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A Tale of Two GOP Presidential Candidates

In 2007, when Democrat presidential candidates balked at appearing on Fox News, Roger Ailes replied, “The candidates that can’t face Fox, can’t face Al Qaeda." But even Mitt Romney can't face Fox, as William A. Jacobson notes today:

As bad as the original interview was, Romney’s reaction simply confirms the perception that Romney will have trouble in a general election.  If he can’t handle totally legitimate questions from Baier, and his team will not let him appear before the Center Seat panel, then how will he hold up when the media and Team Obama gang up on him?

In contrast, here's Newt Gingrich authoritatively brushing aside a gotcha question by CBS's Scott Pelley, a thoroughly reactionary establishment leftist, who when asked about providing balanced coverage of global warming and its skeptics replied, "If I do an interview with Elie Wiesel, am I required as a journalist to find a Holocaust denier?"  Click here for the screen cap of Pelley's unbelievably smug grin -- moments before Newt defenestrates him:

In November of 2008, after the McCain campaign melted down over how unfair their media coverage was in late September, Kevin Williamson of National Review wrote:

Every time I hear a Republican candidate or office-holder talking about media bias in the fall, I assume that the election is over and the Republican has lost. It’s not that the complaints don’t have merit–do they ever–it’s just that the media-bias talk tends to come up right about the time things are going undeniably south for a campaign. So maybe it’s best to front-load the discussion for next time around. Candidates who are talking about media bias in October are losing elections.

As I replied on my blog back then:

And when they’re talking about it in late September, they’re really toast, as Robert Stacy McCain wrote in his October 3rd pre-postmortem:

I didn’t comment on it at the time, but I was shocked when Steve Schmidt lashed out at the New York Times on Sept. 22. Every word Schmidt said about the NYT being in the tank for Obama was true. But you don’t do that. Ever. Not in a campaign you have any hope of winning. It is one thing to criticize specific errors by specific reporters, but for a presidential campaign manager to call into question the fundamental integrity of a newspaper that more or less dictates news coverage at the three major broadcast networks? Uh uh. No way. Leave that work to surrogates. Then Wednesday, in an interview with the Associated Press, McCain himself got all hostile with the reporter. That is tantamount to an admission of defeat.

But one of McCain’s many weaknesses as a GOP candidate is that he counted on the media’s support–or at least was praising the media–and in particular, the New York Times as late as January of 2008 in the Republican debate in Florida. This left him absolutely unable to criticize the media in any form–which is why Schmidt’s meltdown in late September sounded so much like whining, even though, as Robert McCain wrote back then, “Every word Schmidt said about the NYT being in the tank for Obama was true.”

Hopefully the next GOP candidate will lay sufficient upfront groundwork so that his supporters (and not just the base) will know that the media attacks are coming–and that the GOP isn’t competing merely against another party, they’re also competing against the bulk of the legacy media, where most voters go to receive whatever scraps of information they’ll get to justify their voting decisions.

As I wrote back then, it wouldn’t hurt to remind people of the media’s excesses and kneejerk support for Obama in this election, as many will have forgotten it. Laying this groundwork early in the campaign would also allow the candidate to have lots of “See, I told you so” moments when the drive-by media hits start flying.