Today Show Highlights Republicans Running From Bush

With just a little over a week to go NBC's Today show is cranking up the anti-Bush sentiment and this morning Meredith Vieira and Chris Matthews hammered how Republicans are running away from the President. After NBC's Kelly O'Donnell aired a full report on how Bush is showing up in ads everywhere for Democrats but not for Republicans, Vieira asked MSNBC's Hardball host Matthews to break down the midterms which just allowed Matthews to go on his typical anti-Iraq war tear:

Meredith Vieira: "I know you heard Kelly O'Donnell's report, the President now being featured in more than 160 ads for Democratic candidates. Do you think the strategy is gonna work?"

Chris Matthews: "Well based on all the NBC polling you're looking at a lot of unaffiliated voters out there and this war issue is huge and it's hard for me to believe that it's not gonna be a big winner for the Democrats because people after, after all these years of war and now it's almost as long as World War II, our involvement in World War II. Americans don't like long wars, they don't like wars without end, without a light at the end of the tunnel. It's gonna hurt big, I think in all the races right down to dog catcher."

Later on in the segment Matthews also celebrated, the now outed anti-war , Richard Engel's Iraq reporting:

Matthews: "You know, Rich Engel's reports are fabulous coming out of there. In terms of getting the accuracy and the picture and the smell of the place. People feel very close to the war in Iraq right now because of 100 Americans getting killed already this month and it's not over yet. I think there's a perfect storm out there. The war, the President and the election all at the same time coming home to roost."

The following is the full segment that occurred in the 7am half-hour of the October 30th, Today show:

Meredith Vieira: "Kelly O'Donnell thanks very much. Chris Matthews is MSNBC's election anchor and host of Hardball and The Chris Matthews Show. Chris, good morning."

Chris Matthews: "Good morning, Meredith."

Vieira: "I know you heard Kelly O'Donnell's report, the President now being featured in more than 160 ads for Democratic candidates. Do you think the strategy is gonna work?"

Matthews: "Well based on all the NBC polling you're looking at a lot of unaffiliated voters out there and this war issue is huge and it's hard for me to believe that it's not gonna be a big winner for the Democrats because people after, after all these years of war and now it's almost as long as World War II, our involvement in World War II. Americans don't like long wars, they don't like wars without end, without a light at the end of the tunnel. It's gonna hurt big, I think in all the races right down to dog catcher."

Vieira: "But you think that voters, honestly would believe that if I don't vote for the Democratic, it's a vote for Bush as opposed to a vote for a Republican independent candidate?"

Matthews: "Well we're gonna know Tuesday night, Meredith but I think it's like one of those things when you go to the carnival, you know when you're growing up and you throw the ball and the guy falls in the water, if you hit the target. I think a lot of people are gonna throw that ball hoping that Bush falls in the, in the water."

Vieira: "I want to play an exchange from Sunday's Meet the Press Senate debate. This is where Tim Russert asks Maryland Senate candidate Michael Steele if he would accept the label of being a 'Bush Republican.' Take a look at this."

Matthews: "Right."

[Begin clip from Meet the Press]

Tim Russert: "Are you running as a proud, Bush Republican?"

Michael Steele: "I am a proud Republican. I'm a proud-"

Russert: "Why not proud Bush Republican?"

Steele: "I'm a proud, I'm a proud Republican. I mean, because my orientation is the Republican Party, it's not just one individual in the party."

[End clip]

Vieira: "So how can Bush rally voters when he is being shunned by members of his own party?"

Matthews: "Well as Tim pointed out in that wonderful show yesterday on Meet the Press it was really a great, a classic Meet the Press, he pulled out a bumper sticker that said 'Steele, Democrat.' Where, where you have a guy masquerading, apparently, as a member of the other party. Well that would be the greatest indication of all that their own pollsters are telling them, 'Don't say Republican, in fact if you can get away with it, say Democrat.'"

Vieira: "Cover of Time magazine, President Bush as the Lone Ranger out there pretty much by himself. No one really wants him on the campaign trail. So what is his strategy gonna be over the next eight days because he's going out there."

[Graphic of Time magazine cover]

Matthews: "Well he has his strategy, clearly. I mean just like the Democrats are saying, 'Iraq and Bush,' as if it were the same word, 'I and B,' over and over and over again, his strategy is to remind the people why they like Republicans. Republicans have a reputation for cutting taxes, for keeping taxes down at all levels, so he's saying, 'Taxes, taxes, taxes,' wherever he goes. He's told his people, in fact we've got clips of that of him saying to the, to the loyalists out there, 'just talk taxes out there and you'll get Republican votes out there, because people do believe in the Republicans for less government, less taxes.' His problem is that every time he brings up that other word he likes, terrorism, it reminds people of Iraq again. So we, we all wonder in the news business, why he held that press conference last week all about Iraq? We can't figure, I have a feeling that the people around the President are telling him what he wants to hear. The public doesn't want to hear about Iraq and unfortunately it's a reality. The killing over there in the last six hours or so and there's, you know, Rich Engel's reports are fabulous coming out of there. In terms of getting the accuracy and the picture and the smell of the place. People feel very close to the war in Iraq right now because of 100 Americans getting killed already this month and it's not over yet. I think there's a perfect storm out there. The war, the President and the election all at the same time coming home to roost."

Vieira: "And it doesn't look good for the President, obviously, or Republican candidates. But Karl Rove and the President remain so optimistic, publicly, is it possible they know something that the pollsters don't know?"

Matthews: "Well that's always possible because we've had October surprises, we've had November surprises. The President got caught with that old, stupid DUI charge, the first time he ran for President which cost him what would've been a pretty substantial lead in the polls going into that election. So you never know what's gonna pop and what either party is holding onto. If Rove is optimistic, maybe he is holding on to something? I don't think so. I think the President, when he held that press conference last week on Iraq, basically ended his argument. I think that was his summation. Now if something happens between now and Tuesday that's a real event, an actual event, not a faux event then it is gonna possibly have an influence but right now all our polling tells us, everything tells us, that Iraq is calling the shots. That Iraq is what's gonna drive voters to the polls. It may keep some Republicans home."

Vieira: "Eight days and counting. Very quickly, Chris, what do you think is gonna happen?"

Matthews: "Well the pollsters, I can't say this, look I think, I think right now the way it's going if you look at the way the topic selections work. It's all about this in politics. Let me just tell you this. If you're talking about an issue that hurts the President at the time you go to vote, that's gonna be the prominent issue. So all the cards are stacked against the President right now because of this, horror in his war, the war that he basically instigated against Saddam Hussein is turning very bad in terms of the public attitude. So clearly if the Democrats are ever gonna win the majority and the House of Representatives they've got to win it this year. Maybe they should do something else for a living if they can't win this year. Let me put it that way."

Vieira: "Alright Chris Matthews, thanks very much."

Matthews: "Okay, thank you."

Vieira: "And a reminder that Chris will moderate the Florida gubernatorial debate tonight at 7pm, Eastern, live on MSNBC. And starting today through Election Day, MSNBC will have non-stop political coverage of Decision 2006: Battleground America."

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