NPR's Andrea Seabrook makes English teachers cry during a story on the rumor about GOP senator Judd Gregg being appointed Commerce Secretary:
You could almost feel the pipe dreams wafting through the Capitol today.
NPR's Andrea Seabrook makes English teachers cry during a story on the rumor about GOP senator Judd Gregg being appointed Commerce Secretary:
You could almost feel the pipe dreams wafting through the Capitol today.
From The Durham News, a free paper distributed by the News and Observer here:
Richard Skinner, a visiting assistant professor of political science at Bowdoin College, sent me his new Political Science Quarterly piece "George W. Bush and the Partisan Presidency" (sub. req.), which does a nice job of synthesizing the evidence that the relationship of presidents to the party system has changed in the contemporary era. The traditional literature on the presidency saw the "modern presidency" as standing somewhat apart from the party system, a description that applies reasonably well to the period of the 1950s-1970s. However, Skinner argues that the model has changed since Ronald Reagan. "Partisan presidents," including especially George W. Bush, are closely aligned with their party in Congress, tend to face a relatively unified opposition, and take a partisan approach to staffing the executive branch.
It's easy to see this shift as a turn for the worse; David Broder and other establishment pundits frequently bemoan the decline of Congressional and executive bipartisanship. But it's worth noting (again) that the politics of that era were less polarized as a result of the suppression of the issue of race, which kept southern conservatives in the Democratic party while splitting it along regional lines. Once the parties diverged on racial issues during the civil rights era, the political system returned to a more normal state of affairs.
Understanding the change in this way reveals a paradox -- the civil rights movement that made Barack Obama's ascension to the presidency possible also set in motion a change in party alignment that will make it impossible for him to fulfill his promise to bring the parties together (as in the House stimulus vote today).
Back in December, I predicted that Barack Obama's approval ratings could go as high as the low 70s by his inauguration. He didn't quite get there, but his approval is in the low- to mid-60s after a week in office.
With that said, however, Silver's argument that "it is hard to mount a credible argument that Reagan began his term with more political capital than Obama" is bizarre.
Unlike Obama, Reagan unseated a first-term incumbent. He also received more electoral votes and a greater share of the two-party presidential vote than Obama did. The fact that Obama "won a lot more popular votes than Reagan did" and "his margin of victory was larger than Reagan's in absolute (rather than percentage) terms" is an irrelevant consequence of population growth. (By Silver's logic, almost any contemporary election would be considered more decisive than, say, Andrew Jackson's 1832 landslide because of the larger absolute margin in the popular vote.)
Even more importantly, 1980 is one of the three previous contemporary elections that was widely perceived as a mandate election in Washington (along with 1964 and 1994) -- a perception that caused Democrats to change their voting behavior in Congress in the election's aftermath. There's no perception of such a mandate this time around and Republicans are responding accordingly by opposing Obama's stimulus plan. In short, Obama may have a honeymoon in presidential approval, but he doesn't have a mandate.
On Sunday, Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times described coverage of Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural, writing, "Then, as now, the Washington press corps seemed to revel in the search for meaning in every facial tic or expression of its subjects."
This week, his newspaper did the same sort of mind-reading in its coverage. A news story by David E. Sanger asserts that "what [Obama] did say must have come as a bit of a shock to Mr. Bush.... [H]e had rarely been forced to sit in silence listening to a speech about how America had gone off the rails on his watch."
The noted swami Maureen Dowd went even further, creating mock inner dialogue for Bush:
With W. looking on, and probably gradually realizing with irritation, as he did with Colbert, who Mr. Obama’s target was — (Is he talking about me? Is 44 saying I messed everything up?) — the newly minted president let him have it:
“As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals,” he said to wild applause (and to Bartlett’s), adding: “Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.” He said America is choosing hope over fear, unity over discord, setting aside “false promises” and “childish things.”
