Dazed And Confused

by digby

Eric Boehlert writes a typically insightful column today about the increasingly egregious campaign coverage. He notes something that I think is particularly odd about this year's press:

[N]ot only has the press shifted into hyper-horserace mode where tactics reign, but lots of media players can't even do the horserace stuff right. Bloomberg's Al Hunt displayed that nicely with a recent tactics-only campaign column where he mangled a key fact in order to prop up his favorite narrative.

Actually, I don't think 'horserace' accurately describes the type of campaign coverage from this cycle. What we're seeing flourish this time on the trail is something else entirely. It's coverage that's often saddled with inane trivia about tactics and delivered with a faux breathlessness, in a way that traditional horserace coverage never was.

It's true. This coverage is downright bizarre. I suspect this is because it's a wide open race on both sides this time so they aren't getting a clean horserace narrative fed to them by the Village elders.

I was contemplating this today as I watched out of the corner of my eye the MSNBC "super-Tuesday" political coverage drone on and on about trivialities, they were ignoring one of the most fascinating horserace stories of the campaign so far, and treating another one like it was business as usual when it is actually a political shift.

The first story, of course, is this Ron Paul thing. Chris Cilizza in the Washington Post at least wonders about it, which is more than anybody else does except in the most superficial way:

It started out as a lark.

Signs touting Rep. Ron Paul's seemingly quixotic presidential campaign began popping up on the sides of roads. A "Ron Paul for President" bumper sticker would be spotted during the morning or evening commute.

Then came the Iowa Straw Poll in Ames. The number -- and volume -- of the Paul supporters turned them into the talk of the political world on that blazing hot day in August. Some reporters gathered at the event openly wondered whether Paul would shock the world by finishing in the top three of the Straw Poll. When he didn't -- he placed fifth -- the buzz (at least among media types) died down. Paul's campaign seemed all talk and no action.

That all changed on Nov. 5. In commemoration of Guy Fawkes' attempted assassination of King James I, the Paul network organized a fundraising bomb -- for lack of a better word. More than $4 million was collected online in roughly 24 hours, a stunning achievement for any candidate but especially someone with Paul's seemingly long-shot odds at the nomination.

Even then, however, it was easy to write Paul off. Other fringe candidates had been able to collect several million dollars form their efforts. Paul fit somewhat easily into the model of other perennial candidates like Lyndon LaRouche.

No more. Paul collected more than $6 million in a single day earlier this week (Dec. 16 -- the 234th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, natch). Paul campaign officials say that he will top $18 million raised between Sept. 1 and Dec 31, a total that will put him first or very close to the top of the fundraising chase.

The Fix is often baffled about politics but rarely totally stumped. Ron Paul's financial prowess is, however, an example of a development that we just can't figure out.

So, we're turning to you -- The Fix community. For today's Wag the Blog question, we want to know what you think (or believe) is behind the amount of money that Paul has collected. Is it a validation of Paul's "out of Iraq now" position? A sign of widespread dissatisfaction with the two-party system? Or are we over-analyzing it?

Paul campaign officials say that he will top $18 million raised between Sept. 1 and Dec 31, a total that will put him first or very close to the top of the fundraising chase.

Something is going on there and it would seem to me that reporters besides Cilizza would be curious about it. (And that editors would actually put a reporter or two on it.)

The other story they aren't properly covering is Huckabee. When was the last time a Republican burst out of nowhere like this? It just doesn't happen. And yet they are just reporting the back and forth as if he wasn't a joke just a month ago. Earlier I watched some combination of gasbags talk about how Huckabee will automatically win South Carolina because it's a socially conservative state. That may be true, but the South Carolina primary was conceived by Lee Atwater as "the firewall" for the specific purpose of stopping insurgent candidates early. If Huckabee wins it, it would be quite a shift and it must say something about the current state of the Republican party.

I'm sure there's much more, and it's not fair to say that all the political media is ignoring some of these unusual stories. (The newspapers are doing it to some extent.) But the political cable shows are just dismal and the rest aren't much better. They all seem discombobulated and confused, slighly dizzy over the idea that nobody knows what's going to happen until the voters tell them.

My God, how did it come to that?