The obsessions of the political press are unhealthy, but the Republican is clearly losing on substance, too.
With some conservatives insisting that polls showing President Obama leading the presidential race are a liberal media conspiracy, Jonathan Chait defends the integrity of the polls, but concedes that "rampant horse race coverage affects the outcome of the race ... campaign coverage devotes far too much attention to which candidate is winning, and far too little time to conveying information that voters might use to make up their minds. Instead, the horse race coverage takes the place of the substantive coverage, and the candidate with the lead appears decisive and competent, and the trailing candidate faintly ridiculous. A good deal of what undecided voters who are just now tuning in will learn about Romney is that he's a loser disdained by fellow Republicans."
Says Ross Douthat, "This is exactly right, and it's crucial to understanding why the president's re-election odds look ever better in spite of the fact that actual world events -- from Libya to the latest growth numbers -- haven't been falling out to his advantage lately. There are plenty of stories circulating that might be expected to hurt Obama's political prospects, but given the press's horse-race biases none of them are powerful enough to pull the spotlight away from Romney's flailings: They're either big but not new enough (the lousy economy) or new but not big enough (the administration's shifting Libya stories) to break through the campaign coverage."