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9/30: Polls, Polls Everywhere

By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff

Don’t be thrown by a recent flurry of New York State polls on the governor’s contest between “The Son also Rises” Andrew Cuomo and “I’ll clean up Albany with a baseball bat” Carl Paladino.  Is Cuomo ahead by 6 points (Quinnipiac) or 33 points (Siena), or somewhere in between, 19 points (Marist)?  Much of the difference can be explained in the varied methodologies of the polling organizations.   Were the numbers based upon registered or likely voters?  Was former Conservative Party candidate Rick Lazio included in the tossup question?

miringoff-caricature-430Public opinion polling has a statistical basis but a great deal of the sausage making has to do with the judgments and interpretations of the various pollsters.  How are respondents selected? Are cell phones being used as well as landlines? What effort is being made to reach hard to reach voters? What is the question wording and order?  Is the quality of the interviewing up to industry standards? How is the data balanced to ensure it reflects the electorate?   AND, so much more…

Clearly, not all polls are created equally.  Given the range of possibilities each poll organization can utilize, it may be more surprising that poll results are often similar and not all over the map as recently occurred in the New York governor’s race.

Now, this electorate is a tougher read than in recent election cycles, especially when it comes to who is likely to turn out.  It is a volatile time, and the polls will need to pick up on that uncertainty.  Having said that, I suspect the next round of Cuomo-Paladino polls to be singing a similar tune.  It is also unlikely the media will serve up a similar amount of coverage to the “polls are similar” story as the recent avalanche of words devoted to the “why polls are so different.”

9/30: Back to the Statistical Drawing Board

By Barbara Carvalho

I couldn’t help but notice that, according to the NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research), the economic recession is over.  This caught me off guard because I was under the impression that the economy was still teetering, mired in a slump comparable to the Chicago Cubs qualifying for post-season play.

carvalho-caricature-430So, I took a closer look and was even more astonished that NBER’s September 20th release was based on data dating back to June 2009.  Clearly, the problems that Americans are experiencing as they try to make ends meet are far more immediate than this report.   And, to add to my cognitive dissonance, according to the latest McClatchy-Marist national survey, 80% of the nation thinks the U.S. economy is currently in an economic recession.   Go figure!

Now, President Obama, donning his “politician-in-chief” hat, quickly pointed out how the economists are off-base matched up against people struggling to pay their daily bills.   But, the economists have their tried and failed models which calibrate the relative health of the economy even if they don’t jive with public realities.  The ol’ “perfessor” Casey Stengel might be instructive to these financial forecasters.  “Can’t anybody here play this game?” Step up to the plate and revise your statistical models.  If not, run the risk of being cast aside in the public dialogue.

9/28: The New York Ballot in 2010

By John Sparks
 
 

Despite calls to replace all incumbents regardless of whether they are Democrats or Republicans, Political Analyst Jay Dedapper thinks most of New York’s incumbents will hold onto their seats. And, he tells the Marist Poll’s John Sparks that’s because he believes voter turnout will be low in the upcoming midterm elections.

Jay DeDapper

Jay DeDapper

John Sparks
Jay, the last time we spoke, you told me New Yorkers were not all that excited about races coming up on the November ballot.  Since then, however, the Tea Party scored a couple more primary victories, and a New York Times‘ poll recently reported that voters across the country, they said they’re disenchanted with all incumbents regardless of whether they’re Democrats or Republicans.  Do you still feel that New York voters are rather lukewarm about these upcoming races?

Jay DeDapper
Yeah, I do.  I think there’s the anger and the frustration that voters say they feel in polls actually hasn’t really showed up at the polls. It’s showed up in terms of the number of people who do come to the polls and vote, but take a look at that race in Delaware, for instance, with Christine O’Donnell, and here’s someone who got a big victory over a moderate Republican that was supported by the party structure.  But, look at the number of people who turned out to vote. It was fewer than 25% of — or less than 25% of the Republican electorate.  So, yeah, people are frustrated and upset and angry. So far, there hasn’t been a lot of evidence that mass numbers of people are so upset and angry that they’re actually going to bother to go to the polls and do anything about it, at least not in primaries.  I think the situation in New York is exacerbated by the fact that there’s such a large Democratic registration advantage, and at least right now the premier race, the marquee race, which is for governor, is headlined by a guy, Andrew Cuomo, who does not really  —  there’s not a lot of animosity towards him among independents.  Republicans may not like him because his Cuomo, but independents don’t really seem to dislike Andrew Cuomo all that much, and they are the only ones who could swing this race into something that would be considered competitive, I think.

John Sparks
So, Andrew Cuomo in the governor’s race, Paladino really doesn’t have a shot since he knocked off Lazio?

Jay DeDapper
Well, again, you have to look at the registration advantage the Democrats have in the state, and for a Republican to win in New York, any statewide office, in the last ten years or so, it hasn’t happened, and it hasn’t happened because that registration advantage is so large.  When it’s happened in the past, even when the Democrats have held a big registration advantage, it happened at the end of Cuomo, for instance, the last Cuomo when he was running for a fourth term, and George Pataki ran as kind of an outsider and an independent.  In this case, Andrew Cuomo, the son of Mario Cuomo, is not running for a fourth term.  He’s running as an outsider.  He’s running as the guy who could come in and fix Albany. There is no incumbent that’s running, so I don’t think that the Republicans have the advantage that they have when they’re running against incumbent Democrats who have frankly been in office too long.  That’s not the case in this case, and it’s going to — it would take a overwhelming turnout among independents and Republicans and for Democrats to simply stay home, lots and lots of Democrats to stay home, to get Paladino much of a chance, and that doesn’t even accept the fact that Republicans are pretty split about him winning.

John Sparks
And, so I don’t suppose Chuck Schumer’s staying awake at night worrying about Jay Townsend these days?

Jay DeDapper
Yeah, I mean there are on top of the gubernatorial race, there are two Senate races. Chuck Schumer is one of them, and Kirsten Gillibrand is the second.  So, both U.S. Senate seats are up.  Chuck Schumer is clearly the one that doesn’t have anything to worry about because he still has, among all the politicians in New York that are in office and running for re-election, he’s the one who has the highest rating of favorability.  It’s not as high as it once was, but as you said at the very beginning, it doesn’t really matter what party you’re in, if you’re an incumbent, people are angry.

John Sparks
You know, Gillibrand’s an interesting study I think.  At one time there were mixed reviews even among Democrats when she was appointed.  What sense do you get now?  Is there any chance that her opponent can surprise her?

