The Phony Campaign

2011-03-13 Update

[phony baloney]

After last week's inclusion in our phony poll, Haley Barbour dipped below our arbitrary 4% threshold at Intrade, and so we'll bid him farewell for now.

But he's replaced by Michele Bachmann, who popped up to 4.2% at Intrade this week. And the Google hits say she's already ahead of Mitt Romney!

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Barack Obama" phony 3,870,000 +20,000
"Sarah Palin" phony 2,730,000 +20,000
"Mike Huckabee" phony 1,780,000 +240,000
"Newt Gingrich" phony 1,530,000 +70,000
"Michele Bachmann" phony 902,000 ---
"Mitt Romney" phony 522,000 -11,000
"Tim Pawlenty" phony 461,000 +2,000
"Mitch Daniels" phony 373,000 -23,000
"Jon Huntsman" phony 144,000 -3,000

  • Does Congresswoman Bachmann deserve her high debut in our table? Well, she visited our fair state yesterday, and…

    Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann's visit to the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire got off to a rocky start on Saturday morning when she misstated a key fact about the American Revolution in a speech to a group of local conservative activists and students.

    "What I love about New Hampshire and what we have in common is our extreme love for liberty," the potential GOP presidential candidate said. "You're the state where the shot was heard around the world in Lexington and Concord. And you put a marker in the ground and paid with the blood of your ancestors the very first price that had to be paid to make this the most magnificent nation that has ever arisen in the annals of man in 5,000 years of recorded history."

    … if anything, her ranking is too low.

  • Despite his low hit-count standing, Mitt Romney manages to make the phony news. Latest is from Michael Kinsley in the LA Times:

    We're all for transparency these days, and if anything is transparently clear about American politics, it is that Mitt Romney will do or say anything to become president. The best guess is that at heart he is an old-fashioned moderate, business-oriented Republican (just about the last one standing). But there's no knowing for sure. He may have no sincere beliefs at all.

    There was a piece about Romney on the front page of the New York Times on Sunday, and what amazes me is the deadpan frankness with which the article exposed him as a phony, and then went on to discuss what Romney might do to solve this problem.

    Kinsley feels that Romney's phoniness makes him "ethically unqualified to be entrusted with the presidency." Really. I continue to be unconvinced that Romney is uniquely phony.

  • Brendan Nyhan is a liberal, but he occasionally drops the partisan blinders to make a good point, or at least one worth considering. He catches a whiff of campaigns past in today's coverage of Romney:

    The media's coverage of Mitt Romney is showing signs of the pathologies that afflicted its coverage of Al Gore in the early stages of the 2000 presidential campaign.

    In 1999 and 2000, the press pummeled Gore, the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, with absurdly trivial and hostile reporting and commentary on the number of buttons on his suits, his cowboy boots, and the color of his attire, which were framed as evidence that Gore was a phony who was reinventing himself to get elected. These factually dubious claims were used to manufacture a narrative of Gore as a calculating liar that may have contributed to his puzzling underperformance in the 2000 election. While any politician changes and evolves over the course of their career, Gore's trajectory was framed as a series of phony personas (a sample from Howard Fineman: "By my count we're on about the fifth or sixth Al Gore now").

    Nyhan goes on to describe today's eerily similar narrative about Romney, and why such things happen. Worth reading, but I think he discounts the most obvious similarity between Romney and Gore: they're pretty good-looking smooth talkers. Decades of pop culture have taught us, however unfairly, to especially suspect people like that.

  • We haven't mentioned Tim Pawlenty much, but Dana Milbank of the Washington Post detects phoniness there:

    On paper, Tim Pawlenty may be the most formidable Republican challenger to President Obama in 2012. Too bad he's running as somebody else.

    Oh oh. What's the problem?

    But now Pawlenty is campaigning as if he's some sort of Southern preacher. At the Faith & Freedom event, he was dropping g's all over the place, using "ain't" instead of "isn't," and adding a syrup to his vowels not indigenous to Minnesota. He didn't utter the word "jobs," made only passing reference to economic woes, and instead gave the assembled religious conservatives a fiery speech about God, gays and gynecology.

    Milbank gets a lot of column-mileage from speculatin' on whether Pawlenty adopted a phony cornpone accent for the event. One problem with this narrative: the event was "down South" in Iowa. I might buy that a southern accent could sway a few votes in Georgia, but Iowa?

    Milbank could have (but didn't) point out that this sort of thing is not unheard of on the campaign trail. From 2007:

    Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday she sees her sometimes Southern accent as a virtue.

    "I think America is ready for a multilingual president," Clinton said during a campaign stop at a charter school in Greenville, S.C.

    And from Commie Radio in 2008:

    What do Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, George W. Bush, and John Edwards have in common? They've all been criticized for the way they speak — charged with affecting or suppressing or exaggering [sic] an accent so voters will identify with them.

    Gee, if you can't trust the way a candidate talks, what can you trust?

Last Modified 2014-12-01 2:32 PM EST