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August 27, 2007

The Edwards Campaign and the Media

I don't think I agree that John Edwards' "inability to get any substantive purchase in the national press has a lot to do with the very nature of [his] positions."  So far as I can tell, the only (positive) coverage Edwards gets in the press comes from his poverty focus, health care plan, or general reformism.  These positions, which many in the media agree with, are gradually being overwhelmed by the fact that he's stagnating or dropping in national polls and has lost his once commanding lead in Iowa, which makes him look like an increasingly fading presence.  None of this explains why the haircut stuff has gotten so much play, but I'd actually chalk that up not to the media have a substantive problem with his dislike of insurance companies, but with the media being awful, and all-too-easily led around by the right wing noise machine. Which is, in some ways, worse.

The funny thing is, this is probably Edwards' best hope.  If the media writes him off beforehand, that's better for his campaign, as the media tends to believe its own storylines.  If he really can win Iowa, it's crucial that it doesn't look like he will win Iowa.  Otherwise, his win will have no bounce.  And while I'm increasingly pessimistic on Edwards' chances, this speech could well become the "Two Americas" of this campaign.

August 27, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

welcome home:)

Posted by: jacqueline | Aug 27, 2007 11:26:37 AM

"I don't think I agree that John Edwards' "inability to get any substantive purchase in the national press has a lot to do with the very nature of [his] positions."

Really? The Washington press corp has never been favorable towards lefty populism.

Such a situation will remain in place until a lefty populist wins the WH, at which point the Washington press corp will suddenly become enamored with lefty populism.

-----

"And while I'm increasingly pessimistic on Edwards' chances"

Huh. I'm actually more optimistic about Edwards' chances than I've been this entire calendar year. With the "corrupt insiders" line of attack, he's actually found an electoral message that HRC won't be able to easily deflect.

Posted by: Petey | Aug 27, 2007 11:28:00 AM

...except that the "Two Americas" speech didn't really close the deal.

I didn't realize Trippi was with Edwards; that explains a few things. And while I admire Trippi's savvy approach to make Rove look like he's playing double secret black ops" strategy, I think these kind of meta-analyses can get a bit overblown - if nothing else, Rove's capital as a real player in these things is pretty limp at this point.

And I don't think the right wing noise machine alone explains the media's attention to surface details with Edwards; I still think the problem here is real, and it's a thing about seeming too pretty/handsome, too perfect, too plastic. In part, it's a healthy thing about not wanting to buy into another all image/no substance performance like Bush's in 2000, but it's also fascinated with the kind of hair and clothes details that sell papers, whether it's movie stars or politicians. Mitt Romney has this problem, too - too good looking for his own good. My own theory is that a scruffy, ugged up Edwards who didn't look quite so flawless would defuse some of that attention, make him seem a little more real. Hoping that substantive can surpass surface, I think, is ignoring what Americans pay attention to, even if it is the wrong thing. Because substantively, I think, is where Edwards is really having trouble differentiating himself from at least Obama, and even Clinton. Surface just makes a nice, easy to blame alternative.

Posted by: weboy | Aug 27, 2007 11:32:02 AM

The problem is that the Edwards team never fashiioned a genuine campaign. Instead they put out all of his policy stuff up front and expected that campaign energy would follow. Instead they created a vacuum that has been filled with various negative stuff: the bloggers, the haircut story, the house (half the size of the White House), the hedge fund employment (what did he this trained trial lawyer do to justify 1/2 mill?), the non-profit foundation, and (the latest) the evil-Fox-funding of his pre-campaign tour with the rolling out of his book on homes. And, of course, the skirmishes with Ann Coulter which, while helping to raise money, don't genuinely contribute to a campaign.

The Obama campaign has been far, far smarter in all of this.

And what will happen with what most expect to be dismal $$$ for the third quarter?

Posted by: PaulD | Aug 27, 2007 11:32:56 AM

So far as I can tell, the only (positive) coverage Edwards gets in the press comes from his poverty focus, health care plan, or general reformism.

I haven't seen this. The only time the national media covers Edwards re poverty is when they are suggesting he is a hypocrite. In fact, that seems to be 90% of the media's coverage of the Edwards campaign. The media apparently refuses to accept that poverty is an important issue for this nation.

Posted by: NotATurtle | Aug 27, 2007 11:37:24 AM

"If he really can win Iowa, it's crucial that it doesn't look like he will win Iowa. Otherwise, his win will have no bounce."

I've never bought this logic. While an unexpected win certainly does pay some dividends over an expected win, an Iowa win for Edwards would be a game changer whether he's been leading in the polls ahead of time or not.

Posted by: Petey | Aug 27, 2007 11:53:26 AM

"My own theory is that a scruffy, ugged up Edwards who didn't look quite so flawless would defuse some of that attention, make him seem a little more real."