It's infuriating to me when political journalists lack the most basic understanding of quantitative data. For instance, I just heard a podcast of an NPR story about President Bush's political legacy in which Mara Liasson referred to "the president's decisive re-election victory in 2004." But as many people (including me) pointed out at the time, Bush's win was hardly "decisive." For instance, as Ron Brownstein noted, Bush's Electoral College margin was the second narrowest for an incumbent since the passage of the 12th Amendment -- only Woodrow Wilson got a lesser share of the available electoral votes.
Update 1/22 3:39 PM: In comments, David suggests that Bush's victory was decisive with respect to the popular vote, but that's not true either. As Brownstein points out, "Bush beat Kerry by just 2.9 percentage points: 51% to 48.1%. That's the smallest margin of victory for a reelected president since 1828."
Inaugural coverage officially jumped the shark yesterday with the publication of a McClatchy story investigating the "mystery" of why portable toilets at the event got less usage than expected:
Among other things, the inauguration of President Barack Obama was "the largest temporary toilet event in the history of the United States," an official of Don's Johns, the firm that provided most of them, said Wednesday.
Here's the mystery, however: Did it have to be? According to Conrad Harrell, vice president of Don's Johns in Chantilly, Va., most portables were about a quarter full Wednesday morning. Harrell had thought they'd be half full, as they are after most events.
Adam Carter, the operations manager for Alpine Portable Restrooms of Round Hill, Va., was puzzled, too. He said Wednesday that he'd "found whole rolls of unused toilet paper in some."
Here are the possibilities: The planners overestimated demand. The crowd was so dense that people couldn't get to them. The crowd chose to use Smithsonian museum restrooms, the better to escape temperatures in the 20s. Or the crowd thought ahead.
The evidence appears to support all those theories, and also to suggest a slight lack of enthusiasm.
Fascinating. I smell a Pulitzer in their future...
It's rare to see reporters cite specific examples when criticizing their fellow journalists. That's why Jim Rutenberg's target of criticism in today's New York Times Week in Review piece today was so amusing:
Then, as now, the Washington press corps seemed to revel in the search for meaning in every facial tic or expression of its subjects. A reporter for The Times noted that as Buchanan sat and waited for Lincoln to take his oath, he “sighed audibly, and frequently, but whether from reflection upon the failure of his administration, I can’t say.”
Back in April, I hailed the founding of The Analyst Institute as a sign of the experimental revolution that is taking place in campaign tactics. On Friday, Pollster.com's Mark Blumenthal reported on a press briefing by TAI's Todd Rogers describing the "record use" of experiments in 2008 by Democratic campaigns who were seking "to figure out exactly what impact their voter contact activities were having":
The Catalist data make a strong case that Obama gained most among the voters that the Obama campaign and its allies targeted. But a complicated question remains: Did the field and media campaign activity cause the shift, or were the campaigns effectively piling on among voters that were the most likely to shift anyway? That question, as the Catalist analysts concede, is more difficult to answer with observational data, although within a few months they will add to their database records of which individuals actually voted in 2008, allowing for more analysis of which efforts helped boost turnout and which did not.
Of course, as all pollsters know, proving that sort of causation with this sort of data analysis is very difficult if not impossible. What works better are "randomized controlled experiments" that compare how randomly sampled voters exposed to an experimental "treatment" (in this case various campaign activities) compare to randomly sampled voters in "control groups" with no such exposure. Nine months ago, Brenden Nyhan blogged abut the founding of a new Democratic organization called the Analyst Institute , directed by a Harvard PhD named Todd Rogers. This development, Nyhan wrote, signaled that political operatives were "finally catching on" to the experimental work by Yale's Alan Gerber and Donald Green on the effectiveness of campaign techniques.
Yesterday, Rogers confirmed Nyhan's intuition. He drew back the curtain and provided a few examples of what he described as a "record use" of controlled experiments by the Democrats in 2008, used as they "had never been used before . . . to figure out exactly what impact their voter contact activities were having."
