It's generally accepted that the news media obsess over horse-race political coverage at the expense of serious examinations of important issues. Media critics on the left, right, and in the middle tend to agree that there is too much focus on polling and not enough on policy, while many reporters seem proud of their focus on the game rather than the stakes. (Politico is, after all, called "Politico," not "Policy-o," and features blogs "on Politics," "on Hill intrigue," "on Gossip," and "on Campaigns" -- but not "on Policy." ABC News' senior White House correspondent calls his blog "Political Punch." And so on.)
The media's obsessive focus on politics does not, however, mean their political assessments are of a high quality. Remember David Broder's prediction that Hurricane Katrina would spark a recovery in George W. Bush's political standing? Or Matt Lauer's suggestion that Bush's poor approval ratings were a political blessing for the GOP? Chuck Todd's statement that if Democrats won control of Congress in November of 2006, Bush's approval rating would be above 50 by the following July? Katie Couric's suggestion that the Bush White House was "breathing a sigh of relief" in response to a poll in which Bush had an all-time low approval rating? Howard Fineman's late-2005 argument that Democrats, not Republicans, had reason to be gloomy about their electoral prospects? Calling the media's coverage of politics and policy "horse-race journalism" is an insult to horse-race journalism -- the Daily Racing Form isn't in the habit of advising readers to bet on the filly with the broken leg.
Not only does the media's keen interest in politics frequently fail to result in politically astute observations, there is also considerable evidence that they tend to overrate the Republicans' political skills -- and the public's predisposition to prefer the GOP.... so read the rest after the click.