There‚Äôs a certain giddiness in the air at the Sunday morning newsmaker shows these days, with the long election behind them and a whole new set of issues to delve into and guests to pin down.
It‚Äôs a far cry from a year ago, when TelevisionWeek put together its annual anonymous poll of how the politicians and otherwise important people who make the rounds of the guest chairs are viewed by the Sunday show staffs who rely on them.
A year ago, the drawn-out Democratic primary had narrowed the agendas of the shows to just a handful of topics. This time around, the frenetic change agenda of the Obama administration, two wars, the swine flu pandemic, the tumult in the economy and the turmoil in the Republican Party‚Äînot to mention the unlikely mouthing-off from former Vice President Dick Cheney‚Äîhas presented the long-form interview programs with a smorgasbord of stories and guests from which to fill their plates.
To use another metaphor, ‚ÄúWith the new administration, we‚Äôre like kids in the candy store,‚Äù said one rejuvenated Sunday show staffer. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs more fun than ever,‚Äù said another. ‚ÄúOur role as far as the news cycle has never been stronger,‚Äù chimed in a third.
It‚Äôs not just new topics to talk about. Contributing equally to the good mood is a feeling that, unlike during the eight years of the Bush administration, the Obama White House staff seems to like doing the Sunday shows and has decided they can be useful in getting an agenda out.
Competition among the shows, while never slack, seems particularly fierce this year. Two of the five programs that go at it each Sunday have changed anchors, giving the habit-driven audience an impetus to shop around. NBC‚Äôs ‚ÄúMeet the Press‚Äù now is hosted by David Gregory after the unexpected death of Tim Russert last June. CNN subbed out ‚ÄúLate Edition With Wolf Blitzer‚Äù for a new host, John King, and a new title, ‚ÄúState of the Union.‚Äù They join ABC‚Äôs ‚ÄúThis Week With George Stephanopoulos,‚Äù CBS‚Äô ‚ÄúFace the Nation With Bob Schieffer‚Äù and ‚ÄúFox News Sunday With Chris Wallace.‚Äù
With so many guests to choose from, there was perhaps a little less consensus than usual this year among those who put the shows together. But some administration stars are beginning to emerge and some patterns are becoming apparent. Here‚Äôs the early view of D.C.‚Äôs Talkers from the inside out, exchanging, as always, anonymity for honesty.
THE BIGGEST GET
Leading vote-getter: President Barack Obama, who, unlike his predecessor, seems amenable to doing the programs. (‚ÄúIt‚Äôs always the president,‚Äù even though the interviews tend to be doled out on rotation among the networks. ‚ÄúAudiences respond to him and, at the same time, he‚Äôs shown an interest in doing the Sunday shows.‚Äù)
Also mentioned: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has done short interviews with reporters accompanying her on her globe-trotting, but has shunned the Sunday long-form spotlight since taking on her new role (‚ÄúShe‚Äôs stayed off the Sunday turf and seems to be deliberately doing so.‚Äù); Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who hasn‚Äôt done any Sunday programs either; Pope Benedict XVI.
2008: Then-Sen. Clinton and then-Sen. Obama, as they fought to the end for the Democratic presidential nomination.
UNDER THE MISTAKEN IMPRESSION THAT THEY ARE THE BIGGEST GET
Leading vote-getter: By a very slim margin, Vice President Joe Biden. (‚ÄúHe always thinks he‚Äôs more of a big get than he is.‚Äù ‚ÄúEven when he was a senator and failed presidential candidate, he always thought he was hot stuff for a Sunday show.‚Äù)
Also mentioned: Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. (‚ÄúThey tend to act like more than Senate leaders.‚Äù); Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., and Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (‚ÄúStill a good get but‚Ä¶.‚Äù)
2008: Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
THE HARDEST TO GET
Leading vote-getters: A tie between First Lady Michelle Obama (‚ÄúIt‚Äôs not her kind of thing.‚Äù ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs just this caution, it‚Äôs not even an instant no, it just goes out with no response.‚Äù) and investor Warren Buffett, who hasn‚Äôt done any Sunday shows throughout the months of economic turmoil.
Also mentioned: Gov. Palin (‚ÄúI mean, who can blame her?‚Äù); Jeb Bush (‚ÄúHe rarely does a Sunday show and even though he‚Äôs not in office right now, he‚Äôll always be a good booking.‚Äù); Attorney General Eric Holder; embattled California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
2008: Then-Vice President Dick Cheney.
PLAYS HARDEST TO GET
Leading vote-getters: No consensus. Mrs. Clinton, for her current reticence; Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. (‚ÄúMaybe he still thinks he was elected president? He takes forever.‚Äù) Vice President Biden (‚ÄúSo interesting because he was the biggest friend of the Sunday shows before he was in office.‚Äù) Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (‚ÄúDoesn‚Äôt particularly like doing Sunday shows.‚Äù); Sen. Reid.
2008: Then-Rep. Emanuel, D-Ill.
SURE TO MAKE THE MOST NEWS
Leading vote-getter: Former Vice President Dick Cheney, who has been making the rounds‚Äîand the headlines‚Äîby refusing to bow out gracefully, as convention would have it. (‚ÄúHe wants to make news; he‚Äôs a flame-thrower at the moment.‚Äù ‚ÄúHe doesn‚Äôt care anymore.‚Äù ‚ÄúHe only comes when he comes to play.‚Äù)
Also mentioned: President Obama (‚ÄúBy his style, no, but now that‚Äôs he‚Äôs the president, whatever he says makes news.‚Äù)
2008: Any presidential candidate; Bill Clinton.
