Smith & Gibson Fret to Obama Protracted Race Will Hurt in November

In interviews with Barack Obama aired Thursday night, CBS anchor Harry Smith and ABC anchor Charles Gibson both shared their concern over how the protracted Democratic race could hurt the party in the fall -- with Smith urging Obama to demand, “with some severity,” that Hillary Clinton exit the race -- while Gibson hailed Obama's “extraordinary speech” on race before he wondered if Obama worries “race could become” the “central...issue.”

Smith told Obama: “If you're the presumptive candidate here, isn't it time that you say, with some severity, that we can't go on like this?” After Obama replied “well, no,” Smith rued: “At the cost of losing the general election?”

Gibson lamented: “No matter who emerges as the nominee for this, is the eventual nominee hurt by the extension of this contest?” Gibson next raised the same poll numbers he highlighted the night before, “But you had to be sobered by that Gallup poll yesterday: 28 percent of her supporters would vote for McCain if you get the nomination, 19 percent of yours would vote for him.”

My March 26 NewsBuster posting, “ABC Conveys Worries Obama-Clinton Battle Will Hurt Party in Fall,” recounted:

The broadcast networks rarely highlight poll numbers other than their own, but on Wednesday night ABC's World News pegged a story to a Gallup survey which confirmed the ongoing Democratic presidential battle will harm the party's chances in November. With “HURTING THE PARTY?” on screen beneath pictures of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, anchor Charles Gibson warned:
Many Democrats have been worried that the protracted fight, between Senators Clinton and Obama, might start alienating voters and hurt the party's chances against John McCain in the fall. Well, now there is evidence that may, indeed, be the case.
All of the questions to Obama, as aired in taped pieces on ABC's World News and the CBS Evening News, on Thursday, March 27:

From ABC's Charles Gibson:
Senator Obama was in New York today to deliver his speech on the economy and I had a chance to sit down with him for a bit, after he finished, talking about his protracted fight for the Democratic nomination and about his speech about race.

No matter who emerges as the nominee for this, is the eventual nominee hurt by the extension of this contest?

But you had to be sobered by that Gallup poll yesterday: 28 percent of her supporters would vote for McCain if you get the nomination, 19 percent of yours would vote for him.

You gave an extraordinary speech last week on race. You had a difficult road to navigate with that speech, in showing that you embrace Reverend Wright, that he is somebody who has been very close to you, and that you feel strongly about, and yet distance yourself from his remarks.
Can you understand why many, particularly white voters, are so repelled by the remarks that he has made?

I wonder if you worry that race could become a central, or pivotal, issue at a time when so many other things -- it's an important issue in this country and has been forever. But when so many other things are central. Like the economy, like terrorism, like the Middle East, like war and peace?
The ABCNews.com online report on the interview with video which includes portions of the session not aired on World News.

From CBS's Harry Smith:
On the presidential campaign trail, Barack Obama has long said he'd start withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq shortly after taking office. In a one-on-one interview here in New York today, I asked the Senator if that's really possible with Iraq so unstable.

Let's talk about money. Bear Stearns has been helped out a lot by the Federal Reserve. Should the federal government be in the business of bailing out companies that were involved in the sub-prime mess?

Was the federal government too late on this?

Several people have written that even in the best-case scenario, Hillary Clinton's chances of getting the nomination for the Democratic Party are about 5 percent. When is it time for her to leave?

If you're the presumptive candidate here, isn't it time that you say, with some severity, that we can't go on like this? [Obama: Well, no.] At the cost of losing the general election?
Online version of Smith's interview. CBSNews.com video of the segment as aired on the CBS Evening News.
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