CBS Sees Too Much 'Personal Baggage' for Gingrich; Other GOP 2012 Candidates Unable to Match Obama Fund-Raising

Discussing the possibility of Newt Gingrich running for president in 2012, on Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge touted "big negatives" for the former House speaker: "...baggage that he brings with him...the government shutdowns back in the '90s, to being forced out as speaker, to the fact that he's on his third marriage, which is probably going to alienate some social conservatives."

Political analyst John Dickerson agreed with Wragge's assessment: "Well, some of that baggage, they're trophies. He can say, 'I fought for these principles harder than anyone else.' But as you say, the personal baggage is considerable. He's not only had multiple marriages but he is an admitted adulterer. That matters in Republican primaries, where religious voters care about that kind of thing."

It's important to note that the media largely helped carry the "personal baggage" of Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign. A 2008 Media Research Center study, Obama’s Margin of Victory: The Media, concluded:

The networks downplayed or ignored major Obama gaffes and scandals. Obama’s relationship with convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko was the subject of only two full reports (one each on ABC and NBC) and mentioned in just 15 other stories. CBS and NBC also initially downplayed controversial statements from Obama’s longtime pastor Jeremiah Wright, but heavily praised Obama’s March 18 speech on race relations.  

In addition, the report found that the networks routinely downplayed Obama's admitted cocaine use as a teenager, even accusing political opponents who rose the issue as trying to employ some sort of dirty trick.

On Thursday, after briefly discussing other possible GOP contenders for the 2012 nomination, Wragge emphasized Obama's potential financial advantage going into reelection: "Facing an incumbent is tough enough. Can any of these candidates, should they emerge, do you think that they can financially compete with President Obama, whose war chest is expected to be anywhere from $750 million to potentially a  billion dollars as he moves forward?"

Dickerson replied: "It will be very, very difficult. Obama has the incumbency, he also, as you point out, had a very – he has a very strong fund-raising operation from the last time around....It'll be very hard to match him on the fund-raising front."

In addition, Dickerson argued that Obama wouldn't have any trouble raising money because of how "energized" the Left has become: "There has been some worry in the Democratic base about his policies. But what's happening now is a lot of those liberals are newly excited by the Republicans in Washington, what they're planning to do, and also some of these efforts in the states. To the extent that the Democratic base was depressed at all about Obama's performance, they are now newly energized by the Republicans, and so it's not so much about Barack Obama anymore."

On the February 21 Early Show, Dickerson argued that the Union protests in Wisconsin and throughout the country were a "Tea Party movement for the Left." On the February 14 Saturday Evening News, Dickerson described the field of 2012 Republican candidates as "confused with no real clear front-runner," despite no one having actually announced yet.  


Here is a full transcript of the March 3 exchange between Wragge and Dickerson:

7:12AM ET

CHRIS WRAGGE: Turning now to politics, later today, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will announce his intention to form an exploratory committee for a 2012 presidential race. He would be the first of many big-name Republicans expected to challenge President Obama. Joining us in Washington now is CBS News political analyst John Dickerson. John, good morning.

JOHN DICKERSON: Good morning, Chris.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Newt for President; Gingrich to Form Exploratory Cmte.]

WRAGGE: So, former Speaker Gingrich is the first big name to really kind of dip his toe into the pool here. Does he excite the GOP as a candidate? And let me ask you, who does he really appeal to?

DICKERSON: Well, here we go. He does excite the Republican base, not like somebody like Sarah Palin, but what Gingrich has that Palin doesn't have is a long record of fighting in the arena. He fought for a balanced budget. He worked in the vineyards when Republicans were out of control for a long time, building the majority. So he will run on that idea of competence. And also, in the Republican Party right now, sticking to your principles in the middle of a fight is a big deal, and Gingrich can say, 'I did that for a long time in Washington.'

WRAGGE: Okay, so he'll excite some. But let's talk about the baggage that he brings with him, as well, from the government shutdowns back in the '90s, to being forced out as speaker, to the fact that he's on his third marriage, which is probably going to alienate some social conservatives. What are some of his big negatives?

DICKERSON: Well, some of that baggage, they're trophies. He can say, 'I fought for these principles harder than anyone else.' But as you say, the personal baggage is considerable. He's not only had multiple marriages but he is an admitted adulterer. That matters in Republican primaries, where religious voters care about that kind of thing. And also in a general election, married women are a key swing voting bloc. He has said publically, 'I have sinned,' and he has sought redemption and his hope is that the American people are so serious this time around, that the problems the country faces are so big, that people will judge him on his ideas and not his indiscretions.

WRAGGE: Alright, let's discuss some of the other candidates that the GOP potentially have out there. We've got a graphic I want to show you right here. We've got some percentages, as well. Mike Huckabee is out there. Mitt Romney, of course, is there. Sarah Palin. The aforementioned Newt Gingrich.

[ON-SCREEN GRAPHIC: Gallup Poll Feb. 18-20; Huckabee, 18%; Romney, 18%; Palin, 16%; Gingrich, 9%]

The Iowa caucuses less than a year out. But no one has really kind of stepped up and fully committed. And all we're getting from former Speaker Gingrich is really just kind of an exploratory committee. An intention. So why is everybody sitting back?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: The Race is On; GOP Bigs Align Themselves for 2012]

DICKERSON: In 2008, pretty much all the candidates were on the field. John McCain was the only who had not announced and it was obvious he was going to run. The reason they've waited in this case is that, in some cases they're very well known, the candidates don't have to get out and get their name out. So they don't need to campaign to introduce themselves to people. In other cases, people like Mike Huckabee have television contracts, they would give up money and a platform if they decided to run.

But also, in politics now, it's not like it used to be. Candidates used to think that you got out there, you raised money, you put your name out there and you built a big sort of sense of inevitability. Well, that didn't work for Hillary Clinton, it didn't really work for John McCain in 2008. It almost didn't work for George Bush in 2000. The field is strewn with candidates like Lamar Alexander and Phil Gramm, who tried to create this sense of inevitability, and basically showing up first meant you failed first. So there is a theory now that you wait and that's what all of these candidates have done so far.

WRAGGE: Alright, final question for you, facing an incumbent is tough enough. Can any of these candidates, should they emerge, do you think that they can financially compete with President Obama, whose war chest is expected to be anywhere from $750 million to potentially a  billion dollars as he moves forward?

DICKERSON: It will be very, very difficult. Obama has the incumbency, he also, as you point out, had a very – he has a very strong fund-raising operation from the last time around. There has been some worry in the Democratic base about his policies. But what's happening now is a lot of those liberals are newly excited by the Republicans in Washington, what they're planning to do, and also some of these efforts in the states. To the extent that the Democratic base was depressed at all about Obama's performance, they are now newly energized by the Republicans, and so it's not so much about Barack Obama anymore. It'll be very hard to match him on the fund-raising front.

WRAGGE: Alright, John Dickerson in Washington for us this morning. John, good to talk with you.

DICKERSON: Thanks, Chris.

— Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC