In Sunday’s Washington Post, the Virginia gubernatorial Democratic primary race got page A1 placement, apparently because voters are just becoming aware of the race.
The three Democrats seeking their party’s nod for governor of Virginia have launched a final, frenetic push for support in advance of Tuesday’s primary, a contest that remains remarkably fluid because vast numbers of undecided voters are only just tuning in now.
So voters are “just tuning in?”
I’ve asked The Post for some explanation of how they made that determination. Could it be that there is a large undecided segment of voters? They could be undecided because they can’t tell much difference between Terry McAuliffe, Brian Moran and Creigh Deeds. Or perhaps they are unimpressed, frustrated, disappointed or still doing their research.
That newspapers cover state races only at the last minute is often attributed to their perception that people don’t tune in until the last week. Certainly, the campaigns think that. Why else would they wait until the last week to send us sometimes multiple mailings in a day, overflowing our mailboxes with dead trees we throw away without reading.
The Post has had articles about the race, of course. My own quick Lexis Nexus search show nearly 40 article in the period March 1 through Memorial Day. But only two could be remotely called issue articles. One was about New York Mayor Bloomberg running an ad about Virginia gun sales and another about teachers being skeptical of McAuliffe’s promises. All the rest were about process: Dems worried about voter fatigue, power of big names in race, a “drizzle” of ads, squabbles over fundraising, courting Facebook users, ties to lobbyists, etc.
It’s hard to tune in if newspapers aren’t telling you where the candidates stand on key issues. You can argue that the three in the Virginia race are cut from the same cloth. But there are key difference, some of which The Post has lately covered. But would the months leading up to the primary be a good time to raises some of the more complex issue early enough so that voters could ask for more detail than we usually get at rallies?
At the very least there could have more substance and less process to the more than three dozen articles before Memorial Day. After all, finding out about a key issue the weekend before the election doesn’t give you much time to do a little research, leaving you with the reporters’ takes on those issues. But maybe that’s what they want.