Two recent articles in the Washington Post on the Virginia 10th CD race pretty much epitomize how to cover a Congressional race, and how NOT to. The articles, Seasoned GOP campaigner Comstock seeks to broaden her appeal and Despite missteps, John W. Foust pushes on down campaign trail in Northern Virginia, are written by Rachel Weiner and Antonio Olivo, respectively. The Weiner piece, profiling Comstock, does a nice job overall, mixing substantive information on Comstock’s history in terms of politics and policy, as well as an idea for what makes her tick (she’s relentlessly ambitious, thin skinned and can be vicious) and “color” from the campaign trail to give readers a good feel for the campaign from the Comstock angle. The Olivo piece, in contrast, is just…not good. At all. How so? Let us count the ways!
*It starts with an absurd remark that somehow “former steelworker from Pennsylvania who paid his own way through college” can’t possibly be true to his “everyman image” while he “has pursued elective office with a blazing intensity.” WTF? Where did that bizarre theory come from? What is Olivo claiming here, that a) steelworkers from Pennsylvania who paid their way through college can’t be in politics; or b) that if they ARE in politics, they can’t pursue it with “blazing intensity;” or c) that if they ARE in politics and DO pursue it with “blazing intensity” (whatever that means), they can’t be true to their “everyman image” (whatever THAT means). Again, just…WTF?!?
*The article then proceeds to trash John not on any substantive grounds (there’s basically no substance at all in this profile) for not being Cicero or whatever as a public speaker, for having a non-flashy appearance (“mustache, square glasses, oversized jacket” – horrors!), and generally for not being “polished.” But wait, didn’t Olivo just claim that running with “blazing intensity” for political office meant that John Foust isn’t really “everyman,” and how awful that is? Yet Olivo also doesn’t like the fact that Foust is not a “polished” campaigner either? To summarize, it’s bad if Foust: a) pursues public office, particularly if he does so with “blazing intensity;” b) acts like an unpolished “everyman;” d) isn’t really an “everyman;” e) has a mustache and square glasses; f) add in whatever non-substantive, superficial observation you can throw in there, while at all costs avoiding substance.
*He claims that Foust’s TV ads, calling out Barbara Comstock for supporting transvaginal ultrasounds, wanting to overturn Roe v. Wade, and other extreme policies, have made voters “weary of the intensity and vitriol of this election.” There’s no evidence presented to back that assertion up, of course, nor is there any evidence that this race is any more intense or “vitriol”-filled than any other race in the country. Oh, and it’s apparently all Foust’s fault that this “vitriol” exists, even though his ads are simply stating Comstock’s own positions (in her own words, in the case of wanting to overturn Roe v. Wade.).
*The article then proceeds with his thesis that Foust is “ill at ease on the trail,” filled with “discomfort,” etc, etc. Even if this is true, haven’t we already gotten the point by now? Isn’t it time to turn to, I dunno, where Foust stands on the important issues of the day? Nope, not in this article.
*We then get an account of Foust’s comment that Comstock has never held a “real job,” which