Ari Melber stopped by the show to tell us what we should take away from Iowa, debunking a few myths about the political-media machine and the GOP race. Take a look:
So, the Presidential race began last night! That means everything you heard before today was not about the election. It was not about voters. It was basically a voter-less preaseason of insiders, donors and reporters talking amongst themselves.
So, were they right? We finally have some facts, so let’s take a look at them.
Number One: The media was wrong about the frontrunners. According to voters in Iowa, the early frontrunners are Romney, Santorum and Paul. You know the funny thing about that list? Not a single supposed frontrunner from last year’s preseason is on the list. Not Michelle Bachmann — who pundit Dick Morris predicted would be the nominee. She dropped out today. Not Herman Cain, who drew the most media coverage out of all the candidates for a five-week stretch going into December, according to the Pew Research Center. He dropped out before anyone voted. And not Rick Perry or Newt Gingrich, who were heralded by pollsters and pundits as Republican saviors, even though it was obvious that their campaigns were not doing the first things necessary to win. Like getting on state ballots.
Number Two: The media was wrong about Ron Paul. Ron Paul’s ideas scare the establishment – and he has some questionable ideas. But that doesn’t mean the news media should minimize the campaign he has built. Yet Paul’s support has been underestimated, caveated and distorted from the start. Did you know he did better among evangelicals last night than every other candidate except Santorum? That means better than Perry — who ran gay-bashing religious ads — and better than Bachmann — who routinely quotes scripture. But a religious-libertarian coalition for Paul does not fit “the narrative!” And it makes Paul sound formidable. Can’t have that. Last night, Fox News even cut away in the middle of Paul’s speech. If Republicans don’t see all his supporters, you know, maybe they’ll go away.
And Number three: The media was wrong about Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney claimed that he didn’t want to win Iowa, and this was taken as some kind of evidence that expectations for him should be lower. I’ve served in a presidential campaign, and it still amazes me that this kind of thing works. But it does. So for months, the media decided that Romney didn’t need to win Iowa because he wasn’t doing many events there.
Meanwhile, his campaign built an effective phone banking operation under the radar. Thirty one percent of Republicans had heard from his campaign — higher than the rest of the GOP field. And on a parallel track, a Romney PAC spent 4 million dollars in Iowa. Couple that with the ten million he spent directly in Iowa last cycle, and it’s no wonder that Romney could pull 25 percent for a narrow victory. That’s a lot more per vote than Santorum, by the way, but there’s no price-fixing in politics.
So if the narrative is often wrong, will this get any better? Actually yes. It’s a lot harder to distort the race once the voters are involved. Santorum was under-covered, for sure, but I bet he is about to be over-covered. And someday, actual candidates like Paul might get as much attention as imaginary candidates like Cain.