Midterm homestretch


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IN this Oct. 24, 2018, photo, Florida gubernatorial candidates, Republican Ron DeSantis, left, and Democrat Andrew Gillum fist bump after a debate at Broward College in Davie, Fla. The final stretch of the midterm campaign is increasingly dominated by debate over one of the most sensitive issues in American political culture: Race. In Florida, accusations of racism are playing a central role in the hotly-contested campaign for governor. DeSantis chafed at questions about his ties to supporters who have made inflammatory comments. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, Pool)

IN this Oct. 24, 2018, photo, Florida gubernatorial candidates, Republican Ron DeSantis, left, and Democrat Andrew Gillum fist bump after a debate at Broward College in Davie, Fla. The final stretch of the midterm campaign is increasingly dominated by debate over one of the most sensitive issues in American political culture: Race. In Florida, accusations of racism are playing a central role in the hotly-contested campaign for governor. DeSantis chafed at questions about his ties to supporters who have made inflammatory comments. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, Pool)


Florida gubernatorial candidates, Republican Ron DeSantis, left, and Democrat Andrew Gillum debate, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, at Broward College in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, Pool)


FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018 file photo, Democratic gubernatorial candidate for Georgia Stacey Abrams, left, speaks as her Republican opponent Secretary of State Brian Kemp looks on during a debate in Atlanta. A federal judge says Georgia election officials must stop rejecting absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications because of a mismatched signature without first giving voters a chance to fix the problem. U.S. District Judge Leigh May on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018 ordered the secretary of state's office to instruct county election officials to stop the practice for the November midterm elections. She outlined a procedure to allow voters to resolve alleged signature discrepancies.(AP Photo/John Bazemore, Pool, File)


Final stretch of campaigns dominated by race

By ERRIN HAINES WHACK

AP National Writer

Saturday, October 27

The final stretch of the midterm campaign is increasingly dominated by debate over one of the most sensitive issues in American culture: race.

In Florida, accusations of racism are playing a central role in the hotly contested campaign for governor. Ron DeSantis, a Republican former congressman, chafed at questions about his ties to supporters who have made inflammatory comments.

“How the hell am I supposed to know every single statement somebody makes?” DeSantis said during a debate Wednesday. “I am not going to bow down to the altar of political correctness.”

His Democratic opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, could become the state’s first black governor. Gillum went on offense at the debate, blaming DeSantis for fostering an environment that promotes racism.

“I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist — I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist,” Gillum said during a debate.

The exchange is a snapshot of how candidates from both parties are grappling with race less than two weeks before the midterms. From New York to Florida, dog-whistle politics are showing up in ads and attacks from outside groups and, in some cases, GOP candidates. It’s playing out against the backdrop of President Donald Trump, who has tapped into racial anxiety with warnings of rampant violence in urban areas, voter fraud, a caravan of migrants and unknown “Middle Easterners” threatening the U.S. southern border.

Democrats argue the GOP is using racially charged appeals to boost turnout among white voters.

“If you believe the midterms are about base turnout, then from a strategic standpoint you get why they’re trying to throw the best red meat to their base: tribalism,” said Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher. “It’s all about fear. Fear of the other, fear of losing their country. That wasn’t by accident, and this is part and parcel of that.”

Republican strategist Brian Robinson dismissed such arguments as part of “the silly season.”

“In the final days, you throw out stuff that you had, that you weren’t sure how it would work, that may be inflammatory,” he said.

Robinson argued that Democrats are more likely to use race as a motivating factor.

“Republicans are very sensitive about being called racist,” Robinson said. “The standards applied to Republicans are much stricter. We’re not allowed to discuss race, so we tiptoe around it, and our own desire not to be called a racist keeps us in line.”

Still, the racial dynamics of the campaign have been on display this week. On Tuesday, some Florida voters received a robocall appearing to mock Gillum, featuring a voice claiming to be the nominee, speaking in a demeaning minstrel dialect that sounds nothing like him.

DeSantis denounced the call. In a telephone interview, Gillum said he listened to the beginning of the audio but didn’t play all of it.

