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CBS Touts Unnamed 'Panicked' Republicans' 'Real Sense of Fear That Romney Really Has One Last Shot'

Thursday's CBS This Morning was practically ready to sound the death knell for Mitt Romney's campaign, with John Dickerson playing up "the real sense of fear" among anonymous Republican sources that "Romney really has one last shot." Dickerson claimed that "those battleground state numbers...are part of the reason that Republicans are so panicked....Republican politicians starting to think about their own future as separate from Romney."

Norah O'Donnell also harped on how "there's only been one public rally in five days" for the former Massachusetts governor, glossing over the fact that he appeared at a public forum with Univision in Florida on Wednesday.

Anchor Charlie Rose brought on Dickerson and asked, "What are Republican insiders saying about this campaign and what it has to do?" The CBS News political director replied with his "real sense of fear" line, and continued that "what he's got to do is find some way to connect with voters, and then...stay away from all of these distractions, some of which come out of nowhere...he's got to find some way to actually do more than just assert that he's not Barack Obama."

O'Donnell followed up spotlighting "that if the election were held today, that Barack Obama would probably win this contest - if you look at the electoral votes - by 332 to 206, just based on the state polling." She then wondered if "Mitt Romney is having a message problem, or is he having a strategy problem, based on the fact that he held his first public rally in five days, and that Obama is outspending Romney on television ads in these battleground states?"

Dickerson again cited his unnamed sources: "When you talk to folks who have been veterans of Republican politics...they all point basically to the candidate...that the problems that Governor Romney is having are problems Governor Romney is having, not the campaign itself." He continued with his claim about "panicked" Republicans. This answer, however, didn't satisfy the NBC veteran, as she interrupted by repeating her public rally talking point: "But John, is Mitt Romney in charge of his schedule, if there's only been one public rally in five days?"

Later, Rose threw a softball question on the Obama campaign: "How well is the President using the power of the presidency?" Of course, he left out any mention of the question of what happened in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya and the latest developments in the Fast and Furious controversy.

The political director acknowledged that Obama "bears a lot of the weight of the fact that people look to him and say, why haven't you improved things, and he's made a lot of promises, and there's a lot of disappointment out in the electorate." But Dickerson added that the Democrat is "using as much of the power of the presidency to do two things: one, to show voters...here are things I'm doing specifically that are going to change your lives; but also, to show that he actually can do something. I mean, part of the problem with the economic picture is just impotency, that the President has all this power, and he's not doing anything to change it. These are ways that he can show, I'm doing things that actually affect your life."

Near the end of the segment, O'Donnell did point out a positive historical anecdote for Romney: "Karl Rove has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today that's saying, you know, this too shall pass - this moment for Mitt Romney...he says that in mid-September 1980, President Jimmy Carter led Ronald Reagan 44 to 40 percent in the Gallup poll. By late October, Reagan had slumped to 39 percent, while Carter had risen to 47 percent. But Reagan ended up winning by nine points....Can he...turn it around the way Reagan did in 1980?"

Dickerson poured cold water on this assessment by again turning to his unidentified Republican sources: "There is a glimmer of hope there. For that analogy to hold, a couple of things have to happen...Romney has to be as talented as Ronald Reagan. I think that one of the things you hear in conversations and interviews I've done, is that – a lot of people don't think he has those kind of skills."

The full transcript of the John Dickerson segment from Thursday's CBS This Morning:

CHARLIE ROSE: CBS News political director John Dickerson is in our Washington office. John, good morning.

JOHN DICKERSON: Good morning, Charlie.

[CBS News Graphic: "Race For The White House: Romney: My Campaign Is About The '100%'"]

ROSE: So, there you go about the campaign insiders. What are Republican insiders saying about this campaign and what it has to do?

DICKERSON: I've been on the phone with them for the last several days, even more so than normal, and, you know, there's a real sense of fear that Romney really has one last shot, and that what he's got to do is find some way to connect with voters, and then, execute – sort of, stay away from all of these distractions, some of which come out of nowhere. He could – you know, he doesn't control what videos pop up, but that he's got to find some way to actually do more than just assert that he's not Barack Obama.

