Matt Lauer and Rachel Maddow Fret Over Obama 'Losing the Left'

On Wednesday's NBC "Today," co-host Matt Lauer brought on left-wing MSNBC host Rachel Maddow to address concerns of President Obama being "in danger of losing support from his liberal base." The headline on screen throughout the segment read: "Losing the Left; Can President Obama Win Back His Base?"

Maddow downplayed Obama's slipping support in the polls: "I think mostly what is happening is that the President's approval ratings are softening overall and that includes among his strongest supporters. I don't think that the White House believes they have a particular problem with the base." Lauer added: "But the fact of the matter is, you lose support among the base, what does that really mean in an election year? They have nowhere else to go."

Moments later, Lauer wondered: "Are they perhaps sending a message?...Are they simply asking him to change his methods a little bit?" Maddow reiterated: "Again, I don't think that the base, in particular, is abandoning Obama." However, she did argue:

...the things that he's proposing right now in terms of his jobs plan are not narrowly targeted to please the base. I mean, 86% of moderates say they like what the President's proposing in terms of his policies, a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes on the wealthiest people in America. 86% of moderates like that. Only in America would the pundit class respond to that by saying, 'Oh, he's trying to alienate moderates.'        

Maddow went on to whine about Democrats supposedly always giving in: "...in the previous fights with congressional Republicans, if things didn't work out, things defaulted in the congressional Republicans' direction. Things like the government shutdown, the debt ceiling showdown. Those things, the person who had to bend, the party that had to bend was the White House."

<<Like this post? Help us take on media bias by donating to NewsBusters (there's also a PayPal option on that page). Without the support of our readers, NewsBusters would not be possible.>> 


She then cheered Obama administration efforts to go after Republicans: "In this case...with the debt negotiations...if things don't work out, this trigger happens. The White House would be okay with letting the trigger happen. And that puts the pressure on the Republicans, that they are the ones that have to bend this time....Seeing bending from the Republicans for the first time instead of seeing bending at the White House, that makes a lot of the President's supporters very happy."

Interestingly, on her 9 p.m. ET MSNBC show Monday night, Maddow and guest Michael Moore complained about the "beltway media" ignoring liberals. Maybe Lauer was watching.


Here is a full transcript of Lauer's September 21 discussion with Maddow:

7:09AM ET

MATT LAUER: As President Obama addresses problems abroad, there are lots of issues to deal with here at home. According to the most recent Gallup poll, the President's approval rating has dropped to 40%. So is he in danger of losing support from his liberal base? Rachael Maddow is the host of "The Rachel Maddow Show" on MSNBC. Hi Rachel, good morning.

RACHEL MADDOW: Hi Matt, good to see you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Losing the Left; Can President Obama Win Back His Base?]

LAUER: I want to get to the polls in a second, but let's talk about this situation at the UN. The Palestinians are coming asking for statehood, they put a lot of people in a very difficult position, including President Obama. If he vetoes the resolution he loses support and credibility in the Arab world. If he doesn't veto it, he's in trouble with Israel. Does he have a good option?

MADDOW: I think that the President's option, at this point, is to try to get the two sides to talk to each other, to try to convince both sides that the U.S. is a trustworthy broker and is worth talking to, is worth negotiating with.

LAUER: In three years he hasn't been able to do that. Presidents before him haven't been able to do that. So on a deadline can he do it?

MADDOW: Well, the deadline sometimes helps. I mean, the Palestinians pushing it this hard have brought the Israelis to the point where they are offering direct talks at this point. To the extent that the United States seems credible enough by both sides that they can actually make something like that happen, then the United States is back in the role of trying to broker a lasting peace. A short-term peace that gives you some sort of demagoging political points at home is the kind of thing that American politicians have pursued, I think, at their peril for a long time.

LAUER: Alright, let's talk about what's happening polling-wise. His over – talking about the President now – his overall approval rating, 40%. He's losing approval among Democrats and independents, is it all about the economy or is there another explanation?

MADDOW: I think mostly what is happening is that the President's approval ratings are softening overall and that includes among his strongest supporters. I don't think that the White House believes they have a particular problem with the base. That said, if you do lose support of the base it has a multiplier effect. People don't just – if they're very strong supporters, they don't just vote alone, they bring their friends, they volunteer, they give money.

LAUER: But the fact of the matter is, you lose support among the base, what does that really mean in an election year? They have nowhere else to go.

MADDOW: They have nowhere else to go, but you need their enthusiasm in order to generate other votes, in order to get donations, volunteerism, that enthusiasm that's going to bring more people in there with them.

LAUER: Are they perhaps sending a message? You know, he's got a little while left, maybe a couple of months, that he can actually take some action before he hunkers down for purely political reasons. Are they simply asking him to change his methods a little bit?

MADDOW: Well, I don't – again, I don't think that the base, in particular, is abandoning Obama. I think Obama's got problems across the board. I think his numbers are soft mostly because of the economy. But the things that he's proposing right now in terms of his jobs plan are not narrowly targeted to please the base. I mean, 86% of moderates say they like what the President's proposing in terms of his policies, a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes on the wealthiest people in America. 86% of moderates like that. Only in America would the pundit class respond to that by saying, 'Oh, he's trying to alienate moderates.'

LAUER: We do note a slight change in tone as he presented his deficit reduction plan. Even his communications director Dan Pfeiffer was quoted in an interview this week as saying, "We've entered a new phase." What does that mean?

MADDOW: I think that means something very specific strategically, which is that in the previous fights with congressional Republicans, if things didn't work out, things defaulted in the congressional Republicans' direction. Things like the government shutdown, the debt ceiling showdown. Those things, the person who had to bend, the party that had to bend was the White House.

In this case, with the debt ceiling – with the debt negotiations that they have, the deficit negotiations, if things don't work out, this trigger happens. The White House would be okay with letting the trigger happen. And that puts the pressure on the Republicans, that they are the ones that have to bend this time. You saw Jeff Sessions, the top Senate Republican on the Budget Committee, this week saying he would be willing to look at tax increases on the rich. Seeing bending from the Republicans for the first time...

LAUER: A little bending there.

MADDOW: ...instead of seeing bending at the White House, that makes a lot of the President's supporters very happy.

LAUER: Rachel, thank you as always.

MADDOW: Thanks, Matt.

LAUER: And by the way, you can catch Rachael's show week nights at 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific time. That of course, on MSNBC.

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