One such experiment involved post election survey work conducted in 11 states by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) on both experimental and control groups of their members. In this case they held back a random sample "control group" of voter who received no contact from SEIU during the campaign. They then surveyed both the control group of non-contacts and a random sample of all the other voters who received campaign mail and other contact by SEIU.
What impact did the "hundreds of thousands" of targeted contacts SEIU make during the election have in "actually changing support for Obama?" According to Rogers, their post election survey found the "surprisingly positive effects" illustrated in the slide below. The campaign contacts "undermined McCain favorability, increased Obama favorability" and convinced voters that "Obama was better on jobs, the economy and health care," exactly the messages communicated by the SEIU campaign.
As someone who worked as a Democratic pollster for twenty years (until turning to blogging full time in 2006), I can confirm the unprecedented nature of the the experimental work that Rogers describes. Similar experiments had been conducted before (I worked on a few), but these previous efforts were typically sporadic and scattershot. What is different now is both the scale and sophistication of the work and also -- in one of the least understood aspects of campaign 2008 -- the increased cooperation now occurring among Democratic party organizations, campaigns, and consultants to systematically study which campaign techniques work, and which do not.
These tactics will not only revolutionize campaigns but also allow political scientists to answer all sorts of previously unanswerable questions about what works, what doesn't, and why.
Dignity alert -- the mayor of Pittsburgh held a press conference to pretend to change his name from Ravenstahl to Steelerstahl:
To understand the depth of feeling here for the Steelers, consider the news conference Wednesday morning at the Allegheny County Department of Court Records.
There, Pittsburgh’s mayor, Luke Ravenstahl, filled out a Verified Petition for a Name Change in a ceremonial effort to convert his surname to Steelerstahl. It would be that way, he said, until the Steelers and the Ravens played Sunday for the American Football Conference title.
“We got a call yesterday from Star 100.7’s morning show D. J., who suggested that I take Ravens out of my name and insert Steelers,” said Ravenstahl, who is a rabid Steelers fan. “Of course I thought it was a great idea. I guess it’s the least I can do for Steeler Nation to try to show them support they deserve.”
Yes, it is all in good fun, and Mayor Luke, as many refer to the boyish-looking mayor of 28, laughed as he filled out the forms.
I don't know anything about Ravenstahl or Pittsburgh politics, but when you're a 28-year-old elected official, making a joke of yourself is pretty much never a good idea.
What is going on with Greg Mankiw? Since leaving the White House, the distinguished Harvard economist and former Bush administration CEA chair, whose statements about the revenue effects of tax cuts were repeatedly contradicted by White House officials without public comment by Mankiw, keeps suggesting that other politicians and economists are deviating from economic truths for political reasons.
Back in 2007, Mankiw criticized the implausible supply-side claims of John McCain, but the Harvard Crimson pointed out that Mitt Romney, who Mankiw was advising, had made nearly identical statements without rebuke from Mankiw. Similarly, Mankiw did not call out President Bush or other administration officials when they repeatedly suggested that tax cuts increase government revenue.
Then on Sunday, Mankiw suggested that contradiction existed between the conclusions reached by Obama's incoming CEA chair, Christina Romer, and the stimulus approach Obama was promoting. Romer's Berkeley colleague, Brad DeLong, vehemently defended her, stating that Mankiw had mischaracterized Romer's beliefs and her research.
I share Mankiw's concern with truth and accuracy in public statements about economics, but shouldn't he start with his former employer before going after anyone else?
Supporters of Israel's anti-Hamas offensive are attempting to shut down debate by calling opponents of the campaign "anti-Israel" -- the same sort of tactic used here after 9/11 to try to shut down debate about the war on terror. It's disturbingly familiar stuff.