Jay DeDapper
I think there’s more of a chance there than there is that Paladino’s going to surprise Cuomo or Jay Townsend’s going to surprise Chuck Schumer.  There doesn’t… She has failed over the course of her term — her time in office, and remember, she replaced Hillary Clinton when Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State. And as you alluded to, there was a lot of consternation among Democrats that the governor at the time, David Paterson, appointed her as opposed to appointing someone else, like Caroline Kennedy. Kirsten Gillibrand came in with that problem of Democrats feeling that she wasn’t the best — many Democrats feeling she wasn’t the best candidate, and I don’t think she’s done a lot in the last two years. I think she’s tried, but I don’t think she’s made a lot of progress in convincing Democrats that she’s really the senator that they would pick if they really had their choice.  It’s not much of a choice.  I mean all of that being said, the Republican challenger that she’s facing is not well — particularly well-known, not particularly well-funded, and in a year like this when you’ve got a Cuomo and Schumer on the ballot, it seems unlikely to me that a Gillibrand is going to have enough trouble that she is going to be in danger of losing this seat.  But of all the major races, she’s the one because she has failed to really garner strong Democratic support.  I think she’s probably the one who faces the only real challenge.

John Sparks
And whoever wins this one will be up again three years from now.

Jay DeDapper
Yeah, well two years from now. Three years from now, but two years from Election Day…

John Sparks
True.

Jay DeDapper
Therefore, January.  Yeah, this is a strange race because she was appointed, and by New York State law, once you’re appointed to fill out the seat, you don’t actually fill out the entire time. You actually have to run in the next general election so that the voters get a chance to approve or disapprove of the appointment. But then you only fill out the term as it is legislatively laid out or constitutionally laid out, and Hillary Clinton’s term was supposed to end in 2012.  So Kirsten Gillibrand, should she win, will be running again in 2012.  So, there’s a lot of races for her.  But I suspect that with most  —  as with most incumbents, the longer that you — the more you’re able to get through tough races early on, the more — the better chances you have later on of fending off tough challengers and having tough races.

John Sparks
You know Charlie Rangel’s had his problems lately.  Do you think that that will sway voters in his congressional district this time?

Jay DeDapper
Wel, if that was going to happen, it was going to happen in the primary. He was running against Adam Clayton Powell IV. Remember, Charlie Rangel won his historic race back in the ’70s against Adam Clayton Powell’s father.  Adam Clayton Powell was a historic African American congressman.  Charlie Rangel ran as the new blood, the new breed, the new guy who was going to come in and shake things up.  Well, now he’s the old guy, the old guard, and Adam Clayton Powell IV didn’t come anywhere close to unseating him in the Democratic primary.  And let’s face it, in our Harlem, a Republican’s not going to win in Harlem. The district that Charlie Rangel is in is one of the most Democratic districts in the entire country. So, if you don’t beat him in the primary, he’s not going to lose the race.

John Sparks
Do you see any upsets in congressional races in New York?

Jay DeDapper
Mike McMahon on Staten Island. That’s a seat that has been Republican for many years.  Vito Fossella lost that or decided not to run for re-election in that seat after the scandal involving a mistress and a child.  Before that, Susan Molinari held that seat.  It’s been a Republican seat for a long time.  Mike McMahon won it in a tight election in an overwhelmingly Democratic year, 2008.  I would say that’s probably in the New York City area, the one where there’s the most risk to an incumbent, and in this case a Democrat. There’s some outside of the direct New York City area.  John Hall in the Hudson Valley who won in 2004, I believe, it may have been 2006.  He won in what was kind of a Democratic year. It must’ve been 2006.  That’s a district that has been Republican in the past.  It’s kind of a swing district, and I imagine he’s facing — I believe he’s facing a veteran, Iraq War veteran.  That could be a tough race as well.  And there’s some in Upstate New York, some congressional Democrats that won again in either 2006 or 2008, very strong Democratic years, in seats that have traditionally been kind of squishy, not very Democratic, a little bit more Republican, and all of them could face some problems. But in the New York City area, Mike McMahon, I think, is the only seat to really watch for an upset.

John Sparks
But, all in all for the most part, I take it that you see not very many upsets in, what, low to moderate turnout?

Jay DeDapper

Yeah.  There doesn’t seem to be the passion. And even again, this goes back to my original point. If you look at what happened in the Republican primary in New York, Paladino beat Lazio, Lazio being the kind of the standard candidate of the Republican Party, by a very large margin, but the number of people who turned out was not huge. It wasn’t like 50% of Republican voters turned out. The turnout was really quite low.  These are among allegedly very angry voters, the Republican voters, and they didn’t really turn out. I think that what you see in election years like what’s coming up, and we saw it in 1994, is that you have a very motivated portion of the electorate that turns out and can sway elections. I’m not denying that they can sway elections in dramatic fashion, but it’s not a majority. It’s not even a significant minority.  It’s a fairly small number of people who are really upset and really angry who bother to go to the polls, and they do make a difference in years like this. I think unfortunately apathy is the more common thing that you see in a year like this, voters that are just frustrated and angry or frustrated and angry, but angry in a way that doesn’t translate into action.

John Sparks
Jay, always a pleasure to talk politics with you.  Any other thoughts you’d like to share about the upcoming midterm election?

Jay DeDapper
I think it’s going to be really interesting to see if the people who have been driving the elections this year, and they’re not all Republicans and they’re not all Tea Party members, the people who have been driving elections all year all across the country have been people who are angry. Some of them are Democrats.  Some Democratic incumbents have lost in primaries.  It’ll be interesting to me that once you get to the general election, and everybody in the nations focused on this first major Election Day after Barack Obama became President.  And if Barack Obama throws some of his weight into this, as it looks like he’s going to, it’ll be really interesting to me to see if there’s kind of a counterweight to that anger, that anti-incumbent anger, that ends up supporting some incumbents (In many cases, that would be Democrats) and whether that’s enough to offset some of this anger that seems to be aimed at ousting incumbents, including many Democrats. I think the other thing to watch for, and everybody’s talked about it, but it’s fascinating to me, is — what is the role the Tea Party plays in the future of the GOP?  In Tea Party activists and in angry voters electing or putting on the ballot, excuse me, in primaries, people like Christine O’Donnell in Delaware — does that create a situation where the Republican Party in a general election is so out of the mainstream, is so filled with candidates who are so crazy that the party actually ends up blowing an incredible opportunity that’s been handed to them on a silver platter and fails to capitalize in a significant way on the intense voter dissatisfaction? That is something that I think is fascinating, and I think everybody’s looking at that. Everybody’s talking about, but that’s the big story, and I think will remain the big story all the way to Election Day.

