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CBS Relays Dem Claims of 'Dangerous' & 'Extreme' GOP, NBC Sees Tea Party Hurting Other Republicans

On Friday morning, after airing a full report on the Democratic strategy of painting Republican candidates as "dangerous" and "extreme," CBS's The Early Show co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez seemed surprised when Republican guest Eric Cantor disagreed with her view that "there is no question these Tea Party Republicans are outside the Republican mainstream," and her suggestion that next year Republican congressional leaders may be in the "tricky position" of "feeling indebted to these candidates while trying to keep them in line."

And, picking up on Republican accusations of Democrats being extreme, the CBS anchor also wondered, "If these Tea Party-backed candidates win election, wouldn't we just be going from one extreme to another?"

Meanwhile, over on the Today show, NBC's David Gregory repeated the theory of some Democrats that Delaware Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell and other Tea Party-backed candidates are hurting Republicans in neighboring Pennsylvania. And, while he at least conceded that the Tea Party is a "legitimate movement," he described Nevada Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle - in addition to O'Donnell - as "outliers." He did not acknowledge the role the mainstream media may be playing in turning swing voters against Tea Party candidates.

Returning to CBS's The Early Show, co-host Rodriguez plugged the relevant segment as she and guest co-host Chris Wragge began the show. Rodriguez: "The midterm elections are drawing ever closer, and a couple of polls this morning are showing that previously written off Senate Democratic candidates are inching closer to the Republican opponents. So the question is: Is that because President Obama and other key leaders of the Democratic Party are out there campaigning and using a new strategy where they're calling these Tea Party Republicans words like 'extreme' and 'dangerous'?"

A bit later came a piece by correspondent Nancy Cordes in which she recounted the latest Democratic strategy: "And now, Democrats seem to be developing their own theme. In race after race, they're painting the Republican opponents as extremists and dangerous."

Clips of ads against several of the Republican Senate candidates ran in which the narrator recited some version of the GOP nominee being extreme, followed by several clips of Democratic Senate candidates making similar claims in debates with their GOP opponents.

Co-host Rodriguez then brought aboard House Minority Whip Cantor and started off by asking him if Republican members of Congress would be just as extreme as Democrats: "With the Democrats using these words like 'extreme' and 'dangerous' to describe these Tea Party-backed candidates, it reminds me a lot of the Republicans issuing the same warning about President Obama and some other Democrats, so what is the difference, Congressman? If these Tea Party-backed candidates win election, wouldn't we just be going from one extreme to another?"

She then made known her view that Tea Party candidates are "outside the Republican mainstream," and seemed surprised as Cantor disagreed:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: But not speaking of personality, speaking strictly of policy, there is no question these Tea Party Republicans are outside the Republican mainstream, many of them lack political experience, but yet they are the energy that may just drive the Republicans back into power, especially in the House, and you may find yourself in a tricky position. You might find yourself feeling indebted to these candidates while trying to keep them in line. How would you balance that?

ERIC CANTOR: Maggie, I differ with you to say that the people affiliated with the Tea Party across this country are outside the mainstream.

RODRIGUEZ: Really?

On NBC's Today, when guest co-anchor Natalie Morales brought up the latest poll showing Pennsylvania Democratic Senate nominee Joe Sestak getting closer to GOP candidate Pat Toomey, David Gregory suggested that Christine O'Donnell and other Tea Party candidates are hurting Toomey. Gregory:

There's also the phenomenon in Pennsylvania of what's going on in Delaware, the Coons-O'Donnell race. Christine O'Donnell getting so many headlines, she's not really in that race, she's way behind, but a lot of independent voters looking at some of the things she's saying, more controversial, thinking I'm not sure I trust the Republican brand right now and the Tea Party right now. It's actually helping, in the view of Democrats in Pennsylvania, helping Sestak in his race.

After Morales asserted that Democrats are "O'Donnellizing" other Republicans, Gregory brought up Sharron Angle as he continued:

And the reality is that's only going to work so far because the Tea Party movement is a legitimate movement. It is energizing voters around the country, but there's certainly some outliers. Christine O'Donnell is one of them. Democrats cast this as the freak show going on on the right around the country, and they're going to try to use that in some of those races. In some cases it may work, in some cases not. And probably more of the cases it may not, but there's enough of a thread here to pull together. Sharron Angle in Nevada made some very controversial statements about Latinos in front of a group she spoke to. That could hurt in a state where you've got high Latino voters.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Friday, October 22, The Early Show on CBS, and the same day's Today show on NBC:

#From The Early Show:

7:01 a.m.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: The midterm elections are drawing ever closer, and a couple of polls this morning are showing that previously written off Senate Democratic candidates are inching closer to the Republican opponents. So the question is: Is that because President Obama and other key leaders of the Democratic Party are out there campaigning and using a new strategy where they're calling these Tea Party Republicans words like "extreme" and "dangerous"? We'll ask a top Republican leader about the new strategy this morning.

