Tom Brokaw's Election Day Essay Features Squishy Republicans

In his Election Day essay on this morning's Today show, NBC's Tom Brokaw found a shaky Republican in Montana, a squishy GOP senator on the war and thought the Ted Haggard and Mark Foley stories would turn independents the Democrats' way. Running down the various issues voters face today, Brokaw did highlight some positives in the economy but then turned negative as he noted: "But there's so much wrong and a fierce debate about the road ahead. And many more think this country is headed in the wrong direction than in the right direction...Gas prices, health care, housing cost, immigration, gay marriage and the war, always the war." Brokaw then scared up three even Republicans:

Brokaw: "Even longtime Republicans see this election as a vote up or down on those who thought the war was a good idea."

Sen. Chuck Hagel: "Iraq is the issue. Iraq is the issue everywhere, in every state."

Pat Buchanan: "This election is gonna be a referendum on neo-conservatism."

Brokaw: "In fact President Bush and congressional Republicans may have their biggest challenge within their own party. Sven Malden [sp?], a former Montana sheriff is a lifelong Republican."

Sven Malden: "When you can't admit you're wrong, something's wrong."

Brokaw: "And you're an old Republican."

Malden: "I am an old Republican and I'll probably vote a lot of Republican but I'm, I'm not, gonna change some votes this year."

Today co-host Matt Lauer then asked if the Ted Haggard story will depress the GOP base:

Lauer: "You know they are, there is a distraction for them. They're, they're a very powerful voting bloc but this is a bit of a distraction. You think it impacts any races at all?"

Brokaw: "Well the Ted Haggard story, obviously is a great tragedy for Ted Haggard and his family first of all but in the political sense I, I don't know how it's gonna play today. My, my guess is that it may have an effect on those independents who were told that the Republicans were the party of moral righteousness and family values and then you have the Mark Foley case come along and the Ted Haggard case come along and they say again, 'Where's the credibility here?'

The following is the entire segment as it ran in the 7:30am half hour on the November 7th Today show:

Matt Lauer: "But first it's Election Day and that means it's time for the politicians to stop talking because now it's your turn to be heard. NBC's Tom Brokaw is here with a look at some of the issues capturing attention of voters and do you agree with Tim, it's gonna be a late night?"

Tom Brokaw: "I think it's gonna be a late night. I also think that in all the years I've been doing this, this is one of those kind of milestone elections in which all the nerve-endings are exposed across the country. I think people think the stakes are big. I think a war always focuses the nation's attention at election time and we're seeing that and the lines, if everything I've been hearing and seeing out there, are gonna be more scrambled than they have been for a while. There is so much right with America right now from sea to shining sea. The stock market at record highs, unemployment below five percent, more people own their own homes than ever before, a record number of students are enrolled in college, the technology of the future is homegrown and growing but there's so much wrong and a fierce debate about the road ahead. And many more think this country is headed in the wrong direction than in the right direction."

Stuart Rothenberg: "I think the President and his administration and frankly his party, I think they've all been hurt by a disconnect."

Brokaw: "Gas prices, health care, housing cost, immigration, gay marriage and the war, always the war."

Unidentified woman: "If they need to be over there fighting right now then we need to support them even if we don't necessarily agree with war."

Brokaw: "Iraq has divided this country deeply. Where is the war taking us? What happened to 'stay the course?'"

George W. Bush: "I know many Americans are not satisfied with the situation in Iraq, I'm not satisfied either and that is why we're taking new steps to help secure Baghdad."

Brokaw: "Even longtime Republicans see this election as a vote up or down on those who thought the war was a good idea."

Sen. Chuck Hagel: "Iraq is the issue. Iraq is the issue everywhere, in every state."

Pat Buchanan: "This election is gonna be a referendum on neo-conservatism."

Brokaw: "In fact President Bush and congressional Republicans may have their biggest challenge within their own party. Sven Malden [sp?], a former Montana sheriff is a lifelong Republican."

Sven Malden: "When you can't admit you're wrong, something's wrong."

Brokaw: "And you're an old Republican."

Mollen: "I am an old Republican and I'll probably vote a lot of Republican but I'm, I'm not, gonna change some votes this year."

Brokaw: "For Republican strategists Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, the San Francisco liberal, who would likely be Speaker if the Democrats win, is their Halloween poster child hoping to scare their followers back into line."

Charlie Cook: "They've gotta keep their game face on, they've gotta keep the party motivated. They can't let them feel like this is slipping away from them. They've gotta get Republican voter turnout."

Brokaw: "Both parties have been rocked by the unexpected. The Republicans by Congressman Foley and the congressional page scandal, the Democrats by John Kerry's clumsy joke about education and service in Iraq. And the Ted Haggard story, who knows what effect that will have on the important evangelical vote? The bloggers and the cable news outlets had a field day but by tomorrow the big question will be the same one that defines the war in Iraq. Do we stay the course or change direction?"

Lauer: "Sven Malden, the guy you talked to out in Montana, guys like that, women like that, are really gonna make the difference in this election."

Brokaw: "And I'm hearing more of them, now this is anecdotal but as I go across the country, across Red State America I hear a lot of Republicans who are just not happy with the way things are going and I think the war in Iraq, as painful as it is, and it's not just the execution of the war it's where we go from here and what we've been told before is also a metaphor for credibility and accountability and I think that's what's getting to a lot of voters in this country, Democrat and Republican alike."

Lauer: "Meredith talked to Tim and she mentioned Ted Haggard, Reverend Ted Haggard and, and his evangelical followers. You know they are, there is a distraction for them. They're, they're a very powerful voting bloc but this is a bit of a distraction. You think it impacts any races at all?"

Brokaw: "Well the Ted Haggard story, obviously is a great tragedy for Ted Haggard and his family first of all but in the political sense I, I don't know how it's gonna play today. My, my guess is that it may have an effect on those independents who were told that the Republicans were the party of moral righteousness and family values and then you have the Mark Foley case come along and the Ted Haggard case come along and they say again, 'Where's the credibility here?' But you know all of this is like the lead-up to the Super Bowl. All of the sportswriters talk about what's gonna happen and how it's gonna happen and then we have the kick-off and guess what? Game plan goes out the window and the Republicans have this fantastic 'get out the vote' machinery that's in play across the country. The question is this year, are the Republicans motivated as they have been in past elections?"

Vieira: "And also do you think people will go out and vote?"

Brokaw: "You know they don't historically as much in an off-year election. I think that they're gonna, it's gonna tweak up some. I think in Montana, where we heard from, from Sven they think they have a bad election year when they vote 70 percent."

Lauer: "Right."

Brokaw: "I mean they really do turn out there, so in those red states and I think you have to keep your eye on the West. This is all overture about 2008. This sets the table for the big prize, the White House. And if you look at the shift that may be going on in the West that's gonna alter the landscape for that time as well."

Lauer: "Alright Tom Brokaw, thanks for extending your day. I know you got a late night ahead so it's nice to have you here in the morning."

Brokaw: "Always a pleasure."

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