Media fawn over John McCain while covering NH primary

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

In discussions and reports on the New Hampshire primaries, numerous media outlets and personalities praised Sen. John McCain as authentic, real, exhibiting "flinty independence," and a "maverick," and described him as "Mr. Straight Talk."

In discussions and reports on the January 8 presidential primaries in New Hampshire, numerous media outlets and personalities praised Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (AZ) both before and after McCain's victory in the primary, claiming that he is authentic, real, independent, and a "maverick," and describing him as "Mr. Straight Talk." For example, a January 9 USA Today editorial called McCain "straight-shooting" and claimed that "John McCain's decisive win over Mitt Romney was a triumph of authenticity over packaging," while a January 9 Los Angeles Times editorial similarly claimed that Romney "looks far less appealing than the flinty independence of John McCain."

On MSNBC, host Chris Matthews repeatedly called McCain a "maverick" throughout the evening of January 8. Matthews claimed that "in New Hampshire, there are a lot of Republicans who like mavericks," adding that if McCain won the primary, "[h]is challenge will be to go against the grain nationally" and that "[i]t's always going to be hard to be a successful maverick."

After McCain's victory became apparent, during Fox News' January 8 coverage of the primaries, Fox News chief political correspondent Carl Cameron called McCain "Mr. Straight Talk": "And across the country, Republicans now have to begin to ponder the possibility of having Mr. Straight Talk as their standard-bearer, a candidate, a Republican that many of them have had an awful lot of issues with over the years. And now GOPers have to figure out whether or not they can get their arms around John McCain all over again."

During CNN's coverage of the primaries, CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger also referred to McCain as a "maverick," saying that being the "establishment candidate ... didn't work for him, so after July when he was broke and he had to fire most of his staff, he said, 'I'm going to go back to being John McCain. I'm going to go back to New Hampshire and work those town halls and be who I am, and I'm going to become the maverick Republican again.' Well, this is a year for mavericks. In case you hadn't noticed, all we're talking about is change, so that worked for him." Later on CNN, after McCain gave his victory speech, host Anderson Cooper said that McCain is "real":

COOPER: And an amazing night watching him speak. You know, not the best speaker out there. Certainly, he read -- he doesn't like teleprompters. He reads from, you know, paper -- stuff written on a page. He stumbles from time to time. But he is real, and that certainly comes across.

Additionally, in claiming that McCain's victory "was a triumph of authenticity over packaging," the USA Today editorial added: "Even when it has hurt him, such as on immigration reform and the war in Iraq, McCain has stuck stubbornly to unpopular positions." Yet McCain has, in fact, acknowledged that he has shifted his stance on comprehensive immigration reform -- as Media Matters for America noted -- now calling for border security first before the creation of a guest-worker program or a path to citizenship. McCain told reporters that he "understand[s] why you would call it a, quote, shift." Moreover, the editorial did not explain what it was referring to by McCain's "unpopular positions" on the Iraq war, which he supported and continues to support.

From the January 9 USA Today editorial:

Among the Republicans, John McCain's decisive win over Mitt Romney was a triumph of authenticity over packaging. Even when it has hurt him, such as on immigration reform and the war in Iraq, McCain has stuck stubbornly to unpopular positions.

By contrast, Romney has drawn derision for repeatedly abandoning positions -- on abortion, gay rights, embryonic stem cell research -- that he held as governor of blue-state Massachusetts to cater to a more conservative national Republican audience. McCain sarcastically zinged Romney for being the "candidate of change" during Saturday night's television debate. Polls of voters leaving voting booths showed the straight-shooting McCain, the oldest candidate in the field at 71, leading the GOP field among voters ages 18-29.

McCain's win, on the heels of Mike Huckabee's victory in Iowa five days earlier, leaves the Republicans with the sort of chaotic, wide-open race usually associated with Democrats. Romney, seriously wounded after staking his strategy on Iowa and New Hampshire, makes what could be his last stand next week in Michigan, where his father was governor. And Rudy Giuliani was both a loser and potential winner: He finished dismally in New Hampshire, but his ignore-the-little-states strategy could pay off with a Jan. 29 win in Florida, where polls show him narrowly ahead of Huckabee.

