The true election winner: Gerrymandering

By Jon Patterson

If you follow politics or listen to the news you have undoubtedly heard of super-pacs and heard your fair share of political ads. You have probably had a phone call from some intern like me asking you to support their candidate or volunteer for the campaign. You’ve probably seen a candidate give a rousing speech or seem knowledgeable in a debate. Well, what if I told you that for the vast majority of elections none of the above matter in determining who wins. That’s right, you could have all the money in the world, have an IQ greater than Einstein, and be more charismatic than JFK, but still have no chance of winning the election. This is because of the great American pastime of Gerrymandering, and if you are representing the wrong party in one of these Gerrymandered districts there is a near zero chance of winning that seat.

Let me start by explaining how Gerrymandering works because it can be a little bit confusing. Every ten years the United States conducts a census, the last one being in 2010 and the next being in 2020. During these censuses the populations are counted in states, counties, townships, and so on. With these new numbers the governments of each state have to reapportion seats and make sure that each district has relatively equal numbers of citizens. The group in charge of drawing these district lines is usually the state legislature (34 states use this method). These legislators, especially if they hold a large majority in the legislator, are able to get really funky with the district lines. This, when political motives affect redistricting lines, is called Gerrymandering and it is one of the most under appreciated aspects of American democracy.

In order for you to really appreciate how ridiculous this redistricting I must subject you to these old antiquated things called maps. One of the states with the craziest districts is North Carolina. Let me show you how the counties are drawn up as an example of how lines can be drawn when politics is not involved.

NC counties

Not too ridiculous right? Nothing stretching the whole way across the state and all relatively square with no lines sticking out like a pimple in a yearbook picture. Now let’s compare that to their congressional district map.

NC Gerrymandered

Some of the districts there don’t look too terrible but then you take a look at district 4 running through the capital of Raleigh and the collegiate area of Chapel Hill all the way down to Fayetteville. Cutting through seven counties without incorporating any of them fully, it is an over 100 mile long district that would take you 2 hours to drive from north to south. But who are we kidding that’s not even close to being the most ridiculous district on the map. In order to truly appreciate how gerrymandered North Carolina is I will show you the horror that is a blown up version of District 12 *insert hunger games reference here*

District 12

What is it? It looks like a toddler’s drawing on a wall, not a congressional district created by adults. But this ladies and gentleman is what gerrymandering does to district lines. Each party wants to ensure they have an ideal district that they do not have to spend money on to maintain and keep under their party’s control. These districts are created to separate democrats and republicans so that there is an overwhelming majority of one or the other in each district. There is in fact a guide to tell how Democratic or Republican leaning each district is known as the Cook Partisan Voter Index and North Carolina has some very interesting numbers within that report.

The Cook Partisan Voter Index uses results from the most recent presidential elections and compares how districts voted to the national average as a whole. So, for example, if a district is a D+2 that means that they voted 2% more democratic in the past presidential election than the national average. A score of +5 in either direction is considered a safe seat, +3-+4 is considered relatively safe, and anything below +2 is considered a competitive seat. In North Carolina every district has a score of +8 or higher in either direction. In fact there are two districts with scores above +20. Want to take a guess at which districts those are? Of course it’s going to be districts 4 and 12 with scores of D+20 and D+26 respectively. None of the elections were competitive in North Carolina in the 2014 elections all being decided by 10% or more. These races weren’t decided on Election Day, or on the campaign trail. They were decided in a conference room in the North Carolina state legislature when they took out their maps and started drawing lines. The depressing fact is that gerrymandering across the United States is only getting worse and worse.

The cook index rates any seat with a score between R+5 to D+5 as a swing seat and has provided a useful chart to illustrate the point I made above.

Cook PVI

Less than 20 years ago there were more swing seats than seats either party could claim as safe. This created a real democracy where candidates had to prove their worth in front of the voters. The parties had to create a less radicalized message so that they could appeal to more voters in these swing states and boots on the ground getting votes out really meant something. But now we are faced with a Republican party that can boast more than double the number of safe seats as swing seats, giving them a major advantage.