[CBS News Graphic: "Pew Research Center Poll: Connects Better Ordinary Americans; Among Registered Voters: Obama, 66%; Romney, 23%; Margin of Error: +/- 2.3% Pts."

NORAH O'DONNELL: John, we have research from CBS, and I want to show this poll - battleground states across America  - that if the election were held today, that Barack Obama would probably win this contest - if you look at the electoral votes - by 332 to 206, just based on the state polling. And I have a question about whether this is – Mitt Romney is having a message problem, or is he having a strategy problem, based on the fact that he held his first public rally in five days, and that Obama is outspending Romney on television ads in these battleground states?

[CBS News Graphic: "CBS News/YouGov: Electoral Votes, If Election Were Held Today: Obama, 332; Romney, 206; Need 270 To Win"]

DICKERSON: Well, when you talk to folks who have been veterans of Republican politics - and these are some people who are close to the Romney campaign, others haven't been running the show since, say the Bush or Dole campaigns - they all point basically to the candidate, and that this – that the problems that Governor Romney is having are problems Governor Romney is having, not the campaign itself. Those numbers are partially – those battleground state numbers that you read there are part of the reason that Republicans are so panicked, that you have Republican politicians starting to think about their own future as separate from Romney. And so-

[CBS News Graphic: "Race For The White House: Looking At The Electoral Map"]

O'DONNELL: But John, is Mitt Romney in charge of his schedule, if there's only been one public rally in five days?

DICKERSON: Well, no, he's not – well, in part, he is in charge of his schedule. If he wanted to say, look, I want to be out there [unintelligible] all day long, make it happen - of course, he could do that. So, part of the problem, though, is that the schedule, over the last five days, isn't what matters. The problem is that Mitt Romney hasn't found a way to connect with voters, and that's a problem Mitt Romney has. No great Svengali behind him can fix that.

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

ROSE: Let me turn to the Obama campaign. How well is the President using the power of the presidency?

DICKERSON: Well, as best he can, Charlie. You know, he bears a lot of the weight of the fact that people look to him and say, why haven't you improved things, and he's made a lot of promises, and there's a lot of disappointment out in the electorate. And that, of course, is what Romney is trying to tap into - those people who think that Obama is not as advertised.

But what the President has tried to do is, you know, when he lands in Ohio, he announces that he's gotten tougher on China in ways that will help car manufacturers in Toledo. So he's – it's, sort of, you know, coming with deliverables - using as much of the power of the presidency to do two things: one, to show voters – make connections, to say, here are things I'm doing specifically that are going to change your lives; but also, to show that he actually can do something. I mean, part of the problem with the economic picture is just impotency, that the President has all this power, and he's not doing anything to change it. These are ways that he can show, I'm doing things that actually affect your life.

ROSE: Yeah-

[CBS News Graphic: "Race For The White House: Obama's Incumbent Strategy"]

O'DONNELL: John, I want to get your take on – Karl Rove has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today that's saying, you know, this too shall pass - this moment for Mitt Romney. But what follows is crucial, and he says that in mid-September 1980, President Jimmy Carter led Ronald Reagan 44 to 40 percent in the Gallup poll. By late October, Reagan had slumped to 39 percent, while Carter had risen to 47 percent. But Reagan ended up winning by nine points. Is there an analogy there for Romney? Can he turn it away the way – turn it around the way Reagan did in 1980?

DICKERSON: I – there is a glimmer of hope there. For that analogy to hold, a couple of things have to happen. Reagan has to be as good – excuse me, Romney has to be as talented as Ronald Reagan. I think that one of the things you hear in conversations and interviews I've done, is that – a lot of people don't think he has those kind of skills.

ROSE: Those things especially seen – those kind of skills are seen in a debate as well-

O'DONNELL: Yeah-

 ROSE: John, thank you-

DICKERSON: And these-

ROSE: I better run. Thank you, John.

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