Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Actual Press Bias? Bob Kerrey

The twitters are all worked up this morning about the announcement that Bob Kerrey will not, after all, be returning to Nebraska to run for the open Senate seat there. Now, Nebraska Democrats are certainly in awful shape no matter what, but the idea that a guy who was last on a ballot there in 1994 and has spend most of the last decade living in New York City would be a formidable candidate just doesn't wash.

So why all the attention to Kerrey? Well, for one thing, being in New York is a lousy way to run for office in Nebraska -- but an excellent way to retain high name recognition among the national press. You'll recall that Harold Ford's political ambitions have been taken too seriously by the press, too, as have those of Rudy Giuliani.   I suspect others can think of additional examples. Of course, that attention, even if thoroughly unmerited, can be a resource for a potential candidate, but for Kerrey, that was unlikely to make up for his choice of residence.

On somewhat shakier ground...I'd agree with those who say that the press just likes some politicians better. It doesn't mean they get positive coverage all the time, as Bob Dole and John McCain can tell you, but it probably does mean that The Great Mentioner is more likely to take notice. Indeed, I'd argue that the politician who has benefited from this effect the most over the last year is Newt Gingrich. Sure, the press will take plenty of shots at him, but he also gets casually referred to as smart, and an ideas generator, and, well, as a serious politician with a plausible shot at a presidential nomination.

Anyway, I've always that that Kerrey was popular with reporters, although I've never known why he would be. Add to that a decade in New York, and there you go. But as a candidate for the Senate in 2012? I never really saw it, and I'm not at all surprised that he came to the same conclusion.


  1. I assumed Kerrey was popular with reporters because he was an exemplar of High Broderism. The greater mystery is why are reporters (as distinct from pundits) so drawn to High Broderism?

    But I probably just answered my own question. For a reporter, becoming a pundit must be paradise. No more shoe leather, no more shamelessly lying sources - just bloviating, and being lionized for it.

  2. I've long thought politicians from the New York and DC areas, and to a lesser extent Atlanta, have an enormous advantage in the present media era. That the people you mentioned, and Cuomo, Gillibrand, Christie, O'Malley, Mark Warner, and Bob McDonell are so often trumpted by The Great Mentioner is no coincidence. Though of course there's also the fact that both areas are enormous fundraising areas. But the heavy media concentration plays a key role.

  3. Kerry was popular with the beltway media long before he went to New York, for the reason Rick cites above. (And, in fact, was more popular before he went to NY.) He was exactly the kind of Democrat they most approve of -- that is, one who routinely kicked his own party's most loyal constituencies in the teeth and represented "heartland" "real" Americans (rather than erzatz, downscale, often urban Americans; working women, racial minorities, union members, uninsured, low wage service workers, etc.)

  4. You may be right about the press bias (although the answer in Kerrey's case may be personal charm), but you are wrong about the politics. If Kerrey ran in Nebraska in 2012, he would have defeated every Republican in the race. The only Republican who could have made it close was the sitting Governor. Why? We like Bob. (and few people like the Republican candidates)

  5. I think it's significant that your other examples are Bob Dole and John McCain. Like Kerrey, they're both veterans who suffered significant physical harm while serving their country. I imagine that makes a candidate and officeholder particularly noteworthy in the eyes of the national media.


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