COMMENTS: Final Weekend in Keystone Kitchen

After three days in a row with Pope Benedict XVI as the Story of the Day, Campaign 2008 returned to the top of the networks' agenda heading in to the Democrats' last weekend on the stump before Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary. Although the campaign qualified as top story, none of the newscasts deemed it newsworthy enough for its lead. NBC kicked off with a minor earthquake at dawn in the heartland. ABC chose mounting fears about Bisphenol A, a potential toxin that can leach from plastic bottles. CBS led from Texas, where the legal hearings in the mass child custody case continued.

ABC News' Philadelphia debate on Wednesday was grist for the campaign mill--not its substance but the continuing complaints about the substance. After Barack Obama called it a Gotcha Debate Thursday for its issue-free questions, Hillary Rodham Clinton responded by teasing Obama about his whining. NBC's Lee Cowan saw her paint Obama as "being too timid for the White House" because of his complaints. "If you cannot stand the heat get out of the kitchen," she quoted Harry Truman. "I am very comfortable in the kitchen." CBS' Jim Axelrod reminded us of Rodham Clinton's own protests about being constantly put on the spot by MSNBC: "She has done her share of complaining about debate treatment."

CBS' Axelrod noted that each candidate won the endorsement of four previously uncommitted superdelegates this week. The Obama campaign managed to spin that news effectively on ABC, where David Wright (embargoed link) referred to Rodham Clinton's pick-up as "including two former governors of New Jersey," whom he did not name, whereas those supporting Obama--David Boren, Sam Nunn, Robert Reich--were named as "elder statesmen" with head-and-shoulders shots. Wright saw Obama "firing on all cylinders" and even gave Reich, Bill Clinton's Secretary of Labor, a soundbite, calling Rodham Clinton's negative tone "old politics as usual."

CBS sent Jeff Greenfield to Allentown to round out its Pennsylvania coverage. He contrasted the stereotype of the Lehigh Valley, "shuttered steel mills, aging citizens, a struggling old economy" with the hi-tech above average incomes he found instead. Some ten or 20 years ago, the Lehigh Valley would have been "ideal terrain" for Rodham Clinton, mused Greenfield, but the new economy explains why her "once enormous lead has dwindled."


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