A Campaign 2008 Portent? Negativity and Unbalanced Labeling

Balance, NYT style: The GOP is trying to appeal to "conservatives," while Democrat John Edwards is free to cite the "imposing historical figure" of Bobby Kennedy without being called a liberal.

A sign of labeling bias to come? Jo Becker's article on likely GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson's work for a pro-abortion group (called a "Family Planning Unit" by a queasy Times headline writer) contained three "conservative" labels. There were six more in Adam Nagourney's front-page off-lead story (including text box) on how the surprise collapse of John McCain's campaign has led to a change of tactics among the other GOP candidates. The labels referred to both the candidates own credentials and the ideology of the primary voters to whom they were trying to appeal.

But while the Times larded on the conservative labels in two mildly negative stories about Republican candidates, they didn't use a single liberal label in a strongly positive story from Susan Saulny on Democratic candidate John Edwards' populist liberal "Two Americas" campaign, "Edwards Ends Poverty Tour By Broadening His Theme" (in which Saulny called Bobby Kennedy "an imposing historical figure").