The "Preach to the Choir" GOP Media Strategy

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 11 2012 10:45 AM

The "Preach to the Choir" GOP Media Strategy

McKay Coppins is out with a fun piece about the GOP's reliance on friendly media. You haven't seen John Boehner making his arguments on the hated "MSM." You've seen press conferences on the Hill and occasional Fox News interviews.

It's an interesting argument, though I'm not sure what Boehner could gain by doing more TV interviews on NBC and CBS News. The way news is digested now, some people watch the real thing, and more people click "share" on stories about whatever gaffes were uttered. The more important part of the story might be this anecdote about what conservative media can't do.

One Republican official recalled working earlier this year to get a potentially damaging story about a Democratic candidate into The New York Times — only to have an impatient colleague leak the scoop to a conservative website. The story shot through the online right, but failed to gain mainstream traction.
"I was like, great, we made the people who were already voting for us even angrier," the official snarked to BuzzFeed. "Mission accomplished."
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What damaging story was this? It could be anything, but I immediately thought of the 11th hour Daily Caller story about prostitutes who claimed to have slept with New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez -- right inside the NYT's distribution zone. It blew up on the right. Menendez then won re-election by 19 points.

Here's the problem. In the rest of the media, that Menendez story was seen as too flimsy to follow up, with thin sourcing, even if it matched rumors New Jersey reporters had heard about the senator. Among the conservative readership, the MSM's failure to follow up the story looked like a clear case of a cover-up that benefited a liberal. Actually, this is touched on in the Coppins story -- Jon Huntsman's decision to talk to the Huffington Post was seen on the right as proof that Huntsman was a RINO, not as a worthwhile exercise for Republicans who wanted to get heard.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.