It’s time to stop talking about Megyn Kelly’s menstrual cycle, but not about the “rage” roiling voters, CBS News political director John Dickerson told reporters at TCA today. And, yes, that means continuing to talk about Donald Trump, who is the “vehicle of the moment” by which voters are expressing their anxiety.
Dickerson and CBS News chief David Rhodes opened their TCA Q&A with word they will host the Democratic primary debate on Saturday, November 14, and the 2016 GOP debate on Saturday, February 13. Dickerson will moderate both events.
CBS’s convention coverage will look very different on CBS this cycle, Rhodes said. POTUS, VPOTUS and keynote speeches will be covered. But say so long to the endless chatter from the air-conditioned sky box as to the meaning of the pomp and circumstance on the floor. The infrastructure of convention coverage is out of date, Rhodes said, and for years there’s been “a kind of dance going on between the parties and the major television networks…They do it because we come; we come because they do it.”
Convention news no longer happens in the “traditional way, or in front of the traditional presentation. It usually happens someplace else.” Going forward, Rhodes said, CBS will instead spend its dollars to “have as many assets as we can on the ground trying to find out what all these people are talking about.”
The current election cycle would have been a humdinger, even before this turned into The Summer of Trump, Dickerson speculated. Early polling success of the GOP attention-getter, and Dem candidate Bernie Sanders “who came a little bit out of nowhere,” reflect the electorate’s conviction that both the economic system and politics are rigged against them. That conversation includes stagnant wages, lack of control over their lives, erosion of the American dream, and the “terror they feel” from overseas, he said.
Asked if the news media should still, days later, be talking about Donald Trump’s apparent reference to “Megyn Kelly’s menstrual cycle,” Dickerson said emphatically, “We should move on.”
[Trump has tweeted that when he said, the morning after Fox News Channel’s GOP debate “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her… wherever”], he was referencing her nose.
The public’s fascination with Trump, Dickerson insisted, actually is “outside of Trump.”
“This is really about the rage they have about this system,” he said, which is an important subject for news operations to pay close attention to this election cycle. That makes Trump coverage, “a balance we have to keep our eye on, minute by minute.”
Dickerson and Rhodes also addressed the agonizing length of presidential campaign seasons, noting that super-PACS nowadays can fuel two-year runs full of negative campaigning and the public no longer questions why the perpetually campaigning politician isn’t doing something more productive.
On the bright side, Dickerson noted, voters aren’t so easily swayed by polls these days after being fooled last time. GOP internal polling last cycle told Mitt Romney he was going to win in the days leading up to the election, Dickerson recalled.
“They’d ordered the fireworks.”