A brief survey of five of the top stories at Smart Politics in 2009
This New Year's Eve, Smart Politics conducts a brief retrospective on just a few of the reports generated on this site during the past year that caused a stir in the blogosphere and mainstream media. True to its nonpartisan credo, Smart Politics' fact- and data-based reporting proved to be an equal opportunity offender to both the interests of Democrats and Republicans in 2009.
1. Norm Coleman: "God Wants Me to Serve"
A quote lifted from a straight news report at Smart Politics about Norm Coleman's finely tailored word-play for right-leaning versus left-leaning audiences ended up being used as a punch line in Jay Leno's monologue on The Tonight Show some 72 hours later.
Liberal blogs pounced on the story last February, in the midst of the ongoing 2008 U.S. Senate seat battle, by taking the meaning of Coleman's "God wants me to serve" line out of its original context, which was that the former Senator believed his calling was to be a public servant. Instead, the left-wing blogosphere characterized Coleman as stating God was taking a side and wanted him to defeat Al Franken in the 2008 U.S. Senate race recount/trial.
On the evening of February 11th, Jay Leno quipped in his monologue:
"And in Minnesota, Republican Norm Coleman, who is in a legal fight with Al Franken over who won the election for Senate, said, 'God wants me to serve.' But here is my question. How bad a candidate are you if you can't win an election when you have the creator of the universe on your side?"
2. The Many Sides of Michele Bachmann
The blogosophere is never shy to write about Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, but Smart Politics is one of the few blogs to note both her controversies and accomplishments.
In March, Smart Politics was first to break the story that in Bachmann's efforts to be a "foreign correspondent on enemy lines," she wanted Minnesotans to be "armed and dangerous" on the issue of cap and trade.
Much of the liberal blogosphere and even the mainstream media took the "armed and dangerous" remarks out of the policy context in which Bachmann's comments were delivered (and as they were reported at Smart Politics).
Bachmann's political ideology and partisanship also came under scrutiny at Smart Politics in September at her rally with Ron Paul at the University of Minnesota. The degree to which Bachmann is courting the libertarian wing of the GOP was contemplated as Representative Bachmann surprisingly gave public approval to Paul for some of the Texas Congressman's isolationist foreign policy views.
Smart Politics also noted many of Bachmann's political accomplishments, such as her electoral victories in an increasingly blue district, her rise to become one of the most prominent Republicans faces on cable TV news, her bold political ideology, and her remarkable fundraising success among small donors.
3. Keith Ellison's Campaign Fundraising
Smart Politics' reporting on Representative Keith Ellison's fundraising, which demonstrated Ellison was receiving a larger percentage of out-of-state funds than any other member of the Minnesota Congressional delegation, did not sit well with the Congressman's camp.
Ellison's communications director Rick Jauert called the April report "shameful" for its purported claim that the report suggested there was a "significance that out-of-state contributions were from Muslims." A Smart Politics rejoinder to that charge was published shortly thereafter.
4. Conservatism on the rise in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest
Predating the significant drop in approval ratings endured later in the year by Barack Obama and the large deficits Democrats now face in generic congressional matchup polls, Smart Politics observed in May, in a survey of over 160 public opinion polls, how the percentage of residents in Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin identifying themselves as having a conservative political ideology has been on the rise in each state since 2007 and that conservatism was at its highest peak over the last four years.
A shift towards Republican Party ID later followed, with the GOP matching Democrats for partisan identification in Minnesota for the first time in four years by mid-summer.
5. Republican Dissent in Sotomayor Vote
A Smart Politics analysis in August found that Republican opposition in the U.S. Senate confirmation vote of Sonia Sotomayor, at more than three-quarters of its caucus, stands as one of the most unified fronts against a Democratic president's nominee in Republican Party history, and the most unified dissent since the turn of the 20th Century.
Of the 21 Republican Senators representing the most populous Hispanic states in the GOP caucus, 20 voted against Sotomayor's confirmation.
Smart Politics looks forward to the year in politics ahead in 2010 and thanks its ever-growing readership as it joins us along the way.
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