Chris Riback caught up with Jim Messina, President Obama’s campaign manager in 2012, in an airport lounge. The audio quality is sometimes spotty but Messina’s insights into the 2016 campaign are great.
Few follow the ins and outs of political campaigns more closely than Charlie Cook and his team of reporters and editors. And with less than three weeks to go before the new most important election of our lifetimes, they’re tracking all the key races and trends – in particular, who will take control of the U.S. Senate.
It remains impossible to talk about the 2014 Midterms without turning immediately to the big question – the only question –which party will take Senate Control? And who are we to fight that power?
So while we wait 6 weeks for actual results, we turn instead to predictive analysis –deep dives into dozens of race-by-race polls that seem to be released hourly. What do they show? How many seats are truly still in play? Where should we focus attention, and within that focus, what should we be looking for. And most simply, can’t anyone just tell us who’s going to win?
Sam Wang is an Associate professor of neuroscience and molecular biology at Princeton University. He is also founder of the Princeton Election Consortium, where he publishes one of the most-watched polling models around. Sam’s model has come under some scrutiny this election season, as it’s been one of the few models consistently predicting that the Democrats will retain the Senate. What does Wang know that the rest of us don’t?
As we make our way towards the first Tuesday in November, a highly-watched, always-debated component of American politics is ready to take it’s place center stage: Statistical models.
These models, which connect and weight a range of ever-changing data, have replaced the simple “who will win by how many points” projections. And with Senate control both still undetermined and central to our political future, understanding these models is key.
And, of course, none of these models is better known or more anticipated than Nate Silver’s.
Nate Silver almost single-handedly brought the art and science of political statistical modeling in our cultural mainstream. He is founder and editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight.
In little more than a week, we’ll mark 40 years since one of the darkest days in American politics, government and culture – 40 years since President Richard Nixon resigned our nation’s highest office.
Much has been written and reviewed about Watergate. So much that there would seem little room for anything new.
But there is.
John Dean played a key role in the Watergate tale. He served as counsel to the President during that time, and while he did not know of the break-in when it occurred nor of White House involvement for many months later, he found himself – perhaps unwittingly – becoming a central player in what he calls The Nixon Defense.
In the last years, Dean listened to and transcribed the primary Watergate source material: Nixon’s own White House recordings. Incredibly, many of these conversations have never been transcribed, cataloged and examined. That’s what Dean has done, and in the process – he says – connected the dots between what we believe about Watergate and what actually occurred. He has documented it all in a new book: “The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It.”
We might have debated who invented the Internet, but there’s no debate over which candidate brought the Internet into political campaigns. In 2003 and 2004, Democrat Presidential candidate Howard Dean made fundraising go digital.
The brains – if not the functionality, design, and execution – behind that operation belonged to Nicco Mele, a 20-something year old webmaster who had worked for various advocacy groups.
Since that online revolution, Mele has launched his own firm – EchoDitto – which helps organizations gain greater impact through technology. He also is a lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and author of “The End of Big: How The Internet Makes David The New Goliath,” where he warns against – of all things – the disruptive and perhaps dangerous power of the Internet. Among the areas he worries about: Digital’s potential destruction through polarization of politics and government.
Remember the medfly? All bugs are pesky, of course, but the Mediterrean Fruit Fly might have been the peskiest. And a little bit scary. The threat was imminent: A tiny creature was going to ruin California’s agricultural industry.
But the battle of the Medfly soon became a battle over pesticides – mainly, one called Malathion – and the widespread spraying of California’s towns and cities – even Los Angeles.
What happened to the medfly? More importantly perhaps, with widespread spraying of pesticides to fight the pest, why did our public officials, news media and even the public get so concerned about this crisis? Which side of the science was right?
Few stories were more disturbing. Systematic child molestation in our nation’s preschools.
It started, of course, with the McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, CA in the early 80s. The allegations were offensive and shocking. Child abuse. Even Satanism. And as the allegations grew, more stories from more preschools across the nation. We had, it seemed, an epidemic.
