Former top Democratic aide turned journalist George Stephanopoulos on Monday spun the upcoming November 3 congressional election in New York as a Republican "civil war." Recounting the battle between the Conservative Party nominee, a Democrat and a liberal Republican, he claimed, "But, what's most interesting here is civil war inside the Republican Party."
Stephanopoulos added, "You saw this conservative candidate just come in and swamp the Republican who was pro-choice, pro-gay rights. And what the White House is trying to do even if they lose here is exploit- is fan the flames of this civil war."
Of course, Stephanopoulos, who served in the Clinton White House and worked for Michael Dukakis’ 1988 campaign, doesn’t often talk about Democrats engaging in a "civil war," despite the unhappiness by liberals over issues such as the "public option" and President Obama’s inaction over gays in the military.
Stephanopoulos also appeared on Sunday’s GMA and played prognosticator. Discussing the two gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey and the congressional election in New York, he predicted, "I think you're likely to see a split here." (The This Week host suggested a victory by Democrats in New Jersey.) Previewing White House spin, he added, "If there is a split, I think it's a wash and we'll move on."
In fairness, on Monday, Stephanopoulos did allow this in regard to Virginia's gubernatorial race: "Independents voted heavily for President Obama in Virginia last year. They seem to be going for the Republican candidate this time and especially the President's health care plan, according to the latest polling in Virginia, is pretty unpopular right now."
UPDATE 2009-11-02 14:08: On Monday, Stephanopoulos blogged on ABCNews.com and now seems to be seeing a GOP sweep ahead.
A transcript of the November 2 segment, which aired at 7:04am, follows:
ROBIN ROBERTS: For the bottom line on another election day let's bring in chief Washington correspondent and host of This Week George Stephanopoulos.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Hey, Robin.
ROBERTS: Good to see you. President Obama, we saw him here in New Jersey on Sunday. We saw in Jake's piece making direct pleas to voters. I mean, the White House putting a lot of energy into this race.
ABC GRAPHIC: Hotly Contested Elections: Dems in Distress, GOP at War
STEPHANOPOULOS: Boy, they sure are, Robin. President Obama has gone back three times for Jon Corzine and want to do it to avoid the sweep Jake was talking about. New Jersey is their best chance for a win tomorrow night. It is a solid Democratic state even though the economy is in trouble there, the President is still personally pretty popular and they want to avoid the sweep at all costs because they're afraid that will be seen as a verdict on the President's first year and could effect this debate over health care in the Congress.
ROBERTS: Right. Tight in New Jersey but not the case in Virginia with the governor's race.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not at all. The Republican Bob McDonnell is just swamping the Democrat Creigh Deeds. Now, a few things going on, first of all, history. Virginia always has a gubernatorial election one year after a presidential race. And going back all the way to 1977, the out-party has always won and McDonnell has also run a much better campaign than the Democrat Creigh Deeds. The White House has been complaining about Deeds’ campaign. But you can't underestimate the national implications here either. Independents voted heavily for President Obama in Virginia last year. They seem to be going for the Republican candidate this time and especially the President's health care plan, according to the latest polling in Virginia, is pretty unpopular right now.
ROBERTS: Let's talk about this other race that Jake brought up in his piece. Upstate New York, an open congressional seat. Up until this weekend it was a three-way race then the Republican drops out, throws her support behind the Democrat instead of the conservative opponent. Give us the behind the scenes. What’s going on here?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the White House was pushing very, hard for this Republican candidate, Dede Scozzafava to back the Democrat after she dropped out of the race. Now it still might not be enough. There is a lot of anger up in district. That district has been a Republican congressional district since about the Civil War. But, what’s most interesting here is civil war inside the Republican Party. You saw this conservative candidate just come in and swamp the Republican who was pro-choice, pro-gay rights. And what the White House is trying to do even if they lose here is exploit- is fan the flames of this civil war. I asked the White House counselor Valerie Jarrett yesterday what she thought this forcing out of the Republican candidate said about where the Republican Party is right now. Take a look.
VALERIE JARRETT: Well, I think it's becoming more and more extreme and more and more marginalized. Look at the number of people who actually say they're registered- consider themselves a Republican. If that's the direction they want to go, fine.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You are likely to see the same dynamic play out in other Republican primaries for Senate and governors' races across the country right now.
ROBERTS: What are Republicans saying? We hear what Valerie Jarrett- what she feels about this race in upstate New York, but what are Republicans saying?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, some like Majority Republican leader John Boehner in the House say it's time for the republicans to close ranks, but they are worried about this split between those who are calling for a big tent Republican Party like Newt Gingrich and the conservative activists motivated by a lot of anti-government anger who say the party hasn't been pure enough so far. What Newt Gingrich told the New York Times over the weekend, if the Republican Party can't find a way to heal this divide, they will make Nancy Pelosi Speaker for life and re-elect President Obama, something Republicans are talking about trying to figure out and trying to heal right now.
ROBERTS: We’ll see what happens on Tuesday.