Weary Edwards Watchers were not surprised at the study showing how the mainstream media has lavished its attentions on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The study, by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, looked at presidential campaign coverage by 48 major news organizations from January through May. Half went to Clinton and Obama on the Democratic side and to Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and John McCain among the Republicans, with the other dozen contenders sharing the rest.

Only half? The MSM’s take on the Democratic race since May is that it’s a two-way race, with the wily Clinton leading and young Obama, rebel with a Harvard Law degree, the only one who can catch her. But after the MSM builds you up, it unfailingly tries, at least, to take you down. And sure enough, last week its story started to change: Clinton’s so far ahead, it said, she’s sitting on her lead. (Wily? Or overconfident?) What’s worse, Obama’s letting her do it. (Can you be a cautious rebel?)

Well, you know what’s coming next, and The New York Times served fair warning Sunday (emphasis added): “[Obama’s] senior aides,” it reported, “said they were now spending much of their day fielding calls … asking why Mr. Obama was not challenging Mrs. Clinton more forcefully and warning that he could cede the role of the main anti-Clinton candidate to former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, who is running an aggressive campaign in Iowa.”

In sum, shape up, Obama, or the MSM will ship you out and give your part to Edwards. This followed a Los Angeles Times/ Bloomberg poll Oct. 23 showing Clinton ahead of Obama nationally by 48 percent to 17 percent, with Edwards close behind at 13 percent.

Nor did MSM reporters have to look far for evidence of Edwards’ greater aggressiveness. Clinton herself served some up in a letter to Iowa voters defending her vote for the controversial Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which branded Iran’s military as terrorists. (See “Edwards Watch,” Oct. 10.) She was voting for “stepped up diplomacy,” not war, Clinton wrote, adding acidly: “I was there, I exercised leadership.” This was a shot at Obama, who wasn’t there and didn’t vote, though he criticized Clinton later. Edwards, the MSM noticed, blasted Clinton’s vote the day she cast it and has continued to blast it as a sign of duplicity. She wants primary voters to see her as antiwar, Edwards says. But in Washington, she’s staking out her general-election position as a hawk.

And playing right into President Bush’s hands if he decides to attack Iran, Edwards adds. “How many times does it take to learn your lesson?” Edwards asked last week. “You give this guy an inch, and he’ll take a mileparticularly when it comes to war.”