The gap between the way the media characterizes the presidential race and what is actually happening is growing larger by the day. In particular, we see a systematic emphasis on news items that favor the president and a discounting of evidence that disfavor him.
The mainstream media's recent coverage of the Democratic National Convention was fawning – little or no mention was made of the extremist abortion plank or the decisive defeat on the floor of the motion to reinstate a reference to God in the platform (nevertheless gaveled through by the party establishment) and an acknowledgment that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel (pro-Israel language that had been included in previous party platforms). So, the Democrats won their convention week with a bullet. Next, even though Obama’s bounce was modest by historical standards, and he still could not pull above 50 percent nationwide or in the key swing states, the mainstream media dutifully declared not only that Obama was winning, but that the Romney campaign was in utter disarray.
And what did the media overlook last week?
-Gas prices increased on average by $0.04, despite the end of the summer driving season. With Brent crude prices remaining elevated, gas prices are probably not going to come down any time soon.
-The Consumer Price Index increased by 0.6 percent month-over-month. This is an extremely large jump, built mostly around increased energy prices.
-Retail sales, excluding gas and cars, were flat.
-Manufacturing production fell by more than 1 percent last month alone, and capacity utilization dropped by 1 point.
-The jobs report from August was an absolute misery.
-Overall, the economy is so anemic that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has initiated an unprecedented third round of quantitative easing, this one open-ended.
Put simply: This economy is already weak and appears to be getting weaker.
And what of President Obama’s political position? Already we see his convention bounce – such as it was – fading in the Gallup and Rasmussen tracking polls. Rasmussen is back to a tie between the two, and a three-point Obama lead among registered voters in Gallup suggests a tie among likely voters as well. Incidentally, this is exactly where the race was through all of August.
Conservatives are growing frustrated with the Romney campaign, and for good reason. It needs to settle down and provide a clear message how Romney will be a successful president. It does not need to mail out a white paper to every swing voter in metro Columbus, but it does need to provide enough details to give them the impression that Romney has a plan.
Amazingly, Team Romney seemed to have been caught flat-footed last week. We all could have predicted that the mainstream media would transform a middling bounce into a decisive edge for President Obama. And we can rest assured there will be more to come.
Long gone are the days of straight journalists calling the balls and strikes fairly. And make no mistake: This is not merely a liberal bias we are dealing with, but a Democratic party bias. There is now a revolving door between the leftwing blogosphere, the broader Democratic establishment, and the mainstream media – and the phony narrative of a runaway Obama lead is just one result of that insidious alliance.
The good news is that this race will be decided on the fundamentals. Also, the GOP has enough money to communicate directly with the electorate, independent of the spin from the former Obama campaign consultants, and liberal reporters who dominate the mainstream media. Team Romney needs to settle on a plan of attack and take the battle directly to the president on the issues that voters care about – the economy, gas prices, the deficit, and Obamacare.
Jay Cost is a staff writer for THE WEEKLY STANDARD and the author of Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic, available now wherever books are sold.