ABC’s Stephanopoulos Spins NY 23 as a ‘Big Loss’ for Sarah Palin, Hits GOP ‘Civil War’

Former Democratic aide turned journalist George Stephanopoulos appeared on Wednesday’s Good Morning America to spin the loss of a Conservative Party congressional candidate in New York as a "big loss for Sarah Palin." He enthused, "A big win for the Democrats who poured it on in the final days especially Vice President Biden who came in the final day."

Stephanopoulos seemed much more animated in discussing the New York race than he did the Republican gubernatorial victories in New Jersey and Virginia. He extolled, "The bottom line, when there is a civil war inside the Republican Party, a Democrat can squeak through in a district that has not gone to the Democrats since about the Civil War."

Referencing the ramifications the GOP victories could have on the health care debate, Stephanopoulos began, "Well, I actually asked a White House official about that this morning." Could this be White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel? (Early this year, it was revealed that Stephanopoulos has daily phone conversations and strategy sessions with Emanuel.)

The This Week host did allow that the two defeats on Tuesday will give some Democrats in the Senate "pause."

In an earlier segment, reporter Jake Tapper touted similar lines. Of the White House, he repeated, "They say all along, they've said these elections were not referenda on President Obama." After co-host Robin Roberts pointed out that Barack Obama repeatedly campaigned for New Jersey's Democratic governor Jim Corzine, Tapper again explained, "Well, obviously they would have liked to have won those elections but you had a New Jersey's case a very unpopular governor..."

He then parroted, "So they don't see this as an indication of President Obama's popularity or success there." It’s true, as Tapper pointed out, that exit polls in Virginia and New Jersey say that the President wasn’t a factor in their decision. However, just like Stephanopoulos, he played up the White House’s perspective on the importance of the congressional election, but not the GOP wins.

Tapper asserted, "...The tea party crowd were complaining that the Republican nominee was insufficiently conservative and basically she was chased out and the Conservative Party nominee lost to the Democrat last night." Left out of that assessment? The fact that liberal Republican Dede Scozzafava quit the race and endorsed the Democratic nominee. Shouldn't that impact be discussed? (Host Diane Sawyer again referred to Scozzafava as a "moderate" Republican.)

A transcript of the Stephanopoulos segment, which aired at 7:03am EST on November 4, follows:

DIANE SAWYER: Let's dig in on all of this by bringing in our chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos for the bottom line. George, good morning to you.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Hey, Diane. How is it going today?

SAWYER: All right. Well, let's take a look at what happened in Virginia and New Jersey, particularly the independent vote which seems so interesting to me this morning. As we know, Senator Obama won it a year ago. But 2-1? 2-1, The independents were now going Republican. What does that mean?

STEPHANOPOULOS: In both states, Diane, this is really, really important. Independents now are the largest voter group in the country. They outnumber Democrats. They outnumber Republicans. And if you look back to the last three elections, 2006, 2008 and last night. These independents have become the predators of politics and incumbents are their prey. The number one issue out there right now, Diane, is the economy. Look at the exit polls in Virginia and New Jersey last night. 89 percent of voters said they were very- were worried about the economy in New Jersey. 84 percent said they were worried about the economy in Virginia. That's what is on independents' mind and the successful Republican candidates last night really focused on that.

SAWYER: And of course, jobs, a big issue in the campaign in Virginia but let me ask again digging in a bit on the economy, it seems it's not just concern about what's going to happen in the days ahead but concern about the deficit being built up. What does this say to the White House about, for instance, health care at this moment?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I actually asked a White House official about that this morning. And they're going to try to push hard on their argument but that by addressing health care you are addressing the problem of the deficit in the future. Now, that's going to be a hard sell with some of these, especially moderate Democrats in the Senate who are very wary of health care right now. So, last night, the Democrats got a mixed message ago on health care. They actually picked up a vote for it with that congressional race up in New York 23, getting another Democrat in the House. Speaker Pelosi needs every Democrat she can get. But, I think the election results last night will give pause to some of the Senate Democrats who the White House needs to vote for this health care reform bill.

SAWYER: And we talked about that congressional race in upstate new York where Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh intervened. There is a statement from Sarah Palin says that says "the cause goes on. Don't get cynical." But what's the bottom line on what happened there?

STEPHANOPOULOS: The bottom line, when there is a civil war inside the Republican Party, a Democrat can squeak through in a district that has not gone to the Democrats since about the Civil War. So, this is a big surprise for the Democrats here. I think it was a big loss for Sarah Palin. A big win for the Democrats who poured it on in the final days especially Vice President Biden who came in the final day. But I know that this is- this war will now continue as Jake suggested. We'll see Senate primaries in Illinois and in Florida. But I think a lot of national Republicans will step back and say if we don't get this under control we’re going to squander a big opportunity next year.

SAWYER: Okay, George, and we've got a few other developments. I know you know about them from election night. In Maine, you probably heard about this, voters were voting on gay marriage. They decided against gay marriage, 53 to 47 percent. Down south Atlanta is now headed for a runoff in the race for mayor. The leading vote getter was a council woman who would be the first white mayor of Atlanta in a long time if she wins next month.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org