Friday, March 28, 2008

Tim Walberg on Global Climate Change

It's the moment we've all been waiting for... Congressman Tim Walberg, self-proclaimed environmentalist, share's his thoughts on global warming and climate change. At a town hall in Hillsdale on Monday, Congressman Walberg got a question on what the federal government should do to combat global climate change. This was reported first by Eric B. at Michigan Liberal, and audio is available here.

I've tried to transcribe it from the very low quality audio file, with some assistance from the transcription Eric already had. My version and his version differ slightly, and both of them are probably slightly different from what was actually said. That's just what happens when you have a low-quality recording.

Still, I'm confident that both of us have captured the essence of what Congressman Walberg is trying to say.

Question: What do you think is the role of the federal government in combating global climate change?

Walberg: In combating global climate change?

Question: [garbled, presumably "Yes."]

Walberg: Well, I think the federal government ought to give incentives to business, industry, and more importantly research institutions to do what's necessary to find out if warming is taking place. I don't think it can be just people like Al Gore [garbled] other side. I think it needs to be people who are doing significant research to find out if, indeed, we are warming. There are a lot of people in Michigan that are saying, "If this is warming, I don't want any more of it." [Laughter] Or, "If this isn't warming, give me more warming!" [garbled] What I'm saying is, when I read science, I read scientists, editors, who police equal on both sides that say there’s a cycle that significant warming that’s produced by human involvement and not just simple matter of fact natural currents that take place in the cycle then I read on the other side an equal number at the very least that say just the very opposite that this something that’s gone on for eons, that we go through these cycles.

The Czech, the president of the Czech Republic, who's spoken here in Hillsdale several times, [garbled] I don't want to hide anything from you guys, this guy is a conservative, he's a free market person, a capitalist. Um, he understands Putin, he understands Russia. But, he may say that we were in Prague dealing with the missile defense initiative. But over the course of the meeting with him the question came up about global warming and climate change. And he says, well, he says, I as you know I’ve written a book about that. Right now we are having it translated into English and I hope you would buy [garbled] and he said I was just in Nigeria for meetings last week, he said, in the process of less than 48 hours I went through two occasions, going and coming, of degree changes of over 30 degrees. Of course, that was Celsius. And then he smiled and he says, once I got back I realized it hadn't hurt me at all! Now, we've seen less than two degree changes in the last hundred years. So I think if you're asking that question, I'm saying we ought to do significant research where we let the private sector in research entities whether it be public institutions like Michigan State or U of M nonetheless the private sector area of government do those research and come up with a decision. I’m not sure the taxpayers ought to pay significantly for things like that.

Where do I begin? Let's start by figuring out what Walberg is actually saying, without his obviously hilarious jokes about cold weather in Michigan.
  • "I think the federal government ought to give incentives to business, industry, and more importantly research institutions to do what's necessary to find out if warming is taking place."
  • It can't just be political figures like Al Gore that inform us on this issue.
  • Walberg has seen an equal number of scientists, if not more, that say global warming is part of a natural cycle and not a result of human activity.
  • The president of the Czech Republic says that he's flown places where it's warm, then flown places where it's cold, and he feels fine. Therefore, maybe global warming isn't an issue.
  • A two degree change in 100 years isn't that bad.
  • The only research on this issue should be conducted by the private sector, and taxpayers should not pay for it.
I actually do agree with Congressman Walberg on one part. It should just be political figures like Al Gore that inform us on this issue. Gore is great for publicity, but all the real decisions should be made based on what actual scientists have to say.

Unfortunately, all of Walberg's evidence against global warming comes from, well, a political figure. And if you think Al Gore is biased, wait until you learn more about Václav Klaus, the president of the Czech Republic.

For starters, the anecdote Walberg shares about Klaus's trip to Nigeria is, quite simply, stupid. We're talking about climate change, not the impact of a warm day versus a cold day on the body. Klaus was fine after his trip to Nigeria, and that's not surprising. Now, if the average temperature of the Czech Republic were to rise 30 degrees Celsius, that would be something else entirely. That kind of a change, which Klaus as an individual can withstand with no trouble, would give Prague an average temperature of 40 degrees Celsius, or about 104 degrees Farenheit. Since the average temperature of Death Valley in July is only 46 degrees Celsius, I feel that such a climate change would be significant.

But, as Klaus correctly points out, he can stand it just fine. Any agriculture in his country might not survive, but that's an entirely different problem.

Obviously, even the most pessimistic predictions of global warming don't come close to a world-wide increase of 30 degrees Celsius, and Prague isn't going to turn into Death Valley. But it's Václav Klaus and Tim Walberg that suggested such a change wouldn't be that big of a deal.

Václav Klaus has been very vocal in denouncing global warming. In a piece for the Financial Times in London, Klaus writes:
As someone who lived under communism for most of his life, I feel obliged to say that I see the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now in ambitious environmentalism, not in communism. This ideology wants to replace the free and spontaneous evolution of mankind by a sort of central (now global) planning.
(Emphasis added.)

I don't know about you, but I'm a little worried when I see that my congressman is getting his scientific data from a man that says environmentalism is worse than communism.

Where does Klaus get this kind of expertise when it comes to scientific data? Why, he used to be a free market economist! Obviously, he's qualified to make this kind of judgment, and it won't be clouded at all by other interests!

I'll make a deal with you, Congressman Walberg. I'll never cite former Vice President Al Gore, if you promise to never again cite Václav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic. Let's stick to actual scientists, who we can agree aren't nearly as biased.

Let's recall also that Congressman Walberg is against funding actual scientific research, saying "I’m not sure the taxpayers ought to pay significantly for things like that." Never mind that science is so important, and has been for the entire history of the country, that Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution specifically lists one power of Congress as:
To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;
That primarily addresses patent law, but there is nonetheless a precedent for funding scientific research.