“These things are also not only designed to go after their base of voters who they think is going to be motivated by these kinds of things, but there’s also a little bit of an effort to throw me off my game,” Gillum said. “If they can get me angry, catch me with an angry outburst, maybe they can make the case, ‘The guy’s unstable, you never know what he just might do.’”

In Georgia, reports have surfaced over Democrat Stacey Abrams’ involvement in a protest more than 25 years ago in which the old state flag — which contained a Confederate symbol at the time — was burned. Abrams is seeking to become the first black woman governor in America, and her opponent, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, has labeled her “too extreme for Georgia.”

Abrams responded to The New York Times report during a gubernatorial debate Tuesday, saying: “Twenty-six years ago, as a college freshman, I, along with many other Georgians, including the governor of Georgia, were deeply disturbed by the racial divisiveness that was embedded in the state flag with that Confederate symbol. I took an action of peaceful protest.”

In upstate New York, an ad released last month by the Republican National Congressional Committee showed clips of Antonio Delgado, a Democratic nominee for the U.S. House, performing songs from his 2006 rap album under his stage name, A.D. The Voice. Delgado, a Rhodes scholar and Harvard Law School graduate, said his opponent, Rep. John Faso, is using racial attacks to alienate him, a black first-time candidate in a district that is more than 90 percent white.

On the stump and on Twitter, Trump continued to hammer the theme of immigration. This week, he told reporters that there “very well could be” people in the migrant caravan from the Middle East — a veiled nod to a possible terrorist threat — mixed in with migrants fleeing violence and seeking asylum.

Mexican officials say nearly 1,700 people have dropped out of the caravan to apply for asylum in the country. Sickness, fear and police harassment could further whittle down the group, estimated to be about 4,000 to 5,000, which is more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) from the U.S. border.

Immigration was also a theme in Texas, where Trump started the week at a rally to boost former rival Sen. Ted Cruz’s numbers in the state. The president also labeled himself a “nationalist,” sticking to his “America First” mantra, though some pointed to history and questioned whether the title had racial overtones.

“They wait until the last two or three weeks, especially when the enthusiasm gap was so large,” said Democratic strategist Donna Brazile. “Every button is being pushed. it’s like every ember of the racial fire is being stoked. It’s going to get dirtier.”

Associated Press writer Terry Spencer in Davie, Fla., contributed to this report.

Whack is The Associated Press’ national writer on race and ethnicity. Follow her work on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/emarvelous.

The Conversation

Money in elections doesn’t mean what you think it does

October 29, 2018

Author

Suzanne Robbins

Assistant Professor of political science, University of Florida

Disclosure statement

Suzanne Robbins does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Partners

University of Florida provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

Money is indispensable in American electoral campaigns. Without it, candidates cannot amplify their message to reach voters and it’s harder to motivate people to take interest and vote.

Nevertheless, a May 2018 Pew survey revealed a bipartisan 70 percent of respondents said individual and group spending in elections should be limited.

But does the American public understand the actual role played by campaign spending?

I’m a political scientist who studies American politics. Here are the answers to fundamental questions that voters should ask about the role of money in elections.

How much do elections cost?

Running for federal office is expensive. According the Campaign Finance Institute, the cost of winning a U.S. House seat in 2016 was over US$1.5 million. All told, approximately $816 million was spent by 723 major party candidates for the U.S. House.

The average amount a House candidate spent in 2016 was $1.2 million. However, there’s a lot of variation depending on what type of candidate you are.

Republicans and incumbents, for example, spent more on average than challengers and those running in open-seat contests in 2016. In fact, the average challenger spent less than half a million dollars, or about one-fourth the amount an incumbent spent.

Those figures don’t include money spent by parties and outside entities to influence the election. Federal law dictates that groups, parties and individuals – including the groups known as super PACs – can make what are called “independent expenditures” for or against a candidate, so long as they do not coordinate with the candidate.

Spending from the major parties and super PACs in House and Senate races more than tripled between 1998 to 2016, growing from $267 million to $978.6 million.

