The Media's Favorite 4th-Place Finisher, John McCain

On the GOP side, Sen. John McCain's fourth-place finish in Iowa was nevertheless covered as a victory of sorts, as the media appears determined to crown its past and present favorite Republican the winner in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, where registered Independents (read: liberals) can vote in party primaries.

Saturday's front-page story by Adam Nagourney and Carl Hulse, "McCain May Benefit From Huckabee's Jolt to G.O.P." saw McCain on a roll.

"If only by default, Mr. McCain is getting yet another look and appears to be in a strong position competing against a weakened Mr. Romney in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday.

"Mr. McCain is the latest beneficiary of the continuing upheaval in the Republican field that has seen nearly all of the candidates rising at various points. Among them were Mr. McCain, former Senator Fred D. Thompson of Tennessee and Rudolph W. Giuliani, a former mayor of New York.

"Mr. Romney's defeat in Iowa only underlined concerns that many Republicans had expressed about him, while the success of Mr. Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, gave rise to new worries among the Republican establishment."


"Mr. McCain, then - after a year in which his campaign nearly collapsed, the Iraq war and a controversial immigration bill eroded his popularity, and he was forced to continue his candidacy on a bare-bones budget - may be in the right place at the right time.

"And Mr. McCain was campaigning Friday with gusto, attacking Mr. Romney before overflowing crowds at places like a V.F.W. hall in Hudson, on issues that included Iraq, spending and his own record on security."

One of McCain's chief Times boosters is Marc Santora, and he doesn't let the Arizona senator down in Sunday's "McCain Mixes It Up on a Town-Hall Tour of New Hampshire." The text box reads: "A resurgent Republican revels in letting people take a crack at him."

"Senator John McCain was resting his chin on the microphone as a man with a full white beard in the corner of the opera house in Derry laid into him for his continuing support for the war in Iraq.

"Mr. McCain responded, but then did something few other candidates do with regularity: let his critic have another go at him. They went back and forth until the man was at least satisfied that they had traded viewpoints.

"The 10-minute exchange was a small slice of the singular piece of American political theater that is a John McCain town-hall-style meeting in New Hampshire. Tellingly, it was on Thursday night, during the Iowa caucuses 1,000 miles away. Mr. McCain had all but ignored the Iowa contest, where he finished in a near tie for third with Fred D. Thompson, choosing instead to stake his campaign on New Hampshire.

"Mr. McCain, a Republican from Arizona, has been holding these gatherings here for much of the last year, just as he did in the 2000 campaign, cultivating the supporters who are now driving him to the top of the polls in New Hampshire. The events are an extension of his unorthodox campaign, where he spends nearly every waking hour taking questions from anyone who shows up."