Still, I'm willing to let that slide as a difference of politics. We all agree that it's the scientists that should be making judgments about the science of global warming. So what do the scientists actually say? Here's Congressman Walberg's claim:
What I'm saying is, when I read science, I read scientists, editors, who police equal on both sides that say there’s a cycle that significant warming that’s produced by human involvement and not just simple matter of fact natural currents that take place in the cycle then I read on the other side an equal number at the very least that say just the very opposite that this something that’s gone on for eons, that we go through these cycles.
In other words, Walberg says that he's seen an equal number of scientists at the very least who say that global warming is just a natural phenomenon, not the result of human activity.

I had no idea that Congressman Walberg reads peer-reviewed scientific journals so regularly, nor did I realize that the minister was qualified to interpret the data presented. I, a mere math major, freely admit that I don't read those sorts of scientific journals, nor would I be able to interpret them if I did. Obviously, Walberg is much more in-touch with the scientific community than I am.

Either that, or he's full of crap.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been releasing reports every now and then on the issue. The IPCC describes itself as:
a scientific intergovernmental body set up by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Its constituency is made of :
  • The governments: the IPCC is open to all member countries of WMO and UNEP. Governments of participate in plenary Sessions of the IPCC where main decisions about the IPCC workprogramme are taken and reports are accepted, adopted and approved. They also participate the review of IPCC Reports.
  • The scientists: hundreds of scientists all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC as authors, contributors and reviewers.
  • The people: as United Nations body, the IPCC work aims at the promotion of the United Nations human development goals
When they released a report last year, this is what the New York Times reported:
The report is the panel’s fourth assessment since 1990 on the causes and consequences of climate change, but it is the first in which the group asserts with near certainty — more than 90 percent confidence — that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from human activities have been the main causes of warming in the past half century.
But, of course, the New York Times is a biased, liberal media source, and the IPCC is made up of a bunch of America-hating countries, so they can't be trusted. So instead, let's look and see what the actual scientists say. These, by the way, are the real scientists whose work Tim Walberg claims to be reading.

In science, the only research you take seriously is research that has been peer reviewed. That is, it's been examined by other experts in the field, who look for flaws and check to make sure that your methodology is sound. If it all checks out, it gets published in a respected journal.

Is it perfect? No. Mistakes still get made. But this way, it keeps the crackpots who don't have any idea what they're talking about from getting mixed in with serious scientific thinkers. If it isn't peer-reviewed, don't trust it.

Naomi Oreskes, a professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California San Diego, sought in 2004 to find out if there really was a scientific consensus on global warming by examining such peer-reviewed articles. She published her result in the journal Science. Here's what she found:
Policy-makers and the media, particularly in the United States, frequently assert that climate science is highly uncertain. Some have used this as an argument against adopting strong measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. [...] Such statements suggest that there might be substantive disagreement in the scientific community about the reality of anthropogenic climate change. This is not the case.


The drafting of such reports [as the IPCC reports] and statements involves many opportunities for comment, criticism, and revision, and it is not likely that they would diverge greatly from the opinions of the societies' members. Nevertheless, they might downplay legitimate dissenting opinions. That hypothesis was tested by analyzing 928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords "[global] climate change".

The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.

Admittedly, authors evaluating impacts, developing methods, or studying paleoclimatic change might believe that current climate change is natural. However, none of these papers argued that point.

This analysis shows that scientists publishing in the peer-reviewed literature agree with the IPCC, the National Academy of Sciences, and the public statements of their professional societies. Politicians, economists, journalists, and others may have the impression of confusion, disagreement, or discord among climate scientists, but that impression is incorrect.
(Emphasis added.)

Let us review.

Congressman Walberg does not believe we should rely on biased figures like Al Gore, yet has no problem relying on a man that says environmentalism is worse than communism.

Congressman Walberg does not believe that taxpayers should be funding scientific research like this, instead believing that private industry-- famous for their lack of bias in areas which could have an impact on their profits-- should take the lead on climate research.

Congressman Walberg claims to read the research of many scientists, and says that he finds many of them, if not a majority, reject the consensus view that human activities are causing a global warming and climate change. This, despite reports by organizations like the IPCC and a survey of peer-edited scientific articles which flatly contradicts Walberg's claim.

Congressman Walberg, what scientists are you relying on? Other than President Klaus, can you name a single reputable scientist whose peer-reviewed research contradicts the consensus on climate change?

Do you have any evidence to support your position?

I would welcome any response from Congressman Walberg, his staff, or his supporters. Until then, I offer these potential conclusions:
  • Congressman Tim Walberg does not read scientific journals, nor does he rely on peer-reviewed research.
  • His claim that he reads science that offers contradictory positions on climate change is either a lie or a misrepresentation of his reading of biased media reports or material supplied by lobbyists.
  • His anecdote about President Klaus shows that he does not fully understand the issue, nor does he understand the value of actual scientific research.
  • His position that scientific research into global climate change is primarily motivated by either a general mistrust of science, a general opposition to government spending, or arguments presented to him by lobbyists with an agenda of their own.

Congressman Walberg, this is a serious problem facing the planet. If you're not willing to take the time to make an informed judgment, don't pretend to know what you're talking about, and don't offer absolutely ridiculous anecdotes about trips from the Czech Republic to Nigeria.

I'm not a scientist, and I don't claim to fully understand climate science. But I can spot someone who's just trying to fake his way through the issue and sound smart. Believe me, Congressman, you're not fooling anyone.

