ABC and NBC Play Up Liberal Endorsement as Boost for Mitt Romney

On Sunday, both morning and evening newscasts on ABC and NBC touted the Des Moines Register's endorsement of Mitt Romney as a boost for his campaign for President, in spite of the paper's left-wing tilt in a state where the Republican Party is predominantly conservative. While they did at least note the paper's liberal slant, both networks still played up the liberal endorsement.

On ABC's Good Morning America, which also included former Republican Senator Bob Dole's endorsement of Romney along with the Des Moines Register nod, co-anchor Dan Harris declared a "big boost" for Romney as he teased the show:
 

Good morning, America. This morning, the big endorsement. With little more than two weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Mitt Romney gets a big boost overnight. with Newt Gingrich's momentum slowing, is this race about to be shaken up yet again?
 

As Harris introduced correspondent David Kerley's piece, he referred to the "key endorsement." Kerley began by playing up the newspaper endorsement, and, although he did soon note the "Democratic" lean of the paper, he did not acknowledge that it is dubious how much benefit Romney could get from such a stamp of approval. Kerley:
 

Good morning, David. In fact, two big endorsements for Mitt Romney. Bob Dole says Romney is his pick. And the biggest newspaper in Iowa, the Des Moines Register, endorsed Romney when he wasn't even in the state. In fact, with this final sprint under way, two of the leading candidates are not in Iowa. Social conservatives in Iowa believe Mitt Romney has ignored their state, but that didn't stop the Democratic-leaning Des Moines Register from endorsing Romney, citing his, quote, "sobriety, wisdom, and judgment."
 

When Kerley appeared again on the same day's World News, in contrast to his morning appearance, he included a soundbite of Newt Gingrich early on exposing the liberal lean of the Des Moines Register and dismissing the endorsement:
 

DAVID KERLEY: Mitt Romney has logged less time in Iowa than most candidates, but he nabbed the endorsement of the largest paper, which noted what it called his "sobrity, wisdom, and judgment." But it was a scathing review of Newt Gingrich by the Des Moines Register, "an undisciplined partisan who would "alienate not unite."

NEWT GINGRICH: I'm actually delighted because the Manchester Union Leader, which is a reliably conservative newspaper, endorsed me. The Des Moines Register, which is a solidly liberal newspaper, did not endorse me. I think that indicates who the conservative in this race is.
 

On NBC's Today show, co-anchor Jenna Wolfe did at least show skepticism about the endorsement as she teased the show, although correspondent Mike Viqueira only touted the "major endorsement" positively. It was not until David Gregory appeared a bit later that he alluded to the liberal lean of the paper, although he still saw the endorsement as a plus for Romney. Gregory:
 

I think nationally it's big in terms of the overall narrative of how's he doing. I think within Iowa it may not have as much effect as it would for a Democratic primary. But it does help Romney begin to make the case here that Iowans should take a hard look at Newt Gingrich...

 

On the same day's NBC Nightly News, as he introduced a report by correspondent Viqueira, anchor Lester Holt touted the liberal nod as a "major endorsement" and a "shot in the arm" for Romney. Holt:
 

To presidential politics now, and a major endorsement today for Mitt Romney from Iowa's largest newspaper. It's a shot in the arm for the Romney campaign, hoping to stem the recent surge of Newt Gingrich.
 

It was not until the end of his report that Viqueira finally noted the liberal slant of the Des Moines Register. Viqueira:
 

And, Lester, you might be surprised to learn that Newt Gingrich pronounced himself delighted that the Des Moines Register endorsed his rival, Mitt Romney. He calls it a solidly liberal paper and points out New Hampshire's Manchester Union Leader, known to be much more conservative editorially, has endorsed him.

 

Below are transcripts of relevant portions of ABC's Good Morning America, ABC's World News, NBC's Today show, and the NBC Nightly News, from Sunday, December 18:

#From the December 18 Good Morning America on ABC:

DAN HARRIS: Good morning, America. This morning, the big endorsement. With little more than two weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Mitt Romney gets a big boost overnight. with Newt Gingrich's momentum slowing, is this race about to be shaken up yet again?

...

HARRIS: Let's start with politics. It's "Your Voice, Your Vote." We're about two weeks away now from the Iowa caucuses, the first step on what could be a very, very long road to the Republican nomination. And this morning, one of the Republican candidates picking up a key endorsement. ABC's David Kerley following all the action story overnight. David, good morning to you.

DAVID KERLEY: Good morning, David. In fact, two big endorsements for Mitt Romney. Bob Dole says Romney is his pick. And the biggest newspaper in Iowa, the Des Moines Register, endorsed Romney when he wasn't even in the state. In fact, with this final sprint under way, two of the leading candidates are not in Iowa. Social conservatives in Iowa believe Mitt Romney has ignored their state, but that didn't stop the Democratic-leaning Des Moines Register from endorsing Romney, citing his, quote, "sobriety, wisdom, and judgment." Half a country away, Romney tweeted, quote, "Looking forward to being back in Iowa soon."

...

Gingrich continues to stir up some controversy. On that conference call yesterday, he said he would abolish some courts that are out of step with the country if he is Pesident.

#From the December 18 World News on ABC:

DAVID MUIR: The war is getting a lot of attention tonight on the campaign trail. With just two weeks till the Iowa caucuses, Mitt Romney criticized Obama for bringing the troops home now. It comes as Romney looks to regain his frontrunner status, and today, he got some help in Iowa. Here's ABC's David Kerley.

