And if that Republican is conservative, it's open season.
The man with the bulls eye on his forehead right now is Virginia's attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, who has become a national conservative hero for opposing Obamacare's mandates on state governments in court. He's one of those tea-party candidates that the "nonpartisan" Posties cannot stand. Cuccinelli is running for governor this year, opposed by Terry McAuliffe, a fundraiser extraordinaire and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He's the consummate Washington insider, and as a result, the darling of The Washington Post.
The Virginia gubernatorial campaign has attracted exactly zero stories from the broadcast TV networks this year. (On the contrary, they have an endless fascination with Chris Christie, President Obama's favorite Republican. That's not coincidental.) But Rich Noyes of the Media Research Center has studied the newspaper coverage this summer not only in The Washington Post, but in three other influential Virginia papers -- the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Roanoke Times and the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot. He has found a barrage of coverage making a mockery of the concept of "news reporting."
1. Cuccinelli has received far more negative coverage than his rival, but stories on both are primarily negative. It's become obvious that political reporters are looking for attack-of-the-day lines.
In a campaign dominated by each candidate's negative assessment of their opponent, Terry McAuliffe has received three times as many negative news stories (66) as positive ones (21). But that doesn't compare with the overwhelmingly dark spin on Cuccinelli, who received only four stories tilted toward a positive angle, and 95 stories accentuating the negative, or a 24-to-1 ratio. On the editorial page, the anti-Cuccinelli slant continues, with seven positive articles to 78 negative ones.
This isn't journalism. It's character assassination.
2. Cuccinelli is regularly described as a conservative candidate, which is not just fair but also useful. The reader should know his ideological bent. But how is it that his rival apparently is non-ideological? There were 26 "conservative" labels attached to Cuccinelli in news stories and editorials, but the four newspapers could not muster a single "liberal" label for McAuliffe.
On many issues, the Republican and the Democrat are exact opposites. McAuliffe favors not just abortion on demand, but also abortion paid for by Virginia's taxpayers. You cannot get more radical than that. He supports gay marriage, Obamacare (even single-payer health care), tax hikes, you name it.
But somehow McAuliffe is given a complete pass. The Washington Post lamely reports he "presented himself as a business-friendly moderate."
Meanwhile, Cuccinelli is described by a Norfolk reporter as launching "social conservative crusades" and by a ridiculous Richmond columnist as a "strident extremist whose views on social issues make Cotton Mather look like Caligula."
The newspapers here are reporting hand-in-glove with the McAuliffe theme that Cuccinelli is "too extreme for Virginia," even though McAuliffe is so left-wing on the social issues he'd please hippies in Vermont -- and no one else.
3. Cuccinelli has received twice as many stories on his ethics controversies as his ethics-challenged opponent. During the study period of June 12 (after the Democrat primary) to Aug. 31, 91 news stories and 61 columns mentioned or discussed Cuccinelli's ethics, most of them referring to his acceptance of gifts from businessman Jonnie Williams. But only 48 news stories and 27 opinion articles talked about McAuliffe's ethical problems, mostly on his leadership of GreenTech Automotive, which is now under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Overall, readers could have found 152 stories on Cuccinelli's ethics, to only 75 on McAuliffe's.
But how serious are these ethical issues for each candidate?
Cuccinelli admitted error in failing to disclose gifts from Williams, then asked a Democrat to investigate the matter, who absolved him of impropriety. The End. McAuliffe continues to use the Clinton playbook -- dodging, weaving, denying, even lying about charges dealing with massive fraud. Yet Cuccinelli's "problems" get twice the coverage of his rival.
Virginia is a swing state, with a Republican governor, two Democratic senators and a House delegation that is 8 to 3 Republican. But the purple state's most influential newspapers are deep blue and are aggressively pushing Virginia to swing to the Left.
Virginians are well advised to get their news elsewhere.