Scientific enough

John McCaslin
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Posted: Jan 22, 2004 12:00 AM

In a most unfashionable poll, Time asked the campaign staffs of top Democratic presidential contenders where they shop for clothes. The answers: Howard Dean (Gap), John Kerry (American Eagle), Wesley Clark (J. Crew), John Edwards (Banana Republic), Joe Lieberman (Urban Outfitters) and Dennis Kucinich (Salvation Army).

Come on, is this poll serious?

Admits the magazine: "Polling ... based on one to six interns we pretty much randomly grabbed."

TOLD YOU SO

"Just a quick reminder that in December of 2003, while most magazines were running cover stories on Howard Dean, The Atlantic Monthly had John Kerry on its cover." - Atlantic Monthly statement after Kerry scored his major upset in the Iowa caucuses

FREAK SHOW

What really propelled John Kerry so rapidly to the top in Iowa after he had lagged so far behind in the polls?

One can't ignore a cleverly worded television ad launched in the state Jan. 7 by one of the nation's leading free-market political-advocacy organizations, the Club for Growth PAC, highlighting longtime Iowa caucus leader Howard Dean's liberal tax record.

The $100,000-plus ad, not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee, opened with a couple walking out of a barbershop. An off-screen announcer asked what they thought of Dean's plan to raise taxes on a typical family by $1,900.

Without hesitation, the husband responded: "What do I think? Well, I think Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading ..."

His wife continued: "... body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont, where it belongs."

Club for Growth Executive Director David Keating told this column: "One of the things that just shocked us is how our ad not only entered the political culture, but also the comedy culture.

"We're going to poke fun at any politician with an insane tax plan," Keating continued. "And it fits Dean's plan - and persona, perhaps. I mean, you saw his rant."

NO FREAK SHOW

TUN Network representatives are on Capitol Hill this week introducing a most unique cable-television venture geared toward young adults.

The vision of the network, which is being launched this month in several states: "To be the premiere cable and Internet destination for university students around the world."

TUN's chief executive officer, Alex Lightman, says the overall aim is to "provide an inspiring alternative to MTV for 18- to 24-year-olds, with content from the best and the brightest and an editorial spirit emphasizing self-reliance, self-discipline, success-orientation and entrepreneurial dynamism rather than prepackaged rage against authentic leadership and commodified dissent."

Founded in Muncie, Ind., with production offices in Santa Monica, Calif., the 24-hour digital cable channel - specifically designed for the collegiate age demographic 18 to 24 - plans to utilize the creative work of university students from around the country in film, technology, fine arts, business, and research and development.

The network cites one report stating: "The college student is the demographic that Madison Avenue cares most about, because this group has not yet formed specific brand allegiances or set buying patterns and is thus more susceptible to advertising. The 18- to 24-year-old is considered the most easily programmable type of person, and therefore this is the most marketable group."

The demographic, including 17 million U.S. college students in 2002, has an estimated $150 billion in disposable income.

FICTION, OF SORTS

A unique style of gambling is so prevalent in the hallowed halls of Congress that author Brad Meltzer has made it the plot of his latest suspense thriller, "The Zero Game."

"It absolutely goes on up there," says Meltzer, who first learned about congressional wagers when he was a 19-year-old intern assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Now, after two years of research for "The Zero Game," the best-selling author has tracked "real betting schemes in Congress."

"Staffers bet on bills all the time," Meltzer told this column, "Long shots and odds of a certain bill passing. It's all about victory and winning - gambling on whether they can get what they want passed."

Particularly after "pork" is attached to a bill in conference, causing odds to fluctuate.

Asked to provide other examples, Meltzer reveals the name of one member (who won't be identified here) who speaks so regularly on the floor of the House - the aim to get maximum exposure on C-SPAN - that one office of congressional staffers, on a daily basis, contribute cash to a money jar, which then is placed in rotation on a staffer's desk.

"If the jar is on your desk the day the member doesn't give a speech, you get the money in the jar," explains Meltzer, calling Congress "the best legal casino in the country."

BABES FOR BUSH

Texas-based BabesForBush has released a 2004 pinup calendar "highlighting average Americans" who support the president and are proud of his accomplishments.

"I like President Bush even if he is from the same state as the Dixie Chicks," says Miss November, Amy Hayes, a boxing-ring announcer and model. Hailing from Detroit, she says she "went from a jackass to an elephant after the Clinton administration."

TAX LESSONS

Preliminary budget-deficit figures obtained from the American Legislative Exchange Council suggest the end of the state budget crisis is near.

"This is good news for the states," says Chris Atkins, director of ALEC's Tax & Fiscal Policy Task Force, who gives credit to President Bush's tax policies for igniting the economy "and the states are reaping the benefits."

"Many states that are still struggling with deficits - Indiana, Kansas, New Jersey and New York - are states that raised taxes in the past to deal with budget deficits," he says. "Other states that have no expected budget deficit - like Florida, Minnesota and New Hampshire - are states that relied on spending cuts or other measures to balance their budget."

The top five states still projecting budget deficits include California ($15 billion), New York ($5 billion), New Jersey ($5 billion), Illinois ($2 billion) and Michigan ($1.4 billion).