The third contender in the primary besides Romney and McCain was Mike Huckabee. CBS used a wheel format to file a report from each of the candidates before anchor Katie Couric sat down to discuss the findings of the exit polls. NBC had Ron Allen (no link) handle all the candidate chores--"each of the three leading Republicans is courting a different audience"--before consulting those same exit polls. ABC did not bother with the candidates and covered exit polls only.
Romney, CBS' Bill Whitaker (no link) told us, a native son of a Detroit auto executive, was campaigning on the economy. McCain was looking for independent minded voters, CBS' Chip Reid (no link) reported, using the candidate's own soundbite: "We are depending on Republicans, Democrats, independents, libertarians, vegetarians, Trotskyites." Huckabee had planned to spend just one day in Michigan, CBS' Nancy Cordes (no link) reported, but returned to show "we are in play even in a northern industrial state."
The exit polls, as usual, were the province of the networks' Sunday morning anchors. George Stephanopoulos of ABC's This Week picked up on the news that the Republican primary "is being dominated by Republicans." The independent vote had fallen to 25% of the turnout (compared with 35% in 2000) and Democrats from 17% to 7%. On NBC, Meet the Press' Tim Russert noted how much less important an issue the war in Iraq was compared with the state of the economy--"good news…bad news" for George Bush. Russert was in Las Vegas with NBC anchor Brian Williams in preparation for that night's MSNBC debate for the Democratic contenders before Saturday's Nevada caucuses.
On CBS, Face the Nation's Bob Schieffer (no link) shared chores with Jeff Greenfield. Greenfield noted that Michigan voters made their selection on the basis of issues, unlike those in New Hampshire whose criterion was the personal attributes of the candidates--and issues voters tend to support Romney. Schieffer speculated that a Romney victory in Michigan would be "good news for Rudy Giuliani, good news for Fred Thompson." Republicans, opined Greenfield, "are an organized party. They like a frontrunner. This time, good luck finding one!"
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