...

7:05 a.m.

RODRIGUEZ: Time for more on campaign 2010. For months now, Republicans have painted vulnerable Democrats as being too closely tied to party leaders. And this morning, President Obama and other Democrats are stealing a page from the GOP play book. CBS News congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes is in Washington with the story. Nancy, good morning.

NANCY CORDES: Maggie, good morning to you. Until now, Democrats have been avoiding nationalizing this race around a couple of central themes. They thought they would have better luck in a tough year fighting each race on its own terms, but what they've been finding is that that allowed the Republicans to define them on health care, on the economy, and on jobs.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If you haven't already voted for Patty Murray, let me be clear, you need to go right after this rally, fill out that ballot, and mail it in.

RODRIGUEZ: President Obama's rally in Seattle for Senator Patty Murray of Washington state fit right into the theme her opponent, Dino Rossi, has developed about her.

CLIP OF AD: Patty Murray is in the other Washington voting with Pelosi and Reid for the Wall Street bailout.

RODRIGUEZ: Rossi has been arguing that the three-term Senator is too cozy with Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress, something that's become a bit of a national strategy for Republicans.

PROFESSOR LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: If you watch the ads, you would think that President Obama was on the ballot and Nancy Pelosi was on across the nation as well.

RODRIGUEZ: And now, Democrats seem to be developing their own theme. In race after race, they're painting the Republican opponents as extremists and dangerous.

CLIP OF AD #1: Sharron angle, too dangerous to have real power over real people.

CLIP OF AD #2: Carly Fiorina, just too extreme for California.

CLIP OF AD #3: Joe Miller is Alaska's craziest catch.

CORDES: Some Democrats have also been using their debates to tag opponents as outside the mainstream.

JOE SESTAK, PENNSYLVANIA DEMOCRATIC SENATE NOMINEE: What I'm most concerned about are those extreme candidates that are actually taking advantage of the extreme fringe of the Tea Party.

HARRY REID, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: My job is to create jobs. What she's talking about is extreme.

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS, ILLINOIS DEMOCRATIC SENATE NOMINEE: You're going to see that Karl Rove and the independent expenditures that are fueling Congressman Kirk's commercial every single day are having a dangerous impact on the future of our democracy.

CORDES: Despite all those ads attacking the President, he's still got a very busy campaign schedule between now and election day. He's in Minnesota tomorrow, in Rhode Island on Monday, and he'll be hitting four cities the weekend before the election, Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: Nancy Cordes in Washington. Thank you, Nancy. Joining us now from the campaign trail in Irving, Texas, is Republican House Whip Eric Cantor. If the GOP takes control of the House, he stands to become the majority leader. Congressman, good morning.

ERIC CANTOR, HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: Good morning, Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: With the Democrats using these words like "extreme" and "dangerous" to describe these Tea Party-backed candidates, it reminds me a lot of the Republicans issuing the same warning about President Obama and some other Democrats, so what is the difference, Congressman? If these Tea Party-backed candidates win election, wouldn't we just be going from one extreme to another?

CANTOR: You know, Maggie, this election's not about personalities. People are really upset. They're frustrated at their economic circumstance. They're tired of the spending in Washington, and what our Republican candidates are talking about on the campaign trail is cutting the spending, reining in the size of government and doing what we have to do to remove the uncertainty so people can get back to work. That's where the people are. It's not about these personal attacks. It's really about getting America back on track.

RODRIGUEZ: But not speaking of personality, speaking strictly of policy, there is no question these Tea Party Republicans are outside the Republican mainstream, many of them lack political experience, but yet they are the energy that may just drive the Republicans back into power, especially in the House, and you may find yourself in a tricky position. You might find yourself feeling indebted to these candidates while trying to keep them in line. How would you balance that?

CANTOR: Maggie, I differ with you to say that the people affiliated with the Tea Party across this country are outside the mainstream.

RODRIGUEZ: Really?

CANTOR: These are people that are concerned about the fisc-, these are people, Maggie, that are concerned about the fiscal state of our country. Remember what the Tea Party acronym stands for: It's "Taxed Enough Already." People are tired of Washington spending the money we don't have, they're tired of seeing the expanse of government into almost every aspect of our lives, and, frankly, they want to see us return to the America that has always stood as the beacon of prosperity to the world. We're at a crossroads, here, Maggie. I mean, I think people begin to understand that when they've been out of work as long as they have. We've got to address the fiscal situation, cut the spending and get people back to work.

