Look who’s giving John McCain attention, and not disparagingly. The New York Times.

Feuding Democrats have handed Senator John McCain the
gift of time. How well he uses it may determine his chance to beat them
in November.

At the moment, Republicans can savor protracted warfare between
Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. As the Democratic
rivals trade attacks, Mr. McCain, already the presumptive Republican
nominee, has crept ahead of both in national polls.

But they had to get the usual gripes in there, too.

Yet Mr. McCain’s advisers recognize their long-term
challenges in a remarkably threatening political environment. Voters
remain weary of the Iraq war, worried about the economy and
disenchanted with the lame-duck Republican president.

Let’s don’t leave out how disenchanted we all our with a lame
Congress that has a lower approval rating than the president’s. All
three presidential candidates are members of that (usually deadlocked,
do-nothing) Congress.

Oh…wait….the Times article does start to turn after all.

The Democratic fight is largely personal. But Mr.
McCain, of Arizona, faces ideological strains as he leads Republicans
beyond the Bush era. Meanwhile, Democrats have expanded their base, and
they have the turnout figures and campaign cash to prove it.

“All of the energy has been on the Democrat side,” conceded Rick Davis, the McCain campaign manager. “That’s a hurdle for us.”

Look, even when they give a compliment, it’s a back-handed one.

The visible part of Mr. Davis’s plan involves laying a
sturdier foundation for Mr. McCain’s positive, but relatively shallow,
public image.

Actually, the depth of coverage on John McCain has not been so deep. Harwood at least states the obvious here.

Drawing attention amid the Clinton-Obama battle will not be easy.

Especially because the media are obssessed with the Clinton-Obama
battle. And finding coverage of John McCain is like playing ‘Where’s
Waldo?’

Among the many items on McCain’s campaign ‘to do’ list Harwood
spells out here, one strategist says he has to get better organized now.

Long before the Democratic race ends, Mr. Fabrizio said, Mr. McCain must “war game” a strategy and a message for either outcome.

Because apparently, either outcome involves a candidate with a ready war game against McCain.

Democratic operatives have prepared a sustained attack
against what they call myths underlying Mr. McCain’s reputation for
straight talk. “It’s going to take a while to tear that down,” said Jim
Jordan, a consultant who will lead a Democratic Party advertising
campaign to aid its nominee. Lamenting the Clinton-Obama fight, Mr.
Jordan added, “That’s why it would be nice to get this over with as
soon as possible.”

I know people say negative campaigning works, but this kind of
language promises it’s going to get worse. Preparing “a sustained
attack” against John McCain’s reputation? Is that the way to be seen as
the better leader?

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....