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NBC's Lester Holt Frets Over GOP 'Forced to Play to Hardcore Elements of Their Base'

On Tuesday's NBC "Today," fill-in co-host Lester Holt talked to Republican strategist Nicolle Wallace about the GOP presidential race and worried: "Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates....talked about politicians forced to play to hardcore elements of their base. Is this what we're seeing in the Republican race right now? Is the voice of the independent simply not being heard?" [Audio available here]

Holt explained that Gates had "weighed in recently on what he called the 'polarizing trends that are costing us the ability to execute even the most basic functions of government.'" Earlier in the discussion, Holt asked Wallace: "Would the [Republican] party welcome a centrist, at this point?"



In response to that question, Wallace cautioned: "I don't think they'd welcome a centrist. You know, I write fiction and I write about a fantasy centrist and I think that's a long shot at best. But I think that the party is looking – is so hungry for a win that they're actually engaging in some self-defeating behaviors by lusting over candidates who have said over and over again, 'I'm not interested.' Candidates like Marco Rubio and Chris Christie."

At the end of the segment, Holt gave Wallace time to plug her new novel. The former McCain-Palin campaign advisor explained the book's premise: "Well, this novel really gets at one's fitness to serve, it's about a vice president, a female vice president who's hiding a debilitating mental illness from the White House staff and the President..."

Here is a full transcript of the September 27 segment:

7:05AM ET

LESTER HOLT: Nicolle Wallace is a political strategist and served as White House communications director under George W. Bush. She's also the author of a new novel, "It's Classified." Nicolle, good morning. By the way, the book is called, "It's Classified."

NICOLLE WALLACE: That's right.

HOLT: The book isn't classified.

WALLACE: Not anymore.

HOLT: We'll get to that in a few minutes. Weigh in on the whole Chris Christie thing. He says no, clearly we're not reading his lips.

WALLACE: Well, look, it's starting to look like dysfunctional dating, where our party is pining for the guys that aren't interested in us and the one's who are available, emotionally and otherwise, don't measure up. And the danger in that is that independent voters are truly up for grabs in a way that they haven't been in the last two presidential cycles and if we continue to disparage our field, we run the risk of turning them off.

HOLT: Well, talk to me about Rick Perry, he had a couple of uneven, shall we say, performances in debates, he lost, he came in second in the Florida straw poll despite competing there pretty aggressively. And yet, he still remains in front in the latest poll. How can that be?

WALLACE: Well, I think people's central problem with Rick Perry is that he isn't enough like Mitt Romney. He isn't smooth enough. He hasn't smoothed out those edges that, I think, are revealed whenever anyone steps on to the national political stage for the first time. But the problem with that judgment of him is that Mitt Romney's problem for the last five years is that he doesn't have enough of Perry's guts or straight talk or feistiness. So I think we're really in this quagmire of wanting what we can't have.

HOLT: Well, is the party looking between these two guys like who else is out there? I mean, we keep hearing Chris Christie. Who else – first of all, would the party welcome a centrist, at this point?

WALLACE: I don't think they'd welcome a centrist. You know, I write fiction and I write about a fantasy centrist and I think that's a long shot at best. But I think that the party is looking – is so hungry for a win that they're actually engaging in some self-defeating behaviors by lusting over candidates who have said over and over again, 'I'm not interested.' Candidates like Marco Rubio and Chris Christie.

HOLT: Alright, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates weighed in recently on what he called the "polarizing trends that are costing us the ability to execute even the most basic functions of government." He talked about politicians forced to play to hardcore elements of their base. Is this what we're seeing in the Republican race right now? Is the voice of the independent simply not being heard?

WALLACE: Yeah, and look, it reminds me a little bit of what was at the time a stunning defeat for Hillary Clinton. She was sort of an establishment candidate in the Democratic nominating contest four years ago. The Democrats went for someone who was more exciting, certainly more to the left on foreign policy and other issues, and I think you hear a lot of people certainly in this town with a little bit of buyer's remorse.

HOLT: Right. And as we've noted, you're out of the White House now, so you have plenty of time on your hands to write books.

WALLACE: That's right.

HOLT: "It's Classified" is your second, it's a sequel to the novel "18 Acres," which featured a female president. What can we expect in this new novel?

WALLACE: Well, this novel really gets at one's fitness to serve, it's about a vice president, a female vice president who's hiding a debilitating mental illness from the White House staff and the President and it's about really how Washington becomes engulfed in the hunt for the truth about this woman's fitness for office.

HOLT: Alright, well, Nicolle Wallace, always good to have you on.

WALLACE: Thank you so much.

HOLT: Thanks very much, congratulations on the book.

WALLACE: Thank you.


- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.