John Sides, GWU Associate Professor; co-Founder “The Monkey Cage Blog”; co-Author “The Gamble”

We all know the high points of elections – the zingers, the gotchas and the flat out mistakes. They’re often called “game changers,” and our recent campaigns have seen plenty of them. From Mitt Romney’s 47 percent speech to President Obama’s debate debacle to so-many others that are now long-forgotten, the 2012 Presidential campaign was defined by these near-daily seminal events.

Or was it? What if the headlines that drive our minute-by-minute news cycles – the narratives that many of us believe define our politics – don’t define much reality at all? What if the data reveal something different than we commonly believe?

Among the many trends of popular political coverage today, perhaps the most telling is growing mix of scientific data analysis and narrative storytelling. And more than ever, this mix is revealing new truths in our political landscape.

One leader in this trend: John Sides, Associate Professor of Political Science at George Washington University. He is founder of The Monkey Cage, the popular political blog now hosted by the Washington Post and is co-author of one of the highly-influential book, “The Gamble: Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election.”

Listen here at Political Wire.


Stuart Stevens, Political Strategist

It was just over a year ago that we held our national poll to decide who would lead our country for the next four years. We know the results: 51-47 percent popular vote – nearly 60-40 by electoral votes – we stayed with President Obama over Former MA Gov. Mitt Romney.

Any campaign, of course, starts with the candidate. But right behind the headliner – a vast network, a billion-dollar start-up that must quickly get into gear and then keep it going at top speed for some two years.

For Romney – as with any campaign – that network faced its share of ups and downs. What really happened behind the scenes? And looking forward, what lessons should Republicans apply to 2014 midterm elections and beyond?

One person with answers: Stuart Stevens, lead political strategist of the Romney campaign. Not only does Stevens remain a political strategist and media consultant with his firm – Strategic Partners & Media – he’s also an author, writer, extreme sports competitor and, soon, releasing a new book about his year of spending Saturdays watching Ole Miss football games with his 95-year-old father.

Listen here at Political Wire.

Retro Report’s Scott Michels: “Exxon Valdez: In the Wake of Disaster”

Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 6.11.06 PMIt was one of the worst oil spills in US history. The Exxon Valdez hit a reef off the Alaska coast in March 1989, spilling some 11 million gallons of crude oil. We remember the images: Birds, seals and other sea life, covered in black crude. Oil washing on beaches up and down the coast.

And many of us may think we remember the cause: The ship’s captain. He had been drinking, left the bridge and the ship hit that reef.

But, it turns out, fault for the Exxon Valdez spill went way beyond the captain. A key question: Where were the supposed emergency recovery plans – equipment, personnel – oil companies promised would be ready for disaster? What we subsequently learned about those emergency plans – or lack of them – raised questions then that remain relevant and concerning even today.

How concerning? Scott Michels is a producer at Retro Report, the non-profit news and documentary group that specializes in following important news events after the headlines faded. Their new video is “Exxon Valdez: In the Wake of Disaster.”

Doris Kearns Goodwin, Author: “The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism”

A massive and growing gap between rich and poor. A middle class squeeze. Technological shifts driving changes in how people live their lives everyday. Big corporations getting bigger, and the influence – and confluence – of money and politics growing stronger.

At the same time, a progressive US president takes office, willing to take on big business and big money – promising a new vision that will rewrite the way the government and the people interact.

If this sounds familiar, then wait, because you haven’t heard the whole story. For this story, the time was the beginning of the 20th Century. The President was Teddy Roosevelt. And the Industrial Revolution – with its monopolies and unsafe working conditions and vast collections of wealth – met a President willing to take it on.

How did he do it? How did he try to extend his success with a hand-picked successor William Howard Taft? And what, if any lessons, can we take today from events that occurred then?

Doris Kearns Goodwin almost literally needs no introduction. She is the Presidential Historian and Pulitzer Prize winning author. Her new book is: “The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.”

Listen here at Political Wire.

Retro Report’s Karen Sughrue: “Crime and Punishment: Three Strikes and You’re Out”

Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 9.54.50 PMIt used to be simply a baseball a baseball term – Three strikes and your out. But in the early 90s, the phrase took on new meaning.

A seeming rise in violent and random crime – mixed with growing hard drug use – created a potent cocktail. Following some particularly horrific murders in California, the voting public had enough. “Three Strikes and You’re Out” became law.

Over the decade, the them spread to other states – and earned the backing of then-President Bill Clinton.

But how has Three Strikes worked? Did it in fact reduce crime? Or was this an understandable, but off-target result of a public that was simply too disgusted to give any of these criminals another at bat?

Karen Sughrue is a producer at Retro Report, the non-profit news and documentary group that specializes in following important news events after the headlines faded. Their video “Crime and Punishment: Three Strikes and You’re Out.”

Mark Halperin, co-Author: “Double Down: Game Change 2012”

The U.S. presidential campaign. It’s the horse race. The often-ridiculous, never-ending, up and down, bad food and bad manners parade of candidates who travel the country for years trying to get that golden 50.1 percent ticket to the White House.

At the same, it’s our democratic process, the national stage where ideas get raised and debated, where our 240-year experiment with democracy plays out in slow motion.

The 2012 campaign – the Obama vs. Romney battle – was no different. Plenty of ideas; plenty of intrigue; plenty of silliness. And today, no one does a more exacting job of retelling what happened in the last campaign – with an eye on what might happen in the next one – than Mark Haperin, Editor-at-large and senior political analyst for TIME and co-author of “Double Down: Game Change 2012.”

Listen here at Political Wire.

Larry Sabato, Univ. of Virginia and Sabato’s Crystal Ball

For anyone trying to make sense now of the 2014 or even 2016 election cycles, good luck. For Republicans, battles around the party’s direction – battles that surely will play out even in upcoming primaries. For Democrats, real questions of how closely candidates will stand behind the President and the health care reform plan.

And then there’s the gridlock – from government shutdown to Obamacare rollout to nuclear option, many Americans wonder what it will take to make government work again.

As the midterm election season approaches, you almost need a crystal ball to get a clear view of what’s most likely to occur. Luckily, we have one.

Larry Sabato is University of Virginia Professor of Politics and director of their Center for Politics. He is also Editor in Chief of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the must-read, detailed analysis for elections across the country.

Listen here at Political Wire.

Retro Report’s JP Olsen: “Love Canal: A Legacy of Doubt”

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 5.20.53 PMFew words did more to raise fears of environmental disaster over a generation than “Love Canal.” The small neighborhood outside Niagara Falls became big news when toxic chemicals – buried three decades earlier – began oozing from the ground.

The script that played out – new at the time – today feels like a long-running play: Fears, confusion, denials, public demands – demands for information and safety that largely went unheard and unacted upon. Until, that is, compelled by one local woman who kept up the fight, the government not only helped the residents move out, but eventually set up the landmark Superfund legislation in 1980.

But instead of that being the end of the story, some 15 years later, spurred by refurbished homes at below market prices, people moved back to Love Canal. And now it turns out some of them might have gotten more than they bargained for.

Here to explain: JP Olsen, a producer at Retro Report, the non-profit news and documentary group that specializes in following important news events after the headlines faded. Their new video is “Love Canal: A Legacy of Doubt.”