Howard Fineman Touts 'Newsweek' 15 Point Poll Lead for Obama on 'Today'

NBC's "Today" brought on "Newsweek's" Howard Fineman, on Monday's program, to promote a new poll, from his magazine that shows Barack Obama has jumped to a 15 point lead, and even though no other poll shows that big of a gap Fineman boldly bragged: "But we have a tendency, sometimes, to pick up on a trend before others do and...you're probably going to see some movement and I think our poll is the first sign of it."

Fineman also seemed to forget about the Jeremiah Wright fiasco, when he declared of Obama's ability to handle the race issue in his campaign: "He's really played it quite brilliantly all the way through."

The following is the full interview segment with Howard Fineman as it occurred on the June 23, "Today" show:

ANN CURRY: Howard Fineman is "Newsweek" magazine senior political correspondent. He's also an NBC News analyst. Howard, good morning.

HOWARD FINEMAN: Good morning, Ann.

CURRY: Lots to get to. First, oil. McCain supports, as we just heard, offshore oil drilling and also the summer gas holiday. Obama wants to see tighter regulation on oil speculators. So which candidate is more in touch with the voters on energy, Howard?

FINEMAN: Well according to our poll it's Obama but the McCain forces think they've got a winner here and they're gonna pursue it? In that speech that McCain is going to give out today, in Fresno, he's essentially going to say, "We can't beg or sue our way out of our, our situation with energy," which is a direct shot at Obama's emphasis on going after speculators. McCain talks about it in terms of energy security. He wants to link that to the sort of commander-in-chief role. That's the strategy that McCain people are pursuing. Whether it works or not we'll see but that's what they're doing.

CURRY: But could his strategy about offshore drilling hurt him with independents? I mean is there a possibility that he faces a possible backlash, giving the Democrats an opportunity to tie him even more to George Bush?

FINEMAN: That's the risk, because any time McCain lines up with George Bush on policy it's bad politically because Bush is so unpopular. Interestingly though McCain is taking the risk of talking about this strategy out in California where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Republican, is steadfast in opposition to offshore drilling for oil. So this is the McCain strategy. They're willing to take the risk. I think they realize they're not gonna do as well among younger voters, who are more environmentally conscious. But you gotta pick who you want to focus on and that's who McCain's focusing on, older voters who are looking for a quicker, more active fix to the energy situation.

CURRY: Meantime your, you just mentioned your, your magazine's poll. "Newsweek" magazine is out with a poll this week that shows Obama ahead by 15 points. Most polls have Obama ahead by about five points. So is your poll off or is there something that's happening that we don't know about?

FINEMAN: Well I think, I think we're picking up some momentum there. I think all polls have slightly different strategies for how they screen for the people that they talk to and so forth. But we have a tendency, sometimes, to pick up on a trend before others do and I would say, given the mood of the country, and given the generic support for Democrats, as Barack Obama puts that new advertising campaign out there, heavy buys in key states, you're probably going to see some movement and I think our poll is the first sign of it.

CURRY: Meantime there is another poll by the "Washington Post" and "ABC News," concerning race. It's headline is that 3 in 10 Americans admit to a race bias. Obama addressed race at a fundraiser in Florida using a little humor. Let's take a listen.

[BEGIN CLIP]

OBAMA: They're going to try to make you afraid. They're going to try to make you afraid of me. They're gonna say, "You know what, he's young, inexperienced and he's got a funny name. Did I mention he's black? He's got a feisty wife."

[END CLIP]

CURRY: Howard, he's taking it head on. It might be a new strategy. What do you think?

FINEMAN: Well anything you can laugh at or with, you're not afraid of. That's the essence of the strategy. Throughout this campaign, from the very beginning, Obama's strategy has been to take this head on, to try to expose it, try to shine a flashlight, shine a light on it and to use humor and acceptance as a way to get beyond what, what has been a tremendous divide in American society. Yes there's racial prejudice out there but Obama's bet, from the beginning, has been that the country, as a whole, wants to show that it has made progress and one way to do it, one way to vote for change is to accept an African-American candidate. He's really played it quite brilliantly all the way through. And I would imagine he's gonna be able to do the same thing now. That's not enough to get him elected but it's enough to neutralize race, as an issue, in the end.

CURRY: Howard Fineman, always a pleasure. Thanks.

FINEMAN: Thank you, Ann.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.