California-based reporter Jennifer Steinhauer, previously heard insulting California voters  for failing to vote for tax hikes, ventured over the border on Tuesday's front page to cover a Republican primary scuffle in Arizona involving Sen. John McCain being challenged from the right by former congressman J.D. Hayworth: "McCain, Facing G.O.P. Foe in Primary, Tilts to the Right ." The online headline: "From Right of Radio Dial, a Challenge to McCain."
Hayworth was part of the Republican class of 1994, who served six terms in the House until losing in 2006. Steinhauer described Hayworth's defeat in loaded terms: "His loss to Harry E. Mitchell, a Democrat, in his 2006 re-election bid was humiliating, and underscored voter distaste for some of his more boisterous ways."
From the start, Steinhauer hit the liberal cliches about conservative radio hosts.
J. D. Hayworth is a large man, and to compensate for his indulgences, he hits the elliptical trainer every morning at 4, zipping along to an incongruous soundtrack of Elvis Costello, Frank Sinatra and old advertising jingles.
Until recently, he would then repair to a local radio station, where he would spend the better part of the day denouncing, in no particular order, illegal immigrants, all things Barack Obama, those who are insufficiently patriotic and, his favorite mark, one John McCain, the senior senator from Arizona.
Steinhauer feels for McCain, who in her telling is being pushed "starkly" to the right by "far right" meanies like Hayworth, in a piece notable for its sudden sympathy toward John McCain, whose coverage in the Times seems to be determined based on whether a loss by him would help or hurt the conservative movement. As Times Watch has demonstrated, McCain was clearly the Times' favorite Republican in Campaign 2008  - right until he became the clear frontrunner and the only likely candidate  standing between a historic Democratic presidency involving either the first female or first black president.
Yet Mr. McCain now finds himself jammed, moving starkly - and often awkwardly - to the right, apparently in an effort to gain favor among the same voters whom Mr. Hayworth, a consistent voice for the far right, could pull toward him like taffy come summer.
Mr. McCain now sharply criticizes the bailout bill he voted for, pivoted from his earlier position that the Guantánamo Bay detention facility should be closed, offered only a muted response to the Supreme Court's decision undoing campaign finance laws and backed down from statements that gays in the military would be O.K. by him if the military brass were on board.
"John is undergoing a campaign conversion," Mr. Hayworth said.
Mr. Hayworth's radio-personality bluster and big emotions - he teared up in an interview when describing the film "The Blind Side" - were once the stuff of eye rolls, but may now have a part in the greater populist narrative that threatens many of the nation's more centrist Republicans.
Mr. McCain has been long vexed by the more right-leaning corners of the Republican Party, especially the ones here at home, who are forever straw-polling their way toward his (fictional) downfall. His support for immigration policy overhaul, campaign finance restrictions and his past opposition to the Bush administration tax cuts and the Federal Marriage Amendment all contributed to his problems here.
Steinhauer didn't exactly nail everything down, as demonstrated in this passage:
Even within the fractured Tea Party movement, Mr. McCain is not without support. He is endorsed by Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, the populist movement's darling, and Sarah Palin, his running mate in the 2008 presidential campaign. And Dick Armey, whose FreedomWorks organization has become front and center in the movement, says he is throwing his support behind Mr. McCain.
On its Twitter feed  (hat tip MRC's Seton Motley), Armey's FreedomWorks organization denied Armey had endorsed McCain:
Just to be clear... Dick Armey did NOT endorse John McCain. NYT ran with an unconfirmed story.