Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Journalism! Motto: Fitting Square Facts In A Round Narrative Since 1980

OK, we don't claim to be professional journalists, trained in the journalistic science of journalism or anything. We are not the keen observers and steely eyed watch dogs of the fourth estate, or any estate for that matter. In fact, any place with estate in its name probably wouldn't let us through the door, but the point is, it was our--non-professionally trained and unjournalistic to be sure--opinion that the whole purpose of  professional journalistic journalism, written by professional journalistic journalists, was to make things clear to those of us who were not fortunate enough to be professional journalists, trained the the journalistic science of journalism. So we read headlines like this:

Obama Leads Romney By 5 Points In Ohio After Conventions

And this:

Obama maintains post-convention lead over Romney

And this:

Gallup: For First Time Since April, Obama Reaches 50 Percent Mark In Head-To-Head With Romney

And this:

Poll: Obama Opens Up 10-Point Lead In Minnesota

And we think...hmm...apparently the keen observers and steely eyed watch dogs of the fourth estate have discerned that President Obama is leading Mitt Romney. Well, after all they are the professionals thinks us, trained to ferret out trends and pull meaning from the cacophony of an election year. Then along comes professional journalist, trained the the journalistic science of journalism Gary Langer who tells us:

Obama Gains a Convention Boost - But Not Among Likely Voters

Oh, head snap! Has professional journalist, trained the the journalistic science of journalism Gary Langer discovered something his colleagues have missed? Is he even more steely eyed than his steely eyed colleagues of the Fourth Estate, so much so that he has risen to the Fifth Estate? Eagerly we perused his article, hoping some of his steely eyed steeliness would rub off on us.
Barack Obama has emerged from the nominating conventions in his best position against Mitt Romney since spring, a 50-44 percent race among registered voters in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.
Umm...OK. So you start off your article on how President Obama isn't ahead by telling us he's never been more ahead. Odd, but then we're not  professional journalists, trained the the journalistic science of journalism, so we probably wouldn't understand even if you tried to explain it to us.
For the first time he's numerically ahead of Romney in trust to handle the economy, the key issue of the 2012 contest, albeit by a scant 47-45 percent. Obama's seized a 15-point lead in trust to advance the interests of the middle class. And strong enthusiasm among his supporters is up by 8 points from its pre-convention level; Obama now leads Romney by 10 points in "very" enthusiastic support.
Yes, well...uh...perhaps we misread the headline.  Let's see Obama got a boost, but not really, just the best one he's ever had and one that's "very" enthusiastic. No wonder the Obama camp is putting out memos telling people to calm down. No wait, that's the Romney camp.
The 50-44 percent race among registered voters compares with a 46-47 percent Obama-Romney contest immediately before the conventions; while those shifts are within the survey's margin of sampling error, Obama is at his best vs. Romney since an ABC/Post poll in early April.
Umm...This is good news for John McCain?
Among other groups, Obama's support has reached a new high among men, while Romney is at new lows among moderates, whites and higher-income voters, all in ABC/Post polls since April 2011.
OK, we see what's going on here.  Gary Langer wrote the article, but Sarah Palin wrote the headline. Are we right? Huh, are we right?
Additionally, there's been a shift in preferences in the eight tossup states identified by the ABC News Political Unit: Registered voters in these states now favor Obama over Romney by 54-40 percent, vs. 42-48 percent in these same states before the party conventions. And in the states with mid-levels of unemployment, it's 51-43 percent, vs. 40-53 percent pre-convention, further suggesting some progress for Obama in his economic arguments.
 Now you're just messing with us.
Among likely voters - people who say they're both registered and certain to vote - the race squeezes shut at 49-48 percent, Obama-Romney, essentially unchanged since before the conventions (+2 Romney then, +1 Obama now, well within sampling error.)
We're not lawyers or anything, but if you're planning to vote, don't you have to be registered? We mean even if a person "certain" to vote, it wouldn't do them much good if they weren't registered, right?

Be that as it may, let's recap what we have learned. Obama is ahead with registered voters, among those who are concerned with the economy, among moderates, whites and higher-income voters, in eight of the tossup states and in the states with mid-levels of unemployment.

But somewhere in all those groups of people is another group of people. A shadowy group known as people who say they're both registered and certain to vote, and they favor Obama, ah not so much.We have to give Mr. Langer credit though. It probably wasn't easy to find this group among all the other groups, the economic group, the registered voter group, the racial, and income groups, all those groups Mr Langer just passed on by because he knew there was another group. A group that didn't have a voice. A group not invited to the polling table with all the other groups.

We envision Mr. Langer standing outside of a closed Doughnut shop at three in the morning. It's raining and he's wearing a khaki trench coat belted at the waist and a Fedora pulled down over his right eye. He looks a little like Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep. A car pulls up, its light off. The window rolls down and a man nods to him to get in the back. Inside another man puts a bag over his head and they drive off into the night.

The next thing Mr. Langer knows he's sitting in a chair in a large room. In front of him is a screen and behind that a chair. It's dark so he can't see the face of the person who enters, but its one of those both registered and certain to vote. For the next hour they talk in hushed tones, and then, as quickly as it began, it's over. Mr. Langer is once again masked, bundled off to a car and just like that finds himself standing once again in front of a closed Doughnut Shop as the car, without a license plate he notices, fades into the early morning gloom. But in his pocket is his reporter's notebook, and in that notebook are all the secrets of the group known as those both registered and certain to vote.

Thank you Mr. Langer. Thank you for your persistence, your insight and your bravery. When all those other groups go to the polls and reelect President Obama, you can at least sleep well with the knowledge that you did your part. You were their voice, Mr. Langer, the voice of those both registered and certain to vote. The last group in America that lives within the margin of error.

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