For 2nd Night, Nets Trumpet 'Political Phenom' Obama, a 'Sensation' and 'Rock Star'

A night after ABC led with the supposedly “remarkable reversal” by Senator Barack Obama to think about running for President, and a full story on the NBC Nightly News, both network evening newscasts were back again with full stories Monday night on Obama the “rock star.” Remarkably, given how he decides what is newsworthy, at the top of World News Charles Gibson asked: “Why does he get so much attention?” ABC's puff story for Obama -- reporter Kate Snow gushed about how “his base is growing. Even Oprah seemed to endorse him" -- followed the lead story about dour poll numbers for Republicans.

With “Overnight Sensation” on screen, NBC anchor Brian Williams hailed in his teaser: “Tonight, the overnight sensation surrounding a Senator with real star power, may have changed everything for the Democrats in the run for the White House.” Williams later cited how Obama has “rocked the political world” and cued up Tim Russert with how “they say here's a guy who could actually cause excitement over American politics to break out again.” Russert championed how “he's getting rock star treatment all across the country.” (CBS, and transcripts for ABC and NBC, follow)

The CBS Evening News got into the act too on Monday night, with Gloria Borger touting Obama as "a certified political phenom with a best-selling book and a date with Oprah," but at least CBS didn't air a full story on Sunday night. Following Borger's profile, Katie Couric giggled to in-studio guest Mike McCurry, the former Press Secretary to Bill Clinton: "Barack Obama. Wouldn't you like to be his publicist for the last two weeks. He's generating so much excitement? Why?!"

McCurry, who appeared with former Bush Communications Director Nicole Wallace, is half of the new CBS Evening News political team.

A Monday MRC CyberAlert item, “ABC & NBC Hail 'Remarkable' and 'Exciting' Obama Presidential Bid,” recounted how excited the broadcast networks were on Sunday night over Obama:
Democratic Senator Barack Obama's admission on Meet the Press, that he's thinking about running for President, excited the press corp Sunday night with the broadcast network evening news -- at least ABC and NBC -- salivating over the prospect. "The headline out of Washington today," ABC World News anchor Dan Harris declared at the start of his newscast, "was about the 2008 presidential election. Senator Barack Obama, whose been getting an extraordinary amount of attention for a freshman lawmaker, made a remarkable reversal. After long insisting that he would not run for President, he now says he's thinking about it. This is shaking up a wide-open presidential race..." The NBC Nightly News didn't lead with Obama, but devoted a full story to it followed by discussion between anchor John Seigelthaler and Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert. Reporter Dawn Fratangelo trumpeted how "a fresh new candidate with such mass appeal has some political observers already predicting the potential for the most exciting presidential race in years."
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video for the October 23 ABC and NBC evening newscast stories on Senator Barack Obama:

ABC's World News.
Charles Gibson's tease: “A fresh face: Barack Obama shakes up the presidential race before it even begins. He's new to politics. Why does he get so much attention?”

Gibson led with poll numbers: "A new ABC News poll finds that right now 55 percent of likely voters favor Democratic congressional candidates and among influential swing voters, 59 percent favor Democrats, only 31 percent favor Republicans. The reason? Opposition to the war in Iraq is the number one issue."

A few stories later, Gibson set up the look at Obama: "Back in this country, another major story in politics involving Democrat Barack Obama of Illinois. He is very new to the national political stage having spent less than two years in the U.S. Senate. Obama talked over the weekend about considering a run for the presidency. Now, in political circles, there's a great deal of talk about him. Here's ABC's Kate Snow."

Kate Snow: "At a Democratic rally in Arizona today, Senator Obama tried to keep the focus on 2006, but some in the crowd were already looking ahead. On Sunday, Obama gave his supporters reason to hope."

Tim Russert on Sunday's Meet the Press: "It's fair to say you're thinking about running for President in 2008?"

Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), on Meet the Press: "It's fair. It is true that I have thought about it over the last several months."

Snow: "His base is growing. Even Oprah seemed to endorse him."

Oprah Winfrey, on her show with Obama and his wife as guests: "I know I don't just speak for myself. There are a lot of people who would want you to run for the presidency of the United States."