That said, however, there is an interesting reversal in assumptions between the debate over dissent and the debate over the war itself. As usual, dissenters against Israel and their supporters stress the purity of their motives while critics accuse dissent of having the effect of aiding the enemy. But in the case of the war, supporters of Israel focus on the purity of its motives in trying to avoid harm to civilians while critics like Ezra Klein are stressing the all-too-predictable toll of the war on civilians in Gaza.
A student at Yale named Elizabeth Campbell sent me a paper reporting the results of an innovative field experiment she conducted. Campbell's study evaluated the effects of displaying one's political preferences on the service in New Haven restaurants by randomly assigning customers to wear different campaign buttons. The resulting service was evaluated with respect to several metrics of timeliness as well as whether the server attempted to return a "lost" letter left on the table containing $3 in cash and the customer's contact information.
While Campbell's empirical results are somewhat ambiguous, it's striking that undergraduates are now carrying out field experiments -- the methodology only came into widespread use among political scientists in the last five to ten years (largely as a result of the efforts of Yale's Donald Green, who advised Campbell, and his colleague Alan Gerber). Hopefully this is an indication that the experimental revolution is moving forward...
Even by the dismal standards of the ideological "watchdogs" who manufacture accusations of media bias, this may be a new low. In a blog post yesterday that is linked on Drudge, Warner Todd Huston of NewsBusters denounces journalists for allowing Barack Obama to pick his questioners and offers the reflexive media bias critic's claim of a double standard ("Would [journalists] have allowed George W. Bush to pre-pick journalists like that?"):
According to Sun-Times columnist and long-time Chicago journalist, Carol Marin, journalists at Barack Obama news conferences have come to realize that Obama has pre-picked those journalists whom he will allow to ask him questions at the conference and many of them now "don't even bother raising" their hands to be called upon.
One wonders why journalists are allowing this corralling of the press[.] Would they have allowed George W. Bush to pre-pick journalists like that? Would they meekly sit by and allow themselves to be systematically ignored, their freedom to ask questions silenced by any Republican? Would journalists so eagerly vie with one another for the favor of Bush like they are Obama's?
Huston apparently didn't watch any of George W. Bush's press conferences over the last eight years because Bush repeatedly called on members of the press in exactly the same manner as Obama (and they barely protested then either). Here's what we wrote in All the President's Spin back in 2004:
[E]ven when Bush has held formal press conferences, he has tightly restricted the format and the order in which he calls on reporters. While hardly unprecedented -- presidents have traditionally called on a reporter from one of the wire services for the first question -- the Bush administration has gone further than any other, including apparently scripting the entire order for a prewar press conference on March 6, 2003.
Contrary to his expectations, then, the answers to Huston's questions in the second paragraph quoted above are yes, yes, and yes. Don't expect him to admit that these facts undermine the premise of his argument any time soon.
Like many observers, I'm baffled by Barack Obama's efforts to obtain 80 votes for his economic stimulus proposal in the Senate. Despite concerns from economists such as Paul Krugman that more than $1 trillion in stimulus is needed, Obama has proposed a $775 billion package under the assumption that the cost of the legislation will increase in Congress. He has also reportedly included a large proportion of tax cuts that Krugman and other economists think will be ineffective stimulus measures in order to try to attract additional GOP support.
While sympathetic observers like TNR's Noam Scheiber and TPM's Josh Marshall seem willing to assume that Obama is pursuing a brilliant behind-the-scenes strategy, I'm less sanguine. As I have repeatedly pointed out, the economy and other political fundamentals drive presidential elections. If the US gets caught in a Japan-style deflationary trap, it is extremely difficult to imagine Obama being re-elected. No amount of post-inauguration bipartisan goodwill will change that fact, as Matthew Yglesias correctly pointed out (see also Ezra Klein):
News reports over the weekend were talking about how Obama wants to see 80 votes in the Senate for his economic recovery package and I find that pretty puzzling... [I]t’s meaningless. If efforts at creating a strong recovery fail, the opposition will inevitable blame the governing party for the failure irrespective of who voted for what, whereas if efforts at creating a strong recovery succeed nobody will care by what margin it passed. You often find among political operators a tendency to overstate the extent to which little details matter politically when in fact it all tends to get swamped by the big picture.
