In this election cycle, the mainstream media have had an awful time wrestling with the causes of Republican momentum. The notion that President Obama might be unpopular because his policies are too far to the left is inadmissible, of course.
Alternative explanations for the Republican surge include the natural response of voters to the weak economy (which would supposedly have been far weaker absent Obama's heroic efforts) and the notion that we are witnessing a possibly racist paleoconservative backlash fed by the Tea Party that, in movie form, might have the title March of the Nutcases.
In this climate, the storyline almost writes itself, depending on where one shines the spotlight. If you look at the Alaska Republican Senate candidate, for example, you see Joe Miller, a Bronze Star-winning soldier with a Yale Law degree who exudes common sense. If you look at Delaware, on the other hand, you see Christine O'Donnell, whose statements are, even her most avid supporters must concede, so colorful that they provide ample fodder for those wishing to portray Republicans in a negative light.
In this Senate election cycle, there are three candidates other than O'Donnell who indisputably qualify as "colorful" in this regard: Linda McMahon, the Connecticut candidate who was previously CEO of the nation's most successful professional-wrestling organization; Rand Paul, the free-speaking libertarian; and Sharron Angle, the Nevada challenger to Harry Reid whose hard-right rhetoric has made her the darling of the anti-Washington movement.
The nearby chart shows that the media have clearly decided to focus their attention on the candidates who play better to its preferred storyline. The red bar in the chart plots the number of television hits for each of the "colorful" candidates, and for the average of all the other candidates. Clearly, the former are garnering all of the attention.
It might seem like a novel notion, but one way to learn about Republican success might be to study those Republicans who are successful. The blue bar in the chart reveals that the media have not followed this logic. It plots the extent to which each candidate is ahead or behind in the polls. Clearly, the more controversial candidates have a much more difficult path to victory, despite the massive media attention.
The liberal bias of the mainstream media is revealed both in the manner in which news is covered and in the choice of stories. The chart also reveals the big risk that the mainstream media have taken with their March of the Nutcases storyline. Christine O'Donnell will have a hard time being the metaphor for this election if she loses.
Kevin A. Hassett is a senior fellow and the director of economic policy studies at AEI.