If a Republican wins the endorsement of a large Latino organization, doesn’t that qualify as news? Not in California. As of Monday, no major California paper had reported that Bill Simon won the endorsement of 22 of the 32 chapters of the Mexican American Political Association.
Also newsworthy but ignored was that aides to Gray Davis tried to scuttle these chapters’ endorsement of Simon by tweaking MAPA’s convention rules. But that didn’t work, so they unsuccessfully attempted to cancel its convention.
“This is just typical of the ethical and moral standards Gray Davis has brought with him to the governor’s office,” Simon said. “This type of change-the-rules-to-meet-your-needs tactic, and strong-arm actions to cover-up unwanted criticism is the same kind of arrogant and disappointing record we have seen Gray Davis demonstrate in one pay to play scandal after another. It is no wonder the Latino community is tired of Gray Davis.”
The California media hammer Simon for his poor campaigning. But once he displays some effective campaigning, their coverage dries up. To the extent that they have reported on Simon’s Hispanic outreach, they have assumed a cynical, you-can’t-fool-us air.
The rare times they do deign to report good news about the Simon campaign it is invariably filtered through the prism that Simon still can’t win. Watch this week as they turn George Bush’s campaigning for Simon into a story about the perils of the president appearing in the company of a flagging, tainted candidate.
The last time Bush campaigned for Simon the Los Angeles Times didn’t even bother to report the fact. Last week the Times thought it newsworthy to report on the front page that Simon is appearing with great frequency on conservative talk radio. What curious behavior. Could the explanation be that he has zero chance of getting his message out through the dominant media?
Poll numbers don’t seem to register with the media until they show Davis ahead. From March to August, Simon consistently led Davis in polls. But only a few outlets reported this fact. The media blackout on the poll numbers dampened Simon’s fundraising efforts and protected the media-created perception that Simon couldn’t win. The New York Times did several stories on the race during this period based on the premise that Simon was running a losing campaign. The stories omitted any mention that he was leading the race. In fact, it wasn’t until this month, when Davis’s poll numbers passed Simon’s, that the New York Times acknowledged the earlier polls showing Simon competitive. (While the Times writes stories that read like Gray Davis press releases, the Washington Post is at least acknowledging that Simon “could bounce back, particularly in a race where more than half the electorate tell pollsters they do not really like his opponent, Gov. Gray Davis.”)
The California media, particularly the Los Angeles Times, considers it “balance” to run one negative story about Simon for every negative story about Davis, even if Simon’s “scandals” pale in comparison to Davis’s. Hence the media have spent as much time, probably more, on Simon’s “tax returns” and contested fraud suit as Davis’s growing list of quid pro quos. According to the media’s silly calculus, Simon’s poor investments are equal in gravity to Davis’s $24 billion deficit and habitual use of state government as a fundraising tool.
The media would clearly prefer to run races than report on them. That a traditional Republican can’t win in California is not a fact, but a media prejudice they endeavor to establish as fact through coverage that leads to the traditional Republican’s defeat.
Moderate Republicans, who pride themselves on knowing “how to win,” seem enthusiastic in helping the media defeat Simon. Is it good politics to supply reporters with negative blind quotes for anti-Simon stories? These Republican experts on good politics seem to think so.
Simon can’t even catch a break from the San Francisco Chronicle‘s idea of a “conservative” columnist, Debra Saunders. She declared that he should just “give up,” that he is a “venal Republican,” and that if Davis is “Greedy,” he is “Greedy/Stupid.”
At the time of Saunders’s column, Simon was leading in polls. But with friends like her, those numbers were bound to evaporate.