17 ago 08 Media and US elections analysis

By Jesse Stanchak, Slate Magazine

The Los Angeles Times leads with Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain each discussing their faith and positions on social issues at Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church.


The LAT‘s coverage of the Saddleback forum suggests that the night was a win for both candidates, with each seeming to make inroads with the faithful, albeit in very different ways. Obama’s answers tended to be more nuanced and off-the-cuff, describing his faith and values in more personal terms. McCain was more rehearsed and less revealing, sticking very close to familiar campaign rhetoric but also hewing closer to typical evangelical views. The most provocative nugget comes in the story’s final paragraphs, in which each man is asked to define “rich” in terms of annual income: Obama draws the line at $250,000 a year, while McCain puts it at $5 million.

The WP reaches many of the same conclusions but takes a more inside-baseball approach to the event, spending more time detailing efforts by both campaigns to woo evangelical voters.

The NYT, meanwhile, off-leads with a bit of campaign analysis of its own, reporting on Democratic efforts to retool Obama’s message ahead of the general election. While the Democratic primary was won on big ideas and inspirational language, the paper says Democratic strategists are concerned that the candidate’s message of “change” may be too vague for undecided voters. Obama has responded by trying to more closely define his policy positions, but the close margins of many recent polls suggest that voters are still in a wait-and-see mood.

Under the fold, the NYT turns its focus to the McCain camp, examining the senator’s response to the Sept. 11 attacks for clues to how he would govern if elected. The story says McCain began arguing for invading Iraq soon after the attacks, months before the White House began publicly making the case for war. McCain essentially argued that the best defense is a good offense. The paper concludes that while McCain has always had a hawkish bent, after 2001 he began to advocate using military force not just as an agent of retribution but as one of deterrence.



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