Meet The Press host Chuck Todd was my guest Friday. His comment on one small part of the polling data that will be a part of the Sunday show? Mitch McConnell is going to be happy. He also gave us a good rule by which to judge how a debate moderator does his or her job, and some background on Senator Mary Landrieu’s pratfall comment to him yesterday. Seems lots of Democrats have been making the same absurd charge of racism as a motive for opposing the president for some time in private.
HH: Joined by Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s Meet The Press. Happy Halloween, Chuck.
CT: Happy Halloween to you. It’s my one day with the family before I go back to election work.
HH: I know. Well, I hope you have good trick or treating going on.
CT: Oh, we have a good neighborhood, always a lot of fun here in Northern Virginia.
HH: You made so much news yesterday. In case someone didn’t hear, I want them to hear your interview, the key quote with Mary Landrieu. Let’s play Chuck Todd on the bus with Mary Landrieu yesterday.
ML: Let me be very, very honest with you. In the South, it’s not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans. It’s been a difficult time for the President to present himself in a very positive light as a leader. It’s not always been a good place for women to be able to present ourselves. It’s more of a conservative place. So we’ve had to work a little bit harder on that. But you know, but the people trust me, I believe.
HH: So Chuck Todd, sometimes when I hear people say things, I don’t quite realize I’ve just got gold. I’m sure you’ve been experiencing this your entire life as a journalist. Did you know that she’d stepped in it at that moment?
CT: Well, I knew that it would be, look, I don’t want to characterize as to whether she stepped in it or not. And I’m going to, and you know, in interviews, I always feel weird in my own interviews to characterize them too much. You want to let others do that. But I knew that she said something you don’t usually hear, people say on the record. Look, that’s a comment I’ve heard Democrats make to me privately for years. Ironically, the Democrat that makes it the least is actually the guy in the Oval Office. President Obama, off the record, on the record, never, never talks about it, never claims it, never hangs his hat on it. But I’ve heard plenty of other Democrats do that. And the minute she said it, I was like wow, you don’t normally, in fact, you don’t normally hear somebody say that on the record. Look, we have a history of, when it comes to race, we, let’s just say blunt talk isn’t always well-received, and I’ll just leave it at that.
HH: Well, you know, the way it is reacting among my audience is that she’s leveling a charge of racism at many people not specified. And it gets people really angry to be, you know, I’m upset with the President because of the VA and the CDC and the Secret Service and the Obamacare and the stimulus and ISIS. It’s got nothing to do with his being an African-America. And I think when she did that, she hurt every Democrat in every race. I mean, what’s the general reaction in D.C. that you hear as to the impact of that remark?
CT: Well, it’s interesting. Now it is worth noting that before she said the line, she said I’ll be very honest with you, the first thing she said is the reason he’s, my basic question is, just to clarify, I simply said why is the President so unpopular in Louisiana, and she started in on well, energy policy, number one, and he had the moratorium on all drilling after the BP oil spill, and he didn’t lift it right away. And that’s not something that played well. And then that’s what she said at the beginning. I think if she had hard stopped there, nobody would have said, it would have been dog bites man type of story. Then she went on to talk about the other parts of what she said in what you played there. So it’s interesting, I have not seen it sort of have an impact on other races, yet. I can tell you there were folks at the White House that were very surprised by those comments.
HH: Interesting. Now I was going around today on the internet is a little sign, ask yourself this, are you more likely to be infected or beheaded than you were six years ago, and that’s a funny…
CT: I, somebody, I was going to tell you, I was on the road, I think somebody, one of the voters, and literally, it was an undecided voter, a real undecided voter in Pryor-Cotton showed me that email during my little focus group with them in Arkansas.
HH: You see, it’s going everywhere.
CT: First time I’d seen that one, but yes, that’s making the rounds, story here.
HH: So what do you think that says about this election sequence that we’ve had? He’s had just like the worst week or month of news any president has had before an election.
CT: He has, and you know, it’s interesting here, for what it’s worth going around the country, Ebola isn’t, wasn’t coming up. But ISIS was a little bit, but it was coming up not in terms of the policy itself, but in terms of the issue of leadership. The complaints were lack of leadership coming out of Washington. Now some of that is pointed at the Republicans, and some of that was pointed at the President. But it was, when it came to the issue of ISIS like look, that’s what’s frustrating me, that’s what I don’t feel like I’m seeing, and that’s what I want to see coming out of Washington, coming out of the White House. So I think what was interesting, I felt like ISIS was having a bigger impact than Ebola. I was not hearing a lot of Ebola, for what it’s worth.
HH: Okay, well they’ve got a new patient under observation in Oregon this afternoon, and it’s evening in your neck of the woods. But it’ll be interesting to see if that becomes a story this weekend. I want to turn…
CT: I think you’re right. By the way, I think it is. You know, if people are getting sick with Ebola, it becomes more of an impact. If people are not getting diagnosed with it, it’s sort of fading. And you know what I mean?
CT: It’s really just, it’s dependent on the states. Ebola has, was something, a topic of conversation for instance in Georgia. Why? Hartsfield Airport.
