BLOG: The National Conventions According to Google

The candidates’ wives are proving to be real assets in the presidential race.  After Ann Romney stole the show last week in Tampa, Michele Obama was the most searched speaker leading up to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.  “We saw her searches skyrocket as she took to the podium, increasing 500% as she started to speak,” Abbi Tatton with the Google Elections Team tells us.

Political cartoonist Jeff Darcy says it better than I ever could.

When I checked in with the Google Elections Team from the Republican National Convention, last week, I learned that the related search terms are sometimes the most telling.  For instance, the top-related search term for GOP VP pick Paul Ryan was briefly “shirtless.”  In light of the famous actor’s eyebrow-raising RNC speech, it would seem that “Clint Eastwood” is one of the top-related search terms for President Barack Obama this week.

The platforms and issues may not be what’s hot online just yet, but give it time.  Tatton says Pew Research has found that one in three of us will be using online video to research the candidates this year.

Google’s most-searched DNC speakers leading up to the convention.

BLOG: The National Conventions According to Google

Ann Romney stole the show, Tuesday night, at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.  That’s not just this reporter’s opinion from watching hours of live C-Span coverage; that’s what the folks at Google tell me.  Abbi Tatton with the Google Elections Team says Ann Romney apparently succeeded in showing off the warmer, softer side of her husband because the subsequent deluge Google searches focused not just on her name – but on the personal details of her family.

Google searches for Ann Romney on Tuesday night topped those for her husband by 50%, and easily bested the number of searches for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who actually delivered Tuesday’s keynote address.  In Gov. Christie’s defense however, I couldn’t even stay awake long enough to catch the start of his post-10:30pm speech, let alone do any web searching about it.

Republicans will likely be pleased to hear that Google trends show an increasing number of searches for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in key states like Pennsylvania.  However, they still lag the overall number of searches related to President Barack Obama.  Also, they’re not always about politics.  “As the top related search term around Paul Ryan’s name, over the last couple of weeks, has been shirtless,” Abbi Tatton says. “People seem to want to see what this potential vice president will look like without his shirt on.”

That’s apparently a tip of the cap to Mr. Ryan’s well-known regard for a high-intensity workout routine called P90X.  While my own Google search for “Paul Ryan Shirtless” turned up 1.34-million results in a fraction of a second, I declined to click on any of them.

The Google Elections Team will be at the Democratic National Convention too, and we’ll check back with them next week for a look at what’s trending in Charlotte.

RadioPA Roundtable

Radio PA Roundtable 08.17.12

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Brad Christman and Matt Paul update you on Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law, now that the Commonwealth Court has issued a key ruling; Matt talks to a state lawmaker about property tax reform; and we have new poll numbers on the presidential race in Pennsylvania.

Radio PA Roundtable is a 30-minute program featuring in-depth reporting on the top news stories of the week.

Click the audio player below to hear the full broadcast:


Two Named to PA’s Middle District Bench

President Barack Obama has announced two appointments to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. the names of Matthew W. Brann and Judge Malachy Edward Mannion were released by the White House late Thursday.

Brann is a partner at the law firm of Brann, Williams Caldwell & Sheetz, where he specializes in tort, contract, commercial and property litigation. Judge Mannion has spent 11 years as a Magistrate Judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and was also an Assistant U.S. Attorney for 15 years prior to that appointment to the bench.

In a statement issued by the White House, President Obama said “I am pleased to nominate these distinguished individuals to serve on the United States District Court bench. I am confident they will serve the American people with integrity and a steadfast commitment to justice.”

Both nominations require U.S. Senate confirmations.



Buffett Rule Appears to be Big Election Year Tax Battle

President Barack Obama is pushing it; his likely Republican challenger rejects it; and the US Senate can neither advance nor kill it.  At issue is the so-called Buffett Rule, which would ensure that Americans whose incomes exceed $1-million dollars pay a minimum tax rate of 30%. 

“This is a gimmick, it’s a political gimmick,” US Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) said on the Senate floor this week.  Toomey believes the ongoing debate is an effort to engage in class warfare and distract from the Obama administration’s economic mismanagement. 

But Keystone Research Center labor economist Mark Price says you can’t pay down the nation’s massive budget deficit without raising additional revenue.  “Very wealthy households are able to take advantage of tax loopholes to pay less of their income in taxes than many middle class Pennsylvania families,” he says. 