This worldview is consistent with the approach to the economy taken by Bill Clinton, who passed a deficit reduction plan on a difficult party-line vote during his first year in office. It hurt his party in the 1994 midterm elections but the booming economy helped him defeat Bob Dole by a substantial margin in 1996. (Of course, whether Clinton's plan helped drive the expansion is a matter for debate, but the administration certainly seemed to believe that it did.) In this case, the downside risk of inaction is far greater than 1993 and the consensus that government action could have a stimulative effect on the economy is far stronger. For those reasons, a fundamentals-driven approach would suggest maximizing the size and effectiveness of a stimulus package that can get 60 votes to defeat a Senate filibuster. The compromises necessary to get 80 votes seem likely to represent an unacceptable risk to the economy.
By contrast, the evidence to date suggests that Obama wants to take a different approach, capitalizing on his emerging honeymoon to split the opposition party and pass his legislation on a relatively bipartisan basis. (The model here might be George W. Bush's 2001 tax cut.) According to this view, which was laid out by The Note last week, winning a big victory increases Obama's so-called political capital:
This is not about losing a vote. It’s about losing a weapon. The stimulus package is Obama’s first big legislative push, the one he absolutely cannot afford not to win, on his terms. Winning in style (think 75 or 80 Senate votes) enhances his power when the hard stuff begins.
In other words, the Obama people think the marginal benefit of 15 or 20 extra Senate votes for future legislative initiatives is worth the marginal cost of a smaller and less effective stimulus. I couldn't disagree more. As Jimmy Carter should have told Obama during the ex-presidents' lunch last week, a president presiding over a weak economy has a tough time getting anything through Congress and an even tougher time getting re-elected.
Update 1/13 11:40 AM: Scheiber offers some useful thoughts on the Plank:
I'm not sure I completely buy the analogy to, say, Jimmy Carter. I'd guess we're looking at a situation more analogous to Hoover/FDR, wherein the collapse under Hoover was so precipitous that it discredited the GOP for years and FDR was essentially given points for effort (and for not being a Republican) in 1936, even though we were still in a depression. I'd guess Obama could win re-election if the economy's still struggling as long as it looks like we're headed in the right direction and he seems basically competent and engaged. On the other hand, you could argue that our collective patience is much, much lower these days (for a variety of reasons--media, affluence, etc.), so I'm not sure I'd bank on this if I were Obama.
Second, I think Brendan may be slightly undervaluing those extra 15 Senate votes (I doubt it's going to be 20), given the ambition of Obama's agenda. Health care reform is going to be incredibly important--both substantively, politically, and to Obama's legacy--and rancor built up during the stimulus debate could easily poison that process. So I see the logic of wanting the cushion.
Three, I'm hardly convinced a $1.5 trillion stimulus package, or whatever, could pass the Senate by any margin, so you have to wonder if there's any point in trying. (Or, at least, it's hard to begrudge team Obama for wondering this...)
Having said all that, I still come down on Brendan's side, in that I think Obama should maximize the size of the stimulus rather than the number of votes he can pass it with (subject to his $800 billion minimum). The economic scenarios we're looking at range from bad to terrifying. Beyond the economic and social benefits of avoiding the terrifying scenarios, you'd have to think the political payoffs outweigh everything I've just mentioned.
My point is just that, for Obama, it's a much closer call than you might think.
Scheiber might be right that presidents are essentially graded on a curve for crises they inherit, particularly when the other party is tarnished by its role in creating the crisis, but the evidence is seemingly limited to the FDR case. As far as health care, I think there's certainly reason for Obama to be concerned about maintaining GOP goodwill, but the reality is that it will take a while to get any legislation through a Congress that already has so much on its agenda. By then, Obama's political standing with the electorate -- which is largely driven by the state of the economy -- may have a more significant effect on the GOP support he can attract than the bipartisanship of the Senate stimulus vote.
