In a 1600-word story that reads more like a campaign ad than objective journalism, the New York Times has declared it’s found a favorite in the 2024 Senate race, and his name is Ruben Gallego.
The cheerleading tone of the article gets going in the headline — To Win a Senate Seat in Arizona, He’s Visiting All 22 of Its Tribes– and it doesn’t let up until it’s also informed us of many other hard-hitting facts about Gallego. We learn, for example, that these visits comprise a feat “that few, if any, contenders in a statewide race have ever attempted.” Such stamina! We hear about his “message centered on protecting democracy and helping working- and middle-class families.” We learn of his “humble origins in Chicago and his experiences as a Marine and former construction worker.” One senses that if the classic Times font included a heart emoji, staff writer Jazmine Ulloa would have worn out the key.
Newspaper endorsements seldom matter these days. The public has its own sources of information, and changing anyone’s mind is virtually impossible. Back in 2000, Karl Rove realized that persuasion was no longer how it’s done and the formula for winning elections were simply dragging more of your side’s robots to the polls than they drag theirs. The game got a little fixed in favor of the Democrats, with the advent of ballot harvesting, and mail-in voting, but it’s still about numbers, not ideas.
The goal here has nothing to do with persuading voters. The number of Native Americans in Arizona who care what the New York Times has to say has got to be countable on two hands.
However, the Times still matters here, for two reasons.
First, with the Senate essentially tied and definitely up for grabs, fundraising for each contested seat will be a national challenge. not a local one. A national story designed to signal that the liberal paper of record has found its man will clearly have a fundraising impact in favor of Gallego. National donors, who think that the fact that they have wealth gives them insight into who would better lead far-away states – I don’t know why a picture of Barbara Fried, Sam Bankman-Fried’s mother and the former CEO of Democrat funding PAC Mind the Gap leaps to mind — look to legacy media like the New York Times for permission on where to allocate funds.
Second, the dynamics of this particular race are ideally suited for establishment liberalism to play a role. If Kyrsten Sinema, the incumbent who ran as a Democrat her whole career – as expected enters the race as a third-party candidate, her plan will clearly be to combine enough conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans to get to 35% or so. In a state that’s roughly evenly divided and that will have massive turnout in a presidential election year, that means Sinema has got to be hoping for the votes of approximately 20% of registered Democrats. The Times still carries influence among high-information Democratic voters. So its endorsement is particularly valuable and Democratic primary. There doesn’t look to be a meaningful Democratic primary in the Senate race this year. So this early endorsement of Gallego — and though the Times won’t call it an endorsement, because that’s an editorial function not a news function, and I’m literally willing to bet dollars to donuts, if any dollar lovers out there want to bet me they will endorse Gallego, because heaven knows I love donuts – sends a signal to activist Democrats that they belong with Gallego not Sinema.
Sinema, a lifelong Democrat, nearly always votes with her former party. According to Politifact, “Sinema voted with Biden around 93% of the time.” That’s more than Bernie Sanders (91%) and way more than Joe Manchin (87.9%), the West Virginia Senator who remains a Democrat and faces a similarly tough road to re-election.
Sinema has been with the president on big, close votes, most notably the Orwellian-named Inflation Reduction Act.
Despite that fealty, Sinema has disappointed progressives—and apparently the New York Times—with a couple key moments of independence, most notably her opposition to eliminating the filibuster rule. She also joined with Republicans to block some key Biden nominations, including David Weil as head of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division (Mark Kelly also opposed, as did Manchin). And according to the Intercept, it was Sinema who torpedoed Biden nominee Ganesh Sitaraman to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
Meanwhile, Gallego voted with Biden 100% of the time, according to fivethirtyeight.com. For that loyalty, the New York Times gave him a reward —a gift that is so one-sided he should consider reporting it on his FEC reports as an in-kind donation.
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