by Jeff Siegel
It almost doesn't matter what happens here in Texas in Tuesday's Democratic presidential primary. Barack Obama has already won.
Reported The Dallas Morning News: "He's widely expected to win a majority of delegates in Texas, for instance." Said The San Antonio Express-News: "The mathematics of the state's Democratic delegate apportionment process do not favor [Hillary Clinton]." The Houston Chronicle hedged its bets a bit more, but predicted that the election was turning in Obama's favor.
Which goes a long way toward explaining how Mrs. Clinton's 16-point lead in Texas has evaporated over the past three weeks. It's fashionable to blame the mainstream media for much of what happens during an election, and much of the time it's sour grapes. Candidates don't lose because the media conspire against them; they lose because they're lousy candidates or they screw up or voters just aren't interested. In Mrs. Clinton's case, it's a little of each – see this truly incisive analysis from The New York Times' Frank Rich, who wrote: "The Clinton camp has been the slacker in this race, more words than action, and its candidate’s message, for all its purported high-mindedness, was and is self-immolating." Also, see the Dallas alternative weekly, which noted that Clinton's campaign started behind in Dallas County and never caught up, despite all of its money and resources.
Yet, having said this, it has been fascinating to watch the state's media treat Sen. Obama (D-IL) as if he was the hunky high school football star and it was the shy girl in the glasses swooning at him from the back of the classroom. And I say this with complete impartiality – I have no use for either candidate, both of whom have betrayed the American left and will do nothing to end the war in Iraq, solve the health care crisis, or reinvigorate the economy.
It's not so much that the media has been unfair to Sen. Clinton (D-NY). Rather, to paraphrase George Orwell, it has treated Obama more equally – with splashier stories, especially on TV; with gushing prose; and with more love. Wrote The Morning News in its editorial endorsing Obama: "All in all, Mr. Obama offers Texas Democrats the best choice for leadership, for judgment – and for substance." Say what you will about Mrs. Clinton, and I have, the one thing she isn't is a lightweight.
With friends like this, what does a 16-point deficit in the polls matter?
So why have Texas' media, normally so unfriendly to Democrats (none of the state's major papers endorsed John Kerry in 2004), been so sweet to Obama?
• They still hate Bill Clinton. A lot. It's difficult to explain the depth of this state's animosity toward the former president, especially among upper middle class Anglos – the kinds of people who run newspapers and TV stations. But it's there, and Mrs. Clinton suffers for it.
• Texans have an exaggerated view of their self-importance. (This is, after all, the only state that used to be a country). Whatever happens here happens better than anywhere else. So if some middling, lightweight state like Wisconsin can show all sorts of love for Obama, we can show it here, Texas-style.
• The state's media, seeing an opportunity to shine on the national stage, want to show that they are worthy of the pundits and the Beltway wise guys. And you don't get that sort of attention by explaining why Mrs. Clinton can win here when the pundits and the Beltway wise guys have written her off. I saw a local TV guy, who I swear has never covered politics here, explain why Mrs. Clinton was finished.
What will happen on Tuesday? I have absolutely no idea. Early voting turnout in Dallas, and throughout the state, was almost unprecedented. This usually benefits establishment candidates like Mrs. Clinton. But how does that jibe with what what everyone else has told us – that Obama has already won?
Your guess is as good as mine.
For more background on the 2008 campaign, please see these archival posts:
- "Did Barack Obama Get the SNL Endorsement?"
- "The Hillary Clinton Potomac Primary Climate Check;"
- "Wolf Blitzer: Is Human Rights More Important than American National Security?"
- "John McCain and the Republican Right;" and
- "Mike Huckabee, Texas Ranger."
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