ABC Dumps on Anti-Romney Candidates, Hits 'Disastrous' Perry, Bachmann's 'Historical Flubs'

Good Morning America's David Kerley on Sunday ran down the attempts of various Republican candidates to become the "anti-Romney" choice, decrying the "disastrous" debate performance of Rick Perry and mocking Michele Bachmann's "historical flubs."

Speaking of efforts by Iowa conservatives to solidify behind one candidate, Kerley dismissed, "But each of them have their weaknesses. Newt Gingrich, the baggage of his lifestyle and work with government agencies. Michele Bachmann, who has made serious historical flubs. Rick Perry, with his disastrous debate performances." All of these candidates may have flaws, but this is the same program that hyped the Clinton/Obama battle in '08 as one of a "hot factor" vs. "fluid poetry."

On Monday, Jon Karl knocked Newt Gingrich, reminding, "Gingrich's new front-runner status will mean new attention to his controversial past. His three marriages, nearly $2 million earned from the failed mortgage company Freddie Mac. And most recently, his position on allowing some illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S."

Karl did have some nice words for Gingrich, describing his campaign as "back." Co-host George Stephanopoulos remarked that the former House Speaker's resurgence was "astonishing."

The point is not whether Perry's had bad debate performances or Gingrich has a messy personal life. As a November 15, 2011 study by the Media Research Center found:

- In 2007, Democratic candidates were regularly tossed softball questions. This year's interviews with Republicans have been much more caustic, with few chances for the candidates to project a warm and fuzzy image.

- Despite the poor economy and low approval ratings, the morning shows continue to treat Barack Obama as more of a celebrity than a politician, airing positive feature stories about the President and his family — a gift not bestowed on the conservative Republican candidates.

With candidates such as John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich, the 2008 Democratic crop had its share of flaws.

A transcript of the November 27 segment, which aired at 8:02am EST, follows:

DAN HARRIS: We're going to start, though, with politics. It's your voice, your vote. And this morning, what could be a game-changing endorsement. The New Hampshire leader, the very influential newspaper in the first in the nation primary state, has just announced that Newt Gingrich is its pick for president. And this is a real setback for Mitt Romney, the latest sign that some conservatives are simply adopting an anybody but Mitt stance. ABC's David Kerley is on the story this morning in Washington. David, good morning to you.

DAVID KERLEY: Morning, Dan. Not a good morning for Mitt Romney. He loses that key endorsement in New Hampshire. And, tomorrow, social conservatives. In Iowa, in the caucuses will try to meet and figure out who they can vote for, a single candidate, an anti-Romney, believing that Romney has ignored them.

MICHELE BACHMANN: I actually gave my life over to the Lord.

RICK PERRY: I truly gave my life to Christ.

KERLEY: These Iowa social conservatives in the audience met secretly after last week's forum, mad at Mitt Romney, a no-show again, hoping to stop him and plotting how to do so.

STUART ROTHENBERG: I think this is calculated effort to pick a single social conservative that conservative voters can rally behind and, from their point of view, hopefully win the caucuses and deny Mitt Romney any great momentum going into New Hampshire.

KERLEY: So, they met to try and pick the anti-Romney in Iowa. The idea? Vote for one conservative rather splitting the vote which could actually end up giving Romney a chance to win Iowa. They narrowed their list to four. But each of them have their weaknesses. Newt Gingrich, the baggage of his lifestyle and work with government agencies. Michele Bachmann, who has made serious historical flubs. Rick Perry, with his disastrous debate performances. And Rick Santorum who has nearly lived in Iowa but hasn't gained any traction. The Iowa conservatives could not agree. They plan to meet again tomorrow to try and narrow that list.

MITT ROMNEY: Iowa has the first, and in some respects, one of the most powerful voices as to who our nominee will be.

KERLEY: The worry for the conservatives? If Romney has a strong showing in Iowa going into New Hampshire, where he's leading, he could be tough to beat. What is clear is this is the month that it will cut the Republican field. We are now little more than a month away from the first voters having the first voters having their say in Iowa.

ROTHENBERG: We're coming to crunch time, not who the hot conservative candidate, who do they like right now, but who do they want to be President of the United States? And that's a very different kind of decision and an important one.

KERLEY: And those social conservatives in Iowa may take a tip from that New Hampshire endorsement in the newspaper. Newt Gingrich has rise in the polls and really held on to that position in the polls, mounting a real serious challenge to Romney. Andrea?

— Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.