For a little while during Tuesday’s coverage of the Kentucky presidential primary, it looked as if the national cable news networks might give viewers a little more of Kentucky than they gave folks West Virginia last week.
CNN actually had Candy Crowley doing reports from Louisville with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign, and we saw footage of things such as Jerry Lundergan of Lexington, Clinton’s Kentucky campaign chairman, firing up the crowd for the senator from New York.
Maybe the momentousness of the night — in which Illinois Sen. Barack Obama seemed to be claiming some semblance of victory or dealing with his second consecutive drubbing in an Appalachian state, or both — re-energized the talking heads. But pretty soon, it was back to the talking heads.
That doesn’t mean they didn’t talk about us.
They talked plenty about Kentucky, trying to discern why the Bluegrass State overwhelmingly supported Clinton, in what appears to be a lost cause. They used election returns and exit poll data but, from what I saw flipping back and forth, never actually talked to a Kentuckian.
So we were politely generalized as an uneducated state with a race problem — for more impolite characterizations, visit the comments section of The New York Times’ political blog.
A particularly annoying moment came when CNN’s John King and Wolf Blitzer were comparing Kentucky and Oregon and going on and on about all of the college towns in Oregon and how much better educated the population of Oregon is than Kentucky. John and Wolf, I could sit here and name a dozen significant Kentucky colleges off the top of my head and know I left several out. Further, they spoke about how Obama’s constituency is educated and Clinton’s is not.
Who should be more insulted by this, Clinton or us?
Beware Montana and South Dakota, this treatment is coming your way. If you go for Obama, expect to be characterized as enlightened and intelligent. If you pick Clinton, expect to be defined as a state full of goobers. But they’ll probably never actually talk to someone from your state to come up with that.
Over at MSNBC, political guru Chuck Todd was saying that all you had to do is look at census data and some geographic information to figure out whom a state would support in the election. It reminded me of that old adage, “There are lies, damn lies and statistics.”
Yes, there seems to information to back up Todd’s assertion. But it would be much easier to digest if Todd and his folks actually got out and talked to someone instead of just talking to one another.
I watched Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia on Wednesday, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, give a much deeper, more nuanced analysis of Obama’s problem in Appalachia than anything I heard out of the usual suspects on MSNBC and CNN on Tuesday night. That was something.
To give some credit, several commentators such as Pat Buchanan and Harold Ford said they thought Obama made a mistake by not visiting Kentucky and West Virginia. He might not have won those states, but he could have closed the margins — 35 percentage points and 41 percentage points, respectively — by which he lost if he had actually gotten out and talked to people.
If only those commentators’ networks followed the same advice.
Think of how much more interesting and colorful the coverage of this race could be if the networks actually got out of their studios and into the voting communities. But they just seem to want to stay in the city with pundits throwing passes to one another. With this formula, their coverage already looks like summer repeats.
Further reading: Tom Eblen's Bluegrass and Beyond blog links to an excellent post about Obama and Appalachia at the Daily Yonder.
Pol Watchers, our political blog, reports that CNN has stirred controversy with its report from Clay County, the poorest county in Kentucky.