"Negative Campaign" Coverage for Dummies

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 17 2012 10:24 AM

"Negative Campaign" Coverage for Dummies

Joshua Green kicks against some of the dull conventional wisdom about how nasty the campaign has become. One of his examples of how is hasn't been infused with wonkery by the Ryan pick is that "by Tuesday, President Obama was talking about Romney’s poor, mistreated mutt." True: In Oskaloosa, Iowa, on a three-day campaign trip that largely focused on wind power and a plan to buy up meat from struggling ranchers, Obama made a joke about Seamus Romney. Here was CBS News's lede.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

During a speech on wind energy in Iowa on Tuesday, President Obama made a thinly-veiled joke mocking opponent Mitt Romney for once transporting his family dog on the roof of his car.
"Gov. Romney even explained his energy policy this way, I'm quoting here, you can't drive a car with a windmill on it," Mr. Obama said.
"I don't know if he's actually tried that. I know he's had other things on his car," he went on, to the Oskaloosa crowd's applause and laughter.
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The crowd applauded. Okay. Was that really the most interesting part of the story? The Oskaloosa Herald covered the story by sending editor Duane Nollen and a photographer. The local paper quoted the same section of the speech as CBS, but only as part of an explanation of the Obama policy. "Republican Mitt Romney has stated he would let the Wind Energy Tax Credit, which is due for renewal soon, to expire," wrote Nollen. "Obama wants to keep the tax credit." Nollen goes on to quote Obama, who claims that the "wind industry now supports about 7,000 jobs in this state, and 75,000 jobs across the country." That's why he was in the state. Iowa's become hugely problematic for Obama, and he's trying to build up support again with piecemeal policies like these. His allies are people like Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who vehemently disagree with the Romney approach. That's sort of interesting, right?

But back to the CBS online story. It tells us that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus tweeted his disapproval of the Obama joke and that "Mr. Obama had previously been slammed by GOP opponents for eating dog meat as a child." It ends with this sentence.

In the same speech on Tuesday, Mr. Obama also called on Congress to extend tax credits for wind energy manufacturers and blamed Republicans for the hold-up.

He "blamed" Republicans, we learn, which gives us no sense of whether the blame is legitimate or not. It's a perfect example of a "Twitter track" story, in that it bears little resemblence to the story local Iowans took from the speech.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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