CNN read minds, not polls; wrote off Kerry-Edwards ticket's chances in North Carolina

On July 6, CNN reporters and guests repeatedly suggested that Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and John Edwards (D-NC) will not be able to win Edwards's home state of North Carolina -- sometimes going so far as to suggest that even Democrats are not hoping they can win there -- despite recent polls that show a very close race in the Tar Heel State.

Throughout July 6, some CNN reporters and pundits downplayed Edwards's ability to help Kerry win in North Carolina and in the South overall:

Kelly Wallace, CNN national correspondent: “No one is fully expecting that with John Edwards on the ticket that John Kerry can totally win in North Carolina. But the thinking is that John Edwards will make the Republicans have to spend more money there for George Bush to win.” [CNN, Live Today, 7/6/04]

Candy Crowley, CNN senior political correspondent: “He has Southern charm, a Southern drawl, and maybe some Southern pull. But when John Kerry tapped the senator from North Carolina, he was thinking Midwest...” [CNN, News from CNN, 7/6/04]

Karen Tumulty, TIME national political correspondent: “I am not so sure how much of the South it really puts into play. Because don't forget, Edwards -- it wasn't a sure thing he would even win re-election in his own home state of North Carolina. I do think it helps, and helps possibly a lot in Florida, but I'm not sure how many other Southern states it brings into play.” [CNN, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 7/6/04]

Robert Novak, CNN anchor: "[Edwards has] [v]ery little Southern appeal. ... I think they believe there is an outside, a very outside chance that he might carry North Carolina. But he has no particular appeal in the South." [CNN, Live From..., 7/6/04]

Tucker Carlson, CNN anchor: “Kerry will almost certainly not carry North Carolina, even with John Edwards on the ticket, which is pretty embarrassing.” [CNN, Crossfire, 7/6/04]

While CNN reporters and pundits were presuming to tell viewers what people were “thinking” and “believe,” they neglected to mention recent polling that shows North Carolina is very much in play. A June Research 2000/Raleigh News & Observer/WRAL/WUNC poll showed President Bush leading Kerry by just five points, by 47 percent to 42 percent (and by six percentage points in a three-way race including Ralph Nader.) The poll's margin of error was 4 percent. Further suggesting that Edwards may help Kerry win North Carolina, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported on May 18 -- under the headline “N.C. could swing left if Edwards on ticket” -- that, with Edwards on the Democratic ticket, North Carolina “would be a tossup.” And on the March 4 edition of CNN's Inside Politics, Robert Novak said of Edwards, "[T]here's one poll that shows him beating George Bush in North Carolina and that's a good ticket to come to the table with if he wants to be vice president."

Several political experts disagreed with CNN's pessimistic assessment of Edwards's ability to help carry Southern states. Ferrel Guillory, director of the Southern Politics, Media and Public Life program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said of Kerry's choice, “The pick clearly puts the state in play for Democrats.” Emory University professor Merle Black, a frequently quoted expert on Southern politics, said Edwards “makes the campaign very competitive in North Carolina.” The July 7 Macon Telegraph paraphrased Black, adding that “Florida, Louisiana and Arkansas also could become much more competitive with Edwards as Kerry's running mate.” Even Republican Richard Vinroot, running for governor of North Carolina, acknowledged in a July 6 press release that Edwards will make “North Carolina a key battleground state.” Also, on the July 6 edition of CNN's Inside Politics, Hotline editor-in-chief Chuck Todd indicated that Edwards may indeed help put several Southern states into play:

Chuck Todd, The Hotline: "[U]p until today, only Florida was the true battleground in the South. Now you have to throw in North Carolina; it's his home state. Whether the Kerry campaign wants to target it, they have to. You target your ticket mate's home state. But there's four other states to keep an eye on: Arkansas, Louisiana, Virginia and Tennessee. I've been talking to some pollsters, and they say, in the next week, if the -- if the Edwards is truly providing a bump in those states, then Kerry-Edwards will actually hold a lead over Bush-Cheney in -- in those states. And in any of those states where they can actually get a lead, look for that state to actually be targeted. If they can't even get a lead after this week of what's going to be incredible press, particularly in the South, then the state's probably not going to ever be in play." [CNN, Inside Politics, 7/6/04]