Something almost shocking occurred last week on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown show: MSNBC political expert Chuck Todd announced that the electoral math made a McCain victory extremely unlikely, if not near impossible. Such comments are rarely expressed in the media, which studiously avoids state-by-state poll numbers and spends much of its time probing for weaknesses in Obama’s candidacy.
For example, various media have found “problems” for Obama in John Edwards’ admission he had an affair, in the publication this week of internal emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign that reveal Mark Penn sharply criticizing Obama, and in Obama’s vacation to “foreign, exotic” Hawaii, rather than to a place like Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. These and other story lines are worrying activists about a McCain victory, despite an electoral map that prevents such a result.
I planned to write this piece before Cokie Roberts charged on ABC’s This Week on Sunday that Barack Obama’s visit to his grandmother in Hawaii was a big mistake. Roberts opined, “I know his grandmother lives in Hawaii and I know Hawaii is a state, but it has the look of him going off to some sort of foreign, exotic place. He should be in Myrtle Beach, and, you know, if he’s going to take a vacation at this time.”
Roberts’ comments fit perfectly into my thesis that much of the media is desperately seeking to find dark clouds in the Obama campaign. Because there is no doubt that had Obama actually vacationed in Myrtle Beach, Roberts would have bashed him for (a) failing to visit his grandmother, thus jeopardizing the senior vote and (b) choosing a vacation spot that clumsily seeks to cast him as a “regular guy” rather than the elitist that Roberts and other millionaire “journalists” believe him to be.
Unfortunately, Roberts is not alone in finding dire implications for Obama in what otherwise would be a politically irrelevant act. Last Friday, David Gregory, host of MSNBC’s Race to the White House, found problems for Obama in John Edwards’ admission that he had an affair in 2006.
The Edwards Affair
Gregory announced on the August 8 show, “Tonight, more on Edwards and the fallout from his admission today about a sexual affair: Is this another skeleton in the Democratic closet that Barack Obama must struggle to overcome?” Gregory later said, “now, questions about his [Edwards'] future abound in the party and whether this creates another shadow over Barack Obama as he gets ready for the conventions.”
NBC’s Today Show also had a segment with the headline “Will Edwards Affair Taint Obama?”, featuring political analyst Chuck Todd. Of course, Todd answered the question with a simple “not at all” – which raises the question: why couldn’t the NBC headline be “Edwards Affair Unlikely to Affect Obama”?
There are two striking aspects about attempting to link the Edwards scandal to Obama.
First, the most logical and obvious inference from Edwards’ admission was that it could hurt John McCain. McCain is the presidential candidate who had an affair with his current wife while married, and the media could have framed the Edwards scandal as hurting the Republican by reminding voters of McCain’s prior transgression.
But the same journalists who opined that the affair would kill Edwards’ political career ignored the fact that his affair did not slow McCain’s rise.
The second striking aspect of the attempted Edwards-Obama link is that the two men have rarely even been seen together in recent months, and have never been viewed as having a close relationship. That any pundit could conclude that the Edwards affair could hurt Obama is only understandable as parts of the media’s larger goal of convincing the public that the Democrat could well lose.
Clinton Campaign E-mails
The Atlantic magazine is publishing emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign that show internal divisions and a strategy by Mark Penn to make Obama appear “un-American.” Pundits like KCBS’s Marc Sandalow are claiming that the release of the emails at this time could hurt Democratic unity on the eve of the convention, even though (a) Clinton fired Penn, (b) the internal rifts within the Clinton camp during the primary season are irrelevant to the fall campaign, and (c) the Clintons are now happy as can be with Hillary getting a national television speech on Tuesday and Bill on Wednesday of convention week.
The traditional media has tried so hard to use the Clintons’ to undermine Obama that pundits are unable to change their narrative despite new developments. CNN was still talking about Bill’s dispute with Obama more than 24 hours after peace was made with the decision to give him a prime time convention speech.
With women and the white working class disproving pundits by flocking to Obama, the media will soon have to stop questioning Obama’s chances by stressing Hillary’s allegedly disenchanted base. And the media’s obsession with the Clinton’s will backfire in Obama’s favor when both Hillary and Bill give stirring convention speeches on the candidate’s behalf.
Social Issue Initiatives
Because Bush was helped in 2004 by state ballot measures on social issues, the media is raising the prospect that such initiatives will hurt Obama. Some pundits have seized upon state bans on affirmative action, saying that Obama’s opposition could hurt him among white voters.
But it should be obvious that any white voter for whom anti-affirmative action is a priority is not going to vote for Obama (and is likely a Republican). And given the primacy of national issues, few voters will base their presidential choice on how the candidate stands on a state ballot measure.
Chuck Todd’s Analysis
Recall that throughout the primary season, the traditional media kept ignoring Obama’s insurmountable electoral math and instead told the public that “momentum” or the winner of “big states” could secure the nomination regardless of the delegate count. This has not changed with the fall election season, as the media continues to ignore state by state polls that virtually ensure an Obama victory.
MSNBC’s Todd told Olbermann that, to win the White House, Obama needed to secure ten electoral votes from the following four states: Colorado, New Hampshire, Virginia and Ohio. Since Obama is either leading or in a statistical tie in all four states, and is a dead lock to win the first two (CO has 9 electoral votes, NH has 4), his chances appear pretty good.
In fact, Obama will most likely win all four states, turning the 2008 election into an Electoral College landslide.
As I explained last April, John McCain can’t win. But this will not stop the traditional media from doing everything they can to make it a horserace, even if they have to make fools of themselves.
by Randy Shaw
Randy Shaw is the Editor in Chief of Beyond Chron.
Republished with permission from Beyond Chron.