After the first GOP presidential primary debate, the media villagers declared Carly Fiorina the winner of the “kiddie table debate” that almost no one actually watched. This is how the Beltway media villagers create a narrative, or “spin.” Too many Americans just read the headlines in the newspaper (the 11% who still actually read a newspaper) and accept it at face value.
The conservative media entertainment complex then began a concerted effort to browbeat TeaNN (formerly CNN) into changing its debate rules so that Carly Fiorina could appear on the prime time fight card in the next debate. TeaNN caved under pressure from the right-wing and altered its rules so that Fiorina could appear with the top ten at the second debate. Call it wingnut affirmative action.
The Beltway media villagers’ narrative was predetermined before the second debate: Carly Fiorina was going to be declared the “winner” regardless of what happened, because the GOP needs her to attack Hillary Clinton and to provide cover for the misogynist males running.
Sure enough, the Beltway media villagers all proclaimed Fiorina the “winner” of the second debate. The media narrative had its intended effect: Fiorina has enjoyed a post-debate surge in the polls.
Carly Fiorina, like Willard “Mittens” Romney before her, is proving that it’s not what you say but how you say it that matters to the GOP electorate. Virtually everything she said during the second debate was either false, a distortion of facts, or wrong headed on public policy — but she sounded convincing because she said it with such conviction. As Charles Pierce at Esquire put it, Carly Fiorina: Strong, Crisp and Effective If You Ignore the Facts. This is the artistry of the con artist.
The Fact checkers have been having a field day with Carly Fiorina after the second debate, but the Beltway media villagers have been sticking to their predetermined narrative, ignoring the fact checking that disputes just about everything that Fiorina said during the debate.
This media infatuation may finally be changing. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post writes, Carly Fiorina, the CNN-created flavor of the week:
Sorry, Carly. You’re peaking too early. Just ask President Herman Cain.
This week’s CNN poll shows Carly Fiorina, the former business executive, rocketing to the top tier of the Republican presidential race. She has 15 percent support, up from just 3 percent weeks earlier. Meantime, the previously unassailable front-runner, Donald Trump, is suddenly hemorrhaging support, falling to 24 percent from 32 percent, while Ben Carson has dropped to 14 percent from 19 percent.
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This dizzying reshuffle of the Republican deck, if confirmed in other polling, can mean only one thing: GOP primary voters have returned to their preferred method of candidate selection, the flavor-of-the-week technique. Using this method, they undergo a flirtation with every possible alternative before finally holding their collective noses and settling on the most obvious, if uninspiring, consensus choice.
In 2008 they sampled Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney before settling for John McCain. In 2012 there were no fewer than five front-runners — Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Cain, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum — before voters settled on Romney as their final answer. If past is prologue, the voters this time will have several more flings over the next few months before settling for somebody such as Jeb Bush who thrills nobody.
One explanation is that the Republican electorate is an awfully fickle bunch. A better explanation is that voters just aren’t paying that much attention to the race, and the constant rise and fall of front-runners is little more than a creation of the media.
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[P]ublic opinion is susceptible to huge shifts — and manipulation. Indeed, the Fiorina boomlet may be almost entirely a CNN creation.
First the network changed its own qualification rules to give Fiorina a place on the main debate stage. During the debate, moderator Jake Tapper of CNN teed up several confrontations between Fiorina and Trump that played to her advantage (inviting her to comment, for example, on Trump’s “persona” and his insult of her appearance). After the debate, CNN proclaimed Fiorina “the breakout star of the night, taking on Republican front-runner Donald Trump with finesse and capturing the crowd with polished, zinging answers.” Then came the CNN poll that showed, as CNN described it, that “Fiorina shot into second place in the Republican presidential field on the heels of another strong debate performance.”
CNN shoehorns her into debate; CNN puffs her up during debate; CNN praises her debate performance; CNN trumpets poll showing debate gained her support: In the corporate world Fiorina comes from, this is known as vertical integration.
The Fiorina rise is, most likely, a fresh-face phenomenon; she’s the flavor of the week. . . As voters give her a serious look, her negative ratings, now just 17 percent, will inevitably rise — and the electorate will very likely move on to sample a new flavor.
Dana Milbank’s colleagues at the Post are also beginning to take shots at Fiorina as she comes under the media scrutiny that a rise in the polls merits. Richard Cohen writes, “After being fired, should Fiorina be hired?” Qualification deficit. And Ruth Marcus says Fiorina hit a new low with her lie about the Planned Parenthood videos. Sexism and dishonesty.
The story that has received little attention in the television media, but which has been well reported in the print media, is how Carly Fiorina’s campaign, which is a skeletal operation up until now, has been run instead by her Super PAC, CARLY for America, which may constitute illegal campaign coordination. NBC: Fiorina Super PAC Tests Legal Limits of Campaign Coordination; National Journal: When a Super PAC Acts Like a Campaign; Esquire: Carly Fiorina’s Super PAC Raises FEC Concerns; Salon: Corruption in plain sight: The barely visible line between between Carly Fiorina’s campaign and her super PAC.
Curious how this topic never came up during the TeaNN debate, nor in the fawning Beltway media narrative reporting after the debate.