(Sigh.) First, we had the conventional wisdom that Barack Obama was in trouble. Now, he is said to be on the ascent since presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney seems stalled. Some pundits suggest recent polls and Electoral College projections indicate Obama is destined to beat Romney.
One teeny-weenie bit of advice: don't count Romney out yet.
First, forget Fox News pundit Dick Morris' claim that "the media is trying to create a sense of momentum and of inevitability about the Obama candidacy." Morris writes that he has seen state-by-state polls of a firm he has known and respected for years, and they show Romney well positioned in key states.
Fair enough about secret polls. But anyone in the news media, or who worked for it and - I'm sure - Morris himself knows, it's utter bilge that "the media" is "trying to create" a sense of momentum and inevitability. There's no big media conspiracy with editors and reporters trying "to create" an image to elect Obama. News outlets and reporters compete with one another. If you believe the Morris assertion, then let me tell you about a nice, furry bunny that'll hop into your house on Easter and hide candied eggs.
A recent daily tracking poll by Rasmussen - a favorite firm of GOPers - put Obama with a slight lead over Romney, 47 to 45 percent. So is Rasmussen part of this "media" that is "trying to create a sense of momentum and inevitability" - or do we just exclude the ones that don't fit into institutional defining? Actually, there's speculation Rasmussen is the firm Morris is talking about.
Lockstep partisanship is lucrative and affirms a partisan choir's existing political biases, but it's better to listen to clinical analysts who don't have partisan axes to grind, such as the University of Virginia's highly accurate Larry Sabato. Sabato repeatedly stresses that this race is a question mark, will go down to the wire and hinges on the economy and how it's perceived. Here's one of his tweets: "For Nov. 6, Romney's British blunders are less important than 1.5 percent GDP growth."
Here are a just a few reasons why pundits falling into the trap of joining in on the moment's fashionable narrative may wish to hold back on implying Romney is toast:
Obama's 2008 Coalition Erosion: Yes, Obama has a higher likability rating, but he's leaking 2008 supporters. Gallup wrote this about a new poll: "Eighty-six percent of voters who say they voted for Barack Obama in 2008 are backing Obama again this year, a smaller proportion than the 92 percent of 2008 John McCain voters who are supporting 2012 Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Nine percent of 2008 Obama voters have switched to supporting Romney this year, while 5 percent of McCain voters have switched to Obama."
Republicans Unify Around Romney: So much for primary predictions that the GOP wouldn't get behind Romney. The desire to get Obama out trumps (excuse the expression) all. The GOP's coalition is back in place.
Don't Underestimate Romney in Debates: In some primary debates he ruthlessly focused in message, content and attack.
Big Bucks: Once again, Team Romney trounced Team Obama in monthly fundraising. NBC's First Read wonders whether a sea of negative advertising will hit a "saturation point," but Romney's campaign war chest will negate some traditional incumbency advantages.
Republican Media and Social Media Cohesiveness: Douglas Brinkley's excellent new book on Walter Cronkite reminds us of when conservatives felt frozen out in broadcasting and unable to get their message out. Talk radio, Fox News and social media narrowcast messages and help keep partisans thinking "right" in line.
History's Poetry: History often creates ironies or neat narratives. Will America's first African-American President turn out to be a one-termer who voters booted out and deemed a failure? Or will he turn out to be returned to office to serve two terms, confirmation that his first term was, in personal terms at least, acceptable? Will the rhythm of recent history continue the trend giving GOPers control of the White House the bulk of the time?
Conventional Wisdom is Ephemeral: It's really pack punditry, which is OK - except voters don't always follow it.
JOE GANDELMAN is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.