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NBC Delights in Obama 'Dealing With the Big Issues' While GOP Suffers 'Damage'

In the minutes prior to President Obama's Tuesday press conference, Meet the Press host David Gregory could barely contain his glee as he proclaimed those in the White House, "feel pretty good about how this Republican race is going for the President's reelection prospects, and there's nothing like being the president when the other guys are off fighting."

Gregory added that Obama, "can stand up and say, 'I'm actually dealing with the big issues,' and sort of frame the debate when everybody will be watching." Correspondent Savannah Guthrie similarly chimed in: "...it has been corrosive on the Republican Party as a brand to go through this difficult nominating process....Anytime the president is appearing presidential, doing the work of the presidency, they like that contrast with what's happening in the Republican primary."

Guthrie's declaration was prompted by Nightly News anchor Brian Williams observing: "...poll numbers yesterday showed there's been some damage to the GOP brand, as everyone suspected. It has caused, you know, some erosion in how people feel about the Republican Party during this long, drawn-out campaign."

Following the press conference, Williams remarked: "...this was the advantage of not being engaged in this exhausting GOP campaign, the incumbent gets to sit back and take it in."    

Guthrie enthusiastically gushed: "And did you notice at the beginning when the President was kind of ticking off where we stood in terms of the economy? He said, "Confidence is up." And perhaps the same could be said for this president."

Noting how much of the presser focused on foreign policy, particularly the possibility of war with Iran, Guthrie concluded: "At some points, he almost seemed to be talking to the Republican candidates. He said, 'There's been loose talk of war, folks popping off.' He barely concealed his contempt for some of the things we've been hearing on the Republican campaign trail."  

Here is a portion of the March 6 coverage:

1:00PM ET

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Good day. No cause for alarm, I know you're not usually used to seeing us at this time of day, but we're coming on the air because we're expecting the President to begin a news conference from the West Wing briefing room in about 15 minutes. And in lieu of your usual programming at this hour, we thought we would set the stakes, look at all of the issues before us today, before we hear from him.

The back-drop, of course, politically in a domestic sense in this country this is Super Tuesday. 11 States, 424 delegates, folks voting in a lot of places. And some competitive states, some not so competitive states. But as big a contest in one day added up as we've had all political year thus far for the GOP. A big competitive state, and a big prize in this, of course tonight, one of the ones we'll be watching is Ohio. Another is Tennessee. And finally Georgia, though we have a native son in the Georgia race, and that is state resident, long-time congressman and speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. So, again, a lot of math at stake tonight.
 
Joined here in our studio, to cover all matters, by our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel and two veteran White House correspondents on either side of me, Savannah Guthrie and the moderator of Meet the Press, David Gregory. David, we'll start with you. The President has this right to put out his own message in the middle of a big voting day for the GOP.

DAVID GREGORY: "Oh yeah, I'm still the president," I think that's the subtext of this press conference today. We're told he's going to talk about the economy, particularly housing, which is a huge issue. We can't really have full economic recovery if the housing market doesn't rebound. The President wants to talk about that. There's so much to discuss in foreign affairs, and Richard Engel is here.

But I do think the political back-drop is so interesting, Brian. It was just a couple of weeks ago the President was talking about him being an underdog. Well, now you hear in the last couple of weeks he's talking about the fact that he's got five more years in office. They feel pretty good about how this Republican race is going for the President's reelection prospects, and there's nothing like being the president when the other guys are off fighting. You can stand up and say, "I'm actually dealing with the big issues," and sort of frame the debate when everybody will be watching.

WILLIAMS: And Savannah, Chuck Todd's poll numbers yesterday showed there's been some damage to the GOP brand, as everyone suspected. It has caused, you know, some erosion in how people feel about the Republican Party during this long, drawn-out campaign.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: I think the word our pollsters used was, it has been corrosive on the Republican Party as a brand to go through this difficult nominating process. At the same time, the poll number that I know the White House watches more closely than any other, the right track/wrong track, where we're starting to see people say in greater numbers that they feel the country is not on the wrong track. The trend, the trajectory is better than it's been in recent memory in this presidency. And I think David hit the point, in terms of this news conference. While White House officials will tell you, "No, no we didn't do this to counter-program against Super Tuesday," the fact of the matter is, they don't mind the contrast. Anytime the president is appearing presidential, doing the work of the presidency, they like that contrast with what's happening in the Republican primary.

(...)

WILLIAMS: A wide-ranging question and answer session from the West Wing briefing room. From international, which dominated, to domestic politics and more. And I'm joined by our team here in the studio. And Savannah Guthrie, we were saying during it, this was the advantage of not being engaged in this exhausting GOP campaign, the incumbent gets to sit back and take it in.

GUTHRIE: And did you notice at the beginning when the President was kind of ticking off where we stood in terms of the economy? He said, "Confidence is up." And perhaps the same could be said for this president. It's clear, just in the way he's approaching these questions, how he feels about where things stand for him politically.

There were so many questions about international issues, and yet, they had a distinct domestic political flavor. At some points, he almost seemed to be talking to the Republican candidates. He said, "There's been loose talk of war, folks popping off." He barely concealed his contempt for some of the things we've been hearing on the Republican campaign trail.

(...)

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