THE BLOG

Yes, the Media Helped Elect Obama, But...

02/28/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It was not intentional. In fact, quite the contrary.

Of course, Obama might very well have won anyway, by a very narrow margin. But I believe that the true turning point in the fall campaign -- though rarely noted -- actually came in the summer, at the Democratic convention in Denver. No, it was not the general good vibes about Obama, the ringing speeches by Teddy, Michelle, Bill and Hill, and by the candidate himself.

Rather, it was the electronic media's overblown coverage of the allegedly widespread threat by female Hillary delegates, and other Clinton fans, to bolt Obama in favor of McCain.

As you recall, the dissidents, known as "PUMAS," got massive face time on TV and, it was said, they represented just the tip of the iceberg. And it was said (by commentators, not just by the new pro-Hillary media stars), that women, particularly older ones and suburban/blue-collar types who had voted for Hillary in the primaries, would likely abandon the Democrats in November.

There was no firm evidence for this, of course - and few pundits, on TV and in print, seemed to notice that the same few disgruntled Hillary delegates appeared on all of the shows. No matter. Obama's possible defeat because of the possible defections was widely predicted.

Why did this matter, since the mass defections never happened? Especially since here and elsewhere at liberal political blogs no one ever took the threats seriously?

Because John McCain and his people bought it, hook, line and sinker. This explains the sudden rise of Sarah Palin to the top of their VP list. They saw an opening - which really wasn't there - and went completely overboard. Not only did a female VP suddenly look like a great idea, but one who would have extra appeal to the particular type of Hillary primary voters so hyped by the media.

So the preposterous media coverage of the (few) unhappy Hillary-ites at the Dem convention - which was aimed not at helping Obama but maintaining interest in the affair and the coming campaign - inspired McCain to select as his running mate someone who would virtually destroy his campaign (as I make clear in my new book on the campaign).

Recall that after months of trailing, McCain came out of his convention with a bump that led to at least a tie with Obama in the polls -- then he plummeted very quickly as the truth about Palin seeped out. A week after the GOP convention ended, polls were already showing (as many of us, if not most MSM pundits, had predicted) that , if anything, women thought LESS of Palin than did men.

Imagine if McCain had picked even a neutral figure such as a Pawlenty or, say, Kay Bailey Hutchison. Yes, Obama likely still would have won (he ran a fine campaign and the economy collapsed) -- but if he did, it would have been in a real nail biter. And Tina Fey would not have been named entertainer of the year, and we wouldn't have had that turkey slaughtering video to enjoy.

Greg Mitchell's new book is "Why Obama Won," the first to explore the campaign from a progressive perspective. He is editor of Editor & Publisher.