It's a topsy-turvy, upside-down political world out there for people who thought Barack Obama would be cruising at a 70 percent approval rating while crushing the Republicans like bugs. In fact, the opposite has happened. The Senate majority leader is in grave danger of involuntary retirement. Everyone in Washington concedes Nancy Pelosi is unlikely to bang the gavel in January.
So why in the world does the tone of news coverage suggest all kinds of political problems ... for conservatives, as if they were the collapsing majority in this campaign?
The media elites sound like they're resigned to the idea that a lot of Democrats are going to be unemployed in November. Their coverage seems designed now to stanch the bleeding, to devote their coverage to close races where they can bash conservative challengers in the hope of turning the tide there.
On the first Monday in October, ABC "Good Morning America" reporter Jonathan Karl was alarming the masses about Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller, insisting he was at war with history and the mainstream of politics. "In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Alaska's Joe Miller talked about rolling back the power of the federal government further than Republicans have talked about for more than 70 years."
"Should the federal government be requiring a minimum wage?" Karl asked. Miller said no, that should be left to the states. But really: Is there any chance that the Senate in 2011 will repeal a federal minimum wage? ABC doesn't really care. They're trying to scare voters about conservative positions. Karl continued: "Miller and other tea party candidates also favor eliminating the Department of Education. Some want to pull the U.S. out of the U.N." Horrors. Are these likely to happen (as much as this writer would like)? It doesn't matter. Halloween's coming early.
Karl proceeded to announce it was somehow newsworthy that ABC had a supposedly damaging audio clip of Sharron Angle saying she can arrange a meeting with top Senate Republicans when she comes to Washington. That is "news" only if the reporter assumes she's an extremist who's political poison to every other Republican she touches.
Over on CBS News, Jeff Greenfield flagrantly offered tips to the Democrats, including this advice: "Convince the voters that this election is a choice, with ads that argue the Republicans are just too extreme." This was followed by an actual campaign ad: "Sharron Angle, and she's just too extreme." National news stories and local negative ads go hand in hand.
You don't have to be a tea party candidate to have mud thrown in your face. On NBC, reporter Chuck Todd focused on how the California governor's race took a "nasty turn" when moderate Republican Meg Whitman blamed Jerry Brown for the allegation that she knowingly hired (or retained) an illegal-alien maid.
Like the other national reporters who jumped on this non-story with both feet, Todd couldn't find any time to note that the accuser's lawyer, Gloria Allred, has donated to liberal Democrats from Barbara Boxer to Hillary Clinton to Dennis Kucinich -- and Jerry Brown. National reporters couldn't mention that Allred pulled this same trick on Arnold Schwarzenegger when he ran for governor of California in 2003, when a stunt double accused the movie star of sexual harassment. Her lawsuit then was dismissed. But winning the lawsuit or even finding the truth wasn't the point; beating Republicans was the point.
The media somehow deem that Democrats (a) should not be identified as Democrats when they try to ruin a Republican, and that (b) no one should remind the public that this partisan ambulance has been chased before.
Then on Tuesday, the Unwelcome Wagon was yanked along again. ABC began "Good Morning America" with George Stephanopoulos asking, "Is the tea party losing traction? Our new poll says the answer may be yes, as the movement's most famous candidate releases this ad." All three network morning shows highlighted conservative Christine O'Donnell proclaiming in an ad, "I'm not a witch."
NBC's "Today" offered an interview with Carl Paladino, the surprise tea party winner in the New York governor's race. But it was only a setting for co-host Matt Lauer to assault Paladino as too brash a practitioner of "gutter politics," insisting he wouldn't be able to govern New York because they need a "bridge builder." (Do you recall Lauer ever asking uber-brash liberal Democrat Eliot Spitzer about being too harsh?)
The bias is so thick out there you can step in it. But it shouldn't be forgotten that all this biased sludge obscures the real picture of a wave election. When networks like NBC are mortified that a man they would typically ignore like Paladino might just deny Andrew Cuomo his daddy's mantle in New York, that means the polls are really, terribly bad out there for Democrats.