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Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Are the media and pollsters biased against Romney?

Published: Wednesday, July 1 2015 7:56 p.m. MDT

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gestures during a rally in Richmond, Va., Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. (Associated Press) Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gestures during a rally in Richmond, Va., Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. (Associated Press)

Like everyone else in America, we breathlessly await the 2012 election outcome so we will know the fate of Big Bird, but we must put our worry aside to comment on other non-puppet issues.

Are the national media and pollsters biased against Mitt Romney?

Pignanelli: "Despite romantic fantasies about caring candidates who learn of America in donut shops, most politicians rely on media to teach them what concerns the average person." — Dick Morris. Until last week, I was barraged (and even victimized) with the charges that Romney was suffering from slanted coverage and the manipulation of polls against him. Interestingly, I have not heard these allegations since Romney articulated something other than contempt for 47 percent of the country in the recent debate, contrasting with President Barack Obama's performance of … (well you know the rest).

The "liberal media" continues to savage Obama relentlessly and will not allow excuses (so much for bias). On a recent news program, Republican Gov. Chris Christie expressed doubt as to deliberate poll fudging. The reversal of fortunes for Romney demonstrates Christie's correct perception.

Surveys indicate a majority of journalists are left of center. But outside of the screeching media (i.e., Fox news, MSNBC, etc.), reporters provide the other side. The bias is with the special interest groups that generate publicity. Leftist female advocacy groups should have raised the roof against President Bill Clinton for his relationship with a subordinate. Conservative fiscal watchdog groups should have blistered President George W. Bush and the Republican Congress for exploding the federal deficit. The failure to seek justice in the court of public opinion against one of your own creates a perception of prejudice in the media.

Webb: In general, conservative candidates do get rougher treatment than liberal candidates in the major national newspapers and broadcast outlets. However, liberal media will sometimes go into a feeding frenzy and eat their own when a fellow liberal disappoints and is wounded, as we've seen with the harsh criticism of Obama's debate performance.

In addition, the media world today is so fragmented that traditional media don't dominate as they once did. Conservative viewpoints are well represented on cable networks, magazines, blogs and websites, in addition to social media like Facebook and Twitter. In today's complex and decentralized communications world, politicians can talk directly to citizens, bypassing the media.

Respected national pollsters aren't purposefully tilting survey research in Obama's favor. Polls are a snapshot in time, reflecting the attitudes of those surveyed, but are not predictive of what will happen on Election Day. Successive polls can detect trends and shifts in voter sentiment. The reliability of a survey depends entirely on how accurately a pollster's sample matches those who will actually turn out to vote. Finding that match is extremely difficult. It's impossible to predict exactly who will turn out.

The Millcreek incorporation vote in Salt Lake County is descending into a real slugfest. Why?

Pignanelli: Incorporation ballot measures are never easy, but this battle has set a new benchmark for nastiness. Emotions are running so high there are rumors of longtime friends and relatives arguing in church and in schools. Accusations about potential tax increases if the vote succeeds or fails fly back and forth like a junior high school cafeteria food fight.

Longtime residents have a stake in protecting what has been a great personal lifestyle under county management. But there is a legitimate fear that should incorporation fail, surrounding cities will try to annex portions of the Millcreek Township commercial and water areas. All this fosters great emotion.

Webb: A crucial assignment for the next Salt Lake County mayor is to bring citizens and local leaders together to resolve the looming annexation/incorporation battles that threaten to leave the county providing municipal services to scattered areas that lack a tax base to support those services. Perhaps the answer is wall-to-wall cities or some other structure. Citizens should be free to choose how they are governed locally, but a much broader initiative is needed to deal with county municipal services and avoid overlapping and duplicative services.

What opportunities will the Romney tsunami create for Utah Republican candidates in offices usually held by Democrats?

Pignanelli: In the 1980 and 1984 Reagan landslide victories, the beloved president's coattails were so large that several traditional Democratic seats went Republican. For a brief (mercifully) moment of Utah's political past, GOP legislators represented liberal citadels inside Salt Lake and Weber Counties. Many of the "Safe Democrats" in 2012 are working hard to avoid a repeat of history that Romney could deliver.

Webb: It's hard to imagine that Utah could become even more Republican-dominated than it is today, but it's certainly possible if Republicans turn out in historic numbers, excited by the prospect of a Romney victory. If Republicans knock off Jim Matheson and win the Salt Lake County mayorship, who would be Utah's Democratic standard bearer? Based on constituent numbers, I suppose Salt Lake County at-large council member Randy Horiuchi, County Clerk Sherrie Swensen, County Sheriff Jim Winder and County District Attorney Sim Gill could fight it out for the privilege of being Utah's top Democrat.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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