DAVID KERLEY: Mitt Romney has logged less time in Iowa than most candidates, but he nabbed the endorsement of the largest paper, which noted what it called his "sobrity, wisdom, and judgment." But it was a scathing review of Newt Gingrich by the Des Moines Register, "an undisciplined partisan who would "alienate not unite."

NEWT GINGRICH: I'm actually delighted because the Manchester Union Leader, which is a reliably conservative newspaper, endorsed me. The Des Moines Register, which is a solidly liberal newspaper, did not endorse me. I think that indicates who the conservative in this race is.

KERLEY: The former House Speaker still leads Iowa polls, but his opponents say he's slipping. Romney, buoyed by the endorsements, including South Carolina's governor, broke a two-year avoidance of the Sunday morning talk shows and showed a softer side when asked about his wife learning she has Multiple Sclerosis.

MITT ROMNEY CLIP #1: Probably the toughest time in my life was standing there with Ann as we hugged each other and the diagnosis came.

ROMNEY CLIP #2: And I said to her, "As long as it's not something fatal, I'm just fine. Look, I'm happy in life as long as I've got my soulmate with me."

KERLEY: Gingrich may be feeling the heat. He had intended to take this weekend off, and, at the last minute, he agreed to that national TV appearance today. David, the holiday dash in Iowa is under way tonight.

#From the December 18 Today show on NBC:

JENNA WOLFE, IN OPENING TEASER: Advantage Romney? With just two weeks to go in the Iowa caucuses, Mitt Romney scores two key endorsements, but how much weight will they carry?

...

WOLFE: Turning to politics now at home, the President is enjoying a small victory after the Senate on Saturday extended the payroll tax for two months, this as one Republican presidential candidate picks up what some call a key endorsement. NBC's Mike Viqueira joins us live from the White House with the latest. Mike, good morning.

MIKE VIQUEIRA: Good morning to you, Jenna. It's already been a big weekend in politics, both here in Washington and out on the campaign trail. There was a rare Saturday session of the Senate. The President appeared in the briefing room afterward, after fighting to a temporary standstill with Republicans on extending that payroll tax cut. And, meanwhile, out on the campaign trail, the man the Obama campaign still thinks it's most likely to face in elections next fall picked up some key endorsements.

...

With the Iowa caucus in a little more than two weeks, last night a major endorsement. The Des Moines Register, Iowa's largest paper, endorsed Mitt Romney, delivering a major boost.

...

LESTER HOLT: Mitt Romney, by design, did not put a lot of effort in Iowa. Now he's picked up this endorsement from the Des Moines Register. How big a deal is that for him?

DAVID GREGORY: Well, I think nationally it's big in terms of the overall narrative of how's he doing. I think within Iowa it may not have as much effect as it would for a Democratic primary. But it does help Romney begin to make the case here that Iowans should take a hard look at Newt Gingrich, who is still on top of the polls. I think if you're Romney, you may not be able to win Iowa, but what you hope to do is reduce the scale and the size of a Gingrich win in Iowa. And others can help him do that. If Ron Paul does well, if Bachmann gets a decent percentage of the vote, then that Gingrich win in Iowa, should that happen, could be seen as a smaller victory.

#From the December 18 NBC Nightly News:

LESTER HOLT: To presidential politics now, and a major endorsement today for Mitt Romney from Iowa's largest newspaper. It's a shot in the arm for the Romney campaign, hoping to stem the recent surge of Newt Gingrich. NBC's Mike Viqueira now with the latest.

MIKE VIQUEIRA: Entering the home stretch in Iowa, candidates in the back of the pack are racing to catch up. Both Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann are blanketing the state on bus tours, stopping to greet voters, and delivering attacks on frontrunner Newt Gingrich.

MICHELE BACHMANN: He's trying to sound like a conservative, but he's actually sounding more like a 30-year establishment Washington beat insider that he is.

VIQUEIRA: Today, Mitt Romney questioned Gingrich's ability to lead.

MITT ROMNEY: He has been unreliable in those settings and zany. I wouldn't think you'd call mirrors in space to light highways at night particularly practical or a lunar colony a practical idea, not at a stage like this.

VIQUEIRA: This as Gingrich invited more controversy, speaking out in favor of abolishing some courts, allowing presidents to ignore judicial rulings and empowering Congress to subpoena judges.

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: Would you send the Capitol Police now to arrest him?

NEWT GINGRICH: If you had to. Or you'd instruct the Justice Department to send U.S. marshals.

VIQUEIRA: In the past two days, Romney has scored a string of endorsements, including the Des Moines Register, though the paper's record of picking winners is mixed. John McCain was their choice in 2008 over the eventual caucus winner, conservative Mike Huckabee. The backing comes as a welcome boost for the Romney campaign.

RICK GREEN, DES MOINES REGISTER: Through all that we have seen and heard from Governor Romney, he was very measured, very focused on what we think is the most pressing issue in front of all of us, and that's the economy.

VIQUEIRA: And, Lester, you might be surprised to learn that Newt Gingrich pronounced himself delighted that the Des Moines Register endorsed his rival, Mitt Romney. He calls it a solidly liberal paper and points out New Hampshire's Manchester Union Leader, known to be much more conservative editorially, has endorsed him. Lester?

HOLT: Mike Viqueira at the White House. Mike, thanks.