Combative George Stephanopoulos Pushes Idea That the Tea Party May Be 'Losing Traction'

ABC trumpeted a new poll on Tuesday as proof that conservatives and Republicans could be losing ground in the midterm election. Good Morning America co-host George Stephanopoulos excitedly opened the show by speculating, "This morning, is the Tea Party losing traction? Our new poll says the answer may be yes as the movement's most famous candidate releases this ad."

The morning show then replayed candidate Christine O'Donnell's new campaign spot. A graphic deemed the ad, in which O'Donnell asserts, "I'm not a witch," to be "stunning." The Tea Party's most famous candidate? Stephanopoulos' phrasing was somewhat odd.

Yes, Sarah Palin is not currently running for anything, but she's clearly the Tea Party's most famous member and is more well known than O'Donnell.

The GMA anchor also conducted a combative interview with conservative activist Ginni Thomas (wife of Clarence Thomas). Citing ABC's new numbers, he argued, "The Tea Party, losing a little bit of steam."

Stephanopoulos played up a supposed divide between Tea Partiers and the GOP, highlighting a worry that "Tea Party candidates are actually going to cost Republican seats they otherwise would have won."

Of a possible Republican victory, he spun, "This could end up being a recipe for more gridlock, depending on who wins in November."

Reporter Jake Tapper threw cold water on Stephanopoulos. In a previous segment, he pointed out, "Still, today's numbers are bad for Democrats, with Republicans holding a bigger lead than they had at this point in 1994, when they last seized control of Congress." A point that the host allowed: "There is an awful lot of evidence in our poll, also, that the tidal wave still could be out there."

A transcript of the October 5 segment follows:

7am tease

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: This morning, is the Tea Party losing traction? Our new poll says the answer may be yes, as the movement's most famous candidate releases this stunning ad.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: I'm not a witch. I'm nothing you've heard. I'm you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Live reaction, this morning, from a top tea party leader.

7:06

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to dig into the poll a little more. As you know, all year long, we've been tracking something we call the frustration index with our ABC News/Washington Post poll. And it captures how people feel about government generally. How they're feeling about the economy. Their satisfaction with government. How they feel about incumbents in Congress and how they feel about the President. And when you take a look, in this month, there actually shows a little less frustration than we've seen earlier this year. Take a look. Back in September, we had it up to 72 percent. Now, it is at 68 percent, down just a bit. But those numbers are still high. They are higher than they were both in 1994 and 2006, when, of course, Congress changed hands. In 1994 to the Republicans. 2006, to the Democrats. We're going to get a little bit more on this with one of the leaders of the Tea Party movement, Ginni Thomas. She's a founder and CEO of the grassroots conservative group Liberty Central. She's also worked with the Labor Department and the Chamber of Commerce. And is also the wife of Supreme Court justice, Clarence Thomas. Good Morning. How are you today?

GINNI THOMAS: Good morning, George. Thanks for having me.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Absolutely. Let's begin with the poll. You saw the numbers in Jake's poll, lessening of support for the Tea Party. We also see, want to show another number from that poll. Only 32 percent of Americans now believe that the Tea Party movement can actually come in and change Washington. So, it seems like the more exposure the Tea Party is getting, the less popular it's becoming.

THOMAS: Oh, I don't know about that. I think it's pretty popular out there, from what I see.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And what are you seeing? I mean, those numbers don't lie, do they?

THOMAS: Well, I think the real poll will be on November 2nd. I'm not a poll-watcher. I know Gallup had some poll numbers that came out yesterday that are a little different. So, I'm not a poll-watcher. I think we'll see on November 2nd. But, I don't think it's a partisan thing going on. I think it's a principle thing. I think it's an American thing. I think people are rebelling. And there's a big tidal wave coming.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, there still is, as you say, there is an awful lot of evidence in our poll, also, that the tidal wave still could be out there, even if it's a little lower than it was before. We have to get to the ad by Christine O'Donnell, of course, who is a favorite of the Tea Party in Delaware. Her first ad of the election season. Let's take a look.

ABC GRAPHIC: "I'm Not a Witch: Christine O'Donnell's Stunning Ad"

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: I'm not a witch. I'm nothing you've heard. I'm you. None of us are perfect. But none of us can be happy with what we see all around us. I'll go to Washington and do what you'd do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What did you think when you saw that ad? Is it effective?

THOMAS: You know, this is the first time I've seen it. Thanks for showing it to me. I don't know. I think they're all effective when it's genuine, authentic people coming to Washington to have change. I think that's what people are look for.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that's clearly what she's trying to tap into this whole repeating, I think, three times in the ad, I'm you. I'm like you. But, there are a lot of Republicans and allies of the Tea Party movement who look at Christine O'Donnell in Delaware. They look at the fight between Sharron Angle, the Republican nominee and Tea Party candidate in Nevada. They look at Alaska, where Joe Miller, the Tea Party candidate is up against the Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski in a write in. And they worry that Tea Party candidates are actually going to cost Republican seats they otherwise would have won. What's your response to that?

THOMAS: I think the Democrats are pretty worried about what's coming. So, I'm not worried about what's coming. I love America. I think there's great people coming our way. And I think they look like Jim DeMint, some of them. And that's a great thing.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say they look like Jim DeMint. Of course, he's the Republican senator from South Carolina. He seems to be putting something of a challenge up to the current Republican leader, Mitch McConnell and arguing for a harder line against Democrats in the fall. This could end up being a recipe for more gridlock, depending on who wins in November. But if Republicans take control in November, as you have predicted, I think you predicted 80 seats in the House and 11 seats in the Senate.

THOMAS: At least.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That would be clear control for the Republicans in the House and the Senate. Do you want your candidates to support Jim DeMint or Mitch McConnell for Republican leader?

THOMAS: I think there's a big discussion coming. I think it's a referendum on the Obama agenda. And they want to stop that agenda, George. So, I think how they stop it and what they choose to do, once they get here, will be something that probably Mitch McDonnell and John Boehner will work out with the new people coming. But I think the clear focus is to stop the Obama agenda.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it's also a referendum on Republican leadership in Washington, as well. Sharron Angle, for example, the candidate in Nevada, said that Republicans have lost their way, have lost their principles. Is that what you believe?

THOMAS: I think there's no doubt that some of the problems started under President Bush. And absolutely, we started losing free enterprise. We started bailouts and extra spending and big government. So, do doubt. This is not about republicans or democrats. This is about restoring the founding principles of our country.

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