The midterm elections are still months away, but the New York Times is in full campaign mode.
One of the outstanding questions of the 2010 political season is whether Tea Party candidates can translate their grassroots appeal into Election Day success. But that’s not the kind of question that seems to inform the Times’ slanted coverage of Tea Party candidates, whom the paper is prepared to write off as a lost cause.
A particularly glaring example of the Times’ penchant for dumping on Tea Party candidates was its “reporting” – the term must be used loosely – this week on Sharron Angle, the Tea Party favorite seeking to oust Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada. Polls actually show Angle in a statistical dead heat with the embattled Reid – some surveys even show Angle up by a few percentage points – but one would scarcely guess it from the Times’ coverage, where the Angle campaign is cast as a scrambling wreck-in-progress and Angle herself is dismissed as a gaff-prone political novice who has ruined her chances to win with a series of ill-judged and extreme comments.
To be sure, Angle, who went from relative unknown to winning the Republican nomination in the span of just three months, is a newcomer on the big political stage, with all the attendant turbulence of her rapid ascent. But the image of Angle as an incompetent who risks throwing away a close race is singularly misleading. To make that case, the Times had to rely solely on sources with an anti-Angle ax to grind. Among those quoted in the Times’ story were Danny Tarkanian, a Republican who lost to Angle in the primary; Jon Ralston, a political columnist for the Las Vegas Sun who has called Angle’s campaign “nothing short of a disaster”; and Harry Reid himself. Not one of these sources, it goes nearly without saying, could be considered an objective observer of Angle’s campaign.