By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

McCain’s media running mates

There’s only one statewide newspaper in New Hampshire, the conservative Union Leader. It’s already endorsed John McCain, it’s already run an editorial instructing its readers to stay away from Mitt Romney (as has the liberal Concord Monitor), and it’s got a full-throttle McCain special running right now.

The Monitor has a story similar to the Union Leader’s. And the Boston Globe’s Scot Lehigh, whose paper has also endorsed McCain, weighs in with a column sympathetic to McCain as well. It’s possible that Romney could withstand this low moment in his campaign — but he’s only got five days for it to blow over.

Of course, the media have a long-standing love affair with McCain — nothing new there. McCain has been known to jokingly call the media his “base.” McCain’s finish in Iowa was mediocre at best (yes, I realize he sort of but not quite wrote the state off; but you don’t want to be neck and neck with Fred Thompson, for crying out loud), but the media are spinning it in his favor.

On the other hand, there’s no better constituency for McCain than New Hampshire’s libertarian, secular Republicans. They went for him over George W. Bush in 2000, and it would be no surprise if they go for him next Tuesday.

The difference is that McCain had nowhere else to go after his victory eight years ago. This time, it may be Romney who has nowhere else to go.

I’m guessing the Sunday Globe will front the results of one last pre-New Hampshire poll. I’m also guessing that Romney won’t like the numbers.

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  1. Steve

    According to the national media, when a Massachusetts Democrat (Dukakis, Tsongas, Kerry) runs for the presidential nomination, a win in NH is meaningless. The whole buzz is about who came in second. If a Massachusetts Democrat should lose a NH primary, it’s all over.So how come that calculus doesn’t apply to Mitt Romney?

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Steve: Who says it doesn’t?

  3. mike_b1

    Doesn’t the idea that the newspapers’ endorsements have an effect assume that voters are reading said papers — and specifically, their editorial pages? I wouldn’t pretend to know the subscription trends of the NH papers, but the Globe’s is on the wane, and while the Web traffic is up, we don’t know how much of that is for the op-ed (vs., say, Sports).How often does the readership of a paper end up voting for the endorsed candidate? And what was the paper’s influence on that decision? That’s the calculus I’d be interested in.

  4. Steve

    Dan – it’s just my perception and it could be way off-base. I haven’t heard much of anything about how a Romney loss or even a Romney win by a less-than-comfortable margin will doom his candidacy. As I recall, that was the kind of spin accompanying the Tsongas 92 campaign, for instance.Are there reports like that out there? Maybe I’ve just missed them.

  5. Anonymous

    I wonder if Romney will finish 3rd in NH, behind McCain and Huckabee.

  6. Dan Kennedy

    Steve: I don’t have time to go searching, but it seems to me that I’ve seen much analysis suggesting that Romney has to win New Hampshire, a bordering state, if he is to have a chance anywhere. Yes, sometimes you hear Michigan as his must-win state because he’s from there, but I think most of the conventional wisdom is that if he loses Iowa and New Hampshire, he’s done.

  7. Tony

    Conventional wisdom might say Romney is done if he loses New Hampshire but I don’t know. I don’t sense that he plans on quitting no matter how many primaries or caucuses he loses. Suggesting that Romney quit if he loses in New Hampshire is like suggesting Hillary should quit if she loses New Hampshire and then South Carolina. And, while I wish she didn’t even run, we all know that none of this is going to happen. And, as long as Romney has money to burn, he will run. In fact, none of the candidates have any reason to quit until after Feb. 5. At that point, almost half the states will have voted. If there is a clear winner, fine. But, I sense there may not be a clear winner, even after that, on either side. The tight top tiers on both sides leads me to believe that we may be seeing brokered conventions this summer. And, if there is even a slim chance of that happening, then each candidate has a reason to hold onto as many delegates as they can until after Feb. 5, and see if a deal can be brokered. I have been advocating that the Obama, Edwards, and Richardson campaigns start chatting about forming a coalition to stop Hillary. If the Dems are serious about winning the White House back, she can be the head of the ticket. If she is, it will be a divisive election. If she is the nominee, she will do something really stupid like pick another DLC Dem like Sen. Evan Bayh to be on the ticket. This essentially will empower the very liberal part of the spectrum to abandon the ticket and support Cynthia McKinney [or maybe even Ralph Nader again]. There is also the potential for Michael Bloomberg to run too, although he denies it. Since the Democrats don’t have a winner-take-all contest structure – essentially, any candidate who gets 15 percent, wins delegates – there is no reason to quit before Feb. 5. With Biden and Dodd out [Gravel is not out yet, so the press got that one wrong last night], the race is really about the top three, with Richardson and Kucinich holding onto small numbers. If the top three continue to win 15-plus percent, they will win delegates and it will still be anyone’s game after Feb. 5. If there are landslides – and I don’t mean 7 or 8 percent wins, I mean 20-plus percent wins – then it will be over fast. I could be wrong, but I don’t think that will happen. On the GOP side, it is a tad different, since most of the primaries, I believe, are delegate winner-take-all. So, you have to win. Second or third won’t do. If McCain wins New Hampshire, they move to Michigan [Polls say it is a toss-up between Romney, Huckabee, and Giuliani], Nevada [Another toss-up between Romney, Huckabee, and Giuliani], and South Carolina where it is essentially a four-way race but where Huckabee has been leading in every poll for the last six weeks. Let’s say McCain wins New Hampshire. Romney will have to win Michigan, which is a safe bet, despite the state’s toss-up status. Then Huckabee wins in South Carolina, again, a safe bet. The Main Caucus is a toss-up, who knows who will win it. And then, Feb. 5. At this point, the safe bet says it is anyone’s nomination. So, why would Romney need to quit?Although, I readily admit that I am hopeful for a brokered convention, just for the theater of it all, I have a feeling it is going that way.

