According to ABC reporter Cokie Roberts, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has "had way too favorable press at this point in the season." Appearing on Friday's "Good Morning America" to discuss whether Clinton is now playing the "gender card" in the '08 race, Roberts asserted that, as a result of this popular coverage, the media is now "going after her."
Roberts also claimed that the former First Lady, who stayed with Bill Clinton through the Monica Lewinsky scandal, "has been a strong woman and people have seen examples of that certainly in her personal life." While it's not clear how hard the press is now "going after" the New York senator, Cokie Roberts could have been referring to GMA when she mentioned "way too favorable press." After all, this is the show that gave Ms. Clinton an almost 30 minute infomercial during a March "town hall" edition of the program. And in January, Claire Shipman reported on "Good Morning America" that Barack Obama would have to contend with Hillary's "hot factor."
An August study by the Media Research Center found that the senator, along with the other Democratic candidates, received more favorable coverage and more air time overall. From January through July 31 2007, Hillary Clinton garnered 61 stories, more than any other 2008 candidate.
To be fair, Roberts did mention the New York senator's waffling on the issue of giving drivers licenses to illegals and how it "plays into all of the perceptions of the Clintons, both Clintons, of talking both for and against a lot of issues." Interestingly, while Roberts and co-host Diane Sawyer discussed whether Clinton was playing the gender card at debate, and the subject of drivers licenses, they did it without mentioning Clinton's much-panned complaining that debate host Tim Russert engaged in a "gotcha" question by even bringing the subject up.
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:10am on November 2, follow:
DIANE SAWYER: Well, now we turn to the race to '08 and what happened yesterday when the Democratic front-runner returned to her roots? This is Hillary Rodham in 1969 when she was giving the graduation speech at Wellesley College. And this was Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, yesterday, uttering the sentence that had everybody talking this morning.
SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON: In so many ways this all women's college prepared me to compete in the all boys club of presidential politics.
SAWYER: So her rivals have been saying is she playing the gender card? Well, who better to weigh in on all this than ABC's Cokie Roberts, joining us now from Washington. Cokie, good morning to you. 58 percent of Democratic primary voters are women. Is this a strategy we see emerging?
COKIE ROBERTS: Certainly it is, Diane, but it's not new. It's not a new strategy. And you and I should point out in full disclosure that you and I both went to Wellesley College.
SAWYER: And wore glasses. I did.
ROBERTS: The-- And-- What she said there was just a statement of fact, that women's college did prepare her for the life that she has led and presidential politics has been an all-boys club. But, sure, she's been playing the gender card all along. Women are her big base of support. Lately she's been way up in the polls among all groups. But earlier on, her lead was almost entirely among women.
SAWYER: Yes, but something else. Se has on her website now a montage, as we call it in the TV business. And it's called the politics of piling on in which all the candidates, who happen to be men, are using her name. Let's listen a little.
[Montage of all the Democratic rivals saying "Senator Clinton" or "Hillary"]
SAWYER: Okay. And at the end of this, she says, you know, there's got to be a reason they're doing this. But, Fred Thompson, Republican candidate Fred Thompson, has said, "The Clinton campaign goes so far in relying upon her being a strong, strong woman. And then on a dime, they can switch to say, 'Oh, my goodness, the men are ganging up on her."
ROBERTS: Again, they're both true. The fact is that she has been a strong woman and people have seen examples of that certainly in her personal life. But the fact is that the men are ganging up. But they gang up against any front-runner. So the question is, how do voters react to the fact that it's men ganging up on a woman? We were going to hit this point, Diane. She's running way too far ahead in the polls. And so she's, she's a front-runner. And the candidates are beating up on her. The press is going after her. She's had way too favorable press at this point in the season. And so there she is. But the question is how do voters react? Do they say, "Gee, don't like seeing all those guys beating up on that woman?" Or do they say, "She really can't do this?"
SAWYER: All right. A quick final question here about a real issue. Governor Spitzer of New York has talked about issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. And there is something that Senator Clinton said in the debate that got all of her challengers really, really jumping on her. This was her analysis of whether she was for or against that.
CLINTON: It makes a lot of sense. What is the governor supposed to do? He is dealing with a serious problem. We have failed. And George Bush has failed. Do I think this is the best thing for any governor to? No. But do I understand the sense of real desperation, trying to get a handle on this? Remember, in New York, we want to know who's in New York. We want people to come out of shadows. He's making an honest effort to do it. We should have passed immigration reform.
SAWYER: And then there was the reaction.
FORMER SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS: Unless I missed something, Senator Clinton said two different things in the course of about two minutes.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: I can't tell whether she was for it or against.
SAWYER: Is that a turning point of some kind, Cokie?
ROBERTS: No, but it plays into all of the perceptions of the Clintons, both Clintons, of talking both for and against a lot of issues. She has to be careful with that. That's a real weakness with her campaign.