George W. Bush began his administration with a promise to “change the tone” in Washington only to end it with a lament over his inability to do so (unless, some argue, he made it worse). Bill Clinton began his second term by calling a halt to “acrimony and division” and then generated buckets of the stuff over the next four years (low-lighted by his own impeachment).
The first sentence suggests that it is a matter of dispute whether Bush, the most polarizing president in American history, increased partisanship and division in Washington. By contrast, Leibovich asserts that Clinton "generated buckets of [acrimony and division]", including his impeachment, without even mentioning the conservatives who tried to delegitimize and destroy his presidency from his first days in office. While Clinton surely deserves some blame, particularly for his affair with Monica Lewinsky, it's hard to see him as the prime mover behind the "acrimony and division" of his second term in office.
PS Contrary to Leibovich's implication, Bush's goal of "changing the tone" was hardly benign. As we argue in All the President's Spin, the phrase was used as a way to implicitly delegitimize dissent, particularly after Sept. 11.
Other uses of scare quotes so defy convention as to suggest a novel dialect of the English language. One editorial assailed legislation that would legalize "lower-cost 'generic' copies of biopharmaceuticals." Another complained, "we can expect a spate of 'analysis' stories purporting to tell us just how much America's top executives are making." Yet another--siding with Hank Greenberg against Eliot Spitzer--sputtered, "Mr. Spitzer's Starr 'report' claimed that Mr. Greenberg had benefitted from 'self-dealing.'"
Clearly, the Journal stands against, respectively, generic drugs, news analysis about CEO salaries, and accusations against Hank Greenberg. But the scare quotes seem to imply that the Journal further believes generic drugs are not actually "generic," news analysis is not actually "analysis," and Eliot Spitzer's report was not, in fact, a "report." (Would the Journal accept the term "dossier"? "Formal statement"? "Published finding of facts"?)
...The scare quote is the perfect device for making an insinuation without proving it, or even necessarily making clear what you're insinuating. A mundane fact--say, Paul Gigot taking a colleague to dinner--translated into Journal editorial-ese would be rendered, "Wall Street Journal editorial page 'editor' Paul Gigot recently patronized a 'legitimate business establishment' with his 'associate.'"
PS If you enjoy this, you will love The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks.
In a post that rightly excoriates apparent Surgeon General nominee Sanjay Gupta for his feckless fact-checking of Michael Moore's Sicko, Ezra Klein acts as if journalists are being unreasonable in scrutinizing Moore's work closely:
Begin with this: Michael Moore makes journalists lose their mind. They have an almost compulsive need to prove him wrong.
Similarly, Paul Krugman attributes Gupta's report to "Village behavior":
What bothered me about the incident was that it was what Digby would call Village behavior: Moore is an outsider, he’s uncouth, so he gets smeared as unreliable even though he actually got it right.
Reading Klein and Krugman, one would think that journalists routinely scrutinize Moore's work. However, as Ben Fritz and I wrote last year in a column about the debate over Sicko, the reality is that Moore has always been an "uncouth" "outsider" yet his work drew very little mainstream scrutiny for years. Moreover, Fritz, our Spinsanity colleague Bryan Keefer, and I documented an extensive range of inaccuracies, errors, and distortions in Moore's previous work, including his films "Bowling for Columbine" and "Fahrenheit 9/11" and his books "Stupid White Men" and "Dude, Where's My Country?". As Fritz and I argued, "[w]hile "Sicko" may not have any major factual errors, we shouldn't let Moore (or anyone else) whitewash his many problems with the truth."
I've been telling people for years that you can't trust the Center for American Progress. The latest evidence is a post on their Think Progress blog with the misleading headline "White House Asked Howard To Stay In Blair House To Give ‘Some Plausible Reason’ For Refusing Obama," which has been widely covered in the blogosphere today.
