Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Random Thoughts From Election Night

As you probably saw, I Tweeted extensively from the GOP election night party. That lady in the teal jacket at the center is the 5-foot-ish dynamo -- she wouldn't tell me her height when I asked a couple weeks ago -- who is about to go up against Sen. Harry Reid. Yes, her ideas are largely not mainstream, but she is certainly a poised and charismatic figure, and I think Reid's got his work cut out for him any which way.

One reason I think that is because negative campaigning this year in Nevada seems to have really failed spectacularly. If Reid attacks this cute little former schoolteacher too hard and too fast, I suspect voters will tune out and view it as part of what they hate about D.C. politics. So far, though, I've already received three emails from Democratic quarters cataloging all of Angle's problems, and the group Progess Now Nevada has a "Sharrontology" Twitter site and TheWrongAngle.Com. (They must've been pretty cocky; nobody registered SuicidalSue.Com.)

But mudslinging took a hit this year, and nowhere was that more obvious than consultant Gary Gray's unceasing, repetitive and endless drilling of Assemblyman Mark Manendo on behalf of Gray's client, Assemblywoman and Grandmother Kathy McClain in a race for State Senate. We're talking dozens of mailers, twice-daily automated phone messages, the works. It was vicious -- and included the gambit of gaybaiting just for the heck of it that we exposed here -- but clearly, it didn't work in any measurable way and probably contributed to Manendo crushing McClain 57-43. It's hard to explain in any other light; the two were both popular in their own assembly districts and had identical voting records. The difference, clearly, was in the campaigns. Manendo did attack McClain, too, but he didn't get into her family life and he didn't send out nearly the volume of material McClain did.

This guy, by the way... Manendo's GOP opponent. Eeeek! Something tells me that "Tony" is going to have a tough time getting those sexual harassment charges to stick to Manendo if Grandmother couldn't. (It's also a heavy Democratic district, so there's likely not to be much of a race. But still...Eeeek!)

A few other little results tidbits:

* Yes-That's-His-Name Ty Cobb, an assemblyman who took over the Sharron Angle mantle of being the lone dissent on every last thing, was a true-red tea partier, too. He lost to baby-faced former news anchor and ex-Gov. Jim Gibbons spokesman Ben Kieckhefer (right) in a Republican primary for State Senate in the Reno area. For all the talk of the liberal media elite, have you noticed that most journalists who are successful in politics are Republicans? (Kieckhefer, Sue Lowden and Sarah Palin among them.)

* While Sharron Angle won big, so far as I can tell the only person who foretold that she'd crack 40 percent was UNR political scientist Eric Herzik in my AOL News piece yesterday. I guess that answers the question of the headline of this Steve Sebelius May 2008 blog post.

* Is John Chachas back in New York yet? Who? Oh, never mind.

* Those of you outside Nevada may not have heard about this one, but GOP primary voters bounced not just our incumbent governor but also -- get this -- an incumbent state senator who publicly defended and sort of acted as bagman for a close friend who raped his lover's 16-year-old sister.

The Republican Party party at the Orleans was far more upbeat than the last time I visited with this crowd on an Election Night, which would have been at the Palazzo sportsbook (now Lagasse's Stadium) in November 2008. Then they were singing dirges in the dark, this time they had a jazz band...

...and food...

and sold anti-Harry Reid books and wacky patriotic ties for $20:

My favorite part was the raffle. I'd never seen this before at one of these things and nor had any of the political journalists I asked. See?

The prizes included Ronald Reagan commemorative silver dollars, copies of "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand and that Jerry Tarkanian-signed basketball.

Speaking of Tarks, Danny Tarkanian (0-3) lost his third straight election, coming in third in the Senate race. I found it a little weird that the jazz band started playing "Smooth Operator" by Sade when Little Tark hopped on stage to concede and endorse Angle. Not with Tark were his little kids, evidently no longer needed to draw votes as they were when he forced his wife and weeks-old newborn onto at least one statewide road trip in January. (I half-jokingly Tweeted that Little Tark will go for Las Vegas mayor next year. You really never know.)

I asked my Tweeps to predict what they'd play when Angle arrived and the responses included Crazy, Ladies Night, Chicken Dance, I'm A Little Teapot, Freebird, The Bitch Is Back and Crazy Bitch. They actually didn't play anything before she arrived, but afterwards they went into this not-subtle gambit for party unity: Let's Stay Together by Al Green. Hopeful!

Here's your obligatory media set-up shot:

You know what media was, as usual, MIA for this kind of thing? KNPR. Our World of News and Information did not broadcast anything live other than top-of-the-hour news updates, a shameful dereliction. I'm a huge, huge supporter of Nevada Public Radio, as you all know, but I cannot comprehend h0w they don't feel obliged given all the pledge-drive blather about always being there for its listeners to provide live election night coverage that would include feeds of speeches, interviews with candidates and punditry. There is nothing more important in Nevada news at the moment than this U.S. Senate race; the nation is watching. As I moved from one election location to the next, I was actually angry about their absence.

Instead, if you wanted some election news while driving last night, you had to turn to right-wing radio whackadoodles like Heidi Harris:

Are radio remotes really that expensive? Seriously? Doesn't KNPR want to be a part of the conversation while it's developing? It was completely awkward at 8 p.m. when results were already available to have them re-running that morning's State of Nevada discussion about what might happen. This is not the first time KNPR has failed this way; do they see themselves as an important news operation or not?

