Poised to escape into his bus outside an American Legion last week in Rochester, New Hampshire, Gov. John Kasich wearily addressed a gaggle of reporters.
Was he viable as a candidate nationally? He wasn’t even close to the top. Where would he win? Seemingly annoyed, he fended off questions. Finally, he allowed that he’d have to do well in New Hampshire, whose voters go to the polls today.
“If I don’t, you know all these cameras and everything, they’ll all be gone. But it’s been nice knowing you,” he smirked, “most of the time.”
Nobody likes a gatekeeper
Such is one of the more polite condemnations of the media from the campaign in New Hampshire, marked more vocally by Sen. Bernie Sanders, who said after Iowa that his performance there had sent a “profound message” to the “media establishment.”
There were the comments by Sen. Ted Cruz, ridiculing the attention paid by journalists to his rival Sen. Marco Rubio.
And let’s not forget Donald Trump, king of the media bash, who feuds with journalists, insults them, leads crowds in decrying them and keeps them confined to pens at his events.
The distrust is not limited to politicians.
Austin Pilotte, 36, a carpenter from Whitefield, New Hampshire, watched Fox News regularly before the 2008 election but has since lost faith.
Pilotte remembers believing that candidate Barack Obama was a Muslim set on taking away guns. When Obama became president, he was surprised by reality: “He stands for everything I stand for,” Pilotte said. “That was an eye opener.”
This election, he says, he’s voting for Bernie.
Rules of the game
Media bashing has been a constant in this election cycle.
Most of this, of course, is pandering to partisan ears, candidates taking advantage of an anti-establishment fervor and pillorying a convenient target.
But it’s not hard to see why voters in early primary states might bristle at reporters: At town halls and campaign events across the early primary states, journalists can nearly outnumber citizens in attendance at small venues. Reporters are the ones checking Twitter and listening for divergences from stump speeches while supporters wait outside. TV personalities report live while the candidates are still speaking, sometimes loud enough to be heard by the crowd.
The campaign trail can be tiresome and grueling for candidates, who wake early for events, phone calls and preparation, and pound the pavement (or highway) in search of one more event, one more vote. It’s a different crowd every morning, but the same reporters. The journalists are the candidates’ shadows, always there and always watching.
It’s a necessary shadow, of course, and the nature of journalism is to push back.
And, of course, the campaigns need the media to bring the candidates’ message to states that don’t happen to hold early primaries.
Today, as New Hampshire votes, the much-maligned establishment media’s questions will be answered: Will Sanders win, bolstering his appeal among voters across the ideological spectrum, unhappy with their economic situation?
Have Hillary Clinton’s efforts to win over women backfired, blowing her chances of a surprise comeback?
Will Donald Trump be a winner in his second submission to the electorate? Will there be redemption for the senators (Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz) or the scrambling governors (John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie)?
One result will be entirely predictable: the media will lose.
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