By:
November 4, 2021

Doomsday for Democrats; a rebirth for Republicans.

That’s, basically, the media’s take on Tuesday’s Election Day. And that take was essentially based on two results. First, and most of all, Republican Glenn Youngkin’s victory over Democrat Terry McAuliffe for governor of Virginia — a state Joe Biden handily won against Donald Trump in 2020. And, second, the way-tighter-than-expected race between New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli.

But it’s Virginia that has the Democrats reeling. During CBS News’ coverage, chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett said, “If you had told Democrats six weeks ago that Terry McAuliffe could well lose the Virginia governor’s race, I think they would have said, ‘That would be kind of an earthquake, that would be a very big deal.’ Democrats are trying to say (now), ‘Well it’s not such a big deal, there’s a history and maybe it’s not so bad.’ It seems to me that if it was an earthquake six weeks ago and does happen, it will still be an earthquake.”

Before the final results were even in, NBC News’ Kristen Welker said, “This Virginia gubernatorial race has historically been an excellent indicator for both parties ahead of the following year’s midterms. If Democrats lose this race, it will send shockwaves through U.S. politics.”

Well, the Democrats did lose that race.

Politico’s Steven Shepard and David Siders wrote, “If Tuesday’s elections were the first concrete readings of political conditions since Joe Biden became president, Democrats may be headed straight into a hurricane.”

So, wow, we have shockwaves and earthquakes and hurricanes and just a complete disaster, apparently, for Democrats.

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote, “There was only one good thing for Democrats in Tuesday’s elections: A defeat so comprehensive and disastrous does not leave room for excuse-making, blame-shifting or evasion.”

The New York Times’ Lisa Lerer wrote, “For five years, the party rode record-breaking turnouts to victory, fueled by voters with a passion for ousting a president they viewed as incompetent, divisive or worse. Tuesday’s results showed the limitations of such resistance politics when the object of resistance is out of power, the failure of Democrats to fulfill many of their biggest campaign promises, and the still-simmering rage over a pandemic that transformed schools into some of the country’s most divisive political battlegrounds.”

The Associated Press’ Nicholas Riccardi wrote, “Democrats’ worst fears are that they’re on course for a 2010-like drubbing in next year’s midterm elections and that they can’t use the specter of former President Donald Trump to stop it.”

The Washington Post’s Dan Balz wrote, “A year after celebrating victory in the 2020 elections, their slender congressional majorities are now even more at risk than they feared, and it is not clear that President Biden or his party have a workable plan to rebalance a political landscape tilting significantly against them.”

You get the picture.

Meanwhile, conservative sites, such as FoxNews.com, gleefully celebrated what they were calling the beginning of a “red wave” and had a headline that said “Woke Nightmare.”

But the most thought-provoking piece I read came in Politico from The Bulwark’s editor-at-large Charles Sykes: “Terry McAuliffe Bet on Voters Hating Trump. Turns Out They Dislike Democrats More.”

It’s not only a good analysis of politics, but of political coverage. Sykes wrote, “The derangement of the GOP, however, has tended to obscure what happened on the left, where elite Democrats have increasingly lost touch with many of the voters who will determine the outcome of the next few elections.”

Here are a few other notable stories about Election Day:

Trumpeting a victory

OK, quiz time. Guess who said this when asked why it took Fox News longer than CNN and MSNBC to call Virginia for Youngkin:

“Well, it’s probably because maybe they wanted a Democrat to win.”

Bet you didn’t guess Donald Trump, but that’s what the former president told conservative radio host John Fredericks. As Mediaite’s Colby Hall wrote, Fox News wanting a Democrat to win anything “would come as a surprise to anyone paying attention to Fox News opinion programming over the past month.”

Wait, just the past month?

What’s Bongino’s deal?

Speaking of Colby Hall, the Mediaite writer has an interesting update on conservative radio host Dan Bongino. Bongino has not been doing his nationally syndicated show for the past couple of weeks because the company he works for, Cumulus Media, had a vaccination requirement. Even though he is vaccinated, Bongino has threatened to quit the show, saying, “They can have the vaccine mandate or they can have me, but they can’t have both.”

Hall reports that a source told him that Cumulus has already fired anyone who refused to get the vaccine. So if Bongino is vaccinated, who is he standing up for at this point?

