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Will the Media Drown in an 06 Election 'Wave'?

By Jed Babbin

Like sportscasters, political pundits resort to clichés when the game isn't going according to their predictions. If the expected Democratic "wave" fails to materialize - or if, against the odds, an electoral wave breaks to the Republicans' advantage - the punditry will be flooding the airwaves with clichés, backpedaling like a French army. But pundits, like weathermen, recover easily from wrong predictions. After this election, those I call the 527 Media may not, because they're doing their best to win it for the Democrats.

It's still not clear what's going to happen. With less than two weeks to go, the polls in many crucial contests - especially the Tennessee, Ohio, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey and Virginia senate races - are either too close to call or within reach of possible turnovers. As a result, some of the pundits are hedging their bets. Two weeks ago, Dick Morris was predicting a tidal wave of Democratic wins. Two days ago, he backed off. What's going on?

Two things. First, the Republicans have finally deployed their ad onslaught, but on a local level that aims only at individual races. Second, the 527 Media -- realizing that the flood of October surprises they engineered hasn't yet delivered Congress to the Dems -- has dropped any pretense of impartiality. These two forces - combining like non-concentric physical forces that make planets wobble while they revolve - have prevented the 2006 election from becoming predictable to this point.

The Republican ads are just a bit off target. George Allen's attack ad about Jim Webb's long-ago statement that the Naval Academy was a great place for "horny women" and placing Webb at the 1991 Tailhook Association convention (where a number of women were allegedly molested) is apparently intended to deliver the feminist vote for Allen. Huh? The media are trying to manufacture a "macaca moment" for Tennessee Republican senate candidate Bob Corker from an RNC-funded ad that pokes fun at Harold Ford, Jr. for a lot of liberal ideas he peddles but goes off on a dumb sexual tangent. While the Republicans are wasting money on this junk, the Dems - and their amen chorus in the 527 Media - are nationalizing the election.

The New York Times lead editorial Wednesday went against several prior endorsements and endorsed the opponent of Connecticut Republican Chris Shays. The penultimate sentence said, "Mr. Shays has been a good congressman, but not good enough to overcome the fact that his reelection would help empower a party that is long overdue for a shakeup." The shakeup the Times and the rest of the 527 Media want is for the Democrats to achieve control of Congress. And they won't if the Republicans fight that battle.

Sen. Charles Schumer, head of the Dem Senate Campaign Committee, was in Rhode Island campaigning for Sheldon Whitehouse in his race against incumbent Republican Lincoln Chafee. Schumer said over and over that the issue wasn't Chafee or Schumer it was Democratic control of the Senate which Schumer said can't be won without defeating Chafee. Schumer, whose performances in the Alito Supreme Court confirmation hearings were scurrilous even by today's low standards, should be the star of Republican ads designed to prevent Dem control of the Senate. It's an unanswerable mystery that the Republicans won't make a tv ad that sews together Schumer's campaigning for Democrat Senate control with that unforgettable front-page photo of Mrs. Alito in tears at Schumer's and Kennedy's over-the-top performance in her husband's hearings. It's as if the Republicans are content to let the Dems campaign nationally by avoiding the best issue Republicans have.

The Washington Post, as Steve Spruiell wrote in NRO Tuesday, has published about 100 articles and editorials about allegations that Virginia Sen. George Allen is a racist. Also on Tuesday, WaPo's Jeffrey Birnbaum wrote that, "The [Democrat's election] wave is coming...Polls are now showing that the tide of public opinion is flowing [against Republicans] and that voters could vote Republicans out of office in droves this year, returning Democrats to power in the House and possibly in the Senate as well." But what if the wave turns out to be a ripple? Some Democratic candidates seem to think it will, and are hedging their candidacies against it.

First term Georgia Democrat John Barrow is running to the right. According to this New York Times story, Barrow is running as a pseudo-conservative, embracing abolishment of the estate tax. And his Georgia colleague, Jim Marshall is complaining that, thanks to Republican tv ads, "I'm spending a lot more time with Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton on TV in middle Georgia than I will ever in my life spend in reality." The point Georgia Democrats realize is still lost on national Republicans. But not on the 527 Media.

It's not just the New York Times and the Washington Post that are pulling out all the anti-Republican stops. In just the last week, CNN has continued its anti-Rumsfeld tear with a Sunday "Man of War" diatribe and an hour-long "Broken Government" show. This comes after CNN broadcast a terrorist video supposedly showing an insurgent sniper shooting an American soldier. If the Democrat wave fails to materialize the smashmouth media campaign will rebound against the media, not the Dems.

In the last days of the campaign, the 527 Media will continue producing October surprises right up to election day. And, if the Republicans counter it as they still can organize to do, it will fail because the media's credibility is now at what may be an all-time low. They've proven that they, not the Democrats, are the opposition party. It remains for the Republicans to seize the advantage they offer. And it appears that, again, the Republicans will fail to do so. If the Dem wave doesn't break, it will be no fault of the 527 Media. Or of the Republicans who leave them immune from response. The pundits can retreat into clichés. But what will the 527 Media tell their shareholders to explain devalued stock and ruined brand names?

Jed Babbin was a deputy undersecretary of defense in the George H.W. Bush administration. He is a contributing editor to The American Spectator and author of Showdown: Why China Wants War with the United States (with Edward Timperlake, Regnery 2006) and Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe are Worse than You Think (Regnery 2004).

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