By now, Our Own Version of Fox: Does Rachel Maddow’s “campaign coverage” ever make any real sense?
Is it possible that her campaign coverage is a form of partisan entertainment, designed with an eye to ratings?
Consider her relatively truncated campaign coverage on Thursday night’s Maddow Show. After showing us photos of Rep. John Lewis with puppies, she made a presentation about Candidate Trump that pretty much has to be false:
MADDOW (7/30/15): Anyway, so here’s Donald Trump today, the clear front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, arriving at one of his golf courses in Scotland. And I don’t know, maybe Donald Trump always goes to Scotland this time of year. It’s wicked hot and humid in New York. Maybe he always likes to get away to cooler climes this time of year. I don’t know.Twice, Maddow said she didn’t know why Trump had gone to Scotland, except that he was engaging in a “long weekend of golf.”
But the fact that he is running for president has not stopped him from taking this trip to Scotland. The first Republican presidential debate is in a week. Donald Trump and his campaign staff has made a big deal out of pointing out that Donald Trump does not plan to do any preparation for that debate. And this long weekend of golf that he took off for today in part I guess showcases that he is not working to prepare for the debate. He’s just doing his Donald Trump thing.
The claim of ignorance seems quite hard to believe. Over the previous several days, it had been widely reported, again and again, that Trump was going to Scotland to attend the British Women’s Open, which was being held at the golf course he owns.
It had also been reported that, due to the campaign, Trump would cut his planned visit short, returning on Saturday.
There’s little chance that Maddow’s staff didn’t know these things. We’ll take a guess:
From a partisan entertainment standpoint, it sounded better to say that Trump was off for a “long weekend of golf” and to leave it at that. It sounded better to drop the part about sponsoring and attending the Women’s Open.
It sounded better for Maddow to say she didn’t know, even though she presumably did.
As she opened, Maddow flirted with an apparent lie. Things got dumber from there.
As she continued, Maddow discussed the new Quinnipiac national poll. The poll had Trump in the lead in the Republican race with 20 percent support.
But “oh happy day,” Maddow said. In a head-to-head matchup, Candidate Clinton had beaten Candidate Trump quite badly.
She absolutely spanks him, Maddow said. She beats Trump by a mile:
MADDOW: It’s his biggest lead in—Look at that!—his biggest lead in that poll by far. It’s actually the biggest lead that anybody has had by poll by far.“Oh happy day?”
Donald Trump, leading with 20 points. His nearest rival is Scott Walker at 13. Jeb Bush, the only other candidate who hits double digits, is at 10 points.
This is the sixth straight national poll that’s put Donald Trump in first place for the Republican presidential nomination.
But oh happy day! This latest Quinnipiac poll did not just poll within the Republican Party. They also polled head-to-head matchups for theoretical contests in the general election.
And so, for the guys who are polling a distant second and third place for Donald Trump for the Republican nomination, for Scott Walker and Jeb Bush, those head-to-head polls end up interesting and sort of close matchups between each of them and the likely Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
For the man who is the clear front-runner for the Republican nomination, though, the front-runner by a big margin, when you match him, Donald Trump, against Hillary Clinton in a theoretical general election matchup, well, in that case, it’s not close at all.
Hillary Clinton absolutely spanks him, beats him by 12 points.
In this poll, Scott Walker and Jeb Bush do OK against Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump loses to her by a mile...
It’s silly to focus on general election polling now, especially with politically volatile figures like Clinton and Trump. But that 12-point margin strikes us as depressingly close, and Bush and Walker were both polling dead even with Clinton.
As always, Maddow was pushing to make us viewers feel tribally good. We’d say those polling results are quite scary.
(Videotape of this segment hasn’t been posted at the Maddow site.)
As she continued, Maddow showed how silly and worthless her campaign analyses tend to be. She tried to explain why Republican voters want to nominate Candidate Trump, even though they know he would lose to Candidate Clinton.
Please. Maddow presented absolutely no evidence that Trump’s supporters think he would lose to Clinton. As solipsists frequently do, she seems to think that other people know and believe the exact same things she does.
