It only matters if an R is in the lead

One of my favorite blogs has a saying that says "this is excellent news for republicans", meaning that no matter what happens, the media can spin it to say that it was a great development for their party. Even McCain's moment when he didn't know how many houses he had was considered a good event by some (I'm looking at you, Mark Halperin).

Washington Post reporter Chris Cilizza gets sucked into that line of thinking from time to time, and today pens a piece about how the gubernatorial elections in the "Rust Belt" states could serve as an indicator to republican general election success in 2012.

That swath of manufacturing- based states in the Midwest -- Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan -- with tentacles that reach as far east as Pennsylvania, has been the epicenter of the economic difficulties in the country over the past few years.

Each state is hosting a competitive gubernatorial race this fall. Republicans argue that a clean sweep (or close to it) would immediately change the electoral calculus heading into the nationwide redistricting in 2011 and President Obama's reelection race in 2012.

"[T]he industrial Midwest is the measure of success or failure for the Republican Party," said GOP consultant Curt Anderson, who has worked in the region on and off for the past 15 years. "We cannot win a national election without doing well in this region, and we can't be healthy as a party without doing well there."

There are two problems I have with this logic. First, all elections are local, and in the succeeding paragraphs of the article Cilizza goes on to discuss issues that have little or nothing to do with the national political atmosphere (Illinois' current governor dealing with the Blagojevich aftermath, Pennsylvania & Wisconsin's history of switching parties of governor, and the lack of a good Democratic candidate in Michigan), which likely will not impact the general election in 2012.

The other problem that drives me crazy is that these indicators only seem to matter when they might favor a republican. Since the beginning of 2008, there have been 17 special elections to replace members of the U.S. House. 14 of those were won by Democrats, including ones in Louisiana and Mississippi. They won Dennis Hastert's old district, held Kristin Gillibrand's NY-20 seat that most had written off as a lost seat, won in NY-23 where there hadn't been a Democrat since the Civil War, and held John Murtha's PA-12 in an election that was supposed to test the GOP message of nationalizing representative elections. Yet all anyone ever hears about is how Scott Brown's election to the U.S. Senate was the sign that the tide was turning for the right.

I understand that reporters like Cilizza have to create a theme/storyline of some sort. I just wish they'd be a bit even-handed about it, and not pick and choose the facts that best suit the story they want to tell.

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