Romney inevitability: Why another question mark?

Second in a series of at least two blog posts.

Several media organizations have decided they’ve seen enough. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is now the “inevitable” claimant of his party’s nomination. In this series of at least two blog posts, the Erik Wemple Blogger will evaluate various acts of journalism in service of Romney Inevitability.

Story: “Romney inevitable? Perry weighs TV ads to slow him

Outlet: Associated Press

Byline: Charles Babington and Kasie Hunt

Thrust:

Twelve weeks before the first party voting, the GOP establishment is coalescing around the former Massachusetts governor. He has more campaign experience, money and organization than anyone else. He showed again this week that he’s the best debater in the bunch. And President Barack Obama’s campaign is treating him almost as the presumptive nominee — even though Romney still faces challenges in some early voting states.

Analysis: The AP’s digital and professionally calibrated fairness scale dominates the telling of this Romney story. Instead of using its own editorial voice to assert any claims of inevitability, Babington and Hunt use their reporting. Example:

The tone is different up the coast in New Hampshire. Among rank-and-file Republicans there, even those who favor other candidates have a sense that Romney has gained an air of inevitability. “It’s very frustrating,” said state Rep. Jim Waddell, of Hampton, who backs former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.

Bolded text inserted to highlight possible false plural: AP didn’t quote any other voices who favor other candidates.

Otherwise, the story takes the reader through the early primary landscape and carries a reminder often omitted from national political coverage:

National polls matter less than surveys closer to home in a handful of early voting states, including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Many campaign strategists say Perry must win the Iowa caucus, or at least far outdistance Romney there, to survive the New Hampshire primary, where Romney is favored.

Mainstream media scolds like Jay Rosen might call that vapid horse-race political journalism; I call it crack with high-fiber supplements.

Blessed with such a fine piece, AP, like ABC, succumbs to the temptation to place a question mark on top. “Romney inevitable?” may give the AP the alibi it needs in the event that Romney capsizes in the next three months. But readers remember the words, not so much the punctuation that surrounds them.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.

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