Press Clips: GOP Debate’s Media Winners & Losers


This just in: The results are final, and it’s clear that the landslide winner of the Republican presidential debate was…Ron Paul.

That at least is the shocking conclusion to be drawn from the “Who Do You Think Won the Debate” feature on “First Read,” MSNBC’s political blog.

Following the Wednesday night event at the Reagan Library, the site reports that 85,205 of 161,499 respondents to its online insta-poll – 52.8% – declared Uncle Cranky Pants the victor, the most controversial piece of public opinion research since the last Vote for Your Favorite Lady Gaga Look survey.

You can’t blame FR for trying, given the competition for eyeball-driven, warp speed wipe-out wave of instant analysis, You Tube mashups, Top 10 takeaways,  Twitter snark bites and W&L lists caroming around the internets about a cable network debate a mere 14 months before the election.

Show business for ugly people: The only sight more cringeworthy for viewers of the debate than Jon Huntsman’s shiny spray tan was the awful showing by John Harris, the editor-in-chief of Politico, which co-sponsored the event.

On a night when the political junkie site had a chance to shine on a national stage, its co-founder put on an awkward and clumsy performance better suited to 2 a.m. local cable access than to prime time.

Introduced by Brian Williams, Harris high-beamed a wide-eyed, unblinking visage of terror directly into the camera, his gaze apparently locked in place by multiple injections of ibogaine.

When a technical malfunction screwed up the plan to use an old video clip of Mitt Romney to pose a question, Harris looked dazed in yanking out his IFB and flopping around behind the moderator’s desk like a catfish in a boat bottom.

After leaving the set during a commercial break, perhaps to wolf down a Xanax, he came back as the broadcast was resuming, and walked directly between the camera and Nancy Reagan, in the middle of Williams’ slobbering tribute to the former First Lady.

When Newt Gingrich bitch-slapped him for asking a question he didn’t like, Harris seemed to an untrained eye to be wetting his pants, as he inanely mumbled “okay, okay” in response.

Jim VandeHei, Harris’ business partner and Politico’s executive editor, nearly redeemed the site with a post-game appearance in which he made several swift and sharp observations, calling attention, for example, to the vast improvement Romney has made as a candidate since 2008; unfortunately he was quickly drowned out by the insufferable braying of Chris Matthews, who is hardwired to instantly and automatically interrupt anytime one of his guests  starts saying something interesting or intelligent.

The nadir of Politico’s dismal effort came the next morning, with its own coverage of the debate. In recounting Michele Bachmann’s performance, ex-tabloid reporter Maggie Haberman, who covers California politics from a perch in Manhattan, wrote the single stupidest line among all the zillions of words spent on the event:

(Bachmann) held her ground on issues like reducing the price of gas to $2 per gallon if she’s president, and called for a full border fence.

There you have it: an unalloyed nugget of 100% pure Beltway idiocy confirming yet again why the American public is right to hate the media.

Never mind that Bachmann’s promise of $2 per gallon gas is ineluctable proof of the woman’s full-blown, cuckoo-land psychosis, a recurring delusion that should prohibit any serious discussion of her fitness to be president.

No indeed. Reality be damned, the key issue for Politico and its legions of cynical “insider” brethren is that she held her ground on her nutty claim.

Lefties for Mitt: Perhaps it couldn’t be helped, given that MSNBC, the Marxist-Socialist-Nanny-state-Bolshevik-Communist network, was co-sponsoring the debate, but we did wonder whether an in-studio panel consisting of Al Sharpton, Lawrence O’Donnell, Gene Robinson, Ed Schultz, and Rachel Maddow was the best group to analyze, you know, a Republican debate.

Schultz and O’Donnell were about as useful as farts in an elevator, but Maddow did a nice job of airline control anchoring, low-keying her own opinions as she smoothly kept the flow among and between a battalion of panelists, guest commentators and spin room appearances, in contrast to the foghorn rantings of Matthews, who was exiled for the night to Simi Valley, no doubt on the theory he could do less harm there.

Sharpton’s tirade against the candidates’ embrace of “states rights” was most entertaining, as he got up in Herman Cain’s grill by noting that 60% of the MSNBC panel – Maddow, Robinson and himself – would be ineligible to even vote for president if states righters had their way back in the day. (Also, we now know that Galileo is pronounced “Gal-ay-o” in eubonics.)

And our old friend Gene was suitably outraged at Cain’s repeated canard that the Chilean pension system, Mr. Pizza King’s hobby horse for the evening, is not privatized; “With all due respect, Mr. Cain, I covered South America,” he said, coolly managing to keep his head from exploding.

But let’s face it, being Al Sharpton’s favorite Republican can’t really be all that comforting to His Mittness.

Right from the start: Unfailingly Fair and Balanced, Calbuzz spent a few hours noodling around the best of the right-wing blogs and sites, and strongly  recommend checking out Michelle Malkin’s “Why the Reagan Library GOP Debate Sucked,” which tells you all you need to know about how red state true believers saw the debate  (best line: holding a GOP debate on MSNBC was like having the “Yankees network interrogating the Red Sox”).

For our money, Guy Benson at TownHall not only had the best winners and losers list from the starboard perspective, but also the best-edited compilation of the Perry vs. Romney set-to on Social Security.

For self-interest purposes, we also appreciated Red State’s urging that Santorum, Cain and Bachmann drop out of the race ASAP. The Gnomes of Flashreport did yeoperson’s work compiling the most encyclopedic collection of coverage links; while we enjoy wandering around a garage sale as much as the next guy, however, our personal round-up preference was Jack Kavanagh’s  professionally edited selection.

Speaking of practical and useful reader-friendly journalism, at a time when every MSM organization on air has pretensions of fact-checking political candidates, the Washpost’s Glenn Kessler is still the go-to guy for this stuff. His debate offering is here.

ICYMI: Here it is, Ron Paul’s double-barreled paean to 10 cents-per-gallon gas and a precious metal monetary standard, the debate highlight that singularly demonstrates why he’s the hands-down favorite of Republicans who still live with their moms.



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There are 2 comments for this post

  1. avatar chuckmcfadden says:

    There seems to be a double standard here. As long as Palin and Bachmann don’t drool out of the side of their mouths, they can be said to “hold their own.” But if Obama does the slightest thing wrong, everyone piles on. Same thing was true in the Gore-Bush debates years ago. Expectations were so low for Bush that if he didn’t fall flat on his face, why, he “held his own.” It’s like giving a golfer a handicap so he can “hold his own” with better players. But that’s not what today’s world demands.

  2. avatar chrisfinnie says:

    Love the descriptions of Bachmann and Matthews. Describes perfectly why I can’t stand to listen to either. And I join you as a fan of the fact checkers. Always tickles me to see the lies exposed. I just wish the pieces got wider distribution. In the best of all possible worlds, they would be posted outside of polling places on election day and mailed out with mail-in ballots. Wouldn’t that be a game changer?

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