The conservative blogosphere lit up yesterday with the release of a report from the University of Colorado that a model based on economic data predicts that Mitt Romney should sweep to victory in November. Yet that prediction is not yet reflected in polls–which, though tightening, still suggest a narrow Obama victory. One reason is that the media’s polls are being skewed by pro-Democrat samples. Another is that Obama has been spending his campaign into debt while Romney has barely begun to spend. But perhaps the most important reason is that the media simply isn’t reporting the economic data voters need to make an informed choice.
The last time that economic data dominated a news cycle was on August 3–three weeks ago–when the July jobs numbers were released. On that occasion, the media spun a report about the rising unemployment rate into a positive story for President Barack Obama, focusing on the fact that the paltry number of jobs created was higher than the even smaller number that markets had expected. Since then, there has been little major news coverage of the economy in the mainstream media. Voters have had to rely on their own impressions.
Reporters who take their craft seriously are frustrated at what they see happening. Jake Tapper of ABC News, for example, said this week: “We are spending a lot of time in the last few weeks, those of us in the political world, political journalists and also politicians, talking about things other than the economy,” said Tapper. “[A] lot of people are hurting out there. I’d like to see more action taken and more emphasis given to this issue.”
Chuck Todd of NBC agreed–though, in typical fashion, blamed the Romney campaign for the media’s lack of attention to the economy: “The entire political community should be held accountable for this, including the Romney campaign. They’ve lost some traction on the economy and I don’t know why….It’s not media bias, it’s media, it’s what they’re covering, and the fact is we are under-covering the economy, we are under-covering — but you cover the campaign that is in front of you.” This after the Romney campaign has spent weeks talking about economic policy, from welfare reform to energy to the specifics of of Romney’s budget plan differs from that of newly-selected running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). Clearly Todd is covering a different campaign.
As if to drive home the point, both the Obama and Romney campaigns released e-mails last night. The Obama email, sent in the name of free-contraception (and anti-religious freedom) activist Sandra Fluke, accused Romney and Ryan of sharing the reprehensible views of Missouri’s Todd Akin, which they have both rejected. (Fluke even repeated the lie that Romney would get rid of Planned Parenthood–as opposed to federal funding thereof.) The Romney email focused on Medicare policy–a real issue, not a trumped-up political smear.
No–the media is not covering the Romney campaign. It is not covering the economy. It is, as Time‘s Mark Halperin admitted recently, covering exactly what the Obama campaign wants it to cover. And that is anything but the economy. Even in interviews with local journalists, the President dictates what the questions will be. He wants to talk about cultural wedge issues. He wants to talk about the latest accusations against Romney. He wants to talk about how Republicans are to blame for everything in Washington. And the media dutifully records everything he says–not challenging the lies, and certainly not changing the subject to the economy.
In this media climate, the Obama campaign can simply make up false claims about the economy–and everything else–without fear of being challenged. Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office warns that the economy is about to go into recession because Obama refuses to renew the Bush tax cuts or trim the deficit. The Federal Reserve gears up for another costly round of monetary stimulus. But because the Obama campaign wants to talk about whether Romney and Ryan hate women, that is what the media covers.
So, all other things being equal, as the economists say, Romney/Ryan will defeat Obama/Biden 52.9% to 47.1%, and Obama will only win 218 electoral votes, losing nearly all of the critical swing states where the campaigning is fiercest. But all things are not equal. The mainstream media brought Obama through the Democratic primary in 2008. They pushed Obama into office in the general election in November. In 2012, they can’t quite get away with the same quasi-religious coverage they showered on Obama back then, but they can hide the economic truth from voters as long as possible. It is not a question of what the Romney campaign is doing, but about what the mainstream media are determined to accomplish for Obama.