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Poverty: Walberg Receives Failing Grade

Sargent Shriver, the first director of President Kennedy's Peace Corps and the 1972 Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee, was a firm believer that government action could bring about an end to poverty, providing opportunities and a level playing field to those unable to support themselves. Although Shriver, suffering from Alzheimer's disease, no longer works actively, the Shriver Center continues its advocacy and lobbying efforts to help pass laws which could help relieve some suffering.

Recently, the Shriver Center released a scorecard (.pdf file) rating the performance of members of Congress on poverty-related issues. Members of the House of Representatives were given a letter grade based on fifteen votes, and members of the Senate were rated on 14 votes.

Given that Shriver's belief that government can be part of the solution to the nation's problems is in every way opposite of Congressman Tim Walberg's belief that you are and should be on your own, I wasn't surprised that Walberg didn't score highly. Still, this bothers me:

(Click to enlarge.)

Of Michigan's entire congressional delegation, Congressman Tim Walberg was the only one to receive a failing grade. On only two occasions did Walberg cast a vote which the Shriver Center considers helpful in the battle against poverty.

Once again, I'm embarrassed to have this man represent me in Washington.

For more on the scorecard and its methodology, read the whole thing here and the press release from the Shriver Center.

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Where are they now? Paul DeWeese

It was a political lifetime ago, but many of you may remember the race for the 2004 Republican nomination in the 7th Congressional District. It was a big deal, and completely overshadowed the Democratic contest, in which Sharon Renier won her first Democratic nomination. Let's play "where are they now" and see what happened to the Republican field.

Here are the results of the 2004 Republican 7th District primary:
Joe Schwarz (R), 28%
Brad Smith (R), 22%
Tim Walberg (R), 18%
Clark Bisbee (R), 14%
Gene DeRossett (R), 11%
Paul DeWeese (R), 7%
Where are they now?

Joe Schwarz, no longer in Congress, is teaching at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, in addition to serving on any number of commissions at the state and federal level. We already know that he doesn't like Tim Walberg at all.

Clark Bisbee caught everyone's attention when he said, essentially, that he was interested in challenging Walberg in the primary, if anyone was interested in supporting him. Said Bisbee:
"I would love to be in Washington right now," Bisbee told MIRS. "I'll put it that way."

Bisbee said Walberg's "voting record could be better."

"He's kind of split the party here (in Jackson)," Bisbee said. "I don't know that he's endeared himself to everyone."

He does have concerns Walberg's seat won't hold this fall.

"My contention three years ago was that if I didn't win or Joe didn't win, there could be a big fight," Bisbee said. "And we could lose that fight."
So, it's pretty clear that Bisbee isn't a Walberg fan, either.

The MIRS article I quoted continued:
Other names being floated are the two other also-rans in the '04 primary, former Reps. Gene DeROSSETT and Paul DeWEESE.
I haven't heard anything about DeRossett, but it turns out Paul DeWeese might not be an option anymore for Republicans looking for an alternative to Walberg... From MIRS, via Michigan Liberal:
Former Rep. Paul DeWeese of Williamston, a one-time Republican Senate and congressional candidate, said he's changed parties and is now a Democrat.

For a number of years, the emergency room physician said he's watched a growing disconnect between the needs of people and the Republican Party's narrow "bankrupt ideology."

On one hand, Michigan has crumbling, potholed roads, yet the Legislature can't hold a reasonable discussion on investing in infrastructure improvement. The Michigan State Police (MSP) has DNA analysis technology, but so little funding that its multi-year waiting list keeps the innocent needlessly in jail, he said.

Instead of investing in mental health courts, the Republicans seem content to pad the state's region-high prison population rate. Instead of addressing health care, the Republicans' hand-off approach is causing emergency rooms to "burst at the seams."
(Emphasis added.)

Hmm. While he doesn't name Congressman Walberg specifically, the bit about "narrow 'bankrupt ideology'" sounds a lot like Tim.

DeWeese is sort of an odd fit for the Democratic Party, but I'm more than willing to welcome him with open arms. And Dr. Schwarz, too, if he'd like to come all the way and join the party.

So, that's Schwarz and DeWeese driven away from the GOP by the Walbergs of the party. Bisbee is ready to challenge Walberg in a primary, if he can find the support. Has anyone heard anything about Brad Smith or Gene DeRossett?

By the time Tim Walberg leaves office, will the 7th District have any Republicans left?

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Still Here

I think I saw at least one comment mentioning that things were kind of quiet around here, which is odd, since there's a lot of stuff that's been happening in the 7th District and in Washington. I don't want to completely explain my absence because there are plenty of personal details in my life that I don't want to post on the internet. Suffice it to say, my life has had a few major changes since I started Walberg Watch, and it's a little harder for me to find time to write anything.

It also didn't help that I had the flu all last week. If any of you have suffered through that, you know what it's like.

But enough of that. I'm still here, and there's plenty about Tim Walberg that we can talk about. Expect a few posts today.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Good News for Schauer

Mark Schauer has had a good couple of weeks... First the Detroit News poll, and now these:

Candidates for Change Named to DCCC Red to Blue Program

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee today announced the first round of Red to Blue candidates challenging Republican incumbents. This is the second slate of Democratic congressional candidates that have qualified for the competitive DCCC Red to Blue program, the first slate was for candidates in open seats. These candidates earned a spot in the program by surpassing demanding fundraising goals and skillfully demonstrating to voters that they stand for change and will represent new priorities when elected to Congress.

These candidates have come out of the gate strong and the Red to Blue Program will give them the financial and structural edge to be even more competitive in November," said Chairman Chris Van Hollen, Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "The candidates for change in our first round of challenger Red to Blue are strong examples of Democrats who represent a commitment to new priorities for the families in their districts.

The Red to Blue program highlights top Democratic campaigns across the country, and offers them financial, communications, and strategic support. The program will introduce Democratic supporters to new, competitive candidates in order to help expand the fundraising base for these campaigns.

