Campaign 2016 Just Getting Started: 5 Myths Already

The latest column from Matthew Dowd.

ByABC News
September 13, 2015, 5:08 PM

— -- Over the years many myths have developed in politics, and I have written in the past how they get repeated and promulgated as if they are the unvarnished truth. These aren't the deep myths that Joseph Campbell has written and talked about that signal some universal truth about humanity. These are political myths which take us further from truth.

This year, the political myth-making and myth-repeating has been on steroids. I would like to point out five thus far in this season of potential presidents as we prepare to move into a key debate this week for the GOP.

1. Super Pacs make a huge difference this year and will keep candidates viable for much longer. Obviously, time will tell, but thus far the evidence says this is a myth. As I said a few weeks ago about Rick Perry who had a large Super Pac and little campaign money, it is a bit like a climber on Mt. Everest who has two broken legs and extra oxygen tanks. The climber will live longer because of the extra O2, but isn't going up or anywhere else for that matter. As we can see, even though he had a large Super Pac, Perry has dropped out. Pay attention to momentum, message, and actual campaign resources, not large amounts in a Super Pac.

2. Media exposure is everything and that is why Donald Trump is leading and everyone else hasn't gone anywhere. Another myth where evidence presents a contrary story. Yes, Trump has an advantage because of his ability to get media attention, but we forget he led the field in polling in 2011 before he decided not to run. Advocates for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and others like to blame their inability to rise because of Trump's exposure advantage, so why has Dr. Ben Carson risen dramatically even though he has received the same media spotlight as the others? Yes, media exposure is a contributing factor, but there is much else going on.

3. Favorability of a candidate is the most important determinant of success. Yes, being liked by voters is important, however many other attributes lead voters to vote for or against someone. When Democrats defend Hillary Clinton's falling numbers in polls, they like to say that she is overwhelmingly liked among Democratic primary voters. So why do half the voters who say they like her today plan on voting for someone else? Voters can like someone, but not trust them. I like many people who I wouldn't necessarily trust with my children. Also, voters can see a person in a favorable light, but not want them as their president. We have seen many times that voters can have positive personal sentiments about someone, but not approve of them for a certain job. I have had to fire many people who I liked, but weren't doing the job.

4. Everyone who has attacked Trump has suffered from it and fallen. This myth serves Trump well because it tries to scare people from attacking him, but the truth is much different. Carly Fiorina, who was the main beneficiary from the last debates, has taken on Trump directly and forcefully and risen in the polls. I am not saying she rose because of her attacks on Trump, but she definitely didn't fall. And Jeb Bush hasn't fallen because of his attacks on Trump, he has fallen because many GOP voters don't want another Bush and an establishment candidate. I would like to see what would happen if a candidate like Fiorina kept up the contrasts on Trump consistently and with fervor. He has never faced that kind of assault in his life.

5. Trump's position in the GOP race is just like Rudy Giuliani's in 2007, or Herman Cain, Perry, or Newt Gingrich in 2011. In the past, candidates have held dominant positions in national polls temporarily, and then failed to secure the GOP nomination. This may still happen to Trump, but his standing is much different than all those other temporary leading candidates. He has been ahead both nationally and in every key state for well over two months now. All those other candidates above who ended up losing never had this depth and breadth of support. In fact, history shows that when a GOP candidate has dominated the polling like Trump has, they win the GOP nod. There is a lot of time left in this race and Trump and his ego could eventually drag himself down, but his standing is very different than past "flashes in the pan."

Recently I wrote that in order for us to see reality for what it is and discover the truth about what is going on, we need to let go the desire to have what we want or what we think should be happening, and look at the landscape for how it is today. All great change starts with a clear view of the truth of today, so that we can begin to build a better tomorrow. I have many dreams for America, but it starts with waking up to the truth, and then leading towards where we need to go. As the journey toward picking a new president continues, it is crucial we don't get distracted by myths.

There you have it.

Matthew Dowd is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Opinions expressed in this column do not reflect the views of ABC News.