Saturday, January 22, 2011

Mapping the Traffic

Mapping the Traffic

One of the things I told the journalism class I spoke to last month was: You never know when the big story will hit, and invariably it won't be the one you expected or really worked on.

I've been writing this thing for eight years now. Out of the nearly 5000 posts I've made, the all-time traffic champ is probably "Red State, Blue State, TV View State" from waaay back in the summer of 2005. To this day, it's as much as 10 percent of my total traffic. (I'm still hoping to get viral with "Call it what it is: Bigotry" but no luck yet.)

It's one of my better posts from the early era of the Deeth Blog, though unfortunately my habit of posting before I spellcheck hsan't improved since then. I didn't get really serious about the writing until early 2006, which is also the time when an Iowa political blogosphere started to reach a critical mass. (I still miss Patriot Skullface from back in that era...)

I looked at how TV markets overlap and don't coincide with state lines, and the implications for campaign strategy and Electoral College math. The thesis is that campaign stops or ads in red state TV markets that overlap into blue states would be well worth it:
In addition to the wall-to-wall local live at 5, you'd get national coverage with a dog-bites-man twist. By going to a place like Fargo or Couer d'Alene, even if the state stays non-competitive, the candidate creates the impression that they're fighting for every vote in every state.
But the piece isn't popular for its analysis. The traffic comes, rather, from Google image searches. Apparently it's really hard to find a good copy of the Arbitron Designated Market Area (DMA) map of TV markets.

In the early days when I got a bunch of irrelevant hits for some image that's only tangentially related to the point of my post, like a gratuitous pic of an attractive actress, I'd go back and take it out. But in this case, the market map was central to my point, and even a bit prescient:
Western Nebraska is so overwhelmingly GOP that the state could never flip. But there's that weird congressional district electoral vote thing. With a little work you could try for one electoral vote in Omaha's CD, while the western third of Iowa watches.
Looking back, I think the analysis still holds. I envisioned a campaign trip up the middle of the country, from Kansas and Missouri up to the Dakotas. A run up that I-29 corridor may well be worth it in 2012, both for the presidency and down the ballot. Working our way north:

  • Claire McCaskill is up in dead-even Missouri and the House map is getting shuffled with the loss of a seat.

  • Ben Nelson may barely be a Democrat, but he's a vote for Senate control and sure to face a fight in Big Red Nebraska.

  • No Senate race here in Iowa but we're usually close for the presidency, plus who knows what the House map will look like.

  • First term in South Dakota is the best chance to beat new rep Kristi Noem.

  • North Dakota already is an open Senate seat, but fair warning for Obama: they don't think Sarah Palin talks funny.

  • Just across the Red River in Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar seems to be in better shape. But Minnesota, despite only one Democratic presidential win since Ike (Nixon over McGovern and even that was close) has gotten closer lately, and could use some Obama love. Especially if Pawlenty or (shudder) Bachmann is on the ticket.

    I do recommend the trip stop south of Winnipeg, as Manitoba is solid for the NDP.

    Of course, by RE-posting the map, I just increase my level of irrelevant traffic. But as a map geek, I'm OK with that. Two of my regular web stops are Twelve Mile Circle, which focuses on geographic quirks and oddities, and Strange Maps, recently published in dead tree format.

    Just to make this post vaguely related to contemporary Iowa politics: one of my fun moments came at a county Dems meeting in early 1999 came when someone yelled out "The new road maps are here!" and held up a map with the Vilsack and Pederson pictures replacing Branstad and the now pariah Joy Corning. Perhaps Team Terry can now save a few bucks by getting the old 1998 maps out of storage and printing some Kim Reynolds stickers. It'll give Terry a flattering youthful appearance, and who needs to know how much of 218 and 20 have gone four lane in 12 years anyway?
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