Chairman Van Hollen joined Red to Blue co-chairs Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Artur Davis (D-AL), and Bruce Braley (D-IA) to announce the first 13 challenger candidates for change who qualified for the Red to Blue:

Kay Barnes (MO-06)
Anne Barth (WV-02)
Darcy Burner (WA-08)
Robert Daskas (NV-03)
Steve Driehaus (OH-01)
Jim Himes (CT-04)
Christine Jennings (FL-13)
Larry Kissell (NC-08)
Suzanne Kosmas (FL-24)
Eric Massa (NY-29)
Gary Peters (MI-09)
Mark Schauer (MI-07)
Dan Seals (IL-10)

Red to Blue was a proven success in the 2004 and 2006 cycles. In 2004, the Red to Blue program raised nearly $7.5 million for twenty seven campaigns across the country with an average of more than $250,000 per campaign. In 2006, the Red to Blue program raised nearly $22.6 million for 56 campaigns with an average of $404,000 per campaign. Red to Blue was also responsible for solidifying the structure of dozens of campaigns and making a real difference for Democrats across America.

I hope Brandon doesn't mind that I quoted him extensively...

And then tonight, the Battle Creek Enquirer reports:

Nursing union endorses Schauer over Walberg

LANSING — The Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) today announced its endorsement of state Sen. Mark Schauer, D-Bedford Township, in his 7th District Congressional race against U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton.


The MNA is an AFL-CIO affiliated union representing Michigan registered nurses and advocates for them and their patients.
I'm sure Congressman Walberg will have plenty of terrible things to say about unions, but in my book, there's nothing wrong with having the nurses on your side.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

More from the Detroit News Poll

(Many thanks to those of you who continue to share articles from the subscription-only MIRS and Gongwer with me.)

Last week's Detroit News/WXYZ poll conducted by EPIC-MRA showed some trouble for Congressman Walberg. I haven't seen all the data yet or the survey questions, but MIRS and Gongwer have a little bit more than the initial Detroit News article.

Some of the data below is incomplete, and the way I've listed it here is likely different from the way it was asked in the survey. I'm giving you everything the Detroit News, MIRS, and Gongwer have published, as well as data from

(Margin of error +/- 4.9%)

Party Identification:
Democrats and lean (D) independents - 35%
Republicans and lean (R) independents - 47%
Independents/Other - 18%

All Independents - 40%

Walberg versus Schauer, no biographies:
Walberg (R) - 51%
Schauer (D) - 40%

Walberg versus Schauer, with biographies:
Walberg (R) - 48%
Schauer (D) - 49%

By Party:
Republicans, no bio:
Walberg - 82%
Schauer - 9%
Republicans, with bio:
Walberg - 83%
Schauer - 15%

Democrats, no bio:
Walberg - N/A
Schauer - 82%
Democrats, with bio:
Walberg - N/A
Schauer - 91%

Independents, no bio:
Walberg - 35%
Schauer - 46%
Independets, with bio:
Walberg - 38%
Schauer - 55%

By County (2006 results in parentheses):
Calhoun, no bio:
Walberg - 40% (45%)
Schauer - 57% (Renier 51%)
Calhoun, with bio:
Walberg - 38%
Schauer - 59%

Eaton, no bio:
Walberg - 58% (48%)
Schauer - 29% (Renier 50%)
Eaton, with bio:
Walberg - 60%
Schauer - 36%

Jackson, no bio:
Walberg - 55% (51%)
Schauer - 36% (Renier 46%)
Jackson, with bio:
Walberg - 51%
Schauer - 45%

Lenawee, no bio:
Walberg - 60% (56%)
Schauer - 30% (Renier 42%)
Lenawee, with bio:
Walberg - 46%
Schauer - 46%

Washtenaw, no bio:
Walberg - 46% (47%)
Schauer - 43% (Renier 50%)
Washtenaw, with bio:
Walberg - 53%
Schauer - 47%

(Branch, Hillsdale counties were not given in any article.)

Walberg Name Recognition:
Recognize Walberg - 93%
Do Not Recognize - 7%

Schauer Name Recognition:
Recognize Schauer - 47%
Do Not Recognize - 53%

Walberg Favorable vs. Unfavorable:
Favorable - 42%
Unfavorable - 30%

Schauer Favorable vs. Unfavorable:
Favorable - 19%
Unfavorable - 12%

Walberg Job Approval:
Positive - 39%
Negative - 38%

Bush Approval:
Positive - 37%
Negative - 62%

Granholm Approval:
Positive - 34%
Negative - N/A

Country Right Direction/Wrong Track
Right Direction - 17%
Wrong Track - 68%

Presidential Race:
McCain (R) over Clinton (D) by 25%
McCain (R) over Obama (D) by 16%

Most Important Issues:
Improving Economy - 41%
Protecting America From Terrorism - 13%
Health Care - 11%

Pro-Life/Pro-Choice Self-ID:
Pro-life - 43%
Pro-choice - 50%

... And that's all I've got for now. First, for all the reporters out there, the political junkies like me would really appreciate it if, when possible, you posted the complete data in addition to analysis. I had to look through four articles to piece all of that together, and there are still some gaps. I'd love to see the biographical sketches that were read, as well as see any other data from the poll.

I have a few observations, but before I start, I like the introduction to the MIRS article:
Wily Republican strategist Lee ATWATER's axiom was that a candidate was dead when his negatives hit 35 percent and his positives aren't at least 5 points higher — because those figures aren't likely to change.
If you glance up again, you'll notice that Walberg's negatives are at 38 percent, and his positives are only one point higher. So, Lee Atwater (Karl Rove's mentor) would be bailing on Walberg right about now.

