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Chuck Todd On The Aftermath Of Thursday’s Debate

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Meet the Press’ Chuck Todd joined me on the program today:




HH: I am joined by Chuck Todd of Meet The Press. His daily Meet The Press opened with Rick Flair. Was that a commentary on last night’s debate, Chuck Todd?

CT: It’s the whole campaign, man. It is…

HH: (laughing)

CT: I don’t know. Hugh, I’m sorry, I mean, did you see the back and forth today? Look, there was a point last night, and look, Rubio did everything everybody had been advising him to do. And for an hour, I thought it was very effective. And then there was this point, and I’m sure, look, I’ve been in your seat, and you can’t always experience it the way it looks on television. And there was this point during the debate where they were all three talking over each other. And you know, at that point, and look, no moderator can get control of that, all right? There’s just no doing it. I think the criticisms of Wolf are not fair. There’s just nothing you can do. They’re all three talking. And I’m sitting there going, I couldn’t picture any of them on the Capitol steps taking the oath. I couldn’t picture it. It was a really bad moment for the Republican Party, Hugh. It was so low.

HH: What I could imagine was the poor transcriber at Telemundo trying to do a simulcast and translation.

CT: Well, did you hear what the closed caption? You know what went around on Twitter? It said unintelligible. It was, you couldn’t…

HH: See, that’s what it was.

CT: Yes.

HH: And you could see it up close, but I have no idea. You’re right. You have no idea of how it plays on TV.

CT: It was so bad.

HH: Neither do I think it’s fatal, because…

CT: Yeah, it was just…

HH: But tell me, I just had The Rick Wilson on, the political consultant aligned with Rubio, and I remain Switzerland. Everyone is welcome here. I sent a note off to Hope Hicks early this morning. Donald can come back despite giving me my third Trump tattoo. He’s still the best interview in radio. Marco’s welcome, Ted’s welcome, John Kasich’s welcome, Ben Carson is welcome. But tell me what you think of Rick Wilson saying you’ve got to get Marco Rubio to call John Kasich and Ted Cruz, get them in a room, Kasich, you’re the vice president, Cruz, you’re going onto SCOTUS, and I’m the nominee. What do you think of that option?

CT: Well, by the way, I believe the offering that SCOTUS pick would be a federal crime, if I’m not mistaken. You know, you technically can’t be offering jobs like that, for what it’s worth, I believe. There is this law and you have to be careful when you do that, for what it’s worth.

HH: You have to be very careful, but that’s always what’s always held people back from naming their cabinet. There is a way around it.

CT: Correct. You can’t legally do it, right. Anyway, but big picture, look, it’s the only hope, all right, if you believe in the stop Trump movement. But that’s what makes this Christie endorsement so important to Trump…

HH: Yup.

CT: …because it’s the crack in the establishment breach, right? It’s the crack on the establishment front. And you know, he’s a card…say what you want about Christie, he’s a card-carrying member of the establishment. He raises millions of dollars for the RGA. You know, plenty of people think some of it is personal to Rubio. But he could have gone with John Kasich, too, or he could have stayed silent. He chose not to. And he is providing cover for Trump in a way that he clearly decided he made that calculation. But he is now Donald Trump’s greatest verifier. That’s…

HH: You know what I’m very interested in is Charlie Baker.

CT: Yeah.

HH: Charlie Baker endorsed Chris Christie. He is the moderate Mitt Romney surrogate in the Governor’s Association. I’ll be interested to see what he does. Let me ask you this. As a longtime watcher of this, right now, what is happening is all of the oppo is being dumped on Donald Trump. I view this as good for the general election. The Supreme Court is the most important thing to me. I’m a Donald Trump guy if he gets nominated, and I’m all for Donald Trump because of the Supreme Court. And it’s good to get Trump University and all the other stuff out there now. But doesn’t he have to dump the tax records?

CT: Well, I’ve never heard of somebody just delaying the release of tax returns by basically saying well, I’m in the middle of being audited, and by the way, I get audited all the time. And you’re sitting there going what? You get audited all the time? Do you never do your taxes correctly? That’s, you know, it’s one thing to get audited once. You know, I’ve been audited. I came through, and I didn’t owe anything more. It was just a, whatever it was, I triggered something. I went through the process. But you don’t get audited again, you know, unless you’re doing something wrong all the time, I guess. It’s sort of, look, it’s an odd defense. For anybody else, it would be a massive unforced error. I guess he’s Teflon Don, and it isn’t going to stick to him, but I’ve got to think it does. But it’s funny you bring up the whole, the idea that is all this going to inoculate him. It only inoculates him, Hugh, if Rubio goes to the next step. Is Rubio going to have a press conference with Trump University students that feel defrauded? Is he going to have a press conference with the elderly Polish worker that didn’t get those wages but still lives in the United States, because you know what, if they don’t, Hillary Clinton will. Hillary Clinton will have that press conference.

HH: Yeah, that’s it.

