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September 03, 2013

Building Media Consensus: Sure Romney Got Terrible Media Coverage But It Was His Fault

The buzz in the political media world this weekend is an 85 page paper written by CNN reporter Peter Hamby which examined the role of new media in the most recent campaign. Hamby contrasts the relatively sedate pace of campaigns prior to emergence of technologies like Twitter, small HD cameras, laptops and mobile devices that allow for the collection and dissemination of more information than ever before with the never-ending, frenetic pace of the 2012 race.

Much of the conversation has been around the Romney campaigns reaction to this never ending news gathering world and how their closed-off, top down control approach backfired.

“If I had to pick three words to characterize the embeds, it would be young, inexperienced and angry,” an unnamed Romney adviser told Mr. Hamby.

Maggie Haberman, senior political reporter for Politico, told me, echoing remarks she had made to Mr. Hamby, that “the Romney campaign had a natural mistrust of the press, in part because he had seen his father savaged in the press decades ago.” She continued, “Beyond the mistrust, there was an outright hostility. They simply did not deal with reporters, and sometimes it was nasty, and I think they paid a price.”

The most infamous instance of Romney paying "a price" for his approach to press relations is the well known "what about your gaffes?" question while in Europe.

Maybe Team Romney (more about them in a bit) was aloof from the media. Maybe they were even hostile but that isn't an excuse for the unprofessional nature of much of the media's coverage of Romney. More importantly, it simply ignores the main fact at play...reporters are overwhelmingly liberal and wanted to destroy Romney (or any Republican).

The idea that if the GOP picked a more media friendly candidate they would get better coverage is laughable.

One need look back no further than 2008 when John McCain was running. McCain was a longtime "good Republican" to the media elites because A-He spent a good deal of his career attacking other Republicans, especially conservatives and B-He would flatter and court them. Even Howie Kurtz admitted as much.

And how was McCain, the anti-Romney when it came to press relations rewarded? With Vicki Iseman hit jobs and overwhelmingly negative coverage.

Can you imagine if Romney did any of those things?

Let's just admit what we all know, the revolving door between the media and Democrats just keeps spinning.

And let's not forget that for all the fawning media coverage Obama recieved in 2008, he wasn't exactly slobbering all over the media himself. Remember "Why can't I just eat my waffles?", "'Guys, I mean come on. I just answered like eight questions.", calling a female reporter "sweetie" and cutting reporters off.

Obama's obvious disdain for the media didn't hurt him. In a sick way it seemed to make them love him even more.

Now, that's not to say the Romney campaign didn't suck.

Consider Romney campaign manager Stuart Stevens's lament about the experience level of reporters (pdf).

“Look at their experience level,” Stevens said of the Romney press corps. “It’s a tradition that newspapers have long had, a long and honored tradition of working people up through beats and merit. Look at Adam Nagourney. A local reporter banging around New York. You go up to Albany and get yelled at by Tim Russert when he’s a flack for Cuomo and he’s calling you at four in the morning screaming at you. And then you cover local politics around D.C. and you cover the Hill. And then you begin to cover presidential politics. Either you think that works and it gives you texture and meaning, or you are going to throw all that out and say, okay, you are going to come to this fresh The difference just being able to talk to someone who has that context is just night and day.”

In a fit of nostalgia, Stevens said he missed The Washington Post’s David Broder, who would fly to a swing state, consult with a few local honchos, and then go spend time with seniors or veterans and soak in their observations for his columns. Reporters covering Romney, he claimed, had no interest in talking to voters or understanding the mood of the country.

So much stupid there.

Does Stevens really think he'd have gotten better coverage for Romney from Nagourney and Broder? What world is he living in? Oh right, the Washington, DC bubble where writers for the NY Times and Washington Post are ok. I mean, they share the same disgust for conservatives "out there" as the professional GOP class so it's all good.

(Aside: How bad is the GOP in general in dealing with the establishment media and how in the bag for Democrats are they? Look at this quote in Hamby's paper from the George W. Bush campaign in 2000:

"Then there were the major weekly news magazines—Time and Newsweek—which once housed many of journalism’s liveliest storytellers and were seen by campaigns as crucial agenda-setters for media elites and voters alike.

Karen Hughes placed a premium on courting the magazine writers covering the Bush’s 2000 campaign—including Time’s Jay Carney, now President Obama’s White House spokesman. Once Bush was in the White House, Hughes even held a weekly briefing for magazine writers, a routine that no longer exists.

“If they chose to put something on the cover it could drive stories for several days,” Hughes said of the two magazines. “They were important.”"

Yeah, that Jay Carney was key to getting the GOP message out.)

Back to team Romney.

Stevens and his people may have been right about the inexperience and hostility of the reporters covering them but so what? All Republicans face that. Why didn't they develop a strategy to use the inexperience and need to fill time to their advantage? Flatter them, give them things to report that work for you. Do the whole, "hold your friends close and your enemies closer" thing. And if they still twist that and screw you over...attack them. Make them the issue. Get something out of it. Go full Newt or Christie on them if all else fails.

McCain tried to flatter and woo the press, Romney stonewalled them. The next GOP nominee is going to have to develop some kind of judo to deal with the press because they are going to still be biased liberals.

Complaining about it won't change it so any serious candidate for the nomination and the presidency better have a game plan going in. You can't say you weren't aware of who the media are.

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posted by DrewM. at 10:41 AM

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