9/22: Inside the Midterm Elections

By John Sparks

On November 2nd, American voters will go to the polls and decide who will win the 2010 midterm elections.  Republicans believe they have a chance to regain a majority in the Senate and recapture a number of seats in the House.  But, will Tea Party candidates hurt Republican chances to re-take the Senate?  What are the chances Tea Party candidates will prevail on Election Day? What does all of this say about how voters feel about the job President Obama and the Democrats are doing?  The Marist Poll’s John Sparks talks with syndicated political columnist Carl Leubsdorf who writes a weekly column for the Dallas Morning News.

Carl Leubsdorf

Carl Leubsdorf

John Sparks
Carl, we’re on the eve of the midterm elections.  Now, Republicans had hoped to win back the Senate.  But since the primaries began last spring in some states, the Tea Party has defeated an establishment backed GOP contender I think eight times.  What are we seeing here?

Carl Leubsdorf
Well, I think we’re seeing sort of a division in the Republican Party whereas a faction of the Republican Party, reacting in part to the current economic situation and the Obama presidency, but also reacting to some degree to the Bush administration and what they felt was overspending and lack of fiscal discipline during that administration is basically calling forward sort of a return to basic Republican principles, and they’re taking on some of the establishment figures in the Republican Party who they blame for some of the problems.  Actually, the people who are being taken down in some of these fights, some of them had nothing to do with it, but that’s really about it, and they’re trying to create a more aggressively conservative Republican Party, especially on economic issues.

John Sparks
We’re going to talk a little bit more about that in a minute, but I want to ask you next what sort of chance do you think these Tea Party nominees have against the Democrats in the general election?

Carl Leubsdorf
Well it depends on — entirely on the state.  For example, in Utah where one of the Tea Party people took on Senator Bennett, a veteran conservative Republican, beat him in the party convention, Utah’s so Republican that they’re going to elect a Republican Senator.  The same thing in Alaska where Joe Miller ousted Senator Lisa Murkowski, a more moderate Republican, in the primary. If it’s a two-way race between Joe Miller, the Republican, and the Democratic candidate, the Republicans will win because Alaska is a pretty conservative state.  However, in Delaware, which had its primary on Tuesday, this is a Democratic leading state these days. It used to be much more evenly divided, and even the Republicans say that their candidate is so conservative and her credentials, so questionable that by beating — they beat the one Republican, Congressman Mike Castle, who was — had an excellent chance to win that race.  He might’ve even had a chance if the Democrats had nominated Vice President Biden’s son, who’s the state attorney general.  So, with him — Castle out of the race and Tea Party candidate Republican in, even the Republicans think they can’t win it.  So, it really depends on state-by-state.

John Sparks
I read a short time ago that the Republican Party said that they would be backing Christine O’Donnell, but do you think they really will?  Will she get the backing of the Republicans?  Will she…

Carl Leubsdorf
She’ll get the official backing, and their policy — this is John Cornyn, the Texas Senator who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee.  Their policy is to back the party nominee, and they’ll do that. However, as someone pointed out today, in order to run a competitive race in Delaware, you have to buy television time in Philadelphia which covers a good deal of the state, and that’s an expensive media market, and I can’t see the Republican Senate Committee spending a lot of money in Philadelphia on that race.  So, yes, they’re backing them, but they’ll have their priorities, and that’s not going to be one of them.

John Sparks
Do you see Republicans burying the hatchet within their own ranks and unifying in order to be viable against Democrats?

Carl Leubsdorf
I think at some places they are and some places they’re not.  For example, in Kentucky where Rand Paul, the son of Congressman Ron Paul, defeated the establishment candidate to win the Senate nomination, Mitch McConnell, the other Senator from Kentucky, who’s the Senate Republican leader, has made peace with Paul even though he backed Trey Grayson, his opponent, because he figures there’s a good chance Paul’s going to be the other Senator from Kentucky, and he wants to bring him inside the tent. But, Mike Castle in Delaware isn’t going to do anything for the woman who beat him, and you could easily… It’s a fascinating situation because you could have a situation in the Senate… the Republicans are all saying, “After the Delaware race, our chances of winning the Senate are diminished,” and that’s always been a threat.  Since Rand Paul won his race, that has been a threat, and since Sharron Angle in Nevada won the nomination against Harry Reid, that the Republicans would fall short in the Senate because of a couple of these people who would be too conservative, too right wing to be elected.  However, if the Republicans do win the Senate, and it’s certainly still possible, you could have a situation where they have a very minimal majority, 51 to 49, and that that majority is going to depend on a couple of these Tea Party people, so that could be a fascinating situation. The fact is that whichever party wins the Senate next year with 51/52 seats, because it takes 60 votes to get so much done in the Senate, neither party’s going to have a working majority in the Senate.  But, I think some of the Tea Party people having succeeded in party primaries this year, they think this is just the beginning.

John Sparks
Carl, we typically think of the midterms as a time when the party out of power historically makes gains against the party in power.  And, with this emergence of these Tea Party primary victories, and we’re seeing what appears to be in some sense sort of a civil war within the ranks of the Republicans, how do you think all of this is reflecting on the Obama administration?

Carl Leubsdorf
Well, the problem it poses directly for the Obama administration is it’s created quite a bit of enthusiasm in the Republican Party, and so the turnout for the Republicans in their primaries this year has on the whole been greater than that for Democrats.  That is sometimes an indicator of what will happen.  The converse of it is that you have a situation in the Democratic Party where there’s some disappointment in the Democratic Party that Obama hasn’t done more.  Now, he’s passed a lot of his major initiatives, but you’ve got liberals who wanted single payer in the health bill and didn’t get it, and then you got some conservative Democrats who don’t like the health bill at all. Democratic turnout seems likely to be down.  Turnout is a big factor in midterm elections. Not as many people vote in them as vote in presidential elections, and the Democrats were helped in ’06 in the Congressional election, ’08 in the Presidential election by a big increase in turnout, especially minorities and young voters. If those folks don’t turn out this year, the electorate will be older, whiter, more conservative, and that’s going to help the Republicans.  So, the enthusiasm in the Republican Party of the Tea Party people is certainly going to help them some at least in this midterm election.

John Sparks
You know, it’s interesting that President Obama based his campaign on change and now it’s the Tea Party members within the ranks of the Republicans who are calling for change within the ranks of the Republican Party.  Has change become everyone’s mantra these days?

