Tractor Country

December 18, 2012
The election is behind them and the holidays are here, but Americans are in a dour mood about the future, particularly where the economy is concerned. More than half of them, 53%, think the country is headed in the “wrong direction” and more than a quarter, 28%, say they expect the economy will be worse next year than it is now, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll. Those numbers won’t likely bring smiles to the White House, but what they actually mean and represent requires a little digging. Four years of economic ups and (mostly) downs seem to have taken a toll on the traditionally sunny American perspective. And, as one might expect, there is subdued enthusiasm for a year ahead that essentially returns an unpopular status quo to Washington to govern. But there are also deep partisan divides in evidence in this poll. And there is at least some evidence that those attitudes are having an exaggerated effect on how those people perceive the...
November 29, 2012
As the votes from the 2012 election have trickled in, the size of President Obama’s victory has grown – it’s now more than 4 million votes. That count should signify two things to Republicans who wanted to portray President Obama’s win as a squeaker. One, while this margin is no mandate, it is bigger than either of George W. Bush’s presidential wins in 2000 (in which he actually lost the popular vote) or 2004. Two, despite some GOP critiques that Mr. Obama won by capturing small slices of the electorate, the net result was a pretty broad win. But looked at through Patchwork Nation, there is one larger overriding concern for the Republicans in the 2012 election results: despite all the talk of minority voters and demographic segments, there are signs they are losing the political middle. That shift reveals itself when you look at the 2012 vote counts and margins compared to previous elections, particularly 2004, in the wealthy Monied Burbs, the...
November 19, 2012
Hyperbole is a staple of Washington political discourse – particularly on the negative side. Speeches are full of references to  “disasters” and “catastrophes” that are lurking just around the corner. But sequestration, the much-discussed “fiscal cliff,” is the rare case where the hazards on the horizon look very real and very far-reaching. The impact of the cuts that would come if the government cannot reach a compromise on a debt reduction plan by January – more than 8% in discretionary funding by estimates – would stretch far beyond the Beltway. When voters think of government austerity, the talk often centers on the halls of congress or the federal agencies that line the Mall in Washington, but that misses the point. The money that comes out of the capital finds its way into cities and towns across the country — and cutting it sharply would affect not only the national macroeconomy, but thousands of smaller...
October 15, 2012
Every few years America’s major political parties get very interested in getting people registered to vote – or maybe more accurately, in getting the “right” people registered to vote. It’s a lot easier to come up with a winning hand on Election Day when the deck is stacked in your favor. So, for months now, supporters of President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney have been knocking on doors and standing corners trying to register like-minded people. In a close election every vote may count, particularly in the swing states. To get an idea of who’s ahead in the registration game, Politics Counts looked at the tallies in key states where voters register as Democrats or Republicans – Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. We then compared those figures to previous voter registration counts in 2008 and 2004. Who’s winning? That depends on the state you look at and the...
October 10, 2012
Since the beginning of the Great Recession, unemployment has driven much of the national conversation, and with good reason. Even as the stock market has recovered, the struggles of ordinary Americans in the job market continues, with the latest unemployment report showing the jobless rate finally dipping below 8 percent for the first time since early 2009. But what does the unemployment conversation look like? While the national media and campaign rhetoric often boil the issue down to numbers or anecdotes, it is a much broader topic that carries with it a host of different concerns and fears in people — losing one's pension, losing one's home, losing one's future. To get an understanding of just how different those conversations are, the Jefferson Institute analyzed 20 months' worth of blogs, news stories and story comments in communities around the country, focusing on three crucial presidential swing states: Florida, Ohio and Virginia. We combed...
September 27, 2012
In a campaign full of notable unfortunate comments – from “you didn’t build that” to “the 47 percent” – Tuesday’s comments by a Romney campaign staffer that “we don't have to go in and package a message to different groups” seems like small potatoes. The comments from political director Rich Beeson sound high-minded. No niche targeting for them. They have one message about the economy for everyone and they don’t need the duplicitous practice of telling different groups what they want to hear. At least that’s one view. Patchwork Nation would argue it’s not the right one. We come today to speak in defense of niche messaging. Wrapped in Beeson’s statements are a few misunderstandings about American elections. Regardless of what he said, niche marketing is part of all modern campaigns. However,  in a broader sense, there is something of a “one message for all” approach in the...
September 21, 2012
Going into this campaign Mitt Romney’s job was never going to be simple. It’s not easy to unseat an incumbent president – even one who has presided over a struggling economy. Voters typically have a long checklist of factors in mind when they consider whether a candidate is White House material. Throughout his presidential run, however, the GOP nominee has had one nagging problem: the somewhat squishy concept of “likeability.” Since January the number of people in the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll who said they have “positive” feelings toward Mr. Romney has been stuck between 31% and 38%. His “negative” numbers have been higher in every poll. That trend continued in the poll released this week, across almost all geographic regions, age groups and income levels. Currently 38% say they have positive feelings about Mr. Romney while 43% say they have negative feelings. For President Obama, 48% have positive feelings, while 42%...
September 18, 2012
Of all the news generated in Mitt Romney’s thought-to-be private comments from a fundraiser that surfaced Monday – and there was plenty of it – the most eye-catching element, from the perspective of Patchwork Nation, was how misguided the premise behind the comments was. In his comments Mr. Romney not only ignored some basic facts about the way people in different kinds of places actually vote, he also seemed to fundamentally misunderstand a crucial piece of his base, according to polls: social conservatives. Many different datasets were used to identify and differentiate Patchwork Nation’s 12 types of counties – everything from occupation to ethnicity to religious affiliation to, yes, income – and the numbers here are striking. When in the video Mr. Romney talks about 47 percent of the population that does not pay taxes, he is presumably speaking of less-wealthy households. And if you use income as your main divider of our 12 types, the...
August 22, 2012
     Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney has chosen his Vice Presidential running mate and living at the intersection of three states on the high plains as I do-- Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota--many voters are disappointed that he did not select former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty or South Dakota Sen. John Thune.  As we become more familiar with Cong. Ryan, the heavily debated question is whether Ryan will make help or hurt Romney’s chances.   Does it really matter who is the Vice Presidential candidate in 2012?   Historians have maintained that the Vice Presidency has been largely irrelevant.  But over time, this office has gradually changed and a more activist role has become formalized, with broader responsibilities.  The most recent example of this has been the role played by V.P. Dick Cheney under Pres. G. W. Bush. While he was often controversial, Cheney’s extensive resume included working in...
August 16, 2012
Billings, Mont. is a modern oil boom town, a 21st Century version of the Texas towns that boomed and went bust in the 1970s and 80s. Oil refineries shape the downtown skyline, a haze from the processing of Bakken oil field crude often fills the air, the motels are filled with people looking for lucrative jobs in the growing number of oil fields in the state and the pastel palm trees of the Maui Nights Casino and other bars are ready for those who have landed a job. This city may also hold the keys to which political party controls the U.S. Senate after November. Montana’s largest city, with more than 100,000, has become the major urban area serving, and prospering from, the sprawling oil development in Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota. And business is booming. Just in first half of 2012, the state of Montana has issued 225 permits to drill for oil in the huge shale development, almost as many as they did for all of 2011 according to the Associated Press. But while...