Numerous Colorado media outlets on June 21 and 22 covered Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Colorado visit by uncritically quoting his talking point that voters' being “upset” with the Iraq war led to Republicans losing control of Congress in the November 2006 election. In fact, polling indicated voters considered other issues more important. Further, KCNC CBS4's Terry Jessup joined national media figures in fawning over Romney's appearance, labeling him “arguably the most handsome” of the GOP candidates.
On June 21 and June 22, numerous Colorado media outlets uncritically reported former Massachusetts governor and current Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's dubious talking point that Republicans lost control of the U.S. Congress in 2006 because voters were unhappy about the war in Iraq. The Rocky Mountain News, KCNC CBS4, and KDVR Fox 31 quoted Romney as saying “people were upset” with conduct of the war, while the News, CBS4, and Newsradio 850 KOA quoted his comment that the American people couldn't fire “the coach,” so they removed “the team.”
However, as Colorado Media Matters has noted, a national exit poll conducted for a group of major news organizations following the November 7, 2006, midterm election found that voters considered corruption and ethics in government the most important issues. In addition, voters cited the economy and terrorism as important issues more often than they did the war in Iraq.
Furthermore, KCNC political specialist Terry Jessup joined numerous national media figures who have made complimentary comments about Romney's physical appearance, stating on the June 21 broadcast of CBS4 News at 6 p.m. that "[t]he former Massachusetts governor is arguably the most handsome of the 10 Republican candidates." The same report featured oil multimillionaire and former Colorado Republican Party chairman Bruce Benson -- a Romney supporter -- saying that Romney's “got it all. He's the perfect kind of a candidate. I mean, all the looks, the voice, the ... ability to answer quickly, easily and, carefully.”
As the Rocky Mountain News article by Stuart Steers reported on June 22, “Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney breezed through Denver on Thursday, appearing at a $1,000-a-person noon fundraiser at the Brown Palace Hotel and meeting with Colorado supporters.” The News further reported:
When asked why Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006, Romney pointed to the war in Iraq.
“I don't think 2006 was America turning left,” he said.
“People were upset with the war. They couldn't remove the coach, so they removed the team.”
Similarly, on the CBS4 broadcast, Jessup stated that when Romney “hears Democrats say their midterm election wins prove the country's leaning left, he doesn't buy it.” Jessup's report then uncritically quoted Romney's talking point that “I don't think it was America saying we want big government and big taxes and Big Brother. I think instead people were upset with the conduct of the war in Iraq and they couldn't remove the coach, so they removed the team.” A June 21 report on KDVR Fox 31's News at 9 O'Clock likewise quoted Romney saying, “The experience of '06 I don't think was America turning left. I don't think it was America saying, we want big government and big taxes and Big Brother. I think instead people were upset with the conduct of the war.”
Finally, during an interview on the June 22 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's Colorado's Morning News, Romney repeated his talking point that “the reason that Republicans lost in '06 is that there was a great deal of dissatisfaction with how the administration had managed the war, and I understand that. And they ... couldn't fire the coach, so they fired the team.”
However, as the Associated Press reported on November 7, 2006, “The Iraq war hurt Republican candidates in the midterm elections, but corruption and scandal were bigger problems for them, exit polls found. Three-fourths of voters said corruption and scandal were important to their votes, and they were more likely to vote for the Democratic candidates for the House. Iraq was important for just two-thirds, and they also leaned toward Democrats.”
The AP article was based on the National Election Pool exit polling conducted on behalf of the AP, CNN, Fox News, and the three major broadcast television networks. According to the poll, 36 percent of voters called the war in Iraq "[e]xtremely important," but more said the same about terrorism (39 percent), the economy (39 percent), and "[government] corruption and scandals" (41 percent). Weighing the same issues as "[v]ery" and "[e]xtremely" important, a combined 68 percent of voters cited the war in Iraq, 72 percent named terrorism, 74 percent cited corruption and scandal, and 82 percent mentioned the economy.
In addition to uncritically airing Romney's Iraq war talking point, Jessup echoed numerous national media figures in fawning over Romney's appearance, calling him “arguably the most handsome of the 10 Republican candidates.” As Media Matters for America has noted:
- In his June 6 column, Politico chief political columnist Roger Simon declared Romney the winner of the June 5 Republican presidential debate and attributed his victory, in part, to the fact that he is "[s]trong, clear, gives good soundbite, and has shoulders you could land a 737 on."
