Monday, November 29, 2010

Kurtz: Sarah Palin may be beating the media at their own game

"May be" beating them?
Howard Kurtz, who is a media critic by trade, has also been a longtime critic of Sarah Palin. But in his latest opinion piece at the left wing Daily Beast, he is forced to concede that Gov. Palin may be beating the media at their own game and setting herself up "perfectly" for a 2012 presidential run:
I’m starting to believe the detractors are wrong and that Palin is executing a shrewd strategy that has catapulted her past potential rivals, co-opting the same media establishment she loves to denigrate.


In her TLC series on Alaska, we see Sarah the frontierswoman hunting, skeet-shooting, and beating a captured halibut to death. None of these skills are in demand in the Oval Office, but they cast her as a strong, swashbuckling figure. Compared to that image, Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty seem like, well, guys in suits.

“Sarah Palin has never done anything conventional,” says John Coale, a Washington lawyer and informal adviser to Palin. “The reality show shows a very nice person—what’s not to like? It’s great TV. With her Facebook page and tweets, to the great upset of the media, she communicates around them and they don’t like it. There’s no filter.”


The numbers tell the story. According to a Google News search by New York Times blogger Nate Silver, Palin’s name has been mentioned in about 20,300 articles this year, compared with 3,640 for Romney, 3,280 for Newt Gingrich, 2,980 for Pawlenty and 1,870 for Mike Huckabee. She has been Googled six times as often as these four gentlemen combined.

And don’t be fooled by the fact that the ratings for Sarah Palin’s Alaska dropped from 5 million to 3 million after the debut episode. In the YouTube age, far more people see the clips and follow the chatter over the series than watch it as couch potatoes.


John Ellis, a seasoned political analyst and a cousin of George W. Bush, puts it this way:

“‘She's too stupid’ is what the Establishment GOP really thinks about Sarah Palin. ‘Good-looking,’ but a ‘ditz.’ This is unfertile ground, since Palin can turn the argument on a dime and say: ‘They drive the country into bankruptcy, they underwrite Fannie and Freddie, they bail out Goldman Sachs, they fight wars they don't want to win, they say enforcing the immigration laws is silly and they call me stupid! I'll give you a choice: You can have their smarts or my stupidity, which one do you want?’”

That’s why the images of Palin hunting and fishing and telling Willow she can’t have boys upstairs may matter more than her policy positions—and separate her from a president with a Harvard Law degree. If the smart guys have failed, if the credentialed creative class has messed things up, it opens the door for a plain-spoken populist ready to refudiate the old order.

It's important to remember here that although he has a reputation as a "media critic," Kurtz is of the media, by the media and for the media. It's somewhat like having baseball players umpire baseball games. And though many have argued that taking on the media is a game Sarah Palin, or any other political figure, just cannot win, the results of public opinion polling make a strong case for the opposite view.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey conducted in October of 2009 found that 70 percent of adults nationwide -- an overwhelming majority -- considered the media to be out of touch with average Americans. One month earlier, a Gallup Poll discovered that a majority of Americans had "not very much" confidence or "none at all" in the old media. Studies by The Pew Research Center that same year confirmed that the public’s assessment of the accuracy of news reporting had slipped to its lowest level in more than two decades, and Americans’ opinions of media bias and independence were tied with previous lows. More recently, a Gallup Poll measuring the public's trust in institutions found Newspapers and television news ratings down in the low to mid twenty percent range. At least the media managed to beat Congress, which earned the confidence of only 11 percent of those surveyed.

With numbers like that, Sarah Palin clearly demonstrates that she knows how to choose her battles. It was the media, after all, that made her their enemy, and she is determined to make them regret that choice. As much as the media likes to claim that her national poll numbers are not all that great, they never mention that she polls much better than they do. Criticizing the media is in fact a smart and effective strategy for Sarah Palin, as effective as her criticism of Congress prior to the midterm elections. And we all know how that turned out.

- JP

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