Carl Leubsdorf
Oh, it’s always been. I’m old enough to remember when Dwight Eisenhower ran for president after 20 years of Democratic White House control, and the motto of the campaign was “It’s time for a change.”  ,And, John Kennedy was going to get American moving again.  The out party always talks about change.  Now, of course, some of the change that the Tea Party folks and that some of the Republicans want, the Democrats will tell you this isn’t very much change because they’re talking about a policy on taxes, which — extending all the Bush tax cuts, which is basically what was done during the Bush years.  They’re talking about cutting domestic spending. They tried that in the Reagan years. They talked about that when the Republicans won Congress in 1994.  So, how much of a change this is, it’s a changeover of Bush policy where the second President Bush certainly spent an awful lot and had big deficits, but change is in the eye of the beholder I guess like beauty.

John Sparks
Let’s talk about New York for a minute.  Rick Lazio lost out in his bid to be the Republican nominee for governor.  What chances does Carl Paladino have in New York?

Carl Leubsdorf
Well, I think he had about as much chance as Rick Lazio would’ve had, which isn’t very much.  You know, what’s happened in New York, and in some degree it happened in Delaware too, is that the old moderate Republican faction in New York represented by Governor Rockefeller, Senator Jacob Javits, a lot of those folks aren’t Republicans any more.  They’re either independents or Democrats.  And, as the Republican… and the same thing is true in Delaware.  As the Republican Party has gotten smaller, the conservatives are the ones who are left, and they can control primaries, but they can’t win statewide elections. Someone predicted today that the main difference of Paladino winning the Republican nomination because Rick Lazio will already be on the ticket as the Conservative Party nominee, is that Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic candidate for governor, instead of winning 70 to 30 over one of them will win 70 to 15 to 15 over the two of them.  This is a real long shot for the Republicans.  The Republican Party in New York is in terrible shape. They have a terrible time electing statewide candidates. They’re down to like two or three House members in the whole delegation. Although, the chances are they’re going to pick up a couple of those this year.

John Sparks
Carl, we’ve certainly seen polarization between Democrats and Republicans, and now it appears that we’re seeing certainly polarization more so within their respective parties.  What effect is this having on our government being able to operate?

Carl Leubsdorf
Well, I remember 20-30 years ago when everyone said it was ridiculous to have two parties that were coalitions and wouldn’t it be better if one party was the conservative party and one party was the liberal party?  Well, as it turns out, that’s not better.  It’s worse. It’s created this polarized situation. When both parties were coalitions, there was much more room for compromise between them, but compromise in Washington has become a dirty word.  A Republican who works with the Democrats gets in trouble.  Take the case of Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, certainly a good card carrying Republican on all issues, except he’s worked with the Democrats on environmental issues a little bit, and he supported the Democratic Supreme Court nominees as qualified, and his — a couple of his own committees in South Carolina passed resolutions saying that he wasn’t a good Republican.  There was an interesting poll taken at Allegheny College some months ago, and one of the questions was:  Do you think it’s better for politicians to try to compromise the other side or to stand up for their principles?  And, most Republicans said they ought to stand up for their principles, and more Democrats said it’s better to compromise with the other side.  That in a nutshell is what we see happening.

John Sparks
Carl, we’re a couple of journalists. We’ve been talking horse race. There’s a lot of criticism about concentrating on the horse race. Is it an inescapable trap that we’ve fallen into in covering elections since the technology has changed the way that elections are covered?

Carl Leubsdorf
Well, elections are about who’s going to win after all, and one of the questions in this election as in many is: What will happen if the side that’s out — because what will happen in policy depending on how the outcome was?  Now, Barack Obama when he campaigned for president promised he would have a more aggressive government in fighting economic issues.  He said he would try to pass national health reform. He said he would try to work on climate control, and that’s what he’s done as president with some success; although, the true success of it if it proves to be successful will be long-term which is one of his problems.  The Republicans haven’t quite said in this election what they would do if they got in. They’re concentrating on saying “no” to the Democrats at this stage.  But, the policy implications of this election, there are always policy implications in any election.  I think most of us expect a pretty gridlock situation in Washington no matter how this election comes out. You got a Democrat in the White House. He’s not going anywhere.  You have a fairly good chance the Republicans will win the House, and you got a good chance that the Senate won’t be able to act one way or the other whichever party gets control. That’s a prescription for gridlock.  And, a lot of the issues that are out there, like taxes and some of the pending issues, are going to be — not much is going to be done about them until after the next presidential election and perhaps it sorts out.  Now, we thought that would happen after ’08, and it did to some degree. That’s why Obama has been able to pass some of the things he’s been able to pass.  But, because of the unemployment situation, the economy, and the fact that what Obama has done hasn’t been that popular in part because people don’t see how it affects them in the short-term, now people want to change that.  So, we’ll see.  But, at this time of an election campaign, it’s really about who’s going to win and who’s going to lose, and that’s what we’re talking about.

John Sparks
Carl, it’s always a pleasure talking with you. Anything else you’d like to add?

Carl Leubsdorf
No, I think that one factor that… there’s still a few… Newt Gingrich made a good point today.  He said, “This election isn’t over.  The Democrats have a lot of money.”  And, that’s… for one, we’re so eager to declare the result of an election, even though it’s not going to take place for two months, but there is of course, always the possibility that the Democrats — something will happen in the next couple of months that will get the Democratic turnout up enough so that instead of losing between 40 and 50 seats, they lose 35 seats in the House and manage to keep control of the House and keep a narrow majority in the Senate. But, because of the Senate situation, it’s going to be very hard for them to get much done anyway, but there is — there’s always the outside chance that things won’t go the way they’ve been. But, this election, it looks like for weeks and weeks, it’s been pretty much… the numbers have not changed.  They go up a little bit  They go down a little bit. My friend Peter Hart, the veteran Democratic pollster and one of the best in the business, said that he thinks that there’s not any question about whether the hurricane is going to hit the Democrats. It’s going to hit them.  What we don’t know is whether it’s going to be a Category 5 hurricane or a Category 4 hurricane.  So, I think that’s probably true, and it doesn’t look like a good year for the Democrats.  But, until they count the votes, there’s always the possibility of something different.

John Sparks
Well, what do you see on the hurricane front two years from now when the White House is up?

