Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is an associate professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and author of The Stronghold: How Republicans Captured Congress but Surrendered the White House.

Recent Articles


So, David Sirota is correct again about the curious, but entirely logical u-shaped relationship between states' black population share and Barack Obama’s performance. Obama does well where the black population is low (and therefore racial polarization is low as well) or high (black votes swamp out polarizing effects). Hillary Clinton wins the states with medium-sized black populations where polarization is strong enough to overwhelm the black voting base. This is why Obama should do well in North Carolina and Indiana should be competitive -- just as the polls as of now suggest. --Tom Schaller


A few weeks ago, NBC/ National Journal’s Matthew Berger reported that there were 101,499 new Democratic applications and 132,688 others who switched to the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania since January 1, compared to just 32,191 new Republican registrants and 13,937 switchers. Overall, these increases boosted the Democrats to a 900,000-voter registration advantage (4.1 million v. 3.2 million), an almost 50 percent increase over the 630,000-plus advantage Democrats enjoyed as recently as November 2007, according to the Pennsylvania secretary of state's office. So that bodes well for the Democrats in November, a point Holly Yeager makes quite convincing and eloquently in her online piece for the Prospect . But what, if anything, do the registration trends tell us about what’s going to happen tonight in the Democratic primary race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama? Nobody can be sure, and without seeing the county-by-county numbers the following is entirely speculative. But, as a...


Pharmaceutical companies spend millions market-testing the retail names for their prescription drug products (they’ve got the dough), and apparently names that include z’s and x’s for some reason create a soothing effect: Xanax, Zoloft, etc. But these new television ads (Jezebel caught this yesterday and has the video ) for Aciphex —a drug that helps reduce acid reflux—are a bit disturbing. In the ads, the pronunciation is perilously close to “ass effects.” (Yes, I confess to having my ears perk up while otherwise ignoring the commercial.) Is that really the best name the folks at Ortho-McNeil-Janssen could dream up? It sounds more fitting for a Guantanamo torture procedure or a north New Jersey strip club. (Bada Bing!) I gather they were trying to work the word “acid” into the name in some way, but Nexium and Zantac are much smarter and safer alternatives. I mean, does anyone want to walk into the CVS and proclaim to the pharmacist, “I’m here to pick up my Aciphex”? --Tom Schaller


Though the Hillary ad I mentioned below is not, in my view, offsides in its invocation of terrorism, this repellent and highly misleading ad produced by a conservative 527 group is clearly out of bounds. It is amazing, but never surprising, just how low the conservative movement will stoop -- particularly in their use of fear and hate -- to motivate people to vote against things. I hesitated to add the link, but you really have to see it to understand. There are plenty of people and sources to blame for the general apathy and widespread cynicism Americans feel toward politics and their government. But conservatives deserve the lion’s share; their entire project is based on appealing to our worst and lowest sentiments: hate and fear. It’s really maddening, and ads like these remind us what’s at stake -- not just policies, and not even offices and elections, but the quality of discourse in this democracy which, ironically, conservatives hold up as a beacon to the rest of the world while...


I really don’t see what the fuss is about Hillary Clinton’s new ad that features—very briefly and as part of a larger montage of images—a brief shot of Osama bin Laden . So what? It’s not like the guy who masterminded the September 11 attacks and is still at-large is not an issue. He is. We should be trying to capture or kill him. Terrorist threats won’t end on January 20. The ad’s use of bin Laden’s image was neither gratuitous nor scare-mongering. The music wasn’t menacing. In fact, the first time they ran it on CNN, after some television pundit promised a controversial new ad, I actually thought the producers queued up the wrong spot. I’m not sure what all the fuss is about, other than perhaps that, after six weeks of trying to find new and fresh angles to cover this interminable Pennsylvania primary (and you thought the run-up to Iowa and New Hampshire was bad!) non-controversies must somehow be elevated to controversies. If there is anything controversial about the ad, it’s...