I'm surprised by how well Walberg does in Eaton County and Washtenaw County, and I really do expect those numbers to drop this summer. Similarly, while I'd love for Mark Schauer to be able to win Lenawee County (my home county and Tim Walberg's home county), I really doubt that it'll happen. Still, if Schauer can hit 46 percent in Lenawee County with just a biographical sketch, it's definitely a place worth campaigning in.

Schauer is strong among independents (very important), and he improves more than Walberg does in every category when the biographical information is read. Since the poll was commissioned by the Detroit News (a paper that has never endorsed a Democratic presidential nominee), I'm going to assume the biography was fairly balanced.

I think it's also worth pointing out that Schauer gets significant support simply for being a Democrat. The lesson here, I think, is that one shouldn't run away from the (D) after the name this year. Independents are leaning strongly for Democrats, as was demonstrated in the recent Illinois 14th District special election, where Bill Foster won former House Speaker Dennis Hastert's seat with ads prominently featuring his party affiliation.

Still, remember that this is still a lean-Republican district, and it won't be an easy campaign. However, when 53 percent of the voters don't know who the leading Democratic candidate is, these results are pretty good.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Detroit News Poll: Schauer, Walberg Even

A friend was kind enough to pass this along to me, and then the Schauer campaign sent out a press release about 45 minutes later. EPIC-MRA conducted a poll for WXYZ-Detroit and the Detroit News on the 7th District, polling a match-up between incumbent Congressman Tim Walberg and state Senator Mark Schauer.

(While nothing is ever guaranteed, the rest of this post works under the assumption that Schauer is the nominee, and that it's Walberg versus Schauer in November. I don't want to keep repeating caveats like "Assuming Schauer wins the nomination over Renier..." because that gets repetitive.)

Here's what they found:

A survey of 7th Congressional District voters conducted by Detroit News/WXYZ-Action News pollster EPIC-MRA shows Rep. Tim Walberg of Tipton in a statistical dead heat when voters are read biographical information about him and challenger Mark Schauer, who represents the Battle Creek area in the state Senate. Walberg stood at 48 percent and Schauer at 49 percent.

The error margin of the survey of 400, Feb. 27 through March 2, was 4.9 percentage points.


When voters had no additional information than the two candidates' names and party affiliations, Walberg was favored by 51 percent to Schauer's 40 percent. That head-to-head question was asked first, then asked again after the biographical information was read to survey respondents.
Here's a bit of analyisis:
"If I were in Tim Walberg's camp, I would have grave concerns at this point that a relatively unknown Democrat in a traditionally Republican district can match up so competitively," said EPIC-MRA political analyst John Cavanagh.


But Cavanagh says migration from Ingham County to Eaton County is watering down the Republican flavor of the district.
And, finally, here's some fun with issues and approval ratings.

Voters showed little interest in two issues that are among Walberg's priorities: Only 7 percent of voters in the district picked "promoting morality and family values" as their top concern while 3 percent chose "keeping federal taxes low."

The overwhelming top concern picked by voters -- 41 percent -- was "improving the nation's economy and providing jobs."

The poll found that 53 percent of voters didn't know Schauer. Among those who do, 19 percent view him favorably and 12 percent don't.

On Walberg, a fiscal and social conservative who sits on the House Agriculture Committee, 42 percent of voters have a favorable view, while 30 percent don't.

But voters were split when asked to "rate the job being done" by Walberg: 39 percent rated his performance as positive and 38 percent gave him negative marks.

Walberg Chief of Staff Joe Wicks declined to comment on the poll results, saying "Congressman Walberg is focused on the economic issues."

(Emphasis added.)

Let's make all of that easier to read.

(Margin of error +/- 4.9%)

Walberg versus Schauer, no biographies:

Walberg (R) - 51%
Schauer (D) - 40%

Walberg versus Schauer, with biographies:

Walberg (R) - 48%
Schauer (D) - 49%

Walberg Favorable vs. Unfavorable:

Favorable - 42%
Unfavorable - 30%

Schauer Favorable vs. Unfavorable:

Favorable - 19%
Unfavorable - 12%

Walberg Job Approval:

Positive - 39%
Negative - 38%

I'm told by Deb Price, the reporter with the Detroit News, that more details from the poll will be available tomorrow afternoon. For now, that's what we've got.

So, what does all of that mean? For starters, Tim Walberg is in a weak position for an incumbent. Given no other information about the leading Democratic challenger, Walberg only manages to get 51 percent. That's almost half of the district that's already looking for someone news.

Schauer, meanwhile, manages to start off with a base of 40 percent from his name alone, and he gets an extra nine percent when a simple biography is read. That's a strong starting position for a challenger.

The fact that Schauer is leading Walberg by one percent when biographies are read doesn't really have any meaning when the poll has a margin of error of five percent. If anything, it gives Mark Schauer the benefit of headlines like "Schauer Leads Walberg in New Poll" all across the 7th District.

Supposing Schauer's name identification increases between now and November (which, with over $500,000, he should be able to do even if he just stopped fundraising now), that means we'd be starting the race essentially even. That's significant. All the advantages of incumbency that Walberg has only manage to make this a 50-50 race.

Walberg also isn't helped much by the fact that people don't really care about his anti-tax bills or his moral values. The focus right now is on economic issues, and on Schauer's website, that's the first thing you see-- the mortgage crisis and the economy. When you visit Walberg's website (such that it is), you see items mentioning taxes, government spending, abortion, same-sex marriage... and nothing about the economic issues people are thinking about.

And, beyond all of that, a good rule of thumb is that if only 39 percent approve of the job you're doing, you're probably in a lot of trouble.

