Thursday, January 07, 2010

Punchline: Omg omg, a press meme

First, let's talk briefly about how and why Ed Murray left the race and what it means electorally and symbolically.

Clancy D's narrative of events is similar to what I have heard. Apparently, Murray disappeared for a few days after seeing some pretty dismal poll numbers and returned with the decision not to continue his run for office. He then announced the decision to the press without consulting his political bffs or his campaign staff.

The rest of Clancy's story - that advisers told him he'd have to find a half million bucks, make the election about race, and that Murray refused to go there after some soul-searching - leaves some stones unturned.

Chris Tidmore then went live with a story about a possible buyout from the Georges campaign.

Oyster gives us a cathartic profile of the reactions of some lovely conservative blogs who, of course, immediately reached the conclusion that everything is the White House's fault.

Clancy also accidentally (in the comments of this post) sort of confirmed that Georges' people have been pushing photographs and/or video that might be embarrassing to Mr. Murray. Since nobody else will, I will add a little bit of detail. There may be some embarrassing material circulating about Mr. Murray's fondness for wine. But considering that we generally accept politicians who drink, and even make drinking a standard benchmark of the campaign trail - see Batt, Jay or Clinton, Hillary - nothing that has been described to me would end Senator Murray's career. Even the worst rumor I've heard would just be really embarrassing and politically harmful if it were released at the right time, but not something that would make me think Senator Murray is a dishonorable human being.

So my sense of Murray's decision was that, despite the general sense from a couple of leaked internal poll numbers that he was running in second place, he didn't think he could win the election.

Let me say that again: HE didn't think he could win the election.

Clancy DuBos insists that Murray came to some sort of moral realization.

Murray’s top supporters and close friends are hurt, and most don’t understand his logic. But anyone who looks at Murray’s decision as a moral choice — particularly anyone who knows Murray — should have no difficulty understanding his decision. I spoke with Murray on Sunday afternoon and, while the conversation was “off the record,” I got the clear impression that he wanted to follow his inner moral compass, not his steering committee’s political advice, on this one.

For whatever reason, the explanation that it would take some nasty racial divisiveness on Murray's part for him to win is assumed to be reasonable. Yet, the fact that his advisers were telling him he was going to have to raise another $500,000 - $700,000 is just passed over as though it is easy or even possible to raise and spend a half million dollars over the next thirty days. Nor does anyone seem to point out that Murray was the most recognizable African American candidate going into campaign season, had already spent more money on advertisements than any African American candidate, and yet apparently still couldn't crack 20% in the internal polls that have been reported.

Here's the real dirty little secret about Ed Murray - he's a horrible candidate.

State Senator Ed Murray is a horrendous public speaker. HORRENDOUS. He's quiet, he mumbles. He trails off at the end of sentenc...

Again, he was the highest profile black candidate in the race BEFORE he unloaded his campaign war chest on an expensive two minute television commercial. I didn't see every single debate, but in the ones that I did, Murray was getting destroyed. He wasn't being attacked, he was being ignored - he was barely part of the conversation. John Georges, for all the sleaze, is out there talking about getting Charity and Methodist hospitals open. What the hell was Ed Murray's rallying cry?

And even in the internal polls that showed Murray to be the front-runner among African American candidates, his lead over Henry for that distinction wasn't even outside the margin of error.

So when you consider that Murray was going nowhere fast in his own polls even though he'd spent the most and had the best name recognition, it doesn't seem like his decision to drop out of the election was against the grain.

Mitch Landrieu is certainly the front-runner in this election and could indeed obtain the votes needed to avoid a runoff but I have a hard time believing that Mitch Landrieu is substantially better off today than he was before Ed Murray made his announcement.

One could argue that Landrieu is going to earn a lot of Murray's voters but one could just as easily argue that Murray's departure heals a fracture in the African American electorate and will lead to a more unified effort to mobilize voters on behalf of Mr. Henry, Judge Ramsey, or Mr. Perry.

The reason that I think the media and others have fixated on Murray's departure is that Murray was the only African American candidate from the African American political lineage that fought so hard for a fair share of municipal power over the last five decades. That is a major development within the African American political community, which is, to throw out a major generalization, the place where white people go to try to figure out what all African American people must be thinking. When, for instance, the Louisiana Weekly the New Orleans Tribune writes that Ed Murray's exit represents a "betrayal of the African American community..."



