Reprinted from Media Matters
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Hillary Clinton sure didn't look like an "awful" candidate up on the debate stage this week.
"Awful" was how ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd derided the Democratic nominee over the summer on This Week. "She is an awful candidate. Everybody knows it," he stressed.
Dowd was hardly alone. The Beltway pundit class has relentlessly portrayed Clinton as someone who's supremely uncomfortable in her own skin and ill-suited to be the Democratic nominee or the next president.
But that's not what 80-plus million viewers saw when they tuned into the debate. Poised, confident and in control, Clinton walked away with a clear victory, according to all scientific polling.
So why the huge disconnect between the way the press portrays Clinton, often with a relentlessly caustic and cynical eye, and the reality of who Clinton is as a candidate, as seen during the debate? A large chunk of viewers, regardless of whether they support her or not, must have been genuinely confused by the person they watched for 90 minutes, and the person they've seen depicted in the press throughout this campaign.
She certainly didn't resemble the supposedly phony, unlikeable, calculating politician the press has been describing most of this year. She didn't come across as the deeply secretive, distant, "scripted," figure who can't connect with voters. (Fact: Clinton accumulated more votes than any other candidate during the presidential primaries.)
Aside from her agenda and her politics, the press has been nearly universal in the way they've described Clinton as a person and as a candidate. She's "afraid to say what she thinks about anything for fear of alienating this or that constituency," explained The Washington Post, while emphasizing, "She often comes across as inauthentic or lacking a basic core of beliefs."
Bottom line: Clinton is a deeply flawed candidate, and possibly a deeply flawed person.
And that has been the nearly universal media theme since the beginning of this campaign. Last summer, TheWall Street Journal suggested Clinton sounds too "scripted and poll-tested," while Politico this year marked her victory in the Kentucky primary with the downer headline, "Hillary Clinton's Joyless Victory."