This is bad news for Walberg, but Schauer and Democrats in general have some work to do. There are a lot of people out there who don't like Walberg and are looking for something better. Now we just have to convince them.

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Skubick: Schwarz Won't Run

Promoted back to the top... It's in the subscription-only MIRS today, but you can read a longer, (presumably) earlier draft of the article at Tim Skubick's blog. - Fitzy

It really didn't look very likely that Joe Schwarz would run again, but for those of you still holding out hope, journalist Tim Skubick brings us this:

Although the drop-dead date for filing for office is not until May, former Michigan Congressman John Schwarz is politically dropping dead before that. He will not run to regain his seat he lost to conservative Tim Walberg last time out in the Battle Creek area.
Caught on the state senate floor on Wednesday, Schwarz was asked if he would run?
"I don't think so. My plate is pretty darn full right now. It would probably be inappropriate to get in a congressional race now," he reveals for the first time.
He notes that the democrats have "a candidate" and as for an independent bid he laughs, "The road to higher office is strewn with the bodies of people who have run as independents."
Schwarz says he "came close but not close enough" to re-entering the contest but in the end, what he termed his "philosophical difference" with the core republican party in Michigan, kept him out of the hunt.
Schwarz says his dream job is to be Secretary of the Navy in a McCain administration. "I've thought about it, but not talked about it" with his buddy McCain who is the GOP nominee for president.
So, from the looks of it, Joe Schwarz just isn't interested in going through it again. And who can blame him? After decades of service, conservative members of his own party trashed his record and defeated him in a bitter, divisive primary. A life-long Republican, Schwarz now says he has trouble calling himself a member of the party.

As for Schwarz as Secretary of the Navy, I have no doubt he'd be well-suited to the role. However, given the condition that John McCain is elected president for that to happen, I'm kind of hoping he doesn't get that dream job. But that's presidential politics, and not what this blog is about.

This more or less settles the race into Walberg versus Schauer/Renier, with no other likely variables. However, this could change if someone like Clark Bisbee decides to challenge Walberg in the primary.

Clark (and other potential challengers), you have until May 13 by 4:00PM.

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The Democratic Primary and Walberg Watch

After the post below, I just wanted to take a moment to restate the policy on Walberg Watch and the Democratic primary.

This blog will not endorse a candidate in the Democratic primary. Everyone besides me is free to express a candidate preference, but I'd prefer that they not write too many pro- or anti-candidate posts. In other words, you can express your love or hate for Sharon Renier and Mark Schauer, but do it once or twice, with kindness and respect, and then refocus on Tim Walberg.

When the focus was on David Nacht versus Jim Berryman, things got a little nasty sometimes in the comments. When Mark Schauer entered the race, it got worse. I got a lot of complaints about it, and I felt terrible about the tone the blog was taking. I made an effort to refocus on Tim Walberg, and that's where I want to stay.

This time around, I want to avoid that mess entirely. After a lot of thought, I've decided that I'm not going to let that happen again. I'm more than willing to start deleting if things get out of hand.

This is hard for me to do, because I really feel strongly about my blog as a place for open discussion. I don't delete comments by conservatives that come by to stir up trouble, and I don't delete comments which attack me personally. But I'm not willing to let this turn into a small-scale MyDD in terms of candidate bashing. I worked hard to make this blog what it is, and I'm not going to let anyone tear it apart over stupid stuff.

Now, don't misread any of this. Criticism of Mark Schauer, Sharon Renier, and any other Democrat is absolutely welcome. Schauer and Renier each have flaws. They're human, after all. If they say or do something wrong, it deserves to be highlighted and analyzed. The purpose of this, however, is to correct them and find a way to fix it, not to tear them apart or hurt them electorally.

Barring an unforeseen entry into the race, either Mark Schauer or Sharon Renier will be the Democratic challenger to Tim Walberg. I don't want this blog to be responsible for handing Walberg any ammunition for the fall. I may have already unintentionally done that in a previous incident, and I still feel terrible about that. We're about building Democrats here-- all Democrats-- and highlighting the many reasons why Tim Walberg should be voted out of office. If you don't like something about Schauer or Renier, you mention it, you analyze it, and you make substantive conclusions.

Don't read any of this as calling out Francis Pepper, either. He's got a perspective entirely different from my own, and that's useful and valuable. I want him to be here, just like I want elviscostello, Doug Murch, InterrupT, and Nirmal to be here. These guys are smart and dedicated to finding better representation than Tim Walberg. But they're also passionate, and I want to stop any potential fights before they start.

All of this applies to the comments, too. If at all possible, try to stick to intellectually honest comments, no personal attacks. I have a lot of problems with Congressman Walberg, and sometimes my temper acts up. Even so, I do my best to maintain a certain level of civility and kindness, and I'd appreciate it if everyone else tried to do the same.

You don't win by shouting louder. You win by convincing people, and people respond best to well-reasoned and thoughtful writing. That's especially how you convince moderate Republicans who don't like Walberg but don't trust Democrats. That's always been what I strive for, and I hope that sometimes I achieve it.

For those interested, I'm looking to start another project sometime soon focusing on building up the Democratic Party and progressive activists in the 7th District, to last long after Tim Walberg is out of office. If you want to learn more, e-mail me.

Right. Enough of this meta stuff. Let's get back to business. In the comments, share your favorite substantive and thoughtful reason why Tim Walberg shouldn't be re-elected.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Why does Michigan Liberal hate Sharon Renier?

(By MIJustice10, cross-posted from To Play the King.)

Wow. What did Sharon Renier ever do to Michigan Liberal? She seems to be public enemy #1 over there.

Last time I checked, this site was supposed to support liberals, not rip them a new one.

I like Sharon. I voted for her last time around. I got hooked on Michigan Liberal in the 06 election because of their posts about what a loser Tim Walberg was and they'd always end with "Now go work for Sharon Renier!"

