January 2012

Last night on Hardball , host Chris Matthews called fellow liberal and  Morning Joe co-host Mika Brezinski an independent journalist, which led her to smirk.

Watch it at the 7:35 mark.



FishbowlDC  reports that actress Drew Barrymore swooped into DC last week to promote her new movie, “Big Miracle” where she plays a devout environmentalist, which is supposed to be in real life.

The operative words are supposed to be.  Fishbowl  noted that Barrymore flew into town  using a private airfield at Washington Dulles airport along with three friends and her fiancé.

It’s tough being green.

Looks like a case of do as I say, not do as I do.

After engineering one of the greatest political comebacks the week before in South Carolina, capped by a stunningly large victory in the state’s GOP primary, Newt Gingrich has uncharacteristically stumbled this week as he heads into Tuesday’s important Florida vote.

Gingrich who has proclaimed that he is the best debater and showed both his debate political skills last Thursday when he turned a potentially embarrassing question on his second marriage into an attack on CNN’s John King and the mainstream media has had a week only slightly better than Mitt Romney’s bad South Carolina week.

In the first Florida debate this week on Monday night, NBC’s Brian Williams, took away one of Gingrich’s best weapons when he silenced the crowd before the debate began, which led to a rather dull session and the normally fiery Gingrich acting and looking like a neutered puppy.

And just like Romney who had a bad first debate in South Carolina and followed it up with an almost equally bad second debate, Gingrich’s performance last night was disappointing as he failed to land any significant punches at Romney.

Gingrich did try for a “John King moment” with CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer, but Blitzer is no patsy and rather than play Newt’s game continued to press the former Speaker and gained the upper hand.

Newt has had other problems in Florida, including the removal of an ad that called Romney “anti-immigrant” after Sen. Marco Rubio complained about the ad.

Gingrich also lost on his argument that Romney had sizable investments in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which Romney explained were mostly through mutual funds and pointed out that Gingrich also had investments in these same companies in funds he owned.

This isn’t to say that Romney had smooth sailing during the debates this week, but overall his combativeness seemed to put Newt into more of a defensive crouch and I expect that the next set of polls that will be taken to reflect last night’s debate will show the momentum has shifted back to Romney as a critical time in the campaign.

Rick Santorum may have had said it best when he asked Gingrich and Romney to call off the personal attacks and get to the issues.

Until they do, Obama and the DNC can sit back and watch the sideshow that has become the GOP presidential race.

The GOP presidential primary debates which had been building a pretty good head of steam in the ratings last year, started to show signs of viewer fatigue this year until Monday’s NBC debate reversed the decline.

Conservatives and other observers had criticized the debate for the slow plodding pace and the questions that were asked in the second hour that covered subjects that had little or no national importnace at a time when the economy and jobs are foremost on voters minds.

Yet despite the complaints and my own prediction that the debate would continue the downtrend in the ratings, it turns out NBC attracted one of the largest audiences to date and shattered the previous high in the key A25-54 demo by a wide margin.

Initial ratings show that 7.1 million viewers tuned in to watch Brian Williams grill the remaining GOP candidates ranking 2nd only behind the ABC debate on December 10 of last year in the current cycle.  Even better for NBC were the nearly 2.6 million viewers in the key A25-54 demo that advertisers crave, easily beating the previous high of 2.1 million set by ABC.

While the format was a little different- Williams had in essence silenced the audience, NBC benefited greatly from Newt Gingrich’s stunning South Carolina primary victory last week which turned the GOP race into a fierce fight.

It also didn’t hurt that Gingrich had a very successful debate last Thursday, when he blasted CNN’s John King for starting the debate off with a question about his second wife’s charges that Newt wanted an “open marriage” which raised the roof and may have raised the hopes of those watching on Monday that Gingrich would take a similar stab at Brian Williams.

But it didn’t happen and instead viewers were treated to one of the worst debates of the election cycle.

Yet with those ratings NBC isn’t about to complain.

The media continues to report that many Republican voters are still unsure about GOP  front runner Mitt Romney’s conservative credentials and if he is the best candidate to beat Barack Obama in November.

To capitalize on this skepticism Fox News’ Brett Baier who moderated the South Carolina GOP debate on Monday revealed to the New York Times that he wasn’t satisfied with the answers Romney has given on several subject and decided that it was time to get tough on him even if his opponents wouldn’t.

In a rare behind the scenes look at debate preparation at Fox, the New York Times‘ Jeremy Peters reports on what went on as Baier and his fellow questioners readied themselves for the nationally televised debate.

There is no doubt that despite the fact that Baier’s bosses had the final say on the questions to be asked, that he wielded a great deal of leeway.