Carl Leubsdorf
Oh, that’s a long way away. The idea that Barack Obama would be elected was certainly just a distant thought at this point four years ago, but I do think that the Republicans have a basic problem.  At the moment, they don’t have a strong candidate against Obama, and the same split we’ve seen in state after state is likely to manifest itself during the primary campaign. Clearly, the leading figure in the Republican Party in terms of popularity within the party and as a dynamic force is Sarah Palin, and there are a lot of Republicans who think that they would love to have her heading their ticket next time. But, the last poll I saw showed that 71% of Americans thought that she was not qualified to be president, and half of the Republicans polled felt that way.  So, if that happens, she’s going to have a tough time winning an election.  However, if unemployment is still 10%, anything becomes possible.  But, you’re going to see a very bitter Republican fight, and we know who some of the players are, but we don’t know who all of the players are, and we certainly don’t know how it’s going to come out.  So, that’s going to have a big impact.  Every elected president since Jimmy Carter has been re-elected.  Every American president who won — brought his party back into the White House has won a second term in the last 50-60 years except for Jimmy Carter. The presidents who were beaten for re-election like the first President Bush and Herbert Hoover were extending their parties hold on the White House.  So, the norm will be for Obama to be favored and to be re-elected, but I guess rules in politics, like everything else, were made to be broken, so we’ll see.

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9/22: The Political Climate Leading Up To the Midterm Elections

By John Sparks

Will a record number of incumbents go down in defeat in this November’s midterm elections?  Will Republicans regain control of the Senate?  What impact will the Tea Party have on the election?  Will its candidates who won primary victories over Republicans be able defeat Democrats in the general election?  Is President Obama in trouble?  Veteran news correspondent Bonnie Angelo discusses the upcoming election with the Marist Poll’s John Sparks.

Bonnie Angelo, author of "First Families: The Impact of the White House on Their Lives" and "First Mothers: The Women Who Shaped the Presidents" (courtesy HarperCollins).

Bonnie Angelo, author of “First Families: The Impact of the White House on Their Lives” and “First Mothers: The Women Who Shaped the Presidents” (courtesy HarperCollins).

John Sparks
Bonnie, the latest New York Times poll tells us there is a widespread dissatisfaction with President Obama and Congress.  We’re on the eve of the midterm elections, and typically I think of those as a time when the party out of power makes gains against the party in power.  Many times I think of it as a referendum on the President if his party has the majority in Congress. But based on the primaries that have led up to this November, it doesn’t seem that simple as it was in years past.  What do you think is going on?

Bonnie Angelo
Well, I think there’s a general sourness that sort of permeates this country right now.  Don’t know exactly why.  Things are not going badly, but there is a tendency, I think, to just be negative without even knowing why, and I think that’s what they… If they were opposed by people, then you’d get a more accurate fix on how the voters felt about it. But, I think this is just a way of saying, “Oh, we don’t like what you’re doing,” and that goes for anybody.  I mean there’s neither side that’s getting pluses.

John Sparks
Yes, I was going to say that it seems to indicate that folks want the current crop of representatives thrown out whether they’re a Democrat or a Republican.

Bonnie Angelo
That’s right.  That’s right.

John Sparks
Do you think that we’ll see a record number of incumbents actually losing their seats?

Bonnie Angelo
We’ve got quite a little bit of time to deal with, well some time, time enough, a little bit, for things to gel. I do believe that some people who grumble, when it comes close to just really going in the booth, may be saying, “But this fellow or this woman is better than the other one.”  And so…  but we may have a low turnout.

John Sparks
You know these Tea Party candidates who have prevailed in some of the Republican primaries this year, do you think that their victories reflect a disenchantment with President Obama and the Democrats or more of a disenchantment with the Republican Party and its candidates?

Bonnie Angelo
I have a feeling that it’s reflecting, as you’re saying, disenchantment with the whole swath of politics. There’s something that’s –maybe people see it up close too much now, because politics is –when you see too much of it, it can kind of turn you sour on it, and that may be part of it. They’ve had too much of it.

John Sparks
Well, you think President Obama is in trouble?

Bonnie Angelo
No.  I don’t. I think there’s nobody… You can… It’s easy to knock somebody when there’s not anybody else on the scene.  If there was somebody else really catching on, then you might think. But on the other hand, this is just a halfway mark. He’s got… He would have time to do many things between now and the real election.

John Sparks
Do you think…

Bonnie Angelo
But, where’s the face that’s really coming in to overpower him?  That’s what’s hard to find.

John Sparks
Do you think that the Republicans have any chance at all of regaining the Senate in November?

Bonnie Angelo
That will be a hard one for them because there’s quite a great discrepancy in the numbers now, much more than in some times.  I think a lot of it really depends on how they conduct their campaigns.  I don’t believe that really negative campaigning goes over so well in this country now.  Perhaps, I’m saying that because I don’t like negative campaigning. I think you ought to be excited for somebody, if possible, or, at least, choose one over the other for what he or she stands for.  I feel that the negative campaigning doesn’t help anybody.

John Sparks
So what do you think of the Tea Party? Is it another third party like we’ve seen over the years, or do you think it stands a chance of changing our two-party structure?

Bonnie Angelo
You know, I think the Tea Party is a fascinating phenomenon.  We’ve had, as you said, over the years, groups that come in and have an impact on the scene, but this one — this group is enormous, and it seems to be catching hold in all parts of the country, not just in say the South or the Farm Belt or whatever. It seems to be reaching out in a way that their issues are what’s bothering the American people. Now whether they can do anything about those issues, I’m not sure.  I feel that they by and large have too negative an approach to politics.  I think politics are best served by good people getting into the game and trying to say what they want to do rather than just attacking their opposition.

John Sparks
There’s quite a difference between a primary election and a general election. We’ve seen, I believe, in eight races since last spring where a Tea Party nominee has prevailed in a Republican primary, but what sort of chance do you give these Tea Party nominees against Democrats in November?

Bonnie Angelo
Not much. I just…  I think that they’re — they are too negative in their approach to politics to be –to cut much into a more positive kind of outlook that’s defined on the Democratic side. It might not be any better than the others, but I think they tend to be more activist, more positive.  Of course, we’ve got activist negatives as well.  It’s…  This is going to be a very interesting one.  We haven’t had a phenomenon like this in quite a long time, so it’s not just a passing — it seems to be not just a passing fancy. That… when they get closer to the voting, maybe some of these others who have been grumbling will come back to their native home either with the mainstream Republicans or with the — with their Democrats of whichever stripe they like. I believe that will be the case. But if not, we’re really seeing something deeply different and, I think, quite divisive in this country.

John Sparks
I know you’ve heard like I have about that 11th Commandment that Republicans used to talk about, and that was that they would not talk ill of another Republican during a primary campaign. Well, that’s out the window now, and I’m just wondering: Do Republicans need to bury the hatchet and unify now in order to be a viable force in November against Democrats?  And will they?  Will the… Will these Tea Party folks get the backing of the moderate Republicans?