DOESN‚ÄôT MAKE THE NEWS (S)HE PROBABLY SHOULD
Leading vote-getters: No consensus, but lots of frustration. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is ‚Äújust very careful‚Äù; her House Minority counterpart Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, ‚Äúrarely does.‚Äù Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., ‚Äúrarely makes news either,‚Äù and ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs hard to get anything out of Harry Reid.‚Äù As for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner: ‚ÄúWhen [Federal Reserve Chairman] Ben Bernanke says something it‚Äôs really news, but Geithner so far has not been as news-producing. He‚Äôs getting better at interviews, however.‚Äù And finally, Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett ‚Äúis incredibly close to the president and in one of the most influential positions, yet she‚Äôs very good at sticking on message ‚Ä¶ in a delightful way.‚Äù
2008: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
MAKES THE MOST EFFECTIVE USE OF NEWSMAKER SHOWS
Leading vote-getter: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. (‚ÄúHe‚Äôs experienced at it. He‚Äôs pretty strategic about when he comes out, and when he comes out, most of the shows take him.‚Äù)
Also mentioned: New administration go-to person David Axelrod (‚Äúalways seems to have something to say when he comes on‚Äù); Mr. Emanuel (‚ÄúHe‚Äôs incredibly good at knowing when and how to feed the beast, and he‚Äôs in that role for a reason.‚Äù); Gen. Colin Powell (‚Äúcomes out when he has a reason‚Äù); Mr. Geithner (‚ÄúWhen he‚Äôs coming out and doing things, there‚Äôs definitely a reason for it.‚Äù)
2008: Then-Sen. Biden.
LEAVES THE BEST LINES IN THE GREEN ROOM
Leading vote-getters: Sen. Schumer is ‚Äúgood on TV and even better in the green room‚Äù; ditto for Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. (‚ÄúHe delivers on-air but he‚Äôs better in the green room.‚Äù). Sen. McCain, thinks one, is ‚Äúmore outgoing before you get him on the set.‚Äù And the ‚Äúincredibly witty‚Äù Republican political consultant Mike Murphy is often at the center of a ‚Äúgreen room fest,‚Äù where he throws out great lines that others then use on-air.
Also mentioned: In a slightly different category‚Äîthose who talk big when off-air‚Äîis Sen.
Kerry (‚ÄúYou always need to have his quotes from the paper as a backup; he‚Äôll say things in print that are a little more explicit than when he is on the air.‚Äù); Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council; and Rep. Boehner (‚Äútalks a big game beforehand‚Äù).
2008: Senators ‚Äújockeying for position.‚Äù ‚ÄúThey all do.‚Äù
STAR OF THE GREEN ROOM
Leading vote-getter: The ever-popular, always accessible Sen. McCain.
Also mentioned: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. (‚ÄúDown to earth and sometimes shows up without staff,‚Äù ‚Äúwants to see the control room‚Äù); Sen. Graham; Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.; VP Biden; Mr. Emanuel; and Gov. Schwarzenegger (‚Äúvery charming‚Äù).
2008: Sen. McCain; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
HARDEST TO BUDGE OFF THE TALKING POINTS
Leading vote-getters: It‚Äôs a ‚Äú7,000-way tie.‚Äù ‚ÄúWe don‚Äôt invite those people back.‚Äù On the list are Secretary Clinton and her predecessor, Gen. Powell; Mr. Summers; Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs (While a good Sunday guest because he‚Äôs speaking for the president, ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs so practiced at it.‚Äù); Ms. Jarrett; Mr. Geithner; and Christina Romer, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
2008: Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.; Ms. Rice; Sen. Clinton; Sen. Obama.
Leading vote-getter: House Speaker Pelosi, who may be losing some bookings because of it. (‚ÄúIt‚Äôs ridiculous.‚Äù ‚ÄúYou gotta go there, it‚Äôs gotta be a Friday, they remember every perceived slight.‚Äù ‚ÄúShe never does anything live; you have to go to her.‚Äù ‚ÄúWe rarely make so many accommodations for anyone else.‚Äù One mild dissent: ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs more pain-in-the-neck than high-maintenance. When we get up there she‚Äôs always very nice.‚Äù)
Also mentioned: former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (‚ÄúSince he belongs to Fox, you have to get Fox to OK it and it‚Äôs an ordeal every time.‚Äù).
2008: Then-Republican presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani and Rep. Pelosi.
EASIEST TO DEAL WITH
Leading vote-getter: Sen. Graham (‚ÄúA dream boat. He‚Äôs available, it‚Äôs not high-maintenance.‚Äù)
Also mentioned: Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind. (‚ÄúJust a real gentleman, a nice guy and easy-going. Not self-important in any way.‚Äù) Sen. McCain; Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.; Sen. Schumer; Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. (‚Äúlow-maintenance‚Äù).
2008: Sen. Graham.
Leading vote-getter: Sen. Schumer (‚ÄúThe joke is that the most dangerous place in Washington is between Chuck Schumer and a camera.‚Äù)
Also mentioned: Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va. (‚Äúwill always come on‚Äù); Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell; Gingrich (‚ÄúEnough!‚Äù); Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. (‚Äúgetting up there‚Äù).
2008: The candidates; the campaigns; anyone from a primary state.
MAKING THE LONG ROAD TO THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION FEEL EVEN LONGER
Leading vote-getter: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. (‚ÄúIt‚Äôs obvious that he‚Äôs running for president again.‚Äù ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs been running for the past four years and it‚Äôs just never stopped.‚Äù)
2008: Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean; the unresolved Michigan, Florida and super-delegate issues; daily conference calls and counter-conference calls by the campaigns.