More on the "McCain Meme" ...

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Jun 12, 2007 5:22 PM

So here are some additional thoughtsI (in response to Dean's post) ...

1. WHY MEDIA MEMES DO MATTER: If words don't influence public opinion, why do we blog?  If media memes don't matter, why do campaigns employ staffers to spread positive ones (and knock down negative ones)? 

When George Allen was "Macaca'd," one of the reasons it worked is that it played media's narrative that he was a "racist." (There had already been tons of stories about how Allen had a Rebel flag and a noose in his office, etc.)  This incident, caught on tape, seemed to confirm a stereotype that the media was pushing. The point is that, like it or not, narratives matter. Quite often, these memes are false, by the way. For example, the media played Howard Dean's internet campaign, but did you know that his website had about one-tenth as many hits as Bush's? (You wouldn't know that by reading the papers).

2. WHY THE MEDIA NO LONGER LOVES McCAIN: The media loved John McCain when he talked about "agents of intolerance." They quit loving John McCain the minute he embraced George W. Bush in 2004, and gave that convention speech.  And they began to hate him when he championed the war in Iraq, and the surge.

Additionally, if there is one thing the media loves more than pushing their ideology, it's pushing a "sexy" news story. In 2000, McCain was interesting. But eight years has passed, and the media are fickle. It's time to push a new meme...

3. ON McCAIN'S CHALLENGES. No one doubts McCain is facing a serious challenge. I'm not saying he will overcome this challenge. I certainly believe he can -- but I don't know that he will. What I am saying is that the media is currently creating a narrative that says McCain is losing support. And in order to fit this template, they will highlight stories which confirm it (and they will ignore news items which would undermine their premise)...

4. THE IMMIGRATION QUESTION. I agree that it's a real killer for McCain. Politically, McCain's campaign has made the unbelievable mistake of championing this bill. In fairness, the other frontrunners are -- or have recently been -- for Amnesty.  So there shouldn't be any real contrast on this issue. But perception is reality, and the fact is, the bill is called, "McCain-Kennedy".  And while his opponents have distanced themselves from this issue, McCain has unwisely embraced it.