Double Standards: Ideological Rifts in GOP, but None Among Dems?

The Times sees conservative ideological battles for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, while Democrats are rated mostly on competence and experience.

Republican social conservative Sen. Sam Brownback announced his candidacy on Saturday in Topeka, and reporter Rachel Swarns quickly cast his candidacy in ideological terms.

To be fair, Brownback called himself a proud conservative in his announcement, so he obviously has no problem with being labeled as such. But Swarns casts Brownback's long-shot candidacy in clear ideological terms in a way the Times has yet to do with Democrat Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. Hillary Clinton, or recent entry Gov. Bill Richardson, as noted below.

Swarns concludes: "With his opposition to abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and same-sex marriage, Mr. Brownback hopes to establish himself as the dominant conservative in the race. The American Conservative Union, which hails him as one of 'the best of the best' in the Senate, gave him a 100 percent conservative rating in its most recent survey of Congress.

"In recent weeks, Mr. Brownback has been emboldened by the struggles of Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, whose conservative credentials have come under attack because of questions about his evolving positions on abortion and gay rights. Mr. Brownback said Saturday that he planned to march in an anti-abortion rally in Washington on Monday."

(That "anti-abortion rally" is known by millions as the annual "March for Life," which the Times has tended to downplay in the past. Tuesday's story from the march by Sarah Abbruzzese devotes just 300-words to the march, albeit with two photographs, one of Bush and one close-up of a group of marchers.)

While Swarns' story isn't hostile toward the Republican candidate, she does heavily emphasize ideology: "But Mr. Brownback has also broken with Republicans on some issues. He supports putting most of the nation's 12 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship, for instance. And this month, he joined many Congressional Democrats in announcing that he opposed President Bush's plan to increase the number of troops in Iraq.

"Paul M. Weyrich, chairman of the Free Congress Foundation, a conservative research group, praised Mr. Brownback for his commitment to conservative principles. But he questioned whether the senator had the charisma to prevail. 'If he can prove that, then he will have a shot,' Mr. Weyrich said. 'If not, then his conservatism will not be enough to carry him.''

Meanwhile, another long-shot candidate joined the race on Sunday on the other side of aisle, but Matthew Wald's brief story on New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's presidential announcement ignored ideology in favor of allusions to Richardson's competence, even though Richardson himself emphasized liberal themes in his announcement, saying: "I believe this country is a very tolerant, positive country. I believe the country would be ready for a woman president, an African-American president, Hispanic president."

Compare the conclusion to the Richardson story with the ideological tone of the Times' piece on Brownback:

"Mr. Richardson also emphasized his experience as governor, dealing with budgets, health care, the environment, drunken driving and other issues. In his position as chairman of the Western Governors' Association and at home in Santa Fe he has been a proponent of renewable energy sources.

"Mr. Richardson is an enthusiastic campaigner. According to his campaign, the Guinness Book of World Records cites him as the politician who shook the most hands in one day - 13,392 - during his 2002 campaign for governor, beating President Theodore Roosevelt's record of 8,515, set in 1909.

"Perhaps more relevant to a national campaign, Mr. Richardson is also a strong fund-raiser. While chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, he raised more than $28 million for candidates for governor."