Opinion: Doug Thompson

Pundits can’t do math
By Doug Thompson

Wow. Political punditry in this country is awful.
I don’t necessarily exclude myself. I’m just less glad every day to be in this bunch. Oh well. It still beats working.
Let’s look at some specifics .
ABC came out with a poll recently that showed Barack Obama was in the lead in Iowa, though in a statistical dead heat with Hillary Clinton. Clinton was leading John Edwards in another statistical dead heat.
The story based on that poll declared, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a race.” It also credited Obama with finding the right message and getting on the right track. The rest of the presidential press pack moved right along with the story.
It was all bull. As ABC’s own head of polling said in his blog — which was linked, at least — the real news was that John Edwards had dropped four points and Obama had picked up three. The Edwards campaign is verging on collapse, for he simply must win in Iowa. He’s bet everything upon it.
Before I found the blog, I read article and then the poll. After that, I went back to the article and electronically scanned it for “Edwards.” Nope, I hadn’t missed it: The story made absolutely no mention of Edward’s four-point drop. None. Zero. Zip. It only mentioned what his new percentage was without mentioning the old one in July. Several dozen other stories based on the ABC poll — or, more accurately, on ABC’s coverage of its own poll — didn’t mention the drop either. It was only after that searching that I found the blog of ABC’s head of polling.
At least somebody knew what he was talking about.
The  poll itself said Edwards’ drop was within the margin of error. OK. But this latest poll also showed that Edwards was 8 points behind Obama and 4 points behind Clinton, all in a poll with a 4.5 percent margin of error. In short, it was a statistical certainty that Edwards, the man who must win Iowa, was running second. It was also a safe bet that he was really running third.
I guess Edwards’ crumbling wasn’t as exciting as the possibility that Hillary was stumbling or Obama was turning this into a race. However, Edwards’ slipping is a significant news story that has the big advantage of being legitimate — which is media jargon for being the truth.
It sure looks to me that the people who don’t want Clinton to get the nomination have wisely decided that it’s time to settle on one candidate, and have wisely settled on Obama.
The anti-Hillary folks have begun eating their dead. The first bite came out of John Edwards.
The GOP primary is vastly more interesting, mainly because it’s really a race. Unfortunately, the coverage over there is only marginally better.
People from Arkansas who don’t like Mike Huckabee keep wondering when the national media is going to expose his gift-taking and thin skin, or his taxing ways.
Who are we kidding? The media covering this race would rather shoot Cinderella than take out Huckabee. He’s the most interesting thing in either presidential primary.
Thin-skinned? I’ve covered the man for years and got under that thin skin a few times myself. I never saw much of it on the campaign trail. He got huffy and puffy over things that happened to him between campaigns — while governor. He’s too good a campaigner to lose his temper on campaign, unless it was to his advantage.
No, the biggest fault with most — not all — of the press is that they are giving too much credit to Huckabee for his rise and not enough to the vacuum above him. Clearly, the top-financed GOP candidates are not appealing to Republicans. Weirdly, this is interpreted as a bonus by most of the news coverage. The Republicans will nominate someone more electable, or so the theory goes.
What a joke. What most Republican voters (and voters in general) want is a competent George W. Bush. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but the idea that Republicans can restore voters’ trust in their party by abandoning the party’s ideals is silly.

Categories: Legacy Archive