'Moving to the Middle': Networks Push 'Crushing' Win for Christie Vs. Tea Party 'Firebrands'

The three morning shows on Wednesday announced that a "crushing victory" for Chris Christie in New Jersey will force the Republican Party to "move to the middle" against Tea Party "firebrands." According to CBS This Morning's Chip Reid, Christie hoped for a big win to "show that Republicans who favor consensus over ideological purity can win – even in blue states like New Jersey." [MP3 audio here.]

Co-host Charlie Rose opened the show by lecturing, "A move to the middle – the results from two high-profile elections have national implications." For the election in Virginia, Reid somehow said of the liberal Terry Mcauliffe's victory: "That theme of bipartisanship was echoed in Virginia."

Over on Good Morning America, George Stephanopoulos opened the show with Christie's "crushing victory." Of Virginia, journalist Jeff Zeleny insisted that "Tea Party firebrands" are "saying New Jersey is hardly a bellwether for the country."

Although CBS and ABC noted the closeness of the Virginia election, NBC's Chuck Todd uniquely highlighted the implications: "And Democrats quietly in a mini-panic about how health care almost cost them that governor's race."

Todd pointed out that McAuliffe "eked out a win," reminding that "Pre-election polls showed McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli by anywhere from 4 to 12 points. Cuccinelli credited the controversy over health care with making it a much tighter race."

Today co-host Matt Lauer wanted a moral to be divined from the result: "So what does his victory yesterday in New Jersey, what message does it send to the right wing of his party, in particular the Tea Party?"

Unlike the other two networks, Todd also explained that Republican Ken Cuccinelli " spent weeks begging Chris Christie to come to Virginia and campaign with Cuccinelli. Christie said no."

A transcript of the November 6 CBS This Morning segment is below:


CHARLIE ROSE: A move to the middle – the results from two high-profile elections have national implications. In New Jersey, Republican Governor Chris Christie won a commanding reelection victory over Democrat Barbara Buono. The win gives Christie momentum, as he decides whether to enter presidential politics.

[CBS News Graphic: "New Jersey Governor Election Results: Chris Christie, (R), 61%; Barbara Buono, (D), 38%"]

NORAH O'DONNELL: Meanwhile, Virginia's next governor is a long-time confidante of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Former Democratic Party chairman Terry McAuliffe defeated Republican Ken Cuccinelli.

Chip Reid is in Washington. Chip, good morning.

[CBS News Graphic: "Virginia Governor Election Results: Terry McAuliffe, (D), 38%; Ken Cuccinelli, (R), 45%"]

CHIP REID: Well, good morning, Charlie and Norah. In one sense, the races in New Jersey and Virginia were a split decision – one going to the Republicans and one to the Democrats. But both races have something in common: an emphasis on compromise and reaching across the aisle.

[CBS News Graphic: "Moving To The Middle? Christie Wins In NJ, McAuliffe Victorious In VA"]

REID (voice-over): New Jersey Governor Chris Christie celebrated his resounding victory with a not-so-subtle zinger aimed at the nation's gridlocked leaders.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R), NEW JERSEY (from campaign event): I know that if we can do this in Trenton, New Jersey, maybe, the folks in Washington, D.C. should turn in their TV's right now – see how it's done. (audience cheers and applauds)

REID: Christie has made no secret of the fact that he's contemplating a run for the White House in 2016, and he wanted a big reelection victory, in part, to show that Republicans who favor consensus over ideological purity can win – even in blue states like New Jersey.

CHRISTIE: The biggest thing I've learned over the last four years about leadership, is that leadership is much less about talking than it is about listening.

REID: Christie has a mostly conservative record, but he got 32 percent of the Democratic vote, compared to just five percent for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney last year in New Jersey. He also won nearly 60 percent of women, and one in five African-Americans.

That theme of bipartisanship was echoed in Virginia by Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who squeaked out a narrow victory for governor.

TERRY MCAULIFFE (from campaign event): At a time when Washington was often broken, just think about what Virginia has been able to accomplish when we work together.

REID: McAuliffe defined his opponent, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli – a favorite of the Tea Party – as rigid and uncompromising.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1 (from Terry McAuliffe For Governor TV ad): Ken Cuccinelli is just way too extreme.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: Way too extreme-

REID: For weeks, the pollsters and pundits predicted that McAuliffe would win easily. But in the final days of the campaign, Cuccinelli tried to turn the race into a referendum on ObamaCare.

KEN CUCCINELLI, VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL (from campaign event): Although I lost, tonight, you sent a message to the President of the United States that ObamaCare is a failure, and that you want to be in charge of your health care, and not the government. (audience cheers and applauds)

REID (on-camera): Now, Cuccinelli's effort to tie McAuliffe to the disastrous rollout of ObamaCare appears to have helped narrow the gap, but not quite enough to win. Charlie and Norah?

— Scott Whitlock is Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Scott Whitlock on Twitter.