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Is OPEC Plus Meddling?; NYU Professor Fired After Students Find His Class "Too Hard"; Divorce Legal Battle Over Custody Of "Boudoir" Albums; Study: Areas With More Chain Restaurants Favor Trump. Aired 9- 10a ET

Aired October 08, 2022 - 09:00   ET




MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Gas up, president's down. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. This week, OPEC Plus, the oil producing consortium of 24 countries including Russia and Saudi Arabia announced it was cutting oil production 2 million barrels a day or 2 percent of the world's supply, thus sending the midterm football on another unexpected bounce.

Did OPEC Plus do so hoping to politically harm Joe Biden and the Democrats? I think so. Of course, a large part of the motivation, probably money. Price per barrel, which was over $120 in March by late September dipped below 80. And it also seems designed to help Russia which has been hurt by sanctions since its invasion of Ukraine and heavily depends on its oil profits.

Surely, OPEC Plus new the move would also impact America's election, which is just a month away. When Joe Biden took office, the national gas average was 2.39 a gallon. By this summer, it had more than doubled, more than $5 even higher in California. And his popularity plummeted.

Then in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning of Roe vs. Wade on June 24, the Democrats, they've been getting more hopeful signs about the midterms, maybe hoping to hold on to the Senate and a slim chance of continuing to keep the House, which many attributed to abortion rights and that issue. But could the real reason be something else?

As Nate Cohn suggested in the New York Times this week, is it the gas prices, stupid? Cohn pointed out that 10 days before the court's decision on abortion in Dobbs, gas prices have begun to fall and for the next 98 days straight would continue to drop from more than $5 to $3.67 a gallon by the end of the streak.

And he posted this pair of graphs tracking gas prices from last spring and the end of summer and Biden's disapproval over the same period. They are nearly indistinguishable. Look at that. As gas prices stopped falling, Cohn noticed sauted Biden's popularity gains. His findings are reflected in the past several decades of American history. Larry Sabato's crystal ball from the University of Virginia Center for politics found that dating back to Jimmy Carter in 1977, the same pattern holds between gas prices and presidential popularity. Again, look at that, it's stunning.

Of course, correlation between the numbers does not mean causation. There are always other factors at play. As Kyle Kondik points out of the crystal ball article, the highest real gas prices over the 45-year period covered came in 2008, a time of economic strife in which George W. Bush had very poor approval ratings as he finished his presidency. But it would also be a leap to say that the gas price spike was the sole reason for Bush's poor approval at that time.

As we've discussed here, there are many issues in play for the upcoming midterm elections, Democrats have abortion rights on their side, to a lesser extent, the events of January 6. There'll be another hearing next Thursday. For the hours to drive their vote, they've got the borders, they've got crime, they've got also inflation. And in point of fact, inflation remains Americans number one issue and by a wide margin.

In the latest CNN polls in Nevada and Arizona, where the GOP has tried to unseat two incumbent Democratic senators, the economy and inflation were named the top issue by more than twice as many voters as the next highest issue. abortion. In Nevada, it's 44 percent. Economy, 14 percent abortion. Arizona, 41 percent economy, 17 percent abortion. In Wisconsin, a recent Marquette poll found that 70 percent are very concerned about inflation. Abortion, didn't make the top five.

And when it comes to inflation, few things have more impact than gas prices. They hit everybody, even people like me who drive electric cars, because the price just gets passed on to everything else. I can't help but think back to when gas prices were peaking. And there were those anti-Biden stickers on pumps sarcastically thanking him for the high prices.

And the administration at the time said well don't blame us. And then the prices came down and many of the stickers remained. So it looked like Biden was genuinely thanked and the administration was suddenly taking credit. You can't have it both ways. If prices surge again during the course of the next month, that's going to be on them.

I also think back to the public groveling that the President did last summer going to MBS in Saudi Arabia after having called him a pariah and appropriately so because of his role in the execution of Jamal Khashoggi in 2016. But now fist bumping for a smiling photo op.


That visit was a failure. Saudi Arabia has just hugely disrespected President Biden, who was asking for an increase in production and the United States of America. And I'm not the only one who thinks that part of the OPEC Plus motivation was to help the GOP and Donald Trump.

