On Tuesday’s NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer sarcastically dismissed the political impact of the FBI reopening an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal as nothing more than a partisan issue: “I’m going to go way, way out on a limb here. I’m going to suggest that perhaps whether people see the [FBI director James] Comey letter as a distraction or significant might fall along party lines.”
That comment teed up MSNBC host Steve Kornacki to tout the network’s latest poll, which actually asked voters if the controversy was “important” or just a “distraction.” Kornacki proclaimed: “You see a slight majority saying important. Yeah, look at that, if you're a Democrat, 83% say it's just a distraction, it’s not important. If you're a Republican, complete opposite.”
That “slight majority” of voters saying the story was important was actually 55%, compared to 44% saying it was a distraction. Kornacki begrudgingly acknowledged: “If there is a silver lining here for Trump at all, if you look at independent voters, they are more likely to say it's important. So maybe a bit of an opening there for him.” 68% of independent voters said the investigation was important, versus 31% calling it a distraction.
On Monday’s Today, Lauer posed the same question to political analyst Nicolle Wallace: “Bernie Sanders famously said at that debate with Hillary Clinton, ‘Americans are sick and tired of your damn e-mails’....So the question is, is it an October distraction or October game-changer?”
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While the latest NBC poll invited respondents to brush aside Clinton’s scandal, a poll conducted by the network in early October – in the wake of the audio tape release of Donald Trump’s vulgar comments about women – asked voters if the Republican nominee should drop out of the race: “From what you know, do you believe this disqualifies Donald Trump from being considered as president and that he should withdraw from the race because of what he said in the video tape or not?”
A follow-up question in the survey did wonder if the tape was worthy of being a campaign issue: “Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: This tape is from ten years ago, long before Donald Trump was running for president, he has apologized for its content, and this should not be an issue in this campaign.”
Here is a transcript of the November 1 exchange discussing the new NBC poll:
7:09 AM ET
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Well, it wouldn't be a fun political segment if we didn't send Steve over to the wall. And let’s look at this tracking poll that NBC conducts with SurveyMonkey, what does it show us?
STEVE KORNACKI: Yeah, so Peter [Alexander] mentioned the headline here, look, 47-41, that's where the race stands right now. But of course the big question is last week – this is a weekly tracking poll, so they’re out there everyday taking the poll – and you can see last week before that announcement from the FBI they were finding 47-41 Clinton. Then those two days after the announcement, 47-41. So absolutely no immediate impact in terms of the polling here, and bottom not dropping out for Clinton as a result.
MATT LAUER: I’m going to go way, way out on a limb here. I’m going to suggest that perhaps whether people see the Comey letter as a distraction or significant might fall along party lines.
KORNACKI: You be amazed to know how divided this country is, right? Well, first of all, there’s the overall question, “Is it important or is it a distraction?” You see a slight majority saying important [55 to 44%]. Yeah, look at that, if you're a Democrat, 83% say it's just a distraction, it’s not important. If you're a Republican, complete opposite. If there is a silver lining here for Trump at all, if you look at independent voters, they are more likely to say it's important. So maybe a bit of an opening there for him.