Posted by Brad @ 5:45 pm on July 30th 2008

Media Support For McCain and Obama: a Fair Fight

We’ve argued amongst ourselves here for awhile about the love affair that the press has with Obama. James has even gone so far as to say this is the first election in which the media is selecting a President for us (I can’t find that thread now; feel free to link it). Anyway, I think Adam, James and I have pretty much staked out our respective positions on this (with mine being right, Adam’s being mostly right, and James’ being terribly wrong but with some truth to it), but I thought I would pass along David Weigel’s analysis, because it pretty fairly mirrors my own. Speaking of McCain’s new strategy of media-bashing, Weigel sez:

Has McCain run the sloppiest Republican campaign since Dole ’96? Sure; I don’t think you can look at how he wasted his four-month honeymoon during the Clinton-Obama fight and conclude otherwise. But convincing voters that the media is unfair to him is the most impressive trick McCain has pulled. This is a campaign that, seven months ago, was rebroadcasting Tim Russert’s description of McCain’s heroism in its TV ads.

I don’t think McCain’s comeback would have been possible had the political press not been scoring points for him all throughout 2007. His comeback was willed into existence by reporters; you could find helpful analyses of what he could do to win as early as July last year. It’s part of what makes the Obama-McCain battle a fair fight, not a hopelessly lopsided fight: Both men are beloved by the press in a way no one’s been since, arguably, Carter in 1976. Seriously, look at the way the ridiculous Wesley Clark story was covered this month and try to argue that the media’s being unfair to McCain.

And Joe Scarborough also mirrors a point I’ve been making:

The great irony of it coming from the McCain camp is that no candidate in modern American politics got more favorable treatment from the press than John McCain in 2000. I would suggest he received more positive press in 2000 than his nearest competitor, Barack Obama, in 2008. For McCain to now cry foul because the media is intrigued by a new exciting candidate is humorous.

I don’t know that I agree with the 2000-2008 weighing, but the gist is pretty much exactly the way I see it.

McCain’s not wrong, by the way—clearly, the media are covering Obama more than they are covering McCain (although, as I’ve also said, that’s a double edged sword)—but the same principle that has caused Obama to have the edge there—that he is exciting, new, has a great story, and the members of the media are personally fond of him—is the exact same principle that essentially made McCain. Make no mistake, he would not be the nominee today were it not for the exact same phenomenon that he is currently bemoaning.

In my book, the most media-fawned over Republican in a generation is facing off against the most media-fawned over Democrat in a generation. One is fresher, more history making, and more likely to win—and big surprise, he’s the one with the edge—and it surely sucks to be on the wrong end of that, but it also makes it a little hard for me to take seriously criticism of media fawnage generally.

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