One of the press's favorite current themes is how Donald Trump's presence at the top of the Republican general-election ticket in the fall has the potential to hurt Republican candidates in Senate and congressional races.
That may well be, but the Democrats appear to have a more serious and far more intractable problem which those in the establishment press, including Steve Peoples at the Associated Press Tuesday morning, have mostly chosen to ignore. Down-ticket Dems are saddled with presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's low marks from voters on honesty and trustworthiness.
In covering the U.S. Senate contest in New Hampshire, Peoples dwelled on incumbent Republican Kelly Ayotte's balancing act with Trump, and completely ignored the Clinton dishonesty baggage Democratic challenger Maggie Hassan carries. Hassan's burden was illustrated perfectly Tuesday morning on CNN, when she failed three times to tell a CNN reporter directly questioning her whether she believes Mrs. Clinton is honest and trustworthy.
Here are the AP reporter's early paragraphs on Ayotte and Trump (bolds are mine)
TRUMP CASTS LONG SHADOW IN NH SENATE RACE
Kelly Ayotte cannot escape the shadow of Donald Trump.
Even here, among the fried dough stands and pig pens of New Hampshire's summer fairs, the Republican senator faces difficult questions about her party's presidential nominee, a celebrity businessman who threatens to weigh down swing state Republicans at every level this fall.
There are no easy answers for vulnerable incumbents such as Ayotte, who are troubled by Trump but don't want to alienate his shrinking, yet devoted base of support.
"With any candidate, I always reserve the right to re-evaluate my position," Ayotte, sipping a root beer float, told The Associated Press on Saturday at Belknap County's 4-H Fair. "My position at this moment is I'm going to be voting for him."
But she's not eager to talk about him as she campaigns for a second Senate term.
"This is really a New Hampshire-centered race," Ayotte said.
Whether or not Trump's base of support is "shrinking" is debatable. And does Steve Peoples really want to start getting into a discussion of whose campaign is drawing the larger and more motivated crowds, and who is sometimes having trouble getting a couple of hundred people to show up at their rallies?
Here is some of what the AP reporter wrote much later on Hassan:
... At roughly the same time, Ayotte's Democratic opponent, Gov. Maggie Hassan, lashed out at what she called the "Trump-Ayotte agenda" at a rally. Hassan's campaign manager, Marc Goldberg, asserted that the Republican presidential nominee is making his job easier.
"Trump helps. He unequivocally helps," Goldberg told AP. Ayotte "has this weight around her leg in Trump that she's dragging around."
Hassan is certainly acting as if her burden is heavier than Ayotte's. It's so heavy that she clearly decided that making an utter fool of herself on national TV was preferable to answering a simple yes-or-no question about Mrs. Clinton's trustworthiness. Hassan refused to do three times, with escalating levels of inanity in her pre-scripted answers:
Transscript (beginning at the 0:12 mark):
CNN REPORTER MANU RAJU: Do you think that she's honest and trustworthy?
MAGGIE HASSAN: I support Hillary Clinton for the presidency because her experience and her record demonstrate that she's qualified to hold the job —
RAJU: But do you think that she's honest?
HASSAN: She has, um, a cricial, um, critical plan among others, uh, for making college more affordable.
RAJU: But do you think that she's trustworthy?
HASSAN: I think she has demonstrated a commitment always, to something beyond herself, bigger than herself.
It's quite easy to make the argument that Hassan, the Senate candidate who can't or won't even talk about voters' problems with the fundamental honesty of the person at the top of her party's ticket, something which one would think won't change between now and November, has a far bigger problem with negative coattails than Ayotte — especially after one considers that Mrs. Clinton committed acknowledge criminal acts for which she avoided indictment only because of institutional cowardice. Though having Trump at the top of the ticket is not the easiest task on earth, it has been made far more difficult than it should be because the press has often deliberately chosen to interpret Trump's off-the-cuff remarks in the worst conceivable and quite often blatantly dishonest fashion.
So the AP's and establishment press's solution to Hassan's and other Democrats' horrible, unresolvable problem — with the noteworthy exception of CNN's Raju, who may be sent to his room without dinner tonight, is to pretend that it doesn't exist.
Sorry, Steve Peoples, AP, and the rest of the establishment press. It does, and voters know it.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.