• Let's play Find the Liberals

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    From the Sunday morning talk show lineup:

    Fox News Sunday: John McCain

    Meet the Press: Colin Powell, Chuck Todd, David Brooks, Jon Meacham, Andrea Mitchell, Joe Scarborough

    Face the Nation: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former Rep. Rob Portman, Gov. Matt Blunt, Gov. Tim Kaine

    Late Edition: Sen. Claire McCaskill, Rep. Roy Blunt

    This Week: Newt Gingrich, Thomas Friedman, David Gergen, Donna Brazile, George Will

    P.S. It's not called Find the Democrats. It's called Find the Liberals....

  • We're not sure "close" means what Howard Fineman thinks it does

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The headline for the Newsweek columnist's latest: "Why Is the Race So Close?"

    Doesn't that have a very early-September feel to it?

    Any way, Fineman publishes a long laundry list of reasons why Obama should be waaaay out ahead in the polls:

    What impresses me--and should give Obama himself pause as he considers a possible victory--is that this race is far closer than it should be.

    It seems odd to us that Fineman, who gets paid a handsome salary to watch presidential campaigns, thinks Obama's lead in the poll, which hovers around 7 percent, is somehow modest. Any campaign pro will tell you that, mathematically, that translates into an enormous lead in terms of raw votes.

    Secondly, Fineman of course understands that presidential campaigns are won on a state-by-state basis and that, in the end, national polls are somewhat useless. But in his column about how close the White House race remains, Fineman remains dutifully silent regarding the data coming in from swing states. Our guess is Fineman's silence reflects the fact that virtually all the surveys in the last four weeks have shown unmistakable movement toward Obama, which means the race for electoral votes, right now, is not "close."

    Let's look at the latest electoral vote projections at RCP:

    Obama/Biden 286

    Toss Up 97

    McCain/Palin 155

    Last time we checked, trailing by 130 electoral votes less than three weeks before Election Day did not mean the race was "close."

  • Like David Brooks, Peggy Noonan

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Says Palin is not fit for office. Noonan did it in her new WSJ column. And like Brooks, Noonan is offended by Palin's lack of seriousness; her lack of ideas and intellectual curiosity:

    In the end the Palin candidacy is a symptom and expression of a new vulgarization in American politics. It's no good, not for conservatism and not for the country. And yes, it is a mark against John McCain, against his judgment and idealism.

    Two notes. First, at least Noonan admits to Palin's shortcomings in print. Brooks, as you'll recall, announced Palin's anti-intellectualism represented a "cancer" on the GOP. But he only did it front of a small audience of media elites. Brooks has never copped to that assessment in print at the New York Times.

    Second, it's curious that Brooks and Noonan only admitted to Palin's failings when the polls turned bad for the GOP. Ask yourself this: If national polls showed McCain and Obama in a toss-up with three weeks to go before Election Day and Palin was displaying the same disregard for idea, do you really think Brooks and Noonan would be speaking the truth about the GOP?

    We have our doubts.

  • The burning Beltway media question

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    of the day is posed by Politico:

    How will news execs keep audiences interested if the presidential race is effectively decided before most Americans have finished dinner?

    Because isn't Election Day all about news producers keeping viewers "interested"?

  • The NYT plays nice with Glenn Beck

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    In its news article today about the CNN Headline News talker signing a deal to join Fox News next spring, the Times reports that Beck represents a coup for Fox because Beck's a hot entity and his ratings are on the rise.

    Mr. Beck appears first at 7 p.m. and then in a repeat at 9 p.m. The 7 p.m. show has been averaging about 375,000 viewers in recent months, and the 9 p.m. repeat exceeds 485,000 viewers.

    That does sound impressive, right?

    Except here's the phrase the Times politely avoids in its write-up: "last place." Because that's where Beck has been in his CNN HN time slot since pretty much the day he went on the air. He's been the Detroit Lions of cable news. As in, dead last. Like often, not-even-close-to-the-competition last.

    But what about that big viewership spike this year? Well, it's an election year and pretty much all the prime time cable shows are up this year.

