How the Media Won Iowa

Rick Santorum

Image by Gage Skidmore on Flickr

The big winner in last night’s caucus was not Romney, Santorum or Ron Paul, but the media, for they proved they still have the power to control the outcome of elections. No, I’m not saying they rigged the vote count. The rigging occurs way before the votes are cast.

Many are saying Santorum’s hard work paid off in Iowa, but hard work had nothing to do with it. Over a week ago Santorum was in the single digits in the polls. What changed? A poll, released by CNN, showed Santorum at 16%. The media used this poll to create the illusion that Santorum was “surging” in Iowa.

Well, was he? Not exactly. That poll released by CNN mysteriously excluded independents and Democrats. It was a Republican-only poll. What’s even more interesting is that at the same time that CNN released this poll, they released a New Hampshire poll which did include independents. Why would CNN poll independents in New Hampshire but not in Iowa, knowing full well that independents were going to vote at the Iowa caucus? It just so happens that Ron Paul crushes the other candidates with independents. Last night’s entrance polls had him up by a huge margin with independents, at 48%.

When the media talks about a candidate “surging” it tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. That poll was inaccurate, but it didn’t matter. It became reality because the zombie voters who made up their mind in the last week went to the caucus to vote for the guy they were told is “winning”; the guy who they barely knew, since there wasn’t enough time for anyone to run any attack ads on the new “frontrunner” before the caucus.

The surge very often comes after the news coverage, not the other way around. A similar thing occurred with Herman Cain when he won the Presidency 5 straw poll in Florida. The media used that poll, and that poll alone, to justify giving him 24/7 coverage, after which he became the frontrunner. At that time, Ron Paul had won fifteen similar straw polls, yet got no attention for them.

While Santorum was being pushed in the last week, the media was doing everything they could to attack Ron Paul. They tried to paint him as a racist, even though Ron Paul is the only candidate who talks about how unfairly punished minorities are as a result of the drug war. A guest on the Hannity radio show–and Santorum himself on Hannity’s show–claimed that Ron Paul believes 9/11 was an inside job, a completely fabricated lie! A demented guest on Hardball even went as far as to say that Ron Paul believes we should execute gay people. (Watch how the idiot arrives at that conclusion).

Make no mistake, the media could take a bum off the street and make him the nominee or even president. Maybe they will resort to this in the event that Ron Paul continues to be a threat. Wait for it…”The bum is surging, the bum is surging!”

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  • ___j___

    Hmm. I agree that the media plays a large part in how these campaigns work, and in particular in who becomes the ‘frontrunner’ and of course who is a ‘serious’ candidate… but my theory is not that they make the numbers up. They play a significant part in the selection-process, clearly, but they are not yet Pravda.

    There was a tea-party group a few counties away from me, that did some reasonably-indicative polls of their core membership (130-odd folks that went to meetings and responded to online polls out of the 1100 or so emails signed up in the group). First they liked Bachmann, then Perry, then Cain, then Newt, then Santorum. Nobody ever much liked Mitt in their group. Nobody ever much liked Ron Paul in their group either. Besides their location in a red state, and their self-described republican-tea-party label, the only other demographic datum they published was age: 5% under age 35, 70% over age 55 (with half of those over age 65), and the rest in the middle group of forty-ish-somethings.

    Republican primaries are mostly composed of folks exactly like that. They mostly graduated from college in the 1960s and 1970s, which means the vast majority of them get their news from teevee and/or newspapers. As you point out in your three-phase article, people tend to be followers. They like Bachmann, then Perry, then Cain, then Newt, then Santorum… partly because the media tells them to, and partly because they follow the crowd, but mostly because the media (and the people paying for the broadcast) are trying to send a specific message.

    Romney was the presumptive nominee, long before any debates were even started. You could see it in the media, by how they reported on him. I used to think it was liberal bias, because most journalists grew up in liberal households, and were educated in liberal colleges, and worked for liberal bosses… but now I think it runs far deeper. Those things are true, mostly. Just like the facts about most repub-primary-voters being followers. Put two and two together, and you have an opportunity for a controlled press: all you need is some very wealthy folks that own most of the big media corporations, and some very wealthy & powerful folks (sometimes but not always the same individuals as the media-owners) who are willing to invest large sums in superpac adverts.

    Still, we are not yet in a Pravda situation. The folks that vote in the repub primaries are not *totally* under the thumb. If the estab folk who largely run the media and largely supply the big political donor advertising-buys want to select the nominee of their choice, they have to use some of that wealth and power to control the voters. Unfortunately, this isn’t too hard. Media blackout, attack adverts, and smear campaigns are pretty old hat. If you have some political figureheads at your beck and call… pretty easy when you control the major-donor-pursestrings… then you can shape the outcome.