There are only 90 districts out of 435 that are competitive come election day. That’s right in around 1 out of 5 seats where you working your butt off for a candidate can really make a difference. That’s depressing for someone that works on campaigns as often as I do. I’ve seen great candidates never be given a chance because of gerrymandering and seen incumbents tossed by the wayside when their district is changed and cut apart. This is a real issue and one that does not get near enough attention. So the next time one of your friends attempts to tell that state legislators do not mean anything or that the census is pointless tell them that is determines 80% of elections in the United States and watch their ears perk straight up.

Barack Obama is the best President we have had since Kennedy

By Kyle Offenbecher


Over the past 50 years we have some good presidents, some bad presidents, and some in between. None of them however, have had as positive an effect on America as President Obama. Since President Obama took office, our country has dramatically changed for the better. I’m not saying the Obama administration has been perfect, but I think there is a valid case for why President Obama has been the most successful president of at least the past half-century. Here’s why.

To put President Obama’s accomplishments in perspective it’s important to have some context. In the past fifty years we have had 9 presidents who had varying degrees of success. LBJ had major domestic achievements with Civil Rights and The Great Society, but his Vietnam policy was a disaster. His successor, Richard Nixon was a crook that disgraced the Presidency. Ford neither did anything great nor terrible. Carter had some success with the Camp David accords but failed to deal with America’s economic malaise. Reagan for all the attempts by modern republicans to canonize him was hardly a saint. The national debt ballooned, AIDS flourished, and inequality increased. Meanwhile a good amount of the Reagan administration became involved in a program to sell weapons to Iran and use the proceeds to fund drug-dealing terrorists in Nicaragua. Hardly a great legacy. The first George Bush accomplished little domestically, but was successful in defeating Saddam and helping bring about a peaceful transition to democracy in the eastern bloc. Both of these might be considered great successes if later events (and his own son’s actions) hadn’t made Iraq a nightmare and Russia hardly better than during the Soviet days. Bill Clinton did achieve considerable success in managing the economy but also left behind a failed health care plan, financial deregulation and don’t ask, don’t tell. The second George Bush, was of course the President who increased the deficit, thought the Iraq War was a great idea, and presided over the worst financial meltdown since the Depression. Oh, and demonized gay people to help get elected.
By comparison to his predecessors Obama holds up remarkably well. His stimulus plan stabilized an economy in free fall. Unemployment fell from 10 percent to less than 6 percent. New regulations were placed on the financial institutions that created the crisis. The auto industry was saved. Health care reform was implemented allowing millions of people access to quality affordable health care reform for the first time. Don’t ask, don’t tell was repealed and LGBT Americans gained federal discrimination protection. Our failed Cuban embargo is being drawn to a close. Millions of young undocumented immigrants are being protected from arbitrary deportation.In terms of defense policy, Obama inherited a world that was falling apart. While critics like to cite the Rise of ISIS and aggressive actions by Russian President Vladimir Putin, it is important to consider what hasn’t happened; a military disaster like Vietnam or Iraq. It is easy to overlook something that hasn’t happened, but with a less cautious leader we might have easily fallen into a quagmire. Back in the early days of the Syrian conflict, supposed wise men of the foreign policy world urged Obama to intervene against Assad. Knowing what we know now, it is likely that such actions would have been disastrous. Imagine American troops, stuck in the crossfire of ISIS on side and Hezbollah on the other, and you have an image of what Obama saved us from. Instead of the cowboy diplomacy of George W. Bush, we have taken a slow cautious approach in the fight against ISIS. Instead of unilateralism, Obama has built large coalitions and has improved relations with our European allies. It isn’t the most popular approach, but it’s the approach then in the long run has the best chance.