In his column titled "Putin and MBS are Laughing at Us," Pulitzer Prize Winner Thomas L. Friedman, says this, "We have Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bernie Sanders, the House Progressive Caucus, and the whole GOP all working -- deliberately or because they are dupes -- to ensure that Putin has more oil revenue than ever to kill Ukrainians, and freeze the Europeans this winter until they abandoned Kyiv.

And in another dark corner, Putin and Saudi de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are also probably hoping that the soaring energy inflation unleashed since Russia's invasion helps the Donald Trump-led Republicans to regain control of at least the House of Representatives in next month's election. That would be icing on the cake for both, who view Trump as a president who still loves black crude over green solar, and knows how to look the other way when bad things happen to good people."

To which I would add, the only difference between the Russian meddling in 2016 versus now is that today it's being done in the open.

Joining me now to discuss is Dr. Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, the editor-in-chief of Sabato's Crystal Ball. Larry, when you look at those graphs, it's stunning to me, I'd never recognized before. I don't know whether to say causation or correlation, but it's pretty damn convincing.

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIV. OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: Well, I'm going to say this. Gas prices are certainly part of the calculation. And there is some correlation there, although it really isn't all that high, because there are so many other factors involved. But gas prices certainly are one.

What's interesting to me, and a commentary on human nature is when gas prices go low, presidents don't necessarily benefit, they usually don't. But when gas prices go high, they pay a penalty. The higher they go, the bigger the penalty. But elections are complex. You know, the simple act of voting is very complicated. And you can't boil it down to just one thing.

SMERCONISH: I recognize that there's a month on the clock, which is an eternity. I mean, in just the last couple of weeks, there's been a different issue that has dominated the news cycle. So we really don't know what the next four weeks bring. I guess that's the reality, right?

SABATO: Yes, that's the reality. And there are going to be a whole series of October surprises. People tend to think of, quote, the October surprise as one big event that's either been planned by an external source beyond the United States, or that one party has planned to cause the other party problems that can happen. But they're actually a series in most elections of October surprises that at least have a little impact.

And you've mentioned one, it may have more than a little impact, the OPEC decision. But there will be others. You know, people just have to sit and wait and go through a month.

SMERCONISH: It seems that both sides have in their arsenal, good motivating factors for their base. There's the abortion issue. And as I said, to a lesser extent, the events of January 6 for the Ds, the Rs have crime, the Rs have porous borders, the Rs have inflation, which side do you think holds a stronger hand today, recognizing a lot is going to change in the next month?

SABATO: Well, since a lot will change, I can say pretty much anything. Today, it'd be safe.

SMERCONISH: True. We won't remember.

SABATO: Yes, good, you won't remember. Please don't. But both sides seems to me have the motivation for their base. And because of that, we've seen in surveys for the last several months, that Democrats and Republicans are about equally enthusiastic about voting. And that's critical.

You know, when you look at issues, whether it's gas prices, or abortion rights or something else, we always have to remember that the two most powerful letters in the English language now in this hyper partisan age are D and R. They interpret the issues for most voters. And even if you're upset about gas prices, if you're a strong Democrat, you're still going to vote Democratic from the White House to the courthouse.

If you're a Republican and you're upset about the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the odds are pretty good that you're still going to vote Republican. You know, we're seeing some of this play out in the Georgia Senate race. So there are constants that really matter and matter more than specific issues in any campaign. And D and R would be at the top on that.


SMERCONISH: I was just going to say you're reminding me of Herschel Walker and the events that this audience is obviously familiar with following it during the course of the week, an issue that, you know, you might have thought was going to have a significant impact on that race seemingly isn't because people are so entrenched to vote for one side or against another side. You get the final word.

SABATO: That's precisely right. And it's not just Georgia, it's happening all over the country. People who are partisans in this hyper partisan polarized era find reasons to stick with their party, even if they're unhappy about something. So we over interpret the issues and under interpret the power of partisan identification.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Larry Sabato, thank you as always. Appreciate it.

SABATO: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me at Smerconish, hit me up during the course of social media. Use social media and I'll read some responses throughout the course of the program. This comes from Twitter.

High gas prices fit the Democrats narrative except when they want to get re-elected. Fact. They both sides argue those numbers when it benefits them then, you know, we did this. And when it doesn't benefit them, well, we didn't control this, it was. you know, it was the other guy.

