Accuracy in Media

Mainstream media coverage of Tuesday’s elections has bounced between “Democrats are outraising Republicans because their voters are much more fired up to recapture the House,” and “Despite massive resources, Republicans are barely scraping by in elections they should win handily because President Trump is dragging them down.”

Republicans have won eight of the last nine races in which the president has involved himself. The candidate in the most prominent of Tuesday’s races, in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, came from 22 points down to win after Trump endorsed him and held a rally in the district.

Reporting from mainstream media – typified in the Washington Post’s “‘Nothing bodes well:’ Lackluster election results spark debate over Trump’s midterm role” – is that Republicans are barely squeaking past, and Trump is hurting their chances.

Post reporters Robert Costa and Josh Dawsey wrote that the debate over whether Trump was help or hindrance “reignited” Wednesday after a “new round of lackluster showings” left Republicans wondering whether Trump “will be a drag on the party’s chances in November.”

The White House is preparing different strategies to help different candidates according to their situations, the Post reported. Ivanka Trump might address family issues in suburban districts where the Post is convinced Trump is unpopular despite Tuesday’s result. Tweets or visits from the president might be more appropriate in others.

This is typical. President Obama was told to stay out of numerous races where candidates worried his presence would hurt them electorally.

But after “Democrats turned out in droves and significantly overperformed expectations by posing serious challenges to Republicans in staunchly GOP districts” Tuesday, the Post reported, “many Republican strategists viewed the results as a dark omen three months ahead of Election Day, saying they illustrate the limits of Trump’s ability to boost candidates, particularly in suburban areas where the president’s popularity has suffered.”

The strategist the Post interviewed is virulently anti-Trump. Stuart Stevens, whom the Post calls “a frequent Trump critic,” was chief strategist for Mitt Romney’s failed 2012 presidential bid and a top strategist for John McCain’s bid in 2008.

Stevens’ objection is that Republicans had to spend so much in time and resources to lift state Sen. Troy Balderson to what appears to be a narrow victory over Democrat Danny O’Connor, who was better funded and a better fit for a suburban district, as the Post previously wrote.

“’Nothing bodes well,’” Stevens told the Post. “’You look at the amount of money spent on the Republican side in Ohio, the focus put on it, and you have an early warning sign. It’s time for Republicans to counteract.’”

The “razor-thin margin comes in a district that Trump won by 11 points in 2016, Republicans have held since 1983,” according to the Post. “Balderson had embraced Trump in the campaign’s final stretch.”  

The piece took no issue with a Trump tweet that read: “When I decided to go to Ohio for Troy Balderson, he was down in early voting 64 to 36. That was not good. After my speech on Saturday night, there was a big turn for the better. Now Troy wins a great victory during a very tough time of the year for voting. He will win BIG in November.”

In fact, it did not mention specifics on Trump’s tweets, saying only the president was “crowing … that his presence on the campaign trail and his record could lift his party and prompt a ‘giant Red Wave!’”

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