Reprinted from Media Matters
Here are two snapshots from this year's campaign coverage. Both captured common media themes at the time and were likely seen as savvy insider takes within the D.C. pundit class.
When news broke on March 2 that Hillary Clinton had used a private email account and server while secretary of state, National Journal's Ron Fournier sprang into action. Churning out five Clinton doomsday columns in nine days, he immediately suggested the email revelation meant that, "maybe Hillary Clinton should retire her White House dreams" because "she doesn't seem ready for 2016."
According to Fournier, Clinton's emails had possibly derailed her entire campaign. Her White House dreams might have been dashed.
Fast forward to August 2. As Donald Trump's campaign continued to gain momentum while Jeb Bush's campaign slid backwards week after week, The New York Times' Jonathan Martin filed an upbeat piece on how Trump's rise actually represented good news for Bush. In fact, according to the Times, some Bush supporters were "all but giddy" over Trump's surge in the polls because his run was bound to unravel, leaving the Florida Republican as the beneficiary.
Let's agree that Clinton and Trump were the two biggest political stories of 2015. And these were the two tales the Beltway press wanted to tell for large chunks of the year:
- Hillary Clinton is stumbling badly because she's inauthentic, calculating and cannot connect with voters.
- Donald Trump isn't a serious candidate because his bluster and extreme rhetoric don't accurately reflect today's Republican Party.
Wrong and wrong.
Clinton's campaign was never in the dire state that the press claimed it was. And Trump, it turns out, appears to be a perfect messenger for today's increasingly radical and intolerant Republican Party. He's the Fox News id, which is why he's winning over the demagoguery wing of the GOP.
With Clinton, the press missed the mark because journalists seemed to be blinded by a personal dislike of the candidate and let that seep into the coverage. Determined to oversee a competitive primary campaign, the press went all in on a far-fetched narrative that the wheels were falling off Clinton's campaign and that she was an awful candidate.