Anyhow, I close with this:

I can see the ad now: Narcoleptic Republican Children With Dreadlocks For Angle!


atdnext said...

All in all, interesting take. However, I have to object to this one thing you said:

"One reason I think that is because negative campaigning this year in Nevada seems to have really failed spectacularly."

That's not really true. If negative campaigning doesn't work, candidates would stop doing it... But that's not what happened this year:

- Sue Lowden was poised early this year to be crowned the winner of both the primary AND the general... Then "BarterGate" happened, groups from the right and left hit, and her poll numbers (primary AND general) plummeted.

- Sharron Angle's own campaign didn't go negative, but that's because she couldn't afford it and she didn't need to... Club for Growth and Tea Party Express were doing it for her, attacking Lowden some more while propping up Angle.

- When it seemed Jim Gibbons had signs of life again a few months ago, Brian Sandoval had to tack to the right and attack Gibbons to regain his commanding lead in the primary.

- And Ben Kieckhefer was able to win the Washoe Senate 4 race by hitting Ty Cobb on his strange behavior. (Remember when he vandalized those Sheila Leslie for Senate signs?)

- And on the Democratic side, we weren't spared the attacks! Remember that Mark Manendo had his own negative mailers hitting Kathy McClain on "DonateGate". And in the Lieutenant Governor Primary, Jessica Sferrazza went hard on hitting both Paul Murad and Robert Randazzo for being late-comer party switchers (though in the end she may not have needed to, as she handily won the primary).

I know all of us say all the time that we hate negative campaigning with all the attack ads and sleazy low-blows... But again, no one would be doing it if it didn't work. And in judging this year's primary results, I wouldn't say negative campaigning in Nevada really failed.

FLORENCE said...

I’m sorry you were disappointed in election night coverage from Nevada Public Radio. We’re flattered to be held to such high standards. It’s a compliment, thank you.

As a listener you know that News 88.9 KNPR provided extensive coverage of the races with candidate interviews and opportunities for listeners to participate. The locally produced content is all archived here NPR and our other network news programs devoted extensive coverage to the races. Jon Ralston was featured prominently on NPR’s Talk of the Nation Wednesday, on Monday Ralston was in front of the nationwide audience for All Things Considered NPR’s Ina Jaffe provided reporting for Morning Edition from Las Vegas earlier in the race.

We provided election results as they were available on Tuesday evening. You are correct, we did not break format to produce a live program on Tuesday evening. Given the size of our news staff and the availability of extensive coverage by our television stations locally, we decided to focus on providing thoughtful review on Wednesday AM with our “A” team of commentators including Jon Ralston, Steve Sebelius and Elizabeth Crum.

What we know about our audience is that they don’t listen very much in the evening. If they are using media they are watching TV. The reverse is true in the AM. At 9am-10am for KNPR’s State of Nevada we have more than 50,000 listeners every week. Nationwide NPR’s Morning Edition nationwide has more listeners than most of the network TV morning shows combined.

I think “shameful” is a bit strong Steve. On any given evening at 7pm our audience could be 15%-20% of the size it is at 9am, we have no reason to believe we could change the listening habits of up to 80% of our audience on this one particular evening. You know the size of our newsroom. Like all media organizations we make the best decisions we can about resources. Nevada Public Radio rarely provides “remote” broadcasts in real time here in Las Vegas, they are complex and expensive to do well, so not doing one wasn’t unusual for us. NPR makes its own decisions about the resources they can devote to special live programming on primary election coverage. NPR did not offer a national special that evening as they do in November.

The election results WERE available in real time from both a local announcer via AP and through our regular NPR newscasts. On Tuesday both NPR’s Morning Edition, KNPR’s State of Nevada and NPR’s Talk of the Nation focused on the outcome of NV races in particular Senate and Gubernatorial. At least two hours of high quality coverage that was unduplicated elsewhere on radio or TV, that brought together the expertise of our local and national political analysts including Ken Rudin and Mara Liasson.

We are always interested in hearing your opinions Steve, thanks for having this forum for us to respond.

Flo Rogers – President & General Manager
Dave Becker - Director of Programming

Anonymous said...

In terms of providing the hard data that I needed for my blog, traditional news outlets did a piss-poor job. The only "media" that provided substantial amounts of factual information were the Secretary of State's office and Clark County. The Fourth Estate (and, by definition, the private sector) really failed the public on this one.

David McKee

An occasional SON guest who knows you'll blackball me if I sign my name. said...

Hey KNPR - the bellagio doesn't make money off of the art museum or the fountains either, but it's good for their reputation. You're comparing your ratings on a normal night to what they'd be on a night when there is something important happening? I, too, tuned in and got nothing. Shameful is absolutely the word for this, and don't think people aren't noticing how your interviews are so much softer than they used to be. Have your anchor in the studio and get some folks on the line if you must, but this is ridiculous. You want to be prime time? You won't get a red cent out of me in the future if you keep turning yourself into the Gardening and Symphony Daily.

-- An occasional SON guest who knows you'll blackball me if I sign my name.