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CBS Hammers Haley Barbour on 'Impact' of Mourdock on Women's Vote

Charlie Rose and Norah O'Donnell badgered former RNC head Haley Barbour on Thursday's CBS This Morning on Indiana Republican Richard Mourdock's strongly pro-life stance, that even children conceived in rape are "God intended." Rose strongly hinted that the media firestorm surrounding Mourdock could affect the presidential race: "Romney may be gaining support among women. And the question arises, could this Mourdock controversy impact that?" [audio available here; video below]

The CBS morning newscast stood out among its Big Three peers in significantly adding to the more than seven and half minutes of coverage from the previous day. The network devoted three minutes, 6 seconds to Mourdock, which is nearly three times the one minutes and 7 seconds that ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today set aside to the story combined.

 Out of the gate, Rose asked his "impact" question. Barbour initially replied by sidestepping the issue: "Well, look, people in the United States are focused on jobs and the economy, whether men or women, because that's what's affected their daily lives....they know that the huge deficits - over $5 trillion added to the debt under Obama - has made it harder to grow the economy in the United States, and made the future much less bright for America. So, it doesn't surprise me that women are just as focused on the economic security of their families as men are."

Unsurprisingly, O'Donnell, who has a record of grilling Republican/conservative guests, pressed the issue: "But Governor, do you think, as Senator [John] McCain suggested, that Mourdock should apologize for his comments?"

The former Mississippi governor answered by going further than the Romney campaign's own statement on the controversy: "Well, I don't agree with what he said. I thought that what he said was kind of crazy. But, having said that, this election for president is not about that. This election for president is about Obama's failed economic record...That's what families, Norah, are talking about at the kitchen table. They're not talking about some guy who's secretary of state from Indiana."

Rose, who has also hounded right-of-center interviewees on CBS This Morning, then pounced at Barbour's strong reply: "But, Governor, if you think it was crazy, shouldn't he be in a position to consider apologizing to set the record straight?" The former RNC chairman retorted with a critique of the media: "Well, look, he's got to decide that....But I can tell you, Barack Obama loves it when CBS News or CNN or Fox News is talking about what some guy running for senator said, instead of what the American people are really concerned about, because the more this election is about the economy and jobs, the worse Obama does."

For the remainder of the interview, O'Donnell twice pressed her guest on the Obama campaign's supposedly stronger ground game in Ohio:

O'DONNELL: The President has a two-to-one advantage when it comes to those who voted early. Are you concerned that Republicans may have been out-organized on the ground?....we just showed a graphic that shows that – The Atlantic magazine, that Obama and their campaign has three times as many field offices in Ohio as Mitt Romney, and also, in Florida and in Virginia. How do the Republicans counter that? And I know the Republican National Committee, which you once headed, is – has great practice at a ground game. But how are they being out-manned, out-officed, if you will, by the Democrats?

Prior to the Barbour interview, Nancy Cordes spotlighted how the incumbent Democrat's mauling of Mourdock during an appearance on NBC's Tonight Show:

NANCY CORDES: ...He [Obama] did make a quick detour to appear on 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno' last night, where he addressed the remarks made by the Indiana Republican running for Senate, who said that babies born of rape are part of God's plan.

JAY LENO: This seems like we're back to Todd Akin time again.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I – I don't know how these guys come up with these ideas. Let me make a very simple proposition: rape is rape. It is a crime. (audience applauds)

CORDES (voice-over): The President was reacting to comments made by Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock in his Senate debate Tuesday night.

RICHARD MOURDOCK, (R), INDIANA U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.

CORDES: Governor Romney has released a statement, saying he disagrees with Mourdock, though he did not pull his endorsement of him....

The full transcript of the Haley Barbour interview on Thursday's CBS This Morning:

CHARLIE ROSE: With us now is former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. He also served as chairman of the Republican National Committee. Governor, good morning.

HALEY BARBOUR, (R), FMR. GOVERNOR OF MISSISSIPPI: Good morning, Charlie.

[CBS News Graphic: "Race For The White House: Obama, Romney In Swing State Blitz"]

ROSE: There's some polls that indicate that the President may be losing – or Governor Romney may be gaining support among women. And the question arises, could this [Richard] Mourdock controversy impact that?

