The Governor’s race is a nail biter. Again. The latest polls show the incumbent, Democratic Governor Chris Gregoire, with a paper-thin lead over her challenger, Republican Dino Rossi—50 percent to his 48 percent. Back in 2004, Chris beat Dino by only 133 votes. These rivals have grappled for nearly half a decade, but has anyone really listened to what they’re saying?
Technology idolators that we are, we fired up the MacBook and spat Chris and Dino’s words into the Story Toolz Readability Index (StoryToolz.com) and the Hacker Factor Gender Guesser (HackerFactor.com). These sites analyze text and determine—via syntactic algorithms and diction—if the speaker or writer is educated, uneducated, a woman, a man, or a genderless, drooling knuckle dragger.
Rossi’s folksy campaign kickoff speech (“…an exciting trip. Just like a Rossi family road trip”) in Issaquah last October came in at a sixth grade comprehension level, according to the Readability Index. And the Gender Guesser deemed his June speech to the Building Industry Association of Washington “female.”
Meanwhile, Gregoire’s wonkish July speech on water supply projects (“the state will develop a drought insurance program”) reads at an 11th grade comprehension level. But don’t get too comfortable, Chris, ye of the unisex name. No matter what we fed the Gender Guesser the Guv nearly always came across as male.
What do these results mean? Giving both candidates the benefit of the doubt, Rossi’s likely speaking to his base, using the down-home argot that sells in Enumclaw, while Gregoire ingratiates the intellectuals in Olympia and Seattle. Plus, a woman, even at this relatively enlightened moment in political history, still must sound tough. Rossi speaking effeminately? Well, voters, we aren’t going there. That’s between you and your ballot.