Today's (actually, yesterday's) important article about the media comes from The American Prospect's friend Ben Adler, in the Columbia Journalism Review. It's a nuanced exploration of the dynamics within the conservative media and how they affect Republican politicians. Here's an excerpt:
Unlike Newt Gingrich, who can claim a regional base, Rick Santorum, who has a solidly defined political persona, or Ron Paul, who has something of a cult of personality, there’s nothing unique about Mitt Romney as a candidate. He is the definition of a generic Republican—a blank slate for the public to register its frustrations. Like Thomas Dewey—who played a similar role in the 1948 election—he is “the little man on the wedding cake.” Indeed, if there is anything close to a reason for his presidential campaign, it’s his vanilla appeal to the broad public, and undecided voters in particular.
In an otherwise sharp article about Mitt Romney's sudden troubles in Michigan, The Atlantic's Molly Ball opens with an analysis that's been parroted by many in the media since Rick Santorum's sudden rise last week:
In one view, Mitt Romney has had it effectively wrapped up for weeks. Rick Santorum's freak victory in three contests last week was a meaningless blip -- a speed bump. Sure, Santorum now leads in some polls, but he's fundamentally a small-time candidate who's about to get crushed like a bug by Romney and his allies. What we're witnessing now isn't drama -- it's death throes.
We know what Ron Paul’s supporters look like (young, genial) and believe (they’re loony). We know that Rick Santorum’s supporters are downscale and devout. We know that Mitt Romney’s supporters are upscale—indeed, the more upscale the Republican, by evidence of the exit polls, the more likely he or she is to be resigned to Mitt. Above all, they want to win, though they’re having growing doubts that they picked the right horse. And Newt’s supporters …
Rick Santorum is known for many things, but none of them involves a sense of humor. His new ad, “Rombo,” is funny, though—and smart. In case you have somehow missed it, a Mitt Romney lookalike brandishes a serious-looking weapon and fires rounds of mud at a Santorum cutout figure. “Romney and his super PAC have spent a staggering $20 million … attacking fellow Republicans,” the announcer says. “And in the end, Mitt Romney’s attacks are going to backfire.” We’ll see about that.
The big assumption about Mitt Romney’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination is that he has limitless pockets. After all, with the support of the Republican establishment and an immense fortune, it shouldn’t be too hard for him to generate funds through the contest. But according to a few (anonymous) Republican donors—and a source from within the Romney campaign—there’s growing worry that the former Massachusetts governor might run out of money from direct donations before the race is over. Buzzfeed’s Zeke Miller has the details:
In October 2007, Kathy Dahlkemper, whose only previous political experience involved raising money to build a public arboretum in her hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania, decided to run for Congress. Over the previous two and a half decades, the 49-year-old had worked as a dietician, helped run the landscape-architecture business her husband inherited from his father, and given birth to five children. Struggling to raise a family in Erie, a city devastated by a decades-long decline in manufacturing jobs, had given Dahlkemper an understanding of what millions of Americans were experiencing as the Great Recession began; her grown children had moved away in search of better opportunities. She knew that the rising cost of health care was hurting businesses like hers. She also believed that the Iraq War, which she had never supported, was causing unnecessary deaths while financially draining the country. Dahlkemper blamed not only George W. Bush but also the 14-year incumbent from her district, Republican Phil English, who had consistently backed the president.
Now that Rick Santorum is the new frontrunner for the Republican nomination—let's pause for a moment and reflect on how bizarre that notion is—the struggle to define him on the airwaves in advance of the next round of primaries begins. Let's watch two ads, each unconvincing in its own way. First up, we have Santorum's own ad, which might be called, "Admired by right-wing media nutballs everywhere!"
It’s no exaggeration to say that the Romney campaign has developed a reputation for political ruthlessness. In Florida, with the help of super PACs and a massive fundraising advantage, they crushed Newt Gingrich—they drove him from the state and relished in the lamentations of his supporters.
The media has anointed Rick Santorum as the newest frontrunner in the GOP race after he clinched three victories last Tuesday night in Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri. That bump translated into a steep rise in the national polls, with Santorum trumping former favorite Mitt Romney in four of the last five by as much as 15 percent. RealClearPolitics now gives Santorum a 1.6 percent edge in their polling average.
Last Thursday evening, President Obama raised a tidy $1.4 million for his re-election campaign at a private Washington fundraiser hosted by a lesbian couple from Chicago. The event inspired an unusually tart headline at ABC News: “Obama, No Same-Sex Marriage Supporter, Solicits Cash at Home of Lesbian Couple.” But the apparent contradiction came as little surprise to the LGBT community, which has seen the president tap the “gay-TM” freely and frequently while he continues to oppose marriage equality. The fundraising efforts have been stepped up in 2012, with Obama touting the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and his administration’s refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court as reason enough for LGBT donors to keep giving.
For a time, it looked as though Newt Gingrich would be the Romney alternative that the religious right and Tea Partiers would coalesce around. Now Rick Santorum has taken that spot after a string of victories in primaries last week and a huge rise in national polls. In a new ad, Santorum challenges Gingrich on another front: Which candidate can claim the most historical gravitas.
The ad features a series of quotes over soaring orchestral music as images of Santorum flash across the screen. "I adore Rick Santorum's conviction," the ad quotes Mike Huckabee, despite the former Arkansas governor's neutral stance on the 2012 race. "Santorum … one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America," the ad quotes Time.
Public Policy Polling has been a boon for political journalists over the past few years, partially for their extensive and accurate numbers—they were the only ones noting the rise of Rick Santorum in Minnesota last week—but also for their sense of humor. In addition to surveying the major political races, PPP tackles the all-important topics such as which NFL player is more popular than all of the presidential candidates (Tim Tebow of course) or how Stephen Colbert would perform in the South Carolina Republican primary.
Republicans finally came to their senses yesterday and realized they were waging a losing battle with their opposition to a payroll tax extension. The two-month extension Congress passed in December was set to expire by the end of this month, and Republicans were adamant that any further extension be paired with equal spending cuts. Democrats balked, instead suggesting a surtax on millionaires that the Republicans would never accept, and another last minute legislative showdown appeared inevitable. Then out of nowhere yesterday afternoon Congressional Republicans announced that they would drop their resistance:
Is Fox News moving to the center? That's the rather surprising question asked in this story in The Politico. The answer, on the surface, appears to be "sort of." There's a simple explanation for this, which we'll get to in a moment. But here's the essence of the story, which is about how true-blue conservatives are beginning to suspect that Fox is becoming just one more outpost of the liberal media: