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NBC’s Chuck Todd Wonders Aloud About Hillary’s Durability And Points To John Kasich’s Strengths

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The Audio:

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The Transcript:

HH: I’m joined now by NBC’s Chuck Todd, host of Meet The Press, who I hope to pin down for an hour long interview about The Stranger, which I understand arrived at my house when I was on the East Coast, Chuck. Congratulations on the publication of your new book.

CT: Well, thank you, thank you. It’s only three years too late. Three years late as my publisher might say, but so goes trying to write a book while you’ve got a day job.

HH: Yeah, publisher shmublishers. They have to deal with it. Now look, you’ve got a problem. Such a slow news week. What are you going to do on Sunday?

CT: I know. You know, we’re still trying to make it up as we go along. 

HH: Loretta Lynch has been named to be the Attorney General, the SCOTUS has agreed to hear the Obamacare case, the marriage case out of the 6th Circuit, the President sending 1,500 troops to Iraq, doubling the number.

CT: You always have a way of like taking my Friday and creating new anxiety for me about Sunday. You’re killing me.

HH: And there was a plot, there’s a plot to kill the Queen that was foiled. What are you going to cover?

CT: Honestly, I’m focusing a lot on still midterm fallout. I’ve got Scott Walker, lead guest with him, Howard Dean, the last Democrat who was in charge of cleaning up a mess after ’04 for the Democratic Party.

HH: Good get.

CT: I’ve got a couple of, two new members – Mike Rounds, the new Senator out of South Dakota, Gwen Graham, one of the few Democratic bright spots who won a Congressional seat down in Florida, I think somebody you’re going to hear a lot from. And then Howard Schultz. He’s doing a couple things. He’s got the big Veterans Day concert that he’s helping to put on in Washington, but also talking to him about his take on this sort of, what’s clearly an uneven economic recovery. So…

HH: He’s also the co-author with Rajiv of this new book, For Love Of Country.

CT: Exactly, yeah, you got it. When you mentioned Rajiv, I was like hey, there’s another author on that book.

HH: Well, you know, Schultz is doing so much for the vets, and Starbucks deserves kudos on that on the eve of the Marine Corps birthday and Veterans Day, so good on you. Let’s talk about the elections, Chuck Todd. You’ve followed a lot of these for a lot of years. And the Class of 2014, I want you to compare it. They’ve got, on the Republican side in the Senate, Cotton, Ernst and Sullivan, and you know, they’re going to go to Armed Services, Veterans. They’ve got Daines and Rounds, these are energy and ag guys, and natural resources. They’ve got Gardner and Sasse, who are Obamacare, Dr. Cassidy. They’ve got Perdue and Tillis for finance and tax reform. I mean, it’s a great Class of 2014 for the Republicans.

CT: Well, I think it’s a, funny you say that, I agree. I think it’s a class that has a better chance of surviving, because it was a well-recruited class. You know, a couple of them actually made it through without the Washington establishment helping them. I think Joni Ernst is the biggest example of that. But you have to give the Washington Republicans credit for making it so that they didn’t let one candidate define the class in a negative way, obviously a problem they’ve had in the last few cycles. And look, I’ve met a lot of these guys. Tillis and Perdue, they seem like pretty serious guys who I think aren’t going to allow themselves to get caught up too often in sort of the petty politics that sometimes Washington can be a part of. Gardner seems that way, too. I mean, I just think and Rounds being a former governor, former governors are always the most effective, are usually the senators that either can be really effective or get really frustrated. So I’m curious about what Senator-Elect Rounds thinks, and what other governors have told him about what life is like in the Senate. But I think you’re right. I think it’s a class that you feel like is a durable class that can, you would imagine most of them winning reelection in 2020. It was sort of a different, remember the 2006 Democratic class was a stronger class when they were up versus the 2008 Democratic class, which is the one that just lost a bunch of people.

HH: Sure, and you look as well with the President announcing a doubling of the number of troops he’s sending to Iraq, and asking for nearly $6 billion dollars, at Cotton being an Army Ranger and Sullivan being Marine Corps Recon, and Joni Ernst is back with her National Guard unit this weekend, that’s a serious injection of actual combat veterans that the Senate has needed desperately for a long time.

CT: It’s funny, it’s been, the ranks of the Vietnam generation has been retiring, essentially, and there weren’t, and I think it’s always important that you have a decent number of senators who have worn the uniform when you’re making these decisions, and you’re right. I mean, I think that we’re starting, this is the first real class in the Senate of the Iraq and Afghanistan vets, and I think you’re going to see, frankly, from both parties over the next, I would argue, decade where you’ll start seeing in the same way that you had those strong Vietnam era senators both on the Democratic side and the Republican side be big players on the national security issue. I think you’re right. I mean, I think right now, we’re seeing this Republican class. But you’ll see the Democrats start doing the same thing. I know that they’re looking, they know they need some more, they would want some candidates with military background as well.

