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It's The Economy Stupid, University Products

ITES: Final Swing State Thoughts

This is the final entry in “It’s the Economy, Stupid” a 15-part series analyzing the local economic news in five swing states.

Empty Swing

For more than 100 days this series presented and analyzed the economic news of five swing states from the five regions of the country. Excluding this final post, just fewer than 17,600 words were dedicated to entries about Pennsylvania, Florida, Colorado, Ohio, and New Mexico. More than 50 state news clips supplemented 13 state-specific posts. But even as the election in November is still several months away, this American University senior is readying for graduation – and consequently the real world, so the series must come to a close.

Back in January, the Republican primary season had just started. At that time there were still 13 swing states, as identified by 270 to win. But as the horserace rounded a series of primary turns, it became evident that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would soon receive his party’s nomination. Over the course of those months, a few states that were not covered by this blog leaned towards the incumbent president and the former governor – Michigan and Wisconsin for Obama and Missouri for Romney. Even one of the five selected for this series changed, with New Mexico now considered lean-Obama territory.

Only one in-depth entry – other than its introductory post, was dedicated to that southwestern state. The same is true for Colorado and Ohio, while Pennsylvania and Florida each earned two. But that may be appropriate given their respective electoral weights. A post was dedicated to both the January State Employment Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the State Integrity Investigation. The February and March BLS reports were given only a couple paragraphs in preceding posts.

The number of readers of the blog grew month-to-month. In January, there were 119 views, but by April there were 214. Five fellow WordPress bloggers liked the series too: lesleycarter, The Alternate Economy, Unedited Politics, and The Allin1E System. Across all readers, the three most popular entries were the first – Intro to Blogging 2012 Swing States, the second – Profiling Pennsylvania’s Economy, and the eleventh – Amazon In, Marijuana Out, which focused on Colorado.

In the introductory posts for each state, a claim was made regarding an economic issue that would likely receive attention in future posts and state news clips. That claim was only affirmed in one case – Pennsylvania. The newspapers in that state were keen to discuss the Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling debate. From debates and disputes concerning the development and implementation of a related drilling tax to possible health effects, the shale gas reserves were a fixture of Pennsylvania news.

The claim that housing would be a focus for Florida was never discussed – let alone affirmed. The same was true for Colorado and the claim that illegal immigration would receive attention. Green jobs received one mention in Ohio, as relates the approval of a massive wind farm. But natural gas was not discussed in New Mexico – although the state’s solar power was celebrated.

Eight topics could be used to categorize the economic news that received attention across the five states. In order from most to least mentioned they are: Energy with 24% of total mentions, Redevelopment Initiatives with 19%, State and Local Budgeting with 14%, Businesses and Job Creation with 11%, Education and Healthcare tied with 10% apiece, Government Spending Oversight with 8%, and Housing with 3%. Even excluding references to gas prices, Energy still tops the list. Removing clean energy references would send it just below Redevelopment Initiatives. If Clean Energy was its own category, then it would only represent 4% of total mentions.

Altogether, 57% of newspaper mentions referenced Energy, Redevelopment Initiatives – including infrastructure maintenance, and State and Local Budgeting, which could suggest to the presidential candidates that those three issues should receive their attention. But the aggregate statistic ignores variations in each state. Within Pennsylvania, newspapers addressed first Energy – particularly Marcellus Shale, with Education funding cuts and Government Spending Oversight coming in as distant second and third places, respectively.

In Florida, Redevelopment Initiatives edged out Businesses and Job Creation, with State and Local Budgeting a close third. The focus on Redevelopment Initiatives may seem counterintuitive given that Florida’s unemployment rate of 9% is still above the national average, but mentions largely focused on big ticket tourism and infrastructure projects – such as the Port of Miami tunnel and the Wiregrass Sports Complex.

Like its Keystone State peer, Colorado’s newspapers too focused on Energy. Although unlike Pennsylvania, the Centennial State divided its attention between fossil fuels and incentives for hybrid vehicles. Redevelopment came in second, which included the widening of an interstate highway and plans to attract the testing of unmanned military drones to the state. State and Local Budgeting, Businesses and Job Creation, and Housing all tied for third.

Energy was again the focus in Ohio, with newspapers dedicating significant attention to the state’s Marcellus Shale reserves. The parallel with the aggregate ranking continued through its second most discussed topic, Redevelopment Initiatives – including a proposed floating office park in Cleveland Harbor. Businesses and Jobs tied with Healthcare for third place.

State and Local Budgeting were the focus in New Mexico. The topic earned headlines early as the curiously short-lived state legislature battled with the Governor to adopt a budget in the divided government. Redevelopment Initiatives came in second, with references ranging from a town’s desire to purchase a defunct country club to the expansion of an interchange on an interstate highway. Healthcare and Government Spending Oversight were tied for third place.

Despite that state-specific insight, if given the opportunity to restart this blog from January, then it would likely be titled: Blogging a 2012 Swing State. The demands of internships, other courses, and friends limited the attention that could be dedicated to the series each week, with only a single entry posted each Thursday. Fifteen posts could have been sufficient for a truly in-depth study of a single state, but a few posts for several states, supplemented by news clips, left this author wanting to learn and write more about each one.

Still, the conclusion of this series could never and does not now leave the reader with an idea as to which way a single or the five swing states would or will vote come November. Rather, it provided some in-depth coverage of the economic issues that receive attention in each state. When following the election over the next several months, readers can turn to this series to judge whether the candidates are addressing the issues that newspapers in those states found most relevant to their residents.

If President Clinton’s quip that “it’s the economy, stupid” still holds value today, then natural gas will be a fixture of speeches in Pennsylvania and Ohio, tourism and jobs in Florida, fossil fuels and renewable energy technologies in Colorado, and tightened belts and responsible government spending in New Mexico.




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