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Stephanopoulos' Spin: Romney's 'Reassuring' of Conservatives Will 'Turn Off' Moderates?

Scott Whitlock's picture

Former top Democratic operative turned journalist George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday wondered if Mitt Romney's attempt to "reassure" conservative voters would end up "turning off" moderates and independent voters in a general election. [See video below. MP3 audio here.]

Interviewing the Republican presidential candidate on "Good Morning America," Stephanopoulos offered spin about conservative extremism: "And I wonder as you look at the general election ahead with President Obama, as you try to appeal to these Republican voters looking for a true conservative, are you worried at all, as you try to reassure them, that you might then turn off those moderates and independent voters you'll need in a general election...?"

Stephanopoulos added, "Those independent voters last night went heavily to Ron Paul." Of course, it's unfair to assume Ron Paul voters might be traditional Republican constituents. As the Los Angeles Times reported:

Even though members of the Occupy movement disrupted a recent Paul rally in Des Moines, the candidate speaks sympathetically to voters about the left-wing group, which he likens to the tea-party movement that he is credited with inspiring. His outspoken support for civil liberties, including staunch opposition to the Patriot Act, and dovish foreign policy views have natural appeal to many Democrats, particularly in Iowa, where antiwar sentiment has long run high.

Writing in the Washington Examiner, Philip Klein explained, "According to entrance polls, 25 percent of caucusgoers were Democrats or independents (up from 14 percent four years ago, when there was an active Democratic primary)."

It's hard to say that Paul's appeal to Democrats and liberals could prove a rejection of conservatism.

Stephanopoulos, who on Tuesday derided Rick Santorum, attacked Romney on Wednesday for not living up to expectations: "But, what does it say about your candidacy? That you actually won fewer votes than you did in 2008. And you fought Rick Santorum to a draw, basically, even though you spent- outspent him 50-1 on television ads?"

The morning show host has a habit of smearing conservatives as outside the mainstream. On May 13, 2007, he casually assumed the bigotry of Republicans:

ABC’s Sam Donaldson: “[Senator Barack Obama is] an African-American. Is the country ready? Well, I think it is. And he said he thinks it is. He said he thinks he’ll lose some votes because of that, and so the question is, what does the word ‘some’ mean?....”

Moderator George Stephanopoulos: “Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m naive, but Sam, I guess I think that anyone who’s not going to vote for Barack Obama because he is black isn’t going to vote for a Democrat anyway.”

— ABC’s This Week, May 13, 2007.

A transcript of the January 4 segment, which aired at 7:04am EST, follows:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And we turn now to the winner of the Iowa caucuses. Mitt Romney joins us from Des Moines this morning. And, Governor, congratulations. I guess every vote counts, right?

MITT ROMNEY [Laughs] I guess that's true, although I think here's a real boost coming out of Iowa. Not just for me. But also, of course, for Rick Santorum and Ron Paul.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, what does it say about your candidacy? That you actually won fewer votes than you did in 2008. And you fought Rick Santorum to a draw, basically, even though you spent- outspent him 50-1 on television ads?

ROMNEY: [Laughs] Well, this was a seven-person field, of course. And so, you can't do with seven people the  field that you can do with a smaller field. And I've also ran a national campaign. Rick has focused his effort, and I think in a wise way, entirely on Iowa. I've been campaigning in other states. Putting together the kind of organization which I believe will get me the 1,150 delegates I need. So, let me tell you, I'm going to take every win I can possibly get. And get every delegate I can possibly get.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is Rick Santorum your prime opponent now? And what's your top argument against him? And why should Republican voters choose you over him?

ROMNEY: Uh, you know, I don't know who the other finalist will be. I hope I'm one of two finalists, by the way. At this stage, it looks like it's Rick Santorum and we have very different backgrounds. I spent my life, the first 25 years, in the private sector. I know a great deal about how jobs are created. How they come and how they go. And I think Rick has spent most of his life in the governmental sector. Nothing wrong with that experience. But it's very different, I think, if you want to get the economy going again.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Meantime, Newt Gingrich is really coming after you, Governor, as I'm sure you know. Yesterday, he called you a liar, saying that you know more about the super pac ads than you're letting on. He also said you're a Massachusetts moderate. Jake Tapper showed in his piece this ad you're going to be greeted by in the Manchester Union Leader. "The choice: Only a bold Reagan conservative," Newt Gingrich in that ad, "can defeat President Obama." What's your response to former Speaker Gingrich?

