We've known for a while now that when it comes to the media, they benefit greatly when the public thinks a presidential election is close. Not only does it swell their coffers with expensive campaign ads, it gets people to tune in to their shouting matches...which are paid for by campaign ads.
I was reminded of that once again this morning when I took a look at the New York Times electoral map. Contrary to what we see at Huffington Post and right-leaning Real Clear Politics, they've found a way to suggest a basic tie with Obama at 217 and Romney at 206.
The clue as to how they manage to pull that off is up at the top of the page where they say, "A New York Times assessment of how states may vote, based on polling, previous election results and the political geography in each state."
As we'll see, that last one about political geography gives them all the leeway they need to basically "make shit up" in order to reach their narrative of choice...a close race.
The most obvious cases of making shit up include how they've assigned the states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and North Carolina.
If you take their first two measures of polling and previous election results, it makes zero sense to suggest that Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are toss-ups. In both those states polling averages show an Obama lead of about 8. And neither one has gone for a Republican candidate in recent memory.
On the other hand, they suggest that North Carolina leans Romney. You'd think that the fact that Obama won that state in 2008 and poll averages give him a very slight lead of about 2% would make it the perfect candidate for toss-up.
But as long as the New York Times can throw in their idea of how political geography flies in the face of actual data - they can call it however they like. In so doing, they distort the current reality of a strong Obama lead in the electoral college and can try to convince us this race is close right now.
Caveat: I'm not saying this race is over. As I've written often, six months is a long time and many things can change between now and election day. I'm merely suggesting that when it comes to reporting current reality, we're not getting it from the New York Times.