Short hits: Maine education policy, Ryan’s marathon misinformation, and more

1. Regarding the money and players behind the Maine push for virtual schools, Colin Woodard has a detailed analysis, based on interviews and documents. This remarkable report has links to the key documents, such as emails between Education Commissioner Bowen and groups that would benefit financially from the proposed policy.

Among the findings:

Maine’s digital education agenda is being guided behind the scenes by out-of-state companies that stand to profit on the changes.

FLORIDA CONNECTION: The LePage administration has relied heavily on former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, a conservative think tank, in writing policies to create taxpayer-funded virtual schools in Maine.

FOLLOW THE MONEY: This foundation and its top officials receive funding from online education companies, which will profit if the initiatives go forward.

REMOTE CONTROL: The foundation wrote much of the language in Gov. Paul LePage’s Feb. 1 executive order on digital learning, which embraces foundation policies.

BACKSTAGE MEETINGS: The secretive American Legislative Exchange Council — a corporate-backed political group for state legislators — developed digital learning legislation that was introduced by Maine lawmakers. Stephen Bowen was a private-sector member until he was appointed education commissioner in Maine.

The full article is well worth reading.

2. House Republican Paul Ryan, now his party’s nominee for vice-president has been roundly criticized for many misstatements during his convention speech. As former Bush strategist Matt Dowd recently said, Ryan “so stretched the truth. . . At some point the truth should matter.”

Now it turns out when Ryan said he ran a marathon in less than three hours, this was off by over an hour. Given all the important issues we face, this may not seem like the biggest deal, but it contributes to an evolving reputation Ryan has for misleading statements.

3. Another aspect of the Republican convention was a tendency to avoid giving details and defending policy proposals. The Wall Street Journal editorial page, which is supportive of Republicans noticed and warned that it was a “gamble.”

Said the WSJ:

Neither [Romney] nor the entire GOP convention made a case for his economic policy agenda. He and Paul Ryan promised to help the middle class, but they never explained other than in passing how they would do it.   . . . [S]omeone should point out that this policy-free zone is risky in its own way. By failing to explain his own agenda, Mr. Romney has left an opening for Democrats and Mr. Obama to define it instead.

Both the WSJ and conservative pundit Bill Kristol note that the Romney campaign strategy is to criticize President Obama while making Romney an acceptable choice, to “reassure” voters that he’s an ok guy, not scary but likable.

Said Kristol, “That’s their theory of the race and they had a convention that fit with their theory of the race…I’m more inclined to this other belief, that you need to actually convince voters by making a positive case for the Romney-Ryan ticket… “

4. Presidential candidates’ usually receive a bounce — an improvement in their standing — after their party’s convention. Mitt Romney appears to have had a small bounce.

Based on Gallup data:

[T]he 2012 Republican convention had the lowest-ever self-reported net impact on voter intentions ever (+2, the difference between the more and less likely percentages), just slightly lower than the Republican conventions of 2004 (+3) and 2008 (+5).

Gallup also found that just 38 percent gave Romney’s convention speech an excellent or good rating, “the lowest rating of any of the eight speeches Gallup has tested since Bob Dole’s GOP acceptance speech in 1996.” Similarly, Gallup found that just over half of Americans (51 percent) said they watched at least some of the convention, “the second-lowest for any of the eight conventions Gallup has asked about going back to 1996.”

It may be that the country is so polarized that there are just not many people who could shift, no matter how well a convention goes. At the same time, it’s worth remembering that more people said they’d be paying attention to the party platform rather than watching speeches.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.