Peter Robinson’s Column in Forbes is a MUST Read ESPECIALLY for those McCain supporters who have flashes of Doubt
One last thing. If this weekend the polls start breaking for McCain, don’t expect us to keep up with the story. We’re slow to see what we don’t want to see. And if we had to admit that McCain was doing better than we expected, we’d have to offer some reasons. Just look at what Howard Fineman found himself writing for Newsweek a couple of days ago. “Why hasn’t Obama run away with this? Because McCain has succeeded … in raising the hoary specter of ‘tax-and-spend’ liberals.
A Message From The ‘Mainstream Media’
Peter Robinson Hi. My name is Anonymous, and I’m a reporter in the mainstream media. Like a lot of my colleagues, I’m nervous. In the newsroom this morning, I spent an hour running from cubicle to cubicle. Everyone dismissed the new polls showing the race had tightened. “Outliers,” they said. When reporters call some polls “outliers,” it’s not a good sign. I’m telling you, people are nervous. You see, we in the mainstream media know the very term is a misnomer. “Mainstream?” Us? When Slate, the e-zine owned by the Washington Post Co., published a survey this week revealing that its staff favored Barack Obama over John McCain by 55-to-1, every “mainstream” reporter I know shared the same reaction. It wasn’t surprise. It was irritation. What did Slate think it was doing? We know we’re to the left of the country, but did Slate want everybody to find out? Now? When ad revenues and share prices for virtually every “mainstream” newspaper, magazine and television news organization in the country are dropping? Was SlateThe New York Times? The Gray Lady–junk! People, we’re in trouble here! aware that just this month Standard & Poor’s downgraded the debt of Which brings me back to these new polls. We’d rather not deal with them. A tight race now would muddy our narrative about the transformational figure, The One. Forbes readers may scoff at Barack Obama as the messiah, but we don’t. Give him eight years in the Oval Office, and the man with the most liberal voting record in the Senate will move the whole country our way. The One will make us “mainstream” once again. He might even make us profitable once again. Why am I writing for Forbes? Let’s put it this way: The Obamacons–the conservatives who have rushed to endorse Obama–aren’t the only ones hedging their bets. If McCain wins, the mainstream media will remain what it really is, the “more and more marginal media,” and I have a career to think about. From my notebook, a few matters that we in the mainstream media would really rather not mention: Forget every poll you’ve read before this morning. With the race to be decided in just a few days, the only polls that matter are those that measure public sentiment now. Obama’s lead of nine or 10 points a few days ago? Irrelevant. The race has now closed, perhaps to just two or three points. It makes me queasy to say so, even anonymously, but if they can pick up a point a day between now and Tuesday, then John McCain and Sarah Palin may very well find themselves taking the oath of office in January. A point a day? That’s a lot, but it’s hardly unprecedented. I don’t like to say this, either, but it’s true. During the last 11 days of the 1980 campaign, Ronald Reagan came from three points behind Jimmy Carter to finish 10 points ahead of him. Reagan picked up even more than a point a day. Momentum matters. Just as an object in motion tends to remain in motion, movement in the polls tends to elicit still more movement. If the latest polls are correct–if McCain is indeed gaining on Obama–then his momentum will be hard to stop. In the closing days of the 1992 contest, George H.W. Bush drew to within two points of Bill Clinton. Then, four days before the election, Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh handed down an indictment of former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. Walsh stalled Bush, who lost by eight points. Between now and Tuesday, is any such event likely to stall McCain? It’s hard to imagine. McCain has found a message. After watching their home values fall and their savings shrink, Americans want economic reassurance. Obama was giving it to them–until he told a working man named Joe Wurzelbacher, now known as Joe the Plumber, that he intended to “spread the wealth around.” For “Barack the Redistributor,” McCain has been telling crowds ever since, change “means taking your money and giving it to someone else.” We in the “mainstream media” have been doing all we can to help Obama recover, of course, attacking Joe for his failure to get a plumber’s license while throwing up distractions like the cost of Sarah Palin’s campaign clothes. But for the first time in this campaign, McCain has a message–a simple, compelling message. The old guy looks pretty good out there. The McCain campaign has finally figured it out: When McCain appears with Palin, we’re forced to cover him. (Nobody attracts newspaper readers like Palin–not even The One–and our editors know it.) And in their joint appearances over the last few days, McCain has appeared relaxed, energetic, buoyant. There’s really no other way to put it. McCain looks like a winner. Did I just write that? Remember the fundamentals. Throughout the campaign we have kept emphasizing the so-called fundamentals. Consumer confidence at a low. Bush’s approval ratings right down there with those of Nixon and Carter. Nine out of 10 Americans convinced the nation is on the wrong track. But you know what? This is still a pretty conservative country, and Obama is further to the left than any other presidential nominee in history. His associations with Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright, his determination to get out of Iraq just as fast as he can, his plans to nationalize health care–we love that stuff in the newsroom, but when the American people step into the voting booths, it might not sit right. America, conservative; Obama, liberal. That’s fundamental too. Am I saying McCain will win? No way. I’m just admitting we’re nervous–and really, really tired of all this. For us in the mainstream media, the campaign isn’t about choosing a president. It’s about us. Coming out of the Democratic convention, Obama looked unbeatable. Now? Nobody knows. You try having your worldview validated for weeks and then suddenly placed in doubt. One last thing. If this weekend the polls start breaking for McCain, don’t expect us to keep up with the story. We’re slow to see what we don’t want to see. And if we had to admit that McCain was doing better than we expected, we’d have to offer some reasons. Just look at what Howard Fineman found himself writing for Newsweek a couple of days ago. “Why hasn’t Obama run away with this? Because McCain has succeeded … in raising the hoary specter of ‘tax-and-spend’ liberals.” See what I mean? Writing that had to hurt.