The problem is that the headline is based on speculation which is blown up and put in quotes as if it were known to be true. The Think Progress post is based on the following statement by Bloomberg's Margaret Carlson on MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann":
I reported…on December 11 and 12 that there were no foreign dignitaries booked into Blair House during that period of time... I have the feeling they asked him [Howard] to come and stay so that there might be some plausible reason for not letting the Obamas stay there.
Note the key phrase "I have the feeling," which is Washington-speak for "I am making something up that will help create a dramatic character-based narrative." Neither CAP nor Carlson knows what actually happened.
Unfortunately, they have spread the narrative around the blogosphere. For instance, the normally careful Matthew Yglesias, who works for CAP, paraphrases the post by writing "the Bush administration asked former Australian Prime Minister John Howard to stay at the place in order to give them a pretext to turn the Obamas down." (TNR's Jonathan Chait is more cautious, writing that he would "like to hear the White House's explanation before passing judgment.")
Much as it may endear him to hardcore conservatives, I can't imagine Mark Sanford's stonewalling on unemployment funds is going to endear him to the national electorate in 2012. Can anyone imagine him being anything other than a Goldwateresque sacrificial lamb?
PS The Times report also includes this detail on a very classy 2004 Sanford publicity stunt -- can you say dignity problem?
Mr. Sanford once carried two piglets onto the floor of the House chamber to symbolize his opposition to what he considered wasteful spending. One of the piglets promptly defecated; lawmakers were not amused.
Here's video of the stunt:
And here are some disturbing details on how things went wrong:
South Carolina's Statehouse turned into a hoghouse Thursday when Republican Gov. Mark Sanford carried two oinking piglets under his arms to protest pork in the state's $5.5 billion spending plan.
Sanford's lunchtime arrival with the pigs came a day after the GOP-controlled House voted in short order to override all but one of his 106 budget vetoes.
"There was a lot of pork-eating yesterday," said Sanford, juggling the tiny, squirming pigs. "Ultimately what was said yesterday was: 'We're not going to cut spending by one dollar."'
The governor stood at the House chamber doors with pig feces smeared on his shoes and coat and laughed about it...
The stench of manure permeated the air as Sanford carried the pigs up the steps to the Statehouse's second-floor lobby.
Who's going to take the delivery?" Sanford asked lawmakers as they crowded around him for a peek at the piglets he picked up from a Lexington County farm and nicknamed "Pork" and "Barrel."
In the Senate, which later debated the governor's vetoes Thursday, Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, called the Sanford's stunt a crime.
Hutto said the governor should be charged with animal cruelty and defacing the Statehouse with pig poop. Sanford's spokesman Will Folks cleaned up the mess.
Sen. Jake Knotts, R-West Columbia, defended the governor.
"If you pick up a pig and squeeze it, something is going to come out," Knotts said. "I'm sure the governor didn't know that."
I've repeatedly cast doubt on the idea that Barack Obama will be perceived as having a mandate when he takes office. Political science research has shown that members of Congress change their voting patterns after a perceived mandate election but that such a response only takes place when both sides agree that a mandate exists. So far, however, most Republicans and even some prominent Democrats have denied or downplayed the existence of a mandate.
Given that context, it was striking to see former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson endorsing a "Democratic mandate" in his Washington Post column a few days ago:
During a long political season, Obama was both charming and charmed -- favored by the gods of economic catastrophe, who turned a tight election into a Democratic mandate.
Will any other Republicans join him in doing so?
I am an assistant professor in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College. I received my Ph.D. from the Department of Political Science at Duke University in 2009 and served as a RWJ Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan from 2009-2011. I also tweet at @BrendanNyhan and serve as a media critic for Columbia Journalism Review. Previously, I co-edited Spinsanity, a non-partisan watchdog of political spin, and co-authored All the President's Spin. For more, see my bio or academic website.