California newspapers made noise last week about the lack of "momentum" in Bill Simon's campaign. But they fell silent this week as Simon's campaign got a boost from President George Bush.
The Los Angeles media paid almost no attention to Bush's campaigning for Simon in the state, focusing instead on the president's hastily-arranged commemoration of the Los Angeles race riots.
Whether or not the Simon campaign showed "momentum" was suddenly a subject of no interest to California reporters, lest actual facts about his campaign muddy their Simon-momentum-on-the-wane story line.
Thanks to the anti-Simon press corps, few Californians know that Simon has been leading Gray Davis in at least five polls.
"I don't want to argue on whether or not Gray Davis has done a good job or a bad job. I just want to look at the numbers. And the numbers say he has done a terrible job. His numbers stink," said pollster Stuart Rothenberg in April. "And he's losing to a guy who has never run for office before on a ballot test."
A survey conducted by the California Teachers Association -- a group which endorsed Davis -- found Bill Simon enjoying a four-point lead over Davis, 41 to 37 percent.
Simon says that he has been maintaining an 8-point lead over Davis since the primary. The polling firm Public Opinion Strategies Inc. says Simon leads Gray Davis 48% to 41% among registered voters. A poll conducted by Probolsky & Associates Opinion Research puts Davis's support at less than 38% of voters and Simon's at 44%.
Polls apparently don't impress the California media unless they show Davis ahead. The San Francisco Chronicle neglected the polls above, but it quickly perked up when an unreliable Field Poll emerged to suggest a Davis lead.
This Field Poll was not restricted to likely voters. And yet even this dubious poll bodes ill for Davis, as 57% of voters indicated they would not vote for his re-election.
Most Californians, even many Democrats who intend to vote for Davis, find the acharismatic pol fundamentally unlikable. Davis suffers from the Al Gore syndrome: the more he declares that voters like and agree with him, the less they actually do.
But Davis hopes to hide his long nose by having the California media woo voters for him. Michael Finnegan, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, appears ready to buy the roses.
He supplied Davis with a comically contrived story against Simon last Saturday. Finnegan rustled up a few die-hard pro-abortion "Republican" women to badmouth Simon, then generalized that "Encinitas, a GOP-majority town, illustrates how Simon's stance could doom his gubernatorial hopes."
It is not clear from the story if the Encinitas women had even heard Simon mention the abortion issue. But Finnegan managed to goad one woman into saying, "I don't care to listen any longer. I don't think I could vote for this man."
This is a curiously hostile reaction to a candidate who goes to great lengths to downplay his pro-life stance. To whom is this woman listening? Certainly not the candidate. He never talks about the issue unless a pro-abortion reporter brings it up.
No matter: Finnegan saw vast significance in this "Republican" woman, who it turns out voted for Davis in 1998. Did Finnegan talk to any Republicans who actually vote for Republicans? Who knows. But he did talk to "coffee shop waiter Scott Bertone, 30, an independent," who opined apropos of nothing that if "you don't allow a woman her right to choose, you start from there and move down the list of rights they'd take away."
Finnegan whipped a few other non-Republicans in the "GOP-majority town" into a fury. Democrat Beverly Whalin gasped, "If they're going to take that step backward, you wonder what else they're going to do. You start thinking are they going to invite Jerry Falwell out here? Or Pat Robertson?"
Finnegan lets hairdresser Starla Adkins finish his news story with an ominous warning to Simon. "Stay out of my womb," she said. "That's what I like to tell a lot of these political men."
Don't worry, Starla, your womb is safe. The California media will stand watch over it.
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