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Reads & Reactions

In this edition of Reads & Reactions: partisan labels, gasoline politics, a G.O.P. debate, birth certificates and blogging for free.


In The Washington Post, Ezra Klein wrote about the shifting policy positions of Republicans, highlighting in particular Senator Jim DeMint’s past approval of Mitt Romney’s overhaul of health care in Massachusetts. Nate commented on Mr. Klein’s previous column on the subject, “Obama Revealed: A Moderate Republican.” Also adding some insight to the discussion was John Sides at The Monkey Cage.

FiveThirtyEight’s second look at gas prices and presidential approval ratings (here is the first) was dubbed “the merest sophistry” by Jonathan S. Tobin at Commentary Magazine. Mr. Tobin concludes, “Barack Obama cannot afford a gasoline price of $5 or more a gallon.”

Jay Weiner, at MinnPost, wrote an analysis of the performance of the former Minnesota governor, Tim Pawlenty, at Thursday’s “B team” Republican debate in South Carolina. Mr. Weiner seemed to largely agree with FiveThirtyEight’s grading of Mr. Pawlenty (“B+” for good, not great).

Back at The Washington Post, Jonathan Bernstein looked at how pundits were predicting the death of Osama bin Laden would impact President Obama’s reelection chances (FiveThirtyEight weighed in here, here and here). Mr. Bernstein writes that it helps the president, especially in the short term. But the death of the leader of Al Qaeda doesn’t come close to guaranteeing Mr. Obama four more years in the Oval Office.

James Rainey, at The Los Angeles Times, wrote an interesting article on the nature of conspiracy theorists in general, and specifically, the reaction of “birthers” to the release of Mr. Obama’s long-form birth certificate. In it, Mr. Rainey referred to FiveThirtyEight’s post on a Public Policy Polling survey that seemed to find a contingent of Trump “birthers.”

Russell Smith at Legal As She Is Spoke (a project of the Program in Law and Journalism at New York Law School) put together a very informative analysis of the legal merits of the class-action lawsuit against The Huffington Post filed by unpaid bloggers. Mr. Smith cites FiveThirtyEight’s analysis of the worth generated for The Huffington Post by those unpaid bloggers.

And finally, our comment-of-the-half-month comes from Stephen in Saitama Prefecture, Japan, who — commenting on the post “Who Will Run for President? Early Voting States May Hold a Clue” — had some campaign advice for Mitt Romney. Mr. Saitama wrote, “I’m surprised that Romney hasn’t been more aggressive in making appearances. With the low caliber of his opponents why doesn’t he just go to Iowa and try to blow the little fishes out of the water early to clear the field? Except for Huckabee, of course, who is the only real danger to Romney. But it’s still not clear whether Huck is running. If not, it would make sense for Romney to engage in Iowa.” The full comment is here.


It’s a data visualization edition of Reads today:

First, from our colleagues Jon Huang and Aron Pilhofer, here is an incredible interactive graphic showing readers’ reactions to Bin Laden’s death.

On the same subject, the “social media optimization” company SocialFlow has a cool visualization tracing news of Bin Laden’s death as it traveled through Twitter.

And Data Underload at FlowingData put together some maps showing where the major airlines each fly most often in the United States.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the surname of the reader who submitted the comment-of-the-half-month. The comment came from Stephen in Saitama Prefecture, Japan, not Stephen Saitama.

Micah Cohen is FiveThirtyEight’s former managing editor.