As the first of the 2012 GOP Presidential contests draws near, Americans are being inundated by media reports, poll results and “insider” opinions about who will face President Barack Obama in the Presidential election.
Throughout the 2012 GOP Presidential Primary season a few well-defined media-driven themes have emerged: Ron Paul is a hopeless candidate and Mitt Romney is the definite front-runner. Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich have all had a turn as the anti-Romney in the No. 2 spot. The long primary season has done well to shape each candidate’s public identity from his or her personality, rather than testing the candidates as statesmen with voting records. This tactic isn’t dangerous unless you recall a young, charismatic fellow from Chicago who promised hope and change, provided neither and stormed through his first Presidential bid as a media darling.
What has been the result of the continuous stream of news based on personality rather than policy in the 2012 GOP race? The heavily publicized accusations of sexual misconduct against Cain are a good example of the media’s ability to put the real issues on hold just long enough to alter completely the outcome of an election. Before what has been called a “high-tech lynching,” Cain consistently polled as a strong alternative to Romney as the 2012 GOP candidate. After POLITICO reported that two women had accused Cain of sexual harassment, his campaign hit a stumbling block that many people knew, at the moment the story broke, could not be overcome. Cain continued his campaign and denied, forgot and then remembered his relations with accusers. The media, thirsty for more sensational sex stories, dug up more accusers, along with an alleged 13-year extramarital affair. Cain announced last week that his campaign was on hold.
While the accusations against Cain do raise the moral eyebrows of most Americans, he was convicted and sentenced in the court of public opinion before he ever responded to the accusations. If you remember the timing, not to say that there is any similarity between the two instances, but the same timeframe that brought us news of Cain’s alleged sexual promiscuity also brought us news of the highly disgusting Jerry Sandusky child-sex abuse scandal. Again, there is absolutely no comparison between the accusations against the two men, except that Cain became the victim of the 24-hour news cycle as his involvement in a sex scandal was emblazoned across the same media that were discussing Sandusky’s alleged sexual perversions.
With Cain’s suspension of his efforts in the contest, a new No. 2 emerged to take on the media-lionized Romney. A few weeks ago, had he not become the victim of his own tongue-tied confusions, Perry may have emerged as the No. 2 candidate. But, somehow, it seems the American public just isn’t ready for a candidate who gives speeches that sometimes border on incoherent or confuses the legal voting age with the legal drinking age.
So, Americans are left, for now, with Gingrich as Romney’s media-declared No. 2. Despite the fact that it has been claimed and evidenced that Gingrich is probably the most hypocritical, flip-flopping, unethical candidate in the race, he is polling strongly.
Cain was taken apart by his scandals, it seems, because he lacks the number of “look what I did when I was a liberal for a moment” incidents that Gingrich possesses. Sitting on a loveseat with Nancy Pelosi to discuss global warming, supporting massive corporate bailouts and being paid handsomely to be a corporate lobbyist are all things that can earn a perceived “conservative” a moment in the spotlight. With the addition of those “liberal moments,” leaving a wife who is hospitalized, spending thousands of dollars on jewelry at Tiffany and Co. and having several extramarital affairs are all forgivable offenses for a family-values conservative.
Even as Cain was being flogged by the initial sex scandal, his poll numbers remained steady for a moment; but the American public does tend to tire of the reiterations of the same nasty story, and support eventually broke. Good press can hold a candidate at a steady position; bad press can create a flurry of attention that can go either way. Romney, being the most “Presidential-looking” is perceived by many “political insiders” to have the best chance against Obama, so his support stays at a steady mark. The fact that he more or less drafted Obamacare, a conservative deal-breaker, is seen as a positive by “insiders” and the media as something that will help him earn a chunk of the Obama electorate. The candidates vying for the same media coverage as Romney are tasked with not stacking themselves against conservative values or principled beliefs, but on their ability to convince part of the electorate that they have some conservative values while convincing another segment that they could immolate their conservative beliefs to become Obama 2.0 at a moment’s notice. Who better for that job than Gingrich?
