Around the time of the Republican National Convention, the single word on the lips of most of the press corps was “likability.” Mitt Romney did not have it. We have never elected someone with such a negative image. He was a stiff. He was a boring rich guy. Yeah, the economy stinks, but President Obama has “likability.”

Well, the economy still stinks. But the likability gap is gone, although the press is mum about a fundamental shift in the public perception of the GOP nominee. Looking at the RealClearPolitics average, Obama is in positive territory with a favorable to unfavorable split of 50.8 percent to 45.4 percent. Mitt Romney’s numbers are statistically the same. He has a 49.2 percent to 44.4 favorable/unfavorable split.

The Romney image created by the Obama ad bombardment was unlikable, but the actual candidate turned out to be an astonishingly decent person and extremely capable. The clash between the cartoon Romney and the real Romney seems to have jolted the electorate.

As for the media, the intellectual dishonesty should no longer surprise us, but it is disconcerting nevertheless. Romney’s unlikability is not only news but a media obsession. When he solves that issue, mum’s the word.

It is not unlike the Libya phenomenon. When Libya means a Romney gaffe, it is front-page news. When Libya is a shining example of “leading from behind,” it is fair game. But when Libya becomes a story about serial misrepresentations by the Obama administration and a serious security lapse, it takes weeks for the story to migrate back to the front page — in large part due to the reporting by Eli Lake and coverage in conservative media.

The mainstream media also ignored Operation Fast and Furious for months and months. It then became news when those pesky House Republicans were demanding documents. A damning inspector general’s report and a jaw-dropping report from Univision on additional deaths from the gun-walking debacle created hardly a stir in the media.

In each and every instance, the media’s “news judgment” coincided with the White House’s political interests. This is the most egregious aspect of mainstream bias. Mainstream reporters and liberal pundits will ignore inconvenient facts and discard attention-getting topics to fit a liberal agenda. It is one thing when commentators on the left put their fingers in their ears and hum when the Libya fiasco comes along. (Unlike the right, the left tends not to beat up on their own but rather to circle the wagons). But for the “news” to consistently ignore ”bad” news for the left is indefensible.

This is why the conservative media has flourished; it has the news that has been deliberately tossed on the discard pile by the mainstream coverage.

Eventually the facts get out and the mainstream media scramble to catch up. But why does this repeat over and over again? If not intentional bias, you’d have to conclude that the mainstream media producers, editors and reporters are so handicapped by their own predispositions that they can no longer recognize “news” when it stares them in the face. Either way, it is not hard to figure out why much of the media is not only distrusted but loathed by so many viewers and readers.

As for the politics of it, if the president goes on to lose this election, one reason will no doubt be that the White House cocoon was never pierced by critical reporting. The president and his staff grew arrogant and certain that they could spin anything. The press isn’t responsible for Obama’s lack of candor or accomplishments, but it has enabled him to escape full scrutiny of these failings for four years. Now we find that enormous undertaking may have been for naught. Really, the coverup gets you every time.