ROMNEY: Well, I'm sure he's disappointed in the results last night, but I expect he'll go on and mount a spirited campaign. And we'll look forward to seeing him in the states ahead. Look, I have pretty broad shoulders. I know the attacks are going to come. They're going to be coming more fast and furious now. And they're going to come from the DNC, as well as the President and the White House. As well as my rivals in the Republican contest. And if you can't handle the heat now, you can't handle the heat down the road.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He's calling you a liar. Is that out of bounds?

ROMNEY: Uh, you know, it's pretty heated rhetoric, obviously and I think he's just really angry, disappointed. I mean, he was leading in the polls here by a pretty wide margin. And one of the things I feel good about is having come from way behind, just a few weeks ago, to come to a point where, well, we're in a virtual tie for the finish.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Looking at the bigger picture in the Republican primaries now, it seems you're winning the minds of Republican voters, at least in Iowa, but not their hearts. Those who want to beat Obama go to you. But those looking for a true conservative or a strong moral leader are looking elsewhere. How do you fix that?

ROMNEY: Uh, you know, I think people have to hear me more and more. See my record as a Massachusetts governor. And remember, that I ran four years ago and Mike Huckabee and I were the conservative choices. We got beaten by a very strong campaigner, in John McCain. But you know, I'll just have to get my message across the country. I think people who understand that I will restore to this country, its fundamental principles of freedom and opportunity, are being drawn to my campaign. And by the way, the crowds here in Iowa were large and enthusiastic.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They were large and enthusiastic, but as I said, you did get fewer votes than four years ago. And I wonder as you look at the general election ahead with President Obama, as you try to appeal to these Republican voters looking for a true conservative, are you worried at all, as you try to reassure them, that you might then turn off those moderates and independent voters you'll need in a general election if you do, indeed, get the nomination? Those independent voters last night went heavily to Ron Paul.

ROMNEY: Uh, you know, I actually think, George, that if you're in a race like this, you express your views on the issues and talk about your vision for the country. And you really don't try and figure out which group you're trying to appeal to. I wrote a book a couple of years ago. I laid out my vision for the country. I'm not going to sway to the right or left of that. I'm just going to talk about the things I believe. Hopefully, that will lead me to a victory. But, if it doesn't, I can live with that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Stand by your statement from a couple days ago? You're going to win the nomination?
ROMNEY: Uh, you know, I sure plan on winning the nomination. It's no sure thing. I can't predict how that will happen. If I do my job, if my team is able to do a good job, why, we ought to be able to post up pretty well against President Obama down the road.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Mitt Romney, thank you very much. We'll see you Saturday in New Hampshire.


#1 The indies.....

I am still trying to wrap my head about the so-called "break" for Ron Paul in Iowa, as self-reported in the entrance polls on Fox last night.

The self-reported indies supposedly went for Paul by 8 - 1, yet the self reported "true conservatives" went for Paul by almost half.

Something doesn't synch up for me with those two items.

Anyone want to have a stab at it? Because if those two items can be reconciled, Stepphy's "point" is moot.

#2 J

First of all, I'd bet a good portion of the "indies" that offered up their opinion in an entrance poll were actually democrats. As for the numbers, it definitely doesn't jive with the final numbers at all. Paul only won one county handily - Jefferson county- where he took 49% of the vote. The next strongest victory was 37% in Adams county. All the rest of the counties he won were much closer.

Secondly, I think the Paul-hype is pretty much over. NH has a bit of a libertarian streak, but as someone mentioned on Twitter today, it's 35% Catholic too, and I don't think he'll get 15% there. He's benefited in his primary runs on the much stronger libertarian bent traditionally in Iowa; otherwise, he'd be a bottom-tier candidate in each of his -- what? last dozen or so presidential primary runs.

I think the media likes him because as long as he carries the (R), they can paint the party as completely nuts.

#3 Thanks, BK

Just as I suspected, the "self-identified" entrance poll responders were lying their a88es off.

I would really like to see the standard response to this idiot question along the lines of "I'm not going to pander to independents...they will have a very clear choice between Obama's failed policies and mine. If I am the nominee, I'd ask the independents a question...."are you better off now than you were four years ago?".

#4 Solidarity

George , like all the lib talking heads just can't grasp the fact that when we finally pick a candidate , Republicans , conservatives and independents will join together to rid this country of obama !!!


#5 Georg's assumption is wrong...

Or is it really a strawman?

