I got some heat from Edwards supporters for my last post, when I wrote that Clinton has been the focus of relentless negative attacks for the past two weeks and both Obama and Edwards are mostly unscathed. They argue that Edwards has been nailed by the haircut story and his house, and that is accurate. But it is also a weird change of pace for Edwards supporters, considering the main line of complaint has been that Edwards is being ignored by the media.
If you look at the data, he is being ignored by the press.
Just five candidates have been the focus of more than half of all the coverage. Hillary Clinton received the most (17% of stories), though she can thank the overwhelming and largely negative attention of conservative talk radio hosts for much of the edge in total volume. Barack Obama was next (14%), with Republicans Giuliani, McCain, and Romney measurably behind (9% and 7% and 5% respectively). As for the rest of the pack, Elizabeth Edwards, a candidate spouse, received more attention than 10 of them, and nearly as much as her husband.
And then there's Obama, who has received a hugely disproportionate amount of positive press akin to McCain in 2000 for his straight talk on Social Security, among other things.
I'm becoming increasingly skeptical that there is any grand coalition building going on here, or that the progressive movement or the creative class is at all relevant to this election at this point. It looks to me like the press is picking our nominee, as usual. Obama could have sown up a grand coalition, he did not, so now it's all about the media.
The Edwards and Obama people are in a celebratory mood over this anti-Clinton frenzy, and rightfully so. It's good for them. I thought Obama was done, but I shouldn't have made that statement. He's obviously not, and neither is Edwards, though I'd still give the advantage to Clinton. Beyond a bit of embarrassment at taking back a prediction, I don't have a dog in this fight. I can't figure out if there is a difference between the candidates, and I am disturbed that none of the movement is coming from progressive or substantive critiques. I'll be watching the trade debate to see if this changes.
What is very clear is that if you are pleased with the shape of the race of the last two weeks, you should be careful and temper your joy. The press is a wild, unpredictable, vicious, and easily bored group of gossips who do not like progressives, Democrats, labor, or any of us. And despite what you may or may not think, they do not like your candidate. Finally, Mike Lux has made the point that the Clinton's are at their best when their back is up against the wall. Many people have thrown their lot in with the Clinton's, and she has done great politics all over the country. Since Obama and Edwards have faced little negative attention over the past few months, there's a lot to work with.
I don't think that 2008 is that significant an election, but most Democrats do. And you can be sure that Clinton is going to do her best to have caucus goers and voters in New Hampshire asking themselves whether they should try an untested and inexperienced Obama against the Republican machine.