Mitt Romney's withdrawal from the presidential race provided some drama for attendees of the Conservative Political Action Conference in D.C., two hours before frontrunner John McCain's speech to an audience from whom he's long been estranged.
Fred Barnes, FOX News mainstay and executive editor for the conservative Weekly Standard magazine, has written that the media "loathes Romney" for his right turn on social issues.
Such hostility was evident throughout the Times' coverage of Romney's failed race for the presidency. Times Watch has kept a tally of campaign coverage since Thanksgiving and has found that of 44 stories that dealt in detail with the Mitt Romney campaign, only seven could be classified as positive, to go along with 23 negatives (14 were classed as neutral), for a ratio of over 3-1 negative to positive.
Some represenative Romney headlines:
December 22: "Facts Are Stubborn, Romney Once Said, and He Should Know"
January 7: "Romney Decides Second Beats Last"
January 24: "Romney Leads in Ill Will Among GOP Candidates"
By contrast, his Republican opponent, moderate John McCain, was a beloved figure, with a stunning 25 positive stories to just one negative one (with six neutral), often dwelling on his honesty and "maverick" approach to immigration and "torture," stands that have endeared him to liberals.
Some representative McCain headlines:
January 7: "Retracing His Steps, McCain Is Feeling Rejuvenated"
January 17: "McCain Parries a Reprise of '00 Smear Tactics"
January 28: "McCain, Long a GOP Maverick, Is Gaining Mainstream Support"
Even taking into account the fact that winners get better coverage than losers, that's a pretty blatant dichotomy.
Friday's lead story, "Romney Is Out; McCain Emerges As G.O.P. Choice - Pitch For Party Unity - But Some Conservatives Show Hostility to Arizona Senator ," by Elisabeth Bumiller and David Kirkpatrick, zoomed directly in on the CPAC angst over McCain's apparent clinching of the Republican nomination. By contrast, the Washington Post limited its temperature-taking of the conservative movement to the end of its story.
In a dramatic announcement before a convention of stunned and largely unhappy conservatives, Mr. Romney said that he wanted to fight on but that taking his campaign all the way to the Republican convention in September would delay a national campaign against Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton or Senator Barack Obama, the two remaining Democratic contenders. Mr. Romney described both as weak on national security.
Mr. McCain stepped forward two hours later before the same gathering to try to make peace with a group deeply skeptical of him, if not outright hostile. In a moment that will long be remembered by Republicans, he was greeted with jeers as well as cheers....Enormous, overflowing hotel ballroom, where people were held back from entering by security guards who said the raucous crowd exceeded fire code violations."
A photo caption claimed
"Supporters of Mitt Romney made their feelings known on Thursday after he dropped out of the race and Senator John McCain took the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference."
Well, they weren't making them known very strongly, judging by the photographic evidence: a couple of glum-looking middle-aged gentleman with Romney stickers on their lapels in front of cheering McCain supporters standing with signs.