In an October poll from Emerson College, Donald Trump edges out President Biden 47% to 45%, with 8% undecided
I was moved to opine a few weeks back that the media had basically declared the Republican race over.
The laser focus was on Donald Trump, his burgeoning lead in the polls, which grew after each indictment, and the sheer likelihood that he will be the nominee. It’s hard to argue with that.
Sometimes the references were subtle, as in all the coverage of Biden-Trump polls, with only the thin fig leaf of calling the former president the “expected” or “probable” nominee.
Political scribes, of course, will still head to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, desperate for a real contest, even as they keep saying and writing that Trump is running away with it. They seem to have abandoned the idea that Trump would be damaged by having to spend time in courtrooms–which I dismissed early on–as he turns each appearance into a running press conference.
But now they’re taking a different approach.
Rather than zero in on Trump, the press is systematically demolishing the notion that any of the other candidates can win.
And once you demolish them, it only leaves one man standing.
Politico just ran a piece on Tim Scott, saying his recent media blitz “may come too late to energize Scott’s faltering campaign.”
Sen. John Cornyn praised Scott’s Reaganesque themes–he is very charismatic–but said: “I’m disappointed, because he’s such a terrific guy and has got a great message.” Will the South Carolinian stay in the race? Cornyn’s answer is revealing: “At some point, there’s going to have to be consolidation when the outcome is inevitable.”
Since that interview, Scott has canceled his New Hampshire advertising and sent most of his staff to Iowa, clearly indicating a cash crunch.
The New York Times, in the guise of describing how Ron DeSantis “lost the Internet,” is really writing his political obituary in the presidential race. Which strikes me as premature for the second-place candidate.
“Even after a recent concerted effort to reboot, the campaign has had trouble shaking off a reputation for being thin-skinned and mean-spirited online, repeatedly insulting Trump supporters and alienating potential allies. Some of its most visible efforts — including videos employing a Nazi symbol and homoerotic images — have turned off donors and drawn much-needed attention away from the candidate.”
Beyond the web, and like his rivals, “the DeSantis campaign has often failed to land meaningful blows on Mr. Trump, who somehow only gains more support when under fire.”
Meanwhile, “pro-Trump influencers peppered the internet with posts that amplified a rumor that Mr. DeSantis had once eaten chocolate pudding with his fingers.” That team doesn’t exactly require hard evidence for its attacks.
DeSantis has had a long slide in the polls, but a spokesman told the Times the campaign is “firing on all cylinders.”
Politico, again, is practically pronouncing last rites for the Mike Pence campaign: He is “a man navigating the awkward, abrupt transition from being next in the line of presidential succession just four years ago to backbencher status among the Republican field. You can see him grapple with his own political mortality, working it out in public.” I’m sure you didn’t miss the mortality reference.
The former vice president always faced a tough challenge, because many MAGA types dislike Pence for refusing (rightly) to block the Electoral College certification of Joe Biden, while those who agree with his stance don’t like his subservience to President Trump over four years. Pence has $1.2 million in cash, is $620,000 in debt and recently gave his own campaign $150,000.
Politico played up that Pence drew just 13 people to an appearance at a Pizza Ranch in Iowa, and “it’s difficult to find a political prognosticator who is not on his payroll who gives Pence any plausible shot at winning the nomination.” Not exactly mincing words.
The candidate who’s been drawing the most positive coverage is Nikki Haley, who is having a “moment,” as the Atlantic and many other outlets have observed. This is of course driven by her rise in the polls, though she’s blipped up to between 7% and 11% in recent surveys.
Still, the upbeat Atlantic piece concludes: “Even if every Republican candidate except Trump dropped out and backed Haley, she’d still be trailing Trump…This makes Haley’s rise intellectually interesting, but it also means it will likely just be a footnote to Trump’s renomination.”
The bottom line is that the media are treating all the candidates as future footnotes now. By essentially dismissing every one of Donald Trump’s rivals as long shots, they have found a new way to say that the former president has this thing wrapped up.