COMMENTS: Stuck in the Midterm Formula

In Tyndall Report's survey of Campaign 2010 coverage last month, I pointed to the difficulty that the nightly newscasts have face in trying to turn a series of local and state contests into a national story. I isolated two apparent solutions: first, to turn the election into a referendum on Barack Obama; second, to focus on the idiosyncratic, even downright flakey, policy proposals of Tea Party insurgents running on the Republican line.

Here I a trio of perfect exhibits. CBS and ABC both jumped on a gay-bashing libel by Carl Paladino, the Tea Party's candidate for Governor of New York. Paladino accused homosexuals of brainwashing children. In particular, he objected to Gay Pride marchers who "wear little Speedos" and "grind at each other." ABC's Linsey Davis called the remarks "especially insensitive." CBS' Byron Pitts did not characterize Paladino's words himself, one way or the other himself. "Those attitudes kill," was how he quoted Jarrett Barrios of GLAAD. NBC turned to Chuck Todd for an explanation of the uphill battle Democrats are facing so he personalized it around the figure of Barack Obama, tracing his campaign stops in Philadelphia and Miami. "The White House is still searching for a message that is going to resonate, now with the President focusing all of his efforts on trying to get Democratic voters to the polls."

On the other hand, ABC's man on the White House beat was not so predictable. Jake Tapper looked into the funding of pro-Republican campaign ads, reporting that the Chamber of Commerce alone is outspending the Democratic National Committee. The Chamber as a whole accepts funds from foreign companies and foreign-based affiliates, Tapper noted. "Is there any proof that foreign money is funding political ads or activities? No." And NBC's Ron Mott in Florida managed a report on a likely Tea Party winner, Marco Rubio, without choosing the angle of outrageous soundbites. He quoted Rubio thus: "If you think the stimulus is a good idea, if you think Obamacare is a good idea, if you think this runaway debt is a good idea, then I am probably not your candidate." That pitch should win Rubio 40% of the vote, Mott predicted, and with the remaining 60% divided between Democrat Kendrick Meek and independent Charlie Crist, 40% should be a winning total.


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