McCain Voters Prefer Gore: Bush's Fault; Granny D, NBC Hero; Gentle Bus
1) Bush won, but CBS still focused on his "difficult day on the stump" denying he's anti-Catholic. The exit poll found 42 percent of McCain voters plan to vote for Gore this fall, a finding CBS and NBC portrayed as a sign of Bush's weakness.
3) "I love Granny D!" exclaimed Today's Matt Lauer of the woman who walked cross the nation in a gimmick to push campaign finance "reform." Katie Couric roared: "She's great!" Tuesday night Bob Dotson claimed she "has felt the nation hugging her shoulders."
week's MagazineWatch, about the March 6 Time, Newsweek and U.S. News, is now
online. Topics covered in the edition compiled by MRC analyst Paul Smith:
"A double digit blow out win for Bush over McCain in Virginia," proclaimed Dan Rather at the top of the 7pm ET CBS Evening News Tuesday night. Actually, Bush won by nine points: 53 to 44 percent over John McCain. Despite his win, CBS focused on the negative for Bush, as Phil Jones stressed how "he's had a very difficult day on the stump. It's the same old question, did his appearance at Bob Jones University in South Carolina...mean that he's anti-Catholic." CBS also ran a story on McCain's latest attacks on the Religious Right for promoting the "politics of division" while ABC looked at how he's trying to convince Republicans he has a better shot of beating Gore and NBC focused on his "damage control" effort after his blasts the day before.
CBS and NBC cited an exit poll finding that 42 percent of McCain voters plan to vote for Gore in the fall if Bush wins the Republican nomination. But instead of seeing this as confirmation that McCain's "big tent" is being raised by liberals with no loyalty to the GOP, CBS's Bob Schieffer and NBC's Tim Russert portrayed it as a sign of Bush's weakness.
After weeks of being tarred as going to the far right, ABC's Dean Reynolds portrayed Bush's advocacy of a tax cut as a sign he's moving to the center: "Governor Bush has been moving toward the political center, emphasizing such things as tax cuts and education."
In non-campaign news, NBC Nightly News led with shooting of a first grader in Michigan by another six-year-old. Anchor Tom Brokaw asserted: "The community is stunned and already there's a new chorus of demands to do something about guns in America." In his subsequent story Jim Avila said nothing about any calls for gun control, so the "new chorus" must be the same old one from inside 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
Here's a rundown of Tuesday night, February 29, campaign coverage on the three broadcast networks:
-- ABC's World News Tonight led with the Michigan school shooting but soon got to the campaign in the 6:30pm ET feed shown in Washington, DC before the polls closed.
From the Bush campaign trail reporter Dean Reynolds
checked in, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson: "Governor
Bush is hoping that good news at the polls today will show that Senator
McCain's charges of religious intolerance in the Republican Party have
fizzled. Bush was in full response mode this morning in Cleveland. At a
Catholic family center, the Governor took pains to show his courtship of
conservative Protestants does not mean he is anti-Catholic, as Senator McCain
is suggesting now in Virginia and may try to do next week in Ohio."
After another Bush soundbite, Reynolds added: "At a rally near Columbus later, Bush said McCain's attack on Christian conservative leaders shows he is more interested in excluding people from the party than including them."
Reynolds concluded: "After being hammered for days as the captive of narrow minds, Governor Bush has been moving toward the political center, emphasizing such things as tax cuts and education. He'll take a good showing today as a sign that he's moving in the right direction."
Next, Linda Douglass hinted at the Virginia loss for
-- CBS Evening News went right to the results at 7pm ET with Bob Schieffer running through a bunch of exit poll numbers from Virginia, including how McCain captured just 25 percent of the Republican vote and when asked who attacked who unfairly, in contrast to the media line, 51 percent of Virginians blamed McCain compared to only 33 percent who named Bush.
But Schieffer found a downside in Bush's victory: "Most of what we did see in this poll was very good news for Bush, but there is one finding that will be disturbing to him and to Republicans in general: More than 40 percent of the people who voted for McCain today said they would vote for Democrat Al Gore rather than vote for Bush in the general election. That shows you Bush still has plenty of work to do."
Yeah, in getting fewer partisan Democrats to vote in Republican primaries.
From California, Bill Whitaker highlighted not
McCain's electoral troubles but his continued attacks on a part of
Reagan's coalition, reporting that McCain's quest is "nothing less
than a fight for the soul of the Republican Party."
McCain got another soundbite to hammer away: "Do we
want to head in an inclusive reform direction or do we want to head in the
direction of exclusivity and permanent minority status?"
Phil Jones, in the CBS News Washington bureau, narrated a story on Bush which stressed the negative: "Governor Bush needed this good news from Virginia but he's had a very difficult day on the stump. It's the same old question, did his appearance at Bob Jones University in South Carolina, which is anti-Catholic, mean that he's anti-Catholic."
Jones explained how at a Catholic family center in Ohio Bush apologized again and accused McCain of a spiteful campaign. Uniquely picking up on Pat Robertson's reaction to McCain expressed by phone on his 700 Club TV show, Jones followed the McCain/liberal spin and labeled Robertson a "problem" for Bush: "Pat Robertson, another political-religious problem for Bush, emerged on his 700 Club broadcast today, reporting in from a business trip to Mexico."
