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The good, the bad and the ugly: New York Times weekend coverage of the polarizing Mr. Romney

Published: Sunday, Jan. 15 2012 6:37 p.m. MST

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, campaigns at American Legion Post 15 in Sumter, S.C., Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Associated Press

At this point in the political career of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, it's well known the former Massachusetts governor is capable of eliciting wildly polarizing opinions from media pundits. That divergence has perhaps never been more obvious than with two editorials the New York Times published on consecutive pages of its Sunday print edition.

THE GOOD

Ross Douthat's "The Benefits of Bain Capitalism," published on page SR12 of Sunday's print edition. Douthat strips away rhetoric and emotion from the debate surrounding Romney's time at Bain Capitol to reach some pointed conclusions about the private-equity-revolution landscape from which Bain emerged.

"In the broadest sense, (the) competitiveness revolution was good for the United States. … But keeping America's edge came at a cost. Our economy became more efficient, but also more ruthless and Darwinian. Our G.D.P. kept rising, but the new wealth was less evenly distributed."

THE BAD

Nate Silver's "Romney-Obama: No Popularity Contest," published online Saturday. With his usual touch of deft statistical analysis, Silver provides context for the historically high percentage of people with unfavorable views of Barack Obama (49 percent) and Romney (42 percent). The only "bad" thing about the well-written blog post is that the current political climate seems primed to prove true Silver's stark concluding prediction.

"It is probably worth watching how Mr. Romney's favorably ratings evolve as he undergoes a torrent of attacks from his Republican opponents. The attacks could presage what is likely to be one of the nastiest and most negative general election campaigns ever."

THE UGLY

Maureen Dowd's "Mitt's Big Love," published on page SR11 of Sunday's print edition. Dowd relies extensively on "The Real Romney," a book by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman that will hit bookstores on Tuesday. The op-ed piece starts out by awkwardly comparing-and-contrasting Obama with Romney, but then oddly morphs into an attack Romney's Mormon faith.

Dowd asserts "Romney's religion pulls a curtain over parts of his life story" and insinuates there's something sinister and secretive in "the Mormon credo of strong, heterosexual, traditional families." Apparently aiming for a big finish in her article that uses the word "Mormon" no fewer than 11 times, Dowd quixotically decides to end with a non-sequitur journal entry from Mitt's great-grandmother Hannah Hill Romney about the perils of polygamy.

EMAIL: jaskar@desnews.com

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