Capitol View Commentary: Friday, October 19, 2012
By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice-President, DVL Public Relations & Advertising
October 19, 2012
TWO DOWN, ONE TO GO; THE POLITICAL SUN COMES UP IN THE WEST IN NASHVILLE; INSIDE POLITICS;DESJARLAIS PROBLEMS NOT GOING AWAY AS RACE TIGHTENS; THE AUTUMN OF DISCONTENT; MY POST-STROKE LIFESTYLES CHANGES
TWO DOWN, ONE TO GO
So where do we stand heading into the last presidential debate Monday night and the last two weeks of the campaign?
The signs seem a little mixed. The campaign of President Barack Obama says it had its best day ever in fundraising (including 2008) the day after the Democratic nominee won the second debate, but no dollar numbers were released as yet. On the other side, did Mitt Romney lose momentum? Some national popular vote polls say no. In fact, the Gallup daily tracking poll has had the GOP standard bearer up as much as 7 points since the second debate. That poll seems well out the norm as most surveys seem to have the race within a few points with Romney ahead in many for now.
The Obama team points to its continued lead in the crucial swing states, especially what appears to be its Midwest Firewall of Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio. If the President carries those states, it's over for Romney. But meantime I am sure Democrats didn't think they'd be having to fight hard with Romney this late for support of women, usually Mr. Obama's strongest demographic. Will Mr. Romney's "binders full of women" remark in the second debate hurt him Or was it just political chatter and fodder for second day follow up stories on the debate?
Given how well their guy is polling on the budget and related economic issues are Republicans wishing they hadn't agreed to limit the third debate to foreign policy? Will four years in office give the President an edge in this area? Or will Romney find a way around his word semantic gaffe over Libya in debate #2 and score some points on that issue while the President uses the latest terrorism arrest in New York City to show how we are scoring points to keep us safe in the war on terror?
No matter how you look at it, the race seems quite close. The NEW YORK TIMES Five Thirty Eight website has Obama rallying a bit (October 19) this week, up in 11 of the 13 most recent battleground states polls. That led to an overall Electoral Vote estimate by the website (as of October 18) of Obama 291.6 to Romney 246.4 (270 to win) and the overall odds in the race of 70.4% for an Obama win and 29.6% for Romney to prevail. It sets the popular vote at 50.3% Obama to 48.8% Romney.
Electoral-vote.com has its even closer in the Electoral College, 280 for Obama and 241 Romney with only Virginia considered a tie. Whew! Time is running down with little or no margin for error to spare for either side.
THE POLITICAL SUN CAME UP IN THE WEST IN NASHVILLE
In another indication of how red the state of Tennessee (and even the City of Nashville) is turning politically, THE TENNESSEAN newspaper, long considered a Democratic media bastion, has endorsed Republican Mitt Romney for President.
While the paper has occasionally endorsed a GOP statewide candidate (Senator Bob Corker this year, Lamar Alexander for Governor and later U. S. Senator come to mind, Howard Baker too), but I can't ever remember the publication doing so in a national presidential race.
For many long time readers and others in this city, it may seem like the political sun is now coming up in the west in Nashville.
Is it therefore little wonder that some Davidson County legislative candidates such as Metro Councilman Bo Mitchell seem quite reluctant to announce their support and vote for President Obama, especially since state Republicans for the first time have drawn the districts from which these candidates must run?
This is not a completely new occurrence. Back in 1972, Nashville Mayor Beverly Briley was the national chair for Democrats for Nixon, in opposition to Democratic Presidential candidate George McGovern. But with the GOP for the first time in modern history holding two slots in our county state legislative delegation and looking to add one, two and maybe more seats this November, even solid Blue Davidson County is showing more and more signs of major political change.
Frank Daniels, the community conversations editor at THE TENNESSEAN is my guest on INSIDE POLITICS this weekend. We will, of course, be talking the who, what, when, where and why behind THE TENNESSEAN's endorsement of Mitt Romney. We will also be talking to him about how print journalism and the newspaper industry continue to evolve and what the future holds.