Maddow offered no evidence in support of that basic contention. Much more remarkably, consider what she kept saying about “Republican voters.”
They told us we had Our Own Rhodes Scholar. This is what she now peddles:
MADDOW: Donald Trump loses not only to Hillary Clinton in general election matchups, he would lose to Bernie Sanders if he made it to the general election. But Republican voters do not care! They want their Donald Trump!To watch this second campaign coverage segment, just click here.
He’s the only top-tier candidate who loses by double digits, not only to Hillary Clinton, but also to Bernie Sanders. But Republican voters want him anyway. And that ends up not being an interesting thing about Donald Trump. It’s an interesting thing about Republican voters.
They keep picking him, and they know he would lose, but they like him anyway. They know he’s going to lose, and they don’t care. They love this guy!
So all this Beltway analysis that says that Donald Trump’s star is going to fall, because all of the ways in which he is not electable, right? There’s a reason all that punditry, and all that Beltway common wisdom keeps getting proven wrong with each new passing day and each new poll showing Donald Trump on top. It’s because Republican voters do not give a flying comb-over about who is electable. They just want somebody to fall in love with, and they have fallen in love with him.
They know he’s not electable! They do not care. And so, the Republican nominating process, as we head toward the first debate, looks likely to remain the Donald Trump show for a long while yet, even though the Beltway keeps telling us it’s about to be over.
Try to ignore all those unsourced claims about what “the Beltway” keeps telling us. Consider what Maddow keeps saying about “Republican voters.”
According to Our Own Rhodes Scholars, Republican voters “want their Donald Trump.” Earlier in the segment, she said Republican voters “luvvvvv them some Donald Trump.”
“They love this guy,” Maddow said. Republican voters “do not give a flying comb-over about who is electable.”
Republican voters just want somebody to fall in love with, she said, and Republican voters have fallen in love with him. “They know he’s not electable. They do not care.”
Again, there is zero evidence that Trump supporters think he would lose to Clinton. Beyond that, please understand—Maddow is basing these sweeping statements about “Republican voters” on a Quinnipiac poll in which 80 percent of Republican voters didn’t support Candidate Trump.
Twenty percent of respondents said they’re supporting Trump. In a 17-candidate field, that's enough to put him in first place.
It also means that 80 percent of “Republican voters” said they aren’t supporting Trump. More precisely, 68 percent of respondents named a candidate other than Trump who they said they support. An additional twelve percent said they’re undecided.
Given this circumstance, Maddow’s sweeping claims about “Republican voters” made no sense at all. But so what? She was also able to explain why “Republican voters” “keep picking Trump” even though “they know he would lose.”
“It’s an interesting thing about Republican voters,” Maddow said. She went on to explain:
Maddow based her explanation on cherry-picked responses to an unusual poll question—a question which was answered the same way by Democrats and Republicans alike.
Why do “Republican voters” keep picking Trump even though “they know he would lose?” To explain this conundrum, Maddow referred to a question which appeared in a recent poll by NBC/Marist:
MADDOW: When NBC and Marist polled New Hampshire and Iowa, Republican voters again in those states said they luvvvvv them some Donald Trump. Mr. Trump was way out ahead in New Hampshire, and he was a very close second to Scott Walker in Iowa.Does that maybe kind of explain everything? According to Maddow, Republican voters were asked this question:
But the pollsters at NBC and Marist did not just ask Republican voters who do you like for president? They also asked them one crucial follow-up, which I think maybe kind of explains everything.
They asked them this: Which is more important to you, a Republican nominee for president who shares your positions on most issues, or a Republican nominee for president who has the best chance of winning the White House?
In both Iowa and in New Hampshire, by a 2:1 margin, Republican voters said they want a nominee for president who they agree with rather than one who can win. 67 percent of Republicans say that in Iowa, 67 percent of Republicans say that in New Hampshire.
And so yeah! It otherwise looks like this conundrum, right? Donald Trump loses not only to Hillary Clinton in general election match-ups, he would lose to Bernie Sanders if he made it to the general election. But Republican voters do not care. They want their Donald Trump...
