Not Even The Media Loves Mccain *that* Much

by Jason Zengerle | February 5, 2008

As someone who freely acknowledges the media's love for John McCain, let me say that I think it's wrong to argue that the media played much of a role in McCain's comeback. Just remember, it was the very same media that wrote him off in the first place. Which brings me to an emerging meme I've noticed in the last day: the notion that even if Romney does well tonight, he's screwed because the media won't allow him to win the media narrative battle over the results. To take one example, here's Ross Douthat singing the Ballad of Mitt:

In the absolute best-case scenario for his campaign, he’ll win California going away and several other close states (Missouri, Georgia, etc) into the bargain. Given the state of the race just a week ago, this would be a remarkable turnaround. But for Romney to have any hope of pulling the inside straight he needs to win the nomination, he’ll need the press to report it that way, to cast him as the “comeback kid” even though McCain will still have won more states and delegates, both today and overall. And the media, as you may have noticed from time to time in this election cycle, likes McCain an awful lot more than it likes Romney. Which means that if there’s a spin war to be won tomorrow, don’t put your money on Mitt.

I'm terrible with predictions, but I'll make one anyway: if Romney wins California, the media will play it as a huge defeat for McCain--one that will prevent him from being coronated the GOP nominee for at least another week. Why? Because if Romney wins California, the media will be able to make a big deal out of the fact that, on the eve of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocius Tuesday, Romney was in California stumping for votes while McCain was in Massachusetts trying to poke a finger in Romney's eye. In fact, the results from California aren't even in yet and the media's already doing that. Here's Time's Ana Marie Cox:

McCain spent the weekend in Massachusetts and New England; aides admit that the dash into Romney's backyard was prompted by the slim hope (like, Mitt has a double-digit-lead-slim) that McCain might -- just might -- be competitive with the governor in the state that he so proudly boasts about in his stump-speech-cum-resume. In discussing this, McCain staffers practically rubbed their hands together and cackled.

One consultant compared their Boston overnight to Bush visiting Arizona in 2000. It probably felt good at the time, but if they lose California by even a hair (perhaps especially a hair), then their premature victory boogey will seem way off the beat.

The one thing the media loves more than McCain is a good story. And a Romney win in California--particularly after McCain's hubristic trip to Massachusetts--is a very good story.

--Jason Zengerle 

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/the-plank/not-even-the-media-loves-mccain-much