ABC's Berman Snidely Knocks Romney for Running on Economy

"Good Morning America" correspondent John Berman couldn't restrain himself on Tuesday from making snide comments about Mitt Romney campaigning heavily on economic issues in Florida. Speaking of the presidential contender and his tendency to tout business success as a CEO, Berman sarcastically claimed, "Here in Florida, sometimes it seems Mitt Romney isn't running so much to be president, as the chairman of the economics department."

Reporting live from Florida on the day of that state's primary, Berman actually appeared somewhat perturbed that the former Massachusetts governor has been touting an issue he considers to be a strength. He complained, "In case you missed the point that Mitt Romney really wants to talk about the economy, it would be hard to miss 'cause he brings it up so much." In a brief interview with the governor, he reiterated, "You really want to keep the focus on the economy." Later in the segment, Berman even admitted that, according to an ABC News poll, the economy is the top issue with many voters. That would seem to make his snide comments even more out of place.

This is the same reporter, who, on January 24, mocked the "not-so-big time" celebrities that are backing GOP presidential candidates in 2008. During the piece, he derided film actor and Rudy Giuliani supporter Jon Voight as though he were receiving an award: "Best estranged relative of Angelina Jolie? The winner? Jon Voight..."

Speaking of Giuliani, GMA co-host Robin Roberts interviewed the Republican contender, now thought to be fading in many polls, on Tuesday. Making a somewhat odd comparison to the New York mayor's current political circumstances, Roberts asked this question:

ROBIN ROBERTS: A lot of people respect you for your optimism. We were talking about it earlier. And I know that you -- Winston Churchill is someone that I've heard you quote from time to time. And say what you want, this is a real battle that you have in front of you tonight. So, is there something from Winston Churchill that comes to mind in facing this political battle of your life?

A transcript of the Berman segment, which aired at 7:02am, follows:

DIANE SAWYER: But the race for '08 is first up this morning. Super Tuesday is one week away. But this morning, all eyes are on Florida because Republicans are headed to the polls this morning. And in the latest poll, John McCain and Mitt Romney in a virtual tie. And economy is front and center, and John Berman from ABC is in Clearwater, Florida with all the latest. John?

JOHN BERMAN: Good morning, Diane. Well, the voting is getting under way here right behind me and Florida is such a crucial test. Not only is it a dead heat, but it's really the first state in this race that's a microcosm of the entire country. Urban and rural populations. Ethnically diverse and it's the first state serving as a laboratory for the candidates to test out their messages on that issue that everyone in the country is talking about, the economy. Here in Florida, sometimes it seems Mitt Romney isn't running so much to be president, as the chairman of the economics department.

MITT ROMNEY: Are we going to have a president who understands the economy right down to the center of his core--It's in his DNA-- like me?

BERMAN: And John McCain, he wants in too.

JOHN MCCAIN: My record on the economy is very strong.

BERMAN: Why are they doing this? Florida is on the cutting edge of America's economic jitters. Its unemployment rate is 4.3 percent, which ranks right in the middle, 25th in the U.S. But the housing market has been down right wretched. Home sales are down a whopping 60 percent since 2005, compared to the national average of about 20 percent, which explains why Mitt Romney talks relentlessly about his years as a CEO.

ROMNEY: I know what it's like to have a job and I think it's helpful to have a president who knows what it's like to work in the real economy.

BERMAN: In case you missed the point that Mitt Romney really wants to talk about the economy, it would be hard to miss 'cause he brings it up so much. He has signs like this one, "economic turnaround," all over his events. You really want to keep the focus on the economy.

ROMNEY: Well, I think America wants to keep the focus on the economy.

BERMAN: In fact, in our most recent ABC News polling, for the first time, the economy surpassed Iraq as the single most important issue for voters, not good news for John McCain who tries to turn the focus to Iraq.

MCCAIN: I'm running for president of the United States because believe I can keep America safe.

BERMAN: Romney has ridiculed McCain for saying last month, "The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should." But they both have big stimulus plans. McCain is calling for $100 billion worth of corporate tax cuts. Romney has a $250 billion plan with corporate cuts, plus across the board tax cuts for individuals, they say would save every American at least $400. And this is really the last time all of the candidates will be fighting in the same state at the same time. After this, they spread out all over the country to get ready for Super Tuesday. Robin?

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