CBS Promoted 'Humanized' Hillary in '08; Hounds Romney in 2012

CBS revealed its double standard in its treatment of Republican presidential candidates versus Democratic ones on Wednesday's Early Show, as Jim Axelrod and Nancy Cordes pressed Mitt Romney about the challenges ahead in the race the day after he won in Iowa. By contrast, then-anchor Katie Couric gushed over a "humanized" and "emotional" Hillary Clinton the day after the 2008 New Hampshire primary.

After joking with Romney about his eight vote margin of victory at the beginning of the interview, Axelrod asked the former Massachusetts governor about the apparent slim rise in the number of votes he gained in the 2012 Iowa caucuses versus four years earlier: "I'm wondering just one number...six years you've spent out in Iowa, and I think you end up with 66 more votes this time than in 2008. Can you explain this challenge you had in Iowa about getting more traction this go around?"

When the former Massachusetts governor answered by noting that there were more Republican candidates in this year's caucuses, Cordes followed up by bringing up some of his opponents' attacks on him:

CORDES: Governor Romney, your runner-up, Rick Santorum, wasted no time, sending a letter to his supporters, calling you a- quote, 'bland, boring career politician.' And here's what is awaiting you when you get to New Hampshire: a full page ad in 'The Manchester Union Leader' from Newt Gingrich, comparing the two of you, saying the choice is between a bold Reagan conservative and you. Is this payback for the $3 million worth of negative ads the outside groups affiliated with you ran in Iowa?

Romney acknowledged the criticisms, but seemed to brush them aside, noting that they paled in comparison to what may come from the DNC and Obama's reelection campaign, should he be the Republican nominee. But Axelrod continued by bringing up Gingrich's slam of the Iowa winner on the previous morning's Early Show:

Nancy Cordes, CBS News Correspondent; Jim Axelrod, CBS News Correspondent; & Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney | NewsBusters.orgAXELROD: So let's talk about your record a little bit, because, yesterday, so much of the back and forth had to do with Newt Gingrich calling you a liar, but that sort of obscured what was a legitimate question embedded in what he was talking about. I just want to read to you something he said, and let's separate the name-calling for a second. Talking about you, he said here is a Massachusetts moderate who has tax-paid abortions in RomneyCare, puts Planned Parenthood in RomneyCare, raised hundreds of millions in taxes on businesses, appoints liberal judges to appease Democrats, and wants the rest of us to believe, somehow, he's a conservative. Setting aside the name-calling, can you respond specifically to what he was raising by way of legitimate questions?

Near the end of the interview, Cordes and her co-anchor tag teamed to press Romney about the specific challenge of gaining support in South Carolina before the primary there. Cordes first asked, "In South Carolina, though, it's a rockier road. You came in fourth there four years ago, struggling with Christian conservatives. What do you think is going to be different this time around, because all of your opponents are going to be trying to stop your momentum in South Carolina?" When Romney initially sidestepped talking about the southern state, Axelrod replied, "Right, but Nancy's question is about South Carolina, and it points out what has been...a little bit of a difficult situation for you, especially with conservative Christians and evangelicals. You're going to have to make it right with them in the South....What do you anticipate?"

On January 9, 2008, the day after the former first lady won the New Hampshire primary, Couric marveled at Hillary Clinton on CBS Evening News: "Some observers believe that moment when you got emotional on Monday, when your voice cracked and your eyes welled up, that that humanized you and made you much more attractive to women voters." She later asked Clinton, "Will you be willing now to reveal more of yourself and be less reserved?" Democratic presidential candidates clearly have it easier when it comes to interviews from CBS journalists.

The full transcript of Nancy Cordes and Jim Axelrod's interview of Mitt Romney on Wednesday's Early Show, which began five minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour:

JIM AXELROD: Joining us now from Des Moines, Iowa, Governor Mitt Romney. Governor, I'm thinking, with the margin of victory, that if just a few of your supporters had decided to eat some chicken wings and watch some college basketball last night, we'd be talking about a second place finish for you. A little too close to comfort on the narrow margin of victory?

[CBS News Graphic: "Mitt Romney: Will Tie In Iowa Erode His Lead In New Hampshire"]

ROMNEY: (laughs) Pretty narrow, you- I must admit. I really think that Iowa is a big boost for Rick Santorum, for Ron Paul, for myself. We all end up in a stronger position this morning, and I think we're all pretty happy.

AXELROD: I'm wondering just one number- by way of comparison, six years you've spent out in Iowa, and I think you end up with 66 more votes this time than in 2008. Can you explain this challenge you had in Iowa about getting more traction this go around?

ROMNEY: Well, I'm pleased. We have a seven-person field this time, and three people in a virtual dead heat. So mathematically, it's hard to get a higher percent, but I'm pleased that we were able to have a good, strong showing here. And actually, a few weeks ago, I was well behind in the polls here, so to come up with a strong finish is something that, obviously, is very encouraging. We got New Hampshire next, and on after that to South Carolina and Florida. It's going to be a long road.

