Friday, April 02, 2004

To every season, spin spin spin

Zachary Roth brings us this fascinating account of Karl Rove's attempt to spin CNN's interpretation of new polls showing Bush taking the lead in swing states. CNN was initially reporting Kerry's slump vs. Bush to be a result of the Bush campaign's negative ad assault in those states (duh!). Apparently Karl Rove called up CNN to assert that it was Bush's positive ads about himself that were making the difference and that Kerry's fall was purely his own fault.

Now, we understand that the White House would prefer that people think Kerry's declining numbers are the result of voters getting more familiar with him, rather than attack ads from his opponent. After all, as anchor Candy Crowley put it to Schneider, "attack ads sound bad."

But something tells us that Karl Rove doesn't much care one way or the other. As long as CNN is "analyzing" why Kerry's hit the skids, it's putting out a storyline the White House likes. That's why Rove called Schneider -- he was trying to milk another day's coverage out of Tuesday's poll results. And Schneider, eager to share with the world the "news" that Karl Rove had called him in person, duly obliged.

Sometimes it's depressing to report how easily the news media gets duped.

While I agree that "Kerry's hit the skids" is a story Rove would like the news to run with, I disagree with Zachary that Rove is unconcerned with what gets the blame for the skid. I believe that Rove has come to the conscious conclusion that Bush doesn't have much to run on. So, in order to beat Kerry, Rove has to make him look like a really bad alternative. However, doing this can have an unfortunate side-effect of bringing down Bush's favorables  as well (the "attack ads sound bad" problem).

What Bush has to do is bring down Kerry's favorables at a rate that is higher than doing so will bring down Bush's. One way to do that is to put out the spin that any positive benefit they are seeing in the polls is because of Bush's positive message and that the attack adsvoter education programs are really just a minor component of the overall campaign.

In the coming months we can expect to see millions of dollars spent to make Kerry look like a steaming pile of crap while, at the same time, Bushies insisting that attack adsvoter education programs really don't mean all that much and that it is the positive message that wins the election.


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