NBC's Todd Calls Specter Departure 'Devastating' to GOP

On Wednesday's "Today" show, NBC's Chuck Todd called the decision of Arlen Specter – a Republican senator who has such a liberal voting record and has been such a constant-thorn-in-the-side of his party that he faced probable defeat in his own primary – to leave the GOP, "devastating." In a piece about Barack Obama's first 100 days that trumpeted his own network's new poll showing high ratings for Obama, Todd buried the GOP: "But for the Republican Party it's devastating, not just to their hopes of slowing President Obama's agenda in Congress but for what it says about the future of the GOP."

Todd then aired a sound bite from a Philadelphia area radio talk show host Michael Smerconish who advised the best way for the GOP to win seats was to "clone" Specter.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, AUTHOR, MORNING DRIVE: The Republican Party in the aftermath of the presidential race should have come to him and tried to clone him. They need more Arlen Specters. And instead they deride him as a R.I.N.O - Republican In Name Only.

The following is the full segment as it was aired on the April 29, "Today" show:

MATT LAUER: And now to President Obama's first 100 days in office. He plans to mark the day with a town hall meeting and a prime time news conference. And on Tuesday, day 99, he got an early gift from a surprising source, long time Republican Senator Arlen Specter. Chuck Todd is NBC's chief White House correspondent. Chuck, good morning to you.

CHUCK TODD: Well good morning, Matt. You know already we've seen a lot of polls come out giving the President pretty high marks of these first 100 days. And now the proverbial cherry on top for this White House, they get Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter to switch parties, eliminating a potential road block, the Senate filibuster.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER: I am not prepared to have my 29-year record in the United States Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate.

TODD: For Arlen Specter the decision to leave the Republican Party was about self-preservation but for the Republican Party it's devastating, not just to their hopes of slowing President Obama's agenda in Congress but for what it says about the future of the GOP.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, AUTHOR, MORNING DRIVE: The Republican Party in the aftermath of the presidential race should have come to him and tried to clone him. They need more Arlen Specters. And instead they deride him as a R.I.N.O - Republican In Name Only.

TODD: The Specter shakeup leaves Democrats just one Senate seat shy of hitting the filibuster proof magic number of 60. But while Specter's been a fairly reliable vote for President Obama, to many Democrats he has been on the wrong side of some big fights. Most notably his strong support for Clarence Thomas during the Anita Hill controversy in 1991.

SPECTER: He never asked you to look at pornographic movies with him?

TODD: Specter's defection made it even harder for the White House to contain its enthusiasm as they mark their first 100 days in office.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You said you were pleased about Specter? Aren't you euphoric? Ebullient? I mean if Al Franken gets in, you've got a filibuster-proof Senate.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Uh, I'll go with ebullient.

TODD: The American public seems pleased too according to the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. When the President first took office, just 26 percent said the country was on the right track. Now, that number is at 43 percent. The President's job approval rating is at 61 percent. And overall, 81 percent told us they simply like him personally. But a slight majority, 52 percent, believes he's taking on too many issues. And he has had a full plate. He signed 14 bills into law, 19 Executive Orders. He's given at least 10 major speeches.

BARACK OBAMA: A difficult year for America's economy.

TODD: Held seven town halls.

OBAMA: Thank you, everybody.

TODD: Traveled to eight countries on three continents, and been in the same room with more than 90 world leaders. He's yet to throw a first pitch at a baseball game, but he has managed to sneak in one round of golf. Now, Matt, tonight the President will hold what is going to be his 11th press conference. Only Harry Truman and Bill Clinton gave more in their first 100 days. By the way, the 60th Senate seat could be former comedian and Minnesota Democrat Al Franken. Matt?

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.