Can money buy an election?

Money is necessary for a candidate to be competitive, but it doesn’t ensure success.

A lack of money can eliminate less capable candidates, but having money does not guarantee that a particular candidate’s message will resonate with the voters. As Campaign Finance Institute researchers Michael Malbin and Brendan Glavin write, “If voters do not like what they are hearing, telling them more of the same will not change their opinion.”

So how does money matter?

Money can affect which candidates run. Specifically, early money – or money raised before the primary – matters especially in this regard.

Candidates can prove their viability by raising significant sums before the first advertisements air. Landing some big donors before the first advertisements or primary allows candidates time to build campaign infrastructure. Insiders refer to this as the “invisible primary.” Media stories on the invisible primary for the 2020 presidential election are well underway.

Money matters more for challengers than it does for incumbents. Decades of political science research demonstrates that the more a challenger spends, the more likely he or she is to win.

That’s because incumbents have many advantages, not the least of which is name recognition and free media. So, challengers must spend more to overcome the obstacles they face, from name recognition to formidable incumbent war chests meant to scare off a challenger. Unfortunately for challengers, those barriers are high enough that they rarely raise enough money to compete.

Yet money does not guarantee a victory. Simply looking at the average amount spent by winners and losers obscures the fact that many races have no real competition.

In 2016, winning incumbents far outspent their challengers, but the winners in open seat contests spent nearly the same amount as their opponents, while those incumbents who lost outspent their winning opponents half of the time.

In short, incumbents who spend more than their opponent in contested races are more likely to be the candidates who are vulnerable and lose.

Does money buy influence?

Money matters in the most competitive races, open seat races that have no incumbent and those with high profile candidates. More money will be spent by the candidates in these races, but also by those who would like to influence the outcome.

One concern that is often expressed is that winners answer to their donors and those organizations who support them.

Since 2010, the role of outside money, or money from super PACs and political nonprofits, has raised alarms in the media and from reform groups.

Some assert that self-financed candidates or those candidates who can demonstrate widespread support from small donors can allay concerns about the potential influence of donors on candidates and elected officials.

The Center for Responsive Politics notes that outside organizations alone have outspent more than two dozen candidates in the last three electoral cycles and are poised to outspend 27 so far in 2018.

However, it’s not always clear how useful that spending is: The 2012 election provides many examples.

Billionaire Republican donor Sheldon Adelson backed a super PAC supporting former House Speaker Newt Gingrich after Gingrich was no longer a viable presidential contender. It extended the Republican presidential primary at a time when Mitt Romney could have been raising money and consolidating support for the general election.

The libertarian, conservative PAC Americans for Prosperity, founded by the Koch brothers, often ran ads at odds with the Republican message. Other outside groups poured money into races that simply were not winnable.

By 2016, it appears that super PACs were spending for more calculated effect, focusing on competitive races. In addition, much of that “outside money” comes from the super PACs associated with the two main parties.

For example, in California’s 7th congressional district, outside groups spent approximately $9.1 million, in roughly equal amounts between the incumbent, Democrat Ami Bera, and challenger, Republican Scott Jones. The vast majority (85.7 percent) of the outside spending came from party organizations – the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Congressional Leadership Fund and House Majority PAC – not from interest groups. Bera won re-election with 51.2 percent of the vote.

Some candidates use their own money for their campaigns to avoid appearing indebted to donors.

For example, wealthy Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott has given his current U.S. Senate campaign $38.9 million dollars – 71.3 percent of all funds raised.

But self-funding does not resolve the democratic dilemma of responsiveness.

First, Daily Kos found that most self-financed candidates lose – and the more they spend, the more likely they are to lose the election. Generally, the only exceptions are candidates like Rick Scott, who already hold elective office.

Second, this way of improving responsiveness is limited because it effectively precludes anyone but the wealthy from holding office.

Small donors seem like a democratic solution to wealthy donors dominating election giving. Several recent campaigns – Bernie Sanders, Rand Paul, Barack Obama and now Donald Trump – have created effective small-donor fundraising machines.

