On Tuesday, the folks on CBS This Morning did their best to downplay the significance of a potential GOP-controlled Senate in this year’s midterm elections. Unlike ABC and NBC who provided mostly straightforward coverage of today’s elections, CBS made sure to push the line that regardless of the outcomes, the election was an indictment of both political parties.
Throughout three segments, multiple CBS News contributors pushed the line that even if Republicans take control of the Senate “not only is this election not about either party's ideas, Democrats or Republicans, but really more about the fact that Americans just want to get rid of whoever is in there now and put somebody else in Washington.”
CBS News reporter Nancy Cordes began the network’s midterm coverage by insisting that “incumbents from both sides have struggled to tout tangible achievements as this Congress is poised to be the least productive ever.” Cordes then declared that the election was “more about the fact that Americans just want to get rid of whoever is in there now and put somebody else in Washington.”
Co-host Charlie Rose then turned to CBS News Political Director John Dickerson who poured even more cold water on the significance of a possible GOP victory:
The electorate is angry, it’s frustrated, its sour. What if a lot of them just don't turn out? We've been talking about this is a base election. If the number of moderates, people who identify themselves as moderates is very low, then we'll know that people looked at this they just got sick of it and they said I'm going to do something else other than vote today… Well, you talk to voters they say nothing's going to change in Washington even if control of the Senate changes.
During the 8:00 hour, both Dickerson and CBS News contributor Frank Luntz continued to cast doubt on the impact of a possible GOP-controlled Senate. Luntz began his analysis by playing up a recent CBS News poll saying the election was just an anti-incumbent year:
CBS did a poll and they asked the questions this election about Barack Obama, for him or against him? And a plurality said it's not about Obama at all. In the work that we've done it’s actually anti-Washington votes. It's an anti-incumbent vote.
Co-host Charlie Rose went on to hype how unlike 1994 when the Republican Party introduced the Contract with America, no such mandate exists this time around and cast doubt on the party's ability to pass legislation after the November election.
As CBS This Morning’s midterm coverage concluded, co-host Gayle King wondered “how likely that the pollsters are wrong, hello, Eric Cantor? Nobody predicted he would lose.” Rather than push back against the liberal host’s claim, Frank Luntz eagerly agreed with King and concluded the segment by declaring “the Republican pollsters in 2012 were way off predicting Mitt Romney so I’ll tell you one thing for every viewer to remember. Don’t trust the pollsters.”
See relevant transcripts below.
CBS This Morning
November 4, 2014
CHARLIE ROSE: Welcome to "CBS This Morning." This is Election Day and voters are already going to the polls. The midterm elections will decide who will represent the people in Congress. Republicans are poised to make gains in both the House and the Senate.
NORAH O’DONNELL: When it's over, President Obama could face a Congress controlled by Republicans. This morning, the Democrats hold a 55 to 45 majority in the Senate but our CBS News/New York Times battleground tracker indicates the GOP is likely to add six Senate seats. And that is just enough for a 51/49 majority. Nancy Cordes is here with more on the final day of campaign 2014. Nancy, good morning.
NANCY CORDES: Good morning. Well nobody can see that this is going to be anything but a good night for Republicans. The question is how good. Can Democrats stop them just shy of a majority in the Senate, or will Republicans dominate both houses for the first time since 2006?
CORDES: Across the country, candidates have made their closing pitches.
MARY LANDRIEU: I am calling Bill Cassidy out.
ED GILLESPIE: On Sunday, we changed our clocks, and tomorrow, we change our senator.
CORDES: Now, it's the voters turn to send a message. A third of the Senate is up for re-election. But only nine of those 36 seats are considered toss-ups. Republicans in those races have worked to tie their opponents to an unpopular president.
PAT ROBERTS: Anybody that votes for Greg Norman is voting for Obama
CORDES: While Democrats kept their distance.
ALISON LUNDERGAN GRIMES: I'm not Barack Obama. I disagree with him on guns, coal and the EPA.
CORDES: The White House argued Monday the Democrats' superior ground game will save them.
JOSH EARNEST: I do think the Democrats will retain the majority.
CORDES: If Republicans do take back the Senate, Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell will become the majority leader. He’s promised to move quickly and push GOP priorities like the Keystone XL pipeline and changes to ObamaCare.
MITCH MCCONNELL: Obviously, the president is the only person who can sign something into law, so whether we can make progress in the next two years depends upon him.
CORDES: Candidates and outside groups spent a record $3.6 billion on this election. The most expensive Senate race, North Carolina cost upwards of $100 million. Are you worried that voters are going to voters are going to watch all these ads and end up not liking either of you very much?
