NBC Cites 'Key Republicans' David Brooks and Mark McKinnon to Hammer Romney's 'Bad Week'

NBC's Matt Lauer pronounced the previous week a "bad week" for the Romney campaign and cited squishy Republicans to help make his point on Thursday's Today show. Lauer wouldn't even let Romney adviser Ed Gillespie say President Obama had a bad week.

Lauer posed to Gillespie, "by just about every estimate this was a bad week for his [Romney's] campaign. Would you agree?" When Gillespie cited polls showing President Obama's numbers slipping, Lauer tried to flip the negative spotlight back on Romney. 

"It can't be a good week for Mitt Romney when key Republicans come out and say things like this. This is David Brooks," began Lauer, labeling alleged conservative columnist David Brooks as a "key Republican" as he relayed Brooks' Romney criticism.

[Video below. Audio here.]

Lauer also cited former McCain and Bush adviser Mark McKinnon, who now writes for the liberal publication The Daily Beast.  "These are Republican voices," insisted Lauer. "Well, I don't know, David Brooks is a columnist, I'm not sure if he would call himself a Republican or not," responded Gillespie.  

A transcript of the segment, which aired on September 20 on Today at 7:05 a.m. EDT:

MATT LAUER: Ed Gillespie is a senior adviser to the Romney campaign. Ed it's good to see you. Good morning.

ED GILLESPIE, Romney Campaign senior adviser: Good morning Matt. Thanks for having me.

LAUER: Since the Democratic Convention, there's been a string of bad news on the economy, the jobs numbers, the deficit numbers. And yet, while the challenger in this race, Mitt Romney, should be taking advantage of that, by just about every estimate this was a bad week for his campaign. Would you agree?

GILLESPIE: Well, I would actually argue the other side of that, Matt. I think it was a bad week for President Obama. If you look at the polling data, President Obama dropped six points in the Gallup poll over seven days from plus seven to plus one. We've seen him swing from -- in the Rasmussen national survey to plus five to minus two. Governor Romney's up two in the Rasmussen nationally. There's a lot of different polls out there, if you look at the target states. The fact is they're all very tight, very close. This is a close election, and I believe that Governor Romney is going to win.

LAUER: How can you say it's a bad week for the President when key Republicans –

GILLESPIE: Look at the poll data I just cited.


LAUER: It can't be a good week for Mitt Romney when key Republicans come out and say things like this. This is David Brooks. This comment talking about the taped comments, "suggests that he really doesn't know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these 'free loaders'? Is it the Iraq war veteran that goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to colleges? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare?" Here's Mark McKinnon. "It reveals a deeply cynical man who sees the country as completely divided, as two completely different sets of people, and who would likely govern in a way that would only further divide us." These are Republican voices.

GILLESPIE: Well, I don't know, David Brooks is a columnist, I'm not sure if he would call himself a Republican or not. But Matt, if you look at the full tape, the Governor was asked about winning the election. And he said an election, the President starts with 47 percent, I start with 47 percent. And I think most political analysts would agree that that's pretty much the bottom line for most -- for both parties' nominees. And you've got to fight over those -- the remaining six  percent of truly undecided voters and get the majority of those. That's political analysis, that's not a governing philosophy.

LAUER: But you're talking about numbers there and the comments were more disparaging to those 46 -- it wasn't just being a numbers game. He made some disparaging comments about their lack of responsibility.

GILLESPIE: What he said was -- that he was talking about the folks -- it may not be as resonant if people pay no income taxes, if you're running on a policy of tax rate cuts. And if you're in favor of cutting federal spending, that may not be appealing to those who rely on government programs. And the fact is what he was talking about Matt, is the need for us to have an economy that is a growing economy that fosters upward mobility, not an economy that is -- that has too much unemployment and that fosters government dependence, a stagnant economy like we have today under President Obama's policies, and that needs to change.

LAUER: Let's get to the videotape that you guys want to talk about this morning. That is then-state Senator Obama talking about wealth in this country, and saying I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level, to make sure that everybody's got a shot. Why do you think this is damaging, Ed?

GILLESPIE: Well, I think Matt, look, everyone supports a safety net. I believe that when you have a philosophy of income redistribution as the goal of your economic policies -- and that wasn't the only time that President Obama has said something like that. You remember in the last election he talked about spreading the wealth a little bit. He talked about small business owners, 'You didn't build that'. And when you have a policy that's focused on spreading the wealth rather than an economy that generates wealth, that allows for upward mobility, that lifts people out of poverty, you do end up with an economy that results in unemployment above 8 percent for over three years and household -- household incomes dropping. We want a growth economy, where household incomes rise, there's more jobs and more take-home pay.

LAUER: Before I let you go, let me ask you about some reporting that there is turmoil within the campaign, that there is dissension, there's infighting, there's people choosing sides. In some ways, maybe getting ready to protect their own reputation should this thing go south. Peggy Noonan says an intervention is necessary right now. You're in the middle of that -- actually you're up close to the top of that campaign, is it true?

GILLESPIE: It's not true, Matt. And look, these are process stories. They're going to come and go. I've been through a lot of campaigns, I've been through a lot of process stories, I've been through a lot of inner-turmoil stories. I can tell you that this campaign is very -- it's a close-knit group. Look, when people walk into a meeting with 12 people, you don't -- you can have a five-minute meeting and if everyone says yeah, we all agree on that. There's back-and-forth, and there's recommendations to the Governor. Sometimes we'll say here's a couple options we recommend, but it is a very collegial atmosphere. We're in the trenches together, in a cause we believe in. And someone we believe will be a great President of the United States. You know, we'll live with the process stories. The people in Ohio and in these swing states, they're not reading this stuff, Matt. They're worried about are we going to be able to get a job? And we're telling them that Mitt Romney has a plan to create 12 million new ones if you elect him.

-- Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center