COMMENTS: Aftermath of West Virginia

The follow through from Hillary Rodham Clinton's overwhelming triumph over Barack Obama in Tuesday's West Virginia primary dominated the day's news--but not in the way the victorious candidate had planned. Hoping to capitalize on the momentum for her win, Rodham Clinton prerecorded nightly news interviews with both CBS and NBC. Obama saw Rodham Clinton's newsmaking skills and raised her one. He countered with a headline-grabbing live endorsement from former rival John Edwards that was chosen as the lead on CBS and NBC; ABC interrupted its newscast for three minutes of coverage from Obama's rally in progress. In a heavy news environment with campaign coverage split between those two storylines, ABC's lead, the rescue effort in earthquake-stricken southwest China, turned out to be the Story of the Day by a narrow margin.

"Timed for maximum exposure," was the compliment ABC anchor Charles Gibson paid to the Obama campaign for its introduction of Edwards precisely at the evening news hour. "This is a very well-timed announcement," concurred Dean Reynolds on CBS and NBC's Lee Cowan saw Obama's campaign hope "at the very least that this takes some attention from that big loss." ABC's George Stephanopoulos (no link) was more definitive: "They have been very good at pulling out endorsements like this after losses," he said admiringly. "This was designed to completely squash the West Virginia story."

The West Virginia story was indeed a terrible one for Obama. ABC's David Wright (embargoed link) called it "a pitiful performance" that exposed a regional weakness in the Appalachian heartland. Wright drew the map where Obama has failed: Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and the western half of New York State, states which "could hold the key to victory in November." Edwards' endorsement, with his 18 delegates from early primaries, redressed the loss that Obama suffered in West Virginia and it may help with "those white blue collar voters," NBC's Cowan suggested, who are "the core of Edwards' support." Interestingly, CBS' Reynolds pointed out that Edwards arrived to endorse Obama without his wife Elizabeth: "She is not on board," he reported. "This endorsement is not her endorsement. It is her husband's."


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