As the media offer the public sound bites, short clips, scandals, and warm and fuzzy moments of all kinds to provide a cartoonish sketch of their choices for the GOP Presidential candidate, they also enlist their own army of experts to make it a little easier for the everyman.
National Journal has been a prominent voice throughout the season, and it has polled and re-polled its team of “political insiders” over the past several months to determine who it thinks the GOP Presidential candidate will — or should — be. The group of 264 political insiders includes former national party chairmen, current State party chairs, party strategists, pollsters, media consultants, lobbyists, political fundraisers, local elected officials and interest-group leaders from both the Democratic Party and the GOP.
The “insiders” have made two things remarkably clear over the past several months: They believe that Romney is the best choice for the GOP in 2012, and they don’t think that you are smart enough to pick a candidate yourself.
The group, termed by National Journal as “members of the political class,” was asked last March: “On balance, does the public know enough about the issues facing Washington to form wise opinions about what should be done?”
More than half of the “insiders” said that Americans are too ignorant to understand issues that affect Washington, D.C., with answers like, “In this day and age of Twitter and consumer-driven demand of news, there is a surplus of information, yet a deficit of attention to the news that really matters.”
When polled both in September and again this month, the “political insiders” picked Romney to beat his GOP challenger by an overwhelming margin. In the September poll, pitting their favored against Perry, 83 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of the Republican “insiders” picked Romney. This month’s poll pits him against Gingrich and determines that 86 percent of Democrats and 83 percent of Republican “insiders” prefer Romney.
Before you consider the word of the “insiders” to be gospel, however, you must consider who these people are. Of the 264 names on the list, one on the Democratic side sticks out like a sore thumb: Janet Napolitano. The U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security and former Arizona governor is undoubtedly on the inside of the political system, but having her tell the American people who is best suited for the Republican nomination or the Presidency seems a dangerous prospect, especially as her agency continuously pushes new agendas that assault American liberties.
Another Democrat on the list is John Anzalone, the founder of Anzalone Liszt Research (ALR). A bio on his company website reads: “We’re especially proud of our role helping elect President Obama in 2008. ALR polled in seven states for the Obama general election campaign, including the critical ‘red to blue’ states of Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia – and we’re excited to be a part of the President’s 2012 re-election campaign.”
On the Republican side, the individuals’ backgrounds are seemingly no less frightening, as most of those “insiders” represent lobbying organizations and crony capitalism. One such individual is Sam Geduldig, who The Hill said in 2008 “knows how to kill legislative threats to his clients.”
So as the “insiders” are asked who they think is the best choice to beat Obama in 2012, perhaps they are hearing, “Who would make your job of assaulting liberty, lobbying politicians for corporate interests or further altering America as we know it easier after 2012 if Obama doesn’t win?”
The Washington Post, earlier this week, proclaimed that the 2012 GOP race is undeniably the year of the insider as far as candidates are concerned. Why do they claim this is? Because Americans “rarely elect” genuine outsiders but prefer career politicians that pretend to be normal folks.
Why some of the candidates are perceived to be outsiders — even though running for President surely requires a healthy connection to the political system — is evident if you consider the media’s role. National Journal’s group of “insiders” have yet to make mention of Paul, though he consistently polls in the top three among likely voters across the Nation. But most of the general public, even if they may select him in a poll, are unlikely to vote for him in primaries as long as the “insiders” say he doesn’t have a chance.
There have been no scandals reported about Paul, he has not been pointed out as a crony capitalist and his voting record and his rhetoric parallel one another. The “insiders” write him off as a kook, because his ideas and plans will derail many of theirs. As long as the media and their “insiders” are allowed to manufacture Americans’ worldview, despite the vast wealth of knowledge that is at almost everyone’s fingertips, it will be “insider” picks for President and a bright future for the American political “insider.”