As it turns out, the Gray Lady’s strange, petty, and tone-deaf attacks on Marco Rubio’s financial struggles as a young man failed to impress nearly everybody — even those in its usual clique of media elites. “What’s the New York Times going to do,” Jon Stewart asks his Daily Show audience while scoffing at editor Sheryl Gay Stolberg’s defense of the attack pieces, “exercise editorial control?” Stewart didn’t aim all his fire at the Times, though. He saved his parting shot for CNN’s attempt to sensationalize the story, quipping at the end, “Wow. Suddenly the man who paid off his student loans and got a boat is printing counterfeit 100s in his basement.”

Could this have worked out any worse for the New York Times — and any better for Marco Rubio?

No one’s asked presidential candidates the hard questions like the New York Times has, Jon Stewart said on “The Daily Show” Wednesday, and now, they’ve gone after Marco Rubio. Except their revelations this week, about his driving record and personal spending, fell flat.

“I can’t think of a single person who would be bothered by this,” Stewart said of the stories that detailed how the Republican senator from Florida paid off his student loans with money he made from writing a book, bought a boat, leased a car and got four traffic tickets since 1997. Outrageous!

“I’m assuming the New York Times obtained this damning information from Marco Rubio’s plaque in the Hall of Best Miami Drivers Ever,” he said.

This week-long descent into irrelevancy will do plenty of damage to the New York Times in the short run, but it may bolster Rubio even more in the long run. In my column for The Fiscal Times, I argue that the episode has given Rubio an emotional connection to middle America, but perhaps more importantly proved his readiness for a hard-knocks campaign against a foe with massive oppo-research capabilities:

In other words, the Rubios had gone through many of the same struggles that younger professionals had endured. Neither of them came from wealthy families, and while their twenties and thirties were financially challenging, they had managed to modestly prosper and settle down not far from where Rubio grew up.

While the Clintons deal with their massive fortune earned by exploiting their connections to power and public trust, the Rubios seem more accessible to mainstream America than ever. The story turns out so well that MSNBC’s Chris Hayes wondered on Twitter whether Rubio was planting the stories in The Times as “false flags made to make him look sympathetic.”

This fight with The Times did more than make Rubio a more sympathetic candidate. It rallied conservatives around him while prompting media analysts to criticize the Paper of Record as reckless and biased. Conservatives also noticed the nimbleness of Team Rubio and their response effort. In 2008 and 2012, Republican voters felt frustrated by presidential campaigns that didn’t have good reflexes in the media battles; this showed the rank-and-file that Rubio and his team aren’t afraid to play hardball in the major leagues.

The primary debates are still months away, and the first chance for voters to cast ballots even farther off. Rubio may have just passed a major test and at the same time performed a favor to the rest of the Republican field. The New York Times may hope to pick the next President, but they may get their wish in a completely unforeseen way.

In today’s Investors Business Daily, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez gets perhaps the best shot at the New York Times’ editorial bias, which provides a perfect bookend to Stewart’s ridicule:

ramirez-nyt

The New York Times may continue to argue that their targeting of Rubio is part of their unbiased coverage, but that ship — and their credibility on 2016 reporting — has sailed.

Also, be sure to check out Ramirez’ terrific collection of his works: Everyone Has the Right to My Opinion, which covers the entire breadth of Ramirez’ career, and it gives fascinating look at political history.  Read my review here, and watch my interviews with Ramirez here and here.  And don’t forget to check out the entire Investors.com site, which has now incorporated all of the former IBD Editorials, while individual investors still exist.