Monday, May 17, 2010

Does Talking Points Memo know what it's talking about?

When it comes to California, apparently not. TPM (along with TNR) is one of my two favorite political sites but like many news organizations they tend to be NY/DC-centric and their quality tends to drop as they get further from home.

Here's the opening sentence from today's story:
Last week, California Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman released an ad that called Republican opponent Steve Poizner that dreaded "L" word -- liberal.
My first thought was that TPM was under the impression that Whitman just started calling Poizner a liberal; my second thought was that my first thought couldn't be right so I checked previous TPM stories on the race. Here's how they described the ad on May 11th:
Whitman Ad: My Conservative Opponent Is A Liberal!

California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has a word she'd like you to associate with her GOP primary opponent: liberal.

In a new Whitman ad aimed at state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, a narrator ominously asks, "How liberal is Steve Poizner?" before rattling off a long list -- He supported Al Gore! He supported higher sales taxes! -- before the narrator declares:

"Liberal on taxes. Liberal on spending. Just another liberal Sacramento politician."

As we reported earlier, a new poll shows Whitman's lead over Poizner in California's June 8 Republican gubernatorial primary at a very thin 39% to 37%.

How badly out of the loop was TPM here? For over a month, Meg Whitman has been running, in mind-numbingly heavy rotation, an attack ad with the tag line "Way more liberal than he says he is." As for that "long list," it wasn't very long, particularly considering that it is the exact same list that Whitman has been running (and running and running) in every single attack since February.

The TPM story suggests that these charges were a reaction to the race getting close despite the fact that they started when (according to TPM's own poll tracker) Whitman had a lead of over forty points and she pulling out further ahead.

It would have taken less than fifteen minutes of research to catch these problems. This is not the kind of reporting we expect from Talking Points Memo.

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