...what the Tribune is saying is that Murray is betraying the particular political lineage that helped him get to the State Senate in the first place, a political lineage that since Katrina, has lost a lot of real political power.

But after reading that, one might come to the conclusion that Senator Murray must have been the consensus black candidate to hold the Mayor's office.

That view isn't supported by evidence.

Murray was going no where fast.

With the election a month away, the best known black political candidate, the candidate who spent the most money on signs and advertising, was only polling in the teens in a city that is two-thirds African American.

--

Yesterday, Troy Henry pulled a classic stunt to ensure attendance at yesterday's press conference so he could then lambaste local media. He is upset because he believes the media is pushing a meme that the mayoral election is over and that Mitch Landrieu is going to be the next Mayor of New Orleans.

He doesn't think that meme is fair.
He thinks that if the media spreads the idea that Mitch Landrieu is probably going to win, voters will be unduly influenced to tune out the campaign.

"What we don't want to do is begin to put in the minds of all voters that this is a fait accompli, that this is not a real race, that this is an anointment. That's not fair to any of the candidates. And the fact that some of the reports have categorized this in terms of race, it's disingenuous to all of the African-American candidates. It's not fair."

Read the whole article or watch the press conference to get a sense of what he said overall.

There are a couple of points I think he was trying to make.

1. The press is spending too much time analyzing electoral prospects and not enough time reporting the positions of the candidates, and that's not fair to African American candidates or to the African American community.

2. The analysis of the press - that it is going to be nearly impossible for anyone to beat Mitch Landrieu - is wrong.

I agree that the media tends to fixate on the theatrics of the election - the horse race itself - and not on positions and values of candidates relative to the problems the city faces. I agree that this hurts African American candidates and the African American population, but it also hurts everyone in this city. The public should know who their choices are and what differentiates them from one another. Mitch Landrieu should be forced to really prove he knows "what to do and how to do it" by being asked to provide some basic detail about what it is he's going to do and how it is he plans to do it.

But in the end, it's kind of hard not to say 'tough sh-t.' That is how the media works.

And on point two, I think it's going to be extraordinarily difficult for anybody to defeat Mitch Landrieu on Election Day. That was true before Ed Murray dropped out of the race and it is true now. It would take a sizable financial investment and an lightening fast organizing effort to mobilize enough voters - white and/or black - to overcome Landrieu. You need more than a month to build a political machine from scratch. Troy Henry maybe has the money to get his name out there but probably can't scramble the necessary field outreach. James Perry has performed very well at the debates and maybe can get some television more television exposure but the guy doesn't even have a sign on the front door of his campaign headquarters, let alone in the lawns of supporters. I'm not sure most voters have even heard of Nadine Ramsey.

We are not at the beginning of the campaign anymore, we're already approaching the end. There is one month to go. They say that's an eternity in politics but it really isn't. A month is a month. With Landrieu reportedly 20 points or more ahead of everyone else and earning significant shares of the African American vote himself, we might soon approach official dead girl or live boy territory...

With regard to Henry's assertion that writers wrongly "categorized" the electoral dynamics in terms of race, it is kind of hard to ignore the entire last half century of elections in this city.

Since the VRA, municipal elections in New Orleans have been about the realization African American political power and the mobilization of African American voters to win basic political representation for the first time. In this election, African American community leaders are struggling to unite behind a consensus candidate, to mobilize demonstrable support for any African American Mayoral candidate - but that was true before Ed Murray got out of the race.

If Henry is upset with this analysis insofar as it has resulted only since Mr. Murray ended his candidacy, well then he has a real point.

The press could have written an article about the African American leadership crisis well before Ed Murray ended his campaign.

It's a sad thing.

Mitch Landrieu is a polished, recognizable politician but it ain't like he's the second coming.

--

The Line

6. Rob Couhig

5. Nadine Ramsey

4. James Perry

3b. John Georges

3a. Troy Henry

1. Mitch Landrieu

18 comments:

Frolic said...

