For sheer arrogance and self-importance, it's pretty hard to top a pair of political pundits at Politico on the power they believe media "insiders" have to tell Americans what Mitt Romney really said and meant in his nomination acceptance speech at the Republican convention Thursday night.
I daresay that most Americans, almost six years after the web site's founding (January 23, 2007, according to Wikipedia), don't even know what the Politico is ("Oh, is that the new bar downtown?"). But by gosh, Jim VandeHei and John F. Harris, in an "analysis" updated early Friday morning, clearly believe that a couple hundred of their colleagues in the media (possibly including themselves), also largely unknown, will be able to take control of Americans' perceptions of Romney's presentation -- and, ultimately, of his campaign (bolds are mine):
Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech Thursday night was one of the two most important moments of the general election — the other is the first debate — for the simple reason that it gave him a chance to speak directly to millions of people, avoiding the “media filter” through which politicians ordinarily speak to voters.
But that doesn’t mean the media filter — that contingent of perhaps a couple hundred journalists, operatives and commentators — doesn’t matter. History shows that the consensus view of this community of insiders — no matter how fair or unfair the judgments — will powerfully shape the way in which Romney’s words echo in the days and weeks after the speech.
What’s more, it is virtually inevitable that there will be a consensus view. Even if reactions and analysis are mixed immediately after the speech, a conventional wisdom about big political performances almost always gels within 24 hours.
I think this is the point at which we're supposed to bow down before these two guys and ask them, "Oh media filters, what is this 'consensus' which will control our discussions, now that we are 48 hours out from Romney's speech?"
Here what these two ninnies think Romney had to do to please the alleged gatekeepers:
The things the people who collectively represent the media filter were looking for in Romney’s speech were no mystery. It was clear from the pre-speech commentary that Romney would be judged by the chattering class by his answers to a specific set of questions.
Below is POLITICO’s list of the questions facing Romney. Different people might frame the questions differently, but the reality is just about any hack — journalist or operative — roaming the Tampa Bay Times Forum was watching the speech through a similar lens.
Does he pass the get-it test?
In other words, does Romney give the audience a way to get him — explaining what makes him tick in an appealing way — and show that he gets ordinary voters and the challenges they face.
... Post-speech verdict: Yeah, sure, kinda—Romney Thursday night showed he “gets it” as well as he is ever going to get it.
... Does he make a coherent case for his candidacy?
... Post-speech verdict: A strong yes. ... He managed to indict Obama without coming off as mean.
... Would people want to share a caffeine-free Diet Coke with that guy?
At this point, I'm calling off the torture (it's a "caffeine-free Diet Coke" because Romney as a Mormon won't have a beer or coffee. Get it?).
The truth is that the inside the Beltway, left-dominated chattering class had a lot more power to impose its perceptions on the American people during the past several decades and even then was usually (but sadly, not always) unsuccessful in imposing its will. If they were always successful, we'd be having discussions today about the significance of Jimmy Carter's second term, and the presidential performances of those two "brilliant" politicians from Massachusetts Michael Dukakis and John Kerry -- and we aren't.
No one will deny that these alleged influencers still have their moments, but New Media (left and center-right) now holds more than minor sway, with New Media (far moreso on the center-right than the left) relying far more on presenting facts and reality and letting readers and viewers decide and less on shoving what they want people to think down their throats. As New Media has gained influence, the old kingmakers have become more shrill, and in the process have shown America what they all too often really are: far-leftists in professional attire. I believe that this exposure of their leanings has caused their influence to diminish even further, accelerating a downward spiral which the ideology-driven elites seem almost powerless to recognize, let alone stop.
One also wonders if the supposed kingmakers are as out of touch as VandeHei and Harris, who at the end of their gauntlet of "things Romney must do" wrote:
He is behind in this race. It is Romney, not Obama, who needs to somehow change the dynamic in some major way, and it is hard to see how Thursday’s speech did this.
What's hard to see is how these two could be so blind. As seen at Real Clear Politics, ten of the eleven polls taken before the convention (from Gallup 8/6-12 through ABC-WaPo 8/22-25) are within the margin of error; Romney outpolled Obama in three of them, with one tie, and several commentators have noted an all too typical oversampling of Democrats in many of these polls.
As to the Electoral College, neither candidate holds a majority. Obama's 221-191 lead at RCP almost completely disappears if North Carolina and Virginia, which are seen as toss-ups but where Romney would seem to have an advantage, go his way. This about as close to an absolute deadlock as you'll ever see, but these Politico puppets think that it's Romney who need to "change the dynamic." Sure, guys.
I anxiously await how Vandehei and Harris believe the couple of hundred kingmakers will shape the narrative of the Democrats' convention in Charlotte. Sadly, it's not too cynical to suggest that in this instance they'll be told how to do that, and that these same supposedly powerful shapers of perceptions will do as they are told.
And while I'm at it, could VandeHei and Harris be so kind as to tell us the names of the two hundred people in the presidential star chamber, so we can also make sure to engage in some filtering -- as in, filtering them out?
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.