At best, the Chatter Rankings are a proxy measure for public awareness of each candidate. That is to say, both absolute ranking and change in ranking are meaningful measurements. Possibly, one but not the other is meaningful. This is not difficult to check: if we see strong trends over time, and the upward-trending candidates outperform downward-trending ones in poll and primary results in 2007 and 2008, then change in ranking would seem to be meaningful. If high-ranking candidates outperform low-ranking candidates, then absolute ranking is meaningful.
But either (or both) of these measures may be quite uncorrelated with actual election prospects. Absolute ranking may be a function of current newsmaking capacity. For example, George Bush, Tony Blair, and Osama Bin Laden outperform most candidates on the list; but this does not reflect electability in 2008. At the same time, it may be that news cycles are sufficiently random that a candidate's improvement this month has little correlation with his expected improvement next month.
If I had understood anything from my Statistics/Econometrics course this fall, I could turn all of this into efficient and incomprehensible equations. More's the pity.
Does Russ Feingold belong on this list? Each month I profile at least one candidate. This month's newcomer is the senator from Wisconsin. Does he really belong here? The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel likes him in the race as a gadfly, to stir up intelligent debate. But they use the word "quixotic" in the concluding paragraph. A lefty Wisconsin paper praises him for standing up against the USA Patriot Act, both in 2001 and now. Like many paleocons, I view the USA Patriot Act as an excess comparable to some of our Cold War paranoia. If Americans react as strongly as they should to the NSA wiretapping revelations, and if more abuses come to light in '06 and '07, Feingold could become a savior for national integrity. Add to his defense of civil liberties a squeaky-clean reputation built around campaign finance reform and balancing the budget, and it's easy to see where 16 years of dubiously run national security could get a reformist some air-time.
Ultimately, however, Senator Feingold is liberal. Very liberal. Very liberal and Jewish and divorced. And while he may win over some civil libertarians with his principled stances, he'll have a hard time convincing anyone in his own party that he is electable. He may be a kinder and gentler Howard Dean, but we take the position that neither of America's top two cheese-producing states will be a president-producing state in the near future.
See also: Draft Russ site, blogs, Russ for President, Primary2008 profile, Official Senate site.
|R.1||Sen. John McCain||1,130||+3|
|R.2||Gov. Mitt Romney||1,090||+1|
|R.3||Sen. Bill Frist||643||-2|
|R.4||Secy. Condoleezza Rice||633||+4|
|R.6||Gov. George Pataki||450||-4|
|R.7||Gov. Jeb Bush||416||+2|
|R.8||Sen. Chuck Hagel||219||+4|
|R.9||Sen. George Allen||188||+1|
|R.11||Sen. Sam Brownback||66||-4|
|R.12||Gov. Mike Huckabee||65||-6|
|D.1||Sen. Hillary Clinton||1,440||0|
|D.2||Sen. John Kerry||774||0|
|D.3||Sen. Russ Feingold||695||+9*|
|D.4||Gov. Mark Warner||621||-1|
|D.5||Sen. John Edwards||545||+3|
|D.6||Sen. Joseph Biden||425||+4|
|D.8||Gov. Bill Richardson||329||+1|
|D.9||Sen. Harry Reid||282||-4|
|D.10||Sen. Barack Obama||169||+1|
|D.11||Gov. Tom Vilsack||161||-7|
|D.12||Sen. Evan Bayh||103||-6|
See the Chatter Rankings from August, July, June, and May.