HH: Chuck Todd, I don’t know if you saw it, but the Hardee’s restaurant chain took out this magnificent ad in Des Moines, in the Des Moines Register, congratulating Joni Ernst, who said who would have believed that from the biscuit line at Hardee’s to the United States Senate.

CT: That’s cute.

HH: And that’s just, everyone’s got a lot of post-election narrative and spin. I want your take on what it means for Hillary.

CT: You know, I’ve been thinking about this a while, and I think, I’ll tell you, she’s got pressure on her to now get in earlier maybe than she wanted to. I think there is a sense, there’s the sense of some Democrats are looking for somebody to sort of start rallying the party. But I have to say, I think a long presidential candidate’s not going to be healthy for her. Like I don’t think that’s a good, it’s just not good for anybody to be in the spotlight for as long as she’s going to be in it. And I think a bigger problem for the Democrats this election is the fact that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, everybody decided to run again. You know, the fresh faces, the young faces in Washington are Republican faces. And the old faces or sort of the veteran faces are Democratic faces. And so I think that’s something that the party in general, and you wonder if you’re Hillary Clinton, you know, she’s the youngest of that group of Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Jim Clyburn, those folks, but you know, I think you want to present yourself as the next generation, you know, sort of the party of the 21st Century. And maybe demographically they feel like they’re there, but I think their leaders, I think the faces of the party, I think that’s something they have to think about.

HH: Yeah, I hope they, Republicans put Elise Stefanik, the 30 year old, on their Steering Committee, because she, having a millennial in leadership would be great. But talking about Scott Walker, I began the program with Chairman Priebus, and I compared Walker to the Terminator in that first movie when Arnold would get blown up and then come back. Walker just simply cannot, they’ve thrown everything at him, and he reassembles himself and he smiles and he comes forward. Are you going to ask him about 2016?

CT: And that’s what I’m curious about. Can he take this outside of Wisconsin? Can he be the guy…look, I think, Hugh, you and I both know the Republican nominee has got to be, in order to get the nomination, to pull it off, they’re going to have to unite the populist wing of the party, Tea Party wing, whatever you want to describe it, I always call it sort of the outsider/populist wing of the party, and the establishment wing. And I think a governor is the most likely candidate to pull it off, and I think Walker certainly has the street cred, I think, with the populist wing, the Tea Party wing of the party who feels like you know what, he took on, he’s taken on the best shots of the Democrats and he’s beaten them. But at the same time, I think the establishment wing or the business wing of the party doesn’t fear him the way they may fear, say, a Ted Cruz or some of these others. So we’ll see. Let’s see how he handles that next level of spotlight.

HH: There are so many governors who are going to be on the stage in the 2016 presidential race. John Kasich was my guest yesterday, and I’ve got that transcript up, America, over at Hughhewitt.com. He spent most of the interview, Chuck, talking about winning one out of four African-American votes, how do you expand opportunity for Latinos. He got, he won 85…

CT: My guess is he’s running, Hugh.

HH: Yeah, that, it sure did sound like that, but that means Rick Perry, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, I mean, these governors.

CT: Yeah.

HH: It’s the opposite of like the 1988 Democratic class, and some would say the dwarves that ran up against Mitt Romney last time. It’s a parade of very accomplished Republicans. It could be a train wreck.

CT: It is, but you know, not every one of these governors is going to have a financial base to pull this off, like you know, there’s only a finite amount of space, because they’re all trying to, they’re all trying to be mainstream candidates and attract the mainstream money. And I think that there’s only a finite amount of those donors around. I think the big money folks still sort of have an affinity for Jeb because it’s a name they know. It’s a, they feel like it’s a durable brand. I think there’s certainly questions in that money world about Christie. There’s questions in the money world about Walker, because there were some concerns about how Walker sort of ended his campaign. But to me, look at the scoreboard. You know, he didn’t eke out a win. He won it by the same margin he won the recall in that state.

HH: And that money likes, that money likes Kasich, and they also, some of them want Romney back.

CT: I think the money likes Kasich. Yeah, Kasich is a guy that I feel like big state, the Ohio thing’s going to be big, having a little Washington in his background. I mean, if I were handicapping the governors, I would want, I would put it this way. I wish I would have, the Kasich resume is the perfect gubernatorial resume – a little Washington experience from the 90s when it seemed like stuff, you know, more stuff got done, and also maybe a touch of foreign policy, at least touching the foreign policy issue a little bit as a member of Congress, and now being from arguably the second most important swing state in the country.

HH: Agreed. Chuck Todd, we’ll be watching Meet The Press and Scott Walker with you as well as all these other headlines, perhaps even the attack on the Queen that was foiled, on Sunday. Don’t miss that.

End of interview.

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