It's the Media, Stupid
by CA Pol Junkie
by CA Pol Junkie
This primary campaign has been quite unlike any other. Political Wire has a handy reference to the conventional wisdom which crashed and burned:
* "The candidate who raises the most money the year before the election and leads in the polls at year's end is bound to get the nomination."
* "Organization is everything in Iowa."
* "New Hampshire voters are fiercely independent thinkers who pay no attention to the results from Iowa."
* "Labor support is crucial in a Democratic primary."
* "Capitol Hill is not the way to the White House."
* "A contested primary race weakens the nominee against an incumbent."
So what happened? We need to look at the role of the media in the campaign. In particular, they were very negative to Dean (unfairly so in some cases) and more positive to the rest in 2003 and before Iowa. I'm not suggesting for a minute that frustrated Dean supporters should blame the media. Bad reporting from the media is like when a pet rabbit chews through your telephone wires - it's just what they do if you give them the opportunity. Good media management is essential in a winning campaign, and Dean's was horrible. There have been many anecdotal reports of discussions with media personalities in Iowa where they said openly that they were being hard on Dean to make it a horse race. True or not, it was up to the Dean campaign to give the media their story, and they failed.
Clinton/Gore mastered media management with their "Rapid Response" to not let any negative story fester for more than one media cycle. George W. Bush was good enough (and Gore was bad enough) in 2000 to sway the outcome. Just because Dean failed the test doesn't mean Kerry will pass it, however - he hasn't even been tested. Let's hope the Kerry campaign gives the media the story between now and November. As Howard Dean ably proved, no advantages can't be outweighed by bad media.