NBC's Todd Blames 'Tea Party Effect' and GOP 'Infighting' for Akin Controversy

On Tuesday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams brought on political director Chuck Todd to give a "damage assessment" for Republicans in the wake of the Todd Akin controversy. Todd attempted to blame the conservative grassroots for the uproar: "...the Tea Party effect....will maybe cost Mitch McConnell a shot at controlling the United States Senate. Their own infighting has done this." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

What Todd failed to mention was that Tea Party Express and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin backed one of Akin's opponents, Sarah Steelman, in the Missouri Republican Senate primary.

Todd went on to tout the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll and hyped bad numbers for the GOP: "And I wanted to start off with what I think is a weight on Mitt Romney that we don't talk about enough and that is the image of the Republican Party. It has to do with Todd Akin, all of this is having an impact. And look at these numbers, negative feelings toward the Republican Party, 45%, just 36% have a positive feeling." It's important to note that the poll was conducted before Akin's controversial comments on Sunday.

Todd went so far as to suggest such numbers were the equivalent of President Obama's poor performance on the economy: "I think this weight that Mitt Romney drags around, the brand of the Republican Party, is as heavy or almost as heavy as the weight of the economy President Obama has to drag around."

Wrapping up his report on the poll, Todd eagerly pushed positive results for Obama: "He's ahead because of what I call the gut-check questions....these gut-check values economy questions, the President leads, and he leads by a lot." Todd only briefly mentioned that Romney still led the President on the issue of the economy.

On Wednesday's Today, Todd promoted the same "gut-check questions":

Why is the President ahead? Well, why? The answer to this question is he is beating Romney on what I call all the gut-check questions. The idea of, who cares about average people? The President leads by 22 points. Who's in the mainstream? Who's out of step? A majority of people believe the President's, quote, "in the mainstream." A majority of people believe Mitt Romney's out of step with Americans' thinking. When you put all those together, these gut-check questions. On the issue of economy, yes, Romney leads. It's not by a lot. But on gut-check questions, values questions, it's the President.


Here is a full transcript of Todd's August 21 Nightly News exchange with Williams:

7:04PM ET

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Chuck Todd, our political director, chief White House correspondent, here with us in the studio. And I guess from you I need a damage assessment thus far to the GOP, the wider party?

CHUCK TODD: First of all, it's breathtaking. The force and artillery of the Republican Party that has dropped upon Todd Akin's head and he hasn't gotten out of the race. But this basically will cost them control of the United States Senate, and more importantly, the Tea Party effect. When you go back to 2010, you go up to 2012, will maybe cost Mitch McConnell a shot at controlling the United States Senate. Their own infighting has done this.

WILLIAMS: Now you are ostensibly here to debut what is the first polling we've done since Paul Ryan was added to the Romney ticket, and what will be the last polling to go now before we start the GOP convention.

TODD: It is. And I wanted to start off with what I think is a weight on Mitt Romney that we don't talk about enough and that is the image of the Republican Party. It has to do with Todd Akin, all of this is having an impact. And look at these numbers, negative feelings toward the Republican Party, 45%, just 36% have a positive feeling. The Democratic Party, split, barely above water at 42-40. But I think this weight that Mitt Romney drags around, the brand of the Republican Party, is as heavy or almost as heavy as the weight of the economy President Obama has to drag around.

Now, the head-to-head match-up, the President has a lead, 48-44. A little bit of a tick up for Mitt Romney with the Ryan pick, but not much from our last poll. Where it's more important for Romney, where he did move up, was in the swing states. He went from an eight-point deficit to just a three-point deficit, 49/46. So here, the Romney campaign says, 'Hey, you know what? Maybe Ryan did provide a bump.' But you gotta ask yourself, why is the President ahead? He's ahead because of what I call the gut-check questions. One of them, who would care more about average people? And in our poll, look at this advantage for President Obama, 52-30, 22-point advantage. Romney leads on the economy. But on these gut-check values economy questions, the President leads, and he leads by a lot.

WILLIAMS: And now for the GOP into the convention. Chuck Todd, as always, thanks.

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