In an attempt to make the Republican presidential race appear chaotic, on Friday's NBC Today, co-host Ann Curry turned to White House correspondent Chuck Todd and declared: "Even the word 'tumultuous' seems inadequate to describe what has happened to the GOP race in the last 24 hours." The on-screen headline screamed: "Campaign Craziness."
Todd saw only problems for the Republican candidates: "Mitt Romney still has an inability to win over conservatives and what does the party establishment do if Gingrich indeed does win South Carolina.... Do they try to rally around Romney one more time? Or do they try to say, 'You know what? Maybe it's time to look for somebody else again, because we don't think Gingrich is electable but now we're worried that Romney's not nominatable.'"
On Gingrich, Curry fretted over Gingrich not responding enough to attacks from his ex-wife: "Did he address it enough to satisfy evangelicals, who are potentially a key factor in this race in South Carolina?"
On the issue of Romney releasing his tax returns, Todd argued: "It's become a liability because he's made it a liability....it only adds to this sort of head-scratcher, you're like, 'What's going on here? Do you guys have your stuff together to be the nominee and go up against Obama?'"
Here is a full transcript of the January 20 segment:
ANN CURRY: Chuck Todd is NBC's political director and the chief White House correspondent. He's in Orlando, Florida this morning. Chuck, good morning to you.
CHUCK TODD: Good morning, Ann.
CURRY: Even the word "tumultuous" seems inadequate to describe what has happened to the GOP race in the last 24 hours. Where does this race, the Republican race, now stand as we're now looking, what, the day before South Carolina?
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Campaign Craziness; What's Next After Wild Day in South Carolina?]
CHUCK TODD: We are. Well, we're at a moment where we could see – about 48 hours ago we thought Mitt Romney was going to make history. He was going to be the first non-incumbent Republican to win the first three, go 3-0, become – go from being frontrunner to defacto nominee. Now we may be making history because three different people, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich might win the first three.
I think at this point Gingrich has a ton of momentum, nothing last night probably stopped that momentum in South Carolina. We're here in florida. We've got that next debate on Monday night. Florida is supposed to be one Mitt Romney's firewalls. The polls here may show Romney ahead big right now. That will change overnight if Newt Gingrich indeed pulls that upset on Saturday. And right now, he's got all the momentum.
CURRY: You say he's got all the momentum. You know, on Thursday we asked him about this, you know, the charge that we heard about earlier from his second wife and what she might say in her interview, but last night the daughters, who said that they were booked for this interview, pulled out, saying that their father had already addressed this enough. Did he address it enough to satisfy evangelicals, who are potentially a key factor in this race in South Carolina?
TODD: Well, that's a great question because there's a gender gap in the polling. We've seen it in our own poll. Women, evangelical women, but women as a whole, definitely seem to be less inclined to support Gingrich. The assumption is it is over, his past infidelity. So long-term, I think that's an open question about whether he has done enough to explain his personal infidelity, explain why he's had three marriages. That is going to be a challenge for him down the road. Short-term, he may be well on his way to win South Carolina.
The bigger picture here, though, Ann, is Mitt Romney still has an inability to win over conservatives and what does the party establishment do if Gingrich indeed does win South Carolina and, frankly, makes Florida a contest? Do they try to rally around Romney one more time? Or do they try to say, "You know what? Maybe it's time to look for somebody else again, because we don't think Gingrich is electable but now we're worried that Romney's not nominatable."
CURRY: Okay, well let's talk about this really quickly, Romney's tax returns. How much longer can he wait before it becomes a real liability for him to not release them?
TODD: It's become a liability because he's made it a liability. And that's what's so bizarre about this. His answers have changed. I first asked him the tax return question 28 days ago, the first time he was asked, and he said, no, he probably wouldn't do it. He's changed his answer every time he's been asked, whether by one of us, by debate moderators, by candidates. At some point now, he's boxed himself in. He probably needs to hurry up and get this out of the way sooner rather than later because he's acting like somebody who's got something to hide. And at this point it only adds to this sort of head-scratcher, you're like, "What's going on here? Do you guys have your stuff together to be the nominee and go up against Obama?"
CURRY: Alright. Chuck Todd, always good to get your perspective. Thank you so much this morning.
TODD: You bet.
CURRY: And a quick programming note. New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie, a Romney supporter, will be David Gregory's exclusive guest this Sunday on Meet the Press.
- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.