Jennifer D. Wade Journal

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Blog posts November 2012

2012 is quickly drawing to a close, so it won't be long until the AMERICAN DIALECT SOCIETY hosts its annual meeting. It's set for early January in Boston, and the highlight is sure to be the selection of the 2012 Word of the Year (WOTY).

In 2010, the overall winner was "app" as the phrase "there's an app for that" became so ubiquitous that you might have wished for an app to make it go away. I correctly predicted that "app" stood a good chance of winning. The following year, I correctly predicted that "occupy" would be the 2011 Word of the Year, though I have to admit that pick was somewhat of a no-brainer as something somewhere was always under occupation.

So, let's see if I can continue the streak. Because there was no escaping the campaign trail, I believe that the 2012 WOTY will come from the field of politics. And oh, the choices we have! Just when you thought the voting was over...

Could the 2012 Word of the Year be "double down?" This phrase from the world of gambling was hijacked by politicians and political writers. To my mind, the phrase applied when one side said something that was roundly criticized and/or viewed with great skepticsm by the other side and/or by the media. If the first side continued to make the claim, perhaps even exaggerating it, it was said to be "doubling down." Whatever was said was what was meant and that's not gonna change. One example of "doubling down":  Mitt Romney continued to push his plan to balance the budget despite study after study and expert after expert that said the numbers just didn't add up.

Or, could the 2012 WOTY be "fiscal cliff?" Now that the election is over, there's a lot of talk about whether the president and Congress can or will work together to avoid a series of expiring tax cuts and budget cuts scheduled to take effect at the start of the New Year. Already, President Obama is doubling down on his campaign promise to "make the wealthy pay their fair share," while House Speaker John Boehner is doubling down on the GOP line of looking for revenue without raising taxes (which could mean eliminating deductions, such as the one for mortgage interest, that primarily benefit the middle class). The fiscal cliff has been around for a while, but it's on the front burner now, which could give it the momentum it needs to be the 2012 WOTY.

Wait. Did someone just say "momentum?" Another word heard from the campaign trail. President Obama had momentum through the spring and summer, and he got a little bounce after the Democratic Convention in September. Then came early October and the first presidential debate in Denver. Everyone agreed that Romney won and, suddenly he had momentum. The vice presidential debate followed and Joe Biden eked out a win. During ABC's post-debate analysis, George Stephanopoulos said that Biden had succeeded in stopping the GOP momentum. Two more presidential debates followed with President Obama scoring narrow victories in both. If Romney's momentum (a.k.a. "Romentum") hadn't stopped after the VP debate, surely the final two debates did the trick, right?

Maybe not. The GOP doubled down, insisting that Romney still had the momentum in the final two weeks leading up to the election. But, then came Superstorm Sandy. President Obama left the campaign trail for a few days to keep tabs on the Federal response. He also traveled to some of the hardest hit areas in New Jersey, where he was praised by Republican Governor Chris Christie, a key Romney supporter. Romney himself toned down his campaign rhetoric for a few days, too. Did Sandy stop the Romentum? Not if you listened to the Romney people. They kept saying they had the momentum, and they apparently felt so confident in that thought that they made a last-minute play for Pennsylvania, where polls consistently showed Pres. Obama with a lead.

The Romney camp should have been reading FiveThirtyEight, the outstanding blog that numbers whiz Nate Silver writes for the New York Times. (Or, maybe they were reading it, but just didn't like what they were seeing.) The last debate, the one about foreign policy, was on Monday, October 22. A few days later, Silver posted THIS entry which argued that polls showed that Romney's momentum had stalled sometime around October 12, the day after the vice presidential debate, a few days before the second presidential debate, and well before Sandy (which hadn't even happened when Silver wrote that column). By the time Sandy hit, the momentum was already with Obama and there wasn't enough time for Romney to get it back.

So, there are my top three picks for the American Dialect Society's 2012 Word of the Year: double down, fiscal cliff, momentum. Romentum could potentially get a few votes, but it's more likely to place in a subcategory than to rise to WOTY level. Other possible contenders include "legitimate rape" and "war on women."