  8. Suldog

    Anecdotal answer for mike-b1:In the 90’s, I worked on Carla Howell’s campaign for Auditor. She was (is) a Libertarian, of course.The Herald gave her its endorsement – the only Libertarian ever endorsed by that paper (which was a correct call, as she was supremely qualified for that job.) She received 6% of the vote.My educated guess is that the endorsement may have netted her an additional 1 – 2%; perhaps enough to put her over the 5% needed to earn the party “major party” status via election law of the time.I suspect a major party candidate receiving an endorsement in a general race might realize similar gains.However, when talking about a primary vote, my gut feeling is that the endorsement is stronger. Many folks are still in a feeling-out process, whereas by the time the general rolls around, most have already decided upon the candidate they like (or at least what party they see as more favorable.)

  9. Dan Kennedy

    I’ll add to that. I think the Union Leader’s and Monitor’s editorials begging people not to vote for Romney may have more power than a typical endorsement.

  10. Tony

    I’m sorry Dan. The whole reason I wanted to post was not to get hung up on the Romney thing but to agree with you: The “Northeastern Media Establishment” is McCain’s running mate. And, I will go a bit deeper: They so hate privileged Mitt Romney and so want Hillary to win the Democratic nomination, that they have all fallen in line to encourage independents in New Hampshire to vote for McCain, to siphon away votes from Barack Obama and John Edwards. Obama, Edwards, and to a lesser extent, Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee, are a bit more anti-establishment than the others, and that makes these people uncomfortable.I think it is a safe assumption that most of the powerful media players like things just the way they are. They want a “safe” Democrat; they don’t want real, fundamental change, whether it is populist or inspirational. They think Obama should have waited his turn. They don’t like trial lawyers, so that keeps coming up when they talk about Edwards. They don’t care about the poor or sick and dying of America, who may not have enough insurance, unless they are a feature or prop to sell newspapers. They are part of the “I got mine” crowd.The Northeastern Media Establishment did the same thing to Howard Dean in 2003 and 2004 because he actually inspired young people and was a nobody who came out of nowhere to raise tons of cash and motivate the body politic. Dean was also a victim of his own success and arrogance. So, when he fell, he fell hard and that was it.The Northeastern Media Establishment did the same thing in 2000. They so despised privileged frat boy George W. Bush and wanted to solidify a win for Al Gore, that they pumped up McCain. Think about this for a second: In 2000, the media managed to brainwash fair trading, pro-choice independents into voting for a free trading, pro-lifer – just because he was nice to them and offered up snarky one liners! They sucked the marrow right out of Bill Bradley’s campaign by repeating this McCain Straight Talk mantra over and over and over again. Little did they know that some of us out here in the real world would throw our votes to Ralph Nader and the Supreme Court would end up selecting Bush the president.I still contend to this day, like others, that Bradley would have run a better race than Gore. There would have been no huffing and puffing during the first debate. There would have been no Joe Lieberman. Etc. As for the UL, yeah, they’ve written eight or nine pro-McCain editorials. It is getting to be a tad ridiculous.So, yeah, the media is McCain’s running mate. For sure.

  11. Dan Kennedy

    Tony: Despite my high regard for your political analysis, I think you’re off on a couple of things.First, I think the elite media really despise Hillary Clinton, and are swooning over Obama today. I honestly think you are alone in believing that they want Clinton.Second, it’s been pretty well established that the reporters who covered Bush in 2000 came to like him, whereas those who covered Gore really detested him.