Bonnie Angelo
Well, or would the Tea Party folks give their backing to moderate Republicans?  I don’t think you have to put them in the leading position where it’s almost an exception that they’re going to be the major factor in this election.  Although, it’s hard to tell in this country what’s rippling just below the surface.  The people that we hear and know are out there with a message and a commitment, but there’s an awful lot of Americans who just quietly sit back, many of which of whom will not vote in an off-year election, you know.  You almost need a president at the top of the ticket.

John Sparks
You know, I think it’s interesting that President Obama based his presidential campaign on change and now it’s the Tea Party members within the ranks of Republicans who are calling for change within the ranks of their own party.  Has change become everyone’s mantra these days?

Bonnie Angelo
Yes.  I think Americans like the idea of change I think, and so it’s a word that’s resonating now.  I think this — the Tea Party runs the risk of being seen as too much change or either perhaps too – I don’t want to say vicious, but maybe too harsh in its change. I think we’re not a country right now that likes to be at razors’ edge with the — on issues.

John Sparks
Were you surprised at the outcome of some of the primaries? I’m thinking like Mike Castle losing to Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Rick Lazio losing to Carl Paladino in New York. Did that surprise you?

Bonnie Angelo
Yes. Yes.  Both of them surprised me.  I thought because I haven’t really been out to watch these competitors on the stump, which is, you know, you get a whole different feeling than when you just read about people, but I think that there might be a sleeper group of voters out across the country that just says, “Well let’s do something different.  I don’t like what’s been happening.” But whether they will really turn out, it’s going to be a very interesting off year election. Some of them are not.  But this one I believe will be compelling and might point the way to a much bigger sort of change in this country.

John Sparks
We have certainly witnessed over the past few years what I call an increasing polarization certainly between Republicans and Democrats, this acrimony that’s so predominant on the Hill, but now we’re seeing what appears to be a polarization within certainly the Republican Party.  What affect is this having on how government is able to operate?

Bonnie Angelo
I think the — this concept of a government that has both parties able to come together, giving up a little bit on each — from each of them to come together to hammer out programs that are maybe centrist or, maybe, middle ground in terms of where they land politically, I’m not sure we’re going to be able to have that now.  Part of it, I think, is the media. These… The extremists are able to get much more media time than their numbers would have in the past, at any rate, suggested because they — you know the media likes something that stirs up the viewer…

John Sparks
Drama.

Bonnie Angelo
…and I think that have an effect on this.

John Sparks
I think of that drama and controversy the media thrives on, and I think we’ve had some characters, if you will, that have grown up out of this. I think of the Limbaughs of the world…

Bonnie Angelo
Yes.

John Sparks
…that I think are really entertainers, but they’re playing with rather serious subject matter and seem like they want to stir up the pond a little bit just for the sake of the drama and the devices that…

Bonnie Angelo
I think you’re right, but I think when you say “Rush Limbaugh,” I believe he indeed stirs up the… He, of course, has been doing that for a number of years, but it’s taken awhile for him to get seen and listened to on the major political stage and this –and now he really can demand it.  I think he doesn’t like the idea of coming together, finding a middle way. I think that there’s an attitude in this country that loves to be on the edges.

John Sparks
Jim Wright, the former House Speaker, told me one time that when he was first elected that Democrats and Republicans across the aisle from one another had a great deal of respect for one another, but they also genuinely liked one another…

Bonnie Angelo
Yes.

John Sparks
…and nothing could be further from the truth today.  And, I’m just wondering the dissention, the controversy that has spread with some of the radio talk shows like, I’m going to use Limbaugh again as an example, have we…

Bonnie Angelo
He’s the one that really turned it that way more than any other single person into…

John Sparks
True.

Bonnie Angelo
…the talk shows into a much more mean-spirited attack shows more than we’d ever known before.

John Sparks
Yes, and has this mean spiritedness…

Bonnie Angelo
Yes.

John Sparks
…now transferred to the very people that are being elected and sent to the hilltop?

Bonnie Angelo
I remember having heard many times political people saying, “Well, you know once the election’s over, once the votes are cast, then we just — we go back, and we can be friends together again,” and they’d have lunch together and blah, blah, blah.  Well, I don’t think that’s the case now, and I think part of it, maybe much of it, is a result of a very mean-spirited attitude that has come into our television talk shows.  We did not have that say 15 years ago.

John Sparks
What would it take to turn things around?

Bonnie Angelo
That’s an excellent question, and I don’t think anybody has an answer.   It would take a leader or multiple leaders with a great sense of reaching out once the votes were cast, and they won their positions, to reach out and find some compromises, to reach out and find some greater friends on the other side. That used to be the way it was done.  It has lost that mode of friendship and of trying not to be brutally harsh. I don’t know.  It plays so well on television, you know, to be really tough. I’m not sure whether we can put that horse back in the stall.

John Sparks
There’s been a lot of criticism about the media concentrating on the horse race. There you have drama and conflict also. Is it an inescapable trap that we’ve fallen into in covering elections because of all this technology and the way it’s changed the way elections are covered?

Bonnie Angelo
Well, of course the technology has made it so much more apparent how the horse race aspect is. There’s so many more avenues that can be galloped down.  But, let’s remember way back in 1960, there was with Nixon and Kennedy, there was a lot of harsh in the background kind of action then too.  I think maybe perhaps it didn’t get seen as much, or it did not get the exposure on television because, one, television really was nothing back then, and now, that’s the way people make their mark on television is to be just push the borders as far as you can.

John Sparks
You recall back in 1994, the Contract with America and when the Republicans gained a majority in the House and the Senate.  Do you foresee something like this happening with this evolvement of Tea Party?

Bonnie Angelo
You know, that’s an issue that I think everybody that’s interested in politics is wondering.  How is this going to play out?

John Sparks
You know we’re six weeks away from the November election.  I want to project even further and look in your crystal ball and tell me what we’re going to see two years down the road when we vie again for the highest office in the land?

Bonnie Angelo
I just don’t think you can project that far now because we are in such a – – we’re of the moment to such a degree.

John Sparks
Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Bonnie Angelo
I’ve been interested in, as we see this campaign unroll, that the role that women play is much more crucial than it has ever been before.  Women have been making greater progress in participation for the last couple of decades, but now there’s so many of them that are on the cutting edge of being candidates who are not just taken seriously but can affect the whole kind of tenor of the election, and some of them are very tough.  We’re not talking about women candidates with this soft rock-the-baby kind of attitude, they can be as tough out there as any male competitor.  I think that is a very different thing.