I think I'm going to double down and go with "double down" as my predicted winner. Will my streak continue? We'll find out on January 4, 2013.

Go Back

The 2012 campaign has finally come to an end with President Barack Obama winning a hard-fought second term in the White House. The campaign seemed to last a really long time. Exactly how long depends on whether you count Mitt Romney's campaign as starting sometime in 2011 or whether you take the starting point all the way back to when he campaigned (and lost) to be the GOP's nominee in 2008. In any case, it went on and on and didn't end until Romney finally conceded around 1 a.m. on Wednesday. He kept the popular vote pretty close, but lost the Electoral College by a substantial margin (as of this writing, Florida is still undecided, but Obama already has more than 300 electoral votes so, unlike 2000, Florida doesn't really matter).

I spent about six weeks organizing election coverage for the local TV station where I work. We reported results from PA and around the country for the presidential race, but we were largely focused on statewide races including US Senator and row offices. We also covered assorted Congressional and General Assembly races. You can check out the Pennsylvania results HERE.

For the most part, the night brought very few surprises. The candidates who were expected to win, did. My one exception would be the race for PA Auditor General, where Democrat Eugene DePasquale defeated Republican John Maher. I didn't follow the race closely in the weeks and months leading up to the election, but I guess I figured that Maher would win. But, I did see a commercial for DePasquale during the final week, and I suspect he was helped by the strength of other Democrats on the ticket, including Sen. Bob Casey and Pres. Obama. I also wonder if there may not be some kind of anti-GOP backlash going on, considering that Gov. Corbett's approval ratings are very low.

If anything surprised me, it would be that the winners' margins of victory - especially on the Democratic side - were higher than expected. Despite GOP claims that Pennsylvania was "in play" for Romney and that Senate candidate Tom Smith was making a race of it with Bob Casey, Pres. Obama won the state by about 5 points and Casey won by 9. Perhaps not landslide margins, but not as close as the GOP and some pundits were insisting.

I will say, however, that I'm not sure Casey knew which way the race would go. If he did, he wasn't very excited about it. One of my crews talked with him after he voted, and Casey said, "I've been really privileged to have another term in the United States Senate. I've been privileged to serve in three public offices, and no matter what happens today, I've been pretty fortunate." Even for the mild-mannered Casey, that statement seemed kind of defeatist.

A couple other races to note. Long-time state rep. Phyllis Mundy, a Democrat from Luzerne County's West Side, fought off a challenge from young Republican Aaron Kaufer and claimed a 12-point victory. Kaufer had some financial backing - I received several mailings from him - but, to me, it seemed as though a lot of what he was criticizing Mundy for was old news such as the infamous midnight pay raise from six or seven years ago. Mundy has a reputation for sticking up for the elderly and for approaching the natural gas industry with caution. Those issues - and a Democratic voter edge in Luzerne County - made Kaufer's fight a tough one to win.

In another part of Luzerne County, Rep. Tarah Toohil, a Republican from the Hazleton area, won another term in the state house. She had a 2-1 edge in votes over her opponent, Ransom Young. The margin of victory is impressive given that Toohil faced some negative advertising featuring compromising pictures of her taken several years ago. In this case, the dirty tricks (which her opponent disavowed) did not work at all.

And, finally, Kathleen Kane from the Scranton area became the first Democrat and the first woman to be elected Pennsylvania Attorney General. Kane won by about 14 points over Cumberland County DA David Freed. Freed has close ties to the Attorney General's office and was apparently Gov. Corbett's candidate of choice. Kane got some publicity over the past year as a commentator on the Jerry Sandusky case and she promised to be an independent prosecutor. One of the reason's for Corbett's sagging favorability is that many people feel he could have done more when he was Attorney General to stop Sandusky. As far as I know, Freed never had any involvement in the case, but being associated with Corbett may have hurt his cause more than helped it.

At any rate, it's all over. Now I have six months to rest up before the May primary.

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