Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 In Review Part 1: Top Ten Posts

New Year's Eve is a retrospective day for most politico-journalists. More so for me, because December 31 is also the day I launched this blog, 13 years ago.

This year's review is handicapped at the moment by some connectivity issues with Twitter - now my primary medium, though the blog is still important for long-form pieces - and by a nasty cough that's had me down the last couple days.

So while I struggle to grab my tweets for the year I'll review the year statistically rather than chronologically. And I'll do it in countdown format, because New Year's Eve is about the countdown.

I hate to use traffic as my metric, especially since my highest traffic post of all time was also one of my lamest. But this year I think the top posts are mostly a good indicator of what the regular readers are interested in.

11. Because this list goes to eleven. 2nd Annual Charity Beret Auction: The countdown starts out self-referential. Since I'm stuck with the beret as a trademark, I may as well do something good with it, and this year Peter Byler donated $211 to charity for a $2 hat.

10. Someone's Polling Dems in Iowa: I got surveyed on February 2 and posted details of the call. "My guess is someone in Hillaryworld is message-testing and looking for the best way not to run against Warren - because as much as I wish it I don't expect it - but rather for the best way to co-opt Warren's message and rhetoric, to fend off a challenge from the left."

9. Iowa City Council: Can't Wait For Election Day The big caucus stuff, like the debates and cattle calls, didn't show up high on the charts, because the real-time focus was on Twitter and because there were so many national people covering them. Instead, local posts got the traffic and this post is the prime example. It was one of the first articles anywhere that talked about a "Core Four" slate running in the Iowa City council election. 

8.  Patel Out in 1st CD: No major insights here, but I think people assumed I had the inside scoop on the news that Ravi Patel was withdrawing for the 1st Congressional District race in June.

7. A Meal With Martin O'Malley. One of only two caucus pieces to make the list - when you get a one on one with a candidate, even one polling in low single digits, you get readers. This was a lot of fun.

6. Former Council Member Steven Kanner Dies. A local story that got a lot of non-local traffic from people who knew Kanner after he left Iowa City when his term ended in early 2004. His name comes up in the next piece, too...

There's a BIG leap forward in traffic to the next tier of stories:

5. Core 4, Old Guard 0. My late election night number cruncher, analysis, and celebration of the epochal Core Four city council win.
"For the first time ever, the People's Republic of Johnson County has voted, in a city election, in a way that resembles the way we vote in general elections. And it's not just a win for the next four years. In a very big way, this is a permanent win for Iowa City progressives. Because the old guard lost something more important than Dobyns and Payne and Hayek's open seat today. They lost their scare tactic."
4. Split Decision In Iowa City School District. The same post only for school board - interesting that the school board vote got (slightly) more traffic than the more historically important city vote.

3. Hayek's Last Act. This was fun to write - and may have actually helped.
Hayek long ago chose the unnamed de facto party of traditional local Iowa City power, a party he was literally born into, over the Democratic Party. And in that unnamed party (ya gotta admit, Core Four is at least catchy), there's nowhere to go up from mayor.

So this city election, in which he is not seeking re-election, is likely to be Matt Hayek's last act in local politics. And he's chosen to go out with no class.

As he was in 2010, Hayek is the designated deliverer of the Scare The Townies message, a stink bomb dropped in Thursday morning's Press-Citizen... 
The lame duck mayor's ham-handed editorial backfired and was widely shared, along with rebuttal, to motivate the Core Four's supporters. Plus it's not every day you can use the mayor in a Scumbag Steve meme.

2. The Ministry Is Interfering At Hogwarts. It's a close race between the Core Four win and the Bruce Harreld hiring for Story Of The Year in Iowa City. I've backed down some since September, as I think Harreld's opponents are overplaying their hand by pouncing on little stuff rather than saving their ammo - sorry! gun reference! - for the first substantive fight.

But I still think political payback is the best explanation of the hire, and that "the Ministry is interfering at Hogwarts" the best analogy.

1. JJ Post Mortem. Bucking the local trend, the top post of the year is a caucus piece that drew some national pickup, and a lot of Bernie Sanders blowback, around this observation:
The image that sticks with me from last night is of Sanders supporters leaving after his speech, through O'Malley's and into Clinton's.

Sanders leaders are aware it was a bad optic, especially since Press Row was a peninsula surrounded on three sides by Team Bernie while the Clinton sections were on the other side.  They're trying to get word out that the early departure was forced by transportation, as the crowd was largely students who bused over. (A problem solved by paying the bus drivers whatever overtime was needed.) And fingers are pointed at the security check in, which pushed the start time back an hour.

But walking out on the other speakers is very telling...
One of the reasons I'm staying neutral is so I can make candid and fair assessments of all three campaigns. I'll keep doing so in person when possible for the next month, and from a distance for as long as the nomination race continues...

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