- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 25, 2008

Republican hopefuls for the White House just can’t get a break from the press - and it’s been that way for the past four election cycles.

This time around, Sen. John McCain continues to get relentless, negative coverage in news outlets both here and abroad, according to new research from several sources.

The phenomenon has not escaped the public’s notice: 70 percent of voters say the media wants Democratic Sen. Barack Obama to win the presidential election while just 9 percent said the press favored Mr. McCain, according to a Pew Research Center survey of 1,003 adults conducted Oct. 17 to 20.

Among Republican respondents, the figure was 90 percent, and even 62 percent of Democratic respondents agreed with the idea that “most journalists are pulling for Obama.”

It’s a tradition of sorts.

“In recent presidential campaigns, voters repeatedly have said they thought journalists favored the Democratic candidate over the Republican,” the survey said.

In the 2004 presidential race, half the respondents thought the press wanted Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, to triumph over incumbent President Bush; 22 percent said journalists favored Mr. Bush. Similar trends emerged in the past four elections, according to Pew. Starting in 1992, some 52 percent of the respondents said the press favored then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton and 17 percent said journalists favored President George H.W. Bush.

Mr. McCain shrugs the possible bias off for the most part.

“Ah, listen, I’m not going to complain about the press corps,” he said in an interview with The Washington Times, although he acknowledged that journalists appear to be chummy with Mr. Obama.

“The interesting thing is, and it’s happened on numerous occasions, I get ‘How come you’re not the old McCain?’ and usually it’s an Obama talking point from somebody,” Mr. McCain observed.

Some journalists have become concerned. On Friday, PBS media analyst Jeffrey Brown wondered whether some in the press “have essentially started to treat this race like it’s over.”

Los Angeles Times political writer Robin Abcarian agreed, saying: “I do think that’s a legitimate concern. And I have worried about that myself.”

An analysis of 2,412 print, broadcast and Web-based campaign stories by the Project for Excellence in Journalism revealed that recent coverage of Mr. McCain has been “heavily unfavorable - and has become more so over time.”

In the six weeks after the national political conventions, nearly six in 10 stories about him were negative in tone, with 14 percent positive and the rest neutral. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Mr. McCain’s running mate, garnered 39 percent negative coverage, with 28 percent positive and the rest neutral.

Mr. Obama did not get an entirely free ride. The analysis found that 29 percent of the coverage about him was negative, 36 percent was positive and 35 percent was neutral. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic vice presidential hopeful, was “nearly the invisible man,” the study said. About half of the modest number of stories that centered on him were negative.

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