A Response to Politico Re: Yesterday's "Odd, Lengthy Attack"

Yesterday, I posted a column here on the Gaggle criticizing a Politico story by Carol Lee for framing Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s re-election campaign as “a bellwether for how Obama fares in 2012.” Now Ben Smith, the site’s lead blogger, is linking to my post and describing it as "an odd, lengthy, attack... which rants a bit about winning the morning but doesn't ever question Lee's basic point, which is the White House's unique investment in the race." So I figured I should respond.

Ben is right to say that I didn't question the White House's unique investment in the race. The reason? The White House is, in fact, uniquely invested in the race, as the first half of the Politico story clearly shows. I should’ve given Lee more credit here. Her observation was astute and her reporting was solid.  

What I did question was the second half of the story, which dealt with the more controversial “theories” of “Patrick’s campaign as a dry run for 2012” by focusing on “thematic similarities” between Obama and Patrick (their histories, their families, their status as "trailblazing, post-civil-rights era African-American politicians of roughly the same age who rode similar hope and change themes to victory") instead of focusing on the forces that traditionally decide elections (the voters, the issues, and the candidates themselves). My point was simply to show why the theories to which Lee devotes the latter part of her article aren't all that convincing.

In writing the column, I should’ve mentioned that Lee led her piece by chronicling how the close relationship between Patrick and Obama is driving the White House's interest in the campaign. Failing to do so may have led some readers to conclude that the original story was solely about the supposed bellwether effect. It wasn’t--even if my criticism was.

That said, Smith should probably ask Mike Allen, Politico's Chief White House Correspondent, why he chose in yesterday's Playbook newsletter to introduce an excerpt from Lee’s article with the phrase "2012 Preview?" Did Allen also think that the story was framing Patrick's 2010 bid as a “preview” of Obama 2012? Or was that simply how he wanted to sell it to his readers? Either way, it's hard to see how criticizing the bellwether angle could be wrong when promoting it is clearly OK.