Campaign 2008 Issue Tracker

Here’s a crude but clever little tool developed by a company called Daylife for the Washington Post. It’s a good example of what people used to call smart agents, only it lacks the capacity to learn. (Actually, the term is still used, although most of the Google search results on the term seem to be from several years ago).

I like the idea of representing data visually and then providing links so that you can learn more where and when you choose. I was looking at Denis Kucinich, for example, and noticed that his two big issues seem to be the Iraq War (50) and Health Care (33). Then I compared that to Barack Obama, whose big issues are also the Iraq War (488) and Health Care (222).

Why does Obama have so much to say on his website when he is so short on detail elsewhere? True to her fence-balancing strategy, Hillary also has Health Care (578) and the Iraq War (558) as the top two, each with almost identical emphasis. She out does Obama, though, in sheer output. John Edwards’ economic populism puts Health Care (240) well above the Iraq War (122).

On the Republican side things are much different. Fred Thompson’s top two, for example, are Abortion (91) and the Iraq War (62). That’s a frightening combination that must reflect his desire to launch a campaign that would capture the lunatic fringe right that apparently feels so alienated from the rest of the Republican field. My guess is that we will start to see a rise in Immigration (28) as the primaries approach.

Rudy Giuliano presents a more complicated picture. Immigration (121) and Health Care (121) top his lists, with the Iraq War (116), Abortion (93), and the Economy and Budget (84) not too far behind. That’s either a sign of a more nuanced strategy or a lack of focus. Not surprisingly, John McCain’s number one issue by far is the Iraq War (349) with immigration a far second (86). He’ll be gone before my birthday in March.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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