Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Hugh Hewitt - Wrestling style color commentator

Welcome! The first post of 2008...

The first of the primary votes held in Iowa is fast approaching. Whether you're a political junkie or a casual observer there is no escaping the barrage of commentary predicting who will win and what will happen.

Partisan Pundits and commentators usually do one of two things during Primary season.
1) Stay neutral and play it safe.
Pundits will speak of the candidates in generic terms, mirroring the mood found in the polling data. A common sentiment would be "I stay out of the primaries, but I will endorse whoever our party chooses over anything the opposition offers". There are many reasons for taking this approach. An explicit endorsement would alienate the other candidates and their supporters. This may jeopardise listenership, advertising buys and possible appearances.

2) Be a Kingmaker or on the front line smearing.
A pundit will openly campaign for a specific primary candidate on the air. This is a bold and risky move which is why most pundits would rather equivocate so as to not upset listeners. A pundit is effectively staking his reputation on the candidate, it will rise and fall according to the candidate's movements and fortunes. If the nominee loses or becomes an embarrassment the endorsing pundit will appear foolish, if they win the pundit will be credited for their astuteness and influence.

Commentators are generally expected to be neutral. Whilst they wear there convictions on their sleeve, the audience reads credibility when a pundit is seen as objective.

One of the more entertaining aspects of this primary season has been watching Hugh Hewitt report on the Republican field. Hugh Hewitt has been very transparent in his support of Mitt Romney as the Republican Nominee. He has written 'the book' on Romney, A Mormon in the White House? and has had him on his show several times. This is true to form for Hugh as he is famously known for interviewing reporters and columnists and asking them to reveal their previous voting record. As he expects his peers to be open about their political orientation and biases its not surprising that he would do so in kind.

In wrestling, the audience often overlooks the importance commentators play in advancing the storyline. The viewers usually focus on the actors in the ring - the wrestlers and the ref. Commentators actually play a big part in setting the context and mood of the stories. They can emphasise key points of the match, remind viewers of the backstory as well as mask any blunders in the ring. A commentator can also emphasise a wrestler's moves by overselling a reaction. Conversely they can underplay a wrestler by dismissing their efforts, when this is forced it may appear cartoony and may even cause resentment. In wrestling this is referred to as 'turning heel', being a character 'people love to hate'. This is what Hugh is becoming.

Hugh's overselling of Mitt Romney is turning comical.
Allahpundit of Hotair.com has had a good time poking fun at Hugh's overselling:
1) Hugh Hewitt: Mitt had an objectively great day, and if you disagree, well, you don’t much matter anyway
Of all the people commenting today about this, there’s only one who sounds like he’s coming unglued. And it ain’t any of Mitt’s critics...Exit question: Does Hugh need to “sit down”?

2) LAT poll: Huckabee out to big lead in Iowa over Mitt, 37-23
Hugh Hewitt on suicide watch? Nah — Mitt still leads McCain by 13 in New Hampshire and a new Strategic Visions poll, which HH will surely tout as the more reliable, has Iowa a virtual dead heat.
A reader commented on this post with this telling line -
I’m sure that Republican nausea over HH’s pro-Romney shilling accounts for at least 7% of Romney’s declining support.

I encourage you to listen to the first 10 minutes of audio from the December 28 episode of Hugh's show. It's a parade of overselling for Mitt. I will try to provide a partial transcript of Hugh's best lines. Listen here.

Do you think Hugh sounds like a Jerry-Lawler-style wrestling commentator?
Listen to commentator Jerry Lawler in this clip clearly compensating for the heel 'Double-J'.

VIDEO: Commentator Jerry Lawler shills for the villain 'Double-J'
Listen to all of Hugh's radio archives

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