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Interview: Carl Leubsdorf Takes Us Inside the Midterms

Carl P. Leubsdorf

Carl P. Leubsdorf was Washington Bureau Chief of The Dallas Morning News from 1981 through 2008 and continues to write a weekly column for the paper and its web site, www.dallasnews.com. The column has appeared every Thursday since March 1981 and and is distributed nationally by the McClatchy Tribune (MCT) News Service.

Carl Leubsdorf

Carl Leubsdorf

A native of New York City (3/17/38), he received his B.A. with honors in government in 1959 from Cornell University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.  He was also associate editor of The Cornell Daily Sun.  In 1960, he received a M.S. with honors in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. In 1999, he received the school’s Alumni Award.

From 1960 to 1975, he worked for the Associated Press in New Orleans, New York, and Washington.  He came to Washington in 1963, covered Congress from 1966 through 1975 and, from 1973 through 1975, was chief of the AP’s Senate staff and chief political writer.

From 1976 to 1981, Mr. Leubsdorf was a correspondent in the Washington Bureau of The Baltimore Sun, covering the 1976 and 1980 presidential campaigns and serving as White House correspondent from 1977 to mid-1979.

With The News, he primarily wrote about the White House and national politics, while directing the paper’s political and Washington coverage. In 2001, Washingtonian Magazine named him one of Washington’s top 50 journalists.

Mr. Leubsdorf has been to 23 national conventions and covered every presidential election since 1960. He has written about 10 presidents – John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama – and 10 vice presidents – Hubert Humphrey, Spiro Agnew, Gerald Ford, Nelson Rockefeller, Walter Mondale, George Bush, Dan Quayle, Al Gore, Dick Cheney and Joe Biden.

In addition, he has been a visiting fellow at Yale University; written for the Columbia and Washington Journalism Reviews, and the Annals of the American Academy of Political Science. He has appeared on many television shows, including CBS’s “Face the Nation”, NBC’s “Meet the Press”, PBS’s “Washington Week in Review” and “Lehrer News Hour”, CNN’s “Inside Politics” and “Reliable Sources”, “The McLaughlin Group” and C-SPAN Journalist Roundtables  — more than any other journalist in its first 25 years.

For four years, he was co-host of a weekly public affairs television program, “Capital Conversation,” which combined the resources of The Dallas Morning News and the broadcast bureau of its parent corporation, Belo Corp.  The program, which was seen in Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio on Belo stations, won the Dallas Press Club’s 1998 Katie Award for best television public affairs program.

He was president in 1996 of the White House Correspondents’ Association and in 2008 of the Gridiron Club, Washington’s oldest journalistic organization. He is currently the organization’s secretary.

Jay DeDapper

Jay owns and runs a media production company called DeDapper Media that specializes in creating video content for the web, smartphones, and television. His company also teaches organizations to create their own video as part of the innovative VidLab101 program.

Jay DeDapper
Jay DeDapper

Jay spent 22 years in television news reporting from around the world and hosting live and taped news-talk shows. Jay’s innovative writing and fresh on-camera delivery have led to dozens of awards including the national Cronkite Award and a dozen Emmys.

Jay is well known in New York television after 17 years at the two top stations in the market (WABC and WNBC) and his live ad-libbing, easy conversational style, and quick thinking have made him a favorite on radio talks shows and cable news.

Jay earned his Master’s Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University and his undergraduate degree in Communication Studies from University of California at Santa Barbara.

Jay grew up in California and Connecticut and currently lives in Manhattan and Columbia County, NY.

9/15: Day 1: Paladino vs. Cuomo

By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff

So, the press (and pollsters, too) are probably pleased that at least the Paladino vs. Cuomo matchup for governor will provide some interesting byplay.  How quickly we all forget the good times when Rick Lazio marched across the stage to confront Hillary Clinton in 2000.  If the 2010 campaign nationally is about anything new and dynamic, then how about a classic outsider-insider contest with a Tea Party flavor right here in New York?

miringoff-caricature-430But, not so fast.  Carl Paladino’s come from behind thrashing of Rick Lazio may have been just as much about dissension within the GOP then a tidal wave of discontent rushing down the Erie Canal to Albany.  If you left the GOP convention in NYC in June with the blessings of the party organization, whether for Governor or the two contests for U.S. Senate, then you headed home last night a loser.  Now, Paladino no doubt gets a bounce from his primary victory, is well-funded for the general election contest, and brings his baseball bat as a genuine outsider looking to hit for the cycle.

But, Paladino is largely a political unknown statewide as far as the general electorate is concerned.  And, if you know anything about Andrew Cuomo, expect a concerted effort to portray Paladino as outside the range of acceptability for mainstream New York voters.  Cuomo is the most popular elected official in New York State and enjoys the 2:1 advantage Democrats have over Republicans.  Right now, this has to be viewed as enough to stave off Paladino.

Don’t expect a 40 point win for the son of the greatest governor in the greatest state in the only world we know.   But, look for team Cuomo to revise then unknown candidate Mario Cuomo’s 1982 campaign slogan to something that defines Paladino.  Perhaps, “The better you know him the better you know he’s ‘too right’ for governor.” And, that process of political definition begins today, on Day 1 of Paladino vs. Cuomo.

9/15: A Thought for Delaware’s GOP

Politics is a passionate beast.  But, there comes a time when, for the cause’s greater good, passion should be tempered with reason.

azzoli-caricature-445In a major upset, Tea Party endorsed Republican Christine O’Donnell beat out veteran politician Michael Castle for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Delaware.  Whereas Castle could have posed a formidable challenge to Democratic candidate Christopher Coons, by most accounts, O’Donnell’s general election chances range between slim to none.

But, there are larger implications for Republicans nationally.  A candidate Castle would have been better positioned to turn this former Biden Senate seat from Democratic blue to Republican red.  In turn, this would bring the national GOP one step closer to gaining a majority in the Senate.  Candidate O’Donnell changes the odds on that dramatically.

So, dear Delaware Republicans.  I admire your strength of conviction.  However, your passion has blurred your vision.

9/10: Disaster Preparedness in the Aftermath of 9/11

By John Sparks

Nine years after the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, how prepared is America for a terrorist attack?  Dr. Irwin Redlener heads the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, and he talks with the Marist Poll’s John Sparks about this and where he was on the day of the attacks.

Dr. Irwin Redlener

Dr. Irwin Redlener

John Sparks
Dr. Redlener, this week will mark the 9th anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center.  Do you recall where you were and what you were doing then?

