Russert Concedes Fewer Deaths in Iraq Means Less Coverage

Asked by NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt on Sunday evening about how a new MSNBC/Mason-Dixon poll found that Iraq is not “the dominating issue” as “the economy is immensely important to voters,” Tim Russert suggested Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani will have “to re-calibrate” for “a bread and butter election” since “with the surge in Iraq and the level of American deaths declining, it is off the front pages.” Iraq is also now of less interest to the television networks. A MRC study released last week documented how Iraq stories on the three broadcast network evening newscasts fell from 178 in September to 68 during November, “with only eleven (16%) actually from the war zone itself.”

Holt did not report any issue-oriented poll results, just how the MSNBC/Mason-Dixon poll, also conducted for McClatchy Newspapers, has Barack Obama tied with Clinton in Iowa, New Hampshire and in South Carolina, and on the GOP side, Mike Huckabee way ahead in Iowa and South Carolina. MSNBC's First Read and a McClatchy news story also stick to the horse race, but the posting of the McClatchy article includes links to PDFs with results for what most concerns caucus and primary voters.

The exchange on the Sunday, December 9 NBC Nightly News:
LESTER HOLT: When we look back a long time ago, I think there was the assumption that Iraq would be the dominating issue going into this campaign. Now these numbers tell us the economy is immensely important to voters. So what does that mean for candidates like Rudy Giuliani, like Hillary Clinton, who've really been pushing national security, tough on terrorism type credentials?
TIM RUSSERT: I think they're going to have to re-calibrate their campaigns. They have to focus on the economy, focus on health care, and they're capable of doing that. It is interesting, with the surge in Iraq and the level of American deaths declining, it is off the front pages. It looks like it could be a bread and butter election where people are very concerned about their homes, the financing, the economy, those kinds of gut issues, Lester.
The December 4 study by the MRC's Rich Noyes, "Good News = Less News on Iraq War; MRC Study: As Surge Succeeds and Casualty Rates Fall, ABC, CBS and NBC Lose Interest In Iraq War."
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center