When the mainstream media declares that Mitt Romney is finished, they expect everyone in the Republican Party to not just listen but to act accordingly. That’s the only way to respond to an astonishingly obtuse feature in Politico that centers on the willingness of GOP congressional candidates to embrace Romney. The story begins in this manner:

You might think Mitt Romney’s flailing presidential campaign would send his party’s congressional hopefuls fleeing from the GOP standard-bearer.

But in a curiosity of a bizarre campaign season, the opposite is happening. Few Republican House candidates have thrown Romney overboard — and many are embracing him.

Even as the nominee is forced to explain his politically damaging remarks about the 47 percent of voters who he claimed are dependent on the federal government, Republican prospects, by and large, say identifying with the GOP ticket is their best path to victory.

Let’s get this straight: The media decides that Romney’s gaffe about the 47 percent defines the election while Obama’s gaffes about the murders of Americans being “bumps in the road” isn’t worth discussing. They push this line about Romney’s incompetence relentlessly; accept speeches filled with misstatements and distortions at the Democratic National Convention at face value after treating GOP convention speeches as “fact-checked” lies and help manufacture a post-convention bounce; and then declare the race (which is still largely within the margin of error in most polls) over and consider it a “curiosity” that Republicans still like their chances and understand tying their fates to Romney is a lot smarter than writing him off. In other words, if the GOP doesn’t accept their narrative and give up, they are in denial. It never occurs to the chattering classes that about half the country still plans to vote to turn President Obama’s incomplete into an “F” in November and that his wife shouldn’t be fitted for her second inaugural gown just yet.

Both our John Podhoretz and Mona Charen wrote persuasive takedowns this morning of the way the press has distorted coverage of this election. But while it is one thing for liberal outlets to tilt toward Obama and Democrats, you would think even they would shy away from demanding that Republicans play along.

The reason why Republicans are sticking with Romney is that they know the election isn’t decided. There are six weeks left to the campaign and despite the raft of bad polls they’ve gotten lately, they understand that their candidate is well within striking range of the incumbent. They also know that many of the polls have produced contradictory conclusions and that many are based on estimates of turnout that mirror the Democrats 2008 triumph rather than the Republican victory in 2010. Republican House candidates who won’t listen to Politico’s advice may actually be more in tune with voters in their districts than liberal reports.

For the media to declare the race over and to start covering the campaign from the frame of reference of whether Republicans are coming to terms with their inevitable defeat takes media bias to new levels of self-parody.

Make no mistake about it: having to cope with this level of distorted coverage is a handicap for the Republicans. A docile and adoring press is a major asset for President Obama, and anyone who doesn’t think it has helped him hasn’t been paying attention. But when journalists start pushing the envelope in the manner of this Politico story, it ought to worry Democrats. Media bias only works to the advantage of liberals when it is done in a manner that can be represented, however falsely, as objective. Once liberal scribes start jumping the shark, as they have done in this case, it discredits the entire enterprise. More to the point, it helps feed a backlash that can both anger and motivate conservatives to greater efforts.

Mitt Romney may be trailing in this race but so long as the liberal press keeps declaring him dead, he’s got more than a fighting chance.

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