Where’s Johnny? Ignoring McCain, Rightbloggers Obsess on Obama


[Editor’s note: After penning the popular “The Official Village Voice Election-Season Guide to the Right-Wing Blogosphere,” Roy Edroso has made dissecting those blogs into a weekly feature that appears here every Monday.]

Now that the Democratic Presidential race has chilled out, you’d think rightbloggers would show a little more interest in John McCain. Though the Senator from Arizona has had trouble with die-hards in the past, he’s certainly preferable from a conservative point of view to his opponent. Yet they remain more interested in beating up Obama than in building up their own candidate.

Do browser searches for “McCain” and “Obama” on an average multi-post page of any top conservative blog, and you’ll see what I mean. At 11:00 pm on Sunday, the ratio on Little Green Footballs was 12 McCain mentions to 100 Obama mentions; at Instapundit, it was 11 to 24; at Hugh Hewitt‘s Townhall blog, 4 to 19. It was a big week for Obama, but the McCain team has also been working the press. Where is the love?

Those numbers get much better on McCain-centric blogs, but the content still shows a peculiar obsession with the opposition.

Last week devoted nearly as much effort to attacks on Obama (“Obama Flip Flops,” “Obama Caves,” Obama stammers,” etc) as to praise for their guy. They did show some YouTube videos of cute girls singing about McCain, though the poster admitted the filmmakers “aren’t necessarily McCain-supporters.” (Sample lyric: “All of these younger guys are too quick with their frills/I love the older ones that carry little blue pills.” A commenter noted, “Yeah, you really shouldn’t have those up.”) embedded a legitimate McCain campaign video, but added, “I find it interesting that in the comments on this video at YouTube are pretty vicious,” and devolved to anti-Obama boilerplate (“Voting for Obama will undoubtedly increase our risks in the world as he is viewed as an appeaser and a friend of our enemies”). Here too, a surprising amount of energy was spent knocking Obama, sometimes in bizarre contexts (“Like Obama, Ahmadinejad is starting to sound like a one tune pony”).

But though they fly under McCain’s colors, these are still freebooters. At the official McCain site, the blog scene is more positive, if skimpier: last week, its main blog offered just two new posts, one embedding McCain’s Tuesday “Leader We Can Believe In” speech, the other linking to “our latest Path to Victory presentation.” (Perhaps, as both have lots of lively comments — many devoted to attacking Obama — they didn’t see the need.)

The site’s new McCain Report, authored by the Weekly Standard‘s Michael Goldfarb, is more proactive: promising on its June 6 launch to “provide quotes and information you won’t be able to get anywhere else,” the McCain Report has by this writing posted a video of McCain denouncing Obama, a video of ABBA (McCain’s a fan), a Weekly Standard denunciation of Obama, a video of Obama headlined “Everybody But Obama” accompanied by a Weekly Standard denunciation of Obama, and, finally, a post devoted to praise — of Hillary Clinton (“it’s clear that John McCain and Hillary Clinton respect each other — and there is a genuine affection for her here at McCain HQ”).

You may compare this with the official Obama blog, where posting is more frequent and generally sunnier (though grimmer stuff may be found among the less closely patrolled community blogs).

Off the official McCain reservation, operatives go about their work dutifully but with little enthusiasm. At Power Line, McCain was praised but faintly, for his “good speech to AIPAC,” his “demonstrated edge” in bipartisanship [!], and for being “excellent in a conversational mode and decent in full speech mode.” Obama excited the Power Liners much more: they found him “unprincipled,” “clueless,” and “ignorant,”, “extraordinarily cynical,” dedicated to a “policy of coddling our enemies while shafting our friends,” etc. Given this imbalance, their claim that “this election is far more of a referendum on Obama than a referendum on McCain” is understandable, if only as wishful thinking.

Some rightbloggers have already thrown in the towel. At Human Event’s Right Angle blog, D.R. Tucker looked for silver linings in an Obama victory. “The left will, of course, try to smear President Obama’s ideological critics as hidebound bigots,” he said, which “will help to make nonwhite Republicans a more prominent political force.” Also, “If Obama does indeed self-destruct as President, he will provide the center-right an opportunity to return to power.” But Powers admitted “that will require some luck,” for Republicans if not the country.

If the Maverick himself does not command enthusiasm, there is much love showing for potential running mates who might freshen his image. Some favored Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal. “Jindal has accomplished more in his 36 years on Earth than nearly every member of the US Senate,” claimed Mason Conservative. “Where McCain is old, Jindal is young… he fosters an excitement and optimism in Republicans that we really need right now.” (Also, noted the New Thoma$ Report, “if McCain dies, he’ll be there to preserve conservative principles.”)

Alaska’s Sarah Palin provoked even more visceral reactions. “Like ‘Sarah Connor’ of the terminator,” said Captains Spyglass, “she has taken on the establishment… And finally given her age, she will be the first female president of the United States.” “Running mates usually aren’t named until the convention,” said Jack Kelly at Real Clear Politics, “But if Sen. McCain should name Gov. Palin earlier, it would give America more time to get to know this extraordinary woman.” While “a favorite-son Veep candidate is small-ball… McCain may need a genuine four-bag home-run on the boards from his Veep nominee,” wrote Beldar. “I’m thinking that Sarah Palin may just be all that.” Patterico’s Pontifications helpfully pointed out that Palin is easy on the eyes.

It hasn’t been long since rightbloggers were happily predicting chaos at the Democratic Convention. But from the sound of things, when the GOP gets to the Twin Cities to nominate a candidate, we may see a strong movement to force McCain into the #2 slot.

What makes all this even weirder is that McCain could win — the race is currently tight. Then again, the Clinton-Obama race pushed McCain out of the spotlight for months, and it may be rightbloggers believe invisibility has been their candidate’s greatest asset. Or, being honed by long practice in the art of character assassination, they have trouble shifting to a positive approach. Or maybe they consider the old saying that “You can’t beat something with nothing” to be some sort of challenge.