Friday, October 9, 2009

WAYLA's First Anniversary!

It's hard to believe that tomorrow will be one year to the day since we uploaded our first post at "What Are You Looking At?"

To celebrate, as promised, we're providing a sample platter of some of our and your favorite posts from the past year.

These are our three favorites:

- Why 2008 is as Historic as They Say

- Who Leads Healthier Lives - Democrats or Republicans?

- What's Still to Come in the Evolution of Political TV Ads? (Part 5 of our series "21st Century Campaigning")

And here are some of our readers' favorites that they've been sending in:

- Where is the GOP Going Wrong?

- Actual Racists for Obama

- Communists and Other Marxists (Part 5 of our series "Know Your Third Parties")

- Some Optimism on MLK Day

- The "Can You Find Your Congressperson?" Contest

- The Realities of Strict Campaign Finance Law

- There’s No One as Irish as Bárack O’Bama

- Finally, the post following the revelations of Gov. Mark Sanford's affair: What Sanford Supporters Are Saying

Again, thank you so much for your continued reading! We hope that you stay tuned with WAYLA as we continue to bring you the best political news and analysis for campaign people by campaign people!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

One 2010 Campaign Issue You Might Not Know About

Summary: Will a largely unnoticed vote come back to haunt two vulnerable Senators?

Republicans and Democrats alike are already framing their messages on a recent Senate vote that could hurt a few GOP politicians next year.

From The Scorecard:

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) offered an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill that would withhold defense contracts to companies who prevent victims from filing lawsuits against sexual assault and harassment.

Franken proposed the amendment after hearing the story of Jamie Leigh Jones, who alleges that she was brutally raped while working a contractor for Halliburton/KBR in Iraq.

But Jones was unable to press charges in court because her defense contract stipulated that any such allegations can only be heard in private arbitration.

Franken’s amendment, which passed 68-30, received the support of 10 Republican senators. However, most Republicans opposed the amendment because it went against the wishes of the Defense Department, and argued it gave Congress too much influence in altering defense contracts.

Those concerns, however, are immaterial to Democratic strategists, who believe the vote will be politically costly to the two Republican senators facing competitive races – Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.).

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pounced after the vote, putting out a statement attacking Vitter “for choosing special interests over justice and the interests of the American taxpayers.”

And a senior Democratic strategist working on defeating Vitter told POLITICO that the vote will “very likely” come up in a campaign ad next year.

Republicans point out that the amendment was opposed by a host of business interests, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and applies to a wide range of companies, including IBM and Boeing.

“This misleading, partisan attack makes clear yet again just how out of touch Democrats in Washington are with the serious issues facing average Americans," said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh.

"Our country is facing rising unemployment, a record federal debt and and more government spending than at any point in history. Yet, the Democrats are talking about Halliburton."

It’s not exactly easy to defend a “no” vote on that amendment. It might not be a nail in the coffin for Vitter and Burr, but it sure won’t help them with the female demographic. Even conservative women will have an adverse response to these Republicans when they see the attack ads that will come from that vote.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Who’s Smarter - Democrats or Republicans?

Summary: Results that break along partisan lines beg the question: Who's smarter - Democrats or Republicans? You must read to find out!

Okay, that’s a loaded question. Back in March we asked “Who Leads Healthier Lives - Democrats or Republicans?” but with that we could actually back up our claims with statistics.

Ultimately, we said:

“the most realistic conclusion to make is that political ideology has little-to-no bearing on the well-being of an individual. A more obvious trend is healthiness by region - those living in the Western states tend to be particularly healthy while those living in the Rust Belt and Appalachia are among the unhealthiest of Americans.”

When it comes to brain health - however - we see some very obvious partisan lines.

A new study on brain health by state finds that “blue states” were healthier than the “red states.” Although the study did not focus on politics at all, it was not difficult to put two-and-two together.

According to this “Index of Brain Health” the top ten “brainiest” states in the country (including the District of Columbia) are as follows:

1) Washington, D.C.
2) Maryland
3) Washington state
4) Vermont
5) Connecticut
6) Colorado
7) Massachusetts
8) New Jersey
9) Maine
10) New Hampshire

With the exception of Colorado - a swing state - all of the top ten are solid Democratic-supporting states.

Conversely, these are the bottom ten “brainiest” states:

42) Indiana
43) North Dakota
44) South Carolina
45) Arkansas
46) Kentucky
47) Tennessee
48) Mississippi
49) Alabama
50) Oklahoma
51) Louisiana

With the exception of Indiana, all of these states went for Sen. John McCain in last year’s presidential election, and all ten are considered fairly reliable for Republicans.

For those Republicans who are undoubtedly upset with this so far, let me reassure you that this isn’t all about “intelligence.” U.S. News & World Report explains the study:

Diet represented 36 percent of each state's score. Of several factors used to calculate the brain-healthfulness of the foods each state eats, sales of fish and DHA-fortified foods were weighed most heavily; they made up 10 percent and 12 percent, respectively, of the diet score. Measures of the population's physical health accounted for 25 percent of each state's overall score; mental health accounted for 24 percent; and social well-being 15 percent. In all, 21 measures went into calculating each score. The creators of the index examined existing data on these metrics for all the states and the District of Columbia. The data came from agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

You don't have to be a genius to understand why the index, dubbed the "life's DHA Index of Brain Health," was based partly on DHA consumption. Its developer and sponsor, Martek Biosciences Corp., produces dietary supplements and products rich in DHA omega-3 fatty acids, including the life's DHA brand. Studies suggest omega-3s can be important to healthy brain development.

