The piece on Rudy Giuliani doesn’t have a lot of new material, but its tone is set by the immediate disclosure that “his campaign successfully discouraged key advisers from speaking to Science about specific issues.” It goes on to mention the success of the CompStat system he championed in New York City, which logged crime statistics and successfully guided police operations. The most novel snippet in the review is a quote from the former president of the New York Academy of Sciences talking about how the mayor showed interest in science-oriented city projects, but lacked follow-through. And, Science reminds its readers, Giuliani has drawn considerable flak this fall for misusing international prostate cancer statistics in his campaign ads.


Science’s take on Mike Huckabee centers on the obvious: his waffling on evolution and man-made climate change. The writer makes the point, however, that despite his usually conservative rhetoric, “Huckabee has often veered toward the center of the political road.” There is also the reminder that as governor of Arkansas, he aggressively pursued a referendum to use millions of dollars from tobacco settlements to fund health and medical research. Unfortunately, apart from this information, the article devotes too much space to ad hominem remarks, such as one from a Little Rock newspaper columnist who calls Huckabee “vindictive.”


McCain’s piece is fairly blasé; as a senator, he’s been a strong supporter of climate action and has opposed George W. Bush’s limitations on embryonic stem cell research. Beyond that, Science reports, “Most non-climate science issues are far down on McCain’s list of priorities.”


The opposite seems to be true of Barack Obama. The journal found a University of Chicago pediatrician who used to invite Obama to speak to her class on racial health disparities while he was still a local community organizer. He would urge students to think about “how to use scientific inquiry to make intelligent public policy.” Obama has also been strong on global warming lately, although Science reminds readers about the hullabaloo he created last year by supporting liquid-coal legislation, and then backtracking.


In its review of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson’s positions, the journal starts off discussing his turbulent relationship with the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Of course, he is best known as the man who, as Clinton’s secretary of energy in 1999, fired Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee for a security breach. Lee was accused - wrongly, as it turned out - of passing secrets about the United States’ nuclear arsenal to China. The charges were reduced to mishandling sensitive information, and Richardson stripped the University of California of its responsibility for security at the weapons lab. Science ignores this bit of Richardson’s history, however, and focuses instead on his relationship with Los Alamos as governor, which was similarly turbulent - after first recruiting science advisers from the facility, he summarily fired them, according to Science. The information is intriguing, but its meaning and significance beg for elaboration, especially since Internet searches turn up little on the matter.


The narrative on Mitt Romney that Science puts together is fairly well known. It starts five years ago when, as governor of Massachusetts, he supported stem cell research and regional carbon dioxide reductions, and opposed teaching intelligent design in schools. It ends in 2005, when Romney’s presidential ambitions were taking shape, and he decided to reverse course on almost all of those positions. His saving grace, in the review, results form the reporter’s incredibly wise decision to call representative Vernon Ehlers, a Republican from Michigan and one of two Ph.D. physicists in Congress. Ehlers, who is a longtime member of the House Science Committee, has been ignored by the press this campaign season, but thinks Romney is the “best choice for any scientist or engineer.”


Finally, there is Fred Thompson. Fortunately, Science focuses on the actor/attorney’s recent naïve remarks about stem cell research and man-made climate change: he heralded the recent discovery that skin cells can be turned into embryonic-like stem cells as proof positive that Bush administration’s restrictive research policies are working; he also misused evidence on warming on other planets in the solar system to suggest that Mars and Jupiter “are actually inhabited by alien SUV-driving industrialists.” While a senator from Tennessee, he helped win federal support for a $1.4 billion particle accelerator at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, but the article quotes the scientific director of that project as saying that Thompson was far more interested in the in-state revenue than the science itself. Perhaps that explains why, “Campaign staffers declined repeated requests from Science to detail Thompson’s views on science and technology issues.”

Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.