But now I read that Sharon is chopped liver- those are their words. Sharon doesn't like that the Democrats are playing favorites. I know it's been hard for her to try to run this time. She expected some support from blogs that used to support her. But they love Mark Schauer and told her to get lost. Actually, it was a lot ruder than that. They sound like a bunch of snotty high school kids:

"If Sharon Renier wishes to get angry at someone, it should be the god of political probability, who says that come August that in all likelihood she is going to get pummelled by a superior candidate. Working to that is not something that I need to justify to anyone, including anonymous hit piece authors who may or may not have just last Fall publicly complained about anonymous blogger hit pieces in a column written for the Battle Creek Enquirer.

It's also unfortunate that Sharon Renier thinks we should feel obligated to remain on the sidelines until after the primary. This says much about why, in this case, we aren't remaining neutral. While Renier complains about how she has no money and nobody loves her, Schauer is out raising cash and building organization."

I'm trying to remember the last time any Republican got that kind of ass-kicking. You'd think Sharon shot Mark's dog. I hope she doesn't take this crap. This kind of stuff makes me embarrassed to be a Democrat.

They should take a page from Blogging for Michigan. They understand what it means to be a Democrat and have apologized to Sharon in a nicely named post "No Democrat Is 'Chopped Liver.'" That's a class act.

I think when we're months away from the primary that we can make up our own minds on who to vote for. But thanks for telling us what to do, Michigan Liberal. At least we know Mark Schauer has won three votes from them. Not that any of them probably live in the seventh district anyway.

I have to be honest. I didn't think Sharon's odds were great since everyone knows Mark Schauer. But if his supporters are ripping Sharon Renier this hard, I guess they're worried. Good for her.

I really hope that Mark is paying these wannabes good money. But the sad thing is you know they're carrying water for him because they think he really likes them. Maybe they think they're going to DC with him! That's so cute. Aren't they smart enough to see they're being used? Mark doesn't need the three bucks they'll raise for him. He just wants their PR. He could care less about them.

A lot of us volunteered our time to help Sharon last time. She did a great job. She should be appreciated for that. She's a nice person and her heart's in the right place. Maybe some of those bloggers should actually meet her and see what she's about.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Walberg No Friend To Animals

(Thanks to an anonymous comment for the tip.)

If you've ever read Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway, comedian Dave Barry's take on politics in Washington, you might recall a sequence in which Barry includes the text of attack ads between two fictional candidates. With grainy black-and-white photos, it quickly spirals out of control, with one candidate using doctored photos of the other one, say, shaking hands with Adolph Hitler or Darth Vader.

In one, a photo is described in which the candidate is "hitting a kitten with a hammer." It's terrible, but I laughed a lot when I read it. Pretty soon, that's what negative advertising will devolve into.

But, the reason it's funny is because everyone knows how ridiculous it is. Everyone loves animals!

Except, maybe, Congressman Tim Walberg. He's not hitting any kittens with hammers, no, but he's not making any friends either.

The Humane Society Legislative Fund is the lobbying affiliate of the Humane Society of the United States, released their midterm report for the 110th Congress. They allocate points for different actions taken by members of Congress that are pro-animal rights. The best you can get is 100 points (or 100+, for some leaders on animal rights issues).

Congressman Tim Walberg scored... 17/100. He voted "yes" on one bill, which sets harsher penalties for animal fighting offenses, mostly in response to the Michael Vick incident. Walberg failed to support two bills (one protecting wild horses, the other protecting polar bears) and is not a cosponsor of two upcoming animal rights bills. Walberg also chose not to sign a letter encouraging more funding for existing animal protection laws.

What could Tim Walberg possibly have against protecting animals?

Maybe Walberg would be more helpful to the animals if they were to spend millions of dollars smearing his opponents. That seems to work well for other groups.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Walberg, Cheney, and 2008 Power Rankings

I've fallen off a bit on blogging, so I'm going to try to fit as much into this post as I can.

Recently, loyal Republicans around the 7th District received something like this in the mail:
(Click to enlarge.)

[Edit March 07, 2008: I realized just now that I forgot to black out the street address of the couple who are hosting the fundraiser. That was just sloppiness on my part. While I might disagree with their politics, they don't need to have their address posted on a political blog. Fred and Arlene, if this caused any trouble for you, I sincerely apologize. I'm mostly hoping that no one noticed it before.]

Now, it turns out some loyal Republicans in the district aren't all that loyal to Tim Walberg, or else they wouldn't be sending me their invitations. But that's a subject for many, many future posts.

A lot of people, myself included, can't stand the money in politics. It takes a ridiculous amount of money to run for office and actually win, and, as painful as it is, fundraising is the main measure of viability for a candidate. Except, if the candidate wins, he's beholden to the rich contributors that made it possible. It's not the kind of representative government the Founding Fathers had in mind.

But, as frustrating as it is, that's how the system works. And if you can afford to buy influence, why not take advantage of it?

So suppose you're a Republican donor who got one of these invitations in the mail. You've just been asked to hand over $500 per person or $1,000 for a photo of you and Vice President Cheney. Besides that very expensive souvenir, what kind of influence can you expect to be buying?

Let's set aside, for the moment, that Vice President Dick Cheney has a favorable job rating from only 22 percent of Americans (with a negative 71 percent). Instead, let's focus on Walberg. From his "annual report," Walberg makes it sound like he does a lot. Is it worth it to contribute to him?

To Republicans looking for influence, it turns out Tim Walberg is a bad choice.

The website ranks every member of Congress by their influence, with leaders in the majority at the top, majority members in the upper middle, minority leaders in the middle, and minority members toward the bottom. So it's not reasonable to expect Congressman Walberg to be incredibly powerful.

