May 19, 2010

It's always fun to watch Election Night on Fox, especially when they get their hopes all fired up and things kind of fall flat instead.

They wanted to get all excited about Rand Paul's big win in Kentucky -- but then there's the little problem with Paul's win being a big fiasco for the GOP establishment. So the excitement was a little muted there.

What was unmentioned: If you look at the complete Kentucky results, the liberal Democrat, Jack Conway, who Paul will face in the general election collected about 22,000 more votes than Paul, and Democrats in general garnered about 170,000 more total votes than Republicans. No one should start assuming that the seat is Paul's just yet.

It was also tough to spin Blanche Lincoln's almost-certain runoff with progressive Bill Halter in Arkansas as a conservative win, considering that Lincoln had screwed herself with the Democratic base by playing games with health-care reform and financial reform. Mostly that race went ignored.

And then there was Joe Sestak's win over Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania. Again, it was a little difficult to spin this as a win for conservatives, considering that Sestak is a progressive Democrat and Specter had just switched parties after decades as a Republican. Instead we heard a lot of talk about "anti-incumbent sentiment."

But the biggest deflation of the Tea Bag came in Pennsylvania's 12th District, where Republican Tim Burns -- a Tea Party fave who got heavy media play at Fox for the past couple of weeks -- still couldn't pull off the victory against Democrat Mark Critz, a longtime John Murtha staffer who leaned heavily on his old boss' legacy to keep his seat. This was a race that had been touted on Fox and elsewhere as a likely pickup for Republicans. Quoth Tory Mazzola, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, which dumped $200,000 into the race: "The fact that we have a strong GOP candidate, Tim Burns -- committed to job creation and repealing ObamaCare -- combined with a favorable Republican environment has turned this historically Democratic seat into a swing district."

RNC chairman Michael Steele had even guaranteed a Burns victory. Ooops.

So of course, having invested heavily in promoting the "Mini Super Tuesday" election as a referendum on President Obama, Fox had to figure out some way to spin the results that way. This meant getting out their spinmeister "pollsters", Frank Luntz and Doug Schoen.

Luntz managed to turn PA-12 into an anti-Obama referendum by pointing out how Critz ran to the right during the campaign. (Um, OK, Frank, whatever. Tea Party Dude still lost.)

Schoen even more bizarrely tried to claim that Specter's loss was "anti-Obama," because the president had endorsed the converted senator. Um, so, lessee if we have this straight: In DougSchoenland, Pennsylvania Democrats rejected a conservative ex-Republican and replaced him with a progressive Democrat not because he was a piss-poor Democrat, but because he wasn't right-wing enough? Come again?

OK, you knew they had to spin it as a victory for the Tea Partiers somehow. It just took some ... imagination.

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