James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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Excited about Obama vs. Romney?

Posted by James McPherson on January 3, 2012

Let’s get this out of the way right up front: As I predicted even before Obama was formally elected in 2008, the 2012 presidential election will be a contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Or more likely, a three-way race involving Obama, Romney and Voter Indifference. Unfortunately I later chickened out on my Romney prediction, and have wavered since then–stating on the radio and elsewhere that Romney had the best chance of beating Obama, but probably couldn’t win over enough evangelicals and Tea Party members to win the GOP nomination.

So assuming that Mitt will win the nomination, we can determine that another prediction in that October 2008 post also was accurate, that “the Religious Right will continue to decline in influence”–after all, many of evangelicals will end up voting for a Mormon over a Christian (though same may still insist they’re choosing a Mormon over a Muslim). Likewise, the Tea Party effect has apparently waned, so however much we may have enjoyed the loony antics of this Republican primary race, we may have fewer interesting characters getting serious consideration in 2012 Congressional races than we saw two years ago.

Of course tonight the three cable news networks are devoting all of their time to the Iowa Republican Caucus, trying to act as if it matters. Perhaps they really think it does, though I’m giving them–even Megyn Kelly on Fox News–the benefit of the doubt, assuming they’re smart enough to know better. But if they don’t put on the pseudo-breathless political horserace act, they know that no one other than media critics and political junkies will watch.

Maybe viewers would mostly tune out anyway, keeping in mind how few (thankfully) actually watch cable news regularly. Fox News likes to brag about how its talking heads draw bigger audiences than do those on either CNN or MSNBC, but that’s a bit like claiming to be the most popular hooker in church. All of the traditional network nightly news programs have dropped considerably, but NBC, ABC and CBS news shows all get far better ratings than anything on Fox News. And when it comes to cable, the top five networks are USA, the Disney Channel, ESPN, TNT and the once-credible, now badly misnamed, History Channel.

Of those top five, only ESPN offers anything resembling news. And its high standing simply demonstrates the key point of sports columnist’s Norman Chad’s outstanding column of this week. Even if you’re not a sports fan (and especially if you are), I encourage you to read the piece, in which Chad points out, “We spend more money on stadiums than schools,” and “At our institutions of higher learning, we care more about basketball than biology.”

Chad also writes: “Think about this: We have been at war somewhere in the world since 2001 — at war — and that gets less scrutiny than an average NFL game. For real. Buccaneers-Falcons is dissected in detail much more than U.S.-Afghanistan; that’s an NFC divisional game weighed against an international armed conflict.”

Back to the Iowa Caucus: Some may argue that Rick Santorum’s relatively strong showing means something. But that would be true only if Iowa had been significant in any election since 1976. But Iowa doesn’t matter–just ask John McCain, who finished fourth there four years ago.

Romney will be the GOP nominee, and he may even win. Looking at today’s Republican party, though, I seriously doubt it. More likely is that my next trip to Washington, D.C., will correspond with Obama’s next inauguration. And chances are, I’ll watch it on a hostel TV again, just as I did in 2009. With luck, maybe Chief Justice John Roberts will get the words right this time.

A final word about the Republicans who might end up voting for Romney. My favorite recent political quote comes from a music professor I won’t name because the words come from an email: “If you were for Michelle Bachman, before you were for Rick Perry, before you were for Herman Cain, before you were for Newt Gingrich, before you were for Rick Santorum–mainly because you were against Mitt Romney before you were for him–do you waive your right to complain about flip-flopping? For all time?”

Faced with that quandry, I suspect many voters will simply stay home, helping the Obama machine win again.

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17 Responses to “Excited about Obama vs. Romney?”

  1. Reuel said

    We agree on the History Channel is no more History, Ice Road Truckers and Pickers are not history. Thing is if you buy the upgraded cable or satellite pack you get History Channel 2. Which is what 1 used to be before President Obama took office. LOL. See just like the left blamed all the worlds problems on one person “President Bush” Turn around is fair play.

    That last quote is so true, I was for Bachmann not 100 percent for a while until I came the the conclusion that her smile was just to fake to believe. At that point in my anybody but Obama time frame I being the Decider,(Picture GWB laughing with his shoulders going up and down) decided to buy a WW2 in 2012 bumper sticker. Go back and research Obama’s stump speeches and even his Inaugural speech and tell me whom the liar and chief really is. Weather you agree with President Bush or not, ( I know not in your case) George told you what he was going to do and did it. Ask Saddam, oh that’s right we can’t. President Obama (or his teleprompter) has lied more times in 3 years that any President going back to Nixon. I quit calling him Barry becuase CNN and other left leaning website remove my posts when I refer to him by the name he used to start collage.

    As Rick said last night when finishing in 2nd place by 8 votes, “Game on” and Obama is toast.

  2. Mike Ingram said

    Jim, I know that music professor. Served with that music professor. He’s a good friend of mine. You Jim, are no music professor.

