The pressure is on Barack Obama to score a convincing knock-out against Mitt Romney in tonight's second presidential debate. His disastrous performance in the first debate gave Romney an opportunity to reintroduce himself to voters. Romney seized it and has gained control of the race, gathering critical momentum for the final stretch of the campaign. The media have made it crystal clear that they expect Obama to do better tonight. If he fails to deliver, the media will turn their knives on him.
For Democrat politicians, the media is a very fickle mistress. Yes, they will fall in love with you at first sight. They will coddle and nurture them and train all their resources to attack their critics. They will ignore inconvenient news and hype their smallest accomplishments. All the politicians have to do is keep winning.
As long as Obama is seen to be winning, the media's love affair with him endures. But, if Obama looks like he is going to lose the election, media criticism of him will intensify. They have done their best to prop him up this election, even going so far as declaring the race "over" last month.
But, as the first debate showed, the race is decidedly not over. Obama performance was so bad, and Romney's so good, that even MSNBC couldn't spin the results. Since then, Obama has done nothing to contain Romney's strengthening support. He briefly made a widely mocked attempt to make Big Bird (!) a campaign issue, but otherwise hasn't raised any new attacks against Romney. If he doesn't score a knock-out night, to change the trajectory of the campaign, the media will feel compelled to throw him under the bus.
Given the fawning treatment he has enjoyed since arriving on the national political scene, it seems counter-intuitive that the media would turn on him. But, their loyalty is to leftist ideology, not a single politician. If a politician's campaign falters, the media will turn to protect the ideology.
If Obama loses in November, it can't be because voters rejected government intrusion into health care. It can't be because voters rejected higher taxes, jacked-up government spending, green energy subsidies and a wasted stimulus. It can't be because voters reject our tee-ball approach to foreign policy. The loss has to be isolated to Obama specifically. The voters aren't rejecting the policies, they are rejecting his individual candidacy.
Howard Fineman at HuffPo floated this notion yesterday, summarizing some of the "reasons" to explain an Obama loss. Mostly it boiled down to Obama not being a very good salesman of his policies. It isn't the policies, per se, that are the problem, but rather how Obama presents them to the American people.
The media will never admit to itself that voters don't want higher taxes and don't want government further encroaching on their health care decisions. If Obama looks like he's going to lose the election, then it will be because of mistakes he made.
If Obama fails tonight, for the media the writing will be on the wall. They will destroy Obama in an attempt to preserve the policies that delivered his defeat.
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