I know! Let's get Naomi Wolf to tell him to look scruffy!

Posted by: Herschel | Aug 27, 2007 11:54:36 AM

Sometimes Ezra is truly clueless

here's a hint" Just because your friends say that want to do something about poverty doesn't mean they really do. At some point, most in the media realize that if other peoples kids have more opportunities, their own will have less.

So no, the media is not favorable to left-wing populism. If it was, it wouldn't be so overwhelmingly conservative. Ezra would have us ignore the fact that the press fetishizes conservative candidates. Otherwise it's just too obvious why they hate the liberal ones.

Posted by: soullite | Aug 27, 2007 11:55:28 AM

Petey is right, ultimately. Until someone wins Iowa, the other polls don't mean anything. They will all change the day after the Iowa primary, and there is no reason to pretend they won't. If Edwards win Iowa by 5 points, and it looked neck-and-neck, it will change the game as surely if he won by 5 and he was down by 15. The extent of the impact might differ a little, but until Iowa the rest of these polls are a waste of money.

Posted by: soullite | Aug 27, 2007 11:59:30 AM

I'd actually chalk that up not to the media have a substantive problem with his dislike of insurance companies, but with the media being awful, and all-too-easily led around by the right wing noise machine. Which is, in some ways, worse.

Phooey. Why isn't Kucinich's campaign getting media traction? It's not because of the media being led by the right-wing noise machine. (They'd love to run against him.) It's because he's not doing well in polling. Edwards gets the coverage his place in the polls would dictate. The haircut gets play for the same reason Dan Quayle's spelling gaffe got so much play: it's a vivid image that fits with some issues about the candidate. Is that wrong? No liberal I knew when Quayle was around thought so.

Liberals need to try to wean themselves from blaming the media for so many things that are perfectly right or at least normal and work both ways.

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 27, 2007 12:15:54 PM

Edwards gets the coverage his place in the polls would dictate.

Eh - Mitt Romney seems to get a lot more press, and his standing in the polls is similar to Edwards's.


The haircut gets play for the same reason Dan Quayle's spelling gaffe got so much play: it's a vivid image that fits with some issues about the candidate. Is that wrong? No liberal I knew when Quayle was around thought so.

What "issues" are you referring to? Whether or not a candidate is quite stupid seems important, how much they spend on their hair not so much.

Posted by: Jason G. | Aug 27, 2007 12:24:23 PM

True--the "money primary" also counts--Romney has established himself in that as well as some polls. And Romney gets coverage on a par with Edwards in most respects, including the focus on side issues.

The haircut issues have been disussed to death, about Edwards' "Two Americas" vs which America he lives in, and secondarily his being seen as a pretty boy, something that affects his leadership profile (see weboy's post).

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 27, 2007 12:33:55 PM

Such a situation will remain in place until a lefty populist wins the WH, at which point the Washington press corp will suddenly become enamored with lefty populism.

My bet is the opposite. Were Edwards or some hypothetical 'lefty populist' to win the White House, we would see a return and, in fact, over-amplification of the most weirded-out, hyperactive anti-Clintonite / Monica phase of Big Media, where every Whitewater allegation is a national emergency, and every WH official who ever blogged something on a lefty site will now be a screaming security risk for Our Homeland, and every sane act of foreign policy would be indulging in dangerous demagoguery.

Posted by: El Cid | Aug 27, 2007 12:47:16 PM

I really can't explain why Edwards is getting so little traction, either by word of mouth, fundraising, media coverage of the positive variety, etc.

I suspect that the media and much of the punditsphere (and probably the blogosphere as well) is just not set up to handle a true three-way race. Hillary is female, Barak is black, and Edwards is what? Pretty?

I do think that comments above on the media not being willing to take a truly left-centered candidate seriously has great merit given how the left has been 'treated' like forever (at least since Reagan).

I hope Edwards takes Iowa just to mix things up. But his prospects for the follow-on primaries doesn't look so good - although Iowa did wonders for Kerry.

Is it possible that Edwards is not just 'likeable' enough among the beer drinking sects?

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Aug 27, 2007 12:54:19 PM

"it's crucial that it doesn't look like he will win Iowa. Otherwise, his win will have no bounce."

Wrong. Very wrong. Romney got a big bounce from winning a fricking straw poll, in which many contender didn't participate, a straw poll everyone knew he was going to win. Fact is, many voters' first glimpse of the campaign will show them Edwards on a podium in Iowa, preaching folksy populism. At the same time, the media will be running stories Like "The end of Hillary's inevitability" and "What Happened to Obama?" and "Edwards leading against GOP contenders."

If you'd told me at the beginning of the summer, in the midst of Haircut and stories of his fundraising woes, that Edwards would still be leading in Iowa and tied with Obama for second in New Hampshire and holding steadyh nationally, I'd have said No Way.


