Thursday, January 05, 2012

On Targets

OK, Iowa's over. I had anticipated more of a shakeout among the lesser candidates, but only Michele Bachmann has called it quits. Rick Perry thought about it, and then decided to stay in the race. Apparently Texas doesn't need his presence right now and he has access to money, so he's keeping on keeping on. Newt Gingrich didn't fare too well either, but the pugnacious one is ready for the next battles. After all, the largest newspaper in New Hampshire endorsed him weeks ago and he figures to do better in South Carolina.

Ron Paul made it into the top tier of candidates with his strong third place finish. He also expects to do well in New Hampshire because of his libertarianism, although I doubt he will do nearly as well in South Carolina, the two states that will vote in January. At that point I think he will be forced to consider a third party candidacy.

That leaves Rick Santorum, who almost took Iowa. Some wags have suggested that Santorum did well because it was his turn to be "not Mitt" and the timing was perfect for a victory in Iowa. He won't be as lucky in New Hampshire for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that he's now in the spotlight (or the headlights) and will now get the attention that Bachmann, Cain, Perry, and Gingrich got after their surges. That attention, Jon Healey opines, will not be kind.

The Iowa Republican caucuses Tuesday produced one clear loser: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who failed to crack double digits despite campaigning intensively. The winner isn't so clear, given how few votes separated Mitt Romney and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). But Romney's showing was expected and Santorum's was not -- at least not until a few days ago, when surveys confirmed his meteoric ascendancy.

That means Santorum comes out of Iowa with momentum, credibility and new-found attention. But it also means he'll have a huge target on his back.

The Iowa caucuses demonstrated how effectively rival campaigns and independent, well-heeled "super PACs" can sour the public on a candidate. Just look at former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who went from hero to zero (OK, low double digits) in about a week. ...'s hard to predict the kind of attacks Santorum will draw, or whether he'll fade as quickly as Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Gingrich did once they drew the media's (and their rivals') withering glare.
[Emphasis added]

It's that last comment that bears a little examination: the role of the media in all of this. Santorum was pretty much ignored by the media until the last couple of days of the Iowa campaign, a fact that Santorum lamented throughout the campaign. Now, with a near win, he's a target for "the media's withering glare."

There is, I suppose, nothing wrong with not paying attention to a candidate everyone considers to be from the fringe. Nor is there anything wrong with paying attention once that fringe candidate has some success. What is distasteful, however, is how that "withering glare" is focused, what provides the ammunition about to be discharged. If the coverage goes back to Santorum's past record as a senator from Pennsylvania, that's appropriate. If the coverage parses each of his statements during the remainder of the campaign, that's appropriate as well.

What's inappropriate, however, is letting the candidate's opposition do the press's job for them. Simply reciting the outrageous claims of a television ad run by a super PAC doesn't qualify for anything beyond giving that super PAC more bang for its buck. Noting the jabs issued by the opponent, in this case Mitt Romney, without comment has the same effect. Yet this is exactly what much of the coverage has consisted of as each "not Mitt" was taken down and cast aside. It's as if the press is who's making the selection of the nominee in collusion with that nominee.

And that is bad, very bad, for a democracy.

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Blogger Charles said...

Diane says, "It's as if the press is who's making the selection of the nominee in collusion with that nominee."

"As if?"

On FOX, they're open about it. However, by excluding candidates like Gary Johnson and Buddy Roemer from the debates, they pretty well guaranteed that either an extremist or the infinitely manipulable Romney would end up as the nominee. I don't know why Huntsman hasn't gotten any mojo, but I guess the combination of being qualified, Mormon, and sane did work against him.

Santorum probably is a goner. Even South Carolina won't vote for him when his record is examined. What that likely means is that Romney and Paul will be facing off. In the "Triangular Trade" that Michael Lind says comprises the GOP, Fundamentalists and libertarians and the Paranoid Right will support Paul over Romney, while Corporatists and some evangelicals will support Romney over Paul. Paul has the better on-the-ground machine. Romney has the money, but that could change in an instant as the anti-Mitt forces find a new Great White Dope.

I'm still predicting a brokered convention, with some hero figure like David Petraeus becoming the nominee.


1:27 PM  

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