Mitt Romney is catching the last wave, which is the most important wave. But victims of Sandy have seen the tide of coverage go out.
The mainstream media are largely ignoring both Romney's surge and Sandy's continuing toll. The tale this tells is about the media, not about the campaign or the storm.
Buoyed by enormous crowds in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Colorado, the former Massachusetts governor has deftly seized on President Obama's extremely peculiar appeal to the desire for "revenge" among his supporters to drive home the enduring contrast: A calm, competent, upbeat Romney versus a flailing, furious and often off-message incumbent.
Romney supporters were greatly encouraged by new polls out of New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and, of course, Ohio, but the majority of polls still favor Obama, which means that Marist, Quinnipiac and other Obama-boosters are betting a lot of credibility on a methodology that predicts very high Democratic turnout -- six points ahead of Republicans or more. If, as many Republicans predict, the election is Romney's, various folks should be looking for a new line of work.
As should the television producers who have willed Sandy from the nation's consciousness. This is truly odd, a sharp contrast with the 24/7 coverage of Katrina and Haiti, and not merely odd, but tragic for victims, for whom cameras mean cash, canned goods and comfort. A new, potentially big storm is headed toward the crippled region, and it needs more attention, not less.
When on Saturday night I tweeted out "Anderson Cooper and others did great reporting during Katrina. They can't get to Staten or Long Island?" an annoyed Cooper shot back "I broadcasted from SI last night, also Hoboken and Asbury Park. And my house in Long Island is under water. Check your facts."
I am sorry that Cooper's house is water logged, and I stand corrected on those broadcasts I missed, but I think my question is not so easily turned aside. As I watched an hour of CNN from Chicago O'Hare International Airport on Sunday morning I saw a long piece on Gloria Steinem, a lung transplant story, a pump of the "Seal Team 6" National Geographic special, various political pieces, but nothing on Sandy.
A story on Benghazi talked about the arrest of a suspect, but nothing on the controversy about the president's decision-making. Then followed The Israeli newspaper Haaretz's endorsement of Obama, and a clip of the debate that featured the president talking about his trip to the country, Bruce Springsteen on the trail for the president and a Saturday Night Live skit of Chris Christie giving props to the president.
The first mention of Sandy was at 8:36 a.m. on the throw to a break, a full hour after I sat down at my gate. At 8:39 the declaration "[L]ife is slowly returning to normal."
The disaster, for airport travelers stuck with CNN, is mostly over.
Some coverage is no doubt there, but is it remotely like the Katrina or Haiti end-to-end saturation reporting? And why not? You could not miss Cooper in the aftermath of those disasters, but it is hard to find him now.
Is the story less interesting? The suffering less widespread? Or is the fact that the story is at best inconvenient for the president and Michael Bloomberg shaving minutes and segments from the schedules?
The Hill's A.B. Stoddard argued -- on Fox, not CNN -- that misery in the city and on the shore depresses Americans and thus turnout. The nets are fully invested in the president's re-election, as is 95 percent of the Manhattan-Beltway media elite, but it is hard to imagine producers affirmatively directing that Sandy not be featured.
No conspiracies, then. There never are. But there are collective mindsets and herd mentalities. Cues aren't always or usually verbal, and the MSM's groupthink is that phenomenon about which they are least aware. That groupthink has largely decided it is time to move on from Sandy, even as another huge storm threatens.
I have never seen millions of Americans in distress kicked to the video curb so quickly. Keeping the nets honest means asking where are the stories about Sandy's aftermath?
Examiner Columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.