And the hits just keep on coming.
A front-page story in Sunday's New York Times detailed John McCain's extensive ties to the casino lobby and his connections to American Indian tribes and their gaming interests. The 4,600-word article also highlighted McCain's personal penchant for gambling.
Last week the paper disclosed the mortgage company Freddie Mac had made payments to McCain's campaign manager's lobbying firm until August. Coupled with a story by the AP about Sarah Palin's improprieties (zoning aide, gifts), this has not been the best week, press-wise for the Republicans.
Both McCain stories are potentially deadly, yet general response has been muted. John Koblin at the New York Observer traced the arc of the Freddie Mac story, and said it had completely disappeared by the next day. It's unlikely the gambling story will stick around much longer. The economic crisis is always the main story for news outlets today.
There's no question the Times' gambling story is damaging. It tells how McCain gleefully investigated rivals during the probe into lobbyist Jack Abramoff's dealings with American Indian tribes. Other lobbyists with connections to McCain billed the tribes for millions of dollars. And when a close personal friend of McCain's with no previous experience lobbying for American Indian tribes began working for one, McCain drafted legislation that would help that tribe specifically.
As the Times continues to publish damaging stories about McCain, his campaign continues to protest. Last Monday, senior adviser Steve Schmidt lashed out at the paper in a conference call. "Whatever the New York Times once was, it is today not by any standard a journalistic organization," Schmidt said. "It is a pro-Obama organization that every day attacks the McCain campaign, attacks Sen. McCain, attacks Gov. Palin and excuses Sen. Obama."
With that context, the campaign's response to a request for comment on the new gambling story is quite funny. "Your paper has repeatedly attempted to insinuate impropriety on the part of Senator McCain where none exists--and it reveals that your publication is desperately willing to gamble away what little credibility it still has," Tucker Bounds, a McCain spokesperson, said.
The Times first upset the McCain campaign with a story in February about a potentially inappropriate relationship the senator had with a female lobbyist. The story aimed to compare McCain's words on ethics and ethics reform with his sometimes differing behavior. But the public seized on the story's possible suggestion that McCain had had an affair. The authors buried the details of McCain's relationship with the female lobbyist in the 36th paragraph of the article.
There are easy parallels to draw with Sunday's story on gambling. While the lead anecdote is about a marathon gambling session McCain had with lobbyist Scott Reed at Foxwoods Casino, an Indian casino in Connecticut, the rest of the article doesn't touch much on McCain's personal habits. In fact, it doesn't mention them again until the 20th paragraph.
In two articles, the Times is trying to connect John McCain the person to John McCain the senator and his policies. But these potentially damning claims of impropriety may be hurting the Times more than the senator. Whatever the case, in the next New York Times article critical of McCain, look for an even more outlandish rebuttal from Steve Schmidt or Tucker Bounds.
This piece originally appeared on Pop + Politics.