Unfortunately in the run up to the 2014 elections, many democrats decided to run as far away as possible from the President’s accomplishments and sell themselves as republican lite. It didn’t work. Not a single one of the Obama bashing democrats won. The few who did defend the President actually fared better, such as Senator Al Franken, who actually increased his vote share from 2008. If more candidates had listened to the few voices of wisdom, such as Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, then things might have different. Instead, the mainstream media bowed to the fox driven narrative of irrational fear and panic. Hopefully, in 2016 Democratic candidates will learn from the mistakes of 2014 and run on the President’s accomplishments. If they don’t they can expect the same results as 2014.

Political Profile for Week One: Former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush

1. Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida:

Basic Background Information

  • 61 years old
  • Graduated from the University of Texas in 1973 in only 2.5 years
  • Worked in the private sector for years after graduating college
  • Worked on many of his father’s campaigns (former president George H.W. Bush)
  • Served as Chairman of the Dade County Republican Party (1986-1988)
  • Was Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s campaign manager in 1989
  • Ran for Governor of Florida in 1994, but surprisingly to most, he lost
  • Ran again in 1998 and won. Won reelection bid in 2002.
  • Term limited in 2006, Bush reentered the private sector.



1. Jeb Bush Political Profile

  • Well suited for the states that have early primaries/caucuses?

–Iowa-no, New Hampshire-yes

  • Skeletons in the closet (that we know about)?

–In 2013 Jeb Bush tweeted “Why would our President close our Embassy to the Vatican? Hopefully, it is not retribution for Catholic organizations opposing Obamacare.”

  • Bush was tweeting in response to a rumor circulating on right-wing websites that the United States was closing its Vatican embassy and cutting off all diplomatic relations with the Catholic church.
  • Obviously this was not true.
  • In reality the United States was just moving the Vatican embassy into the same building that houses the embassy to Italy in order to save an estimated one million dollars a year.

–Rumors are floating around regarding Bush’s wife and children (his daughter has been arrested on drug-related charges years ago) (, but nothing has been substantiated

–Admits to smoking marijuana as a teenager, was a poor student until he was getting ready to go to college; some have claimed that he was once a bully (

–Took a number of corporate jobs in the private sector that will come under great scrutiny.

  • Candidate’s Weaknesses: Ties to unpopular positions or politicians?

–George W. Bush:

  • Although not his fault, the Bush name—once a great strength—is now one of his greatest weaknesses as a candidate.
  • It will be difficult to prove to voters in a general election that he is not just a clone of his brother.
  • Will also face resentment from primary voters who blame George W. Bush for the current state of the Republican Party
  • Bush fatigue: Many Republicans (including—until recently—his own mother, Barbara Bush) want to avoid nominating a third Bush

–It’s been a long time since he has run for office.

  • Hasn’t run for office in twelve years.
  • Hasn’t held political office in eight years (he was term-limited in 2006)
  • Can he survive the rigors of the presidential campaign trail?
  • Could struggle in debates.

–Prominent supporter of immigration reform (and common core).

  • Like Senator Rubio, will have to justify his views to dubious primary voters.

–An unimpressive public speaker/orator. Can he inspire, connect, communicate?

–Has a Marco Rubio problem

  • Both men are from Florida, it might be tough for both to run. Bush had previously endorsed Marco Rubio for Senate in 2010.


  • What is this candidate’s selling points?

–Can raise a lot of money (much more than any other Republican candidate)

  • The Bush family has built up a sizeable donor list over the last few decades. Can raise significantly more money than any other Republican candidates.
  • With Mitt Romney not running, he will also pick up many of Romney’s donors as the most electable “establishment” candidate
  • By all accounts, the Bush campaign is already raising millions of dollars.

–Brings experience and national appeal

  • The Republican field is shaping up to be a very young one.
  • Unlikely to make rookie mistakes
  • Bush is a rare Republican who has proven he can win over more than just conservatives.
  • Already won Florida (a purple state and a state Republicans must win a general election) twice.

