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September 26, 2010

Momentum Watch in the Miami Herald

Last week I wrote about keeping an eye on spin in MFM articles about polls, particularly spin leading to conclusions about momentum.

Momentum is a placeholder for "energy." If a candidate has momentum, then he's doing better and, more importantly, his supporters believe they are doing better. There's a psychological benefit to being on the team whose fortunes are looking up. This is particularly attractive for the weakminded independents who haven't picked a team yet. Which means, even more importantly, the person with momentum can pick off wavering voters, that is someone with a slight, but not compelling preference for another candidate.

This, of course, adds to the impression that the momentum-designated candidate has momentum and causes other voters to vacillate. So on and so forth until there's a sudden rush to the candidate with momentum. People want to vote for a winner, especially if there's some heartwarming underdog bullshit.

Which leads me to this article from the Miami Herald this morning. The headline:

Democrat Kendrick Meek advances uphill in Senate race against Crist, Rubio

Now right there, just the headline and seeing nothing else (a not uncommon situation for news consumers), it gives the impression that Meek has momentum. That he's making important gains against Crist and Rubio. It signals to Democrats and independents who may be thinking about supporting Crist that Meek isn't a dead candidate. That they should think about coming over to the winning guy.

Now let's look at the article. First and second paragraphs are about black leaders rallying to Meek. Then:

On paper, the 44-year-old Meek appears to be a dream candidate for the Democratic Party: A loyal disciple in Congress and the Florida Legislature known for scuffling with former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush. The first statewide candidate to qualify for the Florida ballot by gathering voter signatures, about 125,000 in all. The victorious underdog in last month's Democratic primary against a hard-charging billionaire.

There's so much cocksucking going on in that paragraph, the writer couldn't even use complete sentences. Keep reading:

Still, Crist — who cast off his lifelong Republican affiliation just five months ago to avert a drubbing by Marco Rubio in the GOP primary — continues to peel away enough Democrats to keep Meek at bay. But the tide is turning, according to a Mason-Dixon poll released Saturday that showed Meek in striking distance of Crist.

Translation: "Hey indeptards, he's a "dream candidate" and his campaign is rockin! You know, because it said it right there in the Miami Herald. Meek's campaign is going to run TV and radio ads quoting this!"

And now a small dose of reality. Here's the fifth paragraph, for the two people who read that far down in a Miami Herald article:

The survey found Rubio expanding his lead to 40 percent, Crist slipping to 28 percent and Meek rising to 23 percent. The Sept. 20-22 survey of 625 likely voters has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Homo sez whut? Meek, the "dream candidate" who has "advanced uphill" and for whom "the tide is turning" is still losing. No change. No change means no momentum. He's slightly made up ground on Crist, who is...wait for it...also losing. No change. No momentum at all. This is a lame-ass love-letter.

This isn't good news for Meek. This is awful news for Crist. And this such fantastically good news for Rubio, I want to dip my balls in it. The number-one fear for his campaign is that Meek would look so weak that loss-averse Dems and independents would pull the lever for Crist just to avoid having Rubio win.

No fear of that now.

The MFM are so eager to designate Meek the candidate with momentum, they're helping out Rubio. None of which would be an issue, if the author hadn't attempted the momentum spin "Meek advances uphill against Rubio, Crist; the tide is turning!" While technically true, so is this: "Meek still trails Rubio by 17 points; he's going to lose."

And did you catch that one little detail? Look again:

The survey found Rubio expanding his lead to 40 percent, Crist slipping to 28 percent and Meek rising to 23 percent.

Ah ha! See it now? Rubio is the candidate "advancing uphill." He expanded his lead. He's got momentum and he's winning.


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posted by Gabriel Malor at 11:42 AM

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