Since the 1960s, political scientists and pollsters have used a measure called the "feeling thermometer" to gauge how respondents feel about politicians, organizations, and groups of their fellow citizens. It's a way to get a general sentiment—do you feel warm or cool toward this person?—that fits on a convenient 100-point scale, which makes analysis tidy, even if it has little relationship to the way we actually think about political figures. If your feeling toward President Obama is a 72, and your feeling toward Vice President Biden is a 71, does that mean anything? Not really.
If you didn't know about feeling thermometers, you might have been a bit puzzled upon seeing headlines today reading, "Poll: Christie, Clinton 'Hottest' Politicians," or "Christie, Clinton Top 'Hot Politician' List," or "The 'Hottest Politicians' In the Country? Christie and Clinton." Perhaps the "Whaaaa?" response was just what the headline writers were looking for, but it did seem that the articles were written by people who didn't know that this is a survey question with a long and (let's be honest) not particularly interesting history.
Chalk it up to the marketing genius of the folks at Quinnipiac University (see Poll of the Day). With some vivid language in their press release ("Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the GOP's 2012 vice presidential candidate, generates the most heat among Republican voters with 68.7 degrees. 'Christie's great strength is among independent voters, who give him 50.6 degrees of love, and Democrats, who give him 53.2 degrees'"), they can turn a mundane favorability question into a steamy tale of political desire, complete with a soundtrack by Barry White.
Lest anyone get carried away, the presidential candidate who got the highest feeling thermometer ratings in the National Election Studies over the last 40 years was … you guessed it: Richard Nixon. Go figure.
SO THEY SAY
I don’t think that she’s going to be a candidate for the U.S. Senate. She has a great ability to keep speculation around her swirling, but I think that it’s pretty clear watching her over the last couple of years, there’s not much interest in either substantive policy issues or actual governance.
—Steve Schmidt, assessing the chances of Sarah Palin running for the Senate
DAILY MEME: WENDY DAVIS READIES FOR AN ELECTION
- Texas state senator Wendy Davis was in Washington today, speaking at a lunch at the National Press Club. In her address, she revealed her 2014 plans—it's re-election, a gubernatorial campaign, or bust.
- We bet Democrats in Texas are sure excited.
- But, a quick reality check from someone who knows the pulse of the state's politics: "If she's going to run statewide in Texas, that's a different political universe than she's finding now in Washington, or, for that matter, nationally."
- (Although many other observers say, what's the harm in trying?)
- If she does well, it may mean good things for whichever Democrat runs in the2016 presidential campaign.
- And Republicans in the state are already getting pissy ... and trying to make Davispay for the special session they held after her now-famous filibuster.
- To which Steve Benen responds, "Davis didn't want a special session, and she certainly didn't ask for one. Texas could have just moved on, rather than spend more time on a legally dubious anti-abortion bill, but GOP policymakers insisted ... if the session was so wasteful, shouldn't Rick Perry have to pony up the $2.4 million?"
- Regardless of the difficulties she'll face in either election she chooses, it's a good thing that the state's sexist not-so-secret secret is getting national attention
WHAT WE'RE WRITING
- Jim Messina led the most technologically-sophisticated campaign in history to help get Obama reelected. So, Paul Waldman asks, what does it say about him and his former candidate that he’s crossing the Atlantic to work for the conservative party of Prime Minister David Cameron?
- Critics of the Zimmerman verdict have been all for the DOJ probe, but Scott Lemieux writes that it’s not likely to go anywhere.
WHAT WE'RE READING
- Benjamin Wallace-Wells profiles Chris Christie, the man adored all the more for pissing people off.
- As San Diego Mayor Bob Filner entered counseling today, a tenth woman has come forward about his lewd actions.
- Tea Party favorite Allen West may have lost his house seat, but he never really left Washington.
- After promoting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Newt Gingrich might have neocon buyer's remorse.
- Under civil forfeiture, Americans who haven’t been charged with wrongdoing can be stripped of their cash, cars, and even homes.
- If Janet Yellen isn't named Fed chair, she might leave the central bank altogether.
- After pushing for an immigration reform bill, Marco Rubio is trying to get back in the good graces of the GOP base.
POLL OF THE DAY
A new breed of poll conducted by Quinnipiac University tests how hot current politicians are (see above blurb), measuring the nation’s attitude toward them. Chris Christie and Hilary Clinton lead the way in the eyes of the nation, although Christie falls to eighth when measured just by Republicans. Elizabeth Warren is in third place behind the very early 2016 front-runners, though 51 percent of voters don’t know enough about her to form an opinion.