Monday, June 11, 2012

Monday Cranky Blogging 2

Chris Cillizza:
Is there anyone paying even passing attention to politics who hasn’t seen the Obama clip five times at this point — which, by the way, is less than 96 hours after he said it? Answer: no.
(via Roberts)

You know, I think it's fair to say that I pay somewhat more than passing attention to politics.

I saw the press conference live. Tweeted about the gaffe immediately, too.

I haven't seen it a single time since.

So I'm going to do a little self-Nielson to see how that could possibly happen. Apologies if it's long. Feel free to skip the next three paragraphs if you're not all that interested.

Friday night, if I recall correctly, I watched an old taped episode of "Vice" (which, by the way, I think I'm giving up on; I just don't enjoy cringe comedy), and then fortunately for me the Giants were playing the Rangers, so I had the ballgame on TV on the (sort of) local Fox sports outlet. Neither my DVR'd Vice nor the Giants made any reference to Barack Obama's gaffe.

Saturday I listened to the radio in the morning, then went to the local track for the Belmont simulcast. Made my bet, came home, flipped the TV back and forth between the Belmont coverage and the Giants/Rangers game, probably with a bit of MLB network coverage thrown in. Once again, no one played the clip, or even made any mention of it. Saturday night I mostly watched the Kings/Devils game on NBC, once again flipping over to MLB network during the breaks; I understand there was also a fight, and an important NBA game, which I'm sure a lot of folks watched. After the game, if I recall correctly, I watched a taped episode of "Girls." Yet again, no clips of Obama or Romney at all. I suspect that one or more NY pols were at the Belmont, perhaps even the Big Dog, but if they were on it was while I was watching Vogelsong's gem.

Sunday? I'm sure the clip was on at least some of the Sunday shows, but like normal Americans I don't watch the Sunday shows. Instead, as usual I followed the much more sensible path of listening to one of two Sunday Beatles shows I always listen to while reading the newspaper (which, granted, did mention the Obama gaffe, although my old-fashioned print newspaper had no video clips enclosed). Then errands, pickup basketball, and home to more Giants/Rangers. After dinner and some reading, we watched a Buffy episode (season six; we've been watching with our eldest, who is a big fan, but it's taking us forever to get through season six for what I should think are obvious reasons), and then we watched the big Mad Men season finale. At some point in there, also watched about ten minutes of the Tonys. Now, I know that not all that many people actually watch Mad Men, but we did tape that show with Starbuck which I believe does get good ratings. Perhaps it'll turn out, whenever I get around to watching it, that it's just chock full of clips of the Obama gaffe. I sort of don't think so.

For what it's worth, I don't recall watching any clips of anything on the computer or any other devices this weekend, and obviously that's not all that normal. I did, I believe, receive copies of several clips over email, but I rarely watch them, and certainly didn't over the weekend.

Hey, I don't pretend that my political TV watching habits are normal -- after all, hardly anyone uses C-SPAN as a go-to destination during ads. But I'm actually very confident that most normal people not only have not seen the clip of Barack Obama's press conference, but haven't heard word one about it.

And those who do know about it? They're the real attentive citizens, but we also know that the more people pay attention to politics, the more they're likely to be strong partisans.

Of course, if Team Romney winds up using the clip in ads for months, yes, everyone will see it. Will it change minds? Fairly unlikely. The whole campaign, everything from who the candidates are to the debates to the ads to GOTV to platforms, only moves the final results a few percentage points at best; it seems highly, highly, unlikely that one particular sound bit could do very much at all.

Cillizza compares "doing fine" to gaffes by John Kerry and John McCain, but both of those candidates probably did a bit better than the fundamentals might have predicted; there's no way to know, but it seems highly unlikely to me that the specific quotes made any difference at all -- and quite plausible, actually, that the Big Themes that the quotes were used to illustrated didn't actually make any difference, either. It's more likely that people who would have voted against Kerry or McCain anyway found the themes that that the other candidate was attacking on to be useful explanations for a decision already made.

But that last bit, about the ultimate importance of gaffes, is at least a fairly complicated question that's difficult to nail down empirically. The question of what regular people watched this weekend? That's easy -- and the answer is surely not the Obama gaffe clip.


  1. I pay more than a passing attention to politics, and I don't think I've even seen the actual clip once. Definitely read about it several times, but haven't actually seen the video of the president saying it. (I have had the opportunity, but didn't click 'play' on any of the videos I saw--how is seeing it any different than reading it?)

  2. If you were able to get to it, I would be interested in knowing what you make of this study that Andrew Sullivan linked to:

    The methodology sounds ingenious, but I don't know, I'm an amateur. If the conclusion is right, though, then race had a significant effect (-3%) in '08. (Unlike Sullivan, my assumption would be that it has less of an effect this year, because Obama's already president. No?)

  3. It seems like campaign operations and other activist groups consciously pitch most of their material to the news organizations themselves, to their editors and to cable commentators and producers. They're trying to affect the assumptions and framings that those journalist/entertainers will continually draw upon, even when they fancy themselves to be very "in-the-know" and discussing the gaffe incidents or competing talking points at a ceaselessly meta level. So the campaign operations don't even need to count on some ordinary voter seeing a particular video clip; they just need media conventional wisdom to gradually shift in certain ways be election day such that any undecided voter is liable to pick up on some state of controversy over whether Obama is really "out-of-touch" or Romney is blah blah or blah is blah. It's all about constantly tending to a media and political landscape so that some reactions and some thoughts seem more natural or ready-at-hand than others.

  4. Ah, but don't forget Cilliza's world. He lives in DC. Let's say he's doing interviews for a column. He meets one of his contacts in their office...where he waits for 5 minutes in the waiting room where, you guessed it, CNN is on a TV.

    It's after work now, and he's hitting the local bar to have a beer (and, of course, work over pols for gossip). On the TV in this DC bar, seeing as it's not yet 7 and no baseball games are on yet, is MSNBC.

    It's Sunday morning, and he lives in the media cocoon. So, he watches a show or two (and watches clips from all the others), thinking they matter.

    In Chris Cilliza's world, he's seen the clip, without even trying to, 10 times. And, it's hard for anyone to understand others, unless they try really hard. And Cilliza, well, isn't trying hard.

  5. Perhaps it'll turn out, whenever I get around to watching it, that it's just chock full of clips of the Obama gaffe. I sort of don't think so.

    That was nice.

  6. I love that you call Katee Sackhoff Starbuck. She's was so good in that role it's hard not to just see Starbuck.

    1. Also, "Starbuck" is a lot easier to spell. Which is really helpful to me.

      Still haven't watched the cop show she's in, but tonight we made excellent progress on Buffy -- two episodes.

      Also, I tweeted what I thought was a very funny joke (re: Mad Men) that on upcoming Season 6, Pete struggles with his addiction to being punched in the face...but no one liked it, as far as I could tell.

      Therefore, I decided to inflict it on all of you. Sorry.

  7. Read the quote, tweeted about it, but still haven't seen it.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?