The Washington Times - September 6, 2013, 11:32AM

One political bout looms large on the radar at the moment: the Virginia governor’s race between former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe - a longtime friend and associate of Bill and Hillary Clinton - and Republican Ken Cuccinelli, currently the state’s attorney general.

Mr. McAuliffe has won the media’s protection, apparently.

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A new study of major newspapers in the state finds the GOP candidate got rough treatment from the press compared to his Democratic counterpart: Mr. Cuccinelli earned just four positive stories vs. 95 negative ones, a whopping 24-to-1 margin. So says a new analysis by the Media Research Center which reviewed 405 news stories, editorials and columns that appeared June 12 through August 31.

“Our study found that Cuccinelli has received far more negative coverage than his rival, and only Cuccinelli has been cast by the newspapers as an ideological candidate,” says Rich Noyes, who directed the research. “Despite ongoing ethical questions surrounding Terry McAuliffe, these newspapers have collectively run twice as many pieces talking about Cuccinelli’s ethics than those of his Democratic competitor.”

The analysis also found that Ken Cuccinelli was labeled as a “conservative” 26 times during the study period, while Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe was never once described as a “liberal”.

“This isn’t journalism. It’s character assassination. Virginia is a swing state, with a Republican governor, two Democratic senators, and a House delegation that is 8-3 Republican. But the purple state’s most influential newspapers are deep blue and are aggressively pushing Virginia to swing to the Left,” says Brent Bozell, founder of the Media Research Center.

The analysis reviewed the coverage in The Washington Post, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Roanoke Times and the Virginian-Pilot.

While controversies “swirled around both candidates” in the coverage, ethical questions surrounding Mr. Cuccinelli drew twice as much attention as Mr. McAuliffe. There were 91 news stories and 61 editorials and columns that addressed Mr. Cuccinelli’s ethics. In contrast, 48 news stories and 27 opinion pieces talked about Mr. McAuliffe’s ethical problems.

“Poring over the local coverage that could make all the difference in this year’s closest political race, it’s obvious that many smaller newspapers harbor the same liberal impulses that skew political news at the national level,” Mr. Noyes observes.

“It’s one more advantage that Democrats and liberals enjoy, and one more obstacle that conservatives must overcome.”

See the complete findings here