One of the things I want us to say, Peter Wiener is the person I most associate with this idea. He wrote it in the Atlantic, that evangelical Christians, you know, cling to Donald Trump not so much because they like him on a personal level but because they regard him as the guy. This is what he wrote who will bring a Glock to a knife fight. Yes, Glock to a knife fight.

Like they -- and the same mentality I think is going on in Georgia, where voters it's -- Herschel's got his shortcomings. Yes, but it's Raphael Warnock, right? We don't want him. It's amazing.

Still to come, so called, wait until you hear this story, boudoir albums, featuring risque, even nude photos, all the rage among young married couples. But if a marriage doesn't end well, who gets the books? You're going to meet one divorcee who's been in court trying to claim rights to hers.

And also, after NYU students complained that a legendary organic chemistry professor was too tough in his grading, the professor was fired. And that's the reason today's poll question may sound a little odd, but that's what I'm asking about. Go to which, by the way, we just relaunched to make it easier for you to vote on the daily poll question.

And here's this week's question, "Would your choice of physician be impacted if you knew they struggle with undergraduate organic chemistry?"


FMR. GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NY): This is the absolutely foreseeable result of the participation trophy society that these kids started, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone's a winner.

CHRISTIE: Right. When they're playing six and seven-year-old soccer. Everybody had to get a trophy, right? Now those six and seven-year- olds were all going to get the trophies are now at NYU.




SMERCONISH: As the balance of power between students and educators, at America's University has been completely reversed. That's the question raised when an NYU organic chemistry professor was fired after 82 of his students signed a petition complaining that his course, a medical school prerequisite in many cases, was too hard.

Professor Maitland Jones Jr. is a legend in the field having taught for decades first at Princeton, then at NYU. He wrote an influential 1,300-page textbook now in its fifth edition, and has garnered many awards. But last spring as the campus emerged from COVID restrictions, 82 of the 350 students in his large lecture course, unhappy with their test scores, signed a petition against him.

It read in part, "We are very concerned about our scores, and find that they are not an accurate reflection of the time and effort put into this class. We urge you to realize that a class with such a high percentage of withdrawals and low grades has failed to make students learning and well-being a priority and reflects poorly on the chemistry department as well as the institution as a whole."

Jones defended his standards. But just before the start of the fall semester, NYU Dean's terminated Dr. Jones year to year contract in a short note saying that his performance, quote, did not rise to the standards we require from our teaching faculty.

In a grievance protesting the decision, Jones wrote that, quote, students work misreading exam questions in an astonishing rate. And the grades had been declining despite him making tests easier. And during the pandemic, which involve pre-taped lectures and online exams, the grades, quote, fell off a cliff.

According to the Times, students expressed surprise that Jones was fired, which their petition did not call for and which they didn't think was even possible. By the way, the estimated total cost for an NYU student matriculating for this school year $83,250.

Joining me now to discuss is Jill Filipovic. a columnist for, where her latest is, "This fired chemistry professor's example shows what's wrong with academia." She's also the author of the book, "OK Boomer, Let's Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind."

Jill, I was thinking, if I'm the Dean of Admissions at a med school, and now I get an applicant from NYU like, what am I to think of that transcript?

JILL FILIPOVIC, COLUMNIST, CNN.COM/AUTHOR, "OK BOOMER, LET'S TALK": I don't think that this should cast doubt on the intelligence or the abilities of NYU students. I mean, to me, this story is much more about what is academia for? What are institutions of higher learning for? Are they consumer products or are they public goods?


And I think unfortunately here, the NYU administration has treated the education that NYU offers more as a consumer product trying to please not just students, but frankly, their parents who hold the purse strings of tuition dollars, rather than asking, how do we most effectively provide an education for our students, and make sure that we have professors that are teaching effectively?

SMERCONISH: Overwhelmingly, the reaction that I have seen to this story is one that regards it as ridiculous. So let me give you the flip side. This comes from today's print edition of The New York Times, Jessica Calarco, is a professor of Sociology at Indiana University. I'm going to put it on the screen, but I'll read it to you, because you probably can't see that. So here's what the professor says. "Imagine, for example, a student whose high school offered no advanced chemistry classes, who is the first in her family to go to college and who, in addition to her studies, has to work 20 hours a week to pay bills. Imagine also that this student doesn't have a reliable laptop, or Wi-Fi at her apartment, so she has to do her work in a computer lab or on her phone.