NANCY CORDES: Governor Romney, your runner-up, Rick Santorum, wasted no time, sending a letter to his supporters, calling you a- quote, 'bland, boring career politician.' And here's what is awaiting you when you get to New Hampshire: a full page ad in 'The Manchester Union Leader' from Newt Gingrich, comparing the two of you, saying the choice is between a bold Reagan conservative and you. Is this payback for the $3 million worth of negative ads the outside groups affiliated with you ran in Iowa?

ROMNEY: You know, I've got broad shoulders. I know that when you get in a campaign, there's a big target on you. It's- obviously, it's a small target, compared to what's going to come from the Democratic National Committee and Barack Obama. They've already begun attacking me. I'm not too worried about that. Let the attacks come. I think the American people are going to focus on whether or not I've got the skills to lead the country and to create jobs again. And I'm proud of the record I have, and I'm happy to defend my record and contrast it with the other people that are coming after me, particularly President Obama.

AXELROD: So let's talk about your record a little bit, because, yesterday, so much of the back and forth had to do with Newt Gingrich calling you a liar, but that sort of obscured what was a legitimate question embedded in what he was talking about. I just want to read to you something he said, and let's separate the name-calling for a second. Talking about you, he said here is a Massachusetts moderate who has tax-paid abortions in RomneyCare, puts Planned Parenthood in RomneyCare, raised hundreds of millions in taxes on businesses, appoints liberal judges to appease Democrats, and wants the rest of us to believe, somehow, he's a conservative. Setting aside the name-calling, can you respond specifically to what he was raising by way of legitimate questions?

ROMNEY: Well, he's got his facts wrong, and I'm sure we'll get a chance during the debates to talk about those things. But, you know, I understand people are going to rattle off a list of supposed sins, and then you get a chance to go through them one-by-one. I think the people in New Hampshire, in particular, know pretty darn well what I faced when I was governor of Massachusetts, and they understand that I balanced the budget every one of my four years, we cut taxes 19 different times; put in place a rainy day fund of over $2 billion; we helped our schools stay at number one in the nation; implemented a program of English immersion in our schools; got our state police to enforce immigration laws. I'm pretty proud of a conservative record, but, you know, we'll get a chance to talk about that in the months ahead.

CORDES: Which of his facts specifically were wrong?

ROMNEY: Well, for instance, our health care bill doesn't mention Planned Parenthood in any way. In fact, it doesn't even mention abortion. The decision with regards to abortion funding was a decision by the court, not by the legislature, and certainly, not by me as the governor. So, you know, we'll get a chance to talk about those things, I'm sure, as we proceed during the debates-

CORDES: Governor-

AXELROD: Let's look ahead for a second.

CORDES: That's right, because you're leading by 30 points here in New Hampshire- very friendly territory for you. In fact, so friendly, that you're thinking of going to South Carolina for a few days to campaign there instead. In South Carolina, though, it's a rockier road. You came in fourth there four years ago, struggling with Christian conservatives. What do you think is going to be different this time around, because all of your opponents are going to be trying to stop your momentum in South Carolina?


ROMNEY: Well, I'm really pleased that we get momentum that starts here, and that in New Hampshire- I hope I'm able to do well in New Hampshire, and I'm going to keep on talking about my record as a conservative governor and my vision to get the economy going again. Of the people in the race, I'm the only person who spent over 25 years of their life in the private sector, competing with businesses around the world. I understand how jobs come and how they go, and if we want to have a nominee who can post up against Barack Obama with a record of job creation, and a record of having worked in the private sector- you know, I think I start off with the strongest resume for that purpose.

AXELROD: Right, but Nancy's question is about South Carolina, and it points out what has been, historically, a little bit of a difficult situation for you, especially with conservative Christians and evangelicals. You're going to have to make it right with them in the South. South Carolina is the first real test for that. What do you anticipate?

ROMNEY: Well, you know, I'm pleased that, as I look at the record of South Carolina, that they've selected people of differing backgrounds. I don't think people choose a candidate based upon his or her religion primarily. I'm sure there will be some who will find that a major issue. But I expect to get good support in South Carolina. And recognize, of course, I'd like to win South Carolina. I'd like to win all of the states. But I know that this is going to be a long road. I hope to get delegates in these early states, and amass the number I need to get the 1,150 total. But I think at this stage, having- for instance, relative to the other guys in this race, I've organized a national campaign team, we have funding that we've drawn from different states. I've got the capacity, I think, to take this campaign all the way to Tampa, and that's something which I think other folks in this race are going to find a little more difficult to do.

CORDES: Well, Governor Romney, thank you so much for joining us this morning. Congratulations, again, on your victory- definitely one for the record books- and we look forward to seeing you here in New Hampshire.

ROMNEY: Thanks, Nancy and Jim- good to be with you.

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