RODRIGUEZ: So am I to understand that you believe that the Republican Party's views in general and the Tea Party's views are one in the same?

CANTOR: What I would say, Maggie, is most of the independents in this country and the races that I'm seeing are aligning themselves with the same notion that they're so frustrated to see that Washington's just not listening to the people. This administration and the Obama-Pelosi agenda that has been unfolded over the last 20 months is the extreme agenda. That's what people don't recognize. They don't recognize an America that has a federal government that they're now scared of. That's where the people are. The people want to see a Washington that will listen again. They want to see leaders in Congress to make sure that their federal government starts working for the people again and not the other way around.

RODRIGUEZ: Are you confident that you will see yourself as majority leader? Because a couple of new polls, more in the Senate races, but a couple of new polls show that the Democrats are catching up with the Republican opponents?

CANTOR: Maggie, we have 11 days to the election, and I am optimistic, with caution, that the Republicans are going to have a great night on November 2nd. And I think, squarely in the camp that people are in, and that is they want a check and balance right now on an agenda that's been unfettered, an agenda that seems to be taking America in a direction that people don't recognize. People want to get some stability back. They want to get back to work. They want leaders in Washington who will be responsive to the will of the people.

RODRIGUEZ: Congressman Eric Cantor, sir, we appreciate your time.

CANTOR: Maggie, thank you.

RODRIGUEZ: You're welcome.

#From the Today show:


7:13 a.m.

NATALIE MORALES: And now to the countdown to the midterm elections. With just 11 days to go, races are tightening across the country as President Obama spends his third day campaigning out West. David Gregory is the moderator of Meet the Press. David, good morning to you.

DAVID GREGORY: Good morning, Natalie.

MORALES: So you said the President spent the last couple of days campaigning out West in Oregon and Washington. He's going to be in California followed by Nevada today to stump for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. These are traditionally Democratic-leaning states. What is the President's closing argument now? And what is really the major hurdle for the Democrats and Republicans going forward?

GREGORY: Well, if you, if you look where the President's going, he's going to states that he won in 2008, and he's also trying to protect those Senate seats. The big strategy within the White House is while they may have a fighting chance, at least that's their spin for the House, they do feel more confident about holding onto Democratic majority in the Senate. So he'll go to Washington state, he'll try to help Barbara Boxer in California and notably try to help Harry Reid in Nevada who's in a very, very tight race. He's got to turn out the traditional base of the Democratic Party. Closing argument is very simply "be afraid of change, don't buy into the Republican argument, you're going to go backward, they want to shut down the government, they want to take away some things that we've accomplished." That's going to be a very aggressive argument. He ties it to all the outside money coming in saying "they just want to go backward, look at some of the people involved, it's a return to the Bush years."

MORALES: Now we're tight, we're seeing a tightening in some of the races. Let's focus in specifically, Pennsylvania right now. New Quinnipiac poll now shows Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak closing in on his opponent Pat Toomey there, just by two percentage points compared to about seven last month. So what has helped Sestak just in the last few weeks?

GREGORY: I've talked to Democrats and Republicans not only in Pennsylvania, but around the country, and the overall feeling is that you've got Democrats who are coming home in those blue states, in those Democratic states, and that appears to be the case in Pennsylvania. More Democrats getting interested in the race. They're getting fired up, there's more intensity. The President is helping. There's also the phenomenon in Pennsylvania of what's going on in Delaware, the Coons-O'Donnell race. Christine O'Donnell getting so many headlines, she's not really in that race, she's way behind, but a lot of independent voters looking at some of the things she's saying, more controversial, thinking I'm not sure I trust the Republican brand right now and the Tea Party right now. It's actually helping, in the view of Democrats in Pennsylvania, helping Sestak in his race.

MORALES: Yeah. I mean, and the question is, too, then, with the Christine O'Donnell and the Tea Party effect, is she helping or hurting because it seems like the Democrats are really O'Donnellizing a lot of the GOP candidates, right?

GREGORY: No question about it. And the reality is that's only going to work so far because the Tea Party movement is a legitimate movement. It is energizing voters around the country, but there's certainly some outliers. Christine O'Donnell is one of them. Democrats cast this as the freak show going on on the right around the country, and they're going to try to use that in some of those races. In some cases it may work, in some cases not. And probably more of the cases it may not, but there's enough of a thread here to pull together. Sharron Angle in Nevada made some very controversial statements about Latinos in front of a group she spoke to. That could hurt-

MORALES: Mm-hmm.

GREGORY: -in a state where you've got high Latino voters.
And again, that's something that the President will hit when he's out there today.

- Brad Wilmouth is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.