NBC and CBS Hope Pontiff's Popularity Rubs Off On Obama

During coverage of President's Obama meeting with Pope Francis on Thursday, both NBC's Today and CBS This Morning hoped the papal visit would boost the commander-in-chief's sinking poll numbers. Today co-host Matt Lauer wondered: "The Pope, enormously popular....Is there something in just rubbing elbows with the Pope for President Obama?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd observed: "I think that the President, particularly right now where his own approval ratings are not so hot, just being seen with the Pope, particularly in some places where there are a lot of Catholic voters in the United States, it's not gonna hurt. So, yes, I think the White House sees this as a potential political up side."

On CBS This Morning, White House correspondent Bill Plante touted the "personal common ground" between the two leaders: "Both made history when elected as the first African-American president and the first Latin American Pope. Both started off on a wave of popularity."

Plante continued: "But while President Obama's approval numbers have dropped, Pope Francis's numbers continue to ascend, which is another reason this visit could be a boon for the American president."

All three network morning shows on Thursday portrayed the President and the Pope as the best of friends, while glossing over the fundamental disagreements between them.   


Here is a excerpt of the March 27 Today coverage:

(...)

MATT LAUER: And Chuck, just to finish it up. The Pope, enormously popular, some 80% of Catholics say they favor – they're in favor of him, 60% say that he has renewed their faith and support for the Church. Is there something in just rubbing elbows with the Pope for President Obama?

CHUCK TODD: Let's remember, one in four Americans are Catholics. And so, yes, I think that the President, particularly right now where his own approval ratings are not so hot, just being seen with the Pope, particularly in some places where there are a lot of Catholic voters in the United States, it's not gonna hurt. So, yes, I think the White House sees this as a potential political up side.

(...)

Here is an excerpt of Plante's March 27 report:

(...)

BILL PLANTE: For President Obama this is a second trip to the Vatican. He and Mrs. Obama met with Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 during which the pope pressed the president on the issues of abortion and stem cell research. While there was talk of policy differences today, there is a little more personal common ground for President Obama and Pope Francis. Both made history when elected as the first African-American president and the first Latin American Pope. Both started off on a wave of popularity. But while President Obama's approval numbers have dropped, Pope Francis's numbers continue to ascend, which is another reason this visit could be a boon for the American president. Candida Moss is a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame.

CANDITA MOSS: Well, generally presidents are looking to carry the favor of the man that is a spiritual leader of tens of millions of Americans. They're also meeting someone who's a head of state, who has a lot of diplomatic power in the world.

(...)

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