Huh? NY Times Says GOP Victory in California Election Signals 'Problems' for Party

A Republican won a special congressional election in Southern California yesterday – so why does the Times make it sound as if the Republicans got beat?

Chief political reporter Adam Nagourney’s online filing Wednesday morning on last night's electoral victory by Republican Brian Bilbray begins:

“A Republican former congressman slipped to victory in a special election here Tuesday, staving off what would have been a highly embarrassing Democratic victory in a solidly Republican district. National Republicans poured in nearly $5 million and dozens of campaign workers to help hold the seat for their party.”

Nagourney tries to inflate Democrat Francine Busby’s loss into some kind of moral victory:

“With 97 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Bilbray had 49 percent of the vote and Ms. Busby 45 percent, raising the prospect that he would fail to win more than half the vote in what should be one of the safest Republican districts in the country.”

Throughout the story, Nagourney tries to turn Bilbray’s win into a pyrrhic victory for the Republican Party, with dark foreboding for the fall elections:

“The intensity of the contest and the closeness of the result underscored the problems Republicans face in trying to keep control of Congress at a time when many Americans have expressed discontent with President Bush, Congress and the Republican Party. In a normal election year, this district would not even be near the playing field: Mr. Bush defeated John Kerry by 10 points here in 2004, and Republicans have a 44 percent to 29 percent edge over Democrats in voter registration.”

Nagourney concluded by once again talking about how “close” the vote was:

“But Democrats said the results showed just how weak Republicans are this year, and noted how much money and effort the party had to put in just to squeak out a victory in a solid Republican district. Beyond the money and campaign workers, the party also had President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Senator John McCain of Arizona and First Lady Laura Bush make taped automatic calls to voters here, urging them to support Mr. Bilbray.

"‘In an election cycle that is about change and a new direction versus the status quo, Francine Busby has shown that a strong change message can make even former members of Congress vulnerable in deeply red Republican districts,’ said Sarah Feinberg, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.”

Columnist Robert Novak provides some perspective:

"For all the hype and the money spent on the race between former Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) and Francine Busby (D), Busby, in her loss to Bilbray, failed to exceed significantly the percentage won here by John Kerry in 2004. This is significant, because although she will have another shot at Bilbray in November, the turnout should have favored her yesterday, since Republicans had no other races to drive their turnout and Democrats had a gubernatorial primary."

For more examples of New York Times bias, visit TimesWatch.

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