  • Solutions

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Over at Nieman Watchdog, Dan Froomkin summarizes a panel discussion of the media's failure to challenge the Bush administration's Iraq spin, including some suggestions for how to improve. Here's one of the best:

    Acknowledge scoops by rival news organizations, then follow them up, like a relay team. "One of the things that I did in the book that I think maybe would be useful if people did more often just generally in daily reporting, was to give credit and follow up on other people's reporting," Mayer said, referring to "The Dark Side," her recent chronicle of the Bush administration's war on terror. "There is some kind of bias that editors have that if somebody else has broken a story, and you even acknowledge that they've broke the story… that you can't do your own version of it. And in fact, what it prohibits then, is following up and adding on…. It would have been better if the New York Times and Washington Post [had] said, 'What are these curveball stories?' and ran with it and took it further." Tom Rosensteil, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the panel's moderator, pointed out: "[T]hat's very much the model that scientists use in trying to investigate a problem, who do not work in large institutions but really sort of work as singular researchers in collaboration with each other."

    It's been striking how much this hasn't happened over the past 8 years -- particularly to anyone who remembers how the Times and Post spent the Clinton era trying to one-up each other on the phony Whitewater story.

  • The press and Joe the Plumber

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    You could almost see reporters, producers and editors collectively jump out of their seats when John McCain introduced (and then mentioned ad nauseam) his version of the Everyman in the debate Wednesday night.

    Two days later and the press coverage of Joe shows no sign of abating.

    Have voters like this starred in cameo campaign appearances in the past? Yes. Has the the press treated them as Wildy Important News Stories? Not quite like this.

    We think that's because each election cycle the press becomes more and more enamored with trivia and symbolism and tactics. And since Joe the Plumber combines all three, the press has all but ignored all the other issues and topic discussed at the debate and focused its attention on the part that really didn't matter much.

    Here's a view taste of the media's overkill (not even including the TV coverage), via ABC's The Note Must-Reads:

    2008: 'JOE THE PLUMBER':

    ABC News' Imaeyen Ibanga and Russell Goldman: "America's Overnight Sensation Joe the Plumber Owes $1,200 in Taxes" LINK

    The Washington Post's Robert Barnes: "After Debate, Glare Of Media Hits Joe - Plumbers Union, Tax Collectors Notice" LINK

    The Boston Herald's Katy Jordan: "Debate flushes out fans in regular Joe pipeline" LINK

    Bloomberg's Ryan J. Donmoyer and Kristin Jensen: "McCain's Focus On 'The Plumber' To Repair Campaign Has Pitfalls" LINK

    The Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman: "As Joe The Plumber Grows Famous, The Politics Get Murkier" LINK

    USA Today's Dennis Cauchon and Peter Eisler: "Press Vets 'Joe The Plumber' After Last Debate" LINK

    The Washington Times' Donald Lambro: "Joe Exposes Candidates Sharp Divisions" LINK

    The Los Angeles Times' Robin Abcarian and P.J. Huffstutter: "Joe the Plumber Can Relate to The Britney Thing" LINK

    The Hill's' Chris Good: "Plumbers union rips McCain on 'Joe the Plumber'" LINK

  • Reporters barred, by Secret Service, from interviewing people at Palin rallies

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    That, according to the WaPo's Dana Milbanks:

    I have to say the Secret Service is in dangerous territory here. In cooperation with the Palin campaign, they've started preventing reporters from leaving the press section to interview people in the crowd. This is a serious violation of their duty -- protecting the protectee -- and gets into assisting with the political aspirations of the candidate. It also often makes it impossible for reporters to get into the crowd to question the people who say vulgar things. So they prevent reporters from getting near the people doing the shouting, then claim it's unfounded because the reporters can't get close enough to identify the person.

    (h/t Romenesko)

  • Reporter attacked at Palin rally

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    A journalist for the News & Record in Burlington, N.C. covered yesterday's Palin appearance. Afterwards, a supporter confronted the reporter, kicked the back of his leg, buckling his knee and sent "sprawling onto the ground."

  • WSJ wins Worst Headline of The Day

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    With "Surveys Split on Who Has Lead in Presidential Race" (And yes, Drudge is hyping it.)

    Really, the surveys are "split"? Some polls today show Barack Obama ahead and others give John McCain the advantage?

    Actually, the article itself acknowledges "To be sure, Sen. Obama leads in every national poll, and the Electoral College map appears to favor the Illinois senator."

    So where does the split come in?

    The Journal piece does seem quite anxious want to jump onto the McCain 'comeback' bandwagon alerting readers "the presidential race is still close, and the Republican has even gained ground in recent days."

    Question: Is the Journal trying to convince voters, or is it trying to to convince itself?

    UPDATE: Well, that didnt' take long. the WSJ headline has been changed. Online, it now reads "Some Surveys Indicate Tighter Presidential Race"