Concluding his interview with the chairwoman of the New Hampshire Republican Party in a Manchester diner on Wednesday afternoon, MSNBC host Chris Matthews went on an odd tangent about how the topography of the Granite State supposedly makes it edgier than "flat" Midwestern Iowa.
To be fair, Matthews did preface his query to Jennifer Horn by saying it was a "really great psychobabble question."
"Iowa is flat. You can see everywhere in Iowa from one place. It's a horizon, it's right there," Matthews said to laughs from Horn, whereas, "New Hampshire is undulated, it's mountainous.... Do you think that creates a more edgy environment, the fact that you've got mountains and different altitudes, rather than some flatline state like Iowa?"
"I do think topography spells character," Matthews insisted moments later.
For what it's worth, Iowa is not as "flat" as Matthews may imagine it. It's not even in the top 5 of "flattest" U.S. states. Indeed, NPR, no right-wing outlet it, would protest that Iowa is neither as flat as Matthews would have you believe nor as "boring" and lacking diversity:
1. Iowa is flat. Each year, bicyclists ride across Iowa in an annual event called RAGBRAI — the Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. "Any participant who has done RAGBRAI can tell you that Iowa isn't flat," says Mark Wyatt, executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition. "First-time participants are wowed by the often hilly terrain of the Loess Hills region or much of the driftless areas of southern Iowa. Sure, there are some flat regions, but Iowa's terrain is surprising — sometimes inducing panic — to the flatlander who thinks a hill is an Interstate overpass."
2. Iowa is boring. Not according to a just-released list of Top Party Schools in America compiled by the Princeton Review. In the past three years the University of Iowa has moved from 12th place on the Review's list to fourth place, just behind the universities of Ohio, Georgia and Mississippi.
3. Iowa is monocultural. "A state that is not open to new ideas would never have given Barack Obama his victory, which propelled him to the presidency," says Des Moines attorney Douglas E. Gross, a former candidate for governor in Iowa and a campaign official for presidential candidates George W. Bush and Mitt Romney. As further evidence, Gross cites the 2009 Varnum decision, in which the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, making Iowa the third state to sanction gay marriages. A Drake University survey of more than 1,700 people, released midsummer, shows that an overwhelming majority of Iowans (61 percent) support same-sex marriage. The same survey reveals an intrastate misconception: Most respondents also imagined that fellow Iowans would look unfavorably on same-sex marriage. They were wrong.
So not only is Matthews an oddball with his "topography spells character" shtick, he's also, as usual, wrong.
Here's the relevant transcript:
MSNBC Live with Kate Snow
February 3, 2016; 3:24 p.m.
Onscreen graphic: Who will win NH ground game?
CHRIS MATTHEWS, guest host: By the way, let me ask you a really great, uh, psychobabble question. Iowa is flat. You can see everywhere in Iowa from one place. It's all right there in front of you. It’s a horizon, it’s right there. You know. Look out, there’s the rest of Iowa.
New Hampshire is undulated, it’s mountainous, it’s got some flat stuff here but it’s got the White Mountains, it’s got the Presidential Range you have up here, I’ve hiked it.
JENNIFER HORN, New Hampshire GOP chairwoman: Beautiful! We live in the most beautiful state!
MATTHEWS: Do you think that creates a more edgy environment, the fact that you’ve got mountains and different altitudes rather than some flatline state like Iowa?
HORN: Well, I don’t know how much the –
MATTHEWS: C’mon, be original here!
HORN: – the topography, how much the topography contributes.
MATTHEWS: That’s what I’m, the very word. The very word. A well-educated person here leading the Republican Party!
HORN: Thank goodness.
MATTHEWS: But I do think topography spells character. And you won’t be able to get this out of your head now.
HORN: There is as much diversity in our voter as there is in our landscape. How do you like that?
MATTHEWS: A poet! A politician and a poet. Thank you, it’s wonderful to have you on. You know how to respond to me and my ways.
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