by Todd Beeton, Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 11:10:30 AM EDT
Last night on MSNBC Rachel Maddow made an interesting observation: every time Hillary Clinton wins a primary, the narrative in the media becomes about counting down to the next "make or break" contest as though a loss for her would in fact end the campaign. Clinton keeps winning "when she needs to", of course, so the theory hasn't really been tested but Maddow I think quite rightly called this phenomenon the primary election equivalent of the Friedman unit. "2 more weeks...6 more weeks...2 more weeks." Adam Nagourney in today's NYTimes is a perfect example:
Even with her comfortable victory on Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton still faces significant, though certainly not insurmountable, hurdles to securing the nomination, and it remains possible that her candidacy could come to an end in as little as two weeks, when Indiana and North Carolina vote.
Maddow's point, of course, is that this is a ridiculous assertion and the media needs to stop falling for it; no matter what happens on May 6th, this. primary. will. continue. Hillary Clinton signaled as much with the timing of a couple upcoming fundraisers. From Ben Smith:
My colleague Ken Vogel notes that Clinton has planned two fundraisers -- one with Hillary, Chelsea, and Dorothy; one with the Arkansas delegation -- for the day after Indiana and North Carolina.
Another media narrative that gets propagated every time Clinton wins another primary is how bad the continued race is for the Democratic Party. Again, Nagourney, whose article, I should point out, is linked on the frontpage of Huffington Post with the alarmist headline: "And The Winner Is: John McCain," provides a case study:
For better or worse -- and many Democrats fear it is for worse -- the race goes on.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton defeated Senator Barack Obama in Pennsylvania on Tuesday by enough of a margin to continue a battle that Democrats increasingly believe is undermining their effort to unify the party and prepare for the general election against Senator John McCain.
I must give credit though, MSNBC's post-primary coverage today has given much air time to the opposing view. The heads of both the North Carolina and Indiana Democratic Parties were interviewed separately but essentially said the same thing: the energy and the boosts in registration and operations on the ground that the extended primary is affording their states will be good for the Democrat in November. And I just caught Matt Stoller on MSNBC as well, essentially re-iterating the spirit of his "Democrats Are Going To Be Fine" post from last night:
ANCHOR: Do you think Pennsylvania even matters?
STOLLER: Yeah, we have a huge registration advantage in Pennsylvania, activists are excited, voters voted, it was really good for Democrats. Democracy is a good thing. Now I think both candidates, Obama and Clinton, are leading McCain in Pennsylvania, so it's good.
What Matt is referring to here is this morning's Rasmussen Reports story "While Campaigning for Primary, both Democrats Gain Ground on McCain":
While Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton continue to compete against each other in Pennsylvania's Presidential Primary, both Democrats have opened a lead over John McCain in the Keystone State.
The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey in Pennsylvania finds Obama leading McCain 47% to 39% and Clinton with a 47% to 38% advantage. That's a significant change from a month ago when McCain was essentially even with both Democrats.
It's no accident that the talking heads who've been most ardently pushing the "Democrats in disarray" narrative have been rightwing pundits who have an interest in projecting their opposing party as weak. It would be nice if such a pillar of the liberal blogosphere as HuffPo didn't join the fun.
Update [2008-4-23 14:12:15 by Todd Beeton]:Along these same lines, Bill Daley, Obama's National Co-Chair, made a good point a few minutes ago on MSNBC:
But this is a tough process and as Senator Obama has said he's introducing himself, he is still new to the American people and so in a strange way this process may be very good for him in that he is able to go to parts of this country and make the case as a new fresh face on the American scene that he can make a difference.