Stephanopoulos Goes 3 for 3: Again Declares Democrat the 'Winner'

Deciding “Obama is two for two,” ABC's George Stephanopoulos, who last Friday called Joe Biden the winner over Sarah Palin, declared Barack Obama “definitely won” over John McCain in the second presidential debate, just as he had determined following the first one -- and that makes it three times out of three debates the Democratic operative turned ABC journalist has picked the liberal Democrat. In Tuesday's “Nightline Report Card,” Stephanopoulos trumpeted Obama's performance:
He definitely won tonight. I think, again, he showed over the course of this debate, over the course of the two debates, he is answering the number one question Americans have about him. Does he have the experience it takes to serve effectively as President? Over the course now of three hours of debates, he is answering that question minute by minute.
Issuing his grades, Stephanopoulos awarded Obama an A and two A-minuses while he presented McCain with one A-minus and two grades of B+. Stephanopoulos contended “where I really think Barack Obama won the debate tonight in strategy is on foreign policy. He took the debate to John McCain, took it to John McCain's judgment, jujitsued the line that John McCain used in the last debate about how Barack Obama doesn't understand foreign policy.”

He scolded McCain on accuracy:
Two attacks he makes on taxes which just every fact check organization has said is just wrong. When he says Barack Obama raised taxes 94 times, it's simply not true. He's jumbling together a whole bunch of different votes which include votes against tax cuts....And then second, he says that 50 percent of small businesses will get a tax increase under Barack Obama. Again, that's just not true. The best we could see is maybe 15 percent.
My September 27 NB item, “In 'Nightline Report Card' Stephanopoulos Gives Obama the Win,” recounted:
Awarding Barack Obama two grades of A-minus and one B-minus while presenting John McCain with two grades of B-plus and one B-minus, at the end of his "Nightline Report Card" segment on Friday night, ABC's George Stephanopoulos declared Obama the "winner" -- with a big illustrative check mark on screen: "Bottom line, the winner is Barack Obama. He comes into this race where the country wants change. His number one goal was to show that he belonged on that stage. He was a credible commander-in-chief, that he could hold his own on national security. He did that tonight. He gets the win."
October 3 posting, “Stephanopoulos Again Declares the Liberal the Debate Winner,” reported:
Six days after declaring Barack Obama the winner of the first presidential debate, following Thursday's VP debate George Stephanopoulos again decided the liberal Democrat in the debate, this time Joe Biden, was the winner -- but in assigning his “Nightline Report Card” grades he gave both Biden and Sarah Palin the same overall assessments: each got one A, one A-minus and one B. Asked by anchor Terry Moran to name “the winner,” Stephanopoulos argued:
Joe Biden, but boy, was this close. I think that Governor Palin did an awful lot to help herself tonight. There is no question that she beat expectations, that she was fluent, that she showed she could stand up there on the stage. She laid a couple of attacks there against Barack Obama, but going back to my first point on overall strategy, right now, this is a race where if John McCain cannot convince the country that he's going to take it in a different direction from President Bush, he simply cannot win...
The “Nightline Report Card” segment on the Tuesday, October 7 Nightline, as corrected against the closed-captioning by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:                
TERRY MORAN: Still on the campus of Belmont University here in Nashville. Which candidate scored better in this second of three debates? Our chief Washington correspondent, George Stephanopoulos, here with the “Nightline Report Card.” George, first, strategy. What's the grade?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: For Barack Obama, Barack Obama gets an “A” there. John McCain gets a “B plus.” And here's what happened in strategy. I thought John McCain started out very strong. He had that proposal to buy up all the bad mortgages. He clearly was going to press on the attack on Barack Obama, on taxes and several other issues, his ties to Fannie Mae. But here's what Obama did tonight. He answered the tax charge again. He said 95 percent of Americans are going to get a tax cut. One of his strongest domestic moments was on health care. Clear distinction between the candidates. He says it’s a right. John McCain says it’s a responsibility. But where I really think Barack Obama won the debate tonight in strategy is on foreign policy. He took-

MORAN: Foreign policy?

STEPHANOPOULOS: He took the debate to John McCain, took it to John McCain's judgment, jujitsued the line that John McCain used in the last debate about how Barack Obama doesn't understand foreign policy.

BARACK OBAMA: It's true, there's some things I don't understand. I don't understand how we ended up invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 while Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda are setting up base camps and safe havens to train terrorists to attack us.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And then he drove it home, Terry. They talked about Pakistan. Three times in the debate tonight, Barack Obama is the candidate up there saying I'm going to go after Osama bin Laden, no matter what the Pakistanis say.

MORAN: John McCain sort of letting that happen up there. So Barack Obama the edge on strategy. Style. The body language? What’s the grade?

STEPHANOPOULOS: On style, Obama “A minus,” McCain “A minus.”  I thought they both used the stage and used this format very well. They both roamed the stage very well. They were both very well aware of the camera angles at all times. You're exactly right. You pointed it out in your piece. I thought McCain had his absolute best moment when he walked up to that chief petty officer, put his arm on his shoulder, and said, “I thank you for your service.” But, and we should talk about this, you might downgrade McCain just a bit for a moment that came about halfway through the debate where he seemed to show again some disdain for Barack Obama.

MORAN: Where he essentially was talking about the energy bill that McCain voted against, Obama voted for. I'm not sure if we have this clip. Essentially what John McCain did in that moment was say, you'll be surprised to find out who voted against it. And he kind of pointed over to Obama and says, “That one.”

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, that didn't really strike me-

MORAN: Me, neither.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -in the moment, yet, the Obama people are pushing it pretty hard. They’re saying it showed disdain again. What surprises me even more, in the spin room tonight, the Republican National Committee is acting as if they’re going to use this as a slogan. They're going to keep saying “that one” about Barack Obama. I think that’s a huge mistake.

MORAN: I’m missing the point of that altogether.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m not sure I get it, either.

MORAN: I’m not even sure it’s that demeaning. All right, finally, we got the accuracy issue.

STEPHANOPOULOS: On this one, Obama gets an “A minus” and McCain gets a “B plus.” They were both within the range that you would expect for political talk. The reason, I think,  McCain does a little bit worse on this, two attacks he makes on taxes which just every fact check organization has said is just wrong. When he says Barack Obama raised taxes 94 times, it's simply not true. He's jumbling together a whole bunch of different votes which include votes against tax cuts.

MORAN: And he did mention that part of it tonight.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That part of it. And then second, he says that 50 percent of small businesses will get a tax increase under Barack Obama. Again, that's just not true. The best we could see is maybe 15 percent.

MORAN: All right, bottom line here, who won the second presidential debate?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Obama is two for two.

MORAN: He’s two for two because you had him winning the first one.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He definitely won tonight. I think, again, he showed over the course of this debate, over the course of the two debates, he is answering the number one question Americans have about him. Does he have the experience it takes to serve effectively as President? Over the course now of three hours of debates, he is answering that question minute by minute.

MORAN: Do you think that Obama has, as I pointed out in the piece, a kind of cooler demeanor up there, a little more distant, professorial even.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And here's how it's working for him. We've been in the midst of the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression over the last three weeks. One of the things you’ve seen because of that steady demeanor,  the number of Americans, according to our ABC polling, who see Barack Obama as the safe choice,  the safe choice in this election, are 55 percent Obama, 51 percent McCain. Obama is passing McCain on that score in part because of his steady, calm demeanor.

MORAN: Big surprise there in those numbers. George Stephanopoulos, with the “Nightline Report Card,” awarding debate number two to Barack Obama.
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