Last week it was reported that the television networks and the Associated press this year will skip exit polling in 19 states. Picking states whose outcome are already considered predetermined, and therefore where polling isn't as important, the media consortium cited cost cutting as one of the key reasons behind the move. With more and more people voting early by mail (and from home), the exit pollsters have to shift their focus and spend more time and money contacting voters by phone, which is more expensive
Pretty straightforward, right?
Not this election season. Not when nearly every news cycle brings with it a new sinister conspiracy launched by the far right press, which remains desperate to explain why Obama's campaign hasn't yet completely collapsed under the weight of what they claim to be his historic domestic and international failures.
So on the same day the exit polling story was reported in the Washington Post, Breitbart.com's Big Journalism posted an item announcing that the elimination of the 19 exit polling states represented an obvious media-driven conspiracy (an "insidious plan") concocted by the "goose-stepping" networks and AP to help re-elect President Obama.
What was so evil about the cost-cutting move? Of the 19 states, 15 are red ones where Romney will win easily.
The real reason the consortium has cut these states is that they know that if they report fifteen states coming in for Romney early, independent voters in other states will take notice and be swayed his way.
The networks and the AP just knew that for independent voters who still hadn't voted at night on November 6, if early returns showed Romney had won Louisiana, Kentucky and Georgia, for example, that would prompt undecided voters all over the country to flock to the polls to vote for the Republican, because he'd won states he was supposed to win. (Just like they did with McCain in 2008?) Therefore, the networks and AP had to step in and cut off exit polling in key Romney states.
That's the basis for the Breitbart.com fantasy (announced as fact, of course) about how the media were conspiring yet again to aide Obama's reelection.
What's so remarkable is that that wasn't even the most delusional theory that was launched last week by the far-right press, which has transformed itself during the closing weeks of the campaign into a full-time, partisan fun house.
As imaginative as Breitbart's exit poll scheme was, there's no way it could compete with last Friday's epic job truthers push by Fox News and the rest of the off-kilter far-right media. Without the slightest bit of evidence, Obama's media detractors suggested a truly vast conspiracy had taken hold inside the federal government in an effort to doctor the unemployment numbers and boost Obama's re-election run.
Why Obama allowed the supposedly malleable economists at the Bureau of Labor Statistics to run up the unemployment rate to 10 percent in 2009 when all he had to do, apparently, was demand that they fudge the books, we may never know. But the far-fetched nonsense was thoroughly embraced by Fox News and throughout the fevered swamps.
Last week also featured the right-wing spectacle of a media movement throwing itself into a mini convulsion because the Drudge Report and The Daily Caller and Fox News decided to randomly hype a five-year-old speech Obama gave; a speech that was widely reported on at the time. Stepping hard on the race-baiting pedal ("Barack Obama Plays Race Card Against Whitey"), the GOP Noise Machine reveled, however briefly, in the fantasy that millions of voters would finally view Obama the way they have for four years, as a vengeful race hustler.
All of this comes in the immediate wake of the skewed polling nonsense, in which Obama's foes convinced themselves that basically all election polls were deliberately and improperly weighted in order to boost Obama's chances by projecting the false perception he was pulling ahead of Romney. In fact, they claimed, pollsters, like BLS economists, were purposefully skewing the numbers in order to suppress Romney's chances. Theory: If enough phony, skewed polls showed Romney trailing, fewer Republicans would bother to vote on Election Day.
For a movement that has spent four years sporadically clinging to the completely discredit claim that Obama wasn't born in America, this type of farcical behavior probably should not come as a surprise. And yet, lots of jaws dropped late last week when supposedly serious people (or at least people who take themselves seriously on TV), claimed an insidious plot of collusion had driven the unemployment rate down. ("Madness" was how New York Times columnist Paul Krugman described it.) This, just weeks after announcing all polls that showed Romney trailing the president were bogus and needed to be ignored.
I mean, who does that?
The bigger question is why is there a need for such elaborate schemes and conspiracies. Every four years a losing side emerges in the president campaign, but that losing side has never taken it upon itself to just make stuff up, connect invisible dots, and in general act like paranoid maniacs in effort to explain away their frustration.
The right-wing press, locked inside its airtight bubble, remains incapable of introspection or self-doubt. Instead, denial reigns.
That's because many of the media players who insist pollsters are working in tandem with the White House to juice Obama's numbers, or that the nation's unemployment rate is now fabricated, are the same ones who have spent the last four years deriding Obama's presidency as an unmitigated disaster. But if Obama remains in good position to win re-election, what does that tell us about the hysterical anti-Obama cries that have filled the air since 2009?
Unwilling to face those uncomfortable truths, the Fox-led brigade just keeps manufacturing one truly unbelievable explanation after another. (Pollsters are preemptively suppressing the vote!) Who knows what kind of absurd claims will be made during next four weeks of the campaign.
One thing is for sure though, this is what a collective nervous breakdown looks like.