It’s been fairly obvious that the media has paid a lot more attention to Barack Obama on his rock-star world tour this week than they did John McCain. Of course much of that can be chalked up to an obvious disparity in what was newsworthy: While Obama was talking to presidents and prime ministers and making speeches in front of 200,000 people, McCain was touring supermarket cheese aisles and…well, complaining about the media’s coverage. His campaign even put out an awkward video highlighting the media’s “love affair” with Obama. “They were second fiddle all week,” Chuck Todd and his MSNBC cohorts wrote this morning, “and seemed to almost demand being highlighted in that way.” If that seems like an odd strategy for the McCain campaign to take, think back to the Democratic primary, when Hillary Clinton’s campaign was making similar complaints.
Back in February, after Saturday Night Live aired a sketch mocking the media’s love for Obama, the Clinton campaign picked up on the meme and pushed the idea that the press was biased (even referencing the skit in a debate). It was clear before too long that the SNL and Clinton’s shame campaign was having an effect. On March 5 the Times reported that “the tone of the Democratic contest seems to have shifted, with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign more buoyant and Senator Barack Obama’s more defensive.” The Project for Excellence in Journalism confirmed it in a study titled “Press Takes a Harder Look at Obama—and Itself.” “If Hillary Clinton last week wanted to work the refs … the evidence suggests it worked.” Even cool-cat Obama was a bit incredulous at the sudden shift. “I am a little surprised that all the complaining about the refs has worked,” he told his former coddlers in the press corp. Back then, the media demonstrated a willingness to quickly self-correct when its objectivity was questioned. And when you combine McCain’s complaints of media bias and the Obama campaign’s recent coldness towards reporters, as examined by the New Republic yesterday, is the media ready to repeat itself? They will if McCain has his way. But he probably shouldn’t count on any help from SNL this time. —Dan Amira