More small donors means more widespread support, at least in theory, but that theory has limitations.

Small donors are not yet giving enough to counter big money. In fact, the share small donors contribute relative to big money is declining.

Moreover, political science doesn’t yet know enough about who small donors are – whether they are economically representative of the U.S. as a whole or even if they are more ideologically motivated to give, contributing to polarization in politics.

What’s so good about money?

Yes, incumbents can amass huge war chests to scare off opponents, and money can be most effective in competitive races. All that extra spending translates into additional advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts.

In the end, what does that mean?

It means more information about the candidates and issues for voters, increased interest in the campaign and increased voter turnout.

That’s good for democracy.

Focusing on the putative evils of money diminishes the importance of other things that may help or hinder a candidate. Other major elements that can influence the outcome of a campaign: candidates who face national political and economic tides and local political concerns; candidates who choose to challenge formidable incumbents; and many candidates who simply aren’t viable.

It’s easy to see a correlation between winning and fundraising because money flows to likely winners and competitive races.

But, as scholars like to say, correlation is not causation. In the world of politics and campaigns, money is meaningful. It just may not mean what, and as much as, most people think it means.

Comment: Scott Jeffrey, logged in via Facebook

This article ignores some important facts.

Donations grant access. While this is not direct influence, it is something “We the people” do not have 2, 50-70% of representatives’ time is spent fund raising rather than doing “the peoples’ business” Lobbyists write the bills and members do not read them.

The Conversation

Why students need more ‘math talk’

October 29, 2018

Authors

Matthew Campbell

Assistant Professor of Secondary Mathematics Education, West Virginia University

Johnna Bolyard

Associate Professor of Mathematics Education, West Virginia University

Disclosure statement

Matthew Campbell receives funding from the National Science Foundation.

Johnna Bolyard does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Partners

West Virginia University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

Test scores, school report cards and Facebook posts complaining about homework problems often drive critiques of how math is taught in schools.

Amid the debates, it has become increasingly clear that one ingredient is necessary for success: opportunities for students to talk about math. Unfortunately, these are often lacking in U.S. classrooms.

We are both math education researchers. While we focus on different levels of the K-12 span, a common theme across our work is the role of talk in math classrooms – what talk can sound like, how talk impacts student learning, and how teachers can support math talk.

Want to support your student’s understanding of math? Talking will play a critical role. And a good place to start is to talk about math yourself.

Why talking matters

For some educators and researchers, learning math means coming to know and use terms and procedures in order to quickly solve problems. Others may prioritize learning the range of ways to solve a given problem. Others, still, point to the value of skills to solve problems that may come up in “the real world.”

Those are all important aspects of mathematical proficiency, but we believe that learning to communicate about the subject is an equally important goal.

By “math talk,” we mean sharing, analyzing and making sense of math. Students might discuss their strategies for solving a problem, explaining not only what they did but also the reasoning behind their work. They can also make observations, pose questions and express uncertainties.

It’s also key for students listen to their peers – to understand what they did and respond with a comment or question. In the process, disagreements or errors might emerge. These are not things to avoid; rather, they are opportunities to extend learning. Engaging in math talk helps all involved understand the ideas at hand.

Research, such as the work led by education researchers Suzanne Chapin and Beth Herbel-Eisenmann, has shown how math talk supports learning. It can improve memory and understanding; aid the development of language and social skills; and boost confidence and interest in math.

Learning math is not a process of acquiring a set of facts or procedures, but a process of becoming one who participates in a community that does mathematical work. People use math to collaborate and communicate with others. They make sense of problems that are interesting and complex. They justify their ideas and work to convince others of the validity of those ideas. They make sense of the justifications posed by others to understand, critique and build on their thinking. These skills are not reserved for mathematicians or engineers, but apply to wide range of careers.

How to support math talk

The classroom in which math talk is not supported is a familiar scene: desks in rows, a teacher presenting a new procedure, and students working individually, focused on copying problems, getting an answer, and doing so as quickly as possible.

