Morning Shows Tout White House Claim that 'Distraction' Sarah Palin Is 'Re-Election Insurance'

Covering the growing buzz that Sarah Palin might mount a 2012 presidential campaign, the morning shows on Friday repeated liberal talking points proclaiming that it would be a disaster. Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos insisted that the White House looks "at Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann as, basically, re-election insurance." CBS's Chris Wragge hinted that Palin might become a "distraction."

On NBC's Today, David Gregory appeared and lectured that "[Palin's] not seen as a general election candidate." He added that "she's still relevant. She's still using Facebook. She's still opining. She's still attacking the President, but she's lost a little bit of that sting in her punch."

Co-host Meredith Vieira gloomily wondered, "But David, she also has higher negatives than any other GOP candidate. So how viable would her candidacy even be?"

Appearing as a guest on GMA, political analyst Matt Dowd was a little more optimistic about Palin's chances against Obama. He suggested the White House may be "celebrating" the idea of the former Alaska governor running, but allowed "...Though I think Sarah Palin would help him get reelected, it's no slam-dunk if the economy isn't doing well, come a year from now."

Over on CBS's Early Show, correspondent Jan Crawford was more positive, pointing out that Palin raises the "energy," she explained, "But I've got to say, a lot of Republicans think that the bus tour is win-win for the party. Palin can get out there and talk about the issues, really take on President Obama, and get conservatives fired up about this election."

However, co-host Wragge sounded a similar, defeatist theme: "Well, we know she galvanizes Republicans, but she also does not have a high favorability rating in the national electorate. If she can't beat the incumbent, President Obama, right now, does she become more of a distraction for the Republican Party?"

For more on this, see a post by the MRC's Brent Baker on how the evening newscasts covered Palin.

A transcript of the David Gregory segment, which aired at 7:07am EDT, follows:

MEREDITH VIEIRA: David Gregory is moderator of Meet the Press. David, good morning to you.

DAVID GREGORY: Hey, Meredith.

VIEIRA: So here's what a lot of political insiders are saying about Sarah Palin, they're saying it may look like she's going to run but she has not laid the necessary groundwork to actually do so. What are you hearing?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Decision 2012; How Would Palin Candidacy Change GOP Race?]

GREGORY: Well, pretty much the same thing. That she is making herself relevant, keeping herself relevant, that she's really not taking the steps to run. And as Andrea reported, these are some high profile signs that she's putting herself in a position to announce, but look, Sarah Palin runs kind of a closed society in American politics. There are very few people outside of her inner sanctum who really know what she's going to do. And she could just be looking at a couple of key factors that Andrea mentioned. She's second in the polls right now, according to a Gallup poll, behind Mitt Romney. High name recognition. Two, with Mike Huckabee gone there is still that space for a social conservative, more of a populist candidate. She could fill that void, particularly in Iowa, which kicks off the voting.

VIEIRA: But David, she also has higher negatives than any other GOP candidate. So how viable would her candidacy even be?

GREGORY: Well that's why there's so much skepticism that she would actually run. She's not seen as a general election candidate. And even among rank and file Republicans, according to Republicans I speak to, she's lost a lot of favor, if you go back to the response to the Tucson shootings and other issues. So she's still relevant, she's still using Facebook, she's still opining, she's still attacking the President, but she's lost a little bit of that sting in her punch. Still very popular in the grassroots but as a broader appeal, simply not taking steps to make herself more popular.

VIEIRA: But could she become a real spoiler? And now I'm thinking of Michelle Bachmann, who is going to announce next month, she's says, whether or not she's going to run. The other Tea Party favorite. Could she – could Palin knock the wind out of Bachmann's sails, so to speak?

GREGORY: Well and there's some feeling that perhaps Palin doesn't want Bachmann to steal that spotlight. I think that's true because they'd both be vying for the same space. That populist candidate the social conservative candidate. Bachmann, who was born in Waterloo, Iowa, is going to have a major announcement there perhaps to announce a presidential bid next month. So she might very well play well among the 40% of caucus-goers who are more socially conservative.

Palin there as well. But know this, Palin is a factor whether she's a candidate or not a candidate because she has her own strong platform. So either way, she makes some noise in this presidential race. She has more potential impact, of course, if she's a candidate.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the associate editor for the Media Research Center's site.