In their Buffett Rule analysis, Price and the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center examined seven of the richest zip codes in the nation.  What they uncovered was an effective tax rate of 17.2%.  By comparison, they found that 99% of the Commonwealth’s taxpayers live in zip codes where the average tax rate is higher. 

Pennsylvania is home to roughly 10,000 millionaires, but Price believes the Buffett Rule would only impact between 1,000 and 4,000 of them. 

The Buffett Rule’s namesake – billionaire investor Warren Buffet – has just revealed that he’s been diagnosed with an early stage of prostate cancer.  In a letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, Buffett indicated that it is not life threatening or debilitating.

Comparing Presidents in Reelection Years

In many respects, President Barack Obama is polling about the same in the Keystone State as George W. Bush did in his reelection year.  For instance, this week’s Franklin & Marshall College Poll finds that 29% of PA voters approve of the way President Obama is handling the economy.  Eight years ago, poll found that 30% of PA voters approved of the way President Bush was handling the economy. 

Terry Madonna

Terry Madonna

President Obama has a 45% personal favorable rating in this week’s F&M Pennsylvania Poll.  In 2004, the poll pegged Bush’s personal favorable rating at 46%.  “It’s not as though President Bush, at this point eight years ago, was the odds on favorite to win our state,” says Franklin & Marshall College Poll Director Terry Madonna. 

It seems Pennsylvania will once again be a key battleground state.  “His indicators right now would tell us that it would be very close,” Madonna says of President Obama’s chances in Pennsylvania. 

One key difference when comparing the two presidents is that Bush and Kerry were essentially tied in Pennsylvania at this point in 2004.  But, according to Madonna’s latest poll, Obama would easily stamp out Republican rivals Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum.  “The nomination struggle is still underway in the Republican primary.  They’re slinging around a lot of mud… and that at the moment seems to be working in the president’s favor.” 

President Bush won reelection in 2004, but barely lost Pennsylvania to John Kerry by 2.5%.  The last time Pennsylvania swung Republican was with George H.W. Bush in 1988.

Newt Gingrich Surges to Top in Swing State Poll

There’s a new frontrunner in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, at least in the critical swing states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida.  A new Quinnipiac Poll shows Gingrich with a double-digit lead in all three states.  “Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is no longer just the flavor of the month since his boomlet has now stretched from November into December and voting begins in Iowa in less than four weeks,” says pollster Peter Brown. 

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

While Gingrich rose to political fame as a Georgia Congressman, he is a native of Harrisburg, PA.  Here in the Keystone State, Gingrich leads a head-to-head matchup with Mitt Romney, 50 – 31 percent.  In hypothetical General Election matchups, Romney trails President Obama by three points; Gingrich trails by eight points.  “The fact that both Romney and Gingrich trail the president by three and eight points respectively at this point in the Keystone State could be a good sign for the Republicans given that Obama carried Pennsylvania by double-digits in 2008,” Brown explains. 

Gingrich leads the pack in Pennsylvania with 31% of likely Republican voters’ support, according to today’s Quinnipiac Poll.  In Florida, Gingrich leads with 35% support, and that number tops out at 36% in Ohio.  Since 1960, no one has won the White House without carrying at least two of these three swing states.

Obama to Talk Taxes in PA

President Obama will make a Wednesday appearance at Scranton High School, where he will urge Congress to extend and expand the existing payroll tax cut.  The legislation, dubbed the Middle Class Tax Cut Act, is actually sponsored by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA).  Without Congressional action, the existing payroll tax break of 2% will expire at the end of the year.  “Not extending the payroll tax cut would be raising taxes on middle income families,” Casey explained.    

Numerous GOP candidates have lined up to challenge Casey in his 2012 reelection bid.

Casey’s plan would both extend it and expand it to 3.1%.  “That kind of a cut would put $1,500 – as opposed to last year’s number of $1,000 – $1,500 into the pockets of the average family next year,” Casey said during a conference call with reporters. 

For instance in Cameron County, where the median household income is $36,536, the savings from Casey’s proposed payroll tax cut would be $1,133. In Chester County, where the median household income is $81,380, the savings would be $2,523. 

The bill would be funded through a surcharge on income that exceeds $1-million dollars, which is leading to likely Republican opposition.  Democrats are expected to bring it up for a test vote as early as this week.

