ABC Claims McCain 'Surging' -- But Zogby Shows Him Losing Ground to Romney

On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd disclosed that the media was poised to take a third-place McCain finish there and use it to catapult him to victory in New Hampshire. McCain actually finished fourth in Iowa, but on Good Morning America today we saw a perfect example of the phenomenon Todd predicted.

ABC declared that McCain is "surging," "rising in the polls," may have "the most momentum," used "The Mac Is Back" as its screen graphic, and portrayed Mitt Romney in a highly unflattering light. There was only one small problem with ABC's depiction of a McCain surge: the latest poll numbers from the organization that nailed the Iowa results . . . reveal that McCain slipped in the polls overnight and lost ground to Mitt Romney.

View video here.

Ron Claiborne reported from the snowy lawn of St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH, where ABC will host back-to-back Dem and GOP debates tonight.

RON CLAIBORNE: And John McCain? He is surging with just three days to go before the New Hampshire primary. John McCain finished fourth in Iowa but he may be the candidate with the most momentum in New Hampshire. He's been rising in the polls, and drawing large crowds.

Cut to footage of McCain.

REPORTER OFF-CAMERA: Are you the Comeback Kid?

JOHN MCCAIN: I hate that phrase because it was used by somebody else, some time ago. How about "the Mac is back"?

ABC was happy to oblige, adopting it, as you'll see, as a screen graphic.

CLAIBORNE: Romney comes into New Hampshire reeling from a second-place finish in Iowa.

Cut to footage of Romney telling a voter: "I'm looking for the win here. I need your help here."

CLAIBORNE: Romney has been hammering McCain with a steady stream of negative ads.

After playing a brief clip from a Romney ad, McCain was shown responding.

MCCAIN: Governor Romney ran negative ads, campaign against Governor Huckabee, it didn't work. I don't think it works here in New Hampshire either, and I advise him to say some things that are positive.

Alright, sounds grim for Romney, great for McCain. But how about that poll?
According to Zogby, which nailed the Iowa results, Romney remained steady at 30% in polling done yesterday. And McCain? He slipped from 34% to 32%. See Zogby poll results from January 4 here. So McCain has apparently lost ground to Romney overnight.

Some surge. "Mc-mentum" might show up in the next couple days. Maybe he does pull off a big win on Tuesday. But was ABC reporting facts on the ground -- or expressing its own innermost hopes? In any case, note how the report was entirely horse-race oriented. How does this serve the voter? What if the segment had instead been devoted to a serious examination of the candidates' positions on the issues? Guess ABC figured that wouldn't have been any fun.

Update | 1-05 10:22 AM

Compare and contrast ABC McCain "surge" with MSNBC story:

Poll: Clinton, McCain leads shrink in N.H.

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.