In an interview with President Obama on Wednesday, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams lobbed this softball: "How is it that with – what, 13 days to go, you're fighting for your life in a 47/47 race?... So after the excitement of '08, given the power of incumbency, you got Bin Laden, you did not expect to be sitting on a more substantial race than we are as we sit here today?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Obama argued he was exceeding media expectations: "...we always knew this was gonna be a close race from the start....you guys have some short memories. Folks in your business were writing me off a year ago, saying there's no way I would win."
In the portion of the interview aired on Wednesday's Nightly News and Thursday's Today, Williams wondered: "What's the dynamic like between you and Mitt Romney?... you don't appear to like each other very much." Despite his campaign's particularly nasty attacks on Romney, Obama replied: "I don't think that any relationship between me and Mitt Romney is different from previous presidential campaigns."
Williams did have a somewhat challenging question for the President: "...4% of voters said they would like a first term like the second, 62% of voters said they would expect major changes in a second Obama term. Would you be prepared to enact truly major changes?"
However, Williams allowed Obama to dodge the question: "...of course people want to make sure that we continue with the progress that we've started to see, with the housing market finally starting to strengthen, with the auto industry back, with job growth over the last 31 months actually outpacing the previous recovery."
More of the interview will air on Thursday's Nightly News, with the full exchange on Rock Center.
Here is transcript of the interview portion aired on the October 25 Today:
7:00AM ET TEASE:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: NBC News exclusives. Brian Williams on the campaign trail with President Obama, behind the scenes at rallies and on Air Force One. This morning, rare access with the countdown to the election now at twelve days.
7:05AM ET SEGMENT:
MATT LAUER: Now to the presidential race and Brian Williams' excluse – exclusive access, excuse me – to President Obama on the campaign trail. They started out in Iowa on Wednesday, from there it was on to Colorado, Los Angeles, and a quick stop in Las Vegas before an overnight flight to Florida, where the President is beginning his day. Brian just got off Air Force One, he's with us now by phone. Brian, good morning to you.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Matt, good morning, we're hanging on for dear life in a quick-moving motorcade through the city of Tampa. We barely left the airport grounds a few minutes ago. No one on Air Force One can remember when the President did this last on a domestic trip, choosing to get his night's sleep, and it was very few hours, coming west to east, but miles to go before he sleeps again. He's got Florida, Virginia, Illinois, Ohio just today. And yesterday, during one of our conversations, we asked him how he finds himself in exactly this position in this campaign.
WILLIAMS: How is it that with – what, 13 days to go, you're fighting for your life in a 47/47 race?
BARACK OBAMA: Well, actually, I think that, you know, we always knew this was gonna be a close race from the start. And what we have right now is a – is a lead that we've maintained throughout this campaign. And we are gonna just continue to drive home the message that there are two fundamentally different choices in this election about where we take the country.
WILLIAMS: So after the excitement of '08, given the power of incumbency, you got Bin Laden, you did not expect to be sitting on a more substantial race than we are as we sit here today?
OBAMA: No, Brian, I – listen, you guys have some short memories. Folks in your business were writing me off a year ago, saying there's no way I would win. Right? So, you know, these things go in ebbs and flows. And, you know, the one thing I've tried to always be is just steady in terms of what I believe in, who I'm fighting for. And you know, I think that one of the qualities I bring to bear in this campaign is people see what did I say I was gonna do in 2008? And what have I delivered? And they can have some confidence that the things I say, I mean.
WILLIAMS: What's the dynamic like between you and Mitt Romney?
OBAMA: Oh, I think when you're candidates that you, and you haven't really interacted before, you can't say that you've got a real relationship there.
WILLIAMS: So reports that, especially just observations that watching the two of you, you don't appear to like each other very much.
OBAMA: Oh, I-
WILLIAMS: You appear to tolerate each other because you have to.
OBAMA: You know, I don't think that any relationship between me and Mitt Romney is different from previous presidential campaigns. I mean, John McCain I knew because I'd served with him in the Senate. But I think if you look at George Bush and John Kerry, or George Bush and Al Gore, or first President Bush and Bill Clinton, I don't think anybody would say that while you were in the middle of a campaign that you felt deep affection for the other guy because, you know, look, you're fighting for competing visions.
But what I think the American people understand is, is that this is not about two individuals or even two political parties. This is about two different visions for the country and how we are gonna make sure that every single person in America who is willing to work hard is going to have a shot at a better life.
WILLIAMS: Mr. President, on domestic politics, a recent poll, 4% of voters said they would like a first term like the second, 62% of voters said they would expect major changes in a second Obama term. Would you be prepared to enact truly major changes?
OBAMA: Well, Brian, you know, if you think about that question, I'd like to meet the 4%. We went through the worst crisis in our lifetimes. We had the stock market freeze up, tank, financial market freeze up, small businesses couldn't get financing. We lost 800,000 jobs the month that I took office. So, of course people want to make sure that we continue with the progress that we've started to see, with the housing market finally starting to strengthen, with the auto industry back, with job growth over the last 31 months actually outpacing the previous recovery.
And you know, the plan that I've put forward with education, with making college and job training accessible to people, to ensure that our manufacturing base is right back here in the United States, as opposed to overseas, building on the work we've done, not only increasing oil and gas production, but also clean energy, making sure that we're putting Americans back to work, including our veterans, rebuilding roads and bridges. All those things are designed to make sure that we have even more robust growth in the future.
WILLIAMS: And Matt, we're back live now, miracle of television, we're inside a Krispy Kreme donut shop in Tampa. The entire motorcade came to a halt and one of these thoroughly planned but officially unscheduled stops is going on. Looks like the President's gonna make breakfast out of donut and some coffee. We'll have all this tick-tock, minute-by-minute campaign trail coverage tonight on Nightly News, but most of it on tonight's broadcast of Rock Center. Matt.
LAUER: Brian, did the motorcade stop because you were hungry or because the President was hungry?
WILLIAMS: You know, they didn't ask me. I can say, they've never had this many machine guns inside or adjacent to a Krispy Kreme in Tampa in modern times.
LAUER: Alright, thanks for your reporting, Brian. We'll take a look for more tonight on Rock Center. Brian, thanks very much.