Wash Times

The Washington Times, which mounts even less of an effort to mask its partisan leanings than the Fox News Channel, is an occasional source of amusement with its breathless adherence to the GOP message machine. Like this morning’s if-we-keep-repeating-it-maybe-we-can-make-it-so headline and story:

Kerry gaffe loses independents for his party

Here’s the problem with this story, a one-note GOP talking point turgidly dressed up as a formal unveiling of news:

First, it is written off of a Pew survey that has the distinct look of an outlier – easily the closest (i.e. most GOP-friendly) generic ballot poll available on the market. To mention, for instance, that a Gallup poll (also conducted post-Kerry) actually has the Democrats ahead by 20 points would undercut the already flimsy legs of this story.

But that’s not all.

From the Pew poll, one statistic of nebulous value is then- that 18 percent of independent voters had “serious doubts” about voting Democratic because of Kerry – and the story then proceeds to beat us over the head with its earth-shattering relevance, cluing in the brain dead among us that independents “are considered pivotal in today’s congressional elections.”

In a related development, it is considered likely that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning before setting, sometime later in the day, in the west.

The statistic about independents tells us little because – much in the way prosecutors are supposedly able to get juries to indict ham sandwiches – pollsters can always find 18 percent of independents troubled by just about any development in any campaign. And, if you read the fine print in the Pew poll itself (which the Times, of course, ignores) you will see that the 18 percent figure includes anyone who said the Kerry comment raised only “a little” doubt about his or her willingness to vote for the Democrats.

But a good Washington Times political story is never about facts or details. It’s about a headline that hews to the GOP’s message of the day, which in the run-up to the Election has been that Republicans are surging thanks to last-minute doubts about the Democrats. Hence the Times’ assertion that this data – one broadly-worded question from one of the 62,000 or so polls now in circulation” – represents “a potentially significant shift of ‘voting intentions’ and raising speculation of further erosion among independents for the Democrats.” Oh, and bonus points for tying it all to Kerry, a top-5 GOP bogeyman.

Also,

Hey, if it’s in the paper, it must be true.

All of this makes us wonder how the paper will handle what will probably be very bad news for the GOP today. Suppose the Democrats win, say, 35 seats in the House and take back the Senate – essentially the doomsday scenario for the GOP. What will the headline read on tomorrow’s Washington Times front page? Some suggestions:

Lugar, Hatch cruise in Indiana and Utah; Hastert easily re-elected to Illinois seat

or maybe:

Democrats take control of Congress – Pelosi yet to rule changing flag design to hammer and sickle.