THE BLOG
07/07/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Pew Analysis Mostly Shows Obama Has Been a Successful President So Far

That sound of high pitched whining you hear from Republicans abut the new Pew analysis showing more positive than negative stories about Obama so far is pretty funny, but I have to say it's pretty easy to dismiss. Trends on positive and negative stories about presidents and presidential candidates tend to pretty closely correspond to how well they are actually doing. Here's what I mean historically:

-FDR got very positive coverage because he was a successful president in very tough times. He got virtually everything he wanted through Congress; the economy started to improve; his party won big in the off-year elections in 1934; he won a massive landslide re-election in 1946 and in two more elections after that, he was a successful war president. No surprise he got lots of good press.

-Truman, even though he was of the same party and followed many of the same policies, generally got worse coverage because he didn't succeed as much. Few of his domestic initiatives were enacted; he got bogged down in the Korean War; Republicans capitalized on his unpopularity to win congressional elections in 1946; his party lost in the 1952 landslide to Eisenhower.

-Eisenhower got mixed coverage because his record was, well, mixed. He got some big things done, got stalemated on others and generally didn't have a big agenda.

You get the idea. Presidents generally get about the media coverage they deserve. Carter and the first President Bush got pretty bad press coverage because they really weren't very good Presidents, and Reagan - who passed many of his biggest legislative initiatives and was generally quite popular - got better coverage.

A lot has been made of Pew's mentioning that Obama did a lot better in his first couple of months than Clinton or GW Bush, but look at each of their first two months:

-Clinton mishandled the gays in the military fight and he got beat in the stimulus debate in his fist two months.

-GW Bush came off a hotly disputed election and got very little accomplished in the first two months. His tax cut bill got passed, and his popularity didn't go high until after 9-11.

-Obama, in his first two months got the biggest stimulus bill in American history passed, along with the popular Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the SCHIP reauthorization, plus he reversed restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research.

I'm reminded of Kevin Costner in Bull Durham: baseball is a pretty simple game, you hit the ball, you pitch the ball, you catch the ball. Politics is the same: if you succeed, the media tends to write good stories about you. If not, they don't.

And frankly, campaigns tend to be much the same. Candidates that run ahead in the polls, raise more money, get bigger crowds, and do better in debates in the polls, tend to -- amazingly enough! -- garner more positive stories. That may or may not be a good thing, but it's a fact.

I know both progressives and conservatives have things we complain about, and I happen to think the media is far more biased towards conservative point of views on issues and candidates. But in terms of baseline studies like Pew on positive vs. negative coverage, it's pretty easy to figure out the formula.