There’s something to be said for going against conventional logic in politics.
Being right about something everyone assumed means you went along with herd thinking instead of doing your own analysis.
Being wrong about conventional wisdom against your better judgment, meanwhile, leads you to spend the night of Nov. 8, 2016, frantically calling everyone you know at CNN to see if they have a contributing editor gig available while your significant other unpacks the suitcases for Hillary’s inauguration and sends an email about whether you can get the deposit back on that DuPont Circle apartment.
Right. But you also don’t want to jump aboard a sinking ship just so you can be the last one standing atop the prow, yelling about how any moment now the water pumps are going to kick in and this ol’ scow’s gonna be steaming full speed ahead. That’s just not a good look and, if you can’t get life preserver, the political lungs don’t process seawater well.
I don’t want to say MSNBC’s crew on New Hampshire’s primary night cast their lot atop the HMS Pocahontas, but one segment from its coverage seemed to draw attention to the fact that the network has a bit of a deferential bent toward the campaign of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, to put it diplomatically.
Warren’s night in New Hampshire was dismal. No spin could remove that. No florid wordsmithing could overpower the stench of death coming off of her campaign.
Iowa had been bad-ish for Warren, but New Hampshire, a state which receives some exurban spillover from Boston, was disastrous.
She finished with just over 9 percent and a fourth-place finish. If it weren’t for Joe Biden’s performance, which was an even more dire augury on the health of his campaign, the story of the evening would have been the Howard Dean-like collapse of Elizabeth Warren’s technocratic dream.
Tuesday was a slow night, narrative-wise.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Amy Klobuchar held the podium positions all evening and with virtually unchanged percentages, so there was lots of cable news airtime with which to blather or play around with those county-by-county touchscreen displays. (Aside: They’re apparently determined to get their money’s worth out of those things.)
On MSNBC, therefore, they were busy talking about Michael Bloomberg’s billions and what he plans to do with them.
This is always entertaining stuff; at the end of each discussion I always picture him taking laps through a swimming pool of gold coins as if he were Scrooge McDuck.
Alas, they cut away from it for a shot from Warren’s campaign headquarters, where she was engaged in one of her “selfie lines,” which is exactly what it sounds like.
“Can I show you the loneliest job in politics?” Brian Williams said as the feed switched to Warren’s headquarters.
“She has finished fourth. She is still at work. One after another after another since she gave her remarks earlier tonight while we’ve been talking, while we’ve been covering other stories, Elizabeth Warren, who lives just to the south of the state of New Hampshire, is taking a picture with all who ask.”
“This isn’t lonely to me — this is awesome,” Rachel Maddow said. “I love this.”
So they want to stan on her, that’s great.
Explain this analysis, then, from “Deadline: White House” host Nicolle Wallace: “She’s a really, really, really good candidate.”
No, in italics.
An Alex Thompson piece in Politico published on the day of the New Hampshire primary does a neat job of dissecting how wrong things are going in Warren’s campaign.
Noting that she’d finished badly in Iowa and would also likely stumble that night in New Hampshire, Thompson wrote that Warren had “dedicated far less time and resources to the next two states, Nevada and South Carolina, making the prospect of recovering there less likely. Meanwhile, she’s carrying massive overhead: More than 1,000 staffers in 31 states, likely second only to Mike Bloomberg.
“But if that all looks like cause for alarm, Warren, at least outwardly, isn’t showing it. She is campaigning as if it’s all part of the plan, baffling rival campaigns and even privately worrying a few outside allies,” he continued.
“In the week between Iowa and New Hampshire, there have been no messaging shakeups or public shifts in strategy. Warren, as usual, has refused to attack her rivals and stayed positive. She’s made slight tweaks to her stump speech, but her message of uniting the party to beat Donald Trump, taking on corruption and offering the broadest menu of policies is the same as it’s been for months.”
The line was the same from official after official from the Warren campaign, including Warren herself: They weren’t interested in the polls, their organization was built to kick in at the Super Tuesday point, this was all going to work. Everything was going to be fine. Please everyone believe this is all going to be fine.
However, as Thompson pointed out, this wasn’t entirely the case. Iowa was supposed to be the best test of Warren’s strength early on, given her purported organizational prowess in a state where organization is everything.
“Buttigieg handily beat her much-hyped Iowa field team, including on the second round of caucusing, when the Warren team had positioned itself to make significant gains,” Thompson noted. “Warren beat her poll numbers but Buttigieg beat his by more, sneaking past her as some of her outside allies had focused their fire on Biden.”
It’s also worth considering the media has been much more charitable on this idea of Warren’s “message of uniting the party” than they probably ought to be. (Bernie Sanders and Pete “Wine Cave” Buttigieg might have something to say about this.)
Overall, though, Thompson’s piece was a reasonable summation of Warren’s problems.
Yes, she has a 50-state strategy, a strategy which won’t make much difference when she probably won’t have come close to winning one of the four contests before Super Tuesday.
Of the Super Tuesday contests, it’s very easy to see only one victory for her: Massachusetts, her home state. She hasn’t focused where her strengths are, particularly with dwindling fundraising numbers.
But MSNBC’s Wallace, purportedly one of the network’s sharpest analysts, thinks Warren is “a really, really, really good candidate.”
For those who don’t espy a bit of a love affair between MSNBC and Warren, you may have heard this other anecdote Warren herself told on the network during a post-primary appearance:
A young girl came up to me tonight and said, “I’m a broke college student with a lot of student loan debt. I checked and I have $6 in the bank—so I just gave $3 to keep you in this fight.” We’re staying in this fight for the people who are counting on us. pic.twitter.com/AetWhpTJqT
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) February 12, 2020
“A young woman came up by herself and she said, ‘I’m a broke college student, with a lot of student loan debt.’ And she said, ‘I checked and I have $6 in the bank. So I just gave $3 to keep you in this fight,'” Warren said.
“That’s what we’ve gotta do. We’ve gotta stay in this fight with people who are counting on us. This isn’t about fighting other Democrats. This is about fighting for the America we believe in.”
She didn’t know how that would sound coming out of her mouth and nobody there bothered to tell her. A really, really good candidate, you guys.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.