    What was the desired outcome in Iowa? Romney win, since he was the pre-selected presumptuous nominee (whether he won or Obama won, the bailout & warfare & power-elite gravy train would keep on going strong). Solution: mold opinion in Romney’s favor, by spending money as required. Problem: can only get about 30% of the Iowa repub-caucus-voters in that fashion, as Mitt proved back in 2008 when he spent $10M yet still got whipped by Huckabee. Solution#2: split the conservative vote. If you see in July through September that shoestring-funded Bachmann is going to be the big threat to Romney, then use the media against her… but also bring in somebody else!

    Perry can be coaxed into the race, because he is dumb enough to think he’s presidential material. Make sure his platform positions will take votes away from Bachmann, as well as Paul if possible, without hurting Mitt (unfortunately Perry was *so* dumb he forget his pablum-fed talking-points… and could not even remember which three federally agencies ‘he’ was promising to cut!). Cain starts to rise? End his campaign with vague allegations of sexual harassment. Newt is a more serious problem, because he has funds. Santorum has never been a risk to Mitt, because he does not… but he *can* be made a risk to Newt, by supplying the funds, and media spotlight.

    Somebody posted a funding-graph that showed Santorum spending $25k of direct campaign money in Iowa, $90k of superpac monies, and $500k of ‘other’ funds. Bachmann had $25k + zero + zero. My suspicion is that the half-a-million, plus the vast media exposure the final three weeks of December, both shot Santorum from ~5% in the polls up to ~20%. The whole thing looked engineered, as a way to take Newt down a notch. Whether it was engineered by Mitt and Ginsberg, or by their major-donor-backers that run the repub party beltway establishment, hardly matters.

    One last thing to note is that Huntsman, the former gov of Utah, the guy who most recently worked for Obama, voluntarily kept himself *out* of Iowa… and then hammered on Ron Paul as hard as he could in New Hampshire… and then promptly dropped out, endorsing Romney. Now, the idea that a liberal-leaning repub like Huntsman might not waste money campaigning for the Iowa popvote is not unheard of: Rudy did the same in 2008. But, even though he was spending his money in NH and especially FL, good old Rudy still managed to get 4% of the votes in Iowa that cycle. Huntsman got zero, because he kept himself off the Iowa ballot entirely.

    Alone, any of these facts would not seem very convincing. But in aggregate, to me they pretty clearly point to the folks that picked Mitt Romney playing a very definite game: use the media to make our candidate the frontrunner, then use a combo of money and media and stalking horses to make our candidate win Iowa (despite being at least as squishy as Rudy ever was). They slightly miscalculated, accidentally boosting Santorum so high that he not merely overtook Newt, but in fact just barely passed Romney. However, the media took care of that, for the most part — with a little help from the IA GOP folks who later resigned for unspecified reasons if you pay attention to rumors — by reporting that Mitt had won for the first few weeks, up through and including NH.

    Not everybody in the media is corrupt; Ben Swann, John Stossel, and the hilarious Jon Stewart. Not every repub-primary-voter is a follower, either. But my perspective here is that we are fighting a power-cabal. Not the sort run by aliens, illuminati, rothschilds, bilderbergers, or any other boogey-boogies. The boring kind, where folks with a lot of money and a lot of power they want to keep, are figuring out how to do so. Unlike those boogeyman cabals, the key factor about my boring old power-cabal is that no communication is required, amongst the individual people who benefit from it.

    If you’re a rich & powerful titan, who funds politicians with an eye to increasing your wealth and your power, who buys adverts with that goal in mind, and who wants a continuation of the bipartisan policies of more bailouts, more wars, more police-state, more debt, and ever-bigger-government… well, it is obvious what you ought to do. Become a big donor to one of the establishment superpacs on the repub side, and one on the dem side. Look at the major donors for Mitt, and for Obama. There are some slight differences (Obama gets more money from colleges and unions since he promises them more pork… whereas Mitt gets *slightly* more wall street monies). But overall, both sides are handpicked by the same corporations.

    Anyways, if we want to improve our chances in 2016, we need to keep improving our use of the uncontrolled internet. But we also need to start doing legwork, in 2013 and 2014 and 2015, knocking on doors and going to tea-party-meetings and such, trying to get the follower-types to see our side as leaders… and trying to find the folks that are leaders, but stay home in disgust with politics. The number of people voting in the primaries is *not* that large. Finally, we had better start to study the stalking-horse problem, because although it was mostly used versus evangelicals in 2012 (and arguably earlier with Fred Thompson in 2008 and presumably others in other years), I predict it will be aimed fully at us in 2016.

    • Oh I agree that the way they rig elections is by manipulating the minds of the voters, but in the case of the Iowa primary, they actually used a poll that was inaccurate since it didn’t include a significant portion of the people that were expected to vote on that day.

      I also agree that not everyone in the media and in government is corrupt, which is why I believe in what Rand Paul is doing. Those corrupt are the minority. I just think the rest follow based on the “consensus” created by those at the top. This is what helps me remain optimistic. I think it is possible to convince those who follow, if we can create our own consensus on what it means to be a republican.