  3. James McPherson said

    “Obama is toast.”

    Possible, Reuel, but I doubt it. Who do you think will beat him?

    “You Jim, are no music professor.”

    Obviously, Mike, you’ve heard me sing. At least we never did that on the radio. :-)

    Thanks, gentlemen, for the comments, and Happy New Year to you both.

  4. Reuel said

    Oh the little Dan Quail thing spun for political proposes. I don’t know any Music professors but I know the Midwest and they are going to have a voter fall equal to the Arab Spring, but peacefully.

    As for whom can beat him, I see only one (plus the below possible situations) at this time if some wing-nut does not decide to run third party. No I do not speak of Ron Paul. If Trump does something stupid like some say he may. then Obama is in for four more. Mitt might be able to beat him in a similar way that Bush won in 2000 and Al got the popular vote, I can see that happening, because I live in fly over area and we are mad as heck. Illinois has lost so many jobs to the south of me because the Democratic Governor raised ALL income taxes 66 %. Corporations are all moving out of State also. Check the top three states for u-haul rentals that are going out of State and you will See Illinois is Number 1 Its either Pennsylvania or New York at number 2 and Michigan is number three. Michigan voted 63 percent last year for a Republican Governor, What’s that Guy on Blue Collar Comedy tour say? “Here your sign”. Three big union States that are at the upper end of the unemployment polls. They are all now going to the toss up State status and were all Huge wins for Obama in 2008. So for me to say Mitts is not the real answer the answer is he will beat himself just like Jimmy Carter.

    The person the Left has to worry about going rogue is believe it or not “Ron Paul”. He may just take more votes from the left than the right. His Iowa showing was first time voters from the same beliefs as the young Obama crowed of 2008.

    So who should be whom. Think about it Michigan went 63 percent for a Republican, now that is something.

    Prediction; Romney with 278 electoral votes.

  5. James McPherson said

    I heard one commentator say that Paul wouldn’t run third-party because of the backlash his son would face. But the younger is in a can’t-lose district, it seems to me, so I wouldn’t rule it out for that reason. And I agree that he’d pull more from Romney than from Obama.

    If forced to predict today, I’d say Obama gets 270-280, depending on whom Romney picks as VP. Maybe Santorum (though I suspect he’s about to go down in flames) or Rubio. I thought maybe Hayley, but I think she’ll soon be facing ethical problems. I think Christie and Ayotte are unlikely because they’re Northeasterners. Probably none of the above–I’ll think on it for a few months. :-)

  6. Reuel said

    Here are five states that are up in the air that Obama won in 2008. Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania Florida and it looks like Ohio is turning colors to. So the total that is 106 that will be in toss up status. Plus the unemployment (look at the unemployment in these states and the number of u-haul trucks leaving these states). that did show improvement was seasonal and will take a dump this month. Plus the ones that quit looking for work will start looking again. For a man that has already received 1.8 Million this year from Wall Street, his whole running the class warfare thing isn’t going to work anymore. Romney has received 2.4 Million from Wall street so far, so what Obama’s talking point “You got .6 Million more money from Wall Street than I did. The whole Bush destroyed the whole world economy thing isn’t going to work either, people are not buying that this whole world decline is just One man and his policies. I will say the regulations expectations from the left and the right are both wrong, Obama’s regulations are choking industry and industry is going to do what it always does. Pass the price on to the consumer and then China will keep polluting, and building lower quality products that Americans can afford. Yes the right had to little regulations on Wall Street, but there must be a middle ground on regulation and right now all the excess regulation is killing jobs everywhere here in the Midwest and could possibly cause about 74 Coal Power plants shut down. So where do we stand. Barry is toast because running on the rich are not paying enough money to the Government is a silly argument and will do nothing to increase the private sector jobs. So when we all depend on Government for our subsistence, what is that called? Not a Republic.

    A term in the Midwest town that use to be a town that was the a test area for all new projects, Broadway shows and political talking point back in the day was “If it plays in Peoria it will Play anywhere” Well Barry isn’t playing in Peoria and that is in his own state of record. Illinois. So where does he get his 270-280 you predict? The Midwest has had enough of him and the teleprompter.

  7. James McPherson said

    Where does he get the 270-280? Good question, and I’m not sure; for one thing, the strategy may vary according to who becomes the GOP VP choice.

    As noted in the article I cited above, the “plan is not to go after every state Obama carried in 2008; instead he will be content to recapture the 251 electoral votes that John Kerry won in 2004 and build from there. He sees five paths to 270, several of which hinge on the president increasing his margins among Latinos, the fastest-growing subset of the electorate. … The West Path would add Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada to the Kerry states, for 272 electoral votes. The Florida Path would add just Florida, for 275. The South Path runs through North Carolina and Virginia (274 electoral votes), while the Midwest Path includes Ohio and Iowa (270 electoral votes). Finally, there’s the Expansion Path: Obama carries all the Kerry states except blue-collar Pennsylvania and libertarian New Hampshire, then compensates with victories in Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and John McCain’s home state of Arizona, which was uncontested in 2008, for obvious reasons.”