There are many ways in which a teacher can foster a classroom rich in opportunities for math talk. One recommendation, from research in cognitive science, is the use of “worked examples” – problems that have been worked out by someone else, perhaps a hypothetical student – to improve student learning. For example, students can be presented with two different but correct strategies to a problem and be asked to compare and contrast them, looking for the benefits and drawbacks of each approach. As a class, students can compare their ideas and raise new questions, all facilitated by the teacher.

But math talk is not just something that can happen in a classroom. In our positions, we each often get asked by friends and family about how to help their children in math. Our answer? Talk more about math – and preferably not just about homework assignments.

Math can be found in anything in ways that are appropriate for different ages. Say you are out shopping: How many people are in the store? How high is the ceiling? How many beach balls would it take to fill up the room? How do you know? Taking the time to engage with your student around any of those questions is math talk.

Many of these questions might not have a readily available answer, and that can be a good thing. Talking about what you would need to know or do to find an answer is just as valuable, and likely even more valuable, than time spent with flash cards and apps with math “games” that only focus on speed with procedures. Blogs and social media have become spaces to share the ways in which you can be “talking math with your kids” (#tmwyk on Twitter).

Whether in second grade or in an AP calculus classroom, mathematics achievement will continue to lag without value placed on math talk.

IN this Oct. 24, 2018, photo, Florida gubernatorial candidates, Republican Ron DeSantis, left, and Democrat Andrew Gillum fist bump after a debate at Broward College in Davie, Fla. The final stretch of the midterm campaign is increasingly dominated by debate over one of the most sensitive issues in American political culture: Race. In Florida, accusations of racism are playing a central role in the hotly-contested campaign for governor. DeSantis chafed at questions about his ties to supporters who have made inflammatory comments. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, Pool)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/10/web1_121659372-708ff99f1cab4f3c85eadcfa8faf2fcd.jpgIN this Oct. 24, 2018, photo, Florida gubernatorial candidates, Republican Ron DeSantis, left, and Democrat Andrew Gillum fist bump after a debate at Broward College in Davie, Fla. The final stretch of the midterm campaign is increasingly dominated by debate over one of the most sensitive issues in American political culture: Race. In Florida, accusations of racism are playing a central role in the hotly-contested campaign for governor. DeSantis chafed at questions about his ties to supporters who have made inflammatory comments. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, Pool)

Florida gubernatorial candidates, Republican Ron DeSantis, left, and Democrat Andrew Gillum debate, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, at Broward College in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, Pool)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/10/web1_121659372-f525be6d89b144368e06854a8e766fcc.jpgFlorida gubernatorial candidates, Republican Ron DeSantis, left, and Democrat Andrew Gillum debate, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, at Broward College in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, Pool)

FILE – In this Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018 file photo, Democratic gubernatorial candidate for Georgia Stacey Abrams, left, speaks as her Republican opponent Secretary of State Brian Kemp looks on during a debate in Atlanta. A federal judge says Georgia election officials must stop rejecting absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications because of a mismatched signature without first giving voters a chance to fix the problem. U.S. District Judge Leigh May on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018 ordered the secretary of state’s office to instruct county election officials to stop the practice for the November midterm elections. She outlined a procedure to allow voters to resolve alleged signature discrepancies.(AP Photo/John Bazemore, Pool, File)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/10/web1_121659372-61b738f108e0499cbadc1d7136ae43c2.jpgFILE – In this Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018 file photo, Democratic gubernatorial candidate for Georgia Stacey Abrams, left, speaks as her Republican opponent Secretary of State Brian Kemp looks on during a debate in Atlanta. A federal judge says Georgia election officials must stop rejecting absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications because of a mismatched signature without first giving voters a chance to fix the problem. U.S. District Judge Leigh May on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018 ordered the secretary of state’s office to instruct county election officials to stop the practice for the November midterm elections. She outlined a procedure to allow voters to resolve alleged signature discrepancies.(AP Photo/John Bazemore, Pool, File)
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