Robert Waldmann: Glenn Kessler's Nose Is Very Long Indeed...
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?: Brendan Nyhan Muses on Why So Many Reporters Just Don't Do Their Jobs

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? No, It Does Not Look Right Now as Though the Electoral College Is the Main Obstacle to a Romney Victory

On October 25, Greg Sargent wrote:

The Morning Plum: Republicans worried about Ohio and electoral math: In a must-read, Jeff Zeleny and Ashley Parker delicately point out that Romney’s outward projections of optimism about victory are studiously ignoring just how daunting the electoral math remains for him. This tidbit about Ohio is important:

Party strategists on both sides say the race appears to be remarkably close, but two senior Republican officials here said that they believed Mr. Obama had a slight advantage and that they worried that Mr. Romney’s gains had leveled off.

News outlets have been far too credulous about the supposed “momentum” Romney is enjoying, so it’s good to see the Times devote a stand alone story to Romney’s electoral math challenges.

Let's roll the videotape: what do Jeff Zeleny and Ashley Parker actually say? This:

Mitt Romney is savoring the energy surrounding his candidacy, talking with rising confidence about his ability to overtake President Obama in the closing days of the race.

He dwells far less on the biggest obstacle facing his campaign: the Electoral College.

A decade after taking the first steps in his quest to win the White House, Mr. Romney can finally see the presidency within his grasp, his advisers say. To many Republicans, he sounds more presidential than at any other moment of his campaign, a point that was not lost on his audience Wednesday in Nevada, when he declared: “If I’m elected — no, when I’m elected.”

But the swelling crowds and the fresh optimism among his supporters….

The enthusiasm gathering around Mr. Romney came into view on Wednesday as he traveled through Colorado, Nevada and Iowa, appearing before thousands of supporters as he fought to keep alive the sense that he had gained stature and credibility as an alternative to Mr. Obama at the debates and was on an upward trajectory….

[C]onfidence is welcomed by Mr. Romney’s supporters, who far outnumber the crowds at most Republican rallies four years ago…

Are there swelling crowds? Is there fresh optimism among Romney's supporters? Is he on an upward trajectory? Are his crowds as large as Obama's? The answer when Zeleny and Parker wrote was "not really". The Romney supporters I talked to were less pessimistic than in Clint Eastwood vs. Chair days, but not optimistic. And poll aggregators like Nate Silver found Obama's popular vote lead on October 24 exactly the same as it had been two weeks before in the aftermath of Obama's disastrous first debate.

After setting forth the--apparently baseless: certainly they do not justify it--vibe that Romney had "momentum", Zeleny and Parker wrote:

Mr. Romney must win a series of individual statewide races, rather than a national contest…. [T]he mathematics could be more daunting than the politics…. [T]he mood is more guarded back at his headquarters in Boston…. [T]he new enthusiasm has not opened any new paths to winning 270 electoral votes…. The most efficient way for Mr. Romney to win still rests on the 18 electoral votes of Ohio…

As of the evening on October 25, Nate Silver's odds for a presidential election to be held today were a 74% chance that Obama would win both the electoral college and the popular vote, a 2% chance that Obama would win the electoral college and lose the popular vote, a 5% chance that Romney would win the electoral college and lose the popular vote, and a 16% chance that Romney would win both the electoral college and the popular vote.

Zeleny and Parker do not have access to any reliable sources of information than the rest of us do not. And the "election is 50-50 in the popular vote but the electoral college is likely to be an insurmountable obstacle for Romney" does not convey an accurate picture of the contest right now.

Greg Sargent is grateful that they do not say "Romney has the momentum and is likely to win". Greg Sargent is grasping at straws--the soft bigotry of low expectations applied to New York Times reporters.

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?