Reporter William March has covered state and national politics since 1994. Email
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Mack dumbest speaker in Congress? It’s complicated
Posted May 22, 2012 by William March
Updated May 22, 2012 at 12:18 PM
Is Rep. Connie Mack IV, R-Fort Myers, a candidate for U.S. Senate, the dumbest speaker in Congress? Well, sort of. But it’s complicated.
An analysis of speech patterns of members of Congress that ranked their speech by reading grade level found Mack’s Congressional Record verbiage was at the lowest level of any member during the 112th Congress, just above a 6th-grade level.
But there’s a bit more to it.
For one thing, the analysis showed Mack’s speech patterns during his entire, seven-year congressional career much higher. It doesn’t provide any explanation for the change from his career grade level of 12.04, or 182nd highest out of 535 current members, to grade level 6.7 for the 112th Congress, which began in January 2011.
The analysis, done by the non-profit, non-partisan Sunlight Foundation, ranked congressional speech through a measure that equates longer words and longer, more complex sentences with a higher grade level. You can see the full analysis here.
But as the Foundation noted, more complex speech isn’t necessarily the same as clearer or more intelligent speech, and some classics of U.S. politics, including Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, are comparatively low-ranking on that measure. The average American, it noted, reads at about an 8th- or 9th-grade level.
The Foundation noted that the speech level in Congress has declined sharply over the last couple of years, and that the newer, more ideological members tend to use lower grade-level speech.
Not worrying too much about the complexities, Mack’s U.S. Senate primary opponent George LeMieux pounced on the findings.
“Last place is nothing new for the prodigal son,” said LeMieux spokeswoman Anna Nix. “This year alone, Mack earned the worst attendance record in the House of Representatives and has come in dead last in three Senate primary straw polls, including the Florida Federation of Republican Women and statewide Tea Party leaders. If Florida Republicans nominate Connie Mack the Fourth, he will surely come in last to Bill Nelson in November.”