Thursday, October 14, 2010

On Debate Day: Daily Beast, PBS & Ralston

Tonight's the big debate between Sharron Angle and Harry Reid, so the national media is descending and CSPAN will broadcast it. I'll be covering it for Politics Daily, so keep watch for that.

A few random thoughts before I plunge into a marathon writing day:

* My in-depth look at Harry Reid and the race is up on The Daily Beast, the product of interviews with more than a dozen former Reid staffers as well as a long list of Nevada politicos and even a current John Ensign staffer. There are plenty of interesting bits in here including Steve Wynn talking about being torn over Reid's support of the Obama agenda and U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley recalling how Reid predicted more than a year ago that Sharron Angle would be his opponent.

* I know Vegas PBS' Mitch Fox will do an able job, but it is interesting that last night's Senate debate between Christine O'Donnell and Chris Coons in Delaware was on CNN and co-moderated by Wolf Blitzer and Mitch Fox's Delaware counterpart in public TV. Which race, really, is nationally more important and closer?

* I got quite a giggle out of Jon Ralston this morning delusionally believing he was pointing out to the descending national media some sort of proof that the Review-Journal's news coverage of the Angle-Reid race is hopelessly tainted. I agree there have been some very sad low points, but what he showed everyone was an adequate, standard-issue story on a new poll showing Angle up by two points and up 4 from her last showing. He wrote:

"You have to read the piece to see how tendentious the paper is: Release poll earlier than usual (usually on Fridays or Saturdays), have it written as if reflective of surge and play HUGE."

The trouble is, the R-J played this, ran this and wrote this precisely as pretty much any major newspaper would. Following the horse-race of polling as if it is actual news is bullshit, but it's how everyone does it nowadays, and a four-point increase in Angle's support in a race this tight absolutely would qualify by any poll-obsessed journalist's measure as a surge or a bump. Also, while Ralston claims the R-J article he is showing the world is clearly slanted towards Angle, the quote from the R-J's own pollster is: "I wouldn't call it momentum...". So they're NOT suggesting that she's got some huge wind on her back.

The other problem with Ralston's R-J tantrum today is that, as usual, he has no interest in taking note of the blatant conflicts of his own newspaper and TV station. His bosses have combined for nearly $600,000 in donations to Democrats since 2006 while the R-J's publisher has given nothing to anyone.

And today's Las Vegas Sun is a terrific example of how much more open and obvious Ralston's publishing home is about its support for Harry Reid: Their top news story? "Train project a priority for Reid." Yup, a news story that could be run any day of the week -- the Sun's content does not need to be dictated by when Reid chooses to have a press conference -- but is nonetheless atop the fold today of all days. Why, Jon? Oh, that's right. To remind everyone of Reid's juice, the potential for pork and, probably, the notion that Sharron Angle wouldn't be able to or want to do that.

What Ralston actually did today with his email attack on the R-J was ensure that the national media who pay attention to his political expertise will ignore his droning about his competing paper from now on. There's nobody who matters who actually believes Jon Ralston is an objective or fair arbiter of the attributes of either newspaper anymore than anyone believes that Harry Reid is an objective or fair arbiter of the attributes of Sharron Angle.