Thursday's lead story on the aftermath of the Iowa caucuses, 'Romney Showing Financial Muscle For Next Round,' found New York Times reporters Jim Rutenberg (pictured) and Jeff Zeleny a little label-happy in Manchester, New Hampshire, using twelve variations on the 'conservative' label in a 1,236-word story.
By contrast, back in 2008, the Times' Michael Powell actually called the liberal Gov. Michael Dukakis a 'pragmatist' and ultra-liberal politicians Sen. Ted Kennedy and Jesse Jackson 'populists,' while calling Sen. Hillary Clinton a 'liberal pragmatist' a grand total of once. In the same story, Sen. John Edwards was described as having wrapped himself in a 'populist cloak.'
Here's a taste of Rutenberg and Zeleny's "conservative" pile-on:
Mitt Romney flew here Wednesday, displaying his financial and organizational muscle in New Hampshire against the upstart candidacy of Rick Santorum, who was seeking to use his near-victory in the Iowa caucuses to become the standard-bearer of a conservative insurgency.
But behind the scenes, Mr. Santorum's aides were busily wooing the leaders of the coalition of social conservatives, Tea Party supporters and budget hawks who have resisted Mr. Romney's candidacy. Some of those conservative leaders were now discussing among themselves whether Mr. Santorum could be the one candidate they can coalesce around - and whether he was truly viable against the machine that is Mr. Romney's campaign.
The rise of Mr. Santorum has prompted some conservative leaders to take a second look at his candidacy, but skepticism remains about his ability to build a national organization.
'What Santorum did in Iowa was to give people an excuse to re-evaluate whether they think he can win or not,' said Gary L. Bauer, a participant at the meetings and a Republican presidential candidate in 2000 who is president of the conservative group American Values. 'The race is far from over. People are trying to sort out who is the most conservative nominee who can also win the nomination.'