-- NBC Nightly News
at 7pm ET. Tim Russert ran through some exit poll numbers. After relaying how
82 percent of Democrats voted for McCain in Virginia, Russert found trouble
for Republicans in how many McCain voters will back Gore in the fall:
Lisa Myers checked in from the Bush camp where she saw "a huge sigh of relief." She went on to detail how he spent the day repairing damage with Catholics, noting that a new poll showed Bush up 17 points in Ohio and even ahead among Buckeye Catholics.
From the McCain campaign trail Anne Thompson looked at his fight to win in Washington (which he lost) and in California next week. She uniquely raised his debate pull-out, "Also today: Damage control for McCain, mounting criticism for his decision to skip Thursday's Republican debate in California." She added, however, that he offered to appear via satellite at the forum to be shown by CNN.
Today brought aboard George W. Bush's brother, Jeb Bush, on Tuesday morning to quiz him about his brother's speech at Bob Jones University. Asked if he'd speak there, Jeb Bush, who is the Governor of Florida, replied "I would," explaining getting your message out to thousands of students, who don't necessarily follow the beliefs of college leaders, is worthwhile.
Ann Curry set up the taped interview piece: "On Close Up this morning the Bush brothers. Texas Governor George W. Bush has faced heavy criticism for his visit earlier this month for his visit to Bob Jones University. A Christian school in South Carolina that bans interracial dating and whose founder once called the Catholic Church a satanic cult. This morning our national correspondent Jamie Gangel has an exclusive interview with the Governor's brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush. For him the controversy has become very personal and not just because his brother is under attack. Jeb Bush himself is Catholic and his wife is from Mexico. So we began by asking him to answer the toughest charges critics are leveling against his brother."
Here are Jamie Gangel's one-track series of questions,
as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
"Granny D," media hero. Literally. Tuesday morning 90-year-old Doris Haddock ended in Washington, DC her cross-country walk to gain publicity for her quest to impose more regulations and limitations on free speech, known in the media world as "campaign finance reform." After she appeared on Today, co-host Matt Lauer proclaimed: "I love Granny D!" Colleague Katie Couric, who did not challenge her views once in her softball interview and labeled her an "amazing role model," abandoned any pretense of objectivity, chiming in: "She's great!"
Tuesday night NBC Nightly News made another media contribution to Haddock's liberal cause, the kind of advocacy her favored McCain-Feingold bill will leave unfettered, as reporter Bob Dotson claimed "Haddock has felt the nation hugging her shoulders" and oozed about how while "most of us only witness history she went out and made it." How that is, given nothing has happened to advance her cause in the House or Senate, he did not say.
On the February 29 Today Couric set up the interview: "Last January Doris Haddock began a crusade to gather support for campaign finance reform. Better known as Granny D, this 90 year old great grandmother of 12 has walked 10 miles a day, six days a week across the entire country. After almost 14 months on the road her 3000 mile journey ends today. She joins us this morning from Arlington National Cemetery just a few steps from her final destination. the U.S. Capitol. Granny D, may I call you Granny D, good morning."
Here are Couric's promotional questions:
-- "You feel particularly strongly about so called
soft money. Campaign contributions from wealthy people or corporations that go
through the party's national committees, correct?"
-- "Do you think you're having an impact do you
think this walk is making people pay attention or that any change will result
-- "Well you've been
an amazing role model. You have a corset with metal ribs under your clothes
because you suffer from arthritis. You have two hearing aides, you have
emphysema, so this is quite a feat. Even when it snowed you got out cross
country skis and continued your trek."
MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed how the Today team
gushed about Haddock. After a commercial break late in the 7:30am half hour,
as the Today team sat on the coach, they discussed the interview:
She hasn't "done too well" with the national media?
Tuesday night Tom Brokaw introduced the last story on NBC Nightly News: "John McCain and Bill Bradley have spent a lot of time in this election year talking about campaign finance reform, but it turns out there are rookies on the subject. A ninety-year-old grandmother has spent the last year walking and talking about just that -- all across the country, literally."
Bob Dotson, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, began: "A ninety-year-old striding into Washington today leading an army of reformers. Doris Haddock has been gathering this crowd from Los Angeles to Washington, walking 3,000 miles on arthritic legs, determined to stop big business and unions from donating to political parties."
Dotson added: "Haddock, a retired secretary, hopes her hike across America might change that. It's why she started this trek -- to leave her twelve great grandchildren what she calls a 'better democracy.'"
After recounting some problems she had along the way, Dotson oozed about how "Haddock has felt the nation hugging her shoulders, shaking her hands, cheering her along." He concluded by glowing: "Her trek has not changed the way campaigns are financed, but Doris Haddock does see growing support. Most of us only witness history. She went out and made it."
With the help of a media enthused about her cause.
++ See Katie Couric's love-in with Granny D. On Wednesday MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post, in a RealPlayer format, a clip of the Today interview. Go to: http://www.mrc.org 
The gentle bus. John McCain spent weeks on his so-called "Straight Talk Express" bus talking to reporters who attributed his positive press to this level of open access. But apparently the reporters spent more time exchanging jokes and stories with McCain than posing tough questions. Or, so it seems, ABC's Cokie Roberts let slip on Monday's Charlie Rose show on PBS.
She appeared with her husband, Steve Roberts, to plug
their new book about marriage, From This Day Forward, but Rose soon steered
the conversion on the February 28 show toward the campaign. He asked about the
press tilt in favor of McCain, leading Cokie Roberts to bring up McCain's
appearance the day before on ABC's This Week:
Surrounded by reporters all day for two months and no tough questions. Amazing. -- Brent Baker 
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