Now compare her to the classmate who took multiple A.P. science courses, who has no financial obligations, and who has all the learning tools he needs. They may sit right next to each other in that orgo class, but their backgrounds placed them miles apart." Do you find that sympathetic? Does that make you more inclined to side with the students in this case?

FILIPOVIC: I do find that quite sympathetic. You know, I don't really see this as students versus professors. You know, the Washington Square News, which is NYU student newspaper, has a really great editorial about this exact situation, where they, I think, give a bit more context to the story, which you know, again, is to say that students were not demanding the professor was fired, what they were asking for was more effective teaching methods.

And I think that the time space that you read is correct. I mean, students are coming to a place like NYU with all kinds of different backgrounds. And an institution like NYU, which has incredible resources, and has a mission to educate young people, should be trying to meet those students where they're at and help them to succeed. That doesn't mean it needs to help all of them pass organic chemistry, right?

Some classes are tough for a reason. Organic chemistry is a class that is supposed to weed students out. But if this particular organic chemistry course was, for example, failing many, many, many more students than the other organic chemistry courses NYU has on offer, I do think it's worth the university asking why that might be and trying to figure out a way to make sure that no matter which section of organic chemistry students are in, that they're getting a similar education and a high quality education, and not being kind of handheld, but also not being, you know, inappropriately punished, essentially, for enrolling in the wrong class or a too difficult class.

SMERCONISH: What I like about this story is he's an old guy, he's 82, God bless him for still teaching at that age and being so sharp intellectually, to be able to teach organic chemistry where he wrote the textbook, but he provides us a constant. I'm sure his lectures haven't changed over the years, nor his grading methods, which I think says something's changed in the students.

By the way, for whom I'm sympathetic because of COVID. I need to know how you're answering this week's survey question. Katherine (ph), can you put that up on the screen? So here's what I'm asking people. Would your choice of physician be impacted if you knew they struggled with undergraduate organic chemistry? And Jill, what I'm trying to get at is like when I -- I'm all for inclusion and equality and great opportunity for us all. But truthfully, when I go to get a physician or medical exam or treatment, I want the smartest, best individual out there. And if somebody struggled for whatever reason, on organic chemistry, I don't know, I'd be a little nervous.

FILIPOVIC: Yes, I mean, I think of course. All of us want to make sure that the folks who are going into the health care profession, you are able to do things like pass organic chemistry. And I think that you're right, that there has been a shift in student performance, right, over the last decade or so. And Professor Jones has observed that.

I do think it's worth inquiring why that is. You know, Jones also pointed out that while he had seen kind of a downward shift in student performance over the last decade, things I think he used the phrase fell off a cliff during COVID. That's really --


FILIPOVIC: -- useful and important information to have. And I do think, you know, it's not up to NYU to then say, well, we're going to lower standards and make this easier for students. But I do think it is up to, of course, universities, also high schools and the kind of down the line to figure out how do we start to reverse some of these changes? How do we make sure that the education we're giving our young people is very high quality so that the rest of us when we go to the doctor can be sure that we're getting a physician who is not only quite well educated, but, you know, it was able to succeed, was able to do well.


SMERCONISH: Thank you for that. I appreciate your being here.

FILIPOVIC: Thanks so much.

SMERCONISH: Go vote at Answer this week's poll question. I know it probably sounded a little wacky when I mentioned it at the outset of the program, but now you get the context. "Would your choice of physician be impacted if you knew they struggled with undergraduate organic chemistry?" Go vote and check out the website totally rebuilt.

Let's see what you're saying via Twitter, YouTube, Facebook. Organic chemistry is one of those classes that weeds out students who probably cannot make it in medical school, so yes. Nikole, that's exactly, I mean, reading in on it. By the way, I'm intimidated by organic chemistry. I'm a liberal arts guy. I would never have survived organic chemistry, and I know that. Then again, I wouldn't make a good physician.

But for my doctor, I hope he's done well in organic chemistry. I think I'm going to ask him.

Up ahead, my next guest commissioned a friend to take so-called boudoir pictures of herself to make into albums for her husband, along with written intimate messages. Then after 25 years of marriage, they divorced. And she wanted to keep possession of the books, but her ex took her to court. I'll tell you what happened in just a moment.



