NBC Nightly News Trumpets Slight Hike in View Palin 'Unqualified'

After seven weeks of the news media deriding Sarah Palin, Brian Williams and Andrea Mitchell on Tuesday night seemed to delight in emphasizing how, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll which led the NBC Nightly News, Palin is hurting McCain as Obama surges ahead. And Williams touted Colin Powell's Sunday endorsement of Barack Obama as “the shot heard 'round the world.” After reciting how the survey of registered voters put Obama up by ten points, 52 to 42 percent, Williams asserted: “Perhaps more dangerous for the GOP ticket, most of those polled do not believe Sarah Palin is qualified to be President, by a margin of 55 percent to 40 percent.”

However, take a look at the PDF of the full poll, which did not pose the same question about Obama, and you learn that despite the media's pounding the public perception of her qualifications has been remarkably consistent across three NBC/WSJ surveys (see question 29d) with more considering her unqualified than qualified not anything new: 40 percent called her “qualified” in the September 19-22 poll, 41 percent replied qualified in the poll conducted October 4-5 and she returned to 40 percent in this new survey. Meanwhile, “not qualified” grew only slightly, from 49 to 50 to the current 55 percent which Williams treated as big news.

Reporter Andrea Mitchell highlighted how “for the first time her negatives now outweigh her positives by nine points, turning Palin into a bigger drag on McCain than George Bush.” Mitchell contended “the doubts about Palin make it harder Republicans to exploit Obama's biggest weakness in the poll” which is that “23 percent say he's too inexperienced,” yet:
McCain's attacks have occasionally been undercut by Palin. As in this interview with KUSA, answering a third grader's question about the role of the Vice President and getting it wrong.
Palin's answer to the young school kid, about how the Vice President is “in charge of the United States Senate. So if they want to, they can really get in there with the Senators and make a lot of good policy changes that will make life better for Brandon and his family,” was denigrated repeatedly by Mitchell's MSNBC colleagues Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann, but how “wrong” she was is a matter of interpretation. What does “in charge” mean? Did she mean taking Harry Reid's Majority Leader job, or just presiding over sessions whenever she wants? And why can't a Vice President work with Senators to craft legislation?

For her part, Mitchell declared: “That is not what the Constitution says. It specifically says the Vice President simply presides over the Senate and has a tie-breaking vote.”

The lead story on the Tuesday, October 21 Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Good evening. We are releasing them tonight here for the first time. And our new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll numbers now show a widening gap for Barack Obama in this snapshot of the U.S. electorate if the election were held today. Our poll shows Obama has opened up a 10-point lead now over Senator John McCain, 52-42. Notably this shows Obama at over 50 percent for the first time in our polling.

Perhaps more dangerous for the GOP ticket, most of those polled do not believe Sarah Palin is qualified to be President, by a margin of 55 percent to 40 percent. We will have more of the new numbers from our poll in just a moment. But it is a notable snapshot. With 14 days to go now, two weeks until we elect a new President, it's where we begin tonight. The poll numbers, the Palin factor and politics today. Here with that, NBC's Andrea Mitchell.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Sarah Palin in Nevada today attacking Barack Obama.

SARAH PALIN: I do want a President who is ready to lead on day one.

MITCHELL: Palin started as the sparkplug to reignite John McCain's campaign. Seven weeks later her initial popularity has faded. For the first time her negatives now outweigh her positives by nine points [47 to 38], turning Palin into a bigger drag on McCain than George Bush. Fully one-third of those questioned say Palin raises concerns about McCain's candidacy, compared to 23 percent who worry McCain would continue George Bush's policies. An attack line for Barack Obama today:

BARACK OBAMA: After eight years of Bush-McCain economics, the pie is shrinking.

MITCHELL: The doubts about Palin make it harder Republicans to exploit Obama's biggest weakness in the poll: 23 percent say he's too inexperienced. McCain hammered him on that over and over again today.

JOHN McCAIN: We don't want a President who invites testing from the world at a time when our economy is in crisis and Americans are already fighting in two wars.

MITCHELL: But McCain's attacks have occasionally been undercut by Palin. As in this interview with KUSA, answering a third grader's question about the role of the Vice President and getting it wrong.

PALIN IN INTERVIEW WITH DENVER TV STATION: They're in charge of the United States Senate. So if they want to, they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes that will make life better for Brandon and his family and his classroom. And it's a great job and I look forward to having that job.

MITCHELL: That is not what the Constitution says. It specifically says the Vice President simply presides over the Senate and has a tie-breaking vote....

....

BRIAN WILLIAMS: I mentioned we have more new poll numbers tonight and our NBC News political director Chuck Todd is here with those. And Chuck, as one columnist called it, “the political shot heard 'round the world” this weekend was Colin Powell endorsing Barack Obama. It came halfway through our poll in the field, but we were still able to ask a sizable sample about it. And I know you have those results.

CHUCK TODD: Four in five voters said it wasn't going to make any difference [77 percent]. But of those who said it would make a difference, most of them said it made them more inclined to support Obama. 19 percent overall said it would make them more inclined, four percent said it was less inclined. On endorsements most people usually say it makes no difference, but it does solidify the soft voters....
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