Marco Rubio to Gain from Media Cheerleading, Says WaPo Progressive

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana
AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

Sen. Marco Rubio may be on the cusp of another polling upswing simply because reporters and establishment Republicans think his polls might go up, says a progressive columnist at the Washington Post:

Marco Rubio is hot, hot, hot — or at least that’s what you’d surmise if you’ve been reading the political news media over the last week or so. “Is Marco Rubio the New Favorite to Win the GOP Nomination?” asks MSNBC. “Why Marco Rubio’s Chances Are Rising,” reads the New York Times. “Rubio gains the hot hand,” says US News. The Los Angeles Times says he’s “surging in the polls.”

So how much has Rubio risen recently? Ten points? Twenty points? Nope, nothing like that at all. While he has ticked up a bit, a bit is all it is… He’s currently in fourth place, behind Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina. In Iowa he’s in fifth, and in New Hampshire he’s in seventh.

Here’s how the prophecy of Rubio’s future success becomes self-fulfilling. Members of the media decide that Rubio has a good chance of winning the nomination. Then they begin writing more stories about him. Those stories tend to be very positive, not because of some personal pro-Rubio bias any reporter has, but because the stories’ basic frame — Rubio is climbing, Rubio could be the nominee — leads them to focus on his more appealing characteristics and the things he’s doing right, as a way of explaining what they say is happening (just as a story about Jeb Bush’s drop in the polls will naturally focus on mistakes that he’s made and things he’s doing wrong). Voters see all this positive coverage, and begin thinking, “Gee, that Rubio fellow is pretty appealing.” Donors see it and give him more money. Other Republican politicians see it and start thinking about whether it’s time to make their endorsement. Each tiny movement upward in the polls, no matter how small, reinforces the cycle and keeps propelling him upward…

But right now the entire Rubio surge is hypothetical, and the more we in the media talk about it, the less hypothetical and more real it’s likely to become.”

Read the rest of the Washington Post column here.