MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff is crossing the country for the Today show to talk to voters about what they care about and what will, if anything, get them to the polls next month. Today, Soboroff visited Orange County, California, which he framed as a conservative holdout in blue California. That’s true but I still watched this expecting some classic Gorillas in the Mist style reporting. It’s not really that but what it is, a primer on Democrats’ chances to flip the county, isn’t much better.
“Not far from my house in LA there are four contiguous, Republican-held congressional seats the Democrats are hoping to flip, but they’re going to have their work cut out for them,” Soboroff says to introduce the piece. Cue the late 50s, early 60s industrial music as a clue that we’re entering an alternate world where people still think Ozzie and Harriet is a neat show…or something. (Note: I’m talking about a genre of instrumental background music written for shopping areas or corporate films like this.)
Soboroff then informs us that “political pundits” refer to the journey to Orange County as crossing the Orange Curtain. He again reminds us that “this year back in Washington the Democrats are hoping that’s changing.” We’re one minute into this and he’s made that point twice. But I guess that wasn’t enough because 30-seconds later he’s off to Irvine where he reminds us, “Democrats’ hopes of winning here hinges, at least in part, on turning out people of color and young voters.”
The next person interviewed, not coincidentally, is a young person of color who says, “Myself and a lot of my friends are like minorities so we’re a lot into minority rights and stuff.” Soboroff doesn’t ask what minority rights are, he just asks the question that seems to be his main concern, “Are there enough of you guys to flip the district?” “I hope so,” the young man replies.
Next, Soboroff walks to the University of California where a bunch of young people are waiting for a bus. “There are, I think, 26,000 kids that go to school here,” Soboroff says. He adds, “If the Democrats can get all of them to vote for them, then maybe Republicans will be in trouble in this district.”
Sadly, most of the kids aren’t interested in voting and those that are don’t care about the Russia investigation or Judge Kavanaugh.
You may have noticed all of this seems geared in one particular partisan direction. I don’t want to be unfair to this reporter, but is there a story where he’s focused on what might help flip seats for the GOP? He’s done a bunch of these and I haven’t seen them all so maybe he has done that story. In this one, which is set in Texas, he gives time to both the Democratic challenger and the Republican incumbent but the wrap-up once again seems focused on what it will take for Democrats to win. “If challengers like Ortiz Jones or Beto O’Rourke want to win, they’re going to have to get these voters that normally don’t turn out to come out and vote on the issues that they care about,” Soboroff says.
The overall thrust of the whole series seems to be that most voters don’t really care about the story of the moment trending among the media in Washington, DC, or even about stories like collusion or Kavanaugh. Most people care about themselves, which is the least surprising conclusion you could reach in a story like this. Didn’t we know this already? But with Trump doing well on jobs and the economy, that’s going to be a tougher sell for Democrats than their go-to alternative, i.e. hey, you’re young and a minority so vote for us. Here’s the clip: