CBS Wonders If Romney Video is a 'Turning Point', Despite Acknowledging 'Race is Not Over'

More than an hour into the program, Wednesday's CBS This Morning finally acknowledged that "this race is not over for Mitt Romney," based on the network's own polling. Norah O'Donnell noted that "in our new polls...Republicans are more enthusiastic than Democrats about voting this year in general, and that enthusiasm has actually...grown since early August."

O'Donnell's reporting came almost an hour after Bob Schieffer's apocalyptic spin about the Republican presidential nominee's campaign. Before getting to the poll numbers, she pressed Frank Luntz on whether the hidden camera videos were "a turning point in the campaign," and claimed that "Romney was suggesting that those people are mooching off the system. He wasn't offering a helping hand in that statement, or, at least, that's how they might interpret it."

The anchor led the segment with her "turning point" question to the Republican strategist. Luntz answered, in part, that "it clearly puts him on his back feet, and he doesn't need this when he's behind in the polls. But they're not criticizing him for the overall philosophy. They're criticizing him for how he articulated it."

O'Donnell followed up with a refutation of the most publicized line from the Romney videos: "Those 47 percent of Americans, who don't pay federal income tax, are not victims or dependent on government. Many of them do pay payroll taxes. Many of them are seniors, who worked hard their entire life, and now, just live on Social Security, of which, you don't have to pay income taxes."

Screen Cap From 19 September 2012 Edition of CBS This Morning | NewsBusters.orgLater, the former NBC correspondent made her Romney "wasn't offering a helping hand in that statement" assertion. Luntz acknowledged that "it's how they might interpret it, and that's the whole issue," but then added, "I want to make this clear. This race isn't over. It's not a game changer. It just puts him behind a couple of days." O'Donnell seconded her guest's assessment and disclosed the poll numbers - three minutes and 35 seconds into the segment.

O'DONNELL: Can I just point out one thing, too, though? In our new polls that are out this morning, we've seen, though, that still, Republicans are more enthusiastic than Democrats about voting this year in general, and that enthusiasm has actually – enthusiasm has grown since early August. So, this race is not over for Mitt Romney.

Instead of reporting these figures during the earlier segment with Schieffer, the anchor helped the Face the Nation host paint a dark outlook for Romney: "Karl Rove, who is involved in a super PAC that helps fund campaign ads that support Mitt Romney's election – I mean, even he said Americans who don't pay income taxes are part of the GOP coalition. So there – it's not just pundits and columnists. You have strategists, like Karl Rove, who suggested this is a problem."

The full transcript of Frank Luntz segment from Wednesday's CBS This Morning:


NORAH O'DONNELL: With us now is former Republican strategist Frank Luntz, CBS News political analyst. Frank, good morning.

FRANK LUNTZ, CBS NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.

[CBS News Graphic: "Race For The White House: Romney Doesn't Back Down Over '47%' Remarks"]

O'DONNELL: So, now you see a number of Republicans – former Republicans criticizing Mitt Romney for his comments. It does – is this a turning point in the campaign?

LUNTZ: Well, it clearly puts him on his back feet, and he doesn't need this when he's behind in the polls. But they're not criticizing him for the overall philosophy. They're criticizing him for how he articulated it. First, we had the 99 to one percent; now, we've got the 47 to 53 percent. Americans do believe that there's too much dependency on government, and they want more personal responsibility. What they don't like, is that line in Romney's statement, where he says, I don't care about them. They want a President to care about everyone, regardless of whether you vote for them or not.

[CBS News Graphic: "The Gallup Poll: Presidential Race Among Registered Voters: Obama, 47%; Romney, 46%; Margin of Error: +/- 2% Pts."]

O'DONNELL: Right, but those 47 percent of Americans, who don't pay federal income tax, are not victims or dependent on government. Many of them do pay payroll taxes. Many of them are seniors, who worked hard their entire life, and now, just live on Social Security, of which, you don't have to pay income taxes-

ROSE: And some of them are Republicans-

LUNTZ: Yes, and that's actually-

O'DONNELL: A lot of them-

LUNTZ: Yeah, and that's the issue, which is, first, you're trying to decide, are you in the 53 or 47; then, you're trying to decide, do you pay or not? He wants to be talking about the economy. He wants to be talking about jobs - about the deficit and debt - and instead, he's talking about this issue. You know, we've got the newspapers today: 'Romney Exposed'; 'A Spit in the Face'. This is not the coverage that he wants 48 days before the election.

GAYLE KING: So, how does he get back on message, and what are you hearing from the people out there?

LUNTZ: Well, we were just in Wisconsin yesterday, and I was in Charlotte back on Saturday, and it broke my heart – and a moderator is never supposed to admit that they break down in a group. But a gentleman told me about how – not that he moved in with his parents, but his parents had had to move back with him. His sister had to move back with him. I gave him an extra $20 to stay longer for the focus group, and it broke him up, because he needed that $20. There is more despair and disappointment in this country than any time in the 20 years that I've been doing this. And that's what these candidates want to hear. They want to know that you're going to respond to it, that you're answer it-

ROSE: That's what the people want to hear-

Norah O'Donnell, CBS News Anchor | NewsBusters.orgO'DONNELL: But Romney was suggesting that those people are mooching off the system. He wasn't offering a helping hand in that statement, or, at least, that's how they might interpret it.

LUNTZ: It's how they might interpret it, and that's the whole issue. It's the interpretation versus what is meant. Look, no one trusts political ads anymore. They don't trust any of the statements coming from the politicians. That's why these debates are so important, and I want to make this clear. This race isn't over-

O'DONNELL: Right-

LUNTZ: It's not a game changer. It just puts him behind a couple of days.

O'DONNELL: Can I just point out one thing, too, though? In our new polls that are out this morning, we've seen, though, that still, Republicans are more enthusiastic than Democrats about voting this year in general, and that enthusiasm has actually – enthusiasm has grown since early August. So, this race is not over for Mitt Romney.

[CBS News Graphic: "Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times Poll: More Enthusiastic About Voting This Year Among Colorado Voters: Among Republicans, 53%; Among Democrats, 38%; Margin of Error: +/- 3% Pts."]

LUNTZ: Not only is it not over, if Romney can change the focus, with 23 million unemployed, he's got a tremendous opportunity. But he cannot – they cannot have campaign events like this, which put him off his game.

KING: All right. Frank Luntz, we thank you.

LUNTZ: Thank you.

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