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Inside the Beltway

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 18, 2011

THE HE-MAN FACTOR

Mitt Romney's height could win him the 2012 presidential nomination. Just blame it on "caveman instincts to ensure survival" that are ingrained in the American public. Texas Tech University political scientists say voters are swayed for primal reasons, namely, the physical fitness and stature of the candidates. The vigorous, towering guys make us feel safer, apparently — which is good news for Mr. Romney at 6 feet 2 inches tall, but not so promising for Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is 5 feet 2 inches tall.

The researchers followed up on previous "presidential height" statistics revealing that 58 percent of our White House winners were taller than their rivals in every election since 1789. Now they claim the phenomenon reflects visceral concepts about "big man" tribal leadership, plus the impact of physical strength on rank and status in the animal kingdom.

The authors carried out two studies themselves to find "a statistically significant association between height and perceived leadership capability and interest in running for a political office," according to more than 400 respondents.

"While at 6-foot-1, Barack Obama towered over the 5-foot-8 John McCain in 2008, perhaps he'll meet his physical equal in one of the 'big man' governors in the 6-foot-plus Rick Perry or Mitt Romney in 2012," says lead researcher Gregg R. Murray, who published the findings Tuesday in Social Science Quarterly.

MRC VERSUS PEW

In the media world, it is the clash of the titans. The conservative Media Research Center has challenged the supposedly middle-of-the-road Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. The issue? In a massive analysis of presidential news coverage, Pew claims that President Obama received worse press than his Republican rivals — "the most unrelentingly negative treatment of all." Wait, isn't Mr. Obama the proverbial media darling?

Rich Noyes, research director for the conservative side, debunks Pew's claims of "anti-Obama media bias," deconstructing their study and faulting the methodology. Pew relied on fancy Harvard University software that sifted through material from 11,500 sources without much human intervention. See Mr. Noyes' terse rebuttal at http://www.mrc.org.

"The point of studying the media for potential bias is to make sure that journalists are not skewing the news before it reaches voters, so that the real decisions are in the hands of the people, not the media elites," Mr. Noyes says. "For liberal journalists to hear that their profession is somehow skewed against President Obama can only encourage them to attempt to tilt the scales in the other direction."

GOP-BY-THE SEA

Yes, it's 312 days away, but the Republican Party has already debuted a snappy logo designed by GOP campaign veteran Marcia Brown, plus a new website, complete with online countdown clock for the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. The pachyderm has never been nobler.

"The elephant — the proud and strong symbol of the Republican Party — with his trunk pointed toward 2012 reflects the spirit, unity and strength of our party as we plan a successful 2012 Republican National Convention that enables us to march toward victory next November," proclaims convention CEO William D. Harris.

See it all at www.GOPConvention2012.com.

THE DEBATES MULTIPLY

An economic presidential debate? Been done. Tea party debate? Been done. Squabbling candidate debate? Been done. A lot. Now the canny Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and CNN will co-host a Republican debate on foreign policy and national security, scheduled for Nov. 15, to air nationally from a yet undisclosed Washington venue.

This is the first foray into the debate milieu for the two research institutes, and a wise, nimble move. Both groups agree that a discussion centered on security and foreign policy is "critical" and timely.

ABC News, meanwhile, has raced in to lay claim to the only prime-time presidential debate to airing "the Saturday before the New Hampshire primary," which could be in December or January, because of the state's unresolved dispute with Iowa over the dates.

CARDBOARD SIGN PATROL

A succinct form of White House reportage is "local color." Along for the ride, "pool" journalists doggedly supply the endless details from President Obama's out of town jaunts. "Pooler" dispatches from his three-day bus trip to promote job creation policies share news that the president enjoyed a barbecue platter and sweet tea in Marion, N.C., and a cheeseburger, french fries and sweet tea in Skipwith, Va.

And outside Patricia's Child Care Center in Brodnax, Va., "Tiny red plastic chairs had been set up in the parking lot for the tots to watch the motorcade along highway 58," the poolers report. The motorbus-cade also passed a citizen displaying a Confederate flag and a billboard from the local Sons of Confederate Veterans.

From the hand-written cardboard signs held up by citizens along the route came four messages: "Job?" "We believe, we voted, now what?" "Yes we can, Obama 2012" and "Presidents bowl free," this outside a local bowling alley.

POLL DU JOUR

• 65 percent of Americans agree that U.S. economic and political systems can be changed through "persistent organized protests."

• 48 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of Democrats agree.

• 49 percent have a favorable impression of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators.

• 9 percent of Republicans and 84 percent of Democrats agree.

• 36 percent say the goals of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations are "clear."

• 8 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of Democrats agree.

• 24 percent have a favorable impression of "Wall Street investors and big banks."

• 45 percent of Republicans and 8 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: An IBOPE Zogby International poll of 2,349 U.S. adults conducted Oct. 11-14.

Short takes, tall tales and little whispers to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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