Which is more important, a Republican nominee for president who shares your positions on most issues, or a Republican nominee for president who has the best chance of winning the White House?
When they were asked that question, 67 percent of Republican voters said they would prefer the nominee who shares their positions, as opposed to the nominee who had the best chance to win.
Does that maybe kind of explain everything? No, it kind of doesn’t.
Warning! That is an unusual type of survey question, for which we have little track record. We don’t know what a typical response to that question looks like. We don’t know if those responses by Republican voters were unusual in any way at all.
Beyond that, that obvious point again: Those responses came from all Republican voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, the large majority of whom are not supporting Trump.
Here’s something else you ought to know—something Maddow didn’t mention. Democratic voters were asked that same question by NBC/Marist. They responded the same way Republican voters did.
In New Hampshire and Iowa, 66 and 65 percent of Democratic voters said they would prefer the candidate who agreed with their positions. Suddenly, the 67 percent response from Republican voters doesn’t seem so striking.
In short, that reaction to that unusual question was not unique to Republican voters. There’s no sign that it was especially strongly held by Trump supporters. And there’s no indication that Trump supporters think their man would lose to Clinton. As she pretended to solve that conundrum, Maddow was blowing bubbles around, as she does, night after night, in her embarrassing “campaign coverage.”
While we’re at it, might we show you the bubble with which Maddow closed her “campaign coverage” this night?
It wouldn’t be the new Maddow Show if Fox didn’t get knocked around in some silly, selective fashion. Here’s how Maddow performed that mandated task Thursday night:
MADDOW: New York Magazine published some new details about [the August 6] debate today, including that Fox News had now told the candidates that they will be organized physically on stage according to their polling numbers. So not only do you have to make the top ten in national polls in order to make it on stage, so Rick Perry won’t even be there. But the highest polling candidate, Donald Trump, will apparently be in the center of the stage for the debate.That was the dramatic end to the segment.
So it really will be the Donald Trump show! This whole Republican Party presidential nominating process has become the Donald Trump show, thanks in part to national polls being the grounds on which people are allowed to participate in the nominating process or not.
A week from tonight, the fact that this is the Donald Trump show will not only be basically official, it will be on display physically on that stage when he stands in the middle like Gladys, surrounded by a whole bunch of Pips on either side.
Fox, are you sure you want to run the Republican presidential primary like this?
Corporate-owned hustler, please! Primary debates have been run this way by the various networks for a very long time.
Front-runners are typically placed behind podiums “in the center of the stage.” More marginal candidates splay out to the right and the left.
To see this completely familiar practice in action, just click here. You'll see the introductions of the candidates in the Democratic primary debate of June 3, 2007.
That debate was run by CNN. For the corresponding Republican debate that same night, just click this.
You’ll see the front-runners perched in the middle. The networks pretty much always do this in primary debates.
This practice has nothing to do with Fox. Maddow, who is dumb as a rock or perhaps just dishonest, was simply providing our nightly dose of low-IQ tribal pleasure.
Maddow’s “campaign coverage” was shorter than usual Thursday night. It may have been even dumber than her usual fare.
Her analyses made little sense. Beyond that, she kept omitting information which would undercut the joy of our nightly sponge bath.
Do “Republican voters” luvvvvv them some Trump? Not exactly, no. In the poll from which Maddow was working, 80 percent of Republican voters didn’t support Candidate Trump.
Do Trump supporters think he would lose to Candidate Clinton? There’s no evidence of that.
Was there something strange or revealing about the way Republican votes responded to that unusual survey question? Not exactly, no. Democratic voters responded the same way.
Should Dems be saying “oh happy day” about those general election matchups? Walker and Bush were even with Clinton. To us, those results seem appalling.
Did Maddow know why Trump was in Scotland? Did Maddow know how candidates get arranged on the stage?
We’re going to guess that the answer to each question is yes. As we’ve long told you, Rachel Maddow simply isn’t obsessively honest.
They said we were getting Our Own Rhode Scholar. By now, what we’re getting more closely resembles Our Own Sad Version of Fox.
In fairness: The photos of the puppies were cute.