Couric Fears Clinton-Obama Battle Will Hurt in Fall, Schieffer Concurs

A broadcast network anchor again worried Wednesday night about how much the ongoing Democratic primary battle “is hurting” the candidates and their chance to beat Republican John McCain in the fall. After CBS's Bob Schieffer pointed out how a new ABC News/Washington Post poll found the percent who consider Hillary Clinton to be “honest and trustworthy” has fallen from 52 to 39 percent over the past year, Couric fretted: “How much do you think this infighting is hurting both candidates?” Schieffer confirmed the fighting is “taking a toll on the Democrats” as he marveled at how McCain is even with the two Democrats despite Bush's very low approval rating:
Oh, I think there's no question about that. Look, Katie, 82 percent of the American people in recent polls have said they believe the country's headed in the wrong direction. George Bush now has his lowest approval rating yet. It's only 28 percent. And yet when you match either of these Democrats against John McCain, you show that they're running about even. There's no question that this is taking a toll on the Democrats. Both of them.
Three weeks ago, Harry Smith, filling in for Couric, and ABC anchor Charles Gibson (twice) worried about the impact of the continuing campaign on the likelihood of a Democratic taking back the White House.

My Thursday, March 27 NewsBusters posting, "Smith & Gibson Fret to Obama Protracted Race Will Hurt Party," recounted:
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 NewsBusters item the day before, "ABC Conveys Worries Obama-Clinton Battle Will Hurt Party in Fall," reported:
The broadcast networks rarely highlight poll numbers other than their own, but on Wednesday night [March 26] 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."

Reporter Jake Tapper outlined the evidence: "The notion that the current tough tone could hurt the party against Republican Senator John McCain is a real concern among top Democrats. A new poll indicates that 28 percent of Clinton supporters say they would vote for McCain over Obama should she not get the nomination. 19 percent of Obama supporters say they'd go for McCain over Clinton."

Couric's exchange with Schieffer on the Wednesday, April 16 CBS Evening News:
KATIE COURIC: Six days before the Pennsylvania primary, a new poll [Los Angeles Times] of likely voters finds Clinton has just a five-point lead over Obama [46 to 41 percent]. But there are plenty of undecideds. In fact, 12 percent of voters have not yet made up their minds.

Bob Schieffer is our chief Washington correspondent and anchor of Face the Nation. Bob, do you expect Hillary Clinton to continue to pound on Barack Obama about the so-called bitter remark he made, or do you think she might pull her punches for fear of overplaying the whole thing?

BOB SCHIEFFER: You know, Katie, I think the answer to that question will give us some idea where she intends to go for the rest of this campaign. There's no question that this criticism that she has leveled at him has sort of halted the momentum that he was building in Pennsylvania. But she's paying a price for this and these other controversies that have come up, Katie. The Washington Post has a poll out now that shows that she is now considered honest and trustworthy by only 39 percent of the people they polled. A year ago she was polling around 52 percent. She's getting conflicting advice from within her campaign on how to handle this from here on in. What she answers -- and she'll surely asked that question tonight -- will tell us a lot about where her campaign is heading and what strategy they're going to follow.

COURIC: And Bob, how much do you think this infighting is hurting both candidates?

SCHIEFFER: Oh, I think there's no question about that. Look, Katie, 82 percent of the American people in recent polls have said they believe the country's headed in the wrong direction. George Bush now has his lowest approval rating yet. It's only 28 percent. And yet when you match either of these Democrats against John McCain, you show that they're running about even. There's no question that this is taking a toll on the Democrats. Both of them.

COURIC: Bob Schieffer, Bob, thanks a lot. And I like your tie, by the way.

SCHIEFFER: Well thank you.

COURIC: You're welcome.
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