Campaign 2008 continues with Democratic primaries in Kentucky and Oregon on Tuesday. The contest was CBS' pick to lead off its newscast. Hillary Rodham Clinton's strategy "seems simple," CBS' Jim Axelrod told us. "Emphasize Kentucky; ignore Oregon, where Barack Obama is expected to win; and then hope other Democrats do the same." Yet she is getting no traction. While all three newscasts had a correspondent cover Republican John McCain and all three filed a story Obama, who attracted a crowd of more than 70,000 in Oregon on Sunday, Axelrod was the lone reporter with air time on Rodham Clinton. He heard her pitch on her electability: "She can argue that all she wants but the fact of the matter is the superdelegates are not buying."
When Obama appeared on ABC's Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts asked him about a Republican video posted online that criticizes Michelle Obama for being a late-in-life patriot when she declared: "For the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country." All three newscasts--ABC's David Wright, NBC's Lee Cowan, CBS' Dean Reynolds--quoted candidate Obama's soundbite in response: "These folks should lay off my wife."
The three reporters were not so unanimous when reporting on McCain's continued criticism of Obama's attitude towards Iran as betraying a depth of "inexperience and reckless judgment…very serious deficiencies for an American President." CBS' Reynolds made McCain's disdain seem reasonable, characterizing it as being directed towards Obama's assessment of Iran as "a tiny threat." The paraphrase of Obama by NBC's Cowan was less tendentious, saying that Iran "poses only a tiny threat compared with that of the former Soviet Union." ABC's Wright used a formulation--"the threat posed by Iran is not as serious as once posed by the former Soviet Union"--that was so reasonable that it made McCain appear to be the one whose judgment was unhinged.
As for John McCain's campaign, NBC's Kelly O'Donnell and CBS' Chip Reid both reported on its latest internal shake-up. NBC's O'Donnell called it a "staff housecleaning over lobbying, conflicts of interest and past work for foreign governments" when five aides departed. Reid noted that "his reputation as a reformer took a hit." The headlines made by Cyclone Nargis in the Irrawaddy Delta made those inside-the-Beltway ties look worse, since two of the five had been paid to represent the military junta of Myanmar. On ABC, Jake Tapper looked at McCain's policy positions instead. He has tried to separate himself from George Bush's administration by disagreeing with the President on such issues as global warming and Hurricane Katrina disaster relief. Tapper noted that McCain's latest rhetoric, against federal subsidies for agribusiness, "may hurt Republicans running for reelection."
Both ABC's Tapper and CBS' Reid played clips from McCain's self-deprecating comedy on NBC's Saturday Night Live. Curiously, NBC's O'Donnell did not use the opportunity for cross-promotion.
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