The Frontrunner Curse

Have you noticed that whoever the press puts forward as the presumptive winner of a Presidential primary, loses?

At the start of his Presidential run, Jeb Bush was the anointed candidate.  At least by the press.  And they were wrong.  The same with Hilary Clinton in the 2008 Presidential election.  In this Presidential primary, the media has picked one candidate after another.  And each one failed.  

It almost looks like the coveted place to be when running for President is in the background.  Popular enough to get on the debate stage, smart or lucky enough not to say anything stupid, without a Klan robe in your attic, and you have a much better chance of becoming your party's nominee than any early hoopla will give you.

The media focus on Presidential elections is about ratings.  So rather than choose a multi-faceted, nuanced style of reporting, the mass media covers the leadership and vision competition for our nation like it was a football game.  Up the field! Sacked! Good! Bad!  No critical thinking required.

It would be one thing if this approach gave good results, but it does not.  It does not predict anything well, and certainly does not inform voters.  It leads to an attachment to premature predictions and warped reporting to not look stupid when they turn out to be wrong. 

The football approach to political analysis hurts the Presidential candidates the talking heads are trying to prop up.  As in, they don't win. There could be many reasons for this: declaring a frontrunner too early may just invite tougher vetting in general.  So just announcing a Presidential candidate may invite a scrutiny no one could survive.  Maybe voters just get mad that someone is telling what to do.  It also could get all the other candidates to shoot at one target: the presumptive frontrunner.

When will they realize this? Probably never.  Football games do not reflect Presidential elections, but it takes out the work a reporter has to do.

No comments: