NBC's Chuck Todd: Obama 'Taking Comfort' in GOP 'Race to the Right'

On Monday's NBC Today, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd described liberal wishful thinking as "conventional wisdom" as he explained how: "The Obama team has been taking comfort in the fact that they believe this Republican race is moving to the Right, that it's a race to the Right. And they take comfort in that and they think that's going to help them long term."

At the same time, Todd seemed perplexed that the President's poll numbers had fallen despite the conservative values of the Republican 2012 contenders: "But as that happened – and it was a lot of attention over the last four or five days....the President's numbers have still gone down. And that Gallup number, where it dropped in the daily tracking below 40 for the very first time in the presidency."

Later in the segment, fill-in co-host David Gregory asked Todd about how Obama was "going to run against certain members of Congress" and doubled-down on his attacks on Michele Bachmann during an interview with her on Sunday's Meet the Press.

Gregory played a clip of that interview in which he dismissed Bachmann's opposition to raising the debt ceiling. The Minnesota Congresswoman pointed out that, "All the people out in America said don't raise the debt ceiling. That's the problem with Washington, they're not listening to the people." Gregory fired back: "But why does that make it – why does it make it the right thing to do?"

Turning to Todd on Today, Gregory saw Bachmann's position as something that could be used to go after her: "This issue of public opinion on the debt ceiling driving her vote, is this something that both the President uses as a potential wedge, and even other more mainstream candidates in the Republican Party?" Todd agreed: "It isn't just President Obama that's going to be hitting her on this. She's got a target on her back right now."


Here is a full transcript of Gregory's August 15 exchange with Todd:

7:05AM ET

DAVID GREGORY: Chuck Todd is NBC's chief White House correspondent and political director. Also the host of MSNBC's 'The Daily Rundown.' He's in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, stop number one on President Obama's bus tour, this morning. Hey Chuck, good morning. So the President's got new tracking numbers out. A new low at 39%. He's hitting the road, also in the Midwest, which he knows is an important battleground for him next year. What's the game plan here? Is he talking about what he can do with Congress or does he now just want to turn on the Republicans?    

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Decision 2012; What is President Obama's Message to Voters?]

CHUCK TODD: No, it's more of both doing – turning on the Republicans and trying to run against Congress. But I tell you, this is sort of turning conventional wisdom a bit upside-down. You know, the Obama team has been taking comfort in the fact that they believe this Republican race is moving to the Right, that it's a race to the Right. And they take comfort in that and they think that's going to help them long term.

But as that happened – and it was a lot of attention over the last four or five days, David – as that happened the President's numbers have still gone down. And that Gallup number, where it dropped in the daily tracking below 40 for the very first time in the presidency. Yes, it's the Gallup daily tracking poll and it can be kind of like an EKG all the time, but it's the first time dropping below that, just as he's getting here. Look, the Midwest is where the President won his presidential primaries and won his presidency. And he's hitting a low now.

GREGORY: I want to get to another couple quickly here. First of all, those – we're talking about all the Republicans who are now in the race and the top tier has been created there. What about some people who are not in the race? What are you seeing out of that group?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Decision 2012; Bachmann Wins in Iowa, Perry Joins GOP Race]

TODD: Well, David, as you know, Sarah Palin won't go – you know, she's not saying she's not running. She's still considering herself a potential candidate. And we can tell you that she was acting like one at the state fair and looking very comfortable doing it.

We still know that Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Congressman, Chris Christie, they still have major Republican donors. You know, a lot of those Bush pioneers that have yet to jump in, yet to support Romney, Perry, or Bachmann, that they're calling them saying, 'Hey, are you guys going to consider it, are you going to rethink jumping in?'

And in fact, with Pawlenty getting out, sort of the other establishment candidate against Romney, those calls have already been increasing, I've been told. But it's going to be, 'Let's see how Rick Perry does,' right? If he has staying power, then I don't think you'll hear those calls.

GREGORY: Let me come back to President Obama for a moment and this issue of how he's going to run against certain members of Congress. I had Congresswoman Bachmann, as you know, on Meet the Press yesterday and asked her about her vote on the debt ceiling. She voted against it, adamantly opposed. This is the exchange we had:

BACHMANN: All the people in Washington said we had to raise the debt ceiling. All the people out in America said don't raise the debt ceiling. That's the problem with Washington, they're not listening to the people.

GREGORY: But why does that make it – why does it make it the right thing to do? I mean-

BACHMANN: Because – because representatives are supposed to represent the people that they serve. The people that they're serving are saying, 'You guys don't have it figured out. Stop spending money you don't have.'

GREGORY: But, so public opinion will be the sole determine-

[END OF CLIP]

GREGORY: This issue of public opinion on the debt ceiling driving her vote, is this something that both the President uses as a potential wedge, and even other more mainstream candidates in the Republican Party?

TODD: Yeah, you know, last night at this Waterloo event, you know, Rick Santorum has been hitting Michele Bachmann for that debt ceiling position, saying that's irresponsible, saying, 'What else are you going to cut?' So it isn't just President Obama that's going to be hitting her on this. She's got a target on her back right now, and Santorum, who's still trying to get into the first tier, and trying to be taken as – accepted as a major candidate out here, he's starting to hit her hard. He hit her hard last night.

And I think Tim Pawlenty, when he attacked her at that debate last week, he opened up this line of attack and it is going to make it easier for Rick Perry to do it. But an interesting little game of 3-D chess here going on. Mitt Romney doesn't want to see Michele Bachmann get taken down too quickly because he likes the idea that Michele Bachmann ties up Rick Perry in this fight for Tea Party conservatives.

GREGORY: Alright, Chuck Todd this morning in Minnesota. Chuck, thanks very much.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC