Category Archives: Politics

How the Post explained Cantor’s defeat before it happened

Robert Costa (left) and Ralph Hallow of The Washington Times at the CPAC 2013 conference.

Robert Costa (left) and Ralph Hallow of The Washington Times at the CPAC 2013 conference.

Published previously at WGBHNews.org.

The political press today is engorged with analysis that attempts to explain why House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost the Republican primary in his Virginia district to a Tea Party challenger on Tuesday. But given that the pundits were as surprised as everyone else, there is no particular reason to think they are capable of telling us why it happened.

Nearly a month ago, though, Jenna Portnoy and Robert Costa of The Washington Post saw it coming. In an article headlined “Eric Cantor’s tea party opponent in Va. primary may be picking up momentum,” the two wrote that Cantor’s opponent, David Brat, had energized the right-wing base of the party. Cantor, Brat’s supporters believed, had been insufficiently hardline on issues such as immigration reform, the debt ceiling and the Affordable Care Act.

Weeks before the voting, Portnoy and Costa also put their finger on a Cantor tactic that seems to have backfired: going after Brat so hard that he improved his unknown opponent’s name recognition and gave him legitimacy. They quote Brat as saying, “I’m a rookie, he’s never gone negative, and he’s putting my face and name on Fox News, which is unheard of. If they’re doing that, that means their internal polling shows that I’m not at zero. I’m a risk of some sort.”

Portnoy is a local reporter for the Post, having previously covered New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for The Star-Ledger of Newark. I’m sure she’s a fine reporter. What the Cantor story tells me, though, is that the Post’s move to poach Costa from National Review last November is paying off. As Joe Coscarelli wrote in New York magazine, Costa — who is not yet 30, and who rose to prominence during last year’s debt-ceiling debacle — is rare among conservative journalists in that he sees himself as a reporter first, trusted by and well-plugged-in among all factions.

If you want to know why Cantor lost, don’t bother with the Wednesday morning quarterbacking taking place elsewhere. Instead, go back and read what Portnoy and Costa wrote weeks ago.

Photo (cc) by Gage Skidmore and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

A tale of two headlines

The BostonGlobe.com headline on Michael Levenson and Jim O’Sullivan’s front-page story about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Grossman today is laugh-out-loud funny: “Steve Grossman hopes endorsements will pave the path to victory.”

Yes, like that works so well in the age of weak parties and relentless media campaigns. Indeed, Levenson and O’Sullivan provide plenty of evidence that Grossman is pursuing a dubious strategy.

In the print edition, though, the headline is strictly bland-on-bland: “Grossman campaign leans on local ties; Chasing Coakley, one handshake at a time.”

Now, I realize that the online headline wouldn’t fit into the available space in the print edition. But it seems to me they shouldn’t diverge that much. Both headlines are accurate with respect to the facts; but the Web version fits the tone of the story better.

Revs. Rivers and Wall’s $105,000 ‘invoice’

Adrian Walker has an absolutely stunning column on page one of The Boston Globe today. He reports that two well-known African-American ministers, Eugene Rivers and Bruce Wall, recently submitted a $105,000 “invoice” for services (not) rendered to Keolis North America, the company that was recently awarded the commuter-rail contract by the MBTA.

Rivers and Wall are reportedly pushing Keolis on diversity issues. Last December, Martine Powers of the Globe reported that Wall and other ministers were criticizing Keolis’ record and were concerned about the French company’s behavior during the Nazi era.

Whether Rivers and Wall were engaging in a piece of ill-advised political theater (as seems likely) or if there is something more nefarious going on, I’m sure we can look forward to learning more in the days ahead.

Best wishes to Mayor Menino

Tom Menino retirement 2

He’s in his 70s now, and has suffered from serious illness for years. Even so, we were all stunned on Saturday night when The Boston Globe reported that former Boston mayor Tom Menino, just a few months into his working retirement, has advanced inoperable cancer.

It sounds hollow to indulge in clichés like “he’s a fighter” and “he can beat this.” Of course, everyone hopes he responds well to treatment and is able to enjoy a high quality of life for as long as possible.  But I think it makes the most sense to wish the mayor and his family our best and keep them in our thoughts — and prayers, if you’re so inclined — as he begins this final chapter of his life.

Photo (cc) by Eric Haynes for the Office of Gov. Deval Patrick and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Marty Walsh’s best quote so far

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, speaking to inmates at the South Bay House of Correction who — according to Akilah Johnson of The Boston Globe — were pretty obviously tuning him out:

I know some people are thinking in your heads right now: “He’s full of shit,” and that’s OK. But I’m leaving when I get out of here. I’m going back to City Hall to make Boston the best city in the world.

Editor’s note: I filled in what Johnson had rendered as “[expletive].” Just trying to help.

The hazards of granting anonymity, Part Infinity

fnc-20130311-scottbrownI’ll leave it to my friend John Carroll to analyze the dust-up between the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald over whether former senator Scott Brown is or isn’t still working for Fox News. (Short answer: he is.) No doubt that’s coming later today.

So just a quick observation. On Wednesday the Globe’s Joshua Miller quoted an unnamed source at Fox who told him that Brown was “out of contract,” thus fueling speculation that Brown was about to jump into New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate race. It turns out, according to the Herald’s Hillary Chabot and Miller’s follow-up report, that Brown was merely between contracts, and that he’s now re-upped.

If I were Miller or an editor at the Globe, I would love to be able to point to a named source at Fox for passing along information that may have been technically accurate but was not actually true. But they can’t, and that’s one of the hazards of granting anonymity.

It’s especially dangerous with Fox. According to NPR media reporter David Folkenflik’s book “Murdoch’s World,” the fair-and-balanced folks once went so far as to leak a false story to a journalist — anonymously, of course — and then denounce him in public after he reported it.

Of course, this all leads to the political question of the moment: Does this mean Brown isn’t running for senator? Or president? Or whatever office he is thought to be flirting with this week?

Update: And here comes John Carroll.

Screen image via Media Matters for America.