Professor Kent Syler of Middle Tennessee State University also joins me to share his thoughts on the presidential race as we approach the third debate and the final sprint by the campaigns to November 6.
INSIDE POLITICS can be seen several times each weekend on the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK. Our air times include 5:00 a.m. Sunday on the main channel, WTVF-TV NEWSCHANNEL5. We are also on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS at 7:00 p.m. Friday, 5:00 a.m. & 5:30 p.m., Saturday, and 5:00 a.m. & 12:30 p.m., Sunday. THE PLUS is on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 150 and NEWSCHANNEL5 over-the-air digital channel 5.
DESJARLAIS' PROBLEMS NOT GOING AWAY AS RACE TIGHTENS
As I said in the last column, if GOP Congressman Dr. Scott Desjarlais' problems continue resulting from recent revelations that he had an affair with a patient and urged her to get an abortion (he brands himself pro-life), it could cause him some re-election headaches.
That issue is persisting and then some in recent days, so the problem remains, although whether it's enough to defeat the Congressman remains unclear. DesJarlais' Democratic opponent, Eric Stewart has released a poll, showing after the alleged scandal, the contest is now just a 5 point race with the incumbent's support among women now in "free fall."
Campaign-released polls are always a bit suspect, but it appears the effort may be really aimed at raising badly needed money for Stewart, especially if he wants to further expand the issue with some TV attack ads (he appears to be on some local cable TV, but as far I can see, he's not much on, if at all, in Nashville). Stewart's campaign bank account is only around $85,000 according to a report in THE TENNESSEAN (10/17) while the Congressman's is at nearly $600,000. So Stewart needs help if he plans any additional major TV. It is also getting late with early voting already starting this week (October 17).
The Stewart poll may be accurate enough to entice national Democrats to pour in some money as they have upgraded the race on their radar screen to be potentially winnable. But action must come pretty quickly to make any difference for Stewart to be able make this long and tricky last minute political putt to top DesJarlais.
The Congressman is not waiting. Another sure sign the race is tightening is that he is now beginning his own new TV ad campaign, which include attacks on Stewart for his support of President Obama and Obamacare. If this race wasn't closer than he liked, why would DesJarlais spend the money to do that, along with feeling the need to use the ads to bolster his positives with voters (and perhaps try to reassure supporters he is pro-life)?
(Late breaking Friday afternoon news: According to the TENNESSEAN's Politics blog on-line site, a Democratic political action committee, House Majority PAC, has placed a $100,000 TV buy in Nashville and Chattanooga to air a :30 second spot to blast DeJarlsais on the sex issue). Is more coming? Will the race continue to tighten?
Meantime, one conservative group in the state (which seems to have been at odds with DesJarlias before) is reportedly trying to organize support to make the Congressman resign. But so far, that's not going anywhere for the Tennessee Conservative Union. The state GOP is sticking behind DesJarlais who mantains the woman involved was never pregnant so there was no abortion. Republican officials such as Governor Bill Haslam and Senator Lamar Alexander are just trying to stay away from the issue as much as they can.
DesJarlias is also now facing formal complaints that he violated his professional standards as a doctor for having an affair with a patient, something it does appear he has not denied even though he says the abortion issue is just more dirty politics similar to what he faced two years ago when he first elected.
THE AUTUMN OF DISCONTENT
It's an interesting and somewhat trying time to be a Nashville professional sports fan. I pay attention to that because I think it plays a major role in how our city views itself.
For the dominant Nashville team, the Tennessee Titans, is this year's squad as bad as it's looked in some early games, especially on defense? Or are the two home victories, especially the one against Pittsburgh, a sign that better times lay ahead. Maybe it won't be enough to even talk playoffs, but can the team at least avoid setting NFL records for most points allowed in a season while it continues to be only average at best?
