The Race and the Media

The Clinton campaign is pushing hard on the idea that the press has been kinder to Barack Obama than it's been to her, and I know a lot of her supporters are totally up in arms about this. I'd say it's definitely true that, on balance, Obama has gotten better press than Clinton. Still, I think Clinton fans are going more than a little overboard with this monocausal account of the campaign. For one thing, one important exception to this is that if Obama had lost eleven contests in a row, there's no way he'd still be treated as a viable candidate. Similarly, if Obama had reached a situation where nobody can mathematically see a way for Clinton to catch his lead without altering DNC rules, I seriously doubt the race would continue to be covered as a serious competition.

From another direction, even though the press has often been unfair to Clinton about petty stuff, they have been very willing to go along with the idea that she has a vast experience edge over Obama even though it's always been unclear what exactly that edge consisted of. On top of that, the country's most prominent liberal columnist has been pretty consistently attacking Obama for months now. Now, yes, I do think there's been more BS thrown in her direction and there's obviously been an "Obama swoon" factor that there's no equal of on the other side (even Krugman, for example, writes only about his loathing of Obama and his supporters and never says anything good about Clinton) and that's been a factor in the race. Still, on the central argument of her campaign, Clinton's been treated reasonably well and the press has actually bent over backwards to keep her in the race under circumstances when almost anyone else would have been written off.