Election countdown: 23 days

Nevada has flipped between red and blue over the past couple of decades—the formerly Republican state went for Bill Clinton, then went red for George W. Bush, but back to blue for Obama and Hillary Clinton. She won by a narrow 2.4%—not the 7-12% lead they gave Obama. The current polling gives Biden a modest lead of around 6 points.

In the 2018 midterms, Nevada had a ‘blue wave’, flipping one of its Senate seats and its Governor from Republicans to Democrats. Its Senators are not up for election this year—Nevada is one of just five states with two female Democratic Senators (the others are California, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Washington).

Election countdown: 24 days

Nebraska hasn’t elected a Democrat since 1964–though Obama got one district’s electoral vote in 2008. Like Maine, Nebraska allocates its electoral votes by district (one each for the winner of its 3 districts, plus two for the overall winner of the state), instead of the winner-take-all approach that all the other 48 states use.

Trump is predicted to win 4 of Nebraska’s 5 electoral votes, with the 2nd District leaning towards Biden. We might see a repeat of 2008 in Nebraska!

What I’m Reading : Methodology

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been taking some time to read up on research methods. It’s one of those tasks that’s always been lingering on the back burner—something that I’ve been meaning to do and just never gotten around to doing. It’s not exciting, but it’s important to have a solid understanding of research methods as a foundation for an academic career. A bit tiresome but useful for the future, like a nightly skincare routine that you’re tempted to skip.

Part of my imposter syndrome is that I really never had a strong foundation in methodology, yet I have taught research methods and supervised research projects for years. I recommend books to my students that I haven’t even read myself! I felt like I had skipped something. So, this past month, I finally corrected that and read all of the methods books I had on my shelf (but never actually read before), and ordered a few more.

-Excellent guide to content analysis, very clear and well explained. I read it cover to cover, and now I feel much more comfortable with my recommendations for it over the years!

—Altheide was recommended for further reading in Neuendorf’s section on qualitative research, and it really clicked with me. I have been doing what he described without knowing what it was called…

—Berger is one of those authors that we use in the first year undergrad research methods module, so I was familiar with the chapters of his that I’ve taught. This is a good introduction-level textbook, with clear explanations and good recommendations for further reading.

—I’ve always recommended Fairclough without really knowing much about his work and taking the time to understand it. Now that I’ve actually read this all the way through and worked with it, I wish I had read it years ago. I would have been a better supervisor for all of my students who wanted to do discourse analysis or CDA.

—Good overview of different approaches, useful for comparing and contrasting techniques when you’re trying to decide what to do. Once you’re sure about your method (s), though, you need something more detailed and specific.

—Another one that was recommended by another text (this is the ‘snowball technique’ of literature searching, btw). I didn’t notice that it was an edited volume when I ordered it, so was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t just van Dijk—I think I may need to order one of his other books. Good overview, but not as prescriptive as Fairclough’s Language and Power.

—This one arrived in the post today and I’m looking forward to reading it again. It’s the only method book that I remember reading during my MA research, and as such I’ve recommended it to a lot of supervisees. I remember struggling with it a bit, so it’s going to be interesting to see how I get on with it now.

Overall, it’s been lovely to take this time to sort myself out and grow more confident with the methods literature. It’s taken away some of the shame I felt around not knowing enough about all of the various techniques my colleagues mentioned so casually. I also felt like a bit of a hypocrite, as I always tell my supervisees not to forget about methods lit. It feels good that I finally followed my own advice!

Election countdown: 25 days

Montana is a safe red state—Trump won it by 20 points in 2016 and it hasn’t gone for a Democrat since 1992. Because its population is so small, though, that 20 point lead was less than 102,000 votes. If we were talking about California or Texas, that would be a narrow margin! That small population really turns out in elections though—over 70% in every election since 2004. Montana saw turnouts of 74% in 2016, and 71% in the 2018 midterms! At the end of the day, I admire the fact they actually vote, even if their views are different from mine. I can respect a result that comes with a decent turnout—it’s voter suppression and gerrymandering that isn’t respectable.

