The comeback explained

I do have to complain that Andrew Romano used the title I'd have chosen and he now has my interior jukebox grooving on L L Cool J. Okay, that last bit isn't bad, really.

Now, being a reporter, I'm all for a new narrative. But this is kind of ridiculous. The fact is, there's no data at this point to substantiate a McCain surge--and without tangible, quantifiable proof, the "news media's desire for a competitive race" shouldn't mean squat. Sure, the occasional survey has shown McCain as close as two or three points. But the average national polling gap between Obama and McCain has grown steadily from 2.3 percent on Sept. 23 to 7.3 percent today, and the Illinois senator's estimated lead in the Electoral College has expanded from eight votes to 190 votes over the same period of time. If the election were held today, Obama would win 313 electoral votes from states where he's ahead by an average of five points or more; he'd take an additional 61 from states where he's ahead by less. Any chatter about a McCain comeback should follow--not precede--a sustained reversal of these trends. That's why they call it reporting.
The main thing that has surprised me about this cycle isn't that the corporate media is trying to make this a close race; it's that they've failed so miserably at it. Conservatives are looking at the reporting and seeing liberal bias all over the place--witness the many claims that various news organizations (except for Fox, natch) are in the tank for Obama--but the last group who wants to see a blowout is the corporate media.

They want a horserace, a nailbiter that stretches into the early morning of November 5 before we have a winner, and if it continues beyond that, with recounts and extended coverage and massive ratings or issue sales, so much the better. It's all gravy at that point. Who's going to buy ad time on CNN between now and November if Obama has a ten point lead and is probably going to wrap it up by 10:00 eastern time? And if Obama gets early wins in Florida, Virginia and Ohio, then that's what will happen.

So of course there's a comeback narrative; there had to be. But it hasn't worked so far, and I don't see any reason why it will here. Sure, the race will probably tighten--much as I would love it, I don't see Obama winning by double digits--but a comeback that falls short isn't actually a comeback. It's still a loss. It's just a less sucky one.

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