People (mostly grumpy ones older than me) have always claimed Christmas keeps coming earlier every year, in the sense that retailers start trying to sell you Christmas whatnot earlier and earlier. I never really believed it, but now I have the smoking gun: Starbucks (at least the branch I frequent on the upper Upper West Side) is in full holiday mode, complete with a lame white plastic wreath on the door which bangs against the glass every time someone enters or exits. I thought the deal was you were supposed to wait until after Thanksgiving to start pushing Christmas, like the old rule about not wearing white after Labor Day. I guess it’s only a matter of time before kids go trick-or-treating dressed as Santa Claus ...
The final Spinsanity column for the Philadelphia Inquirer is out, judging the press’ performance at keeping the candidates honest this election season (short version: Not very good. And run those fact-checking pieces on the front page, not A27!).
Meanwhile, over on Campaign Desk, I have a post about the Associated Press already messing up the numbers on Social Security privatization, missing the mark by a couple of trillion dollars or so (as a colleague once put it, these sorts of stories are “BBI: Boring But Important").
And if you haven’t had your fill of post-election punditry yet, Campaign Desk is doing a big series on the failings of the press during the 2004 campaign.
A moment of unabashed gloating: All the President’s Spin is an Amazon.com editor’s pick for one of the top ten political books of the year. Take that, Maureen Dowd (and Michael Moore, and Swift Boat Veterans for “Truth,” and Graydon Carter, etc., etc.)!
Not that anyone really needs one more take on how Bush won this election, but since this is a blog, and that’s what bloggers do, here’s my analysis:
The red states got redder. Bush did better than 2000 in critical states he carried last time around. Republicans were more energized than Democrats. Everyone is pointing to a question in the national exit poll where 22 percent of voters told pollsters their number one issue in casting their vote was “moral values,” and that 81 percent of those who said that picked Bush. Certainly, conservative social values played an important part. But Bush did just as well among people who picked terrorism as their top issue (19 percent of the electorate).
Looking at what voters cited as their “most important quality” in their candidate, however, only eight percent of voters picked religious faith. Twenty-four percent said their most important quality was “will bring change” (Kerry landslide there, unsurprisingly). The key numbers, though: Seventeen percent picked “clear stand on the issues” (78 percent of them voted for Bush), 17 percent said “strong leader” (87 percent of them picked Bush), and 11 percent said “honest/trustworthy” (71 percent for Bush). So based on that, one could make the argument that this election was as much about leadership qualities (which could certainly qualify as “moral values") as it was about social issues.
Which leads me to another point: The spin worked for Bush. Those numbers suggest that the “flip-flop” charge that the Bush campaign wielded so aggressively was absolutely devastating to Kerry. (The press, I would argue, didn’t reinforce that charge as they did with some of the more spurious attacks on Gore in 2000, but they didn’t examine it critically until October.) Combined with the Bush campaign’s unending distortions of Kerry’s record (350/98 votes for higher taxes, saying Kerry thought of terrorism as a “nuisance,” attempts to suggest dissent weakened America, etc.). Certainly, some of the blame lies with the Kerry campaign for failing to effectively counter these charges (and for failing to articulate their candidates’ positions on the issues clearly). But the Bush attempts to define Kerry negatively—often unfairly—worked: 50 percent of voters told exit pollsters they had an unfavorable impression of Kerry.
And if you want to know what the next four years are going to look like in terms of political debate and spin, there’s always my book ...
I’ll have plenty to say about the election once I figure out what happened (hint: I think it probably involved spin). If you want to see me make my first attempt to sort it out, I’ll be on ABC News Now (it’s on digital cable; check out channel listings for how to watch) tomorrow at 8 a.m.
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