Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Post election post mortem potpourri

Biggest loser on the national scene with Tennessee roots?
Bill Frist.
He went to Washington in the mid 90s as a man promising to usher in an era of change, reform and bipartisanship.
He leaves Washington as a wounded political animal, tangled up in the trappings of power, with a nasty partisan tenure as his legacy.
Strangest convergence of national and local politics in Tennessee?Republican state senator Tim Burchett doing a voiceover for an automated phone call paid for by a right wing Chicago-based 527 organization. In the voiceover Burchett trumps up allegations that U.S. Senate candidate Harold Ford jr. is for government seizures of property owned by private citizens and small businessmen. Time and post-election disclosure will tell us if Burchett was paid for his hatchet job.
Biggest winner(s) on the national scene with Tennessee roots?Congressmen Jim Cooper and John Tanner, along with the other members of the "Blue Dog" coalition in the U.S. House. The Blue Dogs - fiscal conservatives who are fighting for more truthful and open accounting of our federal tax dollars - saw their ranks increase to as many as 47 members with gains across the nation. The Blue Dogs may become the tail that wags the leadership dog with key swing votes on important issues to come.
Worst call on campaign yard signs in Nashville?Republican Bob Krumm, who got trounced by incumbent state senator Doug Henry in the state's 21st district race. Krumm's yard signs simply read "Vote Bob State Senate." Memo to Krumm - when you run as an unknown with a common first name, you might consider using your last name on your yard signs.
Most creative and innovative approach to reporting election night returns in Nashville?The partnership between WKRN Channel 2 and The
Post political journalist Ken Whitehouse, local pundit/mover/shaker James Weaver, local pr/GOP operative Kevin Phillips and a team of Ch. 2 producers operated an election war room, crunching results numbers precinct by precinct across the state, and feeding the info to a panel of pundits. The pundits - led by tv veterans Bob Mueller and Neil Orne - broadcast results and analysis via the local ABC affiliate channel, a comcast cable channel, local radio station WLAC, as well as Ch.2's blog. I was ugly window dressing to the whole affair (yea, I was the rotund bald guy without the tie sitting on the set like a drunk Budda whose name was misspelled on camera). Damn shame to ruin a good panel like radio man Steve Gill and the City Paper's Clint Brewer with the likes of me. But I have to say that it was damn cool to watch up close the unique media partnership - broadcast and web - push out news and spin in non-stop streaming fashion using both traditional and non-traditional means.
Most shameful display of political soothsaying in Tennessee?Any media outlet that paid for shitty polling, only to report the shitty polling results as gospel.
Most moving display of representative democracy at work in my neck of the woods?
The small band of citizens who waited patiently - some for up to 6 hours after the polls closed in an East Nashville precinct - to exercise their right to vote. As the midnight hour approached, when a citizen would step away from a voting machine after casting a ballot, the others remaining in line would cheer and applaud. The local poll workers (also heroes in my book for keeping the faith) ran out of "I Voted" stickers and resorted to handing out homemade "I Voted" stickers to the voting faithful.
Most fun mouthing off about politics this election cycle from a Tennessee perspective - even if no one is listening or paying attention?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Come on man...she's right behind you!

GOP State Senator Bill Ketron is facing a tough challenge from democrat Vince Springer.
Ketron - who's already been spanked for claiming his taxpayer-funded legislative office as his campaign address - has a few campaign finance watchers scratching their heads over an apparent lack of candor displayed in his recent campaign contributor disclosure.
Seems Ketron's experienced a brain fart over background concerning some select donors to his campaign.
Instead of full disclosure on the forms, he pled the 5th by stating that he didn't really know who they were but made the "best effort" at trying to find out.
The mystery donors?
Well...there's the entire "Haslam" clan - Haslam as in big oil $$...Haslam as in HUGE donor to GOP candidates from the White House to the state house for more than a generation.
Oh yea...that Haslam clan.
Hmmm...brain fart or concern about open ties to big oil $$ this election cycle?
And then there's that ever mysterious donor Diane in fellow GOP state senator Diane in she sits right freaking behind you in the durn Senate chamber Diane Black.
Oh yea...that Diane Black.
Hmmm...brain fart or concern over ties to a right-winger from another part of the state?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Tennessee TV news anchors practicing modern day "Tasseography"?

Say what?
For the Google-impaired, "tasseography" is the practice of reading tea leaves in a tea cup to predict outcomes in life.
For the past two days I've watched and listened to a fair share of Tennessee news anchors repeat an assertion made by a flawed CNN poll about where things stand in the Tennessee U.S. Senate race.
In fact, if you take those very same news anchors, dim the TV studio lights overhead, fire up a candle in front of them, and ask them to wave their hands over a tea cup, we could be watching modern day "tasseography" in action via our TV sets.
I've yet to hear an on air media personality tell the whole story behind the flawed CNN poll. You could argue its because of newscast time limitations, but I suspect the blame lies more with a lack of understanding of how polling actually works.
Here's what's not being said - Opinion Research - the polling firm hired by CNN - did zero preliminary voter identification before it polled in our state. In fact, all they did was to simply set their system to randomly dial Tennessee phone numbers, asking the person who answered if they were registered to vote, and then if they said they were registered to vote, whether or not they planned to vote in this election. Based on affirmative answers - made up or real - to both questions Opinion Research determined that their system had in fact captured a likely voter resulting in what they claim is a true reading of where things stand in our U.S. Senate race.
Opinion Research's approach is akin to having one grade schooler ask another grade schooler if so-and-so really "likes me"...check yes or no. And not all that much more advanced than waiting for a floating clump of tea leaves in your tea cup to form the outline of a recognizable figure that symbolizes an outcome in life.
Legitimate pollsters for both parties work off lists of voters whose voting history has been analyzed to death to identify true "likely voters." The end result is that people who have a history of doing what they say they do get polled, not people who say they do but don't.
Why is this distinction important? If a pollster or news outlet declares "likely voters" believe this or that - they should be certain that "likely voters" actually believe this or that.
In the final days before the Election, voters are paying close attention to what the candidates are doing and saying, and more often than not, these same voters are relying on news outlets to help them understand what's going on.
Instead of practicing "tasseography," our local media owe it to their viewers and listeners to carefully dissect any information they are being fed before attempting to distill and broadcast it.
As an aside - not that it has any relevance to anything I just wrote - in my tea cup this morning tea leaves formed the figure of a shoe - the symbol of change coming for the better.

Election Day clarification from comedian Jon Stewart

"Election Day is always the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. This is because having it on the first Thursday after the second Saturday in November would be silly."