Meet The Press host Chuck Todd joined me for his regular Friday spot and we talked through what CPAC has shown (and not shown) about the state of the GOP race for the 2016 nomination:
HH: Of course, it is bitterly cold in the nation’s capital, so of course Chuck Todd of NBC’s Meet The Press has invited me back to the panel this weekend. Chuck, good to have you on, thank you for the invitation, I understand bring a sweater.
CT: Yeah, well, it’s a little bit chilly. It’s a little bit chilly, and the politics here is getting chillier and chillier, so you know…
HH: Oh, I’m going to talk about Homeland Security in a second, but first, I’ve got to ask you about the big story of the day. Is the dress white and gold or is it black and blue?
CT: Okay, so I saw it as blue and gold. I didn’t see, I thought it was blue and gold. I didn’t see the blue and black aspect of it. But I thought it was blue and gold. It’s funny, we broke down in the Meet the Press shop, we broke down along gender lines on that. The women saw it as white and gold.
HH: Well, you’re, I think I’m secure in my masculinity, even though I saw it as white and gold, and the Fetching Mrs. Hewitt saw it as black and blue. So it might be a D.C.-California thing. But nevertheless…
CT: It’s a bizarre, I have to tell you, it was like what has the internet done to us?
HH: Well, that’s it. The national internet day is going to always commemorate why llamas wear gold and white. I read that last night, and I thought that was the funniest thing.
CT: It’s going to break the internet.
HH: It is. Second big deal, did you actually go on air and discuss the llamas yesterday?
CT: I did not.
HH: Oh, you’ve kept our purity.
CT: No, no, no. Thank God. But I’ll tell you, I’ll admit, we were mesmerized by the coverage.
HH: Is it going to make it on the Meet the Press set after Ben Carson and Kevin McCarthy and the panel? Are the llamas going to show up?
CT: You know, only if Putin’s involved. If we can connect it to Putin, and find out one of these llamas was an opposition leader, you know, not to joke about that, but if Putin’s involved, watch out.
HH: Now the big deal, though, is Leonard Nimoy. Are you a Trekker? You’re too young to be a Trekker.
CT: You know, I was more Star Wars, look, come on, Star Trek Wrath of Khan, though, is, you know, one of your ten most important sci-fi movies of all time. So…
HH: I agree, but it’s, he’s a remarkable man. He has an amazing career. The New York Times obituary today goes on and on. But at 83 years old, he accomplished so much. But you guys don’t do obits at Meet the Press, do you?
CT: I do political obits, but not Nimoy in this one, and I’ll be honest, my show is, I need two yours. You know, you joke about it every week. You sit there and you always budget more stories that you think I should be doing. But you know, I’m also trying to figure out, I’m trying to, I just sent a correspondent to Missouri for this crazy story about the suicide of the state auditor.
CT: …because I think, you know, there’s just a lot of stuff going on. This is one week I have, no way I would have room for an obit on that.
HH: I didn’t know Schweich, the auditor. I know a lot of people who knew him very well, and Chuck Todd, they are stunned. He was…
CT: I’ve got, I’m very, I’ve got a lot of good sources, longtime friends in Missouri, very close to a lot of Missouri Republican politicians, and they are just, it is, I mean, he was, many thought, this was their great hope of finally having a Republican governor that might be able to hold it for a couple of terms. There was a lot of people that loved him.
HH: Yeah, it’s an interesting…
CT: He was the great hope.
HH: …side light, I interviewed, I just, David Axelrod two weeks ago, and in his book, Believer, he talks about his father’s suicide, and how whenever the anniversary falls around or certain music plays, he’s always reminded about it. People who have a suicide in their life will watch that story with great interest, but it’s a traumatic deal. So it’s interesting that you’re covering that. I didn’t know that you’d be covering the suicide of State Auditor Schweich in Missouri. Let’s talk about Homeland Security and the shutdown. You’ve got the Majority Leader scheduled. Are you a little worried about that booking, because he might be working on Sunday morning.
CT: I’ll tell you, I was, I’m going to give you a little behind, you know how this works, they were very aggressive. The House leadership folks in general were very aggressive this morning that they wanted to flood, it seemed to me they want to flood the zone on the Sunday shows. Speaker Boehner, Steve Scalise, the whip, Kevin McCarthy, and you know, they were checking in with all of the shows. You know, we’re all gaming, you know, everybody’s gaming. But they wanted to go on. And so literally, you say well, they’ve got the votes. They got this done, you know? And that’s made it, to me, more stunning, just simply because I’m sitting there reading the tea leaves just based on booking, you know, sometimes, and you just assume well, they really must think they’ve got this, because they’re being very, you know, they seem to be very confident. So you’re right, I am nervous about it. But I think, look, the night is still young. They’re trying, they’ve got several options. They could redo the three week and beg Democrats to find, to give them 25 more. I hear rumors of a one week CR. The one thing Boehner can’t do right now, he cannot put that Senate bill on for his own political standing.
CT: He can’t put that Senate bill down right now.
HH: Congressman Mike Pompeo…
CT: Until he knows what the courts are going to do.
HH: Mike Pompeo came on the show yesterday, and said hey, there’s the third way here, which is you pass funding for DHS, which is fully funded, provided that the injunction in Texas remains in place, and the funding ceases the moment the injunction is dissolved or trumped by a different court of appeal.
