Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Media’s Pro-Obama Bias

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Amy Chozick’s report in today’s Wall Street Journal is a fascinating example of the subtle media bias that favors Obama in the Democratic Party nomination fight.

First, she buys the media pack’s analysis that Clinton is all-but-defeated, a dead woman walking. (In Chozick’s dispatch, Hillary’s latest setback is losing the “expectations game.”) There are a couple of basic facts that make that media consensus dubious:

Delegate Counts. Chozick writes, near the bottom of her piece: “Sen. Obama leads in the national race for delegates with 1,645 to 1,504 for Sen. Clinton, according to the Associated Press; roughly 2,025 are needed to secure the nomination.” So, assuming that AP’s count is correct, Clinton needs 141 delegates to pull even with Obama. At stake in Pennsylvania are 158 delegates. A strong showing by Hillary in the rural areas of the state, where many delegate races will be decided, could narrow the gap. Instead, the 141 delegate gap is treated like some insuperable barrier… In reality, the race is neck-and-neck.

Delegate Counts (part two): Just how reliable are the AP delegate counts, anyway? Nobody knows. Still, it is noteworthy that AP refers to the counts as “estimates.”

Momentum Matters too. The political headwinds are actually against Obama. The flag pin flap, “bitter gate,” Tony Rezko, Rev. Wright. We all know the shorthand by now–and that’s bad news for Obama. He is increasingly being treated as an ordinary politician, rather than a hero-king awaiting coronation. This week’s democratic debate actually showed a press corps willing to ask Obama hard questions…

In fact, the shallow media consensus could easily be reversed. Why not ask: If Obama can’t win Pennsylvania during the Democratic primary, how can he win the key swing state in November? With that question, super-delegates shift to Hillary and Obama becomes the dead man walking. In reality, isn’t it just too soon to tell who the winner will be?

As the paragraph above illustrates, the idea that either candidate is inevitable is fragile. As for the press, why play it down the middle? Let the voters decide about the future, while reporters simply report?

Does my plea sound naive? Doesn’t that illustrate how far-advanced the problem of media bias is?

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