When did NBC News suddenly become concerned with the welfare of the Republican Party? On Monday's NBC Today, former Democratic staffer and current chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd hyped Republican fears of Newt Gingrich: "...look what Gingrich did when he was essentially on the ballot, if you will, in '96 and '98, he helped re-elect a Democratic president..."
Todd promoted the idea of the GOP in disarray: "So there is this panic that they could not just lose the presidency, but lose control of the House and actually blow their chances at picking up the Senate. That's why this panic that the establishment will just do whatever it takes to stop him [Gingrich]."
Over the weekend, TV pundits from both the left and the right, similarly pushed the notion that Gingrich would damage Republican chances in November.
On Monday, moments after Todd outlined a doomsday scenario for Gingrich, Meet the Press host David Gregory bizarrely dismissed the former Speaker's supporters as " the grief-stricken right."
On Sunday's Today, Gregory had elaborated on that observation, claiming that Gingrich's South Carolina primary win was "the revenge of the Tea Party" and that, "There's anger, there's anxiety among conservatives, among the grassroots of the party, and Gingrich in South Carolina connected to that. He was the candidate of grievance, if you will."
Here is a full transcript of the January 23 segment with Todd and Gregory:
MATT LAUER: David Gregory is moderator of Meet the Press, Chuck Todd is NBC's political director and chief White House correspondent, he's in Tampa, at the site of tonight's NBC News Republican debate. Guys, good morning to both of you.
DAVID GREGORY: Good morning, Matt.
CHUCK TODD: Good morning.
LAUER: David, let me start with you. So in that piece we hear that Newt Gingrich is saying he raised more than a million dollars in less than 24 hours following the win in South Carolina. I know that money's going to come in handy. Do we have any idea how much it's going to cost these candidates now that this campaign has taken this dramatic turn? How much they're going to spend in the state of Florida?
GREGORY: Well, it's what they're going to spend, but what the super-PACs on their behalf are going to spend as well, that's what's going to be tremendous. If you're Newt Gingrich, you're still relying on these debates. Paid advertising has got to play a role, but he's really got to rely on momentum taking him into Florida at this point. I don't think he can go toe-to-toe with Mitt Romney's funds out of his own campaign and his own super-PAC to really make an impact in such a TV-rich state.
LAUER: Chuck, I was watching you as part of the roundtable on David's show yesterday morning and one thing that struck me in that room was how few people seemed to give Newt Gingrich a realistic chance of winning this nomination. And I know the pundits have counted this guy out on a couple of occasions before.
LAUER: Is that a little bit risky?
TODD: Well, I think you're right, it is a little bit risky. When you look – when you look at where the Republican electorate is, they're looking for a conservative. They're not looking for – you know, yes, they're looking for the most electable candidate, but they're really looking for a conservative, that's where the party is today. Mitt Romney hasn't successfully made that case.
With Gingrich, though, you just hear all of this back room chatter that there is going to be this whatever it takes to, quote, "stop Gingrich," a "Stop Gingrich" movement. Because you have members of the House leadership who think, look what Gingrich did when he was essentially on the ballot, if you will, in '96 and '98, he helped re-elect a Democratic president and he almost cost the Republicans the House when he was in charge. So there is this panic that they could not just lose the presidency, but lose control of the House and actually blow their chances at picking up the Senate. That's why this panic that the establishment will just do whatever it takes to stop him. Even go find a new candidate.
LAUER: David, because of momentum, tonight's debate takes on more significance. It's safe to say that Mitt Romney is wounded after South Carolina. What do you expect to hear from him in the debate?
GREGORY: Well, I think Peter Alexander's report and his interview were quite telling. This is a different Mitt Romney. Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist, said with me yesterday, Romney's now in a corner with a broken bottle in his hand. He has to decide whether he's going to fight or be overtaken by Gingrich. The difficulty for Romney is that this is not a campaign or a candidate who's been defined by that bellicosity, that willingness to really fight in the course of a campaign. He's not really in that fighting shape. He's going to have to be and he's going to have to be soon. He's got to draw some bright contrasts.
And he's up against something very powerful here. Whether Gingrich can pull it off or not, he's running as a populist, even though he's got a lot of insider credentials. That's really the calling card of the, kind of the grief-stricken right, right now. That element of a conservative party. And that's what he's going to have to contend with in these debates and in Florida.
LAUER: Chuck, the issue of his tax returns, Mitt Romney will release them tomorrow. Does that take it off the table as a subject during the debate tonight?
TODD: A tiny bit. You heard Gingrich himself to David on Meet the Press saying that it may take it off the table. But let's see what's in there. Is it – you know, what is it that was in these tax returns that made Mitt Romney say at a debate, "Hey, you know, I'm going to be running, I'm worried about beating President Obama." What is it that he's worried about? What's in there? So I think there's something to that. And he is only releasing two years, when you go, even by the President Bush standard, when he was candidate Bush, he had released ten years before he'd taken the oath of office. So this isn't fully going away but it does sound like Gingrich is willing to have it go away for a little while, at least from what he told David.
LAUER: Chuck Todd and David Gregory. Guys, thank you very much. And just a reminder for our viewers, you can see the NBC News Republican debate tonight at 9/8 Central Time on a special edition of Rock Center with Brian Williams. That's right here on NBC.
- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here  to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.