But after years of trials and front page news, nothing. No convictions – lives ruined – both for the people who ran the McMartin preschool and for many of the children who were allegedly abused.
What have we learned from the McMartin Preschool case? Could therapists, investigators, journalists – even we the pubic – get something so wrong again?
Often the only positive to come out of a disaster is the promise that it won’t happen again.
That certainly was the case in 2007, when the I-35w bridge in Minneapolis collapsed with hundreds of cars on it, most falling into the Mississippi River 10 stories below.
Thirteen died; 145 were injured. Following the horrific accident and aftermath, promises – from the states, from the federal government – that a review of American bridges would occur. Our infrastructure, long ignored, surely now would get the attention it needed and we deserved.
But nearly seven years later, what has occurred? Were promises kept? Are our bridges safe?
Drew Magratten is a producer at Retro Report, the non-profit news and documentary group that follows important events after the headlines fade. Their new video is “When a Bridge Falls.”
The next phase of Chris Christie’s bridge scandal has arrived, and it won’t end quickly. It’s the legal battle – subpoenas, documents, testimony and more. To complicate things, it’ll occur across several fronts: legislative and judicial; state and federal; Lane closures on the GWB and alleged suggestions of trading Hurricane Sandy funds for Hoboken development projects.
With so many competing players, goals and possible outcomes, what will the next legal and political steps look like? And how long might they last?
Few people analyze and explain the intersection of law and politics more clearly than Jeffrey Toobin, staff writer at the New Yorker and senior legal analyst at CNN.
The challenges for Republicans keep piling up. First it was the Great Divide, the battle between the Tea Party wing and so-called Establishment. Now, NJ Gov. Chris Christie – Fort Lee and Bridgegate, along with Hoboken and Hurricane Sandy Funds. And on Friday, the release of a new – more human – documentary on Mitt Romney – a film that is already raising questions of what type of Presidential candidate Republicans should nominate and how they should run their campaigns.
With 2014 Midterms and a possible Senate takeover on the horizon – and the 2016 Presidential campaign on the mind – can Republicans get their act together? And if so, what’s their best path forward?
To help provide answers, renowned Republican media strategist Mike Murphy. He has handled media and strategy for more than 26 successful Gubernatorial and Senatorial campaigns; he helped run John McCain’s Presidential race in 2000; and today, he’s a partner at Revolution Agency in Washington D.C. and when you’re not following him on Twitter, you can read him in Time and see him on Meet the Press.
As both parties kick off the 2014 political season – and Midterm primaries and Elections creep closer on the calendar – both parties face questions. For Democrats: How to defend and, if they can, advance Obamacare, minimum wage and other initiatives. For Republicans, the big question also seems to be a basic one: Can’t they all just get along?
The forced government shutdown, various election battles, competing strategies around health care and more have left party members and party watchers wondering what comes next. Many ask how the gap created between the Tea Party wing and the so-called Established branch will affect Republicans’ ability to drive policy and win campaigns.
One person who spends time considering the policy and the politics: David Frum, contributing editor at The Daily Beast, CNN contributor, former special assistant and speechwriter for President George W. Bush, and author of several books, including most-recently “Why Romney Lost (And What The GOP Can Do About It).”
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.
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.
It 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.
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?
Given all the arguing that dominates television, radio and the web -- the he said/she said, the all-or-nothing verbal warfare, the relentless search for scandal or quick quip -- the most simple element that drives important, human communication is often missing: Smart conversation.
Yes, there is a space that exists between the screaming -- between the one-sided agendas, the caustic commentary and irrational judgement that defines audiences down and drives much of today's content.
There is space between the noise. That's where "Conversations with Thinkers" sits.
At its best, smart conversation informs, excites and prods. It reveals, intrigues and explains. Always, it must entertain.
Here you'll find conversation on politics, business, foreign affairs, culture, economics, sports, public policy and more.
"Conversations with Thinkers" is for someone who wants to explore ideas in a rational way. Someone who wants to connect.