CBS's Wragge: Will Obama 'Lick His Chops' Over GOP Primary Strife?

On Thursday's Early Show, CBS's Chris Wragge bizarrely wondered if the dissatisfaction with the current GOP field of presidential candidates would give President Obama an edge: "Is this just primary politics, or does this make candidate Obama kind of lick his chops, thinking he's got a real advantage here?" Mr. Obama actually trails a generic Republican candidate in two recent polls.

Just moments before Wragge dropped his question, correspondent Jan Crawford had explained during a report that such dissatisfaction from primary voters wasn't unusual in either party from a historical perspective. Crawford cited the Democratic presidential fields in 1991 and 2003 as examples:

Chris Wragge, CBS News Anchor; & Jan Crawford, CBS News Correspondent | NewsBusters.orgCRAWFORD: ...[N]one of this searching and hand-wringing is new. In nearly every nearly presidential election, voters at this stage are dissatisfied with their choices, often when they're trying to beat an incumbent. In the latest CBS News poll, just 43% of Republican voters say they are satisfied with the field. But around this time in 2003, only 40% of Democratic voters were satisfied with their choices to unseat President Bush. Senator John Kerry lost to Bush.

But voter dissatisfaction early on doesn't mean a loss in the general election. In 1991, Democrats were begging top politicians, like Senator Ted Kennedy or New York Governor Mario Cuomo, to jump in. Only 18% of Democratic voters were satisfied with their options, which, at the time, included an obscure Arkansas governor, Bill Clinton.

Recent polls also give no reason for President Obama to "lick his chops," to use the CBS anchor's term. Gallup has the Democrat's approval rating at 39%, and he trails three to four percentage points behind a generic Republican presidential candidate, according to the last polls from Rasmussen and NBC News/Wall St. Journal.

The transcript of the Chris Wragge/Jan Crawford segment from Thursday's Early Show, which began nine minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour:

CHRIS WRAGGE: Now to politics- several big money Republican donors say they're unhappy with the current crop of GOP presidential candidates, but Republican voters will have to decide this race.

And CBS News political correspondent Jan Crawford is in Washington with a look at how they really feel about the race at this time. Jan, good morning.

JAN CRAWFORD: Good morning, Chris. You know, we thought this field was pretty well settled, but then, Texas Governor Rick Perry had that big stumble in last week's debate, and that, of course, has started Republican insiders talking again and again about finding yet another candidate to get in this race. But the polls show that this kind of thing happens almost every presidential election.

[CBS News Graphic: "Race For 2012: Inside Look At GOP Dissatisfaction"]

MITT ROMNEY, 2012 REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (from campaign event): How are you? Good morning!

CRAWFORD (voice-over): Campaigning across the country, the candidates who are actually running for president, like former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, downplay all this talk about someone else.

ROMNEY: I think we recognize that it's very important we get this right, and I appreciate the fact that it's taking a lot of careful consideration. In the final week or two, it's going to really narrow down, and people will decide who's the person who will have the best shot of replacing President Obama.

CRAWFORD: That may be because none of this searching and hand-wringing is new. In nearly every nearly presidential election, voters at this stage are dissatisfied with their choices, often when they're trying to beat an incumbent. In the latest CBS News poll, just 43% of Republican voters say they are satisfied with the field. But around this time in 2003, only 40% of Democratic voters were satisfied with their choices to unseat President Bush. Senator John Kerry lost to Bush.

But voter dissatisfaction early on doesn't mean a loss in the general election. In 1991, Democrats were begging top politicians, like Senator Ted Kennedy or New York Governor Mario Cuomo, to jump in. Only 18% of Democratic voters were satisfied with their options, which, at the time, included an obscure Arkansas governor, Bill Clinton.

CRAWFORD (on-camera): Now, of course, Cuomo and Kennedy never got in that race, and that second-string candidate, Bill Clinton, became a two-term president. Chris?

WRAGGE: Jan, as we get closer to the primaries, what is an actual cut-off date for a candidate- a potential candidate, like a Chris Christie, to get in? There's got to be a time where you just can't- it's just too late in the game.

CRAWFORD: That's right, and it is right around the corner. I would say in about six weeks, and that's because you're going to have these filing deadlines in key states, like Florida and South Carolina, to get their names on the ballot. So these guys, Chris Christie, Sarah Palin- they're going to have to make a decision sooner, rather than later, which means, of course, all of this talk is going to stop soon enough.

WRAGGE: Like you said- in the graphic you showed in the piece, there's this perceived dissatisfaction with the current Republican field. Is this just primary politics, or does this make candidate Obama kind of lick his chops, thinking he's got a real advantage here?


CRAWFORD: Great question- it's primary politics. It happens almost every four years, as all these polls show, and the lesson here- I think what's important to keep in mind- is that these candidates, who are in this race right now, are going to look a lot stronger as this race goes on over the next few months- more debates, they're going to be tested. So the eventual nominee is going to look like the nominee.

WRAGGE: All right. CBS's Jan Crawford in Washington for us this morning- Jan, thanks. Good to talk with you.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center