No one thinks Barack Obama is sitting pretty in this race for the White House. The Real Clear Politics average of the mid-September approval-rating polls measures him at 43 percent approval, 51 percent disapproval. With these numbers, they should be measuring his political coffin. But to listen to the networks talk, it's the Republican field that is a mess in desperate need of new talent, and its debate audiences are a bloodthirsty horror movie.
One place that Democratic contenders go for positive publicity is the network morning shows. Their audiences are diminished, but they remain a powerful national platform, especially for female voters. Rich Noyes and Geoff Dickens of the Media Research Center have demonstrated how ABC, CBS and NBC set a pretty pleasant table for the Democratic candidates (and potential candidates like Al Gore) from Jan. 1 through July 31, 2007.
Back then, most of the questions were about the horse race, but 111 were questions that clearly reflected an ideological point of view. Of those, more than twice as many were softballs from the liberal perspective, 77 questions, than hardballs from the conservative side, 34. That doesn't make sense if the intention was to challenge the candidates. It makes sense if the networks are trying to help Democrats.
Now fast forward to 2011. The MRC team found 98 ideological questions posed to Republican contenders (and potential contenders like Donald Trump) from Jan. 1 to Sept. 15. Guess what? The overwhelming majority of those questions, 81 of them, reflected the liberal agenda, while just 17 inquiries came from the right. That makes no sense in helping Republicans choose a nominee. But they hope to damage whoever the Republicans nominate.
The 5-to-1 disparity merely underlines that the networks do not carefully attempt to balance out their questions. In every election cycle, they present their liberal obsessions as the nation's most pressing business.
The morning shows are especially fixated on raising taxes. It's a looped tape this year. "Is raising taxes on the table? ...What about raising taxes? ... Does that revenue side include raising taxes? ... Do you have to look at raising taxes, and do people have to pay more for what's needed in this country?"
Four years ago, they praised Democrats for favoring tax hikes. On Feb. 5, 2007, NBC's Matt Lauer saluted John Edwards: "I'm going to -- I'll applaud your honesty. You basically have come out and said, 'Look, I want universal health care for everyone in this country, and I'm going to raise taxes to accomplish it.'"