Cain) or use it to move the ball downfield for 2020. See? 2020.

#2: We move now to my boyfriend, Jumpin’ Joe Biden. Veep Bee is apparently mulling over yet another run for the top job, and we know this because… he’s going to South Carolina. Seriously, what on earth does this state have that I do not see? They just elected Mark Sanford. AGAIN! (but more on that later) Anyhoo, VeepBee is headlining a sold-out fundraiser in S.C. on Friday, which means the guy is presenting himself for public consumption. Of course, as everyone knows, the major wrench in his plans is going to be Hillary, whose maybe-maybe-not candidacy led to this absolutely side-slapping observation about a Biden pitch from political strategist Bob Shrum: “Because she’s a Democrat, I can’t say she’s the elephant in the room, but she’s certainly the dominant donkey.” Seriously, I love this stuff. I’m happy you’re in the game, Joe! It allows us to frequently use one of my favorite descriptive words about you: Avuncular.

#3: Finally, on to New Jersey Gov. Chris “Don’t Call Me Avuncular” Christie, who revealed that less than 2 weeks after a dust-up about his weight in February… he had gastric band surgery. Normally, this kind of thing falls under the heading of “Wait… why are we talking about this?” except that everyone was talking about his weight. This then means that doing something about it is some sort of indication that the Gov. is presenting himself for public consumption. Perhaps a poor choice of words. OK. Put another way, this revelation shows that Christie is cognizant of the chatter around him and wants to change the trajectory of the conversation. Mike Huckabee famously lost more than 100 pounds before his 2008 bid for president, and while that didn’t do very much for his electoral results it did sweep away the disparaging remarks and totally change the narrative. And the narrative in the IP is incredibly important.

Other IP players are doing the same sort of reconstruction of the fables (a tip of the hat to R.E.M.) to include Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Bobby Jindal ofLouisiana. Both of the Bobs are facing a wee-bit of trouble as they look ahead, but I think we will have to let that play itself out more before we address it here. See? Something to look forward to.

I would be remiss were I not to briefly discuss Mark Sanford’s SC-1 win last night. In a fun interview with the National Journal I said that his win was more about party politics (S.C.-1 being an R+11 district) than about the people actually liking Sanford – or about Sanford actually hosting a true comeback. I will not disparage the obviously troubled voters of South Carolina, but instead leave it to the genius Andy Borowitz who came up with this headline and this posting on the Borowitz Report: Sanford’s Comeback Gives Hopes to Liars. I leave this posting with the line I came up with yesterday but was not used in the Journal piece: "The Republicans of S.C.-1 were faithful to their party, even if it meant voting for a guy who wasn’t faithful to anybody.”

I really do love this stuff. Even if, at this time of the semester, I am exhaustipated.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Guessing Game

New Hampshire, which as we all know holds the First in the Nation Primary (if you didn't know, then look to their Constitution, which stipulates they go first no matter what), is apparently gearing up for 2016, and apparently New Hampshire voters know something the rest of us don't--who is running.

WMUR, in conjunction with the University of New Hampshire, has published, to great fanfare, their recent poll which shows who would win the New Hampshire Primary on the Democrat and Republican tickets.  That is, the 2016 primary.   Here is how it breaks down. 
For the Democrats, the clear winner is (drumroll) Hillary Clinton, who gets 61% of the support among those in the survey, followed by Joe Biden(7%), NY Governor Andrew Cuomo (3%), Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts (3%), VA Senator Mark Warner (2%), Newark Mayor (and my personal favorite) Corey Booker (1%), and former Indiana Senator Evan Bayh (1%).

For the GOP, the clear frontrunners (at 15%) are KY Senator Rand Paul and FL Senator Marco Rubio, Followed by NJ Governor Chris Christie (11%), Paul Ryan (11%), NH Senator Kelly Ayotte (5%), former UT Governor Jon Huntsman (5%), FL Governor Jeb Bush (5%), Rick Santorum (4%), LA Governor Bobby Jindal (2%), Texas Senator Ted Cruz (2%), WI Governor Scott Walker (1%), and Ohio Senator Rob Portman (1%). I cannot fathom how Portman made the list other than his being in the news recently for coming out and admitting his love for his gay son (cue "Heather's" reference).  Why Rand Paul, you may ask?  Well New Hampshire has been the focus of the Free State Project, the decade long Libertarian strategy to move their numbers to a sparsely populated state in order to win elective office through strength in numbers.

And what is the basis to the survey?  507 New Hampshire adults, with a margin of error at +/- 4.4%, as well as 171 likely 2012 Republican Primary voters (+/- 7.5%) and 188 likely 2012 Democratic voters (+/- 7.1%)--"likely 2012 primary voters"??? I think they meant "likely 2016 primary voters".

But remember, it has nothing to do with scientific accuracy or the ability to measure the future, but instead about creating buzz so people tune in to the news reports (of which there are many), Tweet about it, and debate it on Facebook. And buzz equals profits.  And when we finally get to the Primary and the poll turns out meaningless, who is going to remember to call WMUR/UNH on it, and even if they did, who cares?

All we need do is look at a similar poll conducted by the same tandem back in 2006.  Again, 515 adults told us that the winner of the 2008 NH Primary would be...Hillary Clinton. Which they got right.  But who were her main challengers?  Closest was Senator John Edwards, VP Al Gore, Senator John Kerry, Joe Biden, General Wesley Clark, Governor Bill Richardson, and then once again, Evan Bayh and Mark Warner.  Why do NH Dems love these two relatively obscure Pols?  Not making the list? Senator Barack Obama, who had gotten a speaking spot at the 2004 Democratic National Convention had had lots of buzz around him. But nowhere on the list.  For the GOP--John McCain, Mayor Rudy, Governor Mitt Romney, Condi Ricee, Jeb Bush, George Allen, Rick Santorum, George Pataki, and even Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.  No Mike Huckabee, who came in 3d in 2008.  No Ron Paul (Free State was still young), no Fred Thompson, etc.

What is remarkable about the most recent poll is how it is prefaced by reporters and pundits with the caveat: "The election is stilll more than 3 years away, and at this point this is mere speculation." Yet they feel compelled to talk about it anyway.

So chime in, dear readers.  Since there is no penalty for guessing, who is likely to win the 2016 NH Primary on the Democrat and GOP side of the ticket?