Opinion Brief

Are conservatives living in an alternative campaign reality?

From making up their own polls to complaining about media bias, the Republican Party increasingly finds itself at odds with the facts, says Politico

The Mitt Romney campaign supposedly has a "no whining rule" when it comes to media coverage, but veep candidate Paul Ryan apparently didn't get the memo. "It goes without saying that there is definitely media bias," Ryan said on Fox News Sunday. "I think most people in the mainstream media are left of center and, therefore, they want a very left-of-center president versus a conservative like Mitt Romney." It's an age-old complaint — George H.W. Bush's 1992 campaign featured bumper stickers that read: "Annoy the Media —  Re-elect Bush." But coupled with GOP claims that even pollsters are skewing their results to favor President Obama — allegedly part of a nefarious scheme to suppress Republican enthusiasm — there is a sense that Republicans are letting an "alternate campaign reality flower" in the face of harsh truths, say Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns at Politico. Is this true?

Conservatives are in denial: Inarguably, Romney is trailing in the polls — "the only question is by how much," say Martin and Burns. Yet you wouldn't know he's behind by watching Fox News or listening to Rush Limbaugh. "The attempt to debunk polls is in many ways the logical, if absurd, outgrowth of a choose-your-own adventure political news environment where partisans have outlets that will echo their views." Conservatives are now seeking "out polls that favor their side or even [finding] a tonic in the arbitrary rejiggering of professional polls."
"The parallel universe where Mitt Romney leads all the polls"

And the claims of liberal bias don't hold water: Despite Romney's "47 percent" gaffe and other indisputable missteps, conservatives insist that the "mainstream" media has orchestrated Romney's slide by putting "their collective liberal thumb on the scale, in terms of coverage and, more oddly, polling," says David Carr at The New York Times. But liberals don't dominate our current media landscape. The Wall Street Journal, "a bastion of conservative values" has the highest circulation of America's newspapers. Three of the top five radio broadcasters, including Limbaugh, are conservatives, while Fox News continues to dominate cable news. "Many Republicans see bias lurking in every live shot, but the growing hegemony of conservative voices makes manufacturing a partisan conspiracy a practical impossibility."
"Tired cries of bias don't help Romney"

Democrats live in their own world, too: It's not just conservatives who view the world through a partisan lens, say Ben Smith and Zeke Miller at BuzzFeed. Party identification can "trump voters' experience of reality" on both sides of the aisle — just look at how Democrats and Republicans view the economy. Polls show that "if you're a Democrat, it's something approaching morning in America. If you're a Republican, we're screwed." That's why Romney has gotten so little traction from running on the economy: No one can agree on how it's faring.
"How the economy collapsed (as a political issue)"

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