January 22, 2012

AP Pins ‘Failed’ Tag on GOP’s Perry (2012) and Romney (2008), But Not Far Worse-Performing Dems

After Rick Perry ended his presidential bid on Thursday, the Associated Press’s Chris Tomlinson opened his dispatch about the announcement thusly: “Gov. Rick Perry dropped out of the presidential race on Thursday, endorsed his old friend Newt Gingrich and returned home to Texas, where the failed White House candidate has three years left to serve as the chief executive.”

Based on much of his prior reportage, Tomlinson appears have a particular animus towards the Texas Governor. But tagging GOP presidential candidates or their candidacies as “failed” is not an aberration at the AP, while the wire service’s omission of such tags on wildly unsuccessful Democratic candidates pointedly betrays the presence of obvious bias.

In May 2008, three months after Mitt Romney ended that cycle’s presidential bid, an AP report noting his purchase of a California home told readers the following:

RomneyFailedHeadline0508

The AP even made sure in 2007 that John McCain, who was running for the presidency a second time, was tagged as a failure when he announced his bid: “Trailing in national polls and fundraising, the failed candidate of 2000 hopes GOP voters will view him as a principled leader for his unflinching war stance in the face of political pressure and, ultimately, will reward him with the 2008 Republican nomination.”

This negativity might be palatable if the self-described Essential Global News Network tagged Democratic primary drop-outs similarly. But the only example I found was one item where the term “failed” apparently disappeared in subsequent revisions.

Otherwise, though I saw observations that certain Democratic candidates “failed” to win primaries or caucuses in AP reports, I couldn’t find any others where actual candidacies were labeled as failures, as Perry’s was, or who were personally labeled as failures, as Romney was. This was the case even among candidates who could not say that they ever came close to winning a primary or caucus (as Romney did in 2008) or who ever led in any pre-primary polls (as Perry did for a time after he declared his candidacy).

Democrats not tagged as failures in AP reports include the following poor performers:

  • Joe Lieberman, 2004 –never gained meaningful traction. Described by AP as “unable to inspire Democratic voters who embraced his 2000 vice presidential campaign.”
  • Howard Dean, 2004 (link is a “wire service report,” but AP is cited within it) — was leading in early polls, but never won a caucus or primary, and became infamous for his post-Iowa caucus “Dean scream.” The report’s opening: “Howard Dean abandoned his Democratic presidential bid on Wednesday, but the former Vermont governor urged his followers ‘to transform the Democratic Party and to change our country.’”
  • Carol Moseley Braun, 2004 (AP “contributed” to the USA Today report) — a virtual nonentity in the campaign. Yet look how her withdrawal and accompanying endorsement of Dean were treated: “Former Illinois senator Carol Moseley Braun dropped out of the Democratic presidential race Thursday and endorsed Howard Dean for the party’s nomination, saying he was ‘a Democrat we can all be proud to support.’ … The high-profile endorsement comes as the race here is tightening.”
  • Dennis Kucinich, 2008 — In two tries, Kucinich was occasionally unintentionally entertaining, but never seriously contended. AP’s opening: “Democrat Dennis Kucinich is abandoning his second, long-shot bid for the White House as he faces a tough fight to hold onto his other job – US congressman. In an interview with Cleveland’s Plain Dealer, the six-term House member said he was quitting the race and would make a formal announcement today.”
  • Joe Biden, 2008 — Beth Fouhy’s AP report described the circumstances surrounding Biden’s miserable performance in positive terms: “The veteran lawmaker and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee received less than 1% of the vote in Iowa’s caucuses despite a spirited campaign in which he emphasized his international policy credentials and long career in public service.”
  • Chris Dodd, 2008 — Fouhy, in the same report where she described Biden’s blip of a candidacy, also gushed over the now-former Connecticut senator turned Hollywood lobbyist: “Mr. Dodd was never able to break from the pack of Democratic contenders despite his long and distinguished Senate career. He won just 0.02% of the state’s caucus-goers.”

The one semi-exception I found which really serves to reinforce the primary point of this post was in a Google News Archive search on [Democrat "failed candidate" associated press] (typed exactly as indicated between brackets, for January 1, 2000 through December 31, 2009). The Charlotte Observer search result listed indicates that the AP’s James Kuhnhenn called Dean a “failed candidate.” But I was able to find what appears to be a later extended version of the report elsewhere; in it, the AP only said that Dean “folded his presidential campaign”; no variation of the word “fail” is present.

Though there may conceivably be real exceptions, it seems that in the fever swamp known as the Associated Press, only Republican candidates have “failed” candidacies or are “failed” candidates. Democrats don’t fail — even ones who have done so quite miserably.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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