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Candidate credibility: Promises vs. 'if I'm able' page 2
The absurdity of campaign promises, and the presidential campaign coverage gap

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Date published: 8/17/2008

By Richard Amrhine


We'll be getting an overdose of such rhetoric at the upcoming national conventions. Please, spare me and be honest: Tell me what you hope to accomplish.


Those who keep up with the news have had to notice it, and it's not your imagination: Stories about Sen. Barack Obama are everywhere, while news about Sen. John McCain is less easy to find.

Some of our readers have noticed it, and one letter to the editor we ran questioned why that is and why mainstream coverage across the board is so "biased" toward Obama. After all, McCain's public service and political resume is much more extensive than Obama's, making McCain deserving of more thorough coverage.

Having selected wire service stories for newspapers myself during past campaigns, I can attest the emphasis we place on equal treatment: Stories should be about the same length, pictures about the same size. The candidate who leads the page one day gives up top billing to his opponent the next. Fairness is the goal.

But, in the end, it's up to the candidate to generate interest, both among voters and the media. Obama seems the much more visible candidate, and while any good editor will try to offer balanced coverage, he or she must balance that with the news judgment that the job requires.

With no basis other than my vague recollections of past presidential campaigns, I don't recall a similar situation where coverage seemed so lopsided. I wouldn't say the coverage is biased, though there's no mistaking the media's fawning over the younger and more charismatic candidate. But the quantity of coverage suggests to even casual observers that McCain risks becoming the forgotten candidate.

It's partly because, for example, while Obama is responding to the adoration of 200,000 in Berlin, McCain is reminding us to wash our vegetables before eating them. Which one would you think deserves better play? One solution is to run analysis pieces that compare campaigns.

But some of the blame has to go to McCain himself for waging a listless campaign. I'm sure the candidate and his staff think they're off-the-chart busy. But all that many Americans can see is a past-his-prime politician who is unable to separate himself from the Bush leprosy--I mean legacy.

The polls show Obama and McCain surprisingly--to me--close. That can be only because more Americans than I care to think reject Obama because of his name, color, and diverse background. These are people who, if his words were coming from a white face, might actually agree with what he says.

By November I would hope many such Americans will open their minds. Either that or they'll realize how badly the GOP deserves to be spanked.

Richard Amrhine is a writer and editor with The Free Lance-Star.

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