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Karl Frisch Headshot

The Right-Wing Media's Election Analysis Just Ain't That Good

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Back in 2001,
conservative media figures were
. Democratic Party victories at the ballot boxes during
the off-year elections had little national significance.

Fox News contributor
Dick Morris said at the time, "[I]f you have a Republican president, people are
going to vote Democrat, and if you have a Democrat president, they're going to
vote Republicans." Proffering further spin of the GOP losses, Fox News
contributor Mort Kondracke said, "We have no way of knowing" how the 2001
outcome would affect the 2002 midterms, a sentiment echoed by conservative
writer Michael Barone, who declared on CNN, "I don't think that the issues and
personalities" in the Virginia and New Jersey races "are going to be congruent
with very many" races in 2002 or 2004. Then there was Laura Ingraham on Fox
News' Hannity & Colmes noting
that "[b]oth sides are going to spin this," before offering her own spin: "[T]o
call this some kind of watershed moment against Republican views is

For anyone watching
Fox News in the weeks leading up to
year's off-year election, it should have been apparent what was
afoot on the conservative network.

In the two weeks
leading up to their November 3 elections, Conservative Party congressional
candidate Doug Hoffman (NY-23), New Jersey Republican gubernatorial candidate
Chris Christie, and Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell appeared on Fox News and
its personalities' radio shows
at least 16 times for live
interviews lasting a total of 114 minutes and 36

As leading Republican
politicians and activists celebrated
Fox News' role in pushing just the right
message and helping their electoral chances, two Fox News employees
spent time fundraising and recruiting volunteers in support of GOP-backed
candidates. Fox News host Mike Huckabee used network airtime to collect email
for his PAC, which in turn used the addresses to
recruit volunteers for GOP candidates on Tuesday's ballot, including McDonnell
and Hoffman. Meanwhile, Fox News contributor Karl Rove was shilling
for the Republican Governors' Association to help Christie's bid in New
Jersey. All the while, Fox continued
to feature his spin of that same

So, Fox News gave
Republican candidates a huge platform to communicate with conservative activists
and voters while Fox News employees recruited volunteers and raised money for

What else did Fox need
to check off the list before Election Day? How about telling people how to vote
and pre-spinning Democratic Party losses before a single ballot had been
counted? Check.

One Fox News graphic
that if the GOP were to win the gubernatorial races in
Virginia and
New Jersey -- races
with no direct influence over congressional efforts to reform health care -- it
would mean "no gov't-run option" in health care reform.

Sean Hannity, Fox
News' apparent GOP get-out-the-vote captain, went all out advising his radio
listeners how to cast their votes, telling
one caller to his radio show, "Don't forget -- go vote for Christie tomorrow in
New Jersey.
All right?" and his New
Jersey audience in
, "get to the polls" and "stop Obama-care in its
tracks." On his Fox News program, Hannity told
Hoffman, "I hope I'm on the air this time tomorrow night and I'll be able to
declare you the winner." Marching to Hannity's tune, CNN's Lou Dobbs declared
Hoffman was "change [he] can believe in" while Fox News' Bill O'Reilly piled on
predicting a Hoffman win.

But what if --
right-wing media fear of fears! -- Democrats were to pull off a victory in
New Jersey? Well,
there'd be just one thing to explain it -- cue the ominous music -- Voter

Rush Limbaugh warned
his audience that "fraudsters" at ACORN, SEIU, and the New Black Panthers would
try to affect elections on Tuesday and that
"tomorrow's going to be a dry run for Democrat mischief and malfeasance, getting
ready for 2010 and 2012." Andrew Breitbart's took the
, baselessly -- and predictably -- accusing progressives
of trying to "steal" the New
Jersey governor's seat. As did
Wall Street Journal columnist
John Fund who fabricated
of voter fraud in New Jersey and anonymously
voter fraud innuendo. Completing the circle, Limbaugh
Fund's baseless accusation warning of an "ACORN factor" and a "vote fraud

Fox News hosts and
political analysts capped off Election Day celebrating and
for conservative and GOP candidates. When the dust
settled, Republicans had won the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial contests while
Democrats had won the open New
York congressional seat -- a
seat targeted by tea-partiers and not held by a Democrat in nearly 150

While Fox News' Brit
Hume acknowledged
that "Barack Obama was not a central issue" in New
Jersey -- exit polls decisively
showed he wasn't an issue in any of the targeted races -- others in the
conservative media were blind to the readily available exit polls. Hume's Fox
colleague O'Reilly said the
New Jersey governor's
race was a referendum on Obama. El Rushbo dismissed the exit polls entirely, saying
the governors' races were all "about Obama" and that the election results show
"[t]here is no question this is an anti-Obama

& Friends
the election results as "shockwaves," "winds of change," a "Republican revival,"
and a "blueprint for success." In a truly odd attempt at spin, Fox News declared
that the results meant "Obamacare" was dead, while its sister network, Fox
Business, claimed
the markets "like[d]" "Big GOP Wins In NJ &

So, exit polls said
Obama had nothing to do with Democratic losses in New Jersey and
Virginia, where,
incidentally, the GOP nominees downplayed
their right-wing positions -- and this is good news for

What about Hoffman,
the unambiguously right-wing Conservative party candidate in New
York who conservative media
types spent weeks
? How would Fox News and company spin his loss of a
seat, again, not held by a Democrat in far more than 100

In an attempt to paint
Democratic Party victor Owens as a conservative, thus explaining away his win in
a historically GOP district, right-wing bloggers sought to
the "under-reported fact" that he "campaigned
against the public option" even though Owens had expressed support for a public
option since September.

Limbaugh blamed
"party bosses and these big thinkers like Newt [Gingrich]," who "screwed the
whole thing up," while leaping to the defense of Sarah Palin, who had championed
Hoffman. Limbaugh asserted
that Palin "is not damaged at all" by the loss of her candidate. And in an
about-face only fitting for someone of Limbaugh's ego -- errr ... stature -- the
conservative talker switched
his stance on "moral" victories, which he'd lambasted Democrats for in 2006,
declaring Hoffman had a "good

So, yes, if one thing
is clear after the 2009 off-year election, it's this: Conservative media figures
haven't a clue when it comes to election

Oh and one last note
on Tuesday's election, did you hear the nasty anti-Obama election night story
that Fox News concocted out of thin air? The conservative cable outlet reported,
remember this is not true,
that President Obama watched an HBO
about himself, rather than following the election
results. A story so grand -- gosh the president is such a narcissist! -- that
the fact-challenged liberal media bias hunters at Newsbusters wet themselves
over it before eventually conceding that Fox News had "misreported" the incident
-- a nice way of saying "made it up."

I guess, in addition
to the analysis, they haven't a clue when it comes to reporting

Karl Frisch is a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog and research and information center based in Washington, D.C. Frisch also contributes to County Fair,
a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around
the Web as well as original commentary. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, or sign up to receive his columns by email.