The media narrative isn't always right, but it's always fascinating to watch. Because political reporters tend to be
pack herd animals, once a narrative gets out there, it's tough to change. Yesterday, there was only one narrative: the Democratic race is over.
The consensus was swift and brutal. The tabloids had their own way of saying it (like the NY Post, which led the front page with "Toast!"). TIME has a cover offering an Obama victory pic. Broadcast media had their list, as captured by Jim Rutenberg in the NY Times (Pundits Declare the Race Over).
The moment came shortly after midnight Eastern time, captured in a devastatingly declarative statement from Tim Russert of NBC News: "We now know who the Democratic nominee’s going to be, and no one’s going to dispute it," he said on MSNBC. "Those closest to her will give her a hard-headed analysis, and if they lay it all out, they’ll say: ‘What is the rationale? What do we say to the undeclared super delegates tomorrow? Why do we tell them you’re staying in the race?’ And tonight, there’s no good answer for that.
Russert, btw, did an encore on Wednesday's evening news, using his whiteboard to go over the inexorable delegate math on the Nightly News (the astute Chuck Todd has been all over this), reiterating the idea that there was no way Clinton wins.
Yesterday afternoon, this AP story made its way onto the internet via the Houston Chronicle: Analysis: Democrats quietly send word to Clinton it's over. In the WaPo, Dan Balz did his own canvassing:
I sent a message to one of her most loyal supporters early Wednesday morning asking what are her realistic options? "She has only one option," he replied. "Gracefully exit and help unify the party to beat [John] McCain." How quickly, he was asked. "I would advise them to figure out how to do it as soon as this weekend," he replied.
Another veteran Democrat who has backed Clinton was equally pessimistic in his private assessment. "It's hard to see a path toward the twin goals of Hillary winning and the party uniting," he wrote. "Her strategy cannot be to destroy the village in order to save it. The superdelegate dam is about to break. Hillary losing [George] McGovern is like LBJ losing [former CBS News anchor Walter] Cronkite."
Several outlets started to dissect the Clinton superdelegates (this from The Hill):
"I, as you know, have great fondness and great respect for Sen. Clinton and I’m very loyal to her," [Dianne] Feinstein said. "Having said that, I’d like to talk with her and [get] her view on the rest of the race and what the strategy is.
Clinton, who eked out a win in Indiana Tuesday night but lost big to front-runner Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) in North Carolina, has not responded to Feinstein’s phone call, the California senator said.
Today, it'll be about grace, timing, pride and, inevitably, money. Already one can see the references to Planet Clinton ( a place far away from here where people think they can win) openly make their way into political discussions (I heard it on MSNBC yesterday; pundits hate it when the candidates defy the narrative.)
I'll leave it to others to talk about why the pundits suddenly realized what the blogs have been saying for weeks... Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee, and it's about damn time to put his opponent, 71 year old John McCain, under the microscope and hold him accountable for his positions, his gaffes and his embrace of the worst President in polling history. But given the current narrative, that time is coming very soon.