Media outlets may help voters lean left, panelists say

The rapid spread of political slip-ups through outlets like YouTube and Internet news sites may account for the Democrats' win in the midterm elections, according to panelists at Tuesday's American Forum, "The Midterms and the Media."

Republican bungles like George Allen's now-infamous "macaca" comment and Rush Limbaugh's attack on Michael J. Fox's promotion of stem cell research helped to sway independent voters toward the Democrats, said Juan Williams, senior correspondent for National Public Radio.

"[With the Internet] these things get picked up so quickly ... they spread so quickly," said AU professor and CBS News consultant Dotty Lynch.

The war in Iraq and the Mark Foley page scandal were also pushed by the media to become deciding factors in the election, Lynch said.

"We say Iraq was the dominant issue, but the Foley issue permeated media coverage," Lynch said. "It changed how Republicans and Democrats had to operate."

Republicans made the mistake of ignoring independent voters, said political consultant David Winston. While Republicans didn't think independent voters would carry much sway in the election, the Republicans lost to the Democrats by an average of 18 points among independent voters.

"They had a flawed strategy to start with," Winston said. "There's a significant swing vote in this country."

Several panelists said the American public should expect to see both strong criticism and even mockery directed at Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who will become the first female Speaker of the House.

"She'll get tough coverage," Williams said. "She'll have to deal with the fact that she's a woman. There will be comments on her looks - they go after her for face lifts and Botox."

The issue of same-sex marriage surprisingly didn't correspond with election results, Lynch said. While Democrats won control of both the House and Senate, same-sex marriage bans were approved in seven of the eight states in which they were proposed.

"Democrats didn't particularly engage in the topic at all," Lynch said. "[The bans] passed without a lot of fight from the Democrats - they wanted control of the government and didn't want to screw it up."

Casey Nitsch, a freshman in the School of Communication, said she was surprised at what the panel said on the Democrats' view of same-sex marriage during the election.

"I can only hope that not all Democrats will bow to that kind of pressure," Nitsch said, referring to the congressional power struggle.

While the panel briefly discussed the "record" 24 percent turnout of youth voters, they should have gone into greater detail on the effect of youth voters on the election, said Alexa Antonuk, a freshman in the School of Communication.

"They didn't have much time to talk about it," she said. "But I think they should have focused on it more. This is a room full of college students"

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