CT: I wrote this, can I just tell you, Hugh? This is really, I wrote this, we wrote this in First Read three days ago.
HH: No kidding?
CT: I have not understood why the House Republicans have not used the injunction to their advantage, and made it part of this. I think this was a way to get conservatives on board this. This was a way to sort of, you know, the administration, the people I’ve talked to, they think it’s less than 50/50 they’re going to get their stay. Why they’ve not used this court result to their advantage of getting votes is beyond me. I don’t get it.
HH: On that, that’s something to ask the Majority Leader on Sunday.
HH: …because Mike Pompeo seemed to indicate to me that that was the way forward after the Senate was going to pass the clean bill, so we’ll see. You’ve also got Dr. Ben Carson. Now there are three big gets coming out of this weekend – Scott Walker, Jeb Bush and Ben Carson. And Jeb Bush, I don’t know if he’s going to do any more media. He did my show on Wednesday, he did Sean Hannity today, he got some tough questions, tough reception, good reception, though. It’s better to answer the tough ones. I think Chris Christie’s retreated to New Jersey. But Ben Carson, has he been on Meet the Press before?
CT: I actually, he has, not in a full, I had him on when we were doing the Ferguson panel. I had him on in that. And then he’s been on the panel before. But not on a, this is more of not in an interview setting like this, just focused, really, on his presidential ambitions. So I’m looking forward to it. I’ve actually interviewed him. I did an hour long interview with him on C-SPAN for his book about a year ago. You know how they do the BookTV thing.
CT: And it’s, he was surprised. I’m like you. I actually read the books when you do book interviews.
CT: You’re one of those rare people that reads the books.
CT: Scary for an author sometimes, but he’s, you know, obviously intellectually very nimble on a lot of stuff. So yeah, I enjoy interviewing him.
HH: The interesting thing I found after Mitt Romney withdrew, and I briefed some of his consulting team, the most unusual finding they found, when they went out and polled, and they polled, is that Ben Carson is in 2nd place in Iowa with a very healthy 14-20%, depending on what night you’re asking, which is not going to move, I think, Chuck Todd. That’s not a political vote. That’s not an assessment of electability. That’s just pure charisma, isn’t it?
CT: Well, it’s funny, I think it’s, you know, he struck his original chord on faith. Remember it was at the National Prayer Breakfast.
CT: And so I want to spend more time understanding that vote. But it strikes me as he is, you know, he is a problem for Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, that they’re fishing in the same social conservative pond together. I think that’s less of a problem for Walker. You know, Walker can sort of, you know, he’s got a couple of different voting ponds he’s fishing out of, I think, when it comes to the different conservative legs of the conservative stool. But that’s what I’m curious about here with Carson, sort of can he build? Can he get that 35? Can he get to get to 35 or 40% in some way by building different pieces of the conservative wing?
HH: Now I want to do winners and losers with you very quickly. Big winner today, Cleveland Cavaliers crushing the Golden State Warriors last night. My intern is wearing a Cavs hat. Number two, the Cleveland Browns signed Josh McGowan today out of Tampa Bay, so we’re quarterbacked for next year.
CT: What do you think of the new color? Wait, what do you think of the new color?
HH: Oh, I love the new color.
HH: It’s a new, it’s Super Bowl time. It’s getting ready for Cleveland, new Cleveland in 2016. But what about the CPAC? Who won and who lost, Chuck Todd, do you think, coming out of CPAC with all the coverage is just wrapped up. There’ll be some parties tomorrow and tonight, but the big names have made their big news. Who won and who lost?
CT: Well, I guess it depends on how you, look, I think Walker was more winner than loser. Yes, he stepped in it with his line, I think, but in a weird way, even though he, what we learned about Walker was how much other conservatives trying to be the anti-Bush challenger were so quick to pounce on him. It’s, he’s clearly a frontrunner. And there was so much enthusiasm for Walker there. So I’ve got to say Walker was a winner. You know, I’ve not, to call Christie a loser is not fair, because I think he was sort of going in low. But I would say of the, I mean, I guess if you’re going to do, I would say the losers collectively are a Perry, a Rubio, and folks like that, simply because they didn’t get a pop.
HH: That’s exactly, you know, there’s nothing about Ted Cruz in the news, nothing…
CT: Yeah, no Cruz, they didn’t get the pop. And I think you know, these guys that are sitting in the mid-single digits, you know, they need, Bobby Jindal’s in that group, you know, they need a moment to pop to get themselves into that first-tier conversation.
HH: Well said. And by the way, winner of the week is Meet the Press. You had your first win ever as host. Congratulations. Dylan Byers wrote that up.
CT: Well, it’s our second, but this one was a clean win.
HH: A clean win?
CT: A non-debut. So I look at it, you know, it was a non-debut. We won on the debut. But this was….
HH: Well, I hope we help you…
CT: …pressure on you, Hewitt, though, pressure on you, Hugh…
HH: I know.
CT: …because the last time you were on, we had a good, you know, I think we won the demo, or came in second in the other. So it was a good week. But now, we’ve got to keep it up.
HH: I’m hoping Ben Carson and Kevin McCarthy do that. The panel’s also great, except for the guy from California who’s flying in tonight. See you on Sunday, Chuck Todd, on the next Meet the Press.
End of interview.