Irwin Redlener, MD
I do. I was at home with my wife.  We both were working at the Children’s Health Fund and at Montefiore Medical Center at the time.  I was president of a new children’s hospital, and we heard the first reports of the first plane going to the World Trade Center, and we were operating under the assumption that it was a small plane that had accidentally crashed into the World Trade Center. Then, we got in the car and listened to the news and driving across the Bruckner Expressway and seeing smoke from downtown.  We were coming down from Westchester.  It was apparent obviously that it was — something was far more worrisome than we originally thought, and we were hearing the reports about the — it was a jetliner and then it was two jetliners, both towers, and the collapse, and that’s what our experience was initially.

John Sparks
So what did you find yourself doing?  Did you do anything to help out in response to the attacks?

Irwin Redlener, MD
Yes, my organization managed a — at that point was a growing national network of mobile clinics for medically underserved and disadvantaged populations, and we had a number of them, I think, at that point, four or five mobile clinics in New York City.  So, I brought in the medical director, and I was — I’m president of the organization and Karen Redlener, my wife, is executive director, and we called in the medical director of our New York programs and asked him to organize two mobile units that we could send down to Lower Manhattan to be part of the triaging resources that were being developed down there.

John Sparks
So, you found yourself occupied for a number of days after that then I take it?

Irwin Redlener, MD
Yes.

John Sparks
The National Center for Disaster Preparedness that you head, was this operation you’re referring to that, at the time, grew into a more formal organization?

Irwin Redlener, MD
No, the National Center for Disaster Preparedness was initiated in 2003.  But right after 9/11, and I got very interested and concerned about our ability to respond to large scale disasters, and I established, as I say, I was president of the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore at the time, and I established a pediatric preparedness program for mass casualty events at Montefiore at the Children’s Hospital there, and so, that was running and growing and was the reason that the School of Public Health at Columbia recruited me to come over to Columbia and set up this new entity, which I called the National Center for Disaster Preparedness.

John Sparks
The new entity today, what kinds of things does it oversee now? Obviously, we were all taken completely off-guard with the attacks.  But I’m just curious what kind of preparedness that your National Center has developed since that time.

Irwin Redlener, MD
Well, first of all, we are concerned about the level of preparedness from top to bottom. We think that the policies and the resources are either inadequate or insufficient in a variety of ways at the top, and we think at the other end of the spectrum is a very unprepared citizen population with respect to what to do about disasters.  And, in between a lot of confusion about the role of state versus federal versus local government and so forth.  So, our center works on trying to sort out these issues with a goal toward making both local communities, but the country as a whole, prepared to deal with — either prepared to — able to prevent or prepare to deal with the consequences of disaster.  And recently we’ve gotten interested in the issue of recovery from large scale disasters which is basically almost an untouched aspect of preparedness that has to be now thought of in a lot more rigor than had been in the past.

John Sparks
So, nine years later, how prepared are we today to handle a similar event?

Irwin Redlener, MD
It’s a very mixed bag because in some ways we’re better, in some ways we haven’t made much progress, and there’s a lot to be concerned about still.  So, I think the report card would be a mix of passing and failing grades. I think we’re just at a point now where we’re starting to see more inter-operability among radio systems used by various respond organizations, like police and fire and EMS, but that’s been a long time in coming, and we’ve gotten more training for more people who are first responders, and that’s good.  We’ve made almost no progress in the level of preparedness of individuals.  If we had an exact repeat of the 9/11 events, there would be a lot of confusion about whether or not we’re going to have rescue and relief workers rushing into the pile, so to speak, as we had previously because we now know a lot more about the potential long-term consequences in terms of medical problems that arise from people who are working in unprotected ways and even the immediate search and rescue.  So, there’s a lot that’s different, but a lot that really remains as challenges.  Another instant issue is hospital preparedness, and we’ve made some progress there, but we’re very, very far behind on that aspect of where we should be now too.  So, it’s hard to give a straight answer, simple answer, but that’s where we are.

John Sparks
You mentioned individuals, I wanted to ask you what we as individuals can and should remember to do in case of an attack similar to what we experienced nine years ago.

Irwin Redlener, MD
Well, the recommendations have been pretty straightforward from soon after 9/11, which is to you know get a kit, make a plan and so forth about what you would do, and then know what the risks are and make — get a kit and make a plan for what you would do as individuals and as families, and the stockpiling of three days of food and water for each person who you’re responsible for. Those kinds of things are very straightforward. They’re found on — with the Red Cross site, on FEMA’s Web site and so forth, but there’s been very minimal uptake by the general public for even those basic directions, and part of that has to do with the fact that we don’t really know a lot about what motivates people to get prepared or not get prepared.  But, we’re still in some serious dilemma with respect to how to improve the preparedness levels of individuals.

John Sparks
Interesting that you mention what motivates people.  As we speak, the Marist Institute is out in the field polling New Yorkers and asking whether they still worry about another terrorist attack.

Irwin Redlener, MD
Yeah.

John Sparks
We don’t know the results of that poll quite yet.  We’re out in the field with it, but I know that you certainly with your responsibilities are concerned about another attack. But, do you get the feeling that most New Yorkers still worry about another attack?

Irwin Redlener, MD
Not in any kind of overt way, and I think they’re more worried about jobs and that sort of thing than they are about a terrorist attack, and I think that’s not just New York. I think it’s probably true generally in the country.

John Sparks
Anything in particular that you might want to add that you’re looking into as an organization or trying to shore up in anticipation should we have another attack?

Irwin Redlener, MD
Well, one of the things I’m most concerned about is the state of hospital and health system readiness for a major attack or a bio-terrorism event, or even just a pandemic not caused by terrorism, and we just seem to be really struggling to find the resources to make — to really expand or to really enhance the level of preparedness, and that’s one of the things we are most definitely working on.

John Sparks
You know that reminds me that, as you recall, coincidental to the attack, we had the anthrax episodes.  That kind of falls into hospitals, I think, because that’s clearly something that we don’t have under control either today.

Irwin Redlener, MD
That’s correct, so there’s more of these areas that we don’t quite have a handle on than I expected to be the case at this point.

John Sparks
Is there anything else that you want to add?

Irwin Redlener, MD
Yeah, one of the other big issues is that we haven’t spent enough time focusing on the needs of populations that might be particularly vulnerable and especially children.  Our children make up 25% of the U.S. population, but they’re still very much marginalized when it comes to planning for major disasters, and that’s a problem because the needs of children can be very, very different medically and psychologically and everything else.  And one of the things that has been done, a couple years ago there was an establishment of a National Commission on Children’s Disasters, which is a federally appointed body…  I happen to be on it… that’s  actually looking to that particular aspect of disaster planning and what are we doing for our children, and there’s quite a lot of work still left to be done in that arena as well.