COMMENTS: How the Newscasts Cover Partisan Tactics

The state of the country represents such an adverse environment for Democrats that they actually find consolation in the propensity for that handful of (mostly) Republican candidates to grab wacky headlines. Nowhere are the two conditions as extreme as in Nevada where Majority Leader Harry Reid is defending his Senate seat against Sharron Crazy Juice Angle (the insult is from a Reid ad). CBS' Ben Tracy pointed out that the economy--unemployment plus foreclosures--is more adverse in Nevada than anywhere else; at the same time Angle has more Tea Party support than any other Republican.

CBS' political correspondent Jeff Greenfield found a microcosm for the parties' national tactics in a single Senate race: "It turns out all politics is not local," he concluded after studying the Colorado contest between Michael Bennet, the incumbent Democrat, and Ken Buck, the Tea Party nominee on the Republican line--"an insurgent Republican seeking to tie his opponent to Washington and to an unpopular President; a Democrat seeking independent votes by arguing his opponent is simply too far out of the mainstream." Buck offers inside-the-Beltway gridlock as his campaign pledge.

ABC's Jonathan Karl did the job in the editing room, stringing together soundbites from debates all across the nation. He nailed the emasculating tactics of Tea Party women, the outsider-vs-insider feuding, the way healthcare reform and federal deficits are explained--and the routine E-word used by Democrats in response. Check out the videotape then see what a good job Karl did by playing CBS' Tracy on the Reid-Angle debate.

CBS' Greenfield summed up their tactic thus: "Convince the voters that this election is a choice" rather than a referendum on the achievements of the last two years. NBC's Chuck Todd called it the "strategy of using controversial statements or background of specific Tea Party nominees…to paint the entire Republican Party as out of the mainstream."

What about campaign finance? All three networks examined the impact of anonymously-funded, non-profit, issue-advocacy groups. CBS' Nancy Cordes reported that Democratic groups are being outspent five-to-one: "Republicans argue they are just taking the playbook written by and other Democratic groups…and putting it on steroids." Her colleague Sharyl Attkisson filed a Follow the Money feature that ticked off the United States Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads, founded by Republican operative Karl Rove, as even bigger spenders than the largest labor unions: "Political observers have watched with delight or horror--but certainly awe…For the first time in a midterm, outside groups are outspending the official Democratic and Republican parties."

In the "horror" category, include NBC investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff. He complained about opened floodgates "for a whole bunch of non-profit groups that nobody has ever heard of…a return to seven-figure donations…as many as $20m-plus checks have come in from hedge fund moguls…really a return to the days before Watergate, the wild west days, no restrictions, secret money."

By the way, ABC's Jake Tapper picked up on accusations that the anonymously-donated tens of millions of dollars being spent on anti-Democratic advertising by the Chamber of Commerce may include contributions from foreign businesses. "No foreign money is used to fund our political activities," the Chamber told Tapper. Tapper asked rhetorically: "Is there any proof that foreign money is funding political ads or activities?" He answered the question himself. "No." A few days later, Tapper returned to the Democratic complaints about the anonymity of the millions being raised against them by quoting this taunt from Rove's American Crossroads: "We have raised $14m since the President and the DNC began attacking us, by far the biggest ten days of fundraising we have ever had."


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