HH: Yup. I’ll tell you, Chuck, the key issue now is the, as we get into the last 96 hours in New Hampshire is that debate last night. Now you and Jake Tapper have both managed to get through debate season with everyone saying you did a fair job when you’ve hosted these things.
CT: Thank you.
HH: And that’s, and people write in and ask me why do you have Chuck Todd on when he’s with NBC, and I say because he’s fair. It’s the same reason I have Jake Tapper on. But last night, James Pindell said this in the middle of a debate with Scott Brown:
JP: What do you see going right in the economy in Sullivan County, and what’s going wrong, and please be specific.
SB: Well, you’re absolutely right. Geography plays a role. Along the southern border, we have more jobs, we have more opportunity. Infrastructure and other opportunities up north are difficult. And one of the biggest opportunities is tourism. And one of the biggest opportunities are ski areas and trails for snowmobiles. I support those efforts.
JP: We’re talking about Sullivan county.
JP: And I think you were talking about the north country? So what do you see as going well in Sullivan County or not?
SB: I’m talking about anyplace past Concord, actually, in the challenges of our state. So I’m referring to the challenges, including a high corporate tax rate, Obamacare coming in after the election. We also have the challenges of high electric costs. If you go to any business, in any economy in our state, those are the very real challenges. One of the…
JP: Sullivan County is west of Concord. It’s not north of Concord, Senator Brown. So what are you seeing going on…
HH: Now Chuck Todd, he came out later from WMUR and he apologized, because in fact…
CT: Which by the way, which I thought was the stand-up thing to do.
HH: Well, it is. But it’s also, the reaction to it is why does this only happen to Republicans? You know, Candy Crowley and Mitt Romney is a famous deal, George Stephanopoulos bringing up birth control in New Hampshire two years ago. Why does this never seem to happen in debates to Democrats?
CT: Well, look, I’m not, I don’t want to get into that. I mean, I know that there’s a lot of, but I’ll tell you my philosophy on debates. Debate moderators are like umpires at a baseball game, referees at a football game. If you’re the story after the game ends, something’s wrong, okay?
CT: The players on the field, this is not an interview. And I would say this, because sit there and yell at me, how come you didn’t follow up on this, or how come you didn’t push back on that, and I’m like wait a minute, this is a debate. It’s different. I’m setting, my job is to pick the issues that I think they need to be discussing. Their job is to go back and forth and question each other. If I’m not getting a direct answer to the question, my job is to let me have the direct answer to the question. But there’s a difference. It’s sort of, you know, it is much different than an actual interview, and I think sometimes journalists that are doing debate moderation, I mean, look, it’s a different type of questioning.
HH: You know, that is, I’m going to adopt the Todd rule. If the story the next day is about the moderator, they’ve done a bad job. That’s a good rule. Chuck, what are you doing this weekend, by the way? There are so many races that are so interesting.
CT: There are.
HH: How do you do that in one Meet The Press show?
CT: Well, look, I’m going to be, do you remember the old NFL Today and Brent Musburger? You’re looking live at Soldier Field?
CT: So I’m going to have at least six states that I’m going to be going live very quickly from local reporters, my own reporters that I’m sending in, quick updates in the sort of five or six spots that I think are going to be the most interesting on Election Night for now. I’ve got new polling coming out in three states – Georgia, Kentucky and Louisiana were the only three we hadn’t done last week. We’ve got new national numbers that’ll be coming out. We’ve got Rand Paul on the show, because we both know you know what happens Wednesday.
CT: The 2016 race begins. So…
HH: You got any, can you tip, are we going to have surprises…
CT: I don’t think it’s inappropriate. And listen, Rand Paul’s been a huge player in some of these races, particularly the Republicans that are struggling with some libertarian votes that are peeling away. And they’ve been bringing him in to try to close the deal. I also have more of my interviews. You know, you’ve seen some of, obviously the Mary Landrieu interview made a lot of news, but Michelle Nunn, David Perdue, Thom Tillis, Mark Pryor. So I’ve got a lot more of that, too.
HH: I was in Louisville on Wednesday night with Mitch McConnell, Bobby Jindal and Carly Fiorina. And I’m a Republican. I’m a conservative. Everyone knows that. But I was there to help Senator McConnell become the majority leader. He seemed awfully calm. I’m wondering if there’s anything you think in your Kentucky data that will upset him, because he just seemed, I mean, he’s working hard. He’d done 17 stops with Lee Greenwood the day before. 45 seconds, Chuck Todd, you think anyone’s going to be surprise by your Kentucky data?
CT: Probably not, and I’ll just leave it at that.
CT: And I will, I continue to believe, my desert island races, meaning if I could just have the results from three races and I’d know what’ll happen on Election Night, continue to be Iowa, Colorado and Kansas Senate. You tell me the party that loses two of those three, I’ll just leave it at that, and I’ll have a good idea of what happens.
HH: Democrats are going to lose all three, Chuck. Take it to the bank. It’s always a pleasure. Watch him on Meet The Press this Sunday and with Rand Paul, going to be a great day to have a future presidential candidate on.
End of interview.