SMERCONISH: When couples get divorced what should happen to intimate gifts they've given to each other and what if those gifts involve nude photographs? That's a question raised by a legal case in Utah involving my next guest Lindsay Marsh who was ordered by a judge to hand over albums of -- quote -- "boudoir style" nudes to her ex- husband Chris who requested them when they split after 25 years together. She commissioned a friend to take the pictures and wrote in the albums what are described as loving and intimate messages to her ex.

Post divorce she didn't want him to have the books but District Court Judge Michael Edwards sided with her ex-husband and said Lindsay should have the photographer make a new edition of the books editing out her body. Lindsay was also ordered to retain the originals for 90 days before destroying them in case her ex isn't satisfied with the edits.

Chris, the ex, told CNN in a statement, "I cherish the loving memories we had for all those years as part of normal and appropriate exchanges between a husband and wife, and choose to remember the good even though we are now divorced. I sought to preserve only the handwritten love letters they contained."

Lindsay Marsh joins me now. Lindsay, thank you for being here. What's in the pictures because I've see him quoted as saying they're not as intimate as you have suggested?

LINDSAY MARSH, IN DISPUTE WITH EX-HUSBAND OVER "BOUDOIR" ALBUMS: These photos contain graphic nudity of my body.

SMERCONISH: He says, hey, I only wanted the messages. Is that true?

MARSH: That is incorrect. There are court documents stating where he's listed all of the items that he would like to have and it doesn't say anything about just wanting inscriptions. It says he wants the four inscribed photo books of Lindsay.

SMERCONISH: So what's going on here? Why do you think he wants the material, whatever it is?

MARSH: I think it is out of control and manipulation.

SMERCONISH: So, a friend of yours was the photographer. The judge says, go back to the photographer and make these edits. Take out the nudity.

That photographer friend says, this is art. I'm not doing that.

Judge says, OK, go to another photographer who would have been a total stranger. How am I doing so far? Is this what happened?

MARSH: Yes, as far as I know, though, the second person that was requested by my ex-husband and his attorney, as far as I know, I cannot find anything as far as him being a photographer but a digital illustrator.

SMERCONISH: And so now photographer number one, your friend says, OK, I mean, I guess I'll do it to help you out. Where does it stand today?

MARSH: She has put a book together and it is in Mr. Marsh's hands.

SMERCONISH: Do you worry that these photographs somehow in this process could end up online, could be used for some purpose you that never intended?

MARSH: Yes, that was the reason for me wanting to keep these books.

SMERCONISH: And what is the reason for you coming forward? Because now you're on CNN International and everybody is looking at this and they're saying, hey, you know, this is an interesting story. Lindsay Marsh posed naked on multiple occasions apparently for the benefit of she and her husband. I mean, there's some price, I guess, attached to that so tell us why you're here and sharing?

MARSH: I want to shed some light on the misogyny in the Utah court system. I think people need to know that these are bad decisions, the orders that judges are making and it's in my opinion completely inappropriate.

SMERCONISH: The response from your ex-husband to that, put it on the screen, if I may, because he gave us a statement. It says, "Lindsay declined Judge Edwards' suggestion to have us work together without a third party. His decision to have the task done by a photographer who originally made the books also was a close friend and already photographed Lindsay in boudoir or nude on dozens of occasions seemed to me to be a reasonable way to meet both our needs. Apparently reasonable is the new radical."


Your response to that is what?

MARSH: He is entitled to his opinion. But I don't -- I don't agree with that. And these images, I didn't take a bunch of nude images with this photographer. The only nude images I took were for these books. That was it.

And to his earlier statement, he is absolutely right. These images, these books, were made between a husband and a wife. There is no longer a husband and a wife contract.

SMERCONISH: Is he naked in the books, too?

MARSH: There are a few photos in one of the books where he is wearing a pair of Levi's jeans and he's shirtless.

SMERCONISH: I see. Final question, to those who say you gave him a gift, he gets to keep the gift, you would say what?

MARSH: I would say then why doesn't he return the 10-year anniversary ring he gave me 15 years ago? That was a gift, and he can return that at any moment he chooses.

SMERCONISH: OK. Lindsay Marsh, we'll see how it all turns out. Thank you for your willingness to tell the story.

