Politics & Policy

Feingold Wins Endorsement From Associated Press

BATTLE ‘10 is certainly not the first to suggest that AP’s reporting is riddled with liberal bias, but it’s worth pointing out a particularly egregious example.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D) recently tweeted a link to an AP story “assessing” the Wisconsin Senate race between Feingold and Republican challenger Ron Johnson. The Huffington Post promptly featured the story on its website. Not surprising, given the headline: “Wis. Senate race pits maverick against ‘rich guy.’”

The story’s author, Dinesh Ramde, first caught the attention of BATTLE ’10 by writing that Feingold was “slightly trailing” his opponent at a time when the RealClearPolitics average was + 9 for Johnson.

As the headline indicates, the story itself is about as balanced as a DNC press release:

With a restless anti-incumbent mood throughout much of the country, conventional wisdom suggests that voters might prefer the challenger, Republican businessman Ron Johnson.

Swap out “incumbent” for “Democrat” and you’d be closer to the truth. GOP Sens. John McCain (+28), Chuck Grassley (+25), Johnny Isakson (+22), David Vitter (+16), and Richard Burr (+14) seem to be doing just fine despite this “restless anti-incumbent mood.” Feingold’s support for an unpopular stimulus package and a health-care bill that a majority of Wisconsin voters want repealed might have something to do with it. However, the author didn’t think it necessary to include these details. Irrelevant!

But Feingold has been popular throughout his political career, so much so that he’d likely be cruising to a fourth term right now if the economy hadn’t tanked.

Love the caveat — “if the economy hadn’t tanked.” A bit like saying the Ground Zero Mosque would be breaking ground right now “if not for 9/11.” Is there anything that wouldn’t be dramatically different if the financial meltdown had never happened? John McCain might be president.

The article breaks down the candidates in terms of pros and cons — pros for Feingold, cons for Johnson. Feingold is a humble, gifted genius who has “made a career of doing things his own way”:

[Feingold] traces his independence back to his childhood. While politics and religion are taboo topics at some dinner tables, he says that wasn’t the case in his Janesville home. His family had spirited conversations that helped him hone his debating skills and sparked his desire to enter politics.

Feingold was always a gifted student. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with honors, became a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University and earned his law degree with honors from Harvard University.

Meanwhile, Johnson is an under-educated hypocrite who rarely tells the truth. And of course, a “rich guy.” Ramde writes that Johnson attracted the Wisconsin Republican Party’s attention primarily because “he has plenty of money and has been willing to spend it.”

Andrew Welhouse, spokesman for the Wisconsin GOP, issued the following response to BATTLE ‘10 regarding Johnson’s appeal as a candidate:

The fundamental issue in this race, like many others, is job creation and getting Wisconsin back on track.


On both counts, Ron Johnson has a background you couldn’t draw up any better if you tried.  A manufacturer and accountant, who has never run for anything before, taking on an 18-year incumbent and lawyer in an anti-establishment year with an unpopular party in power.

Every single instance where Johnson is deemed to have “stumbled” on the campaign trail is mentioned. Not a word about Feingold’s controversial campaign ads, one of which the Associated Press itself called “misleading,” that have drawn considerable criticism, especially given Feingold’s reputation as a “clean campaign” advocate. 

Check out the disparity in the language used to describe the two candidates:

For Feingold:

“standing up for his principles”

“A smooth talker who enjoys meeting voters”

“doing things his way”

“a gifted student”

“cemented Feingold’s reputation for standing up for his principles”

For Johnson:

“That story contradicts what [Johnson] said early in the race”

“stumbled on occasion on the campaign trail”

“drew scorn”

“drew criticism “

Overall, the piece is really one or two sentences shy of an outright endorsement, but with a headline like that, why bother? To suggest that “Wis. Senate race pits maverick against ‘rich guy’” lives up to the AP’s professed standards of “providing distinctive news services of the highest quality, reliability, and objectivity” constitutes either willful ignorance or deliberate dishonesty.

BATTLE ‘10 suggests a new headline: “Wis. Senate race pits entrepreneur against future ex-Senator”

Andrew StilesAndrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...


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