Norah O'Donnell was ready to tie the toe tag on Mitt Romney's presidential campaign on Wednesday's CBS This Morning, as the morning newscast hyped the latest numbers from the Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll, especially President Obama's 10-point lead in Ohio. After mentioning Romney's latest 60-second TV spot, O'Donnell twice wondered, "Is it too late? The voting in Ohio starts next week."
Charlie Rose spotlighted the President's "growing lead" in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida, according to his network's poll. But it took the program more than an hour to mention only in passing that "Republican voters remain more enthusiastic about voting than the Democrats," without mentioning the specific numbers.
O'Donnell zeroed in on Ohio during her lead-in to correspondent Jan Crawford's report on the poll numbers: "The poll shows...[in] Ohio - look at this - the President leads Governor Mitt Romney by ten points. And, of course...no Republican has ever won the election while losing Ohio." The CBS journalist pointed out that besides Obama's lead, "there are other troubling signs for Romney. Voters in Ohio and the two other swing states we surveyed now give the President the edge on the economy, the cornerstone of Romney's campaign. And those voters also say they believe Romney's policies will favor the rich."
After Crawford's report, Rose and O'Donnell brought on new CBS News political analyst Frank Luntz, who immediately affirmed the network's polling:
LUNTZ: ...[T]he Romney campaign's whole philosophy behind this election said this would be a referendum on Barack Obama. The Obama campaign thought that this was going to be a choice. Both of them are wrong. It has become a referendum on Mitt Romney, and because they didn't do the ads early enough. They didn't explain who Mitt Romney was early enough. It mean that all of the Obama attacks of the last three or four weeks - they're showing results. You see it in your own surveys.
The PBS veteran followed up by asking, "Looking at this widening gap, is President Obama winning, or is Governor Romney losing?" Luntz answered that "it has to be a combination of both, but it is very easy for someone's perceptions to be destroyed if they don't know anything about you. In the polling that we've done in some of these swing states, still a third of Americans don't know what Bain Capital actually does, and when you have that little awareness, that little knowledge, it makes the negative attacks effective."
O'Donnell then chimed in with her doom and gloom, "is it too late" prodding about Romney:
O'DONNELL: So, I spent a lot of time last night talking to a lot of Republicans and Democrats myself to, sort of, see what was going on. This 47 percent ad - that secret video from inside that fundraiser ad – the Obama team was running it just in Ohio. Now, they've gone up in seven other swing states with it. There are Republicans that I talked to – acknowledge that ad is working, and that's why they went up, and that's why we see these numbers in Ohio stretching out. What does Romney do now? I mean, we see this morning he's got this new ad where he's speaking directly to the camera for 60 seconds. But is it too late? The voting in Ohio starts next week.
LUNTZ: Well, two points: one is, the reason why that 47 percent is working, is because it's new information. We don't want to hear the same thing over and over again. And so, voters pay attention to it, to see what Mitt Romney is saying-
O'DONNELL: But look at this ad now. For the first time, Romney is now speaking directly to the people in a 60-second ad. Is that too late?
LUNTZ: Yes – in a simple answer, yes. That should have been done three or four months ago. Mitt Romney solidified his control of the Republican Party back in late April. Why is this ad only running now? I think, when we look back at this campaign, we're going to realize that you can't have the same impact in September that you could have in June, July, and August.
Luntz would later give a caveat about the remaining weeks of the presidential race: "These debates can and do make a difference. If there is a defining moment – and it won't be an issue - if there's a defining moment in the debate, it can still shift. But Mitt Romney has 90 seconds in the opening of that first debate to make a difference."
The CBS morning show anchor been in death watch mode towards the Republican presidential campaign for almost two weeks. After Romney's slam of the U.S. embassy in Egypt's reaction to a destructive protest that stormed its wall, O'Donnell emphasized on September 13 that "Republicans...are saying that Governor Romney stepped in it." When the hidden camera video from the far left magazine Mother Jones emerged, she wondered, "Did Mitt Romney just insult many of the people who end up voting Republican?"
Crawford mentioned the enthusiasm gap at the end of her report recapping the poll results just after the top of the 8 am Eastern hour - more than an hour after her first report: "The Romney campaign says it is not worried. Their internal polling has these numbers much closer together. They say this is still a very tight race. And they also point to enthusiasm. That is actually reflected in our poll. The Republican voters remain more enthusiastic about voting than the Democrats."
CBS This Morning did something similar back on September 19, 2012. It took them over an hour to acknowledge that "this race is not over for Mitt Romney," based on the network's own polling. O'Donnell herself noted that "Republicans are more enthusiastic than Democrats about voting this year in general, and that enthusiasm has actually...grown since early August."