MARSH: Thank you for having me on, I appreciate it. Have a great rest of your day.

SMERCONISH: You, too. Social media now. What has come in, Catherine? From the world of Twitter, I think.

Why would he want to keep it? Either to humiliate her or because he's still in love with her.

Lisa, I have no idea but the second of your -- you know, the second of your thought certainly occurred to me. I mean, you know, I don't know the details but maybe he's -- maybe he's not the one who wanted the separation, the divorce. Interesting legal issue, though, isn't it?

Yes, I get that it's a gift. Maybe she gave him a gift but it's a gift like no other. And I have the same question as you, why would he want it?

Still to come -- oh, this is interesting -- a study of more than 700,000 American restaurants found that areas with a high concentration of chain restaurants all tended to vote the same way. I'm going to break down that data with an expert.

And I want to remind you, make sure you're voting on this week's poll question, a little unusual at Would your choice of physician be impacted if you knew they struggled with undergraduate organic chemistry?



SMERCONISH: The data is clear but not the explanation. It turns out that places that support Donald Trump tend to have the most franchised food restaurants. The question is why? Trying to find out. My next guest, "The Washington Post's" Andrew Van Dam, drilled down on the findings of a recent study based on research from a marketing data firm. The study includes some 400 businesses qualifying as chain restaurants. Everything from Applebee's to Burger King, Cracker Barrel, Dunkin,' Subway as well as specialty chains like Morton Steakhouse.

The study, "Measuring McCities: Landscapes of chain and independent restaurants in the United States," which is in the journal Urban Analytics and City Science. The authors are Xiaofan Liang and Clio Andris of Georgia Tech. They found that areas with high rates of chainness were associated with the following factors -- car dependency, low walkability, concentrations of college-aged students, nearness to highways, and a high percentage of voters for Donald Trump.

If you think about it, on a practical level, the first four just make plain sense but what accounts for the last one? By way of example, the metropolitan area with the highest percentage of chain restaurants, Anniston, Oxford, Alabama, 56.9 percent lies in Calhoun County which Trump won in 2020 with 73 percent of the two-party vote. The same holds true for other top chain regions such as the Huntington-Ashland region of West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, Farmington, New Mexico, Morristown, Tennessee, Albany, Georgia, Muncie, Indiana, and so on. You get the picture.

On a national level, in what "The Post" labels the "Trumpiest fifth" of the country, counties where Trump received at least 63.3 percent of the two-party vote in the last presidential election, 37 percent of the restaurants in that area, chains. While in the least Trumpy fifth, where he received less than 32.1 percent chains comprise only 23 percent of the local restaurants.

What accounts for the large disparity? Joining me now is Andrew Van Dam, "Washington Post" columnist in its department of data. Thank you for providing me great fodder on radio. Because I read your column aloud, everybody had an opinion. Here's one, a caller said, conservatives like consistency. So when they go to McDonald's or Taco Bell they know what they're getting and it's like comfort food. What do you make of that explanation?

ANDREW VAN DAM, DEPARTMENT OF DATA COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: Well, that may be true but I think who really likes consistency is people who are driving, people who are on the highways, people who are out and about. And it tends to be that the places that drive the most, that are least walkable, have the most chain restaurants. And also, the places that voted for Trump, places that are more conservative, tend to drive a lot more. So it may be that it's the driver that's looking for that consistency, not the Trump voter.

SMERCONISH: OK. In other words, it's not -- it's not age, and it's not geography, and it's not weight. There's another one that was proposed on radio. But you're saying, it's all about commuters.

How did you unravel that? How did you figure that out?

VAN DAM: Well, jeez, we threw every variable in the universe at this thing, you know, trying to figure out what is really driving chain restaurants in the political divide. And there was one thing that cut through everything which was car commuting, which was how many people in an area tend to drive to work every day.


And if you're in a high driving area it doesn't matter who you voted for for president. It could be Trump or Biden, you're going to have a lot more chain restaurants and about the same amount of chain restaurants. If you're in a low driving area, be it a big city or a rural area where not as many people have a typical office commute, you're going to have a lower percentage of chain restaurants no matter who you voted for. So it may be that the secret there isn't politics. It's driving. It's that places that voted for Trump just tend to be drivier places.

