It'z News to Me

The news of the day...and my own peculiar take on it...

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Game Over...

...for Kerry...

I remember the Commodore 64 game the author is talking about. Like him, it was one of my favorites as well. I hadn't gone so far as to attempt a replay of 2004 like he has, but intuitively it sounds about right to me.

I would add two points to the article about Evan Thomas' prediction: he fails to account for the "panic" stories and the rise of alternative media.

The mainstream media has outdone itself this year in trying to tear down the president and build up Kerry's candidacy. The president has had some tough moments, but there's no doubt that the media overplayed them to the detriment of its own credibility. That loss of credibility has led more and more voters to turn to the internet and to FoxNews for alternative views. Many blogs are covering stories ignored by the mainstream media regarding Kerry's weaknesses as a candidate, and conservative viewpoints are getting a much better hearing on FoxNews and on the internet than they have been allowed in the past by the mainstream media.

Because of this phenomenon, Evan Thomas has overestimated the extent to which the media is capable of shaping popular opinion. Although the mainstream media still has a huge advantage in sheer audience reach, that advantage is shrinking every day as more and more people get broadband access to the internet and FoxNews is added to more and more basic cable packages across the country.

Now here's the rub. With the mainstream media being dominated to the tune of 80-90% by partisan Democrats according to self-reported surveys, they are as prone to the natural ups and downs as other partisans outside of the media. Their emotions often dictate their editorials and their straight news coverage as much as their partisan bias. So when their candidate appears strong in the polls, stories reinforcing that image appear in the papers. But when their candidate appears weak, stories questioning campaign strategy and candidate weaknesses appear.

In both cases, they become self-reinforcing themes. Positive coverage leads to stronger performance and negative coverage leads to weaker performance. That's why campaign momentum is so important. So how does the Republican ever break through? When an outside event beyond the mainstream media's ability to spin or control the storyline occurs...

The Swift Vets publishing a book and taking out ads is the perfect illustration of this. Overwhelming evidence of economic growth is another. The blogosphere and FoxNews "scooping" the media is yet another - stories cannot be indefinitely buried or ignored any more.

I would cut Thomas' +15% Kerry bias from the press in half to +7.5%. The combination of unignorable outside events, alternative media presence, and emotion-based coverage by the mainstream media are going to each have a negative impact on their ability to influence election results. (Those factors, by the way, will continue to grow and become even more significant in future elections.)

The author accepts Evan Thomas' 15% number and assumes a Bush victory by a small margin because of the offsetting 16% advantage the game gives Bush. I would disagree to the extent I have mentioned above. If we assume a +16 for Bush from the game and subtract my estimate of -7.5 for media bias, then we arrive at a net +8.5 electoral advantage.

POINT OF COMPARISON: This tracks closely with my own prediction giving Bush a +7 margin with my 53/46/1 prediction (which had nothing to do with the game), but as the pollsters always say "it's within the margin of error."