Then there's the other major league franchise in Nashville, the NHL Predators. Will there even be a season with a lockout of players by the owners already wiping out the entire exhibition schedule and now some early season contests? While the owners have made a new offer to share revenues 50/50, that's still a big drop from the 57% players receive now. So why would they accept it? Indeed, the players have refused it and the owners have rejected three counter-offers from the players putting contract talks back into stalemate. Therefore, I don't look for an early resolution to this squabble among millionaires, and that means some major losses ahead for Nashville's entertainment district which receives a lot of income from the Predator's games.
And this is not the first time for a hockey season in jeopardy, as an NHL entire schedule was wiped out over a similar labor squabble just a few years ago. Hockey is an acquired taste for Nashville. It's taken a good while to build the support the team enjoys. Will the fans come back when the lockout ends? Yes, but there will likely be a need to restart the support building process for more casual fans which are the group that makes the key difference for this franchise to be successful financially.
Finally, there's the AAA baseball team, The Nashville Sounds. It's the oldest professional team in Nashville. It also has the oldest facilities, which is its greatest challenge. While the Sounds parent club, the Milwaukee Brewers of the National League, has signed a new two-year agreement to send its top minor leaguers to Nashville, they have complained quite frequently about the old and antiquated facilities at Greer Stadium (build circa 1978 with more face lifts than Zsa Zsa Gabor since). Even the league the Sounds play in (the Pacific Coast League), has brought some soft pressure on the situation expressing the strong hope something will happen soon for a new facility, with the unstated threat the team could go elsewhere one day otherwise.
But while the city, through Mayor Karl Dean (a big baseball fan), has indicated it wants to help build a new stadium, and has even identified with the help of consultants a couple of different sites to put build one, all additional movement in that direction seemed to have stopped in recent months. The Mayor is now saying the stadium would be more a luxury than a necessity, and it's not completely clear just how much the city wants to be involved in paying for a new ball park, or where those financial resources would come from in the city's coffers.
So perhaps the renewal of the Brewer's agreement means there is more hope than seems apparent about a new stadium or maybe the club did not like its options for other AAA locations to relocate and is just buying two more years to see if things improve. So it's two more years of "Play Ball" in Nashville but the future is hardly certain.
MY POST-STROKE LIFESTYLE CHANGES
While in the past few weeks I sometimes feel more and more often as if I never suffered a stroke, usually something happens not much later and I am reminded "oh, yes I did." Maybe it's getting tired or my continued lack of full motion in my left shoulder or arm, or just how differently I now live each day.
Yes, I can and do divide my existence into my "pre-stroke" and "post-stroke" life.
As I have gotten back to my daily routine and work, some things have been consistent in how my body and brain have reacted. Every time I have done something for the first time again, i.e., come back to DVL or Channel 5; sit in or chair a conference call or a group meeting; be on the air; handle a client crisis; or be in any "new" old situation, I feel a little strange the first time.
I am not dizzy. I don't feel sick or anything. It just feels odd and maybe I feel a little weak. It's like using muscles I haven't used in a while. Nothing hurts. It just feels a little different that first time. But I have quickly adapted (the brain has a wonderful way of doing that) and usually the second time around everything seems more back to normal.
My biggest lifestyle change is my diet. I am not perfect when it comes to being on a low sodium regime (especially when I eat out) but I think overall I am clearly taking in a lot less salt these days. I miss it, especially the flavor salt/sodium brings to food. But I am getting used to it, a least a little bit. I am still down about 30 pounds from my heaviest weight a few years ago (my weight loss is not all because of the stroke) and I want to stay that way. And I want to keep my blood pressure down. Less sodium will help me do both those things.
I also hope it will ultimately allow me to get my BP to the point where I can come off the multiple blood pressure medications I take every day, morning and night. While I am on fewer pills than I was in the hospital, I still feel like a drug store sometimes because I take so many things for my blood pressure and the other more minor maladies I have to deal with as I have gotten older (that includes living here all my life and developing a bit of the Nashville Nose for breathing).
One huge change I've made in my post-stroke life did not come at the direct request of my doctors. It was a strong suggestion from my family, in particular my wife and daughters. As a result, I have greatly cut back on my intake of soft drinks. They have seen several articles about the health issues of sodas, whether sugared or diet. In fact, one article on YAHOO News, listed these beverages as the number one food item to avoid if you want to decrease your likelihood of having a stroke!