SMERCONISH: And that's because, I guess, of the three Cs, right, Christianity, country, conservative, meaning those three products on radio are what they're most likely to have. And, therefore, they are terrestrial radio, listeners to conservative talk radio?

VAN DAM: I have heard that from so many readers so far. I bet you have heard that, too. That people believe --


VAN DAM: -- that it's because commuters spend more time listening to, you know, Rush Limbaugh or Mike Reagan. And so, they're politics tend to resemble those folks.

SMERCONISH: It's a fascinating study. It reminds me of David Wasserman who has done an analysis of Cracker Barrel and Whole Foods voters. And I always cite his work on radio and when I give speeches because he has seen a pattern pertaining to the communities that have one or the other. They don't often build in the same place. Final thought from you, Andrew?

VAN DAM: That driving really does explain this but we see this across any driving related variable. It can even be walkability or drivability of an area, or proximity to a highway. Because highways and chain restaurants have a long and storied relationship in America.

SMERCONISH: Andrew Van Dam, thank you for being here, really a great talker. So, thanks.

VAN DAM: Thank you so much.

SMERCONISH: Checking in on more social media. From the world of Twitter, I believe. What do we have?

"He's popular in most areas aside from the narrative driven democratic media. I am surprised you don't see outside the bubble, you seem pretty smart." Not really. "As an outsider watching this, I am shocked by how dumb so many Americans are to still support Biden."

You got in like four or five points there. Are you interested in it, when you sort of do an overlay of where there's fast food, you find, wow, Donald Trump does really well? Nobody is out there to hit him. It's just like, huh, what drives that? Oh, and my guest was able to unravel it. And I think makes sense.

By the way, you know what all of those folks need? They need SiriusXM. They need satellite radio so they have more choices than just conservative and Christian and country.

Still to come, more of your best and worst tweets, YouTube, Facebook, comments. And will give you the final result of the poll question. I hope you're voting on this. Check out the newly designed I redesigned it to make it easier for you to vote. Would your choice of physician be impacted if you knew they struggled with undergraduate organic chemistry?



SMERCONISH: Hey, before I get to this week's poll results a word about yesterday. I had this idea if the partisans can have their conventions why shouldn't those of us who are stuck in the middle? So Friday, a huge gathering of people from all across the country dissatisfied with the political status quo, we convened that the National Constitution Center here in Philly for the "Unconvention" sponsored by me, Unite America and the Bipartisan Policy Center. That's Admiral James Stavridis, by the way, former NATO supreme allied commander, delivering a keynote address. Fabulous. It was great to meet so many like-minded people from all across the country. So, thank you.

OK. Time now to see how you responded to the poll question at the all- new Would your choice of physician be impacted if you knew they struggled with undergraduate organic chemistry?

I know, it's an odd question. Let's see the result. A flat 60/40. I am glad a lot voted. No. No, you wouldn't. You don't care.

So you go into a doctor. You're going to have -- OK, how about brain surgery? You're going to have brain surgery and you find out that the brain surgeon struggled with organic chemistry. Are you're like, hmm, is there another brain surgeon in the house?

Here are some of the social media reaction that came in. I am in the minority again on one of my poll questions.

Smerconish, you are having unique segments today. I like the change up.

Yes, Carl, I like the change up too. Thank you for saying that. I thought that the gas price data was really stunning and I love getting into that. And the boudoir pic thing is amazing and the organic chemistry thing is really cool and the fast food and Trump is remarkable as well. And they are different. So thank you for noticing.

What else came in? We like a good mixture here.

This story is disturbing. If a student struggles through a weed out class it's a sign. Shameful decision on the part of NYU.

I got a note from my torts professor while I was there, while I was on air, Gary Francione.


He is a torts professor at Rutgers School of Law, really brilliant guy. And he said to me, things have changed since you were a student. Gary, I hope that wasn't a private note, by the way. He said to me that many students today, you know, regard an education as a commodity, which I guess means they think, hey, we are paying for it now give us the product.

But grades aren't supposed to be determined by the amount of effort that you put in. I remember putting a lot of effort into some courses with which I really struggled. I wasn't given a grade for how much effort I put in. Ultimately you got to fish or cut bait. Isn't that the answer?

Continue to vote on the survey question at Enjoy the new Web site and I'll see you next week.