Sunday, May 09, 2004

Reporters covering the war, the economy, and other real-world issues for The New York Times apparently have the ability to process new information. That's apparently not the case for the Times reporters who are covering the election -- they have their story and they're sticking to it.

Their story: Kerry's campaign is floundering. Bush has succeeded in defining him and now it may well be too late for him to define himself. What's happening to him is just what happened to "another Massachusetts liberal," Michael Dukakis.

Never mind the fact that Kerry is tied with Bush in the Gallup poll, that he has tied or beaten Bush every day this month in the Rasmussen tracking poll, and that, in every other poll tracked by Polling Report, he ranges from a mere 5 points behind Bush to as much as 3 points up (with six months to go).

Here's the latest Times recitation of the Same Old Song, by Robin Toner:

There are, at times, eerie echoes of 1988 on the campaign trail these days. For two months, many Democrats have watched, queasily, as the Republicans roll out another disciplined campaign against their nominee as a flip-flopping Massachusetts liberal who is soft on defense, with a huge wave of paid advertising backed up by legions of Republicans and surrogates, all firmly on message. The commercials rattle off some weapon systems Mr. Kerry opposed financing at one time or another, just as they did against Mr. Dukakis in 1988.

Moreover, Democrats have discovered - once again - that a candidate can win a party's nomination, make the covers of the national magazines and still be unknown to many voters, who are only intermittently paying attention right now. With a $25 million advertising campaign launched last week, the Kerry forces are scrambling to fill in the blanks, before the Bush campaign does, and to regain control of the candidate's story - "a lifetime of service and strength," as they put it....

Does this bear any relationship to actual voter reaction to Bush and Kerry? No -- but it's clear that Times political reporters don't give a damn. Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler says Beltway reporters prefer to settle on "a story they like" and don't care if the facts contradict it. Clearly, this is the story New York Times campaign reporters like this year.

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