Baier whose interview with Romney in November seemed to rattle the candidate said that he is just trying to get to the truth.

Mr. Baier said he had no desire for a repeat of his earlier interview with Mr. Romney. “It’s not my job to rattle anyone,” he said. But he was not about to let Mr. Romney get off easily. As they ran through a draft script of the questions, Mr. Baier and his colleagues planned 12 questions for Mr. Romney, more than for any other candidate. One he was intent on asking was whether Mr. Romney would release his tax returns.

“We’ve got to get that question in,” Mr. Baier said during the planning meeting on Monday. He did, and Mr. Romney said that he was leaning toward releasing them in April, after he filed his 2011 returns, although he did not give a firm commitment.

After the debate, Mr. Baier said he was surprised. “I expected him to dodge, and we were ready to follow up again,” he said, adding that he was still not entirely sold on Mr. Romney’s response. “It’s not a firm date in April. And it’s clearly not happening before the primary on Saturday.”

Mr. Baier and his colleagues pressed Mr. Romney on more than just his tax returns. Kelly Evans of The Wall Street Journal, one of the moderators, asked him how far he would go as president to keep the financial system afloat.

Another moderator, Juan Williams, tried to pin him down on whether he was alienating Latino voters with his views on immigration. “Governor Romney, your father was born in Mexico. You still have family there, yet you have taken the hardest line of anyone on this stage on immigration reform.”

That question seemed to slip through Fox’s editing process. As Mr. Baier and his colleagues were writing their script, some expressed concern that the question was too politically charged. Mr. Baier and Mr. Williams disagreed. With their superiors out of the room during one editing session, Mr. Baier flashed a smile and said, “Let’s just do it.”

At one point during the prep session, Gerald F. Seib, the Washington bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, asked in earnest, “Does anyone have the feeling like we’re ganging up on Romney?”

Mr. Williams, a commentator for the network, did not miss a beat. “No.”

Was the deck stacked against Romney on Monday?  Well if a liberal like Gerald Seib wonders if they aren’t picking on Romney, the answer is clear.

So much for being an arm of the Republican Party.

During Monday night’s GOP debate in South Carolina, Twitter asked viewers to vote on whether or not candidates answered or dodged the questions they were asked.

Here are the results from the Twitter blog.

Newt Gingrich
After a slow start and a net #dodge rating for an answer on his recent attacks on Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital, Gingrich elicited strong #answer ratings for much of the remainder of the debate. His highest #answer peaks came during his comments on unemployment and his reply to Juan Williams about characterizing President Obama as a “food stamp President.”

Mitt Romney
While generating the highest total volume of Tweets among the candidates, Romney spent most of the debate with net Twitter user reaction firmly in #dodge territory. The former Massachusetts governor’s explanation for not releasing his tax records generated the most significant #dodge reaction, but Romney scored #answer ratings for his replies on Medicare and Social Security reform and his refusal to negotiate with the Taliban.

Rick Perry’s biggest Twitter reaction came right at the end of the debate, as Twitter users rewarded him by noting #answer for his response to a question on immigration.

Users tweeted that Rick Santorum’s biggest #dodge of the night was in his answers to questions on gun control, but they applauded his answers on employment.

Ron Paul saw his most significant number of #dodge votes in answers around foreign policy

This wasn’t a scientific analysis since it relied on Twitter users and they can be notoriously fickle, but it was an interesting engagement device to keep users tweeting above and beyond the normal banter that occurs during a debate.

Denver Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow who literally wears his faith on his sleeve, not only delivered the best ratings for an AFC wildcard playoff ratings since 1988, but gave “60 Minutes” its best ratings in the key A25-54 demo in over three years.

The long time CBS news magazine finished in 5th place for the week drawing 18 million viewers with a 5.9 rating in the A25-54 demo and 4.8 rating in the A18-49 demo which was the best since November 16,2008 when the program featured newly-elected president Barack Obama.

Tebow led the Broncos to a thrilling overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers with an 80-yard touchdown throw on the first play in overtime which led right into “60 Minutes” .  The game attracted 41.9 million viewers and apparently many of them, especially the younger ones, didn’t change the channel when the game ended.

While we won’t see CBS execs publicly admit it, they were probably doing a little “Tebowing” in their offices after seeing the ratings results.

CBS will have another chance this weekend when Denver plays New England for the right to advance to the AFC championship game and should attract another large audience if Tebow can keep it close as he battles the Patriots popular quarterback Tom Brady.

Even though one team will lose, it is a win-win for CBS even if it is on a Saturday.

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