There are a significant % of "Independents" who are to the right of most in the GOP. So I really don't think that they are thinking of voting for Obama this time around. We have now had 3 years of actual Obama action and are not forced to go off of just the campaign rhetoric. Obama is likely to lose even some democrat voters because of his actions or lack there of. Those voters probably won't vote for the republican candidate but will just not vote. Look for the voter turn out to be much lower than in 2008 and for most of that (if not all) drop to occur on the democrat side.


"According to entrance polls, 25 percent of caucusgoers were Democrats or independents (up from 14 percent four years ago, when there was an active Democratic primary)."

Perhapse the infiltration was for the purpose of selecting the moderate whom they would prefer as the opponent to Obama? We have seen long-time staunch democrats get on ballots as "Tea Party" candidates in order to try and fool the electorate over the last few years.


Madison and Jefferson and Franklin built a Republic - Roberts killed it! 

#6 Ho - hum . . .

The post-caucus analysis is as inane and meanlingless as that of the weeks of pre-caucus speculation.

This question typifies the idiocy of the MSM . . 

STEPHANOPOULOS: "Stand by your statement from a couple days ago? You're going to win the nomination?" 

We already know the answer.  Had Romney finished in 3rd or 4th, he'd still stand by his prediction because he's coming up on New Hampshire, where his campaign expects he'll do well.

So, is Stephanopoulus just filling air time?  

Either way, he sounds like a fool.

#7 Why do you suppose that?

He sounds like a fool because he is a fool. Sure is funny how you NEVER hear any of the lapdog corps say anything about their buddies alienating moderates

#8 They've declared that Obama is a 'centrist' . . .

. . . who must appeal to the leftist-base of the Democratic Party. To them, he has alienated special interest groups to whom he made unfulfilled promises. But as his re-election campaign starts to enter full-swing, he will throw them bones like the ones he tossed in late 2011, such as the end of Don't Ask/Don't Tell in the armed forces.

#9 This is yet one more question

This is yet one more question ol' George wouldn't dare ask o'bama.

Didn't win the Medal of Honor? Didn't even serve? Then lie about it. We'll support you." — 9th Circuit Court

#10 ~The fix is in

I'm calling it: Romney will be the GOP's Anointed One this summer.

Given Obama's deep unpopularity, Romney stands a good chance of winning this fall. If he does, it'll be a gut punch to the TEA party, since Romney will govern from the left of center after running as a "conservative". Obama, as bad as he is, can only make conservatism shine by contrast with him, whereas Romney will muddy the waters.

I need a consolatory cuppa Earl Grey. Another one. *sigh*

Obama's WTF 2012 campaign slogan: "A dog in every pot"

#11 journalist

Democrat turned journalist? Hes not a journalist, he a opinion piece, his opinion.


#12 Actually IMO the question is

Actually IMO the question is fairly tame by Stephie, but it does seem to come directly from the Gingrich scorched earth program. Gingrich seemly could careless about putting out ideas and contrasting between Republicans and Obama, and it looks like if Gingrich can not win, he is hell bent on making sure no Republican will be able to win.
Gingrich is Obama's new best friend. Gingrich seems wholly ignorant that a general election takes place after the primaries.

#13 Dear sweet ole George

Wasn't it George Stephanopoulos who took the job away from a woman in the Clinton administration, leaving her with just the title so they could say that they had a woman press secretary? He go the office, the money and left Dede Myrers with just the title. Let's not forget what he did to that woman. Why should we listen to anything he says?

#14 Imaginary Moderates

Lucky for us, thanks to Obama, there are no moderates currently.

#15 America Wants a Conservative.

Liberals truly are terrified of a strong Conservative.

#16 George Stephanopoulos

George is a snarly little wimp. I recall when President George H. Bush was a guest on CNN's Larry King show. The interview occurred at the time Bush was running for reelection against Clinton and Ross Perot. And when it came time to take some calls from viewers, sleazy Stephanopoulos, who was working for the Clinton campaign at the time, manage to be one of those callers.

Of course his question was nothing but an attack. That was a great example of left-wing bias - CNN gave George a special number so they could take his call. I understand why the Republican field must rely upon the major networks for exposure, but it's truly despicable. When Obama is defeated, the leftists will cry for a day or so. But they will have 4 years to bombard conservatives with nasty and false accusations...  (sic)  ...and that will make them happy again .

#17 What democrats like George

What democrats like George are trying to do is convince conservatives that they can't win by running conservative they must be "moderate" which to them means liberal. They overlook the fact that the conservative vote was split between Bachman, Perry, Santorum, Gingrich or the "not Romney" would have won Iowa last night.

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