Discussing the state of the Republican Party with political analyst John Dickerson on Saturday's CBS Evening News, anchor Russ Mitchell concluded: "...it has been a tough week for House Republicans." On Friday's NBC Today, co-host Meredith Vieira made an identical observation, declaring : "It has been a rough, rough week for the Republicans, to say the very least."
Mitchell explained his assertion: "Of the four bills planned for votes this week, only one passed. You also had a Republican congressman resign in a scandal." Speaking to Meet the Press host David Gregory on Friday, Vieira made the same points and wondered: "How big of a setback is this for the party?" On Saturday, Mitchell saw the possibility for more GOP difficulties: "As Republicans gear up for this budget battle with the President, do all these problems this week lead to trouble down the road?"
Dickerson predicted potential Republican division on the budget: "A deal is going to have to be made between Republicans and the President, and if that deal is made, those Republican freshmen, are they going to be the ones watching their Republican leaders and saying, 'Don't cut an easy deal or we'll bolt.'"
Prior to their discussion of the "tough week" for Republicans, Mitchell asked Dickerson about the straw poll of possible Republican presidential candidates at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. Despite the fact that no candidate has even announced yet, Dickerson preemptively declared that "the GOP field is...confused with no real clear front-runner."
On Friday's CBS Early Show, congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes emphasized the supposed "GOP Power Struggle" in Congress and "infighting" at CPAC.
Here is a full transcript of the February 12 Evening News segment:
6:41PM ET TEASE:
RUSS MITCHELL: Still ahead on tonight's CBS Evening News, we'll have the results of an early presidential straw poll of conservatives.
6:45PM ET SEGMENT:
MITCHELL: The Conservative Political Action Conference concluded today in Washington with a straw poll of likely Republican presidential candidates. Texas Congressman Ron Paul finished first with 30%. Followed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney with 23%. The other candidates, including Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, trailed far behind. And for more on that poll and the state of the Republican Party in general we are joined in Washington by our political analyst John Dickerson. John, good evening.
JOHN DICKERSON: Good evening, Russ.
MITCHELL: It is very early in the game. So does this poll really mean anything at all?
DICKERSON: It doesn't mean anything. In fact, in the past, it's been sort of the kiss of death. Since Ronald Reagan in the early 80s, the winner of the straw poll, except for with George W. Bush, has then gone on to lose the GOP nomination. That's true with Ron Paul, who's won it before. He can organize a ballroom but not an electorate. And Mitt Romney, who came in second, has won it several times, that didn't help him, either. If a dark horse had come and done well, that might have helped with fundraising, he could have generated some buzz. But that didn't happen, the GOP field is as it was before the straw poll – confused with no real clear front-runner.
MITCHELL: Let's turn to Congress now, it has been a tough week for House Republicans. Of the four bills planned for votes this week, only one passed. You also had a Republican congressman resign in a scandal. As Republicans gear up for this budget battle with the President, do all these problems this week lead to trouble down the road?
DICKERSON: What was most interesting this week was the little bit – the push-back from conservative freshmen on Republican leaders in the House. They said, 'You've got to go for more spending cuts,' and that's a big deal because we're about to have a huge budget fight between the President, who says he wants to shrink the budget, and Republicans who say the same thing. The argument will be how can they convince the public, who cares about the economy and jobs, how all that cutting is going to help with the economy and jobs. A deal is going to have to be made between Republicans and the President, and if that deal is made, those Republican freshmen, are they going to be the ones watching their Republican leaders and saying, 'Don't cut an easy deal or we'll bolt.'
MITCHELL: John Dickerson in Washington, thanks a lot.
DICKERSON: Thanks, Russ.
— Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.