The Journalistic Effort to Draft Mitt

The media effort to draft Mitt Romney for a third presidential campaign continues, with Steve Holland of Reuters undertaking the latest effort to argue that the former Massachusetts governor will run because, well, we just can’t believe the words coming out of his mouth:

Romney associates say he is flattered by the attention and believes he would have done a better job if he had defeated the Democratic incumbent President Barack Obama in 2012 when he was the Republican nominee.

ReutersBut Romney typically insists in public that he is not going to run for a third time after losses in 2008 and 2012.

“I’m not running and I’m not planning on running. I’ve got nothing to add to that story,” he told supporters during a stop this week at Atlanta’s Varsity restaurant, where he had a hot dog and onion rings, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

Still, friends and former aides say, he could seek the nomination if a series of events plays out in his favor, chiefly that no single powerhouse emerges from what is expected to be a crowded field of Republicans vying for the party’s nod.

The rest of the article, in summary:

• Some are telling romney to “tread carefully”.

• Sen. John McCain points to “people who invested a lot in him last time” who are “urging him to consider” a run for president. “I thnk it’s fine if he considers it,” McCain explained. Considering family, the Republican from Arizona who failed in his 2008 White House bid continued, “But at the same time I think Mitt would have to feel that he has a real strong shot at winning”.W. Mitt Romney

• “Everybody in the Republican Party likes Mitt Romney”, according to Mr. McCain.

• Karl Rove compared the prospect to “running three back-to-back-to-back marathons”.

• Holland, the Reuters reporter, points to a recent New York Times Magazine article in which Romney said, “We’ll see what happens”, inflates the significance of that statement in order that it should override anything else the failed presidential candidate has said before or since.

• Romney has been “energized” by his campaign efforts for congressional candidates in Republican-dominated states.

• “Polls are sounding an encouraging note”, Holland writes, and then cites a single USA Today/Suffolk poll of Iowa Republicans from August showing that Romney garnered thirty-five percent. It’s slightly deceptive, but still makes the point:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (13 percent) was the top presidential choice of registered Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who said they would participate in their party’s caucus in the 2016 election. Huckabee was followed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (11 percent), Texas Gov. Rick Perry (9 percent), and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (7 percent). However, when Mitt Romney’s name was introduced into the mix, 35 percent would scrap their first choice and opt for Romney, while 9 percent stayed with Huckabee, and 6 percent with Christie.

• Holland again: “A Romney run would depend on whether any of the current crop of potential candidates caught fire.” This is exactly correct. And on that count, perhaps things are shaping up for a Romney run.

• After all, the current crop of prominent contenders is not impressive; Holland lists a misogynistic homophobe preacher-cum-former governor, another Bush, a governor trapped in scandal, a governor under indictment, an incompetent senator from Florida, a plagiarizing racist, and a guy from Canada.

• A two-sentence paragraph about how the “draft Mitt” idea works.

• A former Romney aide staying anonymous says Mitt is smart, and characterizes the twice and possibly future presidential candidate as “observing” the 2016 presidential race.

Not much, is it?

AP-ChristieRomney-bwStill, though, why is drafting Mitt a job for the press? Are they hoping for a Romney-Clinton showdown that will bring them lots of readers and advert revenue?

Maybe they’re trying to fill a void. Jeb Bush hasn’t thrown in; Marco Rubio will have a hard time climbing out of the hole he’s dug for himself; Rand Paul is scandal plagued; Chris Christie is scandal-plagued; and Ted Cruz is an idiot of previously unmeasured caliber. If this is the whole of the GOP field, then yes, Mitt Romney is running for president.

But it’s not. Indeed, Holland’s own note that, “Announcements are expected to begin shortly after the Nov. 4 elections and continue well into 2015”, makes the point about how useless this sort of “draft Mitt” swooning really is. The one reason he would run is if the GOP is otherwise bereft of remotely viable candidates. And we haven’t even officially opened the season to find out who’s actually going to run.

So perhaps it’s a slow news day insofar as the 2016 race is concerned. It is almost as if reporters are churning out these articles in order to present a new product every day. That is to say, they’re not reporting, but, rather, clickbaiting.

It may not be a reporter’s place to report accurate facts; no less than the eminent Jim Lehrer has made that argument before.α However, it would appear to be a reporter’s job to shape the story through advocacy. This is a change from the traditional Fourth Estate outlook; truth and accuracy used to mean something. These days, speculation seems the daily bread.

____________________

α from a 2006 interview:

I mean, if somebody says — doesn’t matter if it’s the president or who —if somebody says, “It rained on Thursday,” and you know for a fact it didn’t rain on Thursday, if the person was of a nature that you felt you should quote him, “It rained on Thursday.” Second paragraph, third paragraph — or in television terms second or third sentence — you would say, “However, according to the weather bureau it didn’t [rain Thursday].” But you don’t call the person a liar. The person who would call that person a liar would be the person who’d read that story and say, “My god, Billy Bob lied.” But I’m not doing that. I’m providing the information so that the person can make their decision. People might say, “Well the weather bureau has lied. Or I was out that day and it was raining …”

When questioned directly about calling out what is objectively a lie, Lehrer explained, “I would never do that. That’s not my function to do that.” In the end, as Lehrer says, journalism does its job even if it feeds conspiracy theories, because it is not the job of a journalist to separate fact from fiction.

Holland, Steve. “Mitt Romney for president in 2016? Not entirely out of the question”. Reuters. 8 October 2014.

“Suffolk University/USA TODAY Poll Shows Iowa Race for U.S. Senate Dead Even”. Suffolk University News. 27 August 2014.

Cox Barrett, Liz. “Jim Lehrer on Billy Bob, Reports of Rain and Stenography As Journalism”. Columbia Journalism Review. 2 June 2006.

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