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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Inside Team Hillary And Credibility In New New Media.

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Dean Barnett of the guest hosts for me today, and we will be going long tomorrow though results from any blowout will be available around 7:05 PM EST.

If you slept through yesterday, and missed the Luntz focus group video, start here. But if you have already seen one of the more amazing bits of real-time political momentum…

Connected Mike Allen has this from inside Team Hillary:

Leading citizens of Hillaryland are in a rage. Partly at themselves, partly at each other, partly at the situation. It’s like it’s their turn in Scrabble, and they have no vowels. They look at the board and see nothing but Os.

They’re still disciplined enough that they’re not saying much about it. They have 48 hours to execute a plan they’ve all agreed on. There’ll be plenty of time for recriminations. And the senator is keeping her head, so they must keep theirs.

But in those heads: Convinced he would crumble, they waited too long to take the brutal steps necessary to define him – expose him, in their view -as a conventional politician. The press, they think, was too lazy or timid to do its job.

Now, they’ll be surprised if they don’t lose New Hampshire. And probably South Carolina after that. Luckily for them, the press wants this race of the century to continue, and a tiny number of actual delegates is at stake. Does that give Team HRC a bridge to Feb. 5, when they expect to do well in New York, California, New Jersey and Arkansas?

They know that after New Hampshire, they have to “turn the page” in a dramatic way – in the words of one family strategist, an “acknowledgment of failure” to signal donors, the press and key surrogates that the team has “got the message.”

But besides layering/replacing chief strategist Mark Penn, what should/could that gesture be? A few people – maybe only reporters -have floated the idea of benching Bill. But that would probably be dumb, and ain’t gonna happen. There is no sentiment for it at the top of the campaign. Al Gore moved to Tennessee, but going to New York clearly doesn’t solve anything.

They have a strategy: Focus on states where Democratic primaries are dominated by Democrats. And go negative on television after Tuesday. They decided not to do that here because the window after Iowa was too short to drive a message, and the blowback could have been considerable.

After a great day where the senator did one-on-ones on her bus, got a huge audience of 3,500, took audience questions for two straight hours and held a media avail, they wake up and see “BARACK STAR!” taking up the whole front page of the Boston Herald, with a sea of those blue posters saying ‘CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN” alternating with red ones saying “STAND FOR CHANGE.”

While the GOP sorts out its nominee, all of the candidates have cause to celebrate the bonfire of the contributions on the other side that will eat through that mountain of money. Hillary may be wounded after Iowa and New Hampshire, but she will never go gently into the night, realizing that if she does, she’ll never get back in the ring, permanently defined as too polarizing and too off-putting to play at the national level. Obama can afford to take the higher road. She can’t.

Read all of Mike’s daily Playbook.

A note on Connected Mike is just one player on an all-star team that has gone from zero to the land-speed record for political news. I spend most of my on-air time with Mike and the superb Jonathan Martin as well, but the entire team is extraordinary and have done a great deal to improve political coverage. (When will they start a Senate race ’08 blog?)

Hats off to John Harris and Jim VandeHei for building a new media/MSM blended news organization that enjoys the respect of almost everyone along the political spectrum.

RealClearPolitics launched seven-plus years ago and is now a staple of every serious observers’ daily diet. Politico is alongside them. Marc Ambinder and Chris Cillizza are new names that have managed to grab a non-partisan but intensely interesting space on the web. Of course the center-right giants like and NRO are prospering as well, as are the lefty favorites like E.J. Dionne, but Dean Lehman at Columbia Journalism School ought to put a few of his bright lights to work reverse engineering Politico, RCP and Ambinder/Cillizza to determine what it is about these sites/writers that has engendered credibility among almost all partisans, left and right. The easy answer is that they are fair to all comers and many of the other sites/blogs that tried to grab some traffic in the space have failed on this account, but there is also more in terms of style and content, because none of them are dull or old school when it comes to Journalism 101’s deadening “he said, she said.” I suspect it is the management of load –that the coverage is very carefully balanced between “positive R” and “positive D,” “negative R” and “negative D” over a significant period of time, combined with personality.

Whatever the reasons, the most wide-open race in years is benefitting from the best coverage in decades.


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