Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday spun a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, emphasizing problems for the Republican Party over dour news for Barack Obama. The co-host ignored a finding that likely voters want the GOP to take control of Congress by a margin of 56 to 41.
He did, however, repeat the lower number of registered voters who prefer the Republicans, 51 percent. Stephanopoulos quizzed former McCain strategist Nicolle Wallace and Democrat James Carville on problems for the GOP: "[Voters] don't necessarily want Republicans...On the economy, voters, 42 to 34 still trust Democrats over Republicans on the economy."
What did Stephanopoulos leave out? The same poll found that 40 percent of likely voters trust Republicans, compared to 39 percent for the Democrats. But, the former Democratic operative persisted, "So, there's still, Nicolle, no- not a lot of confidence in the Republican Party."
Later, he prompted Wallace, "Is there anything else, right now, that Republicans can do, Nicolle, now, to address that number, that lack of confidence?"
It seems likely that if this poll were about President Bush, Stephanopoulos would be much more likely to emphasize the negatives, such as the fact that 90 percent of Americans think the economy is in bad shape. The poll's data can be found here.
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:06am EDT on July 13, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to turn now that ABC News/Washington Post poll. You know, the White House, for the first time over the weekend, admitted that Democrats could lose the control of Congress in November. And this poll shows why.
Starting out with this frustration index, which we first showed you last month. That tries to capture how people feel about government, the economy, Congress and the President. Back in June, it was at 67 percent, a very high level.
Right now in July, still stuck at 67 percent. We haven't seen numbers that high since the past two big change elections of the last 25 years. 1992, when President Clinton took office, 2008, when President Obama took office.
And it could have a direct impact on the congressional elections this fall. Another key number in the poll, we asked people who do you want to control Congress in November? Only 43 percent said they wanted to support Democrats to support [sic] President Obama's policies.
51 percent said they wanted to give Congress to the Republicans, as a check on President Obama's policies. And this is all rooted in concern over the economy. 90 percent of the country right now thinks the economy's in bad shape.
And President Obama's approval ratings on the economy are dropping. Down to 43 percent. That's down seven points in one month. 54 percent now disapprove of the job that President Obama is doing on the economy. Now, his overall approval ratings are holding up about 50 percent.
That's a little bit down. But, they're being held up because his numbers on commander in chief, are a little higher. But, most of this is bad news for the Democrats. Let me bring in our strategists, James Carville for the Democrats, Nicolle Wallace, for the Republicans.
And, James, Robert Gibbs over the weekend, the White House press secretary, did say they're looking at similar numbers. He said that Democrats could lose control of the Congress. All the intensity is on the Republican side.
JAMES CARVILLE: You know, and Robert and I have had our problems in the past. And he went to Auburn, so, therefore, he's is a little limited. But, saying that, this was brilliant. This is a time to say-
STEPHANOPOULOS: To tell the truth?
CARVILLE: Look- to say, you're not casting- you're not just casting a protest vote here. These guys will actually take charge. And if you want this drug companies putting the faulty drugs out, that's fine. If you want BP, if you want Wall Street, these are the consequences of your vote. And I thought that was smart of Robert to do that. And I think Democrats-
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not to sugar-coat.
CARVILLE: Not to sugar-coat it. Every Democratic consultant is telling me they're coming out of a focus group and saying, "Yeah, but they're not going to do that if they go in there." Yeah, focus group here in Kentucky or Nevada, you say, "Yeah, they're crazy. But if they get to Washington, they won't do all the other stuff. I want to vote against a Democrats to send a message." At a point, you have to say, no. "You're actually going to be voting for a policy here."
NICOLLE WALLACE: Well, the truth is, 51 percent of Americans, as you just pointed out, want Republicans in control because they want to put the brakes on this agenda. I think it confirms what people long suspected, which is that while some people still like Obama personally, I think that's where the approval numbers come from, they want desperately now to put the brakes on his agenda.
STEPHANOPOULOS: They don't necessarily want Republicans. Another key number in the poll, we asked people who do you trust more, Democrats or Republicans on key issues? And let's show that: On the economy, voters, 42 to 34 still trust Democrats over Republicans on the economy. On who is going to make the right decisions for the country's future, same thing, 32, to 26. So, there's still, Nicolle, no- not a lot of confidence in the Republican Party.
WALLACE: Well, and that's the needle in the haystack in this otherwise very grim assessment of voter sentiment. And, certainly, that is what, when they pull themselves away from the bars this morning, the Democrats will be waving that statistic around. But, I think, you know, they're also going to point to the analogy of Reagan. But, what Reagan did when his numbers were down, was he crafted an agenda that appealed to independent voters who were running, not walking away, from Obama and his agenda.
CARVILLE: I think that the key word that 51 percent is a protest vote. This is not a protest vote. This may be a vote for a policy and policy change. It's much easier to say, I'm going to vote for somebody I don't like because I want to protest someone else I don't like.
WALLACE: Well, how do you think Obama won? I mean, you know, Obama ran as a protest vote candidate for President.
CARVILLE: I understand that people knew he was going to win. And they knew the policy he was running. My point is, right now, congressionally, people are saying "I just want to send the Democrats a message. And Republicans won't be able to do anything of the things they say." To some extent, you have to remind them there could be a policy involved in this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is there anything else, right now, that Republicans can do, Nicolle, now, to address that number, that lack of confidence?
WALLACE: Well, I think Republicans have to say laser-focused on what your poll shows is largest group of self-identified independents that most polls have seen. And I think that group is looking for common sense. They are looking for lower taxes. They're very wary about an expanded role, size and cost of the federal government. And they're worried about the deficit. I think that's the jam Obama finds himself in. To grow the economy, most measures expand the deficit.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You said Robert Gibbs was brilliant. What more should Democrats do to keep the House?
CARVILLE: To keep the House? Well, we have a three-prong strategy to keep the House. It's called the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. [Laughs]
WALLACE: We tried that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You think that it's impossible?
CARVILLE: I think to keep the House- no. I think we can. Look, it's possible to keep the House. But I think first, that to remind people that there's consequences to this election. I think also, honestly, they need a few good months of decent job numbers and sort of make the case. And I felt the White House on this, they never say they have a strategy. There's a plan in place. It may not be working as fast as you want. The Republicans are blocking a lot of it. But this is what we're doing. And if they get a sense, they could do better than they are currently doing in this poll.