The Least Repellent Republican

John McCain may indeed by the Republicans’ strongest general election candidate this year, but that didn’t stop the New York Times from endorsing him for the nomination.
When the Times editorial appeared last night, the rival Republican campaigns lost no time sending out emails noting the Times’ endorsement as a black eye for McCain. McCain, as far as I could see, said nothing about it; Ed Morrissey noted that if McCain’s campaign “trumpets” the endorsement, it would show “tone deafness” toward Republicans. Which is, of course, an understatement.
In an entertaining example of today’s real-time political give and take, the Romney campaign then sent out an email quoting Ed, with this screen shot from McCain’s web site (click to enlarge). The red arrow points to the Times editorial, “Primary Choices: John McCain.”

That didn’t strike me as “trumpeting” the endorsement, but someone in McCain’s camp apparently got wind of the Romney email, and the Times endorsement disappeared from the front page of McCain’s site. Here is what that section of the site looks like at the moment:

You can still get to the editorial, though, if you follow the “More News” link.
All of this is a pretty entertaining indication of how toxic the New York Times is to Republicans. The editorial itself reminds us (as though a reminder were needed) why this is so. It drips with venom toward Republicans. To take just one over-the-top example, the Times asserts, shamefully, that President Bush “went AWOL” on September 11. (If you’re puzzled as to why the Times would insert this slander into an editorial endorsing a 2008 candidate, you obviously haven’t plumbed the depths of BDS on the paper’s editorial board.)
Notwithstanding the low esteem in which the Times is held by Republicans, I don’t think its endorsement will hurt McCain any. Republican voters are already well aware that McCain is the favorite candidate of non-Republicans; it will be up to them to decide whether this makes him a better choice or a worse choice for the party.
PAUL adds: The endorsement of the New York Times pretty much mirrors what has happened at the local level. Prior to the New Hampshire primary, McCain received the same kind of “least repellent Republican” blessing from liberal organs like the Valley News and the Boston Globe. The McCain campaign touted these endorsements, since (a) it really wanted independent votes in New Hampshire and (b) these papers aren’t as despised by conservatives as the Times.
Some have wondered whether the Times, believing that McCain is more electable than his Republican rivals, wanted to give him the kiss of death. It’s possible, but I doubt it. More likely, it simply wanted to tell Republicans what it believes without regard to how the pronouncement would be received. Certainly, there’s nothing improper about that.
From McCain’s perspective, the endorsement is probably viewed as a mixed blessing, rather than a pure curse. If nominated, McCain will want to be viewed as something like a national unity candidate. Endorsements like that of the Times will help in that regard. Whether this outweighs the potential harm of the endorsement when it comes to securing the nomination is tough to say. This might not be the ideal time for “triangulation.”
Deep down, though, I suspect McCain thinks it’s pretty cool to have the Times’ endorsement again. Apparently, he was the only Republican candidate who met with the editorial board.
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