CBS Plays Up Politico's Reporting on Apparent 'Turmoil' in Romney Campaign

Like their colleagues on NBC's Today show, Monday's CBS This Morning forwarded a recent Politico report about supposed "turmoil inside the Romney campaign," which was stuffed with unnamed sources. Norah O'Donnell spotlighted "this finger-pointing that's going on...and whether or not they mismanaged the messaging in terms of Romney's big convention speech." John Dickerson hyped that "what's extraordinary about this, is that it's all happening in public."

O'Donnell also touted "four different national polls that show that Obama now has the lead on the issue of taxes over Romney. I mean, that has traditionally been where most people trust Republicans more than Democrats."

The CBS anchor zeroed in on the Politico story, along with a story in the New York Times that indicates "Romney is going to try and sharpen his message this week." She asked Dickerson, "Does this suggest that the Romney campaign is trying to shake things up?" The former Slate correspondent replied in part that "we've heard this complaint before....What's interesting here, is that there appears to be a real pivot to answer these complaints." Near the end of the segment, O'Donnell raised the specter of the Romney campaign's supposed mismanagement of the nominee's convention speech and threw in the polling on the tax issue.

Earlier, Dickerson did outline how the continuing protests in the Middle East might become a problem for President Obama: "If this is a protracted problem, with images on the television screens all day long, then it's a problem for him...it could connect to a larger feeling that the Romney folks have been trying to brew up for a while now, which is that, just, there's a sense of disappointment with the promise of Obama. And remember when President Obama came into office, he said that his new approach to the Middle East would change things. Well, these images don't look like change."

The full transcript of the John Dickerson segment from Monday's CBS This Morning:

Norah O'Donnell, CBS News Anchor; & John Dickerson, CBS News Political Director; Screen Cap From 17 September 2012 Edition of CBS This Morning | NewsBusters.orgNORAH O'DONNELL: Let's bring in now CBS News political director John Dickerson, who's following the political fallout from the Middle East protests. Good morning, John.

JOHN DICKERSON: Good morning, Norah.

[CBS News Graphic: "Race For The White House: Obama-Romney Camps Clash Over Foreign Policy"]

O'DONNELL: We see now foreign policy on the front page, which has shifted this debate a little bit. How much does that affect these two campaigns?

DICKERSON: Well, it depends how long it goes on. For the President, if this is a protracted problem, with images on the television screens all day long, then it's a problem for him - one, in that he can, sort of, stumble into unforced errors; two, that it could connect to a larger feeling that the Romney folks have been trying to brew up for a while now, which is that, just, there's a sense of disappointment with the promise of Obama. And remember when President Obama came into office, he said that his new approach to the Middle East would change things. Well, these images don't look like change.

O'DONNELL: John, let's turn now to the state of the campaign. Two interesting pieces in the paper this morning; first, in Politico about some turmoil inside the Romney campaign; and then, in the New York Times, suggesting that Romney is going to try and sharpen his message this week. Does this suggest that the Romney campaign is trying to shake things up?

[CBS News Graphic: "Race For The White House: Report: Turmoil Inside Romney Campaign"]

DICKERSON: It does suggest that. For the last few weeks, they been – or, I should say, the last week or so, they've been answering complaints from conservative critics, who said that Romney really hasn't presented a kind of vision for people to rally around. Now, we've heard this complaint before. It happens almost at the beginning of every month, and has all the way back to June. It's what happens to campaigns. What's interesting here, is that there appears to be a real pivot to answer these complaints. The key question, though, is, are they really going to answer the complaints, or just be seen to answer them (O'Donnell laughs), which kind of quiets down the elites-

O'DONNELL: Yeah-

DICKERSON: Remember, when Paul Ryan was picked, it was supposed to initiate a huge era of specificity that we never got.

CHARLIE ROSE: Well, can they do it, and how will they do it - is try to lay out this resetting of the campaign?


DICKERSON: Well, the way you could do it, if there was an earnest effort behind it, is to put out an ad –  they have today - called the Romney plan, which, sort of, reiterates his five-point plan; but then, would be to give a series of policy speeches that would be different from the kind we've seen before from Romney. Policy speeches before have been just an opportunity to attack the President on a specific policy. What an actual policy speech might look like, is an actual program laying out where Romney would take the country with details people that could, kind of, hang on to. That's what a lot of conservatives say has been missing in this campaign.

ROSE: What can you say about voter attitudes since the convention? How are they shifting? I saw a thing the other day that said voters are now beginning to say they trust President Obama more on the economy than Governor Romney.

DICKERSON: Yeah. The polls have shown that - both the national polls and the state polls - but we should be sensitive to the fact that these polls have shifted, and then, gone, kind of, back to that, sort of, situation we've had since May, which is, basically, both candidates stuck in the middle. But there has been a little bit of a shift here, that when you compare the two candidates, President Obama has improved, and specifically, on that key question of the economy. Whether that lasts is, really, the key question. So, we'll see where we are next week.

[CBS News Graphic: "CBS News/The New York Times Poll: Better Job Of Handling Economy & Jobs; Among Likely Voters: Obama, 47%; Romney, 46%; Margin of Error: +/- 3% Pts."]

O'DONNELL: Well, John, I was struck by a Wall Street Journal piece today that lays out all the different polls - four different national polls that show that Obama now has the lead on the issue of taxes over Romney. I mean, that has traditionally been where most people trust Republicans more than Democrats - when it comes to the issue of taxes. And then, this Politico piece  – I mean, what do you make of that there's now this finger-pointing that's going on about what happened at the Republican convention, which was so key to Romney, and whether or not they mismanaged the messaging in terms of Romney's big convention speech?

DICKERSON: Most people will see that article as totally inside baseball, but here's what's important about it. In other campaigns that have had trouble - the McCain campaign, Hillary Clinton's campaign - we heard about the infighting after the campaign was over. You get – it bubbles up a little bit, and I'd heard some of these reports. But what's extraordinary about this, is that it's all happening in public. They're going to have to tamp that down.

ROSE: John Dickerson, thank you very much.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center