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Election 2012

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Help come up with presidential debate questions that don’t suck

It's time to let the voters play DJ. (Photo by Jeremy Ryan)

20:  number of Republican presidential primary debates held over the past year

839:  number of unique questions asked at those debates

109:  number of questions about "how conservative" candidates are

3:  number of questions about the Keystone XL pipeline

2:  number of questions about climate change

1:  number of questions about pizza crust

Those are some of the findings of journalism students at NYU's Studio 20, led by professor Jay Rosen. They analyzed all of the questions journalists asked at the debates and broke them down into topic areas. Only 1 percent got categorized as fluff (e.g., when Herman Cain was asked, "Deep dish or thin crust?"), but many of the questions focused on the horse-race aspects of the primary -- polls, negative ads, flip-flops, campaign strategy, "electability" -- and not on the kinds of substantive issues that most Americans are actually concerned about.

The environment got particularly short shrift: More questions were asked about the moon than about the earth.

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Crazy talk: Rick Santorum out-denies the climate deniers and spins eco-conspiracy theories

Rick SantorumRick Santorum, even nuttier than you think. (Photo by Dave Maass.)

Rick Santorum is way crazy when it comes to environmental issues. How crazy? He makes Newt Gingrich's moon-colony plans sound plausible and Mitt Romney's climate flip-floppery look presidential.

On climate change

While Mitt and Newt have both felt compelled to repudiate their former concern for climate change, Santorum can boast that he's a denier of long standing.

“There is no such thing as global warming,” he told Glenn Beck on Fox News in June 2011.

“It’s just an excuse for more government control of your life and I’ve never been for any scheme or even accepted the junk science behind the whole narrative,” he told Rush Limbaugh that some month.

He went further at an event in Colorado on Feb. 6:

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Why Ron Paul, elderly libertarian crank, turns young voters on

The candidate speaking at a Youth for Ron Paul event in Las Vegas. (Photo by Gage Skidmore.)

Justin Clements, a 21-year-old finance major at the University of Washington, believes “we are on an unsustainable path with regards to energy.” He thinks government subsidies to the oil and gas industry hold renewable energy back, and he's disgusted by the power corporations wield over elected officials.

But Clements doesn’t want the federal government to fix these problems. Cap-and-trade, he says, “is absolutely disastrous, and would not accomplish the goal of solving global climate change … [carbon] is not a tangible asset.”

Clements puts his faith in the power of a genuinely free market to set the real cost of resources. And, like a surprisingly large cohort of voters in his generation who have grown disillusioned with government, he also puts his faith in Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul -- the Texas congressman who has a libertarian answer to every political question.

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Santorum warns of ‘reign of environmental terror’

It's sometimes a little hard to tell what Rick Santorum is saying, but his latest approach to environmental conservation seems to be that liberals are a form of psychological terrorists, using guilt and science to distort the truth and frighten real Americans into sheeplike compliance. You think I'm exaggerating! But ... well, look, I'll just post some quotes, from a campaign event yesterday in Oklahoma City.

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Rick Santorum is literally the worst

Santorum swamped Romney (sorry) at two caucuses and a nonbinding primary yesterday, suggesting that his candidacy is a less funny joke than previously thought. Well whatever, they've clearly been playing King of the Mountain all campaign season, knocking each other off the top of the dung heap -- at this point, do we care which of the anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-health care climate deniers gets the nod? Yeah, because when it comes to climate change (and everything else), Santorum doubles down on the wild-eyed conspiracy theories.

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New poll shows Keystone XL, like energy generally, a winnable fight for Dems

As I have argued previously, energy is a potential wedge issue for Democrats. The mindlessly pro-fossil, anti-renewables posture of the congressional GOP is supported only by committed Republicans. Independents are far more open to environmental concerns and far more supportive of clean energy. With the right message, delivered consistently, Democrats can bring Independents to their side.

More evidence for this thesis came yesterday in the form of a poll [PDF] commissioned by environmental groups from Geoff Garin and Allan Rivlin of Hart Research. The pollsters did 1,000 interviews, distributed among four key swing states: Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, and Ohio. Their findings are quite revealing, in a number of ways.

First and most important: Despite a concerted and well-funded attack on Obama by oil companies, focused on just those key states, the majority of voters still trust the president over congressional Republicans on energy (45 to 38 percent) and jobs (44 to 39 percent). There's a well of trust from which to draw.

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Roseanne Barr wants to be the Green Party nominee for president

Roseanne Barr already told Jay Leno she planned to run for president, but back then she was going to start her own party. Now, though, she's seriously seeking Green Party nomination for the 2012 presidential run. The (presumably recycled) paperwork is in, and given that I have zero idea who the heck else is running, she might actually have a chance?

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Mitt Romney ‘sings’ ‘America the Beautiful,’ ironically

Mitt Romney really likes "America the Beautiful," as he says in this video compiled by ThinkProgress, but it's not clear what he likes about it. It's not the music, since he obviously has no fidelity to that. It's not the message, which is all about purple mountains and fruited plains, which Romney's oil-greedy policies would undermine.

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Rocky’s road: One of the country’s greenest mayors guns for the White House

Rocky Anderson shows off the solar panels on his roof. (Photo by Kate Sheppard.)

When we last spoke with Rocky Anderson, he was kicking some serious butt for the planet from his position as the supergreen mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah. Anderson, an unflinching champion of issues ranging from climate action to gay marriage, quit politics in 2008 after two terms in office. But now he’s back, and this time he’s trained his sights on the White House.

Running for president under the banner of the Justice Party (his Facebook followers reportedly came up with name), and backed by a tiny, mostly volunteer staff, Anderson promises a grassroots, social-media-powered campaign that will give Obama and his yet-to-be-determined Republican rival a run for their money.

It will be no small task: Obama has raised a war chest of close to $100 million, according to The New York Times. Mitt Romney is sitting on $32 million. Anderson, whose platform centers on ridding American politics of the “corrupting influence of money,” is remarkably uncorrupted by that measure. Accepting a maximum of $100 per donor, he has raised less than $1 million so far. Like, way, way less.

But Rocky is fierce and determined, and he’s pissed about what short shrift American workers and the environment keep getting while the political elite and Wall Street fat cats get ever fatter. Given the outrage we’ve seen in the Occupy movement in recent months, his message is bound to strike a chord.

We caught up with the former mayor this week to see what in the world has gotten into him.