Monday, September 17, 2012

Why Romney Failed...Wait, You Say the Campaign's Not Over?!

In the immortal words of Brad DeLong, why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Even casual political readers this week can feast themselves on any number of Romney campaign obituaries and detailed post-hoc analyses of how the campaign stumbled--in past tense, no less!

Except the game ain't over. Yes, it's late in the third and Obama's up by 8 with the ball. But as the Arizona Cardinals discovered yesterday to their near-horror, even seemingly sure things can evaporate with an unfortunate error. An interception pick-six from Team Romney (a memorable one-liner zinger during the debates a-la "there you go again"--even though Carter's point was correct) and a two-point conversion (hundreds of millions of dollars of TV ads complements of Karl Rove & Co.) and you are headed down to the wire. This game ain't over, folks--but you might get a different impression from reading news analysis this week.

If you were reading all the political stories this week from Politico to Wall Street Journal (well, the op-eds anyway) to TPM you would have been reading story after story obsessed with the horse race rather than the underlying substance of the campaign. As political junkies, we don't mind a little bit of horse race analysis with our news, but the POTUS campaign coverage is alas mostly devoted to who's-ahead-other-campaign-in-chaos topics. As Sahil Kapur trenchantly observes, "once the 'Romney in disarray' narrative gets stale, it'll probably shift to 'Romney's comeback." And neither "narrative" should have any bearing on why someone should or shouldn't vote for Governor Romney or President Obama.

The central problem is that these stories crowd out much more important news. A little noted item in early September involved Romney saying that global warming is real and caused in part by humans. This is a policy statement of tremendous importance and should have been major news since it indicated a Romney policy shift away from one of the more insane anti-scientific tenets of the Republican base. (Although given Romney's previous slippery, contradictory statements on the subject, it might have simply been another "Etch-a-Sketch" moment in his say-anything-to-please-everyone campaign.) We should note that we think President O's response to on this and other topics makes much more sense. However, either way, Romney's statement was important--really important--and hardly anyone noticed it.

The Billy Rubin Blog is contemplating what to write in the event of a Romney loss: suffice it to say that we agree with the central premise of this article by Charlie Pierce. But before the media calls the game, maybe they should spend as much time and effort as possible to get actual news out about what the campaigns are saying. Yes, we thought the Clint Eastwood stuff was amusing, and maybe says something about whether Romney is qualified to be President...but not that much. Analyzing his statements on the middle class, however, really is important.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that the political media has largely lost its connection to its traditional (and essential) mission of enabling an engaged and informed populace to make educated decisions in the voting booth.

    Why this is true is a bit of a tougher nut to crack. Partly it's a 'give the people what they want' problem where more papers are sold or online ads viewed/clicked when the race is presented as a sporting event. Partly it's attributable to the cynicism of the modern political campaign where the real discussion of positions is eschewed in favor of platitudes and attacks for which basis in fact seems unimportant.

    Oh for the silver bullet..