[CBS News Graphic: "AP/GfK Poll: Presidential Race Among Women: Likely Voters: Obama, 47%; Romney, 47%; Margin of Error: +/- 4.2%"]

BARBOUR: Well, look, people in the United States are focused on jobs and the economy, whether men or women, because that's what's affected their daily lives. They're seeing their children not be able to get a job. They're seeing their children come home and live with them. And when the President says - earlier this week now - he's got a job plan, and the front page of the Washington Post today says Obama to focus on the debt – well, you can see why the American people are shaking their head about the last four years. Jobs and the economy are what are on people's minds, and they know that the huge deficits - over $5 trillion added to the debt under Obama - has made it harder to grow the economy in the United States, and made the future much less bright for America. So, it doesn't surprise me that women are just as focused on the economic security of their families as men are.

[CBS News Graphic: "Gender Politics: Poll: Romney, Obama Close Gender Gap"]

NORAH O'DONNELL: But Governor, do you think, as Senator [John] McCain suggested, that Mourdock should apologize for his comments?

[CBS News Graphic: "Race For The White House: Fmr. GOP Chair On The Mourdock Uproar"]

BARBOUR: Well, I don't agree with what he said. I thought that what he said was kind of crazy. But, having said that, this election for president is not about that. This election for president is about Obama's failed economic record in job creation; in exploding debt; skyrocketing spending; terrible health care reform that's already costing the American people money. That's what families, Norah, are talking about at the kitchen table. They're not talking about some guy who's secretary of state from Indiana.

[CBS News Graphic: "'...even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.' - Richard Mourdock (R) U.S. Senate Candidate from Indiana"]

ROSE: Yeah. But, Governor, if you think it was crazy, shouldn't he be in a position to consider apologizing to set the record straight?

BARBOUR: Well, look, he's got to decide that. It's not what I think – I wouldn't have said – or how I wouldn't have characterized something.

But I can tell you, Barack Obama loves it when CBS News or CNN or Fox News is talking about what some guy running for senator said, instead of what the American people are really concerned about, because the more this election is about the economy and jobs, the worse Obama does.

O'DONNELL: Well, let's turn now to the latest Time magazine poll that shows the race in Ohio is very close - Obama leading by five points, but the President has a two-to-one advantage when it comes to those who voted early. Are you concerned that Republicans may have been out-organized on the ground?

[CBS News Graphic: "Time Poll: Presidential Race Among Ohio Voters: Likely Voters: Obama, 49%; Romney, 44%; Margin of Error: +/- 3% Pts."]

BARBOUR: Well, I'm not, because of that data. First of all, polling of that kind is not very reliable. But historically, in Ohio and some other states – Cuyahoga County and Franklin County - Cleveland and Columbus - the Democrats turn out their early voting very early, right from the beginning. Yet, from what we see in the actual data, by party registration - not by polling - they have less of an advantage this year than normal. The Republicans have turned out in a higher than normal percentage in those two big Democratic counties, as well as in Republican counties. So, I, actually, am optimistic about the ground game that the Republican National Committee and the Obama administration have – I mean, the Romney campaign has. The Obama people go on muscle and manpower driven by the labor unions. For us, it's energy and enthusiasm, and right now, it looks like energy and enthusiasm is keeping up pretty good.

[CBS News Graphic: "Field Office Advantage: Ohio: Obama, 131; Romney, 40; Florida: Obama, 106; Romney, 47; Virginia: Obama, 61; Romney, 30; Source: TheAtlantic.com"]

O'DONNELL: But we just showed a graphic that shows that – The Atlantic magazine, that Obama and their campaign has three times as many field offices in Ohio as Mitt Romney, and also, in Florida and in Virginia. How do the Republicans counter that? And I know the Republican National Committee, which you once headed, is – has great practice at a ground game. But how are they being out-manned, out-officed, if you will, by the Democrats?

[CBS News Graphic: "Race For The White House: Fmr. GOP Chair On Battle For Ohio"]

BARBOUR: Well, the good news for the Republicans, is it's not a matter of how many offices you have-
O'DONNELL: Yeah-

BARBOUR: It's a matter of how many voter contacts that you make. And you can organize yourself into lots more little offices, or not as many offices, but bigger, with more outreach. But the real question is, how many voters do you contact? How compelling is your message? And what kind of job do you do getting those voters to actually go to the polls and vote? And so, the number of offices, to me, is irrelevant.

ROSE: Governor Barbour, thank you very much.

BARBOUR: Thank you, Charlie, Norah.

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.