CT: And so that…

HH: And in the next two weeks. It’s a super inoculation. It’s that giant inoculation, or it works. I just don’t, I also have a theory I want to run past you. One of three things has to happen. Ted Cruz has to win Texas by a majority, John Kasich has to win either Michigan or Ohio, or Marco has to win Florida in order to get to the open convention I’ve been predicting. Rick Wilson just told me Florida’s going to happen, that it’s coming together down there. You’re a Floridian. What do you hear?

CT: I think it is coming together. I hear the same thing. However, a lot of it is going to depend on Rubio’s performance Tuesday. You know, Rubio can’t afford Cruz winning two states. I disagree with you. I think if you’re Rubio, you actually need Trump to win Texas. That’s the fastest way to get Cruz out.

HH: Oh, interesting.

CT: …in that front. Look, because the math doesn’t really change in either direction, right? It’s still all proportional as far as Tuesday’s concerned. But by the way, there is only two scenarios left in this nomination fight. Trump’s the presumptive nominee on March 16th, or we’re going to a convention in Cleveland. There’s no in between anymore.

HH: I know. And I’m so happy, because I’ve been predicting open convention forever. But the only way to get to open convention, someone has to win…

CT: Trump has to lose Ohio. There’s only, that is, forget Michigan, Hugh. It’s literally, we did the math on this. Florida and Ohio is the linchpin here. If Trump wins Florida and Ohio, he’s the nominee. If he loses Florida and Ohio, it’s a contested convention. It’s just, it’s black and white.

HH: So if he loses either of those states, it’s open convention?

CT: No, he needs to lose both. He can lose one and probably grind his way to the nomination, but if he loses both, it’s definitely, it’s convention, because the numbers, he can’t get to the majority.

HH: Okay, let’s put aside, let’s just talk as journalists here. That’s the greatest thing ever, isn’t it?

CT: (laughing) Trust me, man, I am sitting here, it’s the only thing I haven’t done in my 25 years. Perot, I thought that was amazing, 2000, an impeachment, and ’94 for me was the first ever. You know, I never thought Republicans would ever win the House. I never thought the House of Representatives would ever be competitive again, right? You know, we lived a generation and a half on that.

HH: Yeah.

CT: So there’s all these things I never thought. The first African-American president, all of these things you never thought you’d see, and the one thing we haven’t had is a contested convention. So you know, we do that, and then, you know, that’s drop the mic for me, Hugh. That might go down like…

HH: Yeah, get your arms around…

CT: …supposed to do.

HH: 2,800 delegates, each with a Twitter account and a Facebook…

CT: (laughing)

HH: …all being deluged by a million different friends…

CT: And guess what? Broker that, brother. Broker all of that.

HH: You can’t…

CT: You can’t broker.

HH: You can’t broker. It’s…

CT: You can’t broker that.

HH: It’s a beast of its own. So Mitt Romney started this wildfire that got me my Trump tattoo by reminding people that he’d promised to give out his tax returns a year ago. And so I brought it up in the green room, and I brought it up in the debate room. And so it got me a rebuke from Trump. That’s fine. But Mitt Romney’s role here, what is it?

CT: I guess, I don’t know, and if Mitt Romney, I think Mitt Romney, if he is going to play a role, he needs to step it up more. I think it sort of looked like a drive-by. And I think for Mitt Romney’s sake, he probably needs to elevate a little bit. And if he’s going to do this, then triple down. Then quadruple down.

HH: I haven’t seen him on any of the Sunday shows. Did you guys reach out to him?

CT: We have reached out. So we’ll see. We’re trying.

HH: See, I have not talked to Romney. I am curious as heck. If he wanted to double down, I expected him to show up on Meet The Press or one of the Sunday shows to press his case against Donald Trump, because it is right now a tweet that set a forest fire. It’s like he left the campfire burning.

CT: Well, it did, but you know, drive-by’s don’t work with Trump, and I think he’s hurting himself. If Romney wants to own it, he needs to own it.

HH: Okay, last thing about Chris Christie. What was that about? I am stunned.

CT: I’m stunned, too. I mean, there’s nothing, there’s no two ways about it. I don’t know. Is it anti-Rubio? Is it a personal relationship that he has with Trump? And he has quite the personal relationship. I don’t know.

HH: Is it Vice President Christie?

CT: You can’t help but wonder that, right? That’s going to be, that’s certainly going to be the first option. And you know, Christie would meet the qualification Trump outlined of wanting an insider.

HH: It would also meet the qualification of reviving a career that has nowhere to go after New Jersey.

CT: I guess. It is. I mean, he certainly made himself freshly relevant at a time when it looked he was on his way to becoming completely irrelevant.

HH: And it would double down, very irrelevant. When he picked Gore, doubled down on his number, and Trump would double down on the nature of being tough, right? That’s Chris Christie.

CT: Well, that’s the one way to sell it. And I don’t disagree. The problem with it is, and I’ve looked at these numbers. I do believe Trump is going to over-perform in New England anyway, and the Northeast, particularly with the working class voters. I don’t think he needs Christie’s help for that. I think his problems are going to be in the Midwest, and his problems are going to be out West. So I don’t feel like Christie helped him electorally, but it may help him on message.

HH: And it might help him on terrorism if that sadly becomes an issue again. Chuck Todd, we’ll see you Sunday on Meet the Press. Thank you, my friend.

End of interview.


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