The Campaign Spot

Cain, Obama, and the Economy: How Narratives Get Crafted

Another terrific example of how an exceptionally modest bit of improvement in economic data is used to justify a preferred media narrative, from Reuters:

There have also been signs that the U.S. economic recovery, expected to be the most important issue in the 2012 election, is on track. On Wednesday, data showed U.S. private employers added more jobs than expected last month, and Friday’s monthly unemployment report showed that the U.S. jobless rate ticked downward to 9 percent from September’s 9.1 percent rate.

That’s in a piece, entitled “Republican sexual harassment furor boosts Obama,” that offers a somewhat plausible theory without citing much direct data to support that idea.

It mentions the Quinnipiac poll from this week, the one that used a much more heavily Democratic sample:

The sample of voters to whom Quinnipiac talked in the new poll is significantly more Democratic — and less Republican — than the early October survey. In the current poll, 35 percent of respondents identified as Democrats, 22 percent as Republicans and 36 percent as independents, according to data provided to National JournalWednesday morning. In the early October poll, 31 percent of respondents were Democrats, 28 percent were Republicans and 33 percent were independents.

(For reference: In 2008, according to exit polls, 39 percent of voters identified as Democrats, 32 percent identified as Republicans and 29 percent identified as independents. In the 2010 midterm elections; the percentages of Democrats and Republicans were equal; midterm elections typically feature higher Republican turnout.)

By the way, that poll was conducted before the Politico story about Cain broke.

Otherwise, the story quotes David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, Democratic strategist Greg Haas, and Christopher Arterton, a professor at George Washington University who has been a Democratic consultant.

Now, it is true that time spent discussing what Cain did or did not do with several former employees is time not spent making an argument against Obama. But if Cain doesn’t get the nomination, this is largely moot — I remain unconvinced that some Cain-backing conservatives will stay home on Election Day 2012 to protest how some GOP rival treated this issue — and if he does, it suggests that this story, with all of its remaining known unknowns and unknown unknowns, will be a larger factor in voters’ minds than, say, Obama’s performance since taking office.


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