A Cook Worth Its Salt

September 21, 2017   |   Craig Strydom

Margaret Thatcher once said that “standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides.” Which begs the question, especially in today’s ultra-polemic ‘Trumptopian’ universe (who could have imagined Nazis in Charlottesville?), whether it is truly possible to be non-partisan in our political views? The answer, if The Cook Political Report is anything to go by, is not only yes, but a necessary yes!

Founded in 1984 by ex-staffer, ex-campaign consultant, ex-pollster, ex-political action committee member, and all-round current political analyst Charlie Cook, the Cook Political Report began life as an independent non-partisan newsletter analyzing elections and campaigns for the US House of Representatives, US Senate, Governors and President as well as American political trends on either end of Pennsylvania Avenue. After a humble start, housed at various times in the basement of Charlie’s home, it grew and migrated (without irony) to the historic Watergate complex, where it today shares residence with an online address.

Coinciding with its 33rd year in existence, and many years as at first a newsletter and then a stand-alone website and e-newsletter, The Cook Political Report engaged Blue Water for a website refresh and messaging development.

A Mammoth Task

The new site, which reflects the organization’s heavy traffic, required a new Content Management System to permit constant support typical of a site of this nature. Not only was an easy-to-use CMS required to help facilitate two weekly columns by Charlie Cook, but also necessary changes that need to be made weekly to the House, Senate, and Governors at-a-Glance charts, including the arduous task of listing every candidate running in each state and district in the country.

In addition, all House and Senate contests are rated (which too requires regular refreshing) on a seven-point scale; Solid Democrat, Likely Democrat, Lean Democrat, Toss-Up, Lean Republican, Likely Republican, and Solid Republican. The site also needed to facilitate The Cook Political Report’s proprietary ‘Cook Partisan Voting Index’ (the PVI), which lists each congressional district in the country according to propensity for voting Democratic or Republican. Every four years following a presidential election, the PVI is updated to reflect how Democratic or Republican a district is, based on how that district voted in the presidential election compared with the rest of the country.

Design and Development

Using colors to reflect the non-partisan nature of the organization, (think candidate neckties) reds and blues and every left- or right-leaning hue in-between, the Blue Water-helmed design intentionally makes provision for a website experience with simplicity and easy access at its core. After all, just as there is a need for site visitors to make sense of the political landscape, so too do the necessary graphic and design treatments.

The development process on the other hand, especially the integrations, was elephantine in nature and challenged Blue Water’s assortment of left and/or right leaning coders. Not only did the final site require several interactive maps and charts, these maps had to integrate with an ever-shifting sea of state- and region-specific data.

The Website at A Glance

 It is refreshing to think that as the polemic divides us, that many of the staff, politicians, congressmen and women, senators, governors and even presidents who make the news (here we include thought-leaders, game-changers, rabble-rousers, and even fence-sitters) are the very same site-visitors who rely on The Cook Political Report website for its impartiality and ‘solid, likely, leaning, or toss-up’ analyses to help inform their decisions.

For the sake of the ‘political information consumer’ (read: political junkie), who would prefer not to see politics through a partisan prism, this is the website for you. Caution: Try not perusing the handy responsive design on your iPhone while standing in the middle of the road. You might be knocked down, but it won’t be as a result of the polemic on the page.

*

To find out more about Blue Water’s Drupal capabilities, Acquia hosting partnership, interactive maps or infographic capabilities or responsive design, drop us a line or email us here >>