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Why Oh Why Can't We Have Better Press Corps?

Jim VandeHei and John Harris assume a defensive crouch, and promise to slant their coverage more toward mcCain and other Republicans in the future:

Why McCain is getting hosed in the press: Politico political editor Charles Mahtesian was e-mailing the other day with a Republican lobbyist who signed off with a plea that sounded more like a taunt: “Keep it balanced.”... [S]omeone in Rochester, N.Y.... “You guys are awfully tough on McCain. There may be some legitimacy to the claim of press bias. Mom.”...

Yes, in the closing weeks of this election, John McCain and Sarah Palin are getting hosed in the press, and at Politico.... There have been moments in the general election when the one-sidedness of our site — when nearly every story was some variation on how poorly McCain was doing or how well Barack Obama was faring — has made us cringe.... A couple weeks back, Politico managing editor Bill Nichols sent out a note to the campaign team urging people to cough up more story ideas that took a skeptical look at the campaign tactics and policy proposals of the Democrat.... Reporters obsess about personalities and process, about whose staff are jerks or whether they seem like decent folks, about who has a great stump speech or is funnier in person than they come off in public, about whether Michigan is in play or off the table... we care about the horse race — we don’t care that much about our own opinions of which candidate would do more for world peace or tax cuts....

[T]he 2008 election has had... McCain backlash.... Even during his “maverick” days, McCain was a consistent social conservative.... Yet he won swooning coverage for a decade.... Now he is paying. McCain’s decision to limit media access and align himself with the GOP conservative base was an entirely routine, strategic move for a presidential candidate. But much of the coverage has portrayed this as though it were an unconscionable sellout... bad faith on McCain’s part....

[Obama] has benefited from the idea that negative attacks that in a normal campaign would be commonplace in this year would carry an out-of-bounds racial subtext.... Obama has benefited from his ability to... starve the press's bias for palace intrigue.... [T]he bulk of negative stories about McCain are... about intrigue and turmoil... driven by the flood of Republicans inside and out of the campaign eager to make themselves look good or others look bad....

Countering the bias in favor of momentum is the bias against boredom. We’ve seen... an outlying poll number being pumped to suggest big changes in a race that is basically unchanged... you’ll see this phenomenon more in the next week. Then there is the bend-over-backward bias... stories suggesting Palin held her own or even won her debate against Joe Biden when it seemed obvious she was simply invoking whatever talking points she had at hand, hanging on for dear life...

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