- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The most worrisome time for Mitt Romney could be post-podium, when the presidential debate ends and the elite press descends, to gnaw on his words until voters are left with just a few bits of red meat — and lots of pre-digested conclusions. Yes, 3,000 “credentialed” journalists will be on hand in Denver to bear witness to it all. But some say the masters will be at work among them, agenda in place.

“The news media’s post-debate spin matters. If reporters want to show that a candidate has ‘won,’ news coverage will replay their best statements and portray them as surging in support. If the media line is that a candidate has ‘lost,’ the replay loop will feature gaffes or misstatements, and they’ll be portrayed as on the ropes. For viewers and voters who haven’t made up their minds, the media spin may be a crucial factor,” predicts Rich Noyes, research director for the Media Research Center.

The spin has been spun. ABC NewsGeorge Stephanopoulos, for example, already has framed Mr. Romney as under pressure and behind in “all battleground states.” Naturally, Mr. Stephanopoulos will anchor ABC coverage for the debate.

“With friendly umpires like Stephanopoulos calling the balls and strikes, the Obama campaign will have an easier time managing the post-debate spin. If the media were really as centrist as they claim, Stephanopoulos‘ bias would stick out like a sore thumb. But at ABC, CBS and NBC, his predictable spin on behalf of the Democrats is, sadly, business as usual,” Mr. Noyes adds.

“We are the victims of a media coup d’etat and are currently living under it. You will see that clearly in evidence on Wednesday night when the debates commence, each one moderated by a member of the liberal media nomenklatura,” observes Pajamas Media founder Roger L. Simon, tossing in a historical reference to the Soviet ruling class during the Cold War.

“It is under the guidance of this liberalism, under their own version of Shariah, if you will, that the debates will be conducted and Mitt Romney judged,” Mr. Simon explains.

AN INTERESTING MIX

Sarah Palin, Republican financial guru Alan Simpson, former FEMA Director Michael D. Brown, Rep. Scott R. Tipton, Colorado Republican and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock are among analysts joining forces with Fox Business Network anchor Neil Cavuto during the network’s coverage of the presidential debate, beginning at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

On CNN, interviews with first lady Michelle Obama and Ann Romney will highlight the debate coverage beginning at 7 p.m. Wednesday is, incidentally, the 20th wedding anniversary of President Obama and his spouse. The network also will feature debate stand-ins Sen. Rob Portman, who played Mr. Obama for Mitt Romney during recent sparring rounds, and Sen. John F. Kerry, who played Mr. Romney for the president’s debate practice.

And how many people will tune in to watch the presidential debate?

Odds are it will be 50 million to 55 million, judging from historic audience patterns. According to Nielsen, 52 million watched the first debate between Barack Obama and John McCain four years ago, while 61 million watched the initial match between George W. Bush and John Kerry in 2004. The first debate between Mr. Bush and Al Gore in 2000 drew 47 million viewers.

SKEW VIEW

“Do you think pollsters are intentionally skewing their polls this year to help Barack Obama, or not?” asks a Public Policy Polling survey of 1,100 likely voters that ended Sunday.

Well? Do pollsters oversample Democrats, ask crafty questions, leave out political “leaners” or survey only cellphone users, who tend to be younger? Forty two percent of the respondents said yes, the polls are manipulated to help the president, 40 percent say they’re not and 18 percent are not sure.

And now the inevitable partisan divide: 71 percent of Republicans, 67 percent of conservatives, 14 percent of Democrats and 12 percent of liberals say the pesky polls are skewed.

DEBATE CUISINE

Political culture continues to flourish as the nation considers its destiny, its appetite and the poll booth. Now offered to the public for their debate dining pleasure, and all the way to Election Day: from the California Tortilla Kitchen franchise, it’s the Obama Bowl with rice, grilled chicken, teriyaki sauce, snow peas, broccoli, carrots, red onion, red pepper and bok choy, topped with grilled pineapple spears and scallions. Then there’s the Romney Bowl with freshly made mashed potatoes, Mexican meatloaf, sauteed vegetable medley, a savory sweet sauce, corn and salsa.

And from Legal Seafoods: the President Obama-inspired Blue Plate Special showcases macadamia and coconut crusted mahi-mahi with roasted Brussels sprouts in a lime butter sauce. The Mitt Romney-inspired Red Plate Special offers pan-seared cod with steamed spaghetti squash in a bourbon lobster cream sauce.

HILLARY-CHRISTINA MOMENT

Singer and stateswoman meet in the nation’s capital on Wednesday: That would be the platinum-tressed Christina Aguilera and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Both will be at the State Department in the afternoon for the annual George McGovern Leadership Award ceremony, honoring Miss Aguilera and David Novak, CEO of Yum Brands, which owns Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut. The pair have raised $115 million for the United Nations World Food Program.

POLL DU JOUR

• $8 billion: the amount Americans will spend on Halloween this year.

• 72 percent, or about 171 million U.S. adults, plan to celebrate Halloween.

• 75 percent of that group plan to hand out Halloween candy; 74 percent say the state of the U.S. economy will not affect their Halloween plans.

• 51 percent will decorate their yards, 50 percent will carve pumpkins, 45 percent will wear costumes.

• 36 percent will attend parties, 33 percent will take children trick-or-treating.

Americans will spend $2.3 billion on candy, $1.4 billion on adult costumes, $1.1 billion on children’s costumes and $400 million on pet costumes.

Source: The National Retail Federation.

Churlish remarks, astute observations to jharper@washingtontimes.com.