Friday, December 14, 2007
Providence Journal: Media Shortchange Edwards
From an excellent article earlier this month that matches the findings of a recent Harvard study and admission by the New York Times public editor, the fact is that the media decided long ago that this Democratic presidential nomination race was between Obama and Hillary, when actually Edwards had been systematically talking about the issues and reaching out to voters in all four of the first primary states and many visits to states like California.
What about John Edwards? The big media portray the Democratic race as a death-match between the Clinton machine and the Obama phenom. Edwards comes off as a plodder in the shadow of two glamour pusses.
Back in the world of plain people, the story looks somewhat different. A new Des Moines Register poll shows 28 percent of likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers preferring Barack Obama, 25 percent for Hillary Clinton and 23 percent for Edwards. That sounds like a three-way race to me.
Also consider the caucus rules. Within a caucus site, people whose candidate gets less than 15 percent of the total can throw their support to another contender. Edwards now leads the Democratic pack as the likely participants' second choice, according to a recent Rasmussen poll.
The former senator from North Carolina seems definitely in the game. So why is the race commonly seen as a two-titan contest? The easy explanation, that much of the media are lazy, would not be far off. But something else is going on.
We live in a political culture dominated by celebrity journalists covering celebrity politicians. Big media want to consort with the big stars — currently New York Sen. Clinton (plus Bill) and the charismatic Illinois Sen. Obama (with Oprah in his entourage).
...The big-gun cameras rarely focus on less-glamorous candidates discussing middle-class anxieties in small auditoriums and town halls. That's why they don't watch Edwards the way they do Clinton and Obama. Only the public watches.