"Our goal was to draw attention to the fact that your brain health isn't solely genetic—that you get to modify it," says Michael Roizen, a doctor of internal medicine and anesthesiology, author and adviser for the index.

The District of Columbia was at the top of the pack, thanks to the high amounts of fish and DHA omega-3-fortified foods and supplements consumed there, the quantity of fruits and vegetables its residents eat and the fact that many of the capital's residents are bookworms. (Interestingly, Alaska tied with D.C. in the rate at which residents read for personal interest.)

Also receiving high marks were Connecticut (ranked fifth brainiest overall), thanks in part to the quality of its education system; Massachusetts (ranked seventh), for its high rates of health insurance coverage; and New Jersey (ranked eighth), for having one of the lowest rates of psychological distress in the nation…

…"The results show that the majority of the top-10-ranked states border or are near the Atlantic or Pacific oceans," says Michael Roizen, author and adviser to the Martek index. "One hypothesis is the accessibility of fish with its healthy fats and protein."

Louisiana, the "least brainy" state, tied with Mississippi and Utah for the highest rate of involvement in religious and spiritual activities—something Martek considers a positive indicator for brain health. That measure determined 5 percent of each state's total brain health score. In addition to its low sales of fish and DHA-fortified foods, and moderately low fruit and vegetable consumption rates, the Bayou State, along with Kentucky, has the lowest breast-feeding rate in the nation. Breast-feeding naturally provides DHA omega-3, which Martek's report on the index cites as "important for brain development of infants."

At the time we simulated a possible correlation between a state’s politics and the health of its residents, we found that it wasn’t too likely that one had much to do with the other. Somehow, I doubt that this study was much more than an outlier to that conclusion. As we said at the time, though, “finding correlations between party-affiliation and things like healthiness are very interesting, and we hope to see more studies and discussions like this in the future.”

Despite the fact that these correlations still seem a bit dubious, it was indeed very interesting and we’re glad we found it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Will Grayson Be Re-Elected Following His House Floor Speech?

Summary: Alan Grayson is receiving national attention for a confrontational speech - will it help him or hurt him in the midterm elections?

By now, many Americans have seen this clip of Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) telling the House floor that Republicans want sick individuals to “die quickly.”

He also referred to the healthcare crisis as “a holocaust” which he later apologized for.

Since the “die quickly” speech, he has become something of a thorn in the side of the Democratic leadership. House Republicans last week called on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to “rein in” the freshman Democrat from Florida.

Meanwhile, the NRCC - which already considered Grayson’s seat a top-targeted one - have ramped up their efforts to reclaim the moderately conservative district.

Even without the “die quickly” speech, it would be a competitive race. The Cook PVI for Florida’s 8th Congressional District is R+2, and Grayson’s first ever victory last year took place in a cycle that was favorable for Democrats. In fact, Grayson’s 52% win appears to be on the coattails of President Obama’s 52% in that district. Obviously, the President is not up for re-election next year, and midterm elections tend to be dangerous for the party in the White House.

Yet there has been some positive news for Grayson lately. Following that speech, his campaign raised $150,000 online from liberal donors in just 24 hours. While it would not be surprising if his opponent raised more, he currently has no opponent to worry about.

Beyond that, the Democrats are fairly well organized in Florida. In an online poll taken by the Orlando Sentinel, the majority of respondents side with Grayson.

Now, as many campaign workers know, those polls are not only unscientific, but completely distorted by the campaigns and parties. These organizations will get every activist they know to vote as many times as possible. So what a poll like this does demonstrate is how organized one side is over the other - and clearly the Democrats have the edge in this northern Florida district. (In fact, the way I found this poll was through an internet forum for Orlando-area conservatives, telling their fellow activists to vote in the poll and bring Grayson’s numbers down.)

And the lack of an opponent is beginning to trouble the GOP. Local Republican leaders in Florida guaranteed that they would defeat Grayson in 2010 - immediately following his 2008 election - and they say it’s time to get the ball rolling.

So far, one prospective opponent - Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty - has said he will not run. Former State Senator Daniel Webster is “considering” along with State Rep. Steve Precourt and State Senator Andy Gardiner.

The only candidate who has announced is retired pilot Dan Fanelli, a tea party activist. When asked about Fanelli, Orange County GOP Chairman Lew Oliver said “who?” and added that the activist “may be unrealistic about his chances.”

However, Webster has said he will make his decision by the end of the week. When asked about Grayson, Webster told the Orlando Sentinel that when he was in the State Legislature he made sure “not to burn any bridges or make it personal. Congressman Grayson would have done well to heed that advice.”

If he does have an experienced and respected challenger like Webster, Grayson will certainly face a tough re-election. Sure, those speeches might have brought in some money, but money isn’t everything - even in politics. The Democratic Party is probably as organized and popular as they’ve ever been in that district, but they’ll also be focused on other races next year, such as the open Senate seat.

The fact is that he’s created a good deal of embarrassment for himself, to the extent that every news-savvy American has heard about it. Even with over a year before the midterm election, that’s not something they’ll forget easily.

It's still too early to say if he'll win his re-election or not, but I think it's safe to say the "die quickly" speech has done Grayson more harm than good.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Post Moved to Friday...

On Friday I mentioned that today was WAYLA's first anniversary. However, after checking our first post, I realized it's actually not until Saturday! We'll celebrate the special occasion on Friday.

So sorry if you were expecting to see a sample of everyone's favorite posts from the past year today. The good news is that you now have an extra four days to send me your favorites!

So take another look through our posts, and send the ones you like best to