#NPRreads: 4 Pieces To Ponder This Weekend

January 30, 2016

#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers from our newsroom share the pieces that have kept them reading, using the #NPRreads hashtag. Each weekend, we highlight some of the best stories.

From Washington Desk correspondent Brian Naylor

I have a soft spot in my heart for the New Hampshire primary. (I’m writing this from my Manchester hotel room.)

McCarthy’s unexpected strong showing here in 1968 convinced President Lyndon Johnson not to run for re-election.

Chasing down candidates over snowy roads during the first primary I covered some years later remains a favorite memory.

Part of it is the winter beauty of birch trees, and picturesque New England villages, but most of it is the seriousness of purpose New Hampshire voters take their obligations in one of the most democratic (small d) of states.

Veteran journalist David Shribman clearly has a similar high regard for the quirks and customs of the 100-year-old primary in this piece from the Boston Globe.

From political reporter Jessica Taylor

This weekend political junkies will be checking their phones obsessively on Saturday night for one reason — the final survey from “Iowa’s polling queen” Ann Selzer. There’s been a lot of debate this cycle over the accuracy of polls and how much they matter. But time and time again, Selzer has nailed the tough-to-predict Hawkeye State caucuses.

In 2008, she befuddled many when she predicted a surge of new voters would lift Barack Obama in the closing days — and she was right. And in 2012, she saw the unlikely Rick Santorum rise coming as well.

In this fascinating FiveThirtyEight profile, she explains why her methods are different but ultimately have proven more accurate. She’s not some out-of-state pollster swooping in — she has the pulse on the heart of the heartland, and in polling, maybe location and relationships matter alongside cold, hard date.

And once again, we’ll be looking to Selzer’s numbers ahead of Monday’s Iowa caucuses — and seeing if her pristine record holds up.

From Joe Ruiz, Weekend Editor, NPR.org.

What draws voters to candidates? Is it policies and ideas, or do they connect with us on a personal level? How do campaigns reach out to underserved audiences?

This VICE column about the differences in Sanders’ and Clinton’s use of and support by African-American artists was telling.

“Clinton, like most successful presidential candidates, is all about controlling the narrative. But her attempts to package herself as the candidate of the Young and Cool have mostly succeeded in making her look craven and out of touch. Sanders, meanwhile, has genuinely become the candidate of the young and cool simply by virtue of not trying to be anything other than himself. Nowhere is this contrast more apparent than in his relationship with Killer Mike. Because despite the obvious cool factor that the rapper adds to Sanders’ campaign, their budding political bromance has always been exactly what it looks like: A 74-year-old Democratic Socialist from Vermont sitting down with a Pan-Africanist gangster rapper from Atlanta, and listening.”

An unanswered question: do endorsements actually work? Do the attempts to be hip to younger and different audiences work? If so, why? And if not, why do candidates continue to employ them in their campaigns?

From Web producer Colin Dwyer:

I’ve got to admit I’m no connoisseur of centuries-old Spanish dictionaries. And considering my feeble memories of high school Spanish class, it might be a miracle I’m recommending this piece at all.

But there’s something profoundly weird and lovely lurking in Janet Hendrickson’s translation of a 17th-century dictionary by Sebastián de Covarrubias Horozco. When I stumbled upon it — first in The Guardian, then in Asymptote, the journal that originally posted it — I found myself caught in its pendulum swing: from the strange to the funny, from the sacred to the simply wise. And that’s just the A’s.

Here, have a sample:

“Abismo (Abyss): Infinite congregation of water; depths of the deepest valleys, where vision fades when gazed at from above.
Acá (Here): Where I am.
Alba (Dawn): What is that? Nothing but the dawn as it walks among the cabbages.
Algo (Something): We ask, ‘Is it something?’ We answer, ‘It is nothing.’ A term that comprehends all that can be.
Ateo (Atheist): He is ungrateful.”

There are startlingly direct expressions of the day’s ideology (see “atheist”). There are turns of phrase so deft and surreal they may as well have come from the pen of a poet like Rimbaud. And then, there’s the unbearable sorrow of celery. (That’s Apio: “the symbol of sadness and weeping.”)

Through it all, there’s the thread of surprise — that our words could have had so many lives before we met them.

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