Steve Chapman

You may assume Matthews is a shameless liberal. But the same Matthews was dazzled by the "star power" and masculinity of Republican Fred Thompson, fantasizing about the smell of "English Leather on this guy."

There are some journalists who openly favor Obama. There are also some who openly favor McCain. That's fine, because they are commentators, who are supposed to take sides.

But McCain supporters tend to discount the conservative commentators while assuming that the liberal speak for all journalists. They also assume that reporters, who are supposed to be objective, would rather help their favorite candidate win than do their jobs in a professional way.

Is that plausible? Not really. In 2004, journalists voted overwhelmingly for John Kerry over George W. Bush. Kerry got plenty of unflattering news coverage anyway. I'd bet that in 2000, most media people voted for Al Gore, who thought he got a raw deal from the press.

Obama is getting more congenial coverage, but not because he's ideologically compatible with most scribes. The real reasons are that he vanquished the formidable Hillary Clinton, his race gives him huge historical significance and he has exceptional political talents that even his critics acknowledge.

But those attributes will grow stale. Obama will make mistakes. His flaws will become more noticeable. Presidential campaigns are like baseball seasons: Today's hero is tomorrow's goat.

With three months to go, there will be plenty of chances for McCain to shine and Obama to stumble -- and the news coverage will shift accordingly. By Election Day, Obama may feel like he's been worked over by the Hells Angels.

Who knows? That newsroom altar might even start gathering dust.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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