Paterno’s Weekly News Conference Nixed

Roughly an hour before Coach Joe Paterno’s weekly news conference was to begin, word came down that the plug had been pulled.  This comes as news media from far and wide raise questions in the wake of the sex abuse scandal surrounding former PSU coaching icon Jerry Sandusky.  Paterno also missed Tuesday afternoon’s Big Ten coaches’ teleconference. 

The statement from Penn State Athletics read: “Due to the on-going legal circumstances centered around the recent allegations and charges, we have determined that today’s press conference cannot be held and will not be re-scheduled.”

An earlier advisory from Penn State Athletics read: “Media planning to attend Tuesday’s Penn State Football weekly teleconference are advised that that primary focus of the teleconference is to answer questions related to Penn State’s Senior Day game with Nebraska this Saturday. Head coach Joe Paterno and any Penn State Football student-athletes in attendance will be answering questions about the Nebraska game, Penn State’s season thus far and other topics related to the current college football season.”

Word of Penn State’s woes has even spread to the White House.  During a stop in suburban Philadelphia on Tuesday, President Barack Obama began his comments with an indirect reference to the PSU football program.  “I was told not to mention football at all,” Obama said amid some laughter and a few groans from the audience.  “So I’m not going to say anything about football while I’m here, because I know this is a sensitive subject.”    

While the 84-year-old Joe Paterno is not a target in the ongoing grand jury probe of Jerry Sandusky’s sex abuse allegations, speculation of Paterno’s ouster has already begun.  Just last month, Paterno became the winningest coach in Division I college football history.  He’s been leading the renowned Penn State football program for 46 years.

President’s Approval Numbers Remain Weak in Pennsylvania According to New Poll

The job approval rating for President Obama is more negative than positive in Pennsylvania and more than half of the voters believe it’s time for a change according to the latest Franklin and Marshall College poll.

The President’s approval rating rose slightly from the August poll to the October poll, from 34% to 37%.   52% of the state’s voters believe it’s time for a change than believe the President deserves re-election (42%).

The President still comes out ahead in match ups against Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum. But poll director Terry Madonna says Pennsylvanians are not focused on the presidential election yet, since the primary is not until April. He says the Republican candidates are not well known and there has not been a lot of activity by the candidates in Pennsylvania.  He says the Republican field is still unsettled.

Madonna says the president, in a sense running against himself, is in trouble.  He says typically when they find this situation in polls; they find an incumbent who is going to have a tough fight on his hands.  He expects Pennsylvania to remain very competitive and play its role as a battleground state.

The poll shows President Obama leading Rick Perry in Pennsylvania 40% to 20%. In a match up with Mitt Romney, the president leads 35% to 26%. Going head to head with Rick Santorum, President Obama leads 38% to 25%. Against Herman Cain, the President’s lead is 38% to 24%. There were a large number of voters who were undecided.

Madonna says President Obama’s weak job performance is directly related to the continuation of the recession and the lack of optimism voters have about getting out of it anytime soon.  He says the American people tend to hold the party in power and the President of the United States responsible.

Pennsylvania’s two U. S. Senators also have approval ratings that are more negative than positive.  Senator Bob Casey’s approval rose 6 points from August to 38%, Senator Pat Toomey’s approval; rating was 32%, up 3 points from August.

The poll also looked at Pennsylvania issues.  The state legislature’s approval rating is only 22%, compared to 38% for Governor Corbett.  Half of those polled think the state is headed in the wrong direction.

While Governor Corbett’s approval rating is still below where Ed Rendell or Tom Ridge ranked at this point in their tenures, Madonna says it’s not as markedly low as previous surveys.  The rating rose 6 points from August.

Madonna says they have seen a steady erosion in support for the legislature somewhat influenced by the pay hike grab in 2005.  He says the prosecutions known as Bonusgate have also had an impact. But it’s the most positive rating for the legislature since the summer of 2009 and it’s almost twice as high as the rating Congress gets in most polls, which hovers around 12%.

The poll also asked voters to prioritize some of the top issues facing the state, and more than half pointed to fixing the roads and bridges as the most important or one of the most important issues. 43% ranked passing a tax on natural gas as an important priority, followed by school vouchers (39%), changing the way electoral votes are distributed (30%) and privatizing state stores (17%).