Snow: "The son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas, Obama is a Harvard-educated lawyer who chose to work in one of Chicago's most underprivileged areas."

Man: "I think that he's a breath of fresh air for the Democratic Party."

Woman: "I liked his honesty, and I think we need a change."

Snow: "Republican strategist Rich Galen says Democrats are searching."

Rich Galen, Republican strategist: "Democrats are looking for an alternative to Mrs. Clinton, mostly because they're not sure that she can get them across the finish line in a general election."

Obama: "Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you."

Snow: "It was his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention that put Obama on the national map. Senator Clinton cheered him on then. Today, she was equally gracious, saying, 'I think it's great that anybody thinks about whatever they want to do in the future.' Still, an Obama run would change the game."

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL): "The Clintons have invested a tremendous amount of time and energy and infrastructure within the African-American community. If Senator Obama's in the race, there's going to be a competitive vote."

Snow: "Obama's biggest handicap may be his inexperience. But with Iraq at the top of voters' concerns, that could cut both ways."

Stuart Rothenberg, The Rothenberg Political Report: "There's an up side to the fact that Senator Obama's been in Washington a relatively short time. He doesn't have the lengthy record, particularly on Iraq, that opponents can use to demonize him and attack him. He can stand, to some extent, above the fray."

Snow concluded: "There are up sides, there are down sides, but, Charlie, as every political strategist knows, as you know, a lot can change in two years. Remember all those Democrats who thought Howard Dean would make a great nominee."


NBC Nightly News.
Brian Williams: "And with the midterm elections now 15 days away, the story that has caused a sensation tonight is about the election that's still two years off. Illinois Democratic Senator Barack Obama wrapped up a weeklong book tour on NBC's Meet the Press yesterday morning with remarks that rocked the political world. The story tonight from NBC's Chip Reid."

Chip Reid, in a story which also aired on MSNBC's Countdown: "From Philadelphia to Tempe, Arizona, Democratic candidates want him by their side. Illinois Senator Barack Obama, the newest and, at the moment, the brightest star in the Democratic sky. He's been on the cover of Time, Newsweek, even Men's Vogue, and now, for the first time, says he's thinking about running for President in 2008."

Tim Russert, on Meet the Press: "So it sounds as if the door has opened a bit."

Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), on Meet the Press: "A bit."

Reid: "So why is he such a sensation? Political analysts say it's partly because some Democrats are unhappy with the field of candidates they already have."

Peter Hart, Democratic pollster: "Here is a person who comes across as spontaneous and genuine running against other people who may be seen as calculating and as programmed."

Reid: "That includes presumptive frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Analysts say some Democrats unhappy with her vote in favor of the Iraq War could turn to Obama, who's consistently opposed the war. Some Democrats question whether Obama has earned the right to be such a political phenomenon. After all, they say, he's been a Senator less than two years. His record of legislative accomplishments is thin, and he has little experience in foreign policy or military affairs. Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page says for now Obama's personal story is overshadowing everything else."

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: "Here is a guy who embodies in many ways the American dream, and he also embodies all of America. He's white. He's black. He's got a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas."

Reid: "But Page says the smooth ride will end if he actually does run. Then, Obama will be treated like all the other candidates. And anything he's ever done, written or said will be fair game. Chip Reid, NBC News, the Capitol."

Williams: "With us tonight for more on all of this, our Washington Bureau Chief, moderator of Meet the Press, Tim Russert. And, Tim, about Barack Obama, they say here's a guy who could actually cause excitement over American politics to break out again. What should we know about him?"

Russert: "Brian, he's getting rock star treatment all across the country, no matter what state -- Iowa, Arizona, Pennsylvania. He's the only candidate in 2008, if he runs, who would have been against the war before it began. He is someone who believes that the '60s generation, the baby boomers, have had their time on the political stage, it's time for a new generation of leadership. His father's black, his mother's white. He has the number one bestseller. All those now, taken together, indicate that he's giving very, very serious consideration to running for President now. Why? Because it's the first time the presidency will be wide open, no incumbent, in a long time."
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center