    But I would remind you that the political attention span of Americans is short and much can happen in 10 months, so it’s too early to tell. I wouldn’t be greatly surprised at this point by either a Romney win or an Obama victory in which he wins by as much or more than he did last time.

  8. Reuel said

    Either way I think it will be over before the polls close on the west coast. Still think Biden is going to take a dive and Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz of Florida may get asked if Hillary does not want it. Hillary may take the next 4 years off either way this goes and come back in 2016 with I told you so tour. Honestly I wish she would of challenged Obama this year because she would get my vote over any other currently person running. Three states in the east and the Mid-west had signature fraud to get Obama on the Primary ballot last time and she was more deserving and that becomes more apparent everyday. Yeah me supporting Hillary, go figure. She is a very smart person and I do believe she would of worked with whom ever is in either house.

    Romney has to pick someone from the south because I don’t think he plays well down their.

    No my intent was that Paul may take more from Obama not Romney, that group that is following him are far left and far right isolationist. That is why I quit going to WJ they are rabid about Ron Paul and they started pulling my comments when I said bad things about Ron.

  9. James McPherson said

    Hillary might get your vote, but she wouldn’t get enough to beat Obama–after all, liberals don’t like the fact that he has turned into somewhat of a hawk, but she has always been one. All she’d do is what Ted Kennedy did in 1980–help hand the election to the GOP. But I do agree that she’s smart and capable; even when Bill was running I thought she was the smarter of the two.

    Still, the main reason she lost is that she and Bill ran a bad campaign, relying on the old style of targeting strategic states instead of the Howard Dean approach of building support everywhere. Interestingly, her strategy would have worked in Republican primaries, which are mostly winner-take-all. It’s also interesting that Obama seems now to be thinking of going to the traditional approach in his re-election bid, though of course the Electoral College system is more like the GOP primary system. I think Biden will stay where he is.

    WJ didn’t pull any of my comments that I know of, but did change its login procedure. I wasn’t willing to go through it to participate in what had become a mostly shallow and sometimes blatantly stupid discussion, so I haven’t been back, either. In fact, I haven’t been reading much on blogs, spending most of my media time with magazines, the New York Times, and the cable news channels.

  10. Reuel said

    I was just thinking. If we quit voting will they all go away? I may in the first time in my life, not vote. I don’t think either side understand what they are doing or don’t care as long as it benefits them. I don’t think our founding fathers had this in mind.

  11. James McPherson said

    Not many folks vote now, especially in the elections where they could actually make a difference (school board, city council, etc.), so unfortunately I don’t think it would make them go away. They’re more worried with collecting cash than votes. And I agree with your last two sentences.

  12. Reuel said

    Well three states, three “winners” makes all losers. It is going to do nothing but secure President Obama’s second term. Florida is going to be ugly.

    Still waiting on Hillary……….

  13. James McPherson said

    No need for Hillary to do anything but enjoy the show–the Republicans are doing their damnest to re-elect Obama. Perhaps in a landlide, considering that now Newt’s leading in Florida. Care to predict when he’ll totally melt down?

  14. Reuel said

    Yes it will be right after Florida, It seems Newt trying to use that he and President Reagan were close is a lie. The tapes from the 1980′s are out now and Newt said some very bad things about a person that is worshiped on the right. I predict Romney will close the deal after he gets out of the south. Still thing Biden’s going to take a dive if the general election look close. The first Female VP would bring more of the women vote for sure. Romney’s problem will be the south in the general election. Could take Past Florida Governor Crist from Florida if Rubio still says no. Senator Rubio would lock in Florida for sure. The most enjoyable part of this election has been reading and listening to Charles Krauthammer. That is one of the very few people I watch for on Fox News, he and Brett Barr are worth listening to.

  15. Reuel said

    Sorry for typing error, fingers aren’t working well today. extrapolate the meaning. Kind of wet and soggy weather here in the Fly over country, reminds me of Seattle, one of my favorite vacation locations. Happy New year.

  16. Rick Timmerberg said

    Only a couple of days prior to the report was released, President Obama told the world during his annual State of the Union address, “We don’t begrudge financial success in this country. We admire it.” The president added that “When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it’s not because they envy the rich. It’s because they understand that when I get a tax break I don’t need and the country can’t afford, it either adds to the deficit or somebody else has to make up the difference, like a senior on a fixed income, or a student trying to get through school, or a family trying to make ends meet.” That is virtually all fine and good, but precisely what concerning his own aids that didn’t remember to shell out their income taxes? Is this man’s speech regarding everybody or are his employees exempt? reveal this unique fairness to me?

  17. [...] one thing, the Congresswoman ISN’T RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT. Even if she were, her investments were public (declared on her financial disclosure form), pretty [...]

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