Hall writes, “So what’s really going on here? It’s entirely plausible that Bongino wants out of his contract with Westwood One and is protesting in hopes of scoring a broken contract, perhaps so he can go to Fox Radio or another outlet. He has an audience that most conservative outlets would love to reach. Radio Ink reported on rumors that Bongino, who is a Fox News contributor, could find a home at Fox Radio.”

After Hall’s story appeared online, Bongino took to Facebook and denied he is trying to get out of his contract. Bongino said such stories are an attempt to punch holes in Bongino’s stance against vaccine mandates. Bongino also took shots at other conservative radio hosts who have criticized Bongino for “virtue signaling” about vaccine mandates.

Rice on Jan. 6

Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, in a photo from 2014. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Jan. 6 was her worst day since 9/11 in an interview with CBS “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan. Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum on Wednesday, Rice said, “I cried watching it. I thought to myself, I study countries that do this. I don’t live in one.”

Rice also clarified her comments last month on “The View” when she said the U.S. should “move on” from the insurrection.

“I didn’t mean move on from Jan. 6,” Rice told Brennan. “I did mean that we need to think about moving on to a new generation of leaders.”

You can watch the full interview on YouTube here.

New York Times rolls on

For this item, I turn it over to Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds.

The New York Times paid digital subscription juggernaut rolls on as it announced a net addition of 455,000 in the third quarter, about 60% of that in news, the rest in vertical sites like Games and Cooking. Including print, its total circulation now numbers 8.3 million.

Earlier fears that Times subscription growth would lose momentum once President Donald Trump left office have not materialized. CEO Meredith Kopit Levien told analysts in a conference call that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation and climate change issues made for a strong news cycle. The company expects digital subscription numbers and revenue to continue strong growth in the fourth quarter.

The company also has $1 billion of cash in hand — plenty for an acquisition if it wishes and to cover current heavy investments in hiring and new products. Kopit Levien has characterized that in earlier comments as a classic “virtuous cycle.”

The closest thing to bad news in the earnings report was that print circulation numbers continue to decline — 7.6% year-to-year daily and 5% Sunday.

New York Times shares fell 9.5% for the day but have rallied strongly after a dip over the last two months.

Tax credit update

And here’s another item from Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds.

Days after it was dropped from the House version of the budget bill, a tax credit to help pay the salaries of local journalists is back in. The measure still needs to win inclusion in the Senate’s version and survive any further reduction of the $1.75 trillion target total. Still, the move represents a big improvement in prospects for the subsidy.

Steven Waldman, president and co-founder of Report for America, and Dean Ridings, CEO of industry association America’s Newspapers, both credited the turnaround to publishers and owners communicating the severity of the financial crisis in local news to their representatives.

The credit would pay half the salary of journalists up to $50,000 for the year after it passes, 30% for four years after that. A rough estimate of the price tag is $1 billion the first year.

Waldman added that the House version is now aligned with the Senate draft on important details. Among them: including broadcasters, public and commercial; strengthening rules to screen out political advocacy groups; and a limit on how much a single corporation can receive.

In summary, Waldman said, “This is a huge step forward for a strong, local press — and for the communities they serve.”

LZ and Leitch

Two of the more stimulating writers out there have come together to start a podcast, and they dropped their first episode on Wednesday. LZ Granderson is an op-ed columnist for the Los Angeles Times and a former writer and TV personality at ESPN. Will Leitch is a contributing editor at New York Magazine and founder of the first version of Deadspin.

Their podcast is called “The Long Game with LZ and Leitch.” They describe the weekly podcast as being at the intersection of sports, culture, and politics. In their debut episode, they talk about the Atlanta Braves, Joe Biden and the disturbing story involving the Chicago Blackhawks.

Costas’ career

Bob Costas. (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Another good podcast, if you’re into sports media, is “​​The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast,” hosted by sports media writers Andrew Marchand of the New York Post and John Ourand of Sports Business Journal. In their latest episode, they spoke with longtime sports broadcaster Bob Costas, who revealed some surprising news about his career.

Costas told Marchand and Ourand that when he was at NBC, CBS offered him a late-night show in the time slot after David Letterman, as well as a correspondent’s role with “60 Minutes.”

“It was very, very tempting,” Costas admitted. “And at a different crossroads of my life, I undoubtedly would have done it. … But at that time, NBC had a treasure trove of sports riches.”

Costas added that the extra travel would’ve kept him away from his family too much of the time.

Media tidbits

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Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
Tom Jones

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