Sen. Barack Obama is now the Democratic presidential nominee, to the approval of no doubt much of the Times' news team, which has lifted the Illinois senator throughout the campaign, while nudging Sen. Hillary Clinton towards stage right, even as she continued to win primaries.
Times Watch's rough count of Times news stories since Thanksgiving 2007 shows a nearly 3-1 ratio of positive-to-negative stories for Obama, compared to a 2-3 positive-to-negative ratio for Clinton. Positive stories for Obama (not including accounts of his primary victories, which would have an understandably pro-Obama tone) included this February 14 Valentine to his wife, "Michelle Obama Thrives in Campaign Trenches," and this April 1 headline, "Moving to Down-to-Earth Oratory for Working People." Lucky them.
Meanwhile, Clinton dealt with this front-page headline on May 5: "Seeing Grit and Ruthlessness in Clinton's Love of the Fight." As Clinton irritated many in the media by continuing to win late primaries, the Times began dropping not-so-subtle hints that her supporters were merely anti-Obama voters in disguise, motivated more by racism than any embrace of Hillary Clinton herself.
The over-sensitivity to opposition to Obama continued in Wednesday's front page "news analysis" by AdamNagourney,"Next on Agenda Is Clinton's Role." It managed to sneak in the idea, cleverlycouched in objective terminology, that while Obama should win fair and square on "substantive" issues like the war and the economy, other values like "race, patriotism and class" might plant doubts in voters' minds. (As if patriotism isn't a substantive issue.) The Times has long hinted that when Republicans criticize Obama for preening over his lack of a flag pin and his ties to radical leftists, they are actually attacking Obama's patriotism.
Much of the cautious optimism in the Obama campaign is based on the expectation that this is a turn-the-page election, that deep anger with President Bush, along with discontent over the war in Iraq and the economy will be channeled into a Democratic victory in November. But it is not yet clear that those substantive issues will fully trump cultural issues and values - like race, patriotism and class - or the question of whether voters will judge Mr. Obama, just a few years out of the Illinois legislature, to have the experience necessary to sit in the Oval Office.