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Media Blow It Again

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 9, 2008; 9:13 AM

At the outset, the pundits seemed ticked that their expected story line--an Obama blowout--was failing to materialize.

What about those pre-election polls we all based our blather on?

When the cable networks couldn't predict at 8 p.m. that Hillary Clinton would lose, the commentators began wondering if she would declare herself the Comeback Kid--as her husband did 16 years ago--if she lost by "only" a few points.

As the evening dragged on, the commentators had to consider the possibility that Hillary's "showing of vulnerability," as Tom Brokaw put it, might have helped her, and that Bill Clinton might have boosted her chances after all. In other words, that the coverage had missed the point.

This was delicious. The coverage had been so out of control there was speculation about when Hillary might have to drop out. Polls giving Barack Obama an 8- or 10-point lead were accepted as fact. The news surrounding the former first lady had been uniformly negative for days. She's done everything wrong, Obama has done everything right. She got too emotional in the diner. People just didn't like her. She campaigned in boring prose and Obama in soaring poetry (to use her analogy). Bill was hurting her. A campaign shake-up was on the way. An era was ending. Some pundits were predicting a 20-point Obama margin.

And then the voters actually went to the polls.

The result: Dewey Defeats Truman.

Let's review yesterday's papers:

New York Times: "Key campaign officials may be replaced. She may start calling herself the underdog. Donors would receive pleas that it is do-or-die time. And her political strategy could begin mirroring that of Rudolph W. Giuliani, a Republican rival, by focusing on populous states like California and New York whose primaries are Feb. 5. Everything is on the table inside Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign if she loses the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, her advisers say."

The Washington Post: "Obama has opened up a clear lead, and a second victory over Clinton would leave the New York senator's candidacy gasping for breath."

Chicago Tribune: "With a cluster of new polls in New Hampshire showing Obama building a substantial lead over the New York senator on the eve of the primary, the state appeared poised to play its storied role in humbling perceived front-runners in the contest for the presidency."

Boston Herald: "She's So Yesterday," with a cover shot of the old Beatles record.


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© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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