On Sunday, NBC Nightly News took the unusual step of running a story that not only discussed the upcoming midterm elections but also President Obama’s unpopularity on the campaign trail as Democrats struggle to keep control of the Senate.
The problem with the story, however, was that it aired on Sunday night, when millions of Americans are watching football, spending time with family or at church and thus not watching the news. [MP3 audio here; Video below]
Weekend anchor Lester Holt started the segment off by stating that while President Obama will be on the campaign trail this week, he “has been largely out of sight on the campaign trail this season.”
NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker said that while “[b]ig name Democrats have been blanketing the campaign trail for weeks,” one person who was “noticeably absent from the main event, Democrats tough fight to keep the Senate: President Obama.”
Welker included a soundbite from The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, who brought up the reality that “[t]he President is not really wanted by Democrats” and “even in states that he carried in 2008 and 2012.”
Next, Welker continued the unusually critical segment on Obama with the observation that Obama will “likely stay away from places like Alaska, Iowa, Colorado and Pennsylvania” ahead of the November 4 elections.
After a near complete network blackout since Thursday, she joined Sunday’s This Week on ABC in covering the refusal of Democratic Senate candidate Allison Lundergan-Grimes in Kentucky to state whether or not she voted for President Obama in 2008 or 2012 during a meeting with the Louisville Courier-Journal’s editorial board.
Also included as another example of a Democrat running in November distancing themselves from Obama was New Hampshire Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who dodged a question from Andrea Mitchell on her MSNBC show on Thursday whether she wants the President to come campaign for her as she faces former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown for reelection.
As the segment wound down, the rare story on the midterm elections didn’t let up and begin providing cover for Democrats. Welker even mentioned President Obama’s dismal poll ratings and his remarks from October 2 that his policies are on the ballot in November even though his name will not appear on them: “With his approval ratings hovering in the mid-to-low 40s, the President may have given Republicans an opening when he said his policies are on the ballot even though he's not.”
To top it off, the NBC News White House correspondent said this about Obama’s campaign and fundraising habits: "Once called the campaigner-in-chief, the President is more like a fundraiser-in-chief, attending more than 50 events this year."
With Election Day three weeks away from Tuesday, it will remain to be seen whether or not ABC, CBS, or NBC will begin covering the midterm elections where Republicans are widely expected to take control of Senate (and retain control of the House) as President Obama’s approval ratings are sinking.
The complete transcript of the segment that aired on NBC Nightly News on October 12 can be found below.
NBC Nightly News
October 12, 2014
6:41 p.m. Eastern
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Out of Sight]
LESTER HOLT: Mid-term elections are just 23 days away, but President Obama has been largely out of sight on the campaign trail this season, but this week, he returns to the fray. NBC's Kristen Welker has more for us from the White House.
KRISTEN WELKER: Big name Democrats have been blanketing the campaign trail for weeks.
HILLARY CLINTON: I'm back!
WELKER: Some suspected of testing the waters for their own future bids but noticeably absent from the main event, Democrats tough fight to keep the Senate: President Obama.
THE WASHINGTON POST’S CHRIS CILLIZZA: The President is not really wanted by Democrats, even in states that he carried in 2008 and 2012.
WELKER: He'll likely stay away from places like Alaska, Iowa, Colorado and Pennsylvania. The trepidation was palpable this past week, when Allison Lundergan-Grimes, the Democratic Senate candidate in Kentucky, wouldn't even say if she voted for the President.
LOUISVILLE COURIER-JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Did you vote for President Obama in 2008 and 2012?
ALLISON LUNDERGAN-GRIMES: You know, this election isn't about the President. It’s about making –
LOUISVILLE COURIER-JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: I know –
LUNDERGAN-GRIMES: It is about making sure we put Kentuckians back to work.
WELKER: And New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen also distanced herself when Andrea Mitchell asked if Shaheen wanted Mr. Obama to campaign for her.
NEW HAMPSHIRE SENATOR JEANNE SHAHEEN (D): Well, the President’s dealing with a lot of crisis in the world right now, so I expect him to be in Washington.
WELKER: With his approval ratings hovering in the mid-to-low 40s, the President may have given Republicans an opening when he said his policies are on the ballot even though he's not.
PAT ROBERTS FOR SENATE CAMPAIGN AD: A vote for Greg Orman is a vote for the Obama agenda.
WELKER: Once called the campaigner-in-chief, the President is more like a fundraiser-in-chief, attending more than 50 events this year.
CILLIZZA: He remains a huge draw that is the largest and best fundraiser we've ever seen.
WELKER: On Wednesday, the President will headline a rally for the Connecticut’s Democratic governor, his first big event of the midterm cycle, a cautious campaigner with the Senate hanging in the balance. Kirsten Welker, NBC News, Washington.