Press Plays Vegas, Again

Clichés Away!

The Democratic candidates are back in Nevada and “The Best Political Team on Television” is back to its abuse of Vegas-centric clichés.

As if forced gambling references aren’t bad enough, CNN provided an example of a gambling reference forced, arguably, to the point of inaccuracy.

This is CNN’s Jim Acosta reporting from Nevada on Saturday, shortly after inviting viewers to “place your bets” on the race:

“… Hillary Clinton, holding all of the good cards coming out of her win in New Hampshire, trying to double down on the momentum she built up there.”

Sure, Clinton has momentum from her unexpected, if narrow, win in New Hampshire, and sure, she’d probably like to, if you must, “double down” on that energy. But Clinton is “holding all the good cards?”

Let’s take a look at Obama’s—to put it in CNN’s terms—hand: he holds the Culinary Workers Union card (Nevada’s biggest union); he recently picked up the John Kerry card (among other prominent endorsements); and then there’s the poll card—the wild card?—and many polls show Obama more than in the hunt in Nevada and next-up South Carolina and, in some cases, closing the gap nationally on Clinton.

That’s at least three of a kind for Obama, no?

With more than one major campaign event happening in Nevada this week, “The Best Political Team on Television” is not alone in its embrace of Vegas-y jargon. “The Place For Politics” (that’s MSNBC, of course) has, of late, also become “The Place For Painful Puns and Promotion,” having gone into overdrive hyping its sponsorship of tonight’s Democratic debate. And it’s using the same kinds of campy images and clichéd language CNN used to promote its own Vegas-based debate two months ago.

Here is MSNBC’s Mika Brezenski earlier today:

We are counting down to the big fight night, they are calling it, in Vegas! The Democrats squaring off in Sin City at 9:00 eastern time…

Moments later, viewers enjoyed an ad in which a voiceover announced: “Clinton! Edwards! Obama! In the fight of their political lives! It’s the key round”—Ding! Ding!—“before Super Duper Tuesday,” as a darkened boxing ring loomed on-screen.

And later, Brezenski teased:

Sin City Showdown!”—Ding! Ding!—“The place? Las Vegas. The date? Today. The contenders? The Democrats. And the only place to watch it all happen is right here on MSNBC.

Here is the voiceover for a “Hardball with Chris Matthews” ad running today: “They’ve played their hands to Vegas. Now Chris says Obama, Clinton and Edwards must ante up.” (Clinton, Edwards and Obama’s faces appear on poker chips; a hand shuffles cards). “Who’s holding aces? Who’s gonna fold? Hardball with Chris Matthews. Tonight…”

This was Norah O’Donnell’s bit: “It’s fight night in Vegas!…It’s showtime in Vegas, baby!”

And in Vegas—as in any place where out-of-town reporters descend—some mundane local sights and sounds inevitably strike media outsiders as, well, exotic. To wit, turning to the print side: John McCormick and Michael Martinez, writing today for the Chicago Tribune, excitedly contemplate candidates and caucus-goers in such close proximity (Sin City!) to card-counters and lap-dancers—it merits, in fact, two mentions. This week’s happenings have, they write, “brought presidential candidates into close contact with blackjack dealers and within a few miles of brothels.” And later, they observe that “up to a tenth of the statewide vote is expected to take place inside the sites on the city’s fabled Strip, in some cases just down the hall from a craps table or a few blocks from a strip joint.”

Which also, of course, puts campaign reporters “within a few miles of brothels,” “down the hall from a craps table or a few blocks from a strip joint.”

Or, in the case of Bloomberg News, inside one such establishment, a “gentleman’s club”—to report, of course, on energy policy.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.