Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Media Coverage Atrocious

I've been watching CNN tonight for the news on the election and have read about coverage of MSNBC as well (we won't even get into Fox), and what I have to say is that most of the coverage borders on idiocy. The most common claims are:

1. Clinton won a "dramatic" win in Ohio.

2. McCain won a "dramatic" and "historic" victory in the Republican race.

3. The numbers don't matter.

4. Clinton has momentum, regardless of what else happens tonight.

5. Clinton has a legitimate shot to win the nomination.

6. The fact that McCain's race is over now and the Democrats are moving forward helps the Republicans in the general election and hurts the Democrats.

7. Obama can't close the deal because he can't win the big states.

Each of these claims is demonstrably false.

1. The word "dramatic" should be reserved for things that include some drama. Winning a state where you were ahead by 20 points two weeks ago, ahead by 10 points yesterday and gaining ground in the latest polls does not qualify as dramatic.

2. McCain won when Romney dropped out of the race. There is nothing historic about winning a race against someone who was polling in the 30s. It is historic, I guess, in the way that some history books include all major party nominees, but beyond that, this isn't a particularly notable victory. It's mildly interesting because of how bad McCain's early campaign was. Regardless of what the TV people seem to think, though, this isn't a good sign for McCain.

3. This is clear lunacy. The numbers (meaning the delegates) are ALL that matters. Using Slate's handy delegate counter, after tonight's results, if Clinton wins 60% of the popular vote in every remaining state (something that is impossible), she would still lose the pledged delegate race. Period. And that's giving Clinton the benefit of the doubt in Texas, something that she doesn't seem to deserve, since the primary numbers are a toss-up and the caucus numbers (although early), favor Obama (as do anecdotal reports from the caucus sites). And keep in mind, because of the complicated procedures through which delegates are selected, it's still possible Obama could come away with a delegate victory in Ohio.

4. If Clinton loses Texas, she has no momentum. She was supposed to win Ohio and Texas and if she loses one of those, she doesn't have any momentum. Sure, she stopped Obama's win streak, but nobody thought he'd win 100% of the remaining states, so that means nothing.

5. Again, if she wins Texas, 60% of the vote in every remaining state would still be a loss in the pledged delegates. The chances of the superdelegates going against the will of the people seems slim. Barring a major Obama scandal, Clinton is done. Obama has a big lead, not because his delegate number is so much higher than Clinton's, but because the states remaining are NOT winner-take-all, and a second place finish in pretty much any state still gets you a high number of delegates. A big win in a big state gets you only a couple dozen more delegates. Not enough.

6. From now until the end of the Democratic race, Clinton and Obama get nonstop free coverage. McCain doesn't. The Democrats get to go on TV every day and talk about hope and how bad Republicans are and change and all that. McCain gets painted as Bush III and he has no one to focus on. This is a huge boost for the Democrats. Remember the old adage -- there is no bad press? It's almost true. The only bad press is no press. McCain will be getting a whole lot of "no press" in the coming weeks, maybe months. Also, keep in mind that this race started early (In 1992, Clinton didn't lock up the nomination until June), so it'll end early and there will be more than enough time to focus on McCain.

7. The big-state argument is a myth. Daily Kos:

2 voted but there was no campaign: MI and FL

5 haven't voted yet: TX, OH, PA, IN, and NC

5 have voted for Obama: IL, WA, MO, VA, and GA

and 5 have voted for Clinton: CA, NY, NJ, MA, and TN

Two of these states will go towards a candidate tonight and Obama will come away from one or both of them with more delegates than Clinton. The post also goes on to note that no matter how you define "big state," these numbers hold relatively well.

As for the "can't close the deal" nonsense, since it is the system that doesn't allow anyone to close the deal, not the candidates. Because of the close proportionality of the delegate allocation system, nobody can close the deal in a tight race like this.

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