[imgcontainer] [img:120105_santorum_nh_169.jpeg] [source]Rick Santorum speaking at the Merrimack Railroad Museum in Northfield, New Hampshire.[/source]  [/imgcontainer]

It’s a constant concern among the national press that New Hampshire and Iowa are not “representative” of the United States. In particular, the worry is that the states are too rural. Apparently being one of fifty states isn’t good enough — you have to be somehow demographically reflective of the rest of the country to qualify. 

Anyway, Andrew Therriault, a political scientist at Vanderbilt, addresses the critics of “small” states: 

As a native New Englander, it’s been a peeve of mine that in nearly all the coverage of the New Hampshire primary (both this year and in previous cycles), commentators have either treated the state as (a) a quirky, unrepresentative backwater with inflated electoral power, or (b) a mystical land of cold-tempered sages who control our political destinies. While I hate to be a buzzkill, the reality is that New Hampshire is just a regular state, with regular people, which has traditionally held the first primary and which continues to do so because nobody’s found a politically feasible way to change that yet.

Therriault looked at the data. He found that, yes, New Hampshire is more white than the rest of the country. But that hardly matters in the Republican primary. In terms of age, education and income, New Hampshire is about the same as the nation. 

“The biggest difference in terms of demographics is the low prevalence of evangelicals in NH, at less than half the national average,” Therriault finds. He continues:

So when looking at the GOP primary, New Hampshire isn’t nearly the backwater many imagine it to be. With the (admittedly big) exception of the rates of evangelicalism, New Hampshire actually does a fairly good job of reflecting the broader electorate. Given that the main argument for the value of the NH primary is that New Hampshire’s small size forces candidates to engage in on-the-ground campaigning and allows the voters to learn about the candidates, it’s hard to think of another state so small in both population and geography that would better serve as a stand-in for the rest of the country.

• The amount of toxic chemicals released into the air and water in 2010 increased 16 percent over 2009, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. 

The large increase was driven by metal mining, according to the Washington Post.

•MidAmerican Energy announced a huge wind project in Marshall, Tarna, Guthrie, Audubon and Adair Counties in Iowa. The company will build 176 wind turbines that will have generating capacity of 407.1 megawatts. 

• Even places without gas or oil are feeling the effects of the drilling boom.

The AP reports that areas of Wisconsin and Minnesota are loaded with deposits of soft sandstone, otherwise known as “frac sand.” The sandstone is just the right size and consistency for hydraulic fracturing: the injection of chemicals, water and sand into gas and oil deposits that forces the energy to the surface. 

The mining of frac sand has increased employment, as well as worries about the environmental effects of mining.

An update: Voters in Kivalina, Alaska, have voted to build their new school seven miles away from town. The town on Alaska’s northwest coast has been eroding away, as melting sea ice no longer provides protection from ocean waves. 

• A Des Moines grocery is combining shopping with a fitness center. Seems weird to us — going to pick up a bunch of bananas and run on a treadmill. But….

• Farmers are planting more and that means higher profits for Monsanto, the seed producer. 

• The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will spend $802 million this year on projects along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. That’s three times the normal budget. 

Folks in the flooded Missouri River basin wish the Corps of Engineers would open up space to store more water in upstream reservoirs. But the plan the Corps released Friday “doesn’t include much additional flood-storage space,” reports the Des Moines Register. 

• We leave it to Save The Post Office to describe Campbell Robertson’s story in the New York Times about an Arkansas town trying to save its post office: 

Robertson does a good job describing the work being done to protect rural post offices, but there are a couple of moments where the Times can’t help but let its urban elitism slip through.  For instance, Robertson describes the rural post office as a place “where the Pentecostals who do not look kindly on computers conduct much of their business and where postmasters discreetly read letters for the customers who are unable to do so themselves.”  That makes it sound like rural America is filled with illiterates and people who don’t use computers for religious reasons, when the fact of the matter is that millions can’t afford broadband or live where it’s unavailable….

But overall, Robertson’s article is one of the best the Times has run about post office closings, and it’s well worth reading, even if it’s just to see how Big City folks tend to look at Small Town folks and their “existential anxiety” over losing a post office. 

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