NYT: "Republican Unraveling"...Or Just Wishful Democratic Thinking?

Do the votes in New Jersey and Virginia signal a "Republican unraveling," as the Times suggests, or is the paper just promoting wishful Democratic thinking?

Thursday's "House Shelves Plans for Alaska Drilling" by Carl Hulse is ostensibly about the issue raised in the headline, but much of it harps on the Republican losses in Tuesday's elections (even though the party didn't actually lose any seats). The text box argues: "A concession adds sting to Republican election losses."

Actually, if current returns hold up, Republicans actually made gains in the two contested states by unseating Virginia's Democratic Lt. Governor and narrowly retaining the Attorney General slot.

The online version is even more ham-handed about working in the Republicans-are-losers idea: "House Republican leaders were forced to jettison a plan for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska on Wednesday night to save a sweeping spending bill, a concession that came one day after the party suffered significant election loses [sic]." (Times Watch's late edition hard copy is missing the last clause.)

Both versions include this paragraph: "The last-ditch effort by the leadership to avoid an embarrassing legislative defeat was the latest symptom of party unrest arising from instability in the leadership and anxiety about the 2006 elections. Those concerns were heightened by election results on Tuesday that Democrats and some Republicans said exposed the party's vulnerabilities and threatened its policy agenda."

Hulse follows up with dueling quotes from RNC chairman Ken Mehlman and Rep. Nancy Pelosi on the significance of the elections, as Alaska drilling takes a back seat to more gloating about the imminent Republican meltdown.

The Times' continuing giddiness over the Democratic wins comes in marked contrast to its ho-hum approach to equally significant (or insignificant, as it turned out) wins by Republicans in 1997.

Hulse concludes: "Whether the election in Virginia reflected any national Republican unraveling may not, in the end, matter, [political analyst Charlie] Cook said. The loss there and in New Jersey 'corroborates the view that it's a horrible year for the G.O.P. and getting worse,' he said."

But isn't it part of a journalist's job to look beyond what "corroborates" the conventional wisdom and examine whether or not it really is a "horrible year for the G.O.P"? It may be, but the elections in NJ and VA certainly don’t prove it.

For more NYT bias, visit TimesWatch.

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