From the January 9 Los Angeles Times editorial:

Some of the same dynamics are at work among Republicans. Suddenly Mitt Romney, a second-generation politician, looks far less appealing than the flinty independence of John McCain. There, the politics of change are murkier, complicated by McCain's enduring popularity in New Hampshire, Mike Huckabee's popularity with Christian conservatives and Romney's inability to convince voters that he is a man of genuine conviction. Still, for Republicans as well as Democrats, it's a tough year to be a candidate whose principal credential is experience. Indeed, for Republicans it's a tough year to stand for anything, as the GOP remains in search of a standard-bearer.

From the 5 p.m. ET hour of the January 8 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews. Welcome to Hardball, tonight from NBC News headquarters in New York. This is the night, the night that could be the beginning of the end of a front-runner's presidential candidacy, a night that could turn a movement -- or turn a moment, rather, into a movement, a night when a maverick Republican could rise from the ashes to claim victory, a night when conventional wisdom crumbles and change becomes the touchstone for this country. Tonight is the night of the New Hampshire primary.

From the 6 p.m. ET hour of MSNBC's coverage of the January 8 New Hampshire primary:

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, David [Gregory, NBC News chief White House correspondent]. It seems to me that this anger is hard to read, if you look at all the candidates on the Republican side. You know, John McCain, although he's a maverick, has sided with the president on the war. And you could argue maybe if you're very pro-Bush, you'd stick with McCain. But on the other hand, his personality is so different than Bush's and his person. It's hard to read that, isn't it?

From the 7 p.m. ET hour of MSNBC's coverage of the January 8 New Hampshire primary:

MATTHEWS: Well, the wild thing about John McCain is, although he's a great military man who has served his country and is obviously a patriot in all the great ways you could be a patriot, both in public service and in his military career and his sacrifice, he's not popular among the regular Republicans, the people that go to meetings and organize the Republican Party victories. He's not popular among the evangelicals, right?

KEITH OLBERMANN (Countdown host): Mm-hmm.

MATTHEWS: Who does that leave? It leaves the media, and it leaves people who like mavericks. I think in New Hampshire, there are a lot of Republicans who like mavericks. They like Pat Buchanan. They like going against the grain. His challenge will be to go against the grain nationally if he wins tonight. That's a hard one. It's always going to be hard to be a successful maverick.

From the 8 p.m. ET hour of Fox News' coverage of the January 8 New Hampshire primary:

CAMERON: McCain now has to look forward to Michigan, a state that he also won in 2000 by only 8 points. He dropped from an 18-point victory in New Hampshire to an 8-point victory in Michigan. This time they go back to Michigan feeling particularly confident. Mr. McCain has been spending a tremendous amount of time there as well as in South Carolina. And across the country, Republicans now have to begin to ponder the possibility of having Mr. Straight Talk as their standard-bearer, a candidate, a Republican that many of them have had an awful lot of issues with over the years. And now GOPers have to figure out whether or not they can get their arms around John McCain all over again.

From the 8 p.m. ET and 9 p.m. ET hours of CNN's coverage of the January 8 New Hampshire primary:

BORGER: It's been so interesting because just six months ago, Anderson, we had all these headlines last July. He had $250,000 in the bank when he was the establishment candidate. He had to fire half his staff, and the question on the campaign trail was, "Can a soufflé rise twice?" And in John McCain's case, tonight, he just proved that it could. And what he's done is he was the establishment candidate. That didn't work for him, so after July when he was broke and he had to fire most of his staff, he said, "I'm going to go back to being John McCain. I'm going to go back to New Hampshire and work those town halls and be who I am, and I'm going to become the maverick Republican again." Well, this is a year for mavericks. In case you hadn't noticed, all we're talking about is change, so that worked for him.

[...]

COOPER: And an amazing night watching him speak. You know, not the best speaker out there. Certainly, he read -- he doesn't like teleprompters. He reads from, you know, paper -- stuff written on a page. He stumbles from time to time. But he is real, and that certainly comes across.

Posted In
Elections
Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine, John McCain, 2008 Elections
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