USA Today Transmits a Warning to Imaginary Democrats

Under the headline “Va., N.J. Give GOP Reason to Celebrate,” USA Today‘s front-page election report (11/4/09) featured this quote from GOP strategist Frank Donatelli:

The warning is that if you’re in a moderate district, or you’re in a moderate-to-conservative state, you should think twice before you rubberstamp Obama’s agenda.

Well, there were two districts choosing representatives and two states picking governors yesterday. Both the districts, including the one generally described as “moderate,” went for the Democratic candidate, so it’s not clear what warning that sends about Obama’s agenda.

In both states, the Democrat lost the governor’s race, and one of them, New Jersey incumbent Jon Corzine, can fairly be described as politically close to Obama. But New Jersey, which has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1992, is not a “moderate-to-conservative” state; Corzine lost the race based on local issues involving corruption and property taxes.

In the state that can be described as moderate-to-conservative, Virginia, Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds went out of his way not to “rubberstamp Obama’s agenda”–coming out against allowing “card check” union certification, suggesting he would opt-out from a “public option” health insurance program, running ads touting his opposition to Obama’s climate change proposals, and declaring in the final debate of the campaign, “I’m not afraid of going against my fellow Democrats when they’re wrong.”

So of the four top electoral contests, only one fit Donatelli’s model of Democrats getting a warning about how they should appeal to moderate or conservative voters; in that race, the Democrat took Donatelli’s advice–and was soundly trounced, based on the Obama voters from 2008 staying home in 2009.

One is tempted to ask whether a source’s claims have to make any kind of logical sense to appear on the front page of USA Today. But given that “move to the right” is always the corporate media’s advice to Democrats after an election–whether they win or lose–it’s a safe bet that they thought Donatelli was making sense.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.