Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Who's bigger than Bigfoot?

In the Texas gubernatorial race, apparently no one.

We'll get back to Bigfoot in a moment. First, let's talk about two columnists.

Ken Rodriguez writes opinion columns for the San Antonio Express-News, our mainstream daily newspaper. Dave Maass writes for the San Antonio Current, our lefty weekly newspaper. And Maass seems to hold Rodriguez in contempt, so much so that he vents in a column about some recent work by Rodriguez. And, if Maass has a point other than he doesn't like Rodriguez, it is lost in his own words.

Now, some background:
The Texas governor's race is about par for the course for politics in the Lone Star State. The current governor, Rick Perry (R), faces opposition from Chris Bell (D), Carole Keeton Strayhorn (I), Kinky Friedman (?), and James Werner (L). So far, Kinky has been getting a lot of press (because he's strange), and Strayhorn has been getting a fair amount herself (primarily because of her opposition to toll roads). Bell, though running on the Democratic ticket, can't seem to turn anyone's head.

Earlier in October, Ken Rodriguez wrote a piece about Bell's lack of name recognition. He began that column talking about "somebody from the Chris Bell campaign freak[ing] over an unscientific poll" (click here to read it all), and he finishes the piece saying, "The race is crazy. So crazy that back in July, a few Bell supporters with busy fingers and time to blow made an all-out attempt to win a local dot-com poll."

Fair enough. Rodriguez is an opinion columnist, and commenting on political antics is to be expected. But Dave Maass (who apparently disagrees strongly with Rodriguez's analogies and comparisons, even when light-hearted) took exception to Rodriguez's characterization of Bell as an unrecognizable candidate. Maas especially found this excerpt to be rage-worthy:

On July 21, the Web site asked readers: Who's your pick for Texas governor?

After two days, Rick Perry had garnered the most votes, Bell the fewest. That should have surprised no one since A) Perry is the Republican incumbent, and B) more people had heard of Bigfoot than Bell, the Democratic candidate.

Maass seemingly found the whole sasquatch comparison to be abominable, because he then devoted an entire column to trying to prove that nobody is bigger than Bigfoot. And, he seems to think that personally asking pollsters a bunch of questions is actually a scientific study.

Three weeks ago, Rodriguez penned a column explaining how politicians react to polls, illustrated by gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell’s spasm at his poor results to the daily’s online poll. The columnist wrote: “That should have surprised no one since ... more people had heard of Bigfoot than Bell.”

Huh? We called him on it.

“It was a one-liner,” Rodriguez said.

“It was a two-liner,” we corrected him.

“It was a joke. It wasn’t anything that was scientifically backed up. As you know, I write opinion. I am a columnist. I couldn’t get away with writing that if I were writing a news story about the gubernatorial race,” he blustered.

“But even as a joke,” we explained, “it doesn’t make sense because you can easily say more people have heard of Bigfoot than Rick Perry.”

And so we set about proving it, meticulously and scientifically, by canvassing the pollsters on our lists about Bigfoot’s name recognition. Here are our results. [emphasis added]

At first, I thought Maass was being humorous himself. But, he told me himself that he thought the Bigfoot comparison was ridiculous and that the Express-News editors should be watching Rodriguez more closely. So, I take him at his word that he thinks Rodriguez is ugly and full of shit. And, I can only wonder what he hopes to accomplish by actually calling pollsters with a question that asks who has more name recognition than a mythical creature.

For the record, here is who Maass contacted with his "meticulous" poll and how they responded to him (according to him):
Gallup - wouldn't comment
SurveyUSA - "I'm trying to take you seriously ..."
Zogby - "Bigfoot wins out over everyone but Superman."
Rasmussen - wouldn't comment
Blum & Welprin - Bigfoot's bigger
Opinion Analysts, Inc. - Bigfoot's bigger than Rick Perry
Baselice & Associates - wouldn't respond

Maass then rounds out his research with a Google search, counting the number of hits generated by "Rick Perry sucks" and "Kinky Friedman blows". And then, somehow, he takes all of his collected data, analyzes it, and comes to the conclusion that Ken Rodriguez "is a tool".


At least, if you can believe him. Maass's piece might be an attempt at humor or parody. But, either way, it is poorly researched and poorly conceived. I'm not sure what he's trying to communicate other than inquiries about Bigfoot, when posed to people who conduct polls, might hint at stupidity in Rodriguez, but I don't think he even accomplished that. He simply showed that pollsters don't like to be bothered with silly questions.

If this is the fare that the Current truly offers as an alternative to the mainstream media, then the publication has slipped into utter vacuity. That's too bad, because they have a great music section.

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