Good analysis, but I'm going to have to ask you to name the member of Murray's inner-circle before I can accept it.

I do think too many (most? all?) political commentators love the game of politics. They seem bored by policy. It's really too bad.

Anonymous said...

Henry is just upset that African-Americans are not AUTOMATICALLY rallying behind him.

To him, without Senator Edwin Murray in the race, he is the clear choice among AA's.

One problem is he can't speak to regular people. He is a highly-intelligent, elite-educated, corporate executive with a bad case of biz-speak, that hopes to connect with a largely uneducated electorate that is clearly uninterested in hearing about "synergies" or "decision-matrix."

The other issue is he is speaking past a blowing wind. He's talking about the old courthouse rings of the past, the turn-out machines surrounding folks like Pappy, Morrell, Thomas, Atkins, etc. They simply don't drawn as much water (pardon the pun) since the storm. And among the voters that are influenced by this crowd (including the 18-22% rump that still supports Nagin), up until yesterday, Henry had failed to concoct the us-against-them storyline of victimization or secret oppression that worked in the past. Yesterday (and less so at the OIG debate), Henry tried to turn this wheel.

The "marginalization" argument, is an explicit and desperate playing of the race card. But it probably won't work this time.

Landrieu is rightly popular amongst many sectors of the city, whether it be buyers-remorse, or simple allegiance to a dedicated and effective public servant. He is not the messiah. But he is Moses. And we will follow him through the Red Sea to safety because we know him, and we don't know or trust anyone else.

For more insight regarding the failed AA political orgs in NOLA, and how their preference for rewarding connected interests, and not serving citizens, has lead to their downfall.

cliffscrib.blogspot.com

dsb said...

Agree, good analysis. I like what you're saying about the media obsession with the game. Interestingly, I think many bloggers do essentially the same thing. It's a little like being a baseball fan and memorizing batting averages and ERA's.

Anyway, I think you're dead-on about Murray, plus I doubt he wanted to endure the humiliation of being a distant second. More importantly, your take on the changing black leadership is also on the mark. [Anon above is right--Cliff's post on the subject is a good one]

I see Perry has the blackerati all coming out for him--Henry Louis Gates, Grant Hill ... so why can't I get a damn bumper sticker with his freaking name on it? Do I have to make it myself?

Frolic said...

dsb: Did you check Cafe Press to see if you could buy one? I think that's how these Web 2.0 folks work.

jeffrey said...

Well done. This is far and away the best analysis of this week's events. I especially like your statement about the failure of campaign coverage to foster an open discussion of the actual problems the next mayor is going to face. In fact, this has been the worst election I can remember if we're judging it solely on that criterion.

(Okay the 2007 Governor's race was about this bad but it's close)

I still think a month is plenty enough time for Troy Henry to catch the lightening if he goes after it the right way. Yesterday's press stunt was a very poor way to go about it, but he was probably hitting the themes he needs to hit if he wants to rally people to his cause. The potential is there.

But, at the same time, I think Cliff is right about Henry not having the rhetorical skills to pull it off. He's about as useless as Murray, really. Just not the same exact brand of useless. That's why I thought it was so interesting to see Nagin get involved in this business this morning. I wonder if he'll speak up again before this is over with.

Sr said...

Great Analysis!

Here's something I see along the lines of a changing black political base. 1) Henry stepped back for a vote now. 2) Perry stepped forward for many votes later.

I mean to say. Henry wants to be mayor after this election (and he may still be) but by that being his goal he has to use the apparatus available Now - mistrust of whites, images of unfairness, i could go on. He has to use this wether he wants to or not. Its a calculated risk that will take a supreme balancing act because he will have to say things that are true (many blacks are still economically/politically non-powerful) while NOT attacking "whites" and not exposing wealthy blacks to criticism for this.

Perry has made it a point to attack Henry (I don't think he ever retracted his accusation of Henry about the MitchtheMayor site). I think Perry can see the writing on the wall: that he's young, probably won't win, but will appeal to demographics of blacks AND white people in there 20s/30s/40s for some time to come. So by attacking the "old" machine or at least its image he can solidify himself with voters for years to come. (see: http://www.jamesperry2010.com/2010/01/james-perry-responds-to-mayor-nagin’s-attacks-this-morning-on-wbok/ ) - He takes on Nagin, Henry, and WBOK

The dog fight to watch may not be Georges/Landrieu, but Perry/Henry in the next few days.

