TWO MEDIA DARLINGS are likely to soon face off - John McCain and Barack Obama.
But, torn between two lovers, who will the media favor?
Most reporters will vote for Obama, but will they slant their coverage for him? They didn't do much for Al Gore or John Kerry against George W. Bush ("Who would you rather have a beer with?").
Yes, there will be media bias, but how much and what kind?
Since politics is more art than science, let's artfully estimate the Media Bias Quotient in this contest. Rate how biased you think reporters will be on 10 things they value in a candidate. (For example: Whose oratory do they prefer? McCain, 15 percent; Obama, 85 percent.)
Story: Journalists take pride in writing "the first draft of history." Which story would they rather cover - election of the first black president or of the oldest white guy yet?
Media Bias Quotient: McCain, 10 percent; Obama, 90 percent.
Quote-worthy: Obama's soaring rhetoric often fails as a sound-bite. "We live in the greatest nation in the history of the world. I hope you'll join me as we try to change it." McCain often uses a sledgehammer to nail a point: "Washington is a Hollywood for ugly people. Hollywood is a Washington for the simple-minded." Brevity is the soul of a witty sound-bite.
McCain, 60 percent; Obama, 40 percent.
Excitement: Obama fans sometimes faint at his rallies. McCain fans may appear to have fainted, but they just fell asleep. However, once McCain locks horns with Obama, his rallies will become more rousing and newsworthy.
McCain, 25 percent; Obama, 75 percent.
Humor: Journalists are reverent about irreverence. They hear so much propaganda they cherish quips that expose absurd truths. They relate to McCain's subversive irony and self-deprecating wit ("I'm older than dirt and have more scars than Frankenstein"). Obama can be amusing but he doesn't engage in the mischief and teasing that most reporters enjoy.
McCain, 75 percent; Obama, 25 percent.
Oratory: Obama's phenomenal success as a candidate is largely due to his oratory. And he's a master of the TelePrompter, making it seem like he isn't using one. McCain looks like he's using one even when he isn't.
McCain, 15 percent; Obama, 85 percent.
Access: "Whereas (McCain) relishes lengthy on-the-record bull sessions with the media, Obama generally does not," reported Michael Calderone of Politico.com. Obama bolted from a news conference when reporters asked about the indictment of a friend, Tony Rezko. When McCain held a news conference to deny an improper relationship with a lobbyist, he remained until there were no more questions.
McCain, 85 percent; Obama, 15 percent.
Anti-establishment: Journalists prefer mavericks to insiders. Both candidates qualify as such. Reporters like to imagine McCain rattling the GOP establishment and the Democratic Congress, but they believe Obama could change the public's view of government and the world's view of America.
McCain, 40 percent; Obama, 60 percent.
Visuals: A picture is worth a thousand words, and if it goes viral it's worth even more. Obama has become a paparazzi-worthy celeb. Even when he's bowling gutterballs, television editors consider the footage mesmerizing. But when people see McCain on TV they usually just remark on how old he looks. Actually, McCain looks better at 71 than Lincoln did at 56. But candidates didn't use makeup then.
McCain, 20 percent; Obama, 80 percent.
Debate/conflict: Neither candidate is an exceptional debater. McCain will be more substantive, and more sarcastic (like when he zinged Mitt Romney as a flip-flopper: "I agree that you are the candidate of change"). Obama needs 30 seconds of wind-up before he makes a pitch. But he should score higher on style and inspiration.
McCain, 55 percent; Obama, 45 percent.
Cool: McCain is old-school cool, but he's been upstaged. Obama is cool and charismatic. Hip stars like Scarlett Johansson and John Legend joined The Black-Eyed Peas to create a pro-Obama video. McCain's lagging hipness was evident in a jibe by Conan O'Brien: "McCain announced he had 20 names on his vice president list. Unfortunately, most of them are characters on 'Matlock.' "
McCain, 25 percent; Obama, 75 percent.
TOTAL AVERAGE: McCain, 41 percent; Obama, 59 percent.
That's good for a Republican.
Incidentally, the Media Bias Quotient for Hillary Clinton is 27 percent to Obama's 73 percent. She probably thinks it's worse, but she's biased.
Todd Domke is a Boston area Republican political analyst, public relations strategist, and author.