–Could broaden the Republican base

  • Is popular with Latinos (at least compared to other Republican figures) and the Republicans must do better with Latinos if they want to be a viable national party.
  • If George W. Bush knew how to appeal to Latino voters; his younger brother has proven to be even better at doing so.
  • More appealing to moderate voters than most of his competitors.

–Is not associated with recent Republican missteps

  • Was not involved with, and therefore cannot be blamed for: the government shutdown, Benghazi investigations, impeachment talk, refusing to raise the debt ceiling, low Congressional approval ratings etc.

–Has a strong command of the issues. Excels at the question and answer format.

  • Best suited for the general election or primaries? Establishment or outsider candidate?

–The general election. With a name like Bush, how could he be seen as anything other than a member of the establishment? Still, he hasn’t held office for eight years and is not in any way tarnished by congressional foolishness.

  • Trending upward, downward , or neither. Why?

–Upward. Mitt Romney’s decision not to run again will allow Bush to lock up many of the wealthiest Republican donors and the establishment political consultants. Unlike almost every one of his main competitors, Bush has managed to remain generally mistake-free lately. Rumored to be raising a lot of money already.

  • On a scale of 1-10 (with ten being certain to run) how likely is he to run?

–10. Once thought to be unlikely to run, Bush is now certain to run.

Jeb Bush: Key Questions

  • Can Bush overcome his last name?
  • Will staying out of politics for almost a decade ultimately help or hurt Bush’s presidential bid?
  • Is Bush prepared to run a presidential campaign?
  • Can Bush unite the establishment wing of the Republican Party behind his candidacy?
  • Can Bush convince enough conservatives to earn his party’s nomination?
  • Can Bush survive the Republican primary when his positions on education and immigration are very unpopular with many Republican voters?


Terrible joke or professional comedian? Notice the resemblance

All four of these people are funny, but only two of them try to be.

Sarah Fulton presents our first in a series of strange lookalikes.

palin                            fey

Former Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin                         Queen-a Fey, SNL

cruz   eddie

Senator Ted Cruz, R-TX                                        Cousin Eddie, Christmas Vacation

A 2016 Preview: Meeting the Candidates

by Ben Greenberg

Way back in January 2014, I began to create profiles for the Republican candidates likeliest to contend for their party’s nomination in 2016. At the time, I tried to assess each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. Yes, I know; that was just one year after the 2012 presidential election and almost a full three years before the next one. And yes, people like me should probably be institutionalized.

But now, two years later, with the 2014 midterm elections finally in the rearview mirror (thank goodness!) and with at least one Republican announcing their intention to form an exploratory committee every single day, it seems like the right time to revisit this conversation. It feels like every four years the presidential election cycle begins a bit earlier each time and 2016 is proving to be no exception.

With almost another two years still to go, nearly two dozen Republicans have already expressed interest in running. Already, more than a dozen candidates have SuperPACs raising money on their behalf. And by all accounts, an unprecedented number of Republicans will seek their party’s nomination in 2016 (there are number of reasons for this, which will hopefully come up at some point this semester). So—perhaps with the exception of a handful of degenerates like myself—keeping track of all these candidates will prove difficult for even the most politically interested of Americans. My hope is that posting these profiles will help make following the 2016 election cycle easier for those interested in doing so.

Hopefully these profiles will help distinguish the true contenders from the pretenders—not everyone who enters the race has a chance of becoming the Republican nominee in 2016—so I will also try to explain which factors make one candidate more formidable than another.

Over the next twelve weeks, the ten Republicans most likely to win the Republican nomination in 2016 will be profiled. Yes twelve weeks, not ten. In those first ten weeks, we will be focusing on a single candidate each week. Week eleven will be devoted to “the best of the rest.” It will highlight a few politicians who currently have little or no chance to win, but might still be worth paying attention to. Week twelve will take a step back to examine what has changed in those three months. Week twelve will also be an opportunity to make some predictions about what to expect going forward.

