Things continue to swing Romney’s way, but . . .

| June 8 2012
Christopher Cook

Has the race for president reached a “tipping point“?

Every four years, the race for the White House is defined by a turning point, a period when the contest breaks toward one side and the other can never recover. In the winter and spring of 1996, a rebounding economy gave Bill Clinton a lead over Bob Dole that he never relinquished. In 2008, the growing economic crisis in early September shut down any hope that Sen. John McCain‘s presidential campaign had left.

If Republican Mitt Romney is inaugurated as president in January, history may look to June as the month in which President Obama’s fate was sealed.

Things can certainly change again in Obama’s favor. If the unemployment numbers tick back down, for example, even by 1/10th of 1%, the media from here to Timbuktu will be working overtime to spin it as the greatest economic recovery in decades.

Back in 2005, when the economy was in pretty decent shape and gas prices were comparatively low, the media was working overtime to drag down everyone’s mood on the economy, and based on opinion polls, it was having some effect. They were doing 5 times as many stories on “high gas prices” than they are now, for prices that were almost two dollars lower than they are now.

Back in March, the media took a small decrease in the unemployment rate and spun it into good news. Never mind that it was entirely due to the continued plunge of the labor force participation rate to 30 years lows, rather than to new jobs being created. Happy days were just around the corner! The president’s approval rating was below 50, and then the media, with their considerable power, managed to lighten people’s moods about the economy enough to lift Obama’s fortunes. He went above 50 and his polling numbers improved.

There was nothing to be light about. This economy has stagnated. The “recovery” is the slowest since the Depression. Uncertainty is stalling business. The debt is a damper on future expectations. The situation is serious. And yet the media managed to take a very small change in the U-3 unemployment number and turn it into something far more than it was. That is not something that they would do for a Republican.

I am not trying to be pessimistic at all. In fact, I do think this is a turning point, and I do think this race is Romney’s to lose. I have believed that for a while now. But we must be very careful. When a Republican is in power, the media will fixate on the tiniest piece of bad news and spin it into the end of life as we know it. When a Democrat’s fortunes are on the line, they will take the tiniest sliver of good news and focus all their lights upon it, to make it shine out like a shaft of gold even when all around is dark. That’s how they roll.

So yes, we are at a turning point in this race. Things are going well for Romney, and they’re going south for Obama in a hurry. But do not underestimate the media’s ability to spin, and do not for a moment believe that they will not do so to the very best of their ability the first chance they get.

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