ABC, NBC Punt on Bad Obama Polls Ahead of SOTU; Touts Need to ‘Recapture the Hope and Change’

In the Tuesday evening newscasts before President Obama’s final State of the Union address, ABC’s World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News failed to mention any of the poor polling numbers for President Obama on a variety of issues but instead hailed the President’s “big themes” in a speech “trying to recapture the hope and change of when he first took office, despite the setbacks and gridlock that have helped turn his hair gray.”

On ABC, anchor David Muir cited “senior White House officials” confirming to him that the President will argue that “we must stay the course” on ISIS “but he will also try to offer a hopeful view of where this country is headed.”

Chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl appeared moments later to declare that there are “big themes” in the speech that “mak[e] the case for his presidency” and “history for what his presidency has accomplished.”

As for critics, Karl ruled: “The optimism you hear from the President is not shared by Republicans. In fact, David, just today, Paul Ryan said, the world is on fire, because the President does not have a strategy to combat ISIS.”

Over on the reliably liberal NBC Nightly News, senior White House correspondent Chris Jansing gushed that Obama spent the last few days preparing a speech “trying to recapture the hope and change of when he first took office, despite the setbacks and gridlock that have helped turn his hair gray.”

With pictures of Republican presidential candidates Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump on-screen, Jansing ruled that Obama’s “message of optimism” offered a chance “to rise above the noise and anger of the 2016 campaign.”

Tell the Truth 2016

Acting as though the President had no role in the partisanship facing America, Jansing reported that Obama “will talk about solutions for the partisanship that has divided the nation, the failure to pass tighter restrictions on guns symbolized by an empty chair in the First Lady's box for the victims of gun violence and a culmination more fearful of terrorism than at any time since 9/11.” 

Jansing later hyped in her conclusion that “[a] major final challenge” for Obama is “to find the voice that moved Americans to elect him twice and we just got our first look at excerpts of the address.”

Providing some brief analysis later in the newscast, Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd suggested that the public should imagine that the President’s speech would if he’s preparing to run for a third term: 

What’s you’re going to hear tonight is issues tonight that he wants to put on the campaign trail and forcing into his Democratic successor, whether it’s Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, to embrace but it is the message he wants to spend the year campaigning on and so, I think that’s the proper way to put this in the context. Look, there isn’t going to be the laundry list. They’re almost proud of that, but what it is really about the agenda that Barack Obama would be running on if he could run for a third term. 

In contrast, the CBS Evening News featured correspondent Margaret Brennan providing a number of excerpts from the speech, but also devoted a few moments to alluding to the President’s negative poll numbers on the economy, ISIS, terrorism, and how the country’s on the wrong track: 

Instead, he'll argue that his successor should continue the work he started, but in a new CBS News/New York Times poll, most Americans, 65 percent, say the country is on the wrong track. Just 45 percent approve of the President's work on the economy, 34 percent of his foreign policy, and the war against ISIS is a sore spot. 67 percent think the fight is going badly. 

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center