COMMENTS: No Republican Frontrunner

Is it the election or is it the recession? For the fourth weekday out of the last five, the nightly newscasts could not decide which to focus on. This weekend's Republican South Carolina primary was Story of the Day. Mitt Romney's victory yesterday in Michigan means there is no frontrunner in the GOP field, putting extra pressure on his main rivals, John McCain and Mike Huckabee, not to fail on Saturday. Yet none of the networks led with South Carolina. Each chose a different aspect of the economy instead. NBC selected the quest by money center banks for foreign capital. CBS looked at growing credit card delinquencies and increasing joblessness. ABC previewed the debate on Capitol Hill over a plan for fiscal stimulus.

All three networks filed on the Republican Presidential campaign from South Carolina where Mitt Romney touched down briefly before leaving for Nevada. CBS' Bill Whitaker explained the sudden departure: "Romney is at the back of the pack here." The contest, NBC's Ron Allen told us, is between former prisoner of war John McCain, with his "solid base in the military community" and former Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee, in a state where born-again conservatives are "perhaps 60% of the GOP vote."

With three separate winners in the first three big contests, Republicans "have had to throw out their playbooks and they are all trying to map new strategies," as ABC's John Berman (embargoed link) put it. CBS' Jeff Greenfield saw the "road map ahead drawn with invisible ink." Rudolph Giuliani's leapfrog strategy of ignoring all the early states to focus on Florida may not be the solution, mused NBC's Mike Taibbi. According to the polls his "long-time double-digit lead here is gone." Still "he is going at it full bore in a three day bus tour and in the only television ads any candidate has been running."

"This is not how the Republican Party picks its nominees," CBS' Greenfield protested. "Since 1968, the GOP has chosen the obvious choice every time."


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