We earlier noted that the press is spending an awful lot of time hyping the so-called Bradley effect and leaning heavily on the idea that Obama's big lead could still evaporate.
We noted the oddity of so many Bradley effect reports sprouting up despite the lack of evidence that it's been seen in America in decades. To us, the press attention seems more like an easy way to inject some drama into the increasingly drama-less campaign.
The latest to tackle to topic is Time and we're not sure whether to praise or mock its effort. We'd mock Time because it manages to join the media caravan detailing the somewhat soggy story:
Politicos are abuzz over the last hurdle Obama must clear in his path to the presidency: a phenomenon known as the "Bradley effect."
But we'd praise Time because it concludes:
The Bradley effect may be this fall's paper tiger: an old theory re-heated by the media because there's not much left to talk about.
For the record, Time thinks the Bradley effect is just a way for the press to juice up the campaign storyline. So Time then spends time addressing the Bradley effect.
The McCain/Palin ticket, it's worth separating the group into two camps; those who came out forcefully and somewhat early against the ticket for philosophical and intellectual reasons, and those who waited until the polls went south on McCain/Palin before making public their reservations about the duo.
We touched on this regarding Peggy Noonan, but with the New York Times raising the larger issue with a Sunday Week in Review piece, "In the Conservative Commentariat, Unease," it's worth stressing again.
The Times was too polite tho suggest that any of the conservative pundits broke with McCain/Palin because they didn't want to be associated with a loser. (And by loser we don't just mean a candidate who might not win, but a candidate who might lose convincingly.) But we think that possibility remains strong among Beltway pundits.
For instance, did it really take David Brooks and Peggy Noonan and Christopher Buckley six weeks to arrive at the conclusion that Sarah Palin was not qualified to be vice president? Or that her pick reflected poorly on McCain, as they now concede?
Note that the morning after Palin's vice presidential debate performance, Brooks cheered her in the Times. Three days later when it became clear that the debate had had no impact on the national polling, Brooks suddenly announced Palin represented a "cancer" on the Republican Party.
In that regard, pundits such as George Will, Charles Krauthammer, David Frum, Kathleen Parker, and Ross Douthat deserve a bit more credit for not waiting so long to jump on the conservative's anti-Palin/McCain bandwagon.
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....
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:
Toss Up 97
Last time we checked, trailing by 130 electoral votes less than three weeks before Election Day did not mean the race was "close."
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.
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"?
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.
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.