  12. Paul

    The interesting thing about the NH race is going to be how the independents fall — they could go for McCain or they could go for Obama. I could imagine both Obama and McCain winning, but it seems like a likelier scenario would be for one to suck up enough of the other’s indie support to throw the other primary to Clinton/Romney. I’m guessing that Obama, as the fresher face and as the Democrat in a terrain that’s been leaning Dem lately, manages to beat out McCain for that indie vote, holds off Clinton, and leaves a tight Romney/McCain race on the GOP side. Hard to see both Clinton and Romney winning here.

  13. mike_b1

    Back to the editorial effect for a moment: Dan, this would be an interesting project for one of your students. It wouldn’t be difficult to develop the inputs, and would shed great light on an age-old journalism practice. Who knows what the data might reveal? Maybe we’d learn endorsements statistically have an adverse effect. Without doing the math, we really don’t know.

  14. Tony

    Maybe I should have said pointed to the newspaper editorial boards and not “media establishment.” Virtually every newspaper in New Hampshire has endorsed Hillary. Virtually every newspaper in Iowa endorsed her. The Boston Globe endorsed her. I think Obama has received one or two endorsements. McCain has been endorsed everywhere. Mitt got one in Iowa. They aren’t “Northeastern,” but I think it is key. Going back to Gore’s primary race, while the Washington press corps may have “despised” him, he was endorsed by almost every major newspaper in his race against Bradley. As was McCain, with the liberal newspaper editorial boards like the Globe, urging independents to vote for McCain. The result was clear: Gore wins, runs a shoddy campaign that I don’t believe Bradley would ever have run, Bush wins. Seven years later – or 14, if you add in the Clinton years – many of us are still looking for some economic hope and equality of government services and individual rights.

  15. Peter Porcupine

    Tony – you brought up a pet peeve of mine – the conventions.The party which does NOT hold the White House gets to schedule its convention first, and the other party must hold its convention afterwards.Howard Dean – Jesus’s kid brother bless him! – chose the last week in August in order to push the GOP convention into Labor Day weekend, the last possible legal date with enough time for ballots to be posted, etc. Result?We will have a VERY long summer with ‘apparant’ nominees – and no Vice Presidential choices as those must be ratified by a convention! There will barely be time for debates before November! If there ARE no clear cut winners on either side, and a brokered convention happens, it will be an even bigger mess. And I personally do not expect Paul or Kucinich to creep quietly away, as they can run about all summer insisting that they MIGHT be nominated!The Democrats have managed to combine historically early primaries with historically late conventions – and will damage the electoral process to boot.

  16. Real Anonymous

    A minor correction…..Tony, The Boston Globe endoresed Barack Obama and John McCain.Now…as to newspaper endorsements….I think it depends on the newspaper. The Union-Leader in NH is going to be much more influential than the Des Moines Register because the Union-Leader is going to put all it’s energy, both editorially and in it’s news items than the DMR. The DMR is more reliable for its polls, which showed that Obama was going to win.I still believe that there is a Ron Paul factor that is being ignored. Don’t count him out in NH to help John McCain win and make Mitt more weak than he is now.And don’t count out McCain in Michigan. McCain cannot stand Mitt and is ready and willing to fight him on Mitt’s home turf.The Republican side is going to be much more messy for a while. The Democrats might have it done Feb. 5.

  17. Tony

    I stand corrected on the Globe thing … but why do her mailers and TV ads feature a quote that looks like an endorsement from the Globe? Weird. On Ron Paul, yeah, I agree. While I don’t think he will win, he could easily place in the top four here. He has a ton of support and has been running ads for months.

  18. wellbasically

    Doesn’t Ron Paul eat into McCain’s support more than Romney’s?If so, Romney should refuse to go on the Fox debate unless Ron Paul is allowed on the stage.

  19. Don, American

    Oh, yah. I can’t wait to read the newspaper to see who I should vote for (for whom I should vote, if you’re literate.)

  20. rjpmalibu

    Which candidate most exemplifies this song?…Or which candidate does this song most exemplify? If you know the difference…great!!LOLSoldiers Anthem—Going HomeHear it here:

  21. ehunt41817

    I am wondering who John McCain will select as a running mate. Getting away from all of those Southern and midwestern state governors (including Huckabee-who I feel was being unrealistic when he suggested doing away with the IRS completely) , I am wondering if McCain will ask Colin Powell to join him on the Republican ticket. While former Secretary of State (and former general) Powell resigned his position in the Bush cabinet, distancing himself from Rumsfeld, Cheney, and other republicans under scrutiny, I am wondering if Powell would be willing to associate himself with the likes of McCain. Since Colin Powell is a respected public figure who embodies the ideals of integrity, character, and common decency, it would certainly be a test of whether the new Republican party under McCain could offer America something worth embracing. If such an offer were extended to Colin Powell and he actually accepted, that would lend alot of credence to McCain’s bid for the presidency and show that the Republican party still has something worthwhile to offer ordinary people in this country.

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