THOM TILLIS: If you believe some of the ads you’d think that Senator Hagan was a bad person then I was too.
CORDES: Incumbents from both sides have struggled to tout tangible achievements as this Congress is poised to be the least productive ever.
MARK WARNER: People at the end of the day, they know Washington is broken.
CORDES: And that is why many analysts believe that not only is this election not about either party's ideas, Democrats or Republicans, but really more about the fact that Americans just want to get rid of whoever is in there now and put somebody else in Washington.
ROSE: So it’s against the president and against Washington?
CBS This Morning
November 4, 2014
CHARLIE ROSE: John, Political Director John Dickerson is here. Good morning.
JOHN DICKERSON: Good morning, Charlie.
ROSE: So what are you going to be looking at earliest and most importantly?
DICKERSON: Well, earliest, I think North Carolina, because it's one place Democrats think they can do well. And it's one of those four battleground states, if you think of North Carolina, Iowa, Colorado and New Hampshire that are being fought over. The other batch we look at are the kind of the red states where we think Republicans will do well.
But if Democrats can hold on in North Carolina it means it will be a less big night for Republicans. If Democrats lose North Carolina then it's going to be a tough night. So that’s just an early state to watch. Later states, Colorado because that's another key battleground. We're going to talk a lot about that a lot in 2016. The other thing to Nancy's point is the electorate is angry, it’s frustrated, its sour.
What if a lot of them just don't turn out? We've been talking about this is a base election. If the number of moderates, people who identify themselves as moderates is very low, then we'll know that people looked at this they just got sick of it and they said I'm going to do something else other than vote today.
NORAH O’DONNELL: And Nancy, women would make historic gains tonight?
NANCY CORDES: That's right. We won't know until the night is over whether women have managed to pick up a couple seats in the Senate or actually lose a couple of seats in the Senate. Right now they control 20 seats or about a fifth. Exactly a fifth of the Senate. But you’ve got a trio of Democratic women senators who are very vulnerable tonight. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.
So if either of them lose we could see the numbers decrease. But there are a trio of women who could enter the Senate for the first time. Joni Ernst the Republican from Iowa, Michelle Nunn of George and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia who looks like a shoo-in to win tonight.
GAYLE KING: John, you touched on it that voters are just really sick of everybody. In your piece Nancy you said it’s been the least productive Congress. So if the Republicans take over the Senate, what is likely to change?
DICKERSON: Well, there’s going to be a lot of activity because Republicans have said – both in the Senate and in the House have said, that if we take power, the next question will be, okay what are you going to do with it? And you know the Republican brand has taken some damage over the last several years. In CBS polling the approval rating for the Republicans in Congress is about 20%.
And to improve that what Republican leaders and strategists say is we need to quickly show that we can get things done and also they’re already thinking about 2016. So how do we appeal to women voters? They know even though they may do well in some races and have pushed back against Democratic attacks with female voters they still know there's work to be done. So they’re going to have a policy agenda trying to show they can get things done. And also political objectives because they know the electorate in 2016 is different than the electorate in this year.
ROSE: One quick note, governors' races are up as well, significance?
DICKERSON: They are. Well, you talk to voters they say nothing's going to change in Washington even if control of the Senate changes. But in the governors' offices that's where people still operates, where government kind of operates the way it's supposed to. And that's where laws are passed that affect education, health care, law and order that really touches people's daily lives. There are about a dozen races in the governor’s offices that are up for grabs that really could change things.
O’DONNELL: Alright, Nancy and John, thank you so much.
CBS This Morning
November 4, 2014
CHARLIE ROSE: Americans get a chance this morning to elect 36 governor 36 senators and 435 members of Congress. Pollsters say only a few people will vote with great enthusiasm. And a majority will not bother to show up at all.
GAYLE KING: Republicans expect to pick up seats in the midterm election. The party not in the White House usually does. Nine battleground states are likely to determine if the GOP takes control of the Senate for the first time in six years. CBS News Political Director John Dickerson is here along with CBS News Contributor and Republican strategist Frank Luntz. Good morning and happy Election Day. So John, let's talk about tonight. How likely is it that Republicans will win the Senate?
JOHN DICKERSON: Well, it looks like its likely, but we're all used to surprises in politics so I feel it’s dangerous to even say that. But every Republican, every Democrat I'm talking to, I got an e-mail back this morning, somebody who said, I would be lying if I said it looks awesome. It’s euphemisms but they’re not good ones.
KING: But, Drank, so it looks likely, but you say you shouldn't take it as a mandate. Why?
