The Hartford Courant illustrates what is wrong with political reporting with a report entitled Dodd’s Showing in Polls Laughable. It is about a year until the caucuses and primaries begin, and standing in the polls at this point means little. This is the period in which we should be hearing what the candidates have to say on the issues and see them debate themselves, and then decide which are credible candidates. By concentrating on the horse race at this point we risk the media deciding which candidates will remain credible.
While I think such coverage makes it much harder for candidates such as Dodd to compete with those considered front runners by the media, there is evidence that some candidates can overcome low poll results. The Pollster provided this data on where a number of candidates stood at this point in the election cycle:
- 6% – George McGovern, August 1971
- 3.5% – Jimmy Carter, February 1975
- 2.9% – George Bush, January 1979
- 1.6% – Gary Hart, December 1982
- 3.0% – Bill Clinton, February 1991
- 3.8% – John McCain, March 1999
- 4.0% – Howard Dean, January 2003
McGovern, Carter, and Clinton went on to win the nomination, and others became credible candidates at some point during the race. I wonder how many other deserving candidates went no where because of news coverage such as this. We need more coverage of what the candidates believe and of their records and less concentration on poll numbers, especially at this early stage in the race.