Evangelical Epicenters

December 5, 2011
Since this summer, it has become clear that there are really two serious candidates in the race for the Republican nomination: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and whoever is up in the polls at any particular moment. Texas Gov. Rick Perry had his moment at the top, then came businessman Herman Cain and now former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The question is what will happen to that someone-versus-Romney dynamic once the voting begins. The Iowa Caucuses are now a month away and January will be critical for the field. The contests that month – Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida – won’t give us a nominee, but we’ll likely know whether we are in for a long, drawn-out fight or a quick knock out. Looking at the cultural and political lay of the land in the first four contests through Patchwork Nation, our geo-demographic breakdown of America’s counties, don’t expect a sudden victory. The states involved not only represent...
November 27, 2011
With all the uncertainties around the 2012 presidential race there seems to be one sure thing: The fight for the White House will be about the economy. After four years of recession, a stalled recovery and growing tensions, it is issue No. 1 with the voters – and probably issues Nos. 2 and 3 as well. Generally, when elections are about the economy, the system for determining a winner is not complicated. When times are bad, the sitting president and party take a hit. Voters tend to see troubles occurring on their watch as their responsibility and punish them at the ballot box. But as primary season nears, the game looks a bit different for 2012. Not even President Barack Obama, would argue that times are good – sluggish economic growth, an unemployment rate of 9% and the still-troubled housing market dominate the news. And yet, despite all the problems, Mr. Obama sits in a fairly comfortable position. In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, 45% of...
November 16, 2011
By Chris Meadows and Heather Ginsberg In recent weeks, much national attention has been on the 2012 election and the quickly approaching Republican primary.  Several debates have been televised and new scandals are coming out about some of the candidates.  However, this is not necessarily the focus of all Americans.  Cleveland, Tennessee, an Evangelical Epicenter in Patchwork Nation, is one of these places.  Cleveland, a town that has been going through a rough period in this recession, has recently been focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel. As we have all been living through this recession for the last several years, we know that much of this situation stemmed from the pop of the housing bubble.  When families could no longer pay their mortgage payments each month, banks began foreclosing on the homes they now owned.  Many people across the country have had to put their homes up for sale because they cannot afford the payments.  As...
November 4, 2011
The 2012 primary contests have not yet begun, but one trend has emerged in the early stages of the campaign. In national polls, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney sits firmly in the 25 percent support range. Why? Romney's struggles are not in character with the traditional path for Republican candidates. Usually, the candidate who has run before and not run afoul with the party is treated as the heir apparent. The big campaign bank account that comes with that position -- something Romney also has -- doesn't hurt either. So why is Romney having a hard time locking down front-runner status? Some argue it is his Mormon faith, an issue Patchwork Nation has examined. Some point to the role he played in the Massachusetts health care plan. But when Patchwork Nation looks back to the last presidential campaign, we're not sure Romney's struggles within the GOP base are such a surprise. It was evident fairly early in 2008 that Romney had problems with key parts of...
October 31, 2011
AS THE 2012 election approaches, one question is on every candidate’s mind: What exactly are the American people thinking? The question has never seemed more pertinent. The recession has come to look more like a long-term reshuffling, the Tea Party is up in arms about spending, and economic inequality is growing. But the question has also never been so flawed. Because in 2012 the idea of following or understanding “the American people’’ has never been such an anachronism. The electorate is not a single thing, or something that can be sorted neatly with a couple of color codes — red on this side, blue on that side. It is an immensely complicated tapestry of thousands of communities experiencing different realities. And anyone — Democrat or Republican — who thinks they know where “it’’ is moving in 2012 is fooling themself. Since 2008 I’ve been traveling the country as director of Patchwork Nation, a journalism...
October 26, 2011
As the early stages of the 2012 campaign progress, a new question has come into play: Are the rich really different? Or, more specifically, should they be treated differently in the U.S. tax code? Flat-tax plans -- or flatter-tax plans -- are popular among those in the 2012 Republican presidential field. Texas Gov. Rick Perry unveiled his proposal to reform the tax code Tuesday adding the third major flat-tax proposal to come from GOP presidential hopefuls. Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan and Newt Gingrich's proposal were already circulating. The idea behind a flat tax is simple. The tax code has gotten so complicated that it needs to be cut back down to size and a "flat tax" -- where there is one simple rate that everyone pays on income - is a quick and easy way to do that job. But behind all that ease is one big broad question: How exactly do Americans feel about everyone paying the same percentage of their income in taxes? After all, the current system may be...
October 20, 2011
The race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination has reached something of a stalemate. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the presumptive front-runner because he has money and a previous presidential run in 2008, but his percentage of support in surveys hovers somewhere in the 20s as other candidates yo-yo up and down. Last month, it was Texas Gov. Rick Perry holding the edge in the polls before falling back down. This month, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain is out front – at least for now. What’s driving the uncertainty in the GOP field? It’s all about the Republican base and geography, and a look at third-quarter donations to the candidates offers some insight. Poll numbers are nice, but donations show a heavier level of voter commitment. Patchwork Nation looks at where the GOP field's third quarter donation came from in this week's Politics Counts column at WSJ.com.
October 18, 2011
Ad Age magazine is working with Patchwork Nation on its new American Consumer Project. By combining Patchwork Nation's 12 county types with the esri's Tapestry demographic segmentation, Ad Age is looking at how consumers in different parts of the country are facing the country's troubled ecnomic times. The initial story from Ad Age is about the struggling, shrinking American Middle Class. We'll be posting more links to the Ad Age series as it progresses.
October 13, 2011
In December of 2007, presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave what many called “the Mormon speech.” The 20-minute address by the former Massachusetts governor aimed at answering questions about his faith once and for all, allowing the campaign to move on to other topics. And, to some extant, it succeeded in tamping down the issue. But it's a new election cycle and the "Mormon question" is back. Patchwork Nation looks at how our 12 different county types feel about supporting a candidate who is a Mormon in this week's Politics Counts column over at the Wall Street Journal's Web site. Politics Counts is a new weekly column from Patchwork Nation Director Dante Chinni at WSJ.com.  
October 12, 2011
By Chris Meadows and Heather Ginsberg The past two weeks of media coverage coming out of Cleveland, Tennessee followed in line with the town’s reputation as an “Evangelical Epicenter” as headlines were dominated by stories of Church activities and other community events.  However, as the county and state approach election season, political charged stories began to make their way into the radar of the local media as local parties each hosted key dinners. Friday night US Sen. Bob Corker served as the guest speaker for the Bradley County Republican Party’s annual Reagan Day Dinner.  Sen. Corker was not short with words when it came to warning those in attendance how misguided President Obama has been throughout his tenure in office.  “I know him. I do not have an adversarial position with him. He’s been kind to me. We met in Memphis recently when we had floods down there and he couldn’t be more of a gentleman; but I have...