From time-to-time, the Democratic primary process may come up too, especially if it looks like a serious Democrat will challenge Hillary Clinton, but it will not be the focus of this series. One final note: I am not a political expert, I cannot predict the future, and my analysis is by no means definitive. I will do my best to inform and persuade, but ultimately I want to start a conversation, so I not only welcome your feedback (comments and questions, positive or negative, agree or disagree), I encourage it.

Now, some people will ask, “Why follow the Republican primary process at all?” It is a fair question and I’ll do my best to answer it in the only way I know how to—by mixing lame attempts at humor with some seriousness. Forgive me; I won’t make a habit out of this. Since David Letterman is retiring soon, I’m sure he won’t mind if I “borrow” this; here are the top ten reasons why you should care about the 2016 Republican primary!

  1. Makes for great conversation at parties. “Did you know Rick Santorum was in a fraternity too?!?!?!?!?!”
  2. You’ll get to revel in the stupidity. If you thought the “self-deportation”, “the 47 percent”, and the “legitimate rape” gaffes were bad enough ( just wait until you get to hear what this group of Republicans has to say.
  3. It will be entertaining! Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz. Need I say more?
  4. You’ll learn significantly more about Iowa and New Hampshire than you ever wanted to. Which will undoubtedly prove useful when you graduate from UD and become a farmer or a recluse and move to Iowa or New Hampshire (I hope no one reading this is from Iowa and New Hampshire!).
  5. Infighting is fun (especially when it’s the other party doing it!).This nomination process will not only feature the Republican establishment fighting their party’s right-wing—the “Tea Party” conservatives—for control of the Republican Party—it will also provide a unique opportunity to witness fiscal, social, constitutional, and neo conservatives fight amongst themselves.
  6. You’ll be able to fill out my amazing the Republican primary edition (no don’t worry I haven’t made any others…yet) of my superlative prediction list (see below).
  7. You’ll learn a lot. Let’s move on before I regret including this one.
  8. Being exposed to opposing viewpoints is a good thing. God another boring reason! I hope the next two are better!
  9. Who the Republicans choose might just impact your life. I know you’re thinking, “but Hillary Clinton is going to win in a landslide in 2016!” I hope you’re right but on the off chance one of these guys end up winning…
  10. To know them is to defeat them. Sometimes getting to know your opponents and their viewpoints on issues you care about can help to reinforce your own views. And you’ll be better equipped to defend your own beliefs if challenged.


I bet you didn’t think I could come up with ten reasons did you?


Let’s make sure this isn’t the last article ever written on our website (boy, wouldn’t that be sad!). Please let us know if you’d like to become a contributor to this website. You don’t have to be long-winded like me; there are no length requirements and you can write about nearly anything you want.


2016 Superlatives


  • Most likely to leave the race in disgrace award? AKA: The Herman Cain Award.
  • Most likely to be found selling reverse mortgages in 2018? AKA: The Fred Thompson/ Mr. Irrelevant Award.
  • Most likely to say something so terrible and mind-bogglingly stupid that it could cost them the election? AKA: The Mitt Romney Forty-Seven percent award.
  • Most likely to not even bother to campaign in Iowa (yes that was an actual campaign strategy; I don’t think I need to tell you how it worked out)? AKA: The Rudy Giuliani Award.
  • Most likely to move to Iowa in 2014 to get a head start? AKA: The Rick Santorum Award.
  • Most likely to see their entire campaign staff resign in protest (possibly when the candidate takes a vacation to Greece during primary season)? AKA: The Newt Gingrich Award.
  • Most likely to be a prohibitive favorite until they open their mouth? AKA: The Rick Perry “oops” award
  • Most likely to win the meaningless Iowa Straw Poll, get some media attention, and then receive less than one percent of the vote in the Iowa Caucus, drop out, nearly lose their House seat, and then retire from congress? AKA: The Michelle Bachman (or maybe the Sarah Palin award; I forget) award.
  • Most likely to enter the race and then run a campaign that does not last a month (Mitt Romney is the early clubhouse leader at three weeks)?