I Used to Love Her, But I Had to Kill Her


Ben Smith analyzes the blowback from John McCain's new-ish, two-pronged strategy of negative (embellished) attacks on Obama and media-bashing.

McCain has long been the New York Times's favorite Republican—the paper endorsed him in the primary, as its spokeswoman noted when he last complained—and this represents a real shift in his political career, and a situation he hasn't really faced before: Straightforward opprobium from a media elite whom he'd considered friendly.

His campaign has clearly done the math and decided it's worth the cost, which is now being exacted in the form of a hardening media perception that he's re-running the last two Bush campaigns.

Robert Stacy McCain (no relation) has data on the effects: according to Gallup, a net 24 percent of voters think the media is "unfairly positive" in its coverage of Obama, and a net 20 percent think they're "unfairly negative" covering McCain.

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.

Josh Benson and Felix Gillette talk to some of those devious media conspirators here. Joe Scarborough:

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.