Why Reporters Fawn Over John McCain

News & Politics

This morning, almost in passing, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough mentioned the national press corps covering the presidential campaign and said, "I think every last one of them would move to Massachusetts and marry John McCain if they could."

A little crude, sure, but Scarborough's point is not without merit. Last week, for example, McCain finished fourth in the Iowa caucuses, behind a guy who barely even tried to campaign. No one has ever finished fourth in the Republican caucus and gone on to win the GOP nomination. The national media, therefore, naturally declared the fourth-place finisher the <big winner of the night.

TP pulled together some of the embarrassing, ingratiating praise media personalities offered for the Arizona Republican.


MSNBC's Mike Barnicle: "McCain's stance on the war. They view it because of who he is and the eye contact during these town meetings. He's the Babe Ruth of town meetings."
Politico's Mike Allen: "Tonight is a fantastic night for John McCain.... He's one of the biggest winners of the night."
Newsweek's Jon Meacham: "To me, the great story about Sen. McCain is, when in doubt, give principle a try."
Fox News' Carl Cameron: "Inside Washington, he's been a real maverick outsider."
John McCain may very well be the first fourth-place finisher in nominating history to come out of Iowa with momentum and media adulation. It's worth taking a moment to consider why.

Jason Zengerle, noting that there's "no denying that the media absolutely loves McCain," highlights a point that often goes unsaid.
The simple explanation is: McCain affords the press access like no other candidate. In the McCain campaign, there's no barrier between candidate and reporter. If you have a question for McCain, you don't have to bother going to his press secretary; you simply go ask him. On some days, you literally spend eight hours with the candidate, just riding with him in the back of his bus peppering him with questions on everything from Pakistan to his philosophical thoughts about suicide. Toward the end of the day, this amount of unfettered access to the candidate can actually be a bit of a problem, when you start to run out of questions for him and there are awkward silences. But, on the whole, it's hard to overstate the sort of goodwill this access engenders among reporters.

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