Well, that sure got my attention. Knowing those most at risk to have a stroke are also those who have already had one, I knew I needed to do something. So I am down to having only one soft drink or less per day. Water is now my beverage of choice. That is a huge change for me. I used to drink a cola every day at all three meals and usually had another one or two at work or meetings during the day, every day. When I ate out, I had not one glass, but several refills of Coke (Diet Coke or Coke Zero is my favorite along with Diet Dr. Pepper). I would say I was addicted.
But strangely cutting back has not been as difficult as I feared. I have had no headaches or bad withdrawals. Sure, I still love them, but allowing myself one a day helps (and I mean one, no refills). By the way, I am also trying to avoid all the other food items on that YAHOO list such as processed and canned foods including soups, which I love. Heck, I love just about everything on the list. But for now, I love my life more and I want to keep living it!
Another big change for me is using a sleep apnea machine every night. I had a sleep study 7 or 8 years ago and it found I had a slight to moderate sleep apnea issue. I got a sleep machine but I hated the air pressure blowing up my nose and the mask on my face made me feel like I was being smothered. So after a few days, I never used it.
The matter came up again when I was in the hospital at Stallworth where my respiratory therapist recommended I start back on the machine. I said no, and ripped off the mask every night I tried it. Sleeping in a hospital bed was tough enough (lumpy), the sleep machine and mask made it all but impossible. I did take some oxygen in my nose each night to keep my oxygen levels up, but that wasn't enough my doctors said.
So after I was discharged, I had a second sleep study (which found my apnea had gotten a little worse). So I got another machine but this time with very different results. The technology has changed. My machine has alternating pressure that increases during the night when I am experiencing a sleep apnea episode. That gives me a chance to go to sleep and stay asleep every night. The high constant pressure really bothered me and couldn't get to sleep. I can deal with the alternating pressure.
I also can go to sleep and stay asleep because I no longer have to use a big mask over my nose and/or face. Instead, I now have these nose pillows in both nostrils with a band over my head to keep them in place. It took a little getting used to, but it works and I use the machine every night now. And my sleep apnea number is down, after just a month of use, going from above a 5 to above a 1, which is a point or more better than my doctor wanted.
I will say my subconscious still took a while to come around. In the early weeks, I'd wake up some nights and found I had ripped off the mask but I couldn't remember doing it. Now that doesn't happen very often at all…. and I feel great! I sleep pretty much through the night and I sleep deeply, not having to wake up several times each night to go to the bathroom (hurray!). I had had several friends, and my brother in particular, tell me how well their sleep machines work and how good they make them feel and with more energy every day. And I have to agree. I do have a lot more energy in the mornings, and while I can't say how much of it is due to my overall stroke recovery versus the sleep machine, using it definitely helps, in particular in keeping my blood pressure low in the morning when I check it.
The sleep machine is also portable so I can take it with me when I travel and that helps too. So I am a convert and I am glad I have and use the sleep machine every night. Now there's something I thought I'd never say…at least not before my stroke.
As the Irish say, I am not sure why the Good Lord "spared" me when I had my stroke. I could have died if not for those dear friends who stopped me that day and made me go to the hospital. I am not sure what I am destined to do with this "extra" time. Maybe it's to be a more loving, caring person, just like so many were to me and my family in my time of need . Maybe it's to be more loving and caring to those closest and dearest to me. too Those are good things to start doing anyway. If God has any other things in mind, I'll sure he'll find a way to help me figure it out.
In many ways, I am very fortunate in what happened. Many people have had to deal with much more severe strokes and other illnesses than myself. So I am blessed. My challenge is, as I begin the rest of my (post stroke) life, is to remember that, and bring those blessings and help to others, as they have done unto me.
NEXT WEEK: SOME FINAL THOUGHTS AND ONE LAST, BIG LIFESTYLE CHANGE THAT IS STILL JUST BEGINNING