- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2008

Both Sen. John McCain and the Republican Party have just sent out fundraising e-mails asking supporters to chip in with money to battle an adverse New York Times story.

“Well, here we go,” McCain presidential campaign manager Rick Davis said. “We could expect attacks were coming; as soon as John McCain appeared to be locking up the Republican nomination, the liberal establishment and their allies at the New York Times have gone on the attack.”

Moments after Mr. McCain’s missive went out, Republican National Committee Chairman Robert M. (Mike) Duncan sent his own plea, saying the money is needed to “fight back against the mainstream media’s clear liberal bias.”

Today’s New York Times story indicating Mr. McCain may have done favors for a female lobbyist could do more in 24 hours to unite conservatives than Mr. McCain himself has been able to accomplish in the past two months.

“Go back to the Reagan years — every time Ronald Reagan was attacked by the left-wing press, he got stronger with conservatives. The same will happen with McCain,” said L. Brent Bozell III, founder of the Media Research Center. “Every time the left-wing press attacks him from the left, he’ll get stronger.”

Charlie Black, a senior adviser to Mr. McCain, said that would be a nice turnaround. “When the New York Times endorsed McCain in the primary, I certainly heard from a lot of my friends,” he said. “I hope the obverse is true.”

The Times report today cited unnamed former McCain staffers who said they had to warn Mr. McCain about the lobbyist and also said they took steps to keep her away from Mr. McCain.

The newspaper used the anecdote as an opportunity to examine Mr. McCain’s record, including accusations nearly two decades ago that he and four other senators used their influence on behalf of Charles Keating, a McCain supporter who ran a savings and loan.

“I think it rallies conservatives to his side because regardless of their feelings about their differences on some of the issues, they realize that the New York Times is out to tarnish the image of any of the Republican candidates — and particularly the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party — who would be opposing a more liberal opponent,” said Dr. Randy Brinson, a Birmingham, Ala., gastroenterologist who founded the national Redeem the Vote movement to register young people to vote.

Today, McCain critic Rush Limbaugh opened his syndicated radio show by noting he had long predicted that the liberal press that fawned over Mr. McCain would turn on him once he became the apparent Republican nominee.

Mr. Limbaugh did not change his views on Mr. McCain but rather said he hopes Mr. McCain learns from the New York Times hit that he cant welcome the liberal press on his bus and expect lasting loyalty in return.

Another McCain critic, talk-show host Laura Ingraham, criticized the timing of the New York Times story as an attempt to undermine the Republican Party’s probable presidential candidate, but she did not endorse Mr. McCain.

Some conservatives said the story could reinforce worries voters have about Mr. McCain.

“There is no question that this will give social conservatives greater pause as they consider the candidacy of John McCain,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, an evangelical Protestant who did not endorse any of the presidential nomination candidates.

“But you must realize that as much as conservatives distrust politicians, there is a greater distrust of the mainstream media which is embodied in the New York Times,” said Mr. Perkins.

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