- On the May 30 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly said: "[Y]ou can't get more presidential-looking than Mitt Romney." O'Reilly continued, "[I]f you were to make up a guy, this would be the guy, you know, that looks presidential. He's got the jaw going on, the little gray thing in there." O'Reilly concluded that Romney's “presidential” looks bode well for his electoral prospects, saying, “I think that means a lot in America.”
From the June 22 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's Colorado's Morning News:
APRIL ZESBAUGH (co-host): Does it concern you, though, to see what Colorado and a lot of states in the West did in the last election year, where they flipped from Republican to Democrat? And also, we've got the, the DNC, the Democratic National Convention here next year; does that make you feel as a Republican like, “Eh, maybe Colorado is not in it to win it for me?”
ROMNEY: No, I think Colorado is, is more conservative than liberal, and I think the reason that Republicans lost in '06 is that there was a great deal of dissatisfaction with how the administration had managed the war, and I understand that. And they -- they couldn't fire the coach, so they fired the team. And Republicans took a drubbing all over the country. But I don't think America is turning liberal. I think America longs for the kind of Republicanism that Ronald Reagan championed, which was a strong military, a strong economy, and strong families and values, and that's what my campaign is based on.
From the June 21 broadcast of KDVR Fox 31's News at 9 O'Clock:
LIBBY WEAVER (co-anchor): In our “You Decide 2008” political coverage, another presidential candidate comes to Denver. Tonight it's former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. The Republican hopeful making a campaign stop at the Brown Palace Hotel to win votes with Colorado's GOP chairman, Bruce Benson.
ROMNEY [video clip]: The experience of '06 I don't think was America turning left. I don't think it was America saying, we want big government and big taxes and Big Brother. I think instead people were upset with the conduct of the war.
WEAVER: Just hours ago, Romney also spoke at a forum in Beaver Creek, calling for a fresh worldwide strategy to defeat the global jihadist threat.
From the June 21 broadcast of KCNC's CBS4 News at 6 p.m.:
JIM BENEMANN (co-anchor): Denver is once again a campaign stop on the road to the White House; today it was Mitt Romney's turn. CBS4's political specialist, Terry Jessup, in the newsroom. Terry, an expensive race, obviously, and Romney was raising some serious cash here today.
JESSUP: He was; that's what he was doing in Denver. Mitt Romney the latest presidential candidate to come here, and he's already got former Republican Party state chairman Bruce Benson and billionaire businessman Phillip Anschutz in his corner. They were part of a very private fundraiser at the Brown Palace around noon today, where about 100 people paid 1,000 bucks to see Romney and ponied up to 2300 to have their picture taken with him.
[begin video clip]
ROMNEY: -- that I'm delighted to have such good friends here welcoming me to, to Denver --
JESSUP: The former Massachusetts governor is arguably the most handsome of the 10 Republican candidates, but far from the most recognized. That's why his Colorado campaign chairman helped get him out here early.
BENSON: On the national polls, there's a lot of people that never heard of him.
JESSUP [to Romney]: Everyone who comes to Colorado says how critically important it is. Should we believe that?
ROMNEY: Well, it depends in part on when you have your caucuses.
JESSUP: But when the son of former Michigan Governor George Romney hears Democrats say their midterm election wins prove the country's leaning left, he doesn't buy it.
ROMNEY: I don't think it was America saying we want big government and big taxes and Big Brother. I think instead people were upset with the conduct of the war in Iraq and they couldn't remove the coach, so they removed the team.
JESSUP: The father of five adult sons, Romney is pleased with his standing so far.
ROMNEY: In places like Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, I'm leading in the polls.
JESSUP: But could he have a tougher time in Colorado with the Democrats holding their convention here?
ROMNEY: Well, it'll either make it harder or easier; sometimes where, where you have your convention, people say, “I don't want to be with them again.” But I, I -- I, I hope they'll be, they'll have a good time here and, and they'll be good guests.
BRUCE BENSON: He's got it all. He's the perfect kind of a candidate. I mean, all the looks, the voice, the, the ability to answer quickly, easily and, carefully, and then you look at what his accomplishments.
JESSUP: Romney also stands apart as the only Mormon candidate, and he is asked about it almost everywhere he goes.
ROMNEY: I don't think the people in this country make their decisions on who they elect based on which church they go to.
[end video clip]
JESSUP: Today's visit was brief, Mr. Romney slipping out without much fanfare. Counting Colorado, he will have raised money and recognition in a total of four western states by Saturday. He's headed for Montana, Idaho, and Utah when he left here this afternoon to complete his western campaign swing.