On Wednesday's NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie brought on liberal MSNBC host Krystal Ball and radio host Michael Smerconish to discuss campaign strategy in the final two weeks before the presidential election, with the headline on-screen claiming: "Left vs. Right on Final Race for the White House."
There's one problem with that assertion, Smerconish prominently supported President Obama in 2008 and has routinely filled in for left-wing Hardball host Chris Matthews on MSNBC in the years since. Apparently having someone on the left like Ball and someone center-left like Smerconish is NBC's idea of balance.
Guthrie questioned President Obama launching petty attacks against Mitt Romney on the campaign trail: "Is there any danger on the part of the President by using sarcasm that he is gonna turn off independents, though he may be firing up the base?"
Ball argued Obama was responding to those concerns by having "released a booklet, 20-page booklet outlining exactly what he would do in a second term. And it's centered around the idea of economic patriotism."
Guthrie was skeptical of the supposed plan: "All those who've looked at it say it contains no new policies, it's happening just less than two weeks before the election. Is it too little too late?"
Like Ball, Smerconish touted the vague pamphlet: "I don't think that it's too little too late....he wants to be forward-looking and make that pitch to independents."
Here is a full transcript of the October 24 segment:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Krystal Ball is a former Democratic congressional candidate and co-host of MSNBC's The Cycle. Michael Smerconish is a syndicated radio host and an MSNBC political analyst. Good morning to both of you.
KRYSTAL BALL: Good morning.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH: Good morning.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Decision 2012; Left vs. Right on Final Race for the White House]
GUTHRIE: Michael, I'm going to start with you. The race, we know, is razor-tight. Romney advisors say they have momentum, Obama advisors say they've got the ground game, the ability to get out the vote in the key states. If you're the campaign, who would you rather be at this point, which is better to have?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH: I think that the momentum has favored Governor Romney for the last three weeks, ever since that first debate. The question is whether President Obama cauterized the bleeding with his very strong debate performance in that third and final debate. It's razor-thin, Savannah, you know that from all of the polling data, and the goal of both of these men right now is two-fold, energize your base and make a play for independents, and that's what you see them doing in these final 13 days.
GUTHRIE: Let me pick up on that with Krystal. We see the President very fiery out on the campaign trail, deploying his new favorite term, "Romnesia." Mitt Romney responds, "If he's attacking me, that just shows he doesn't have a better plan." Is there any danger on the part of the President by using sarcasm that he is gonna turn off independents, though he may be firing up the base?
KRYSTAL BALL: Well, and I think, in fact, he is responding to criticism that he hasn't talked enough about his own plan for a second term. As you pointed out earlier, he's released a booklet, 20-page booklet outlining exactly what he would do in a second term. And it's centered around the idea of economic patriotism. So I think he has been hearing those criticisms and wants to underscore, "No, I don't only have complaints about the other guy, I also have plans of my own that I want to implement in a second term."
GUTHRIE: But Michael, what do you make of this book? Because all those who've looked at it say it contains no new policies, it's happening just less than two weeks before the election. Is it too little too late?
SMERCONISH: I don't think that it's too little too late. I look at it in the same way that I looked at Governor Romney's play in the debate where he tried to portray himself as the moderate who had governed Massachusetts, toned down the war talk with regard to Iran and some of the Middle East positions. I see the same thing going on relative to President Obama, and that is he wants to be forward-looking and make that pitch to independents. There's been so much attention in this campaign on the fringes, and now in the final two weeks, less than the final two weeks, both campaigns recognize that the power lies in the middle.
GUTHRIE: And there's this x-factor which, of course, is the economy, and we've all known that will be the key issue. Krystal, you're a Democrat. When you see a day like yesterday on Wall Street, the Dow dropping more than 200 points, big companies saying their earnings are falling short and they are cutting jobs, I mean that has got to wake you up in the middle of the night.
BALL: Sure, absolutely, and I do think the economic numbers in general are one of those key factors that are going to be in – going into the decisions of undecided voters. And I would highlight for you also there's a jobs number coming out the Friday before election day, so that could be a pivotal number.
But if we look over the course of this campaign, surprisingly the economic numbers haven't really moved the needle. When we had a few tough jobs numbers several months back, the President was holding the lead. Now we've had some better numbers coming out in recent weeks and it looks like Mitt Romney has the momentum, so the jobs numbers surprisingly haven't been that pivotal thus far.
GUTHRIE: Maybe the voters have already factored them in. Krystal Ball, Michael Smerconish, good to have you both, thank you.
BALL: Thanks, Savannah.
SMERCONISH: Thank you.
GUTHRIE: And a reminder, Brian Williams is on the campaign trail with President Obama. You can see part of their conversation tonight on NBC Nightly News and then tomorrow on Today and tomorrow night on Rock Center.