Are we looking at Big Joe Biden? It doesn’t feel that way, when you watch the president on television. As Andrew Sullivan wrote after last year’s first presidential debate: “The age issue — however unfair — remains….In the primary debates, he managed at times to look vigorous, even sharp, to the relief of many of us. Last Tuesday, he looked … well, the word that comes to mind is simply frail. …


Ed -- I can assure you that your 4th paragraph is incorrect. Trust me on that.

There's a longer response to the rest, which I do not have time for at the moment, but it is the central question about right-wing politics and right-wing media: does the audience program the network or does the network program the audience?

I'd argue it's the former, but it's a long argument and not straightforward. So, later.

all best -je


News Items is a newsletter that “covers” four baskets: (1) World in Disarray, (2) Financialization of Everything, (3) Advances in Science and Technology. and (4) Electoral politics in the US and around the world. Six days a week, not Sundays. Commentary and analysis as well, when I think I have something to add. Below is a commentary on January 6th. You can subscribe by clicking here.

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How close we came” has been the mainstream narrative since the storming of the Capitol on 6 January. It was the b-roll of this past week’s impeachment trial. How…


Losing a presidential election is a crushing experience. In 2004, shortly before midnight on the day of the election, it became clear that President Bush would win Ohio and thus win re-election. The networks, out of an abundance of caution, didn’t call it until later the next day. It took Senator John Kerry, the Democratic Party’s nominee, longer still to accept the outcome.

President Clinton’s former press secretary, Mike McCurry, served as the go-between for the two campaigns, “negotiating” (if you will) Mr. Kerry’s inevitable concession. Messages went back and forth. …


Here’s the headline you and I didn’t read in the aftermath of the election: “Republicans (almost) run the table, winning (almost) everything, everywhere.”

That’s what happened on Election Night. The GOP held serve in the US Senate races (and seem likely to retain control after the two run-off elections are held in Georgia in early January of next year). The GOP gained seats in the House, which had been predicted by no one (except President Trump). And here’s how Politico described the action “down ballot”:

An abysmal showing by Democrats in state legislative races on Tuesday not only denied them…


Forty-one percent.

I’ve been covering American politics for a long time and I can’t remember a number that so dramatically altered the political community’s perception of a presidential campaign as that number did, last night, at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

The source of the number was The Iowa Poll, which has been the gold standard for statewide polling in the United States for decades. The number itself was the percentage of likely voters in Iowa supporting Joe Biden’s candidacy for president.

President Trump’s number was 48%, which put him ahead in the “horse race” by 7 percentage points. There was…


1. Mickey Kaus, I think, was the first to describe a certain kind of political reportage as “overism.” As in: even though it’s not over, it’s over, so let’s cover what happens next.

“Overism” is in overdrive these days. Here’s a story about who will be President Biden’s chief of staff. Here’s one about the food Mr. Biden will be eating after he moves into the residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Here are a few others: what role Vice President Harris will play in the Biden Administration, the campaign to make Bernie Sanders the next Secretary of Labor, the short…


This is a note to News Items subscribers that I’ve decided to post on Medium. Just because. To subscribe to News Items, click here.

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One of the essential requirements of a functioning democracy is the consent of the losers. Or as Shaun Bowler, a professor of political science at the University of California Riverside, put it in an essay four years ago:

“In every contested election there are winners and losers. While lots of attention, money, and power flows to the winners, it is really the losers who are key to keeping democracy healthy.

More…


What follows was posted yesterday on The Boston Globe’s website, which is paywall protected. Leaping over paywalls is always a pain, so with the Globe’s permission, I’ve reprinted the column below.

This is the first in what will be a series of Political Notes about the 2020 presidential general election.

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A month or so ago, the notion that President Trump would win reelection was dismissed as delusional.

Reality resided in the data. Trump won seniors by 9 percent in the 2016 election; he trailed by 5–9 percent in the July/early August 2020 survey research. Support for…


The Nielsen Company (producer of the famous Nielsen ratings) provides its clients with audience measurements by the quarter hour, the half hour, the hour, household income, sex, age, and so on. However the clients want it sliced and diced, Nielsen has it covered.

If you’re a cable news executive, the one thing you do not want to see, other than a low-rated hour, is a quarter-hour decline in audience. The theory being that if someone leaves, he or she won’t be back for the remainder of the show. …

John Ellis

Founder and Editor, News Items. Political analyst. Founder of and contributing editor to Bird News Items. Former columnist for The Boston Globe.

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