When he was ranked last year, just a couple of months into his term, he was tied for 423rd most powerful member of the House of Representatives. That's out of 435 members total. Basically, there's nowhere to go but up, right?

Wrong. Tim Walberg dropped to 424th most powerful member of the House of Representatives, the lowest of Michigan's delegation. Another way to think of it: Tim Walberg is the 12th least powerful man in Washington.

This raises a natural question: who are the other 11? Well, here's the list, with potential reasons for why they're less powerful than Tim Walberg:
  • Rep. Walberg (R-MI-7), 424
  • Rep. Smith (R-NE-3), 425 - Freshman; another CfGer
  • Rep. Inglis (R-SC-4), 426 - "Freshman"
  • Rep. McCarthy (R-CA-22), 427 - Freshman
  • Rep. Doolittle (R-CA-4), 428 - Under investigation (Abramoff)
  • Rep. Bilirakis (R-FL-9), 429 - Freshman
  • Rep. Davis (R-TN-1), 430 - Freshman; only two bills, including one to create "American Eagle Day."
  • Rep. Broun (R-GA-10), 431 - Only elected in July 2007
  • Rep. Wittman (R-VA-1), 432 - Only elected in November 2007
  • Rep. Latta (R-OH-5), 433 - Only elected in December 2007
  • Rep. Jefferson (D-LA-2), 434 - Indicted for bribery
  • Rep. Renzi (R-AZ-1), 435 - Recently indicted on 35 counts
In other words, Walberg is more powerful than the ones who have broken the law, the ones who only just got elected, and the other freshmen who haven't done... anything. Yes, Tim Walberg sure is a rising star.

Fun fact: Luis Fortuno, Republican Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico, is ranked higher (421) than Tim Walberg, despite not being able to vote on final passage of bills.

I'm not a big Republican donor, and if I had $1,000, I certainly wouldn't spend it on a political candidate. But to me, it seems like for the folks that can afford it, $1,000 for Tim Walberg is a bad investment. Why spend money on the bottom of the barrel, especially when he's alienated his own party?

My advice to GOP contributors in the 7th District is to not go to the fundraiser, it just isn't worth it. And it's not like I have an agenda or anything.

My advice to Democrats, meanwhile, is to invest in a Democratic candidate. Be it Renier or Schauer, Democrats have a great shot at taking the seat. It's worth the investment. Will $20 buy you access? No. But it will get you a representative who can accomplish... something. (Or, donate to the eventual nominee in the upper-right corner of Walberg Watch.)

On that note, some other folks are also encouraging you to donate.

The Schauer campaign sent out a fundraising e-mail related to the Cheney fundraiser:

We promised you when we started this campaign that members of this email list would be among the first to learn about breaking news in our effort to replace Tim Walberg. Well, we're delivering by passing along the secret email below from Dick Cheney to worried Walberg supporters about his upcoming trip to the 7th district. Walberg's message of the status quo is not resonating with people, so it looks like he's calling in the big guns. If you want to help fight back and give him a nice warm welcome, visit We'll keep you posted as we get more details on the incumbent's desperate attempt to keep his job, while his constituents keep losing theirs.

To: Worried Walberg Backers

I'm going to be appearing at "an undisclosed location" somewhere in Michigan's 7th District on Friday, March 7, to help bail out Tim Walberg. He has shown blind loyalty to my agenda since the day he arrived in Washington. (I would say the "Bush agenda" but really, who are we kidding?). Without him, we wouldn't have been able to stay the course in Iraq or keep denying millions of children health care. And if he gets beat, who's going to keep preaching about fair trade while we sneak Michigan jobs overseas under a cloak of darkness?

Those suckers in Michigan don't even know how to craft an energy plan the right way. They're actually talking about state initiatives right out in the open – no secret meetings, no classified memos, no unnamed group of corporate executives pulling the strings. Believe it or not, they actually think the purpose of a long-term strategy is to create jobs, protect our air and water, and even reduce – not raise – costs to consumers. We can't let Walberg fall victim to people with those kinds of priorities who don't even see the value in a secretive government.

The one thing that is surely no secret is how horrible Walberg has been at something we pride ourselves on – raising heaps of campaign cash. Looks like the people there just aren't buying what he's selling, so I'll have to swoop in to sell it for him. Discretely, of course.

Don't worry, though, I've still got some pretty generous connections (the boys at Halliburton STILL owe me big). And the Club for Growth's not going to let their investment lose without a fight. Ah, just remembering the CFG's tactics and hit job on Schwarz gives me a warm fuzzy feeling in the place where my heart used to be. So get ready Michigan – you may not yet know exactly where or when, but Cheney's riding in to the rescue again.


Dick Cheney (The REAL Commander-in-Chief)


Okay, okay, obviously the message above is a joke, but the event and the date are not:

"Cheney to stump for Walberg in Marshall"
It's kind of silly, but it gets the point across.

The websites Michigan Liberal and Blogging for Michigan are also running a counter-Cheney pro-Schauer fundraiser:
Parents take your children inside! Mr. 20% is coming to town!

In less than a week, the real President Vice President will be here to help Temmeh Walberg raise some cash. You know things are bad for Republicans when they have to call on Dick Cheney to boost their popularity. Apparently, Walberg's Wacko Club for Growth Conservatism isn't well liked in his moderate district.

Cheney will be in Marshall next Friday, to attend an invitation-only fundraiser for Walberg. To celebrate Walberg's downward mobility, the Michigan Progressivesphere is having an invitation-only fundraiser of our own for CD-07 candidate Mark Schauer.

And you're all invited!

Simply jump on over to the Act Blue page we've set up for Mark, and drop some coin in his bucket.

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