The hosts and reporters of ABC's Good Morning America on Tuesday launched a hyperbolic attack on Mitt Romney's "secret tapes," trumpeting the "bombshell" that is sending "shock waves" through the campaign.
The ABC program devoted three segments to the release of tapes of the presidential candidate talking at a fund-raiser about the "47 percent of the country who are dependent on government." Former Democratic operative turned journalist George Stephanopoulos breathlessly began the show: "Breaking now, Mitt Romney caught on tape at a private fund-raiser. His candid comments causing shock waves." The host intoned that "the campaign [is] rushing to contain the damage." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Correspondent Amy Robach was even more over-the-top, hyping the "new bombshell rocking the Mitt Romney campaign," the idea that some Obama voters see themselves as victims.
Stephanopoulos and guest Matt Dowd pushed the video as just the latest disaster for the Romney campaign. The co-host wondered where the remarks "register on the Richter scale." Dowd, a political strategist for both Democrats and Republicans, guessed "somewhere between" a "six and seven." He allowed that the comments weren't necessarily fatal.
Stephanopoulos marveled, "So many unforced errors [from Romney], including at the convention."
Over the next 49 days, voters should expect Stephanopoulos to ratchet up his partisanship even higher. During the final two months of the 2008 campaign, he declared Obama the winner of every debate against John McCain. He insisted that Joe Biden beat Sarah Palin in the vice presidential debate.
A transcript of the September 18 Stephanopoulos segment and the news brief can be found below:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Breaking now, Mitt Romney caught on tape at a private fund-raiser. His candid comments causing shock waves. What he said behind closed doors about Americans voting for President Obama.
MITT ROMNEY: There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government., who believe that they believe they are victims, who believe government has a responsibility to care for them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The campaign rushing to contain the damage. Romney responds in a late night press conference.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We have a lot of breaking stories to get to, including a big stories to get to, including a big moment for the Romney campaign. Boy, they cannot catch a break.
ELIZABETH VARGAS: No.
STEPHANOPOULOS: There's this new tape from a closed-door fund-raiser. It's online now, creating a firestorm. Romney tried to put it out last night. Unusual post-10:00pm press conference. We're going to assess the damage, talk about how Romney recovers in just a moment.
VARGAS: At one point at this fund-raiser, he's on tape recorded saying, I will never convince these people, who don't pay taxes, he said, that they should take personal responsibility for their lives. The fallout is continuing this morning.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Tough stuff.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's get more on this from our political analyst, Matt Dowd. Matt, you've worked in a lot of campaigns for both parties. Where does this register on the Richter scale?
MATT DOWD: Somewhere between, I think, six and seven. So, it does some damage. But I don't know if the foundation is completely damaged by all of this. I think the problem with all of this is, one, simultaneously, I think he was saying it because it helps the Republican base. And he thinks that part of this election is a turnout election. So, it's going to help with that. The ultimate problem, though, is the people who switch back and forth that are looking for signals. And, George, as you and I talked about, a number of times over the last three months, every time there's been an opportunity for Mitt Romney to, sort of, move the undecided voters, he either made a mistake or made a decision that hasn't helped him in the course of that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So many unforced errors, including at the convention. The next big challenge he faces is at the debates, starting on October 3rd. That is his chance to turn this around.
DOWD: This is like a decathlon. And, basically, there's been five events held. Some more predictable, some not. In each of those five events, he's not done well. Now, we have one more events and probably one more unpredictable event left. He has to get points back. He's behind in points. He's down by three or four points in a pretty solid lead. Though it's close, he has got to do well in the four remaining events.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, quickly, what can he do? The campaign tried to reset their campaign yesterday. That's what they were trying to do.
DOWD: They're going to try to probably reset the campaign in the aftermath of this. I think it all comes down to the first debate on October 3rd. That's the only opportunity he's going to have to shift from these unforced errors, to shift from the cracks in the foundation and try to repair it and move on in the final 30 days.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, Matt Dowd. Thanks very much.
AMY ROBACH: And we begin with the new bombshell rocking the Mitt Romney campaign. A video surfacing showing Romney telling wealthy donors at a fund-raiser that his message is lost on nearly half of all Americans who believe they are, quote, "victims entitled to government support."
MITT ROMNEY: So, my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the five to ten percent in the center that are independents
ROBACH: In a hastily-organized news conference last night, Romney admitted his language was, quote, inelegant. But said the clips were poorly edited and do not reflect his beliefs.