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Why Santorum is Wrong to Blame the Media

Posted: 03/19/2012 12:08 pm

On Tuesday night, as he gave his victory speech after winning both the Alabama and Mississippi primaries, Rick Santorum took a moment--and even seemed to hesitate--when he said, "Who would have ever thought in the age of media that we have in this country today that ordinary folks across this country can defy the odds day in and day out."

As I listened, I wondered if even he really believed what he was saying--because Rick Santorum is smarter than that.

He was throwing out that old and tired line about the "media," making it some kind of monolithic enemy he's had to overcome. Santorum said it to score points with his biggest fans: the media bashers on the far right.

It's a strategy used not only by candidates on the far right, but also those on the far left and everywhere in between because it still works. We like underdogs. We like David and Goliath stories. And the media is a convenient enemy. We get it.

But the problem is that Santorum's statement isn't really true. The fact of the matter is, Santorum isn't winning in spite of the media--he's winning because of the media.

If he really wanted to be intellectually honest with his followers, he would have replaced the word "media" with "campaign financing." It's actually a better story, and it's the truth.

According to OpenSecrets.org, Romney's campaign contributions dwarf Santorum's by nine to one, $63 million to $7 million.

Beyond that, Romney is also beating Santorum handily in the newest and most dubious form of campaign financing - the fight for Super Pac money. Restore our Future has spent $34 million on Romney's behalf, while Red White and Blue has spent $6 million on behalf of Santorum, according to OpenSecrets.org.

Add up the numbers and the difference remains staggering: $97 million for Romney against $13 million for Santorum. Given those odds, what Santorum has accomplished is as impressive as it is astonishing.

He's beating the money odds in a big way and that's what he should take credit for. But instead, he blames the media, which has been his great equalizer. Yes, Romney is winning the money battle. But the fact is he's not winning the battle for media coverage.

It's just the opposite. Santorum may actually be getting more media coverage than his opponent. Go to Google News and do two searches: one for "Santorum" and the other for "Romney," and look at the results for the one week leading up to Super Tuesday. The Santorum search gets you 45,500 results. Do the same for Romney and you only get 32,600. Looks to me like the so-called "age of media" is pretty good to Rick Santorum, no?

Santorum has recently gone so far as to blame FOX News for unbalanced coverage, accusing the cable news giant of "shilling" for Romney. It sounded good--another example of the "against the odds" underdog--until FOX host Brian Kilmeade pointed out that it had taken Santorum's staff a whopping three months to respond to his media request for an interview. Oops, so much for that "blame the media" strategy.

The fact is, were it not for free coverage from the big, bad media, Santorum would have been out of the race a long time ago. He'd be a footnote right after Herman Cain. Santorum should be grateful, as we all should be, that we live in a country where the free media can equalize if not trump the paid media of campaign contributions and Super PACs. The media has made Rick Santorum a big dog in the presidential hunt.

Now, if we could only get the former senator to recognize that. After all, even big dogs know better than to bite the hand that feeds them.

 

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