Friday, February 22, 2008

New York Times Hit Piece Pumps McCain Rally

The New York Times' wacky smear against GOP nominee-in-waiting John McCain has boomeranged to the Arizona Sentator's advantage:

Senator John McCain declared the battle over on Friday morning, but by then his lieutenants believed he had already won the war.

Conservative radio talk show hosts who had long reviled Mr. McCain, the Republican presidential candidate from Arizona, had rallied to his defense. Bloggers on the right said that this could be the start of a new relationship. Most telling, Mr. McCain’s campaign announced Friday afternoon that it had just recorded its single-best 24 hours in online fund-raising, although it declined to provide numbers.

Both sides traced the senator’s sudden fortunes to an unusual source, The New York Times, which on Wednesday night published on its Web site an article about Mr. McCain’s close ties to a female lobbyist who did business before the senator’s committee. That evening, two of the senator’s top advisers, Mark Salter and Steve Schmidt, flew to an emergency strategy session in Toledo, Ohio, where Mr. McCain was campaigning.

By Thursday morning, when the article appeared in the print editions of The Times, the McCain campaign had begun an aggressive attack against the newspaper, calling the article a smear campaign worthy of The National Enquirer. It was a symphony to the ears of Mr. McCain’s conservative critics.

Operating on the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, many conservatives who had long distrusted Mr. McCain on a variety of issues, including his peculiar fondness for talking to reporters for hours on end, rallied to see him at war with a newspaper they revile as a voice of the left. (In fact, Mr. McCain said only that he was “disappointed” with the newspaper, and left the incendiary attacks to his surrogates.)

“This is the most despicable act of liberal bias that I have seen in my life,” Sean Hannity, the conservative talk show host, said Thursday about the Times article. “They wanted you to come to a conclusion, and that is that Senator McCain had some kind of relationship with a female lobbyist and did special favors for her. It is beyond disgusting and despicable.”

Charles Black, a senior McCain adviser who had taken heat from conservative friends after the editorial board of The Times endorsed Mr. McCain in the Feb. 5 New York primary, was pleased. Thursday, Mr. Black said, “was the first day in the campaign that McCain won the day on conservative talk radio.”

Later that afternoon, the McCain campaign began using The Times in an fund-raising appeal sent by e-mail to supporters. “Well, here we go,” the letter from Mr. McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, began, then outlined what it characterized as the newspaper’s smear campaign. Mr. Davis quickly got to the point: “We need your help to counteract the liberal establishment and fight back against The New York Times by making an immediate contribution today.”

By Friday, the campaign was tracing its jump in fund-raising directly to the article in The Times. “Thank you,” Mr. Schmidt said to a Times reporter on Mr. McCain’s campaign plane as it headed back to Washington from Indianapolis. Then he added to a group of reporters, “There was a lot of outrage across the country on the story, and the campaign has raised a lot of money in the last 24 hours.”

Even those conservatives who did not rush to embrace Mr. McCain said his campaign’s condemnations of The Times might have given him an indirect boost, although some were not yet ready to support Mr. McCain’s campaign.

Even those who didn't rush to embrace McCain? You mean the ones who couldn't say "I told you so" fast enough as they sought to attack two opponents with one stone?

See also, "McCain Turns Tables on Times."

Photo Credit: New York Times