As much as I have knocked Perry, in 8 years he could be the New Political Concept in New Orleans - a black candidate that no voter would think twice about voting for, or against, based on his race.

Clay said...

Rob Couhig should be #7. I look forward to him getting fewer votes than Manny Bruno.

Clancy DuBos said...

E, with all due respect, I didn't "accidentally" confirm the existence of a photo of Murray with a wine bottle. I got the photo -- from John Georges via email. I waned to put the rumors to rest by saying yes, at least one such photo exists ... but that's not what got Murray out of the race. As has been noted, since when is drinking good wine a detriment to someone running for office?

E said...

I characterized it that way because it seems like if you had information about Georges is sending around PIs to follow Murray or about Georges sending photographs around of Murray drinking wine, you'd report that in the body of your article and not throw it out as an aside in the comments section. Anyway, I think we're both in agreement that the threat of photographs and unconfirmed videos were maybe only a minor part of Murray's decision precisely because Americans like politicians who can throw 'em down - although I'd argue beer and shots are far more preferable to the American electorate than vino.

mominem said...

Great analysis but I think you missed a least one important point. It's not the media that is not covering the issues the Candidates themselves have been pretty silent of the issues.

A few have spoken to some issues but most of them were staying away from anything even remotely controversial.

Sr said...

WAIT ! HOLD THE PHONE !

So it is true Georges was passing out a photo to make Murray look bad?

I was under the impression from Clancy's statement and other blogs that it was still unclear.

But IT IS TRUE (question mark!/exclamation?)

Why wasn't that reported somewhere!

I would like to know just how dirty Georges is willing to play. Did anyone ever follow up on the "MitchtheMayor" thing?

I mean, I don't care if Bill Lambert plays rough as long as he plays by the rules... But I like to know who the goons are.

E said...

Yes, I think this is the first time it has been fleshed out in explicit terms.

Dambala said...

- I would like to know just how dirty Georges is willing to play. Did anyone ever follow up on the "MitchtheMayor" thing?

It's 99.9% certain Georges knew that Iokon did it. Georges ran a brief ad on Cable circ. (dailyshow/cobert) which was almost identical to that spoof, but it was immediately taken down because they didn't have the rights to use the video. It was ripped off YouTube, which is copyright infringement.

Adrastos said...

Excellent post overall. The best bit was saying tough shit to Henry about the press. It's how they cover elections everywhere and it's not as if the candidates are talking substance and policy. They never do so why should they start now.

I'm beginning to wonder if Couhig will end up in the Peggy Wilson vote range this time.

Anonymous said...

From Dubos:

>E, with all due respect, I didn't "accidentally" confirm the existence of a photo of Murray with a wine bottle. I got the photo -- from John Georges via email. I waned to put the rumors to rest by saying yes, at least one such photo exists ... but that's not what got Murray out of the race. As has been noted, since when is drinking good wine a detriment to someone running for office?<


*******WWWWHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAATTTTTT**********?????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!


Christ, DuBos.

Get off your high horse, stop "consulting" and start reporting.

Anonymous said...

{Same anon}

You know what, DuBos soudns as bad as Broussard. There's no conflict here? No problem with wearing two hats?

Ciolino goes on tv and TP news as an ethics expert but gets paid to defend sleaze like Whitmer.

Silas Lee goes on tv and TP news as a polling expert but he gets paid by Nagin and who knows else.

And who does Clancy DuBos get paid by? Anyone? Any campaigns.

Clancy, I love you're reporting but don't go on tv news if you have a conflict and tell only 1/4 of the news you know. - Are you a news man, or what exactly?

Anonymous said...

It's stupid to think that Couhig won't get the same vote he had last time (10k+). Where are they gonna go? Landrieu? Georges? I doubt it. I'd like to see some evidence of that instead of dense remarks.

E said...

I think that whatever credibility Couhig may have had to have earned 10k votes last time has since been lost. I'd be surprised if maintained even 2/3 of his 2006 total.