FRANK LUNTZ: Well, CBS did a poll and they asked the questions this election about Barack Obama, for him or against him? And a plurality said it's not about Obama at all. In the work that we've done it’s actually anti-Washington votes. It's an anti-incumbent vote. And one of the things that no one’s been talking about are the governors' races because that sets up 2016.
That's how you determine the future of local and state. Republicans are in danger of losing several major gubernatorial races today. And so while I'm convinced that they will win the Senate, I think that Florida, for example could go Democrat and that’s significant.
ROSE: But Gayle’s point was will the people who are elected and coming to the Senate and the house have a mandate based on this election?
KING: That was my point.
LUNTZ: Everyone defines and we all have the right—
ROSE: And thank you, Charlie. You did not address that Frank Luntz.
LUNTZ: We all have a right in a free country to ignore the point to get to what we actually want to say.
ROSE: Exactly right.
LUNTZ: And I plan to exercise that right.
DICKERSON: Much like the politicians running.
LUNTZ: The problem is, that -- they will say they have a mandate. But do you have a mandate of-- let's say you get to 52 seats in Senate. That's only 52. Is that really a mandate? I think what the public is saying, because a lot of incumbents are going to lose, in fact more Democratic incumbents will lose tonight in the Senate than at any time since 1994. That's going back 20 years.
In the end, it's whether they will make the commitment to work with the president. And in the end, that's what the American people want. They want to get things done. There's two attributes in our polling that matter more than anything else, accountability and get things done. So they better listen to that.
ROSE: The interesting, Norah and I talked about this, the interesting question to me is the dynamic after the election between the president and the Congress.
DICKERSON: We’ll have a moment and one of them is going to have to grab it. Who makes the olive branch -- takes the olive branch moment? You could be terribly cynical about this and say you want to be seen as extending the olive branch because you know in the end it's going to be a fight and you need to kind of look like you weren’t always girded for a fight. But there will be an interesting dance if Mitch McConnell becomes the majority leader how he and the president interact in that first time.
O’DONNELL: And isn't it more likely, though, that the president though is about to come out with a series of executive actions that may anger the Republican-controlled Senate and House for that matter, especially on the issue of immigration?
DICKERSON: Well, he said he would.
O’DONNELL: So what kind of olive branch is that?
DICKERSON: Right. Well, it's an olive branch to the eye.
KING: Never good.
DICKERSON: Which is not a good way to start the conversation.
KING: But does one side need to extend the olive branch more than the other? Does one side look worse here, as you say, Frank, everybody looks bad.
LUNTZ: The best example is 1995-1996. More things got accomplished with Bill Clinton in office and the Republicans in the majority of the House and Senate than in any two-year period. They were able to cooperate and get things done even though they fought.
ROSE: But also they had a mandate based on the Contract with America at that time.
LUNTZ: And I saw it. I was involved in it. Did we mention the House? The other story that's not being told is that Republicans are nine seats away, which I think they could get to tonight, nine seats away from having the biggest majority since 1946.
O’DONNELL: In the House.
LUNTZ: In the House. So this is something significant.
ROSE: How likely is it we will not know until December or January?
DICKERSON: Who controls the Senate?
DICKERSON: Well, we'll know -- I think -- it's possible. I mean if there's a runoff –
ROSE: Is it likely or just possible.
DICKERSON: Charlie, you're pushing me too hard. I don't know. I don't know. We've got all of these races clattering around, we barely know what day it is.
O’DONNELL: We could know around 9:00, 10, because, depending on New Hampshire and North Carolina if it's a big Republican wave, then no we don't have to wait. If it's tight and the Democrats hold onto those seats—
DICKERSON: Right, we’ve also seen these races have their own particularities and so wave may not, it may break on the east coast by the time we get to the west coast.
ROSE: The point is, you could have a runoff in Georgia. You could have a runoff in Louisiana. And you could have something happening in Alaska where we don’t know right away.
LUNTZ: When you come tomorrow at 7:00 a.m., I believe the Republicans win the majority. But at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow when you go back on the air I do not think that will have been declared because of those three states that you mentioned?
KING: And how likely that the pollsters are wrong, hello, Eric Cantor? Nobody predicted he would lose.
LUNTZ: The Republican pollsters in 2012 were way off predicting Mitt Romney so I’ll tell you one thing for every viewer to remember. Don’t trust the pollsters.
KING: Coming from a pollster.
LUNTZ: Coming from a pollster.
O’DONNELL: I've been trying to make that point for a long time. Frank Luntz, John Dickerson, thank you.