Posted by: david mizner | Aug 27, 2007 12:55:48 PM

uhm- with all due respect, this is more of the political junkie's the race is over before a single vote has been cast prognostication. here's the deal- and I am shocked by it too. Many people aren't going to make a decision until 2 or 3 weeks at best out from the primary races. Most of those people aren't going to even vote. Then with this limited pool, which is still undecided (most polls are pushing leaners) we will get a sense of the momentum. peo keep saying this is unique- and yet the behavior of all involved is exactly the same as before. I do agree- Edwards best bet however is the element of underdog as comeback kid, a la another insurgent that never lead once in the polls in 1991 going into 1992- that man? well you know him as Bill Clinton.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 27, 2007 12:56:13 PM

"The haircut issues have been disussed to death, about Edwards' "Two Americas" vs which America he lives in, and secondarily his being seen as a pretty boy, something that affects his leadership profile (see weboy's post)."

At least Edwards has actually lived in both Americas, versus many of the posters who regularly come on here claiming some kind of superiority with regard to his understanding of these issues.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 27, 2007 12:59:37 PM

I'm sure you're kidding, akaison. No one would challenge your superiority on this. I, for one, have been so in awe of your experiential superiority that I'm still hoping you'll share your experience-based insights with us, but so far you've kept them to yourself.

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 27, 2007 1:15:01 PM

The point is not about my experience Sanpete. The point is those of you who are passing judgment about a guy who actually pulled himself up by his bootscrape when many of you have no did the same. One of the reasons I respect Edwards is because he has done so versus the elitist crap I see passing here for understanding the poor. My friend who works on this issue, who like me comes out of a background of being poor, makes similar commentary about those who have no experienced really being in the working class poor, and how they often pass judgement of those of us who have actually, you know got dirt on our hands for a living at one point or another.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 27, 2007 1:44:32 PM

At least Edwards has actually lived in both Americas, versus many of the posters who regularly come on here claiming some kind of superiority with regard to his understanding of these issues.

Right on time. My paternal grandfather worked in a textile mill and both my parents spent large portions of their childhood living in houses with outdoor privies. Noblesse oblige is a fine thing no doubt but hardly a substitute for a direct connection to the experiences of working people.

Posted by: WB Reeves | Aug 27, 2007 1:49:55 PM

"At least Edwards has actually lived in both Americas, versus many of the posters who regularly come on here claiming some kind of superiority with regard to his understanding of these issues."

Give me a break, Edwards was "poor" all the way up to about 3 yrs old. His father was in mill management. Politicians always want to seem as poor as possible without actually being poor, because being poor actually, you know, sucks.

By that standard I'm poor because when I was born in '69 my dad worked sales in Sears for $100.00/wk. We aparently lived in a small apartment that makes Edward's old house look quite nice. Fortunately for me and my family, he left there and made a comfortable living. But by that logic, I "pulled myself up by my bootstraps" because we were poor at one point, even though I don't remember it. Edward's was solidly middle class and is now solidly quite wealthy, and his "I was so durn poor" schtick is one reason so many people don't like him.

Posted by: Scott | Aug 27, 2007 2:08:21 PM

"I was so durn poor" schtick is one reason so many people don't like him."

From Rasmussen today: Edwards is up 49-41 on Giuliani and 49-35 on Thompson.

Imagine how well he'd be doing if people liked him.

Posted by: david mizner | Aug 27, 2007 2:29:04 PM

And who here has been passing judgment on Edwards, akaison? I thought we were talking about the press and why his campaign hasn't gotten more traction.

both my parents spent large portions of their childhood living in houses with outdoor privies

Yup, mine too, both staunch conservative Republicans. Experts on poverty, nonetheless.

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 27, 2007 2:38:34 PM

" My paternal grandfather worked in a textile mill and both my parents spent large portions of their childhood living in houses with outdoor privies."

I love how people want the imprimatur of being poor again, without actually being poor, so, like Edwards, they grab onto their parents, grandparents whatever, so they can show that they too, know about being poor. Turn it around, "my kids work in a mill and spend a large portion of their life in houses with outdoor privies". Would anyone ever make such a boast?

Posted by: Scott | Aug 27, 2007 3:01:40 PM

weboy for one if you bother to read other people along this same thread. scott for another. actually several. the often most cited reason for not liking edwards in terms of his discussion of poverty is that he is inauthentic. my point is that its truly bizzare to here those who have never been amongst the working poor talk about the authenticity of someone who has. you can say you don't agree with his policies. you can say he's too much of a politician. all of that's fair game. but to question the 'authencity' of someone who has actually been poor on whether he cares about the issue when he is doing everything to talk about the issue when no one else is- is just perverse in the extreme. it strikes me as similar to the arguments where people questioned kerry's or cleleland's patriotism. it's a line that reflects more about the speaker than the person they are judging.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 27, 2007 3:05:26 PM

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