Spinning California

Matt, on the importance of the Wednesday morning media narrative:

As is frequently the case in America's oddly arbitrary candidate selection process, an enormous amount hinges not on the objective results tomorrow but on the reporting of the results. The ambiguity between the results viewed as a race for delegates, as a race for states, and as a race for the semi-national Feb 5 popular vote only increases the extent to which basically made-up media narratives will be very important. Given that he usually gets good press, Obama probably has the edge in terms of winning a spin war in the event of an ambiguous outcome.

On the Republican side, this is yet another reason why Romney is probably already toast, no matter what happens today. In the absolute best-case scenario for his campaign, he’ll win California going away and several other close states (Missouri, Georgia, etc) into the bargain. Given the state of the race just a week ago, this would be a remarkable turnaround. But for Romney to have any hope of pulling the inside straight he needs to win the nomination, he’ll need the press to report it that way, to cast him as the “comeback kid” even though McCain will still have won more states and delegates, both today and overall. And the media, as you may have noticed from time to time in this election cycle, likes McCain an awful lot more than it likes Romney. Which means that if there’s a spin war to be won tomorrow, don’t put your money on Mitt.

Ross Douthat is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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