Always a Spinmeister: ABC’s Stephanopoulos Offers Democratic Spin Two Weeks In a Row

One week ago, former Clinton campaign spinner George Stephanopoulos found nothing to criticize when he reviewed Barack Obama’s speech and the overall Democratic convention for Good Morning America. But on Friday, the ABC host relayed the Obama campaign’s negative take on McCain and stressed how voters don’t think Sarah Palin has as much experience as Joe Biden, and that she doesn’t help her ticket as much as Biden helps the Democrats.

“Go beneath those numbers a little more,” Stephanopoulos instructed. “Joe Biden helps Barack Obama a little bit more than Sarah Palin helps John McCain.”

But ABC’s poll, conducted Thursday after a week of battering coverage of the GOP vice presidential candidate, showed Palin had only a slightly lower overall favorability than Democratic candidate Joe Biden, a difference nearly entirely accounted for by her low approval among Democratic voters. Republican voters are more enthusiastic about Palin (85% support) than Democrats are for Biden (77%).

If Biden had been subjected to a week’s worth of negative news, how low would his ratings be?

One week earlier, Stephanopoulos offered the Obama campaign’s spin that the Democratic candidate’s speech would “shield” him from being attacked on social issues, relayed none of the McCain campaign’s rebuttal points, and said the Democrats had “absolutely” accomplished all of their convention goals. “What he showed over the course of the speech is that he understands the problems that people are going through, that he gets it unlike John McCain,” Stephanopoulos argued. "I don't think this convention could have gone any better for the Democrats."

But on Friday, after quickly relaying how the McCain people say the Republican’s speech scored well with voters, Stephanopoulos stressed the Obama team’s criticisms of McCain and then relayed the poll that he argued meant Biden was a more helpful choice.

Aiming for the superficial, he and Diane Sawyer also criticized the green backdrop behind McCain during the early minutes of his speech, part of a larger image of a California school. Trying to remind viewers of the controversy over McCain’s many homes, Stephanopoulos said viewers must have wondered it if was an image of a “mansion.”
This goes under the category of what were they thinking? Probably the worst speech in the McCain campaign was the night Barack Obama accepted his nomination [back in early June]. It was against a green background, but when you pulled when you pulled out to the wide shot, you look at that and say is that a mansion? Is that some kind of big house? No, it's not. It's actually the Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood, California.
Here are both of the “Bottom Line” segments from ABC’s Good Morning America, starting with the entirely positive review Stephanopoulos gave to Obama’s convention on August 29:
ROBIN ROBERTS: And now for “The Bottom Line” joining us also from Denver, our chief Washington correspondent and host of "This Week," George Stephanopoulos. So did Obama do what he needed to do last night, George?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And then some, Robin. I think there's no question about that. Jake outlined a lot of what he did in his speech right there. What he showed over the course of the speech is that he understands the problems that people are going through, that he gets it unlike John McCain. He also was not afraid at all to take on John McCain to take on the Republicans and by doing that, by doing it in such a tough, aggressive manner I think he answered questions about whether he was ready to be commander in chief, at least that was the intention and then he did something towards the end of the speech where he also took the issues where Democrats traditionally get hammered by Republicans, issues like abortion, gay rights and guns and put down a shield, a shield and described those issues in a way that a majority or at least the center of the country would understand, would appreciate so I think he got an awful lot done.

ROBERTS: The bar was set high because of all the speeches we heard throughout the week at the convention, do you feel the Democrats accomplished what they set out to this week?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Absolutely. If you look at -- they came into the convention divided, divided between the Clinton forces and the Obama forces, a lot of bad blood. The combination of Senator Clinton's speech, her moving to nominate Barack Obama and then Bill Clinton's tour de force on Wednesday night brought the Clinton and Obama forces back together. And that's point number one. You saw the combination of Michelle Obama's speech, the video and Barack Obama's speech last night introduced the Obamas to the country, make their story part of the American story and then that laid nicely into the agenda he wants to send for the country, so I don't think this convention could have gone any better for the Democrats than it did now it's on to St. Paul for the Republicans.

One week later (September 5), Stephanopoulos again relayed the view from Obama’s HQ:
DIANE SAWYER: Time now to turn to ABC's chief Washington correspondent, host of "This Week," George Stephanopoulos-

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning.

SAWYER: -for "The Bottom Line." Good morning. So tell us about it this morning. How are Republicans feeling?

STEPHANOPOULOS: The McCain campaign felt great last night. They said that they were doing those dial groups during McCain's speech and that they were going off the charts. Now, that's what they say tonight. The Democrats were underwhelmed as you might expect. Watch what Barack Obama today. This is what he's going to zero in on. He's going to say "throughout the whole speech you didn't hear the word middle class at all." And they'll say for all of the talk of change, for all of that heroic biography that John McCain has, the policies, the policies that he laid out last night are exactly what we've been hearing from Republicans and George Bush for the last eight years.

SAWYER: We have a new poll, speaking of change, about the new vice presidential candidate. Tell us about it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Really interesting, the reaction to Sarah Palin. She's got a pretty good reaction from the public overall, 50 percent favor both 37 percent unfavorable but what it shows underneath that is that she's doing great with Republicans, conservatives, evangelical Christians, 80 percent support. Democrats, not so much. Only 25 percent support, split right down the middle with independents. She also still has a bit of a problem with the question of readiness.
We asked do they think she has the right experience to be vice president? Yes, 42 percent, no, 50 percent. And compare that to Joe Biden, 66 percent say Joe Biden has the right experience. Only 21 percent say he doesn't. Again, go beneath those numbers a little more. Joe Biden helps Barack Obama a little bit more than Sarah Palin helps John McCain.

SAWYER: So she's got a little more work to do, though, people seem fascinated. Speaking of fascination, we have a small mystery, a footnote from last night. But so many of us were watching the screen as Senator McCain was speaking--

STEPHANOPOULOS: We should show everybody.

SAWYER: We should show everybody. There was a building behind it and you and I --

STEPHANOPOULOS: First of all he had the green right there. This goes under the category of what were they thinking? Probably the worst speech in the McCain campaign was the night Barack Obama accepted his nomination. It was against a green background, but when you pulled out to the wide shot, you look at that and say is that a mansion? Is that some kind of big house? No, it's not. It's actually the Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood, California. The campaign can't explain why it was chosen, but it just sent both the close-up and the wide shot sent all of the wrong messages for the McCain campaign. The only -- you know, there's a lot of speculation on the blogs today that what -- that somebody just made a terrible mistake. They were doing a photo search for Walter Reed Medical Center and came up with the middle school. There's no other good explanation.

SAWYER: I know because last night, you and Charlie were like-

STEPHANOPOULOS: What was that about?

SAWYER: We were like, do you know that building? Do I know that building? We couldn't figure it out.
Rich Noyes
Rich Noyes
Rich Noyes is the Senior Editor for Newsbusters