Election countdown: 26 days

Missouri was once a swing state, but it hasn’t elected a Democrat since Bill Clinton. Trump won in 2016 by over half a million votes.

Despite all of this, I’m holding out some hope for Missouri to go blue. Trump was 20 points ahead of Hillary Clinton in 2016, but now he’s polling only 5 points ahead of Biden.

Obama lost in Missouri by a tiny margin in 2008. If those voters turnout, there’s a chance Missouri could go for Biden.

Election countdown: 27 days

Mississippi has long been a deep red state, usually a 60-40 split in favour of the Republican candidate. I don’t expect anything new and different to happen this year—Trump is around 10 points ahead at the moment.

I do think it’s lovely, though, that this new magnolia flag design is on the ballot, to be ratified by the people next month. It’s beautiful, and the removal of the racist confederate flag was long overdue.

Election countdown: 28 days

Minnesota, much like Illinois, is a blue state (thanks to the Twin Cities) with a lot of red, rural areas. It’s the home of both Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar and former Republican Representative Michelle Bachmann. It also had the highest voter turnout rate in the nation in 2016, with 75%!

Minnesota hasn’t voted for a Republican since 1972, but it’s not one that the Democrats should take for granted. Hillary Clinton won by just 1.5%, around 45,000 votes. Biden is currently ahead by around 10 points, but that close margin of 2016 will keep both campaigns fighting for Minnesota this month.

This summer Minneapolis made headlines with the George Floyd case, sparking demonstrations across the country and starting a national reckoning on race and civil rights. Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacy (and outright encouragement of these groups) should inspire Minnesotans to vote him out and replace him with a candidate who actually says and believes that Black Lives Matter.

Election countdown: 29 days

Michigan is going to be one of the key swing states to watch this year. After going blue consistently since 1992, Michigan shocked pundits in 2016 by going for Trump. Michigan and Wisconsin were widely used to explain Trump’s electoral college victory—white, blue collar voters felt ignored (and taken for granted) by the modern Democratic Party, according to the narrative, and they turned to Trump in protest.

The numbers suggest it could flip back to blue this year. Michigan had the narrowest margin of victory of any state—Trump won by 0.2%, fewer than 11,000 votes. Biden is currently leading by just 5 points on average, so neither party can really get complacent.

Election countdown: 30 days

Massachusetts is as blue as it gets. It’s been home to some of the highest profile members of the Democratic Party—JFK, RFK and Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Elizabeth Warren. It was the first state to legalise same-sex marriage, and its 2006 healthcare reform brought health insurance to 98% of residents. Hillary Clinton won the state by over 900,000 votes and 27 points. Unsurprisingly, Biden is leading in the polls by around 30 points.

This year’s Democratic primary saw an interesting first—incumbent Senator Ed Markey defeated a challenge for Representative Joe Kennedy III, the first time that a Kennedy had lost an election to national office in Massachusetts. Markey was supported by progressives in the party, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and won over young voters—they didn’t live through the Kennedy family’s decades of working in Massachusetts politics, so the legacy doesn’t matter as much to them. I found it a bit sad, even though I like Ed Markey—Joe didn’t run for re-election to the House, so he’s out of Congress altogether now. He was re-elected to his House seat in 2018 with 97% of the vote—it seems like such a shame to let that go!

Election countdown: 31 days

Maryland is a safe Biden state—it’s gone blue in every election since 1992, and Hillary Clinton beat Trump by over 700,000 votes there.

Maryland’s Senate seats aren’t in this election, and the House seats are all expected to stay the same (1 R, 7 D). The only one that’s noteworthy is Democratic incumbent Representative Kweisi Mfume, who was elected to fill the 7th District seat after the passing of Representative Elijah Cummings. Mfume actually held the seat from 1987-1996, and stepped down to become the President of the NAACP. He’s expected to win re-election easily, of course, but I did think it was an interesting case!