The Bar for Barack

Media anticipation for a “make or break” speech

As much as anyone, the media is eagerly anticipating Sen. Barack Obama’s Speech On Race this morning. How so? Where is the campaign press (the same people who will soon determine Whether The Speech Was Effective) setting the bar…that they will then help to determine whether or not Obama has cleared?

Rather high.

Just a few examples.

“Race on the Line,” is how put it on their homepage this morning.

It is “A Make or Break Moment for Obama,” says Newsweek’s Howard Fineman (who repeated the point this morning on NBC’s Today Show above the chyron, “Defining Moment?”)

On MSNBC, The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart said: “If he can’t deliver this speech, it really calls into question whether he can stay in this race.” Pat Buchanan, doubting that a speech can change anything, dubbed WrightGate “potentially fatal” for Obama’s campaign.

Of course the Obama campaign hasn’t exactly managed expectations downward, telling The New York Times, for example, that the speech “could be a pivotal moment for Mr. Obama” and generally signaling to the press that the speech should be regarded as a Big Deal.

Signal received.

You can’t turn to any cable channel this morning without hearing some pundit pontificating on What Obama Needs to Do with this speech. And with the speech set to go any moment now, we should know before noon whether or not Obama has (by the media’s insta-analysis) Done It.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.