Discussing the possibility of Chris Christie entering the presidential race on Wednesday's NBC "Today," Tom Brokaw praised the New Jersey Govenor as a moderate: "He's not an ideologue.... he played outside the ideological lines that have been drawn in the Republican primary."
Co-host Matt Lauer said of Christie, "...a lot of conservative Republicans, while loving the fact that he's a fiscal conservative, perhaps aren't going to like his stand on some other issues..." Brokaw saw that as a positive: "The question is, who's going to run the Republican primaries? Right now, the dialogue is being dominated by the Tea Party but there are a lot of other Republicans who say, 'We've got to play outside of the Tea Party playbook and this is a guy who can do that.'"
On Tuesday, fill-in co-host Lester Holt worried about Republicans being "forced to play to hardcore elements of their base."
Prior to Lauer's discussion with Brokaw on Wednesday, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd reported on Christie giving a speech at the Reagan Library on Tuesday and declared that all the speculation about a potential Christie candidacy "couldn't come at a worse time for Republicans actually running trying to raise money because everything is now frozen."
Lauer picked up on that point with Brokaw: "...what would it be like to be one of the declared Republican candidates now, a Mitt Romney or a Rick Perry, or Ron Paul, or you pick it, and hear this constant deafening drum beat for someone else to run?"
Here is a full transcript of the September 28 exchange between Lauer and Brokaw:
MATT LAUER: NBC's Tom Brokaw is here with his take on the state of the presidential race. Tom, good to see you, good morning. Wow, he's good. I mean, when you listen to the way Chris Christie answers those questions, when you hear it coming from the heart, it sounds spontaneous, he's funny, he's charming. Is that why people like this guy so much?
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Courting Christie; How Does NJ Governor Change 2012 GOP Race?]
TOM BROKAW: And he's not an ideologue. And he's not a blow-dried candidate, there he is, the heavy-set guy with a New Jersey accent. A lot of this started last summer – and I'm not, this is not an advertisement for myself – I interviewed him at the Allen Conference in Sun Valley, it was all off the record in terms of what he had to say. But I've been doing this a long time and I've rarely seen a candidate light up a room, which included a lot of Democrats, and it was because he was candid and self-deprecating and he played outside the ideological lines that have been drawn in the Republican primary.
LAUER: Except a lot of people will talk about how funny he is, how charming he is, how spontaneous he is, but according to some articles that have been written in the past week or so, a lot of conservative Republicans, while loving the fact that he's a fiscal conservative, perhaps aren't going to like his stand on some other issues, like immigration, and gun control, and education reform. Have they taken a close enough look at this guy?
BROKAW: Well, I do think that that is an issue. The question is, who's going to run the Republican primaries? Right now, the dialogue is being dominated by the Tea Party but there are a lot of other Republicans who say, 'We've got to play outside of the Tea Party playbook and this is a guy who can do that.'
LAUER: Chuck brings up an interesting point at the end of his piece there, where he says, Wait a second, what would it be like – and I was thinking this, too – what would it be like to be one of the declared Republican candidates now, a Mitt Romney or a Rick Perry, or Ron Paul, or you pick it, and hear this constant deafening drum beat for someone else to run?
BROKAW: Well, you know, this has been going on all summer long. Before Perry got in, there was that same drum beat, 'How can we get him in?' Then he loses the Florida straw poll to Herman Cain and a lot of people were beginning to have doubts about his ability to handle himself in a lot of the positions that he's taking. This is not unusual at this stage. You know, four years ago, we had Hillary Clinton way out in front of Barack Obama, but he was coming up fast on the inside track. We're in what I call the pre-Super Bowl scrum at the moment.
LAUER: Yeah, and you talk about four years ago, in 2008, in this stage of the race, Rudy Giuliani was the front-runner.
BROKAW: And Fred Thompson-
LAUER: Was in second. John McCain, who eventually got the nomination, was in third. Real quickly, David Axelrod, the President's campaign strategist and senior advisor, has now said that the President is facing, a quote, "titanic struggle," end quote, to get reelected in the face of this economy. Is he stating the facts or is he trying to make Barack Obama an underdog?
BROKAW: No, I think he's stating the facts. I was in another seminar over the weekend and we all agreed that the referendum next year will be on Barack Obama and the issue of jobs and the economy. It's not getting better at a pace that everyone expected it to. A lot of people are worried about a real double dip and what's going on globally and it all comes down to the desk in the Oval Office when you go into an election after you've been in office for four years. So he's got a very tough road ahead of him, Matt.
LAUER: Tom Brokaw. Tom, good to see.
BROKAW: Always good to see you, Matt.
LAUER: You, too.