On NBC News’ live Wednesday night debate coverage a clearly upset David Gregory was shocked that Barack Obama didn’t hit Mitt Romney with the liberal media’s favorite talking point, as he whined: “He didn’t bring up the 47 percent!” Obama not mentioning the hidden camera video of Romney talking about the 47 percent also stunned NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams who asked Savannah Guthrie: “Were you surprised we didn’t hear the number 47?”
Obama’s debate performance threw the NBC News crew for a loop as even the normally liberal team admitted Romney scored a stylistic victory, as he appeared more “energetic, aggressive” and “crisp” than the incumbent Obama.
After the initial praise for Romney, NBC’s reporters quickly turned on Team Obama as they seemed to be urging them to get their boss to do better. Williams pestered White House adviser David Axelrod “Would your advice to your boss be, do the same thing next time? Present the same President Obama as you presented tonight or would you counsel the President, your boss to make some changes?....So you’re perfectly happy with his energy level and his demeanor tonight?”
After the Axelrod interview, Gregory, Williams and Guthrie kvetched about the lack of “47 percent” talk:
DAVID GREGORY: But I think the entire Obama team and the Vice President are gonna get a lot feistier here. I mean the President made a decision not to get in Romney’s face a little bit more. Stop him, disagree with him. He didn’t bring up the 47 percent! He had a whole, you know, area to discuss the role of government and he didn’t talk about a philosophical divide! I think they’re now gonna go and become a lot more aggressive, because they see an aggressive challenger. And it’s not enough to do rope a dope and sit back and try to sit on a lead. So I think there is gonna be a different thought process that goes on.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Savannah were you surprised we didn’t hear the number 47?
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: I was and in fact an Obama adviser told me earlier today: “We’re not gonna play it safe. Don’t believe those stories that say we’re just playing not to lose.” And yet I think that’s what we saw the President doing. The other thing he needs to do is, is, it’s really the unfinished business of this campaign is tell the American people what’s the unfinished business of this presidency. Why does he need another four years to accomplish what he needs to accomplish. I’m not sure we heard a very crisp and coherent message from the President on that tonight.
The following are the elevant exchanges as they were aired on NBC’s October 3 live coverage of the first presidential debate:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: It appeared that an energetic Mitt Romney showed up for this face time tonight before a national audience.
DAVID GREGORY: Energetic, aggressive. Came like he understood that the stakes were high. That he’s behind in this race. And what a contrast Brian? President Obama looked like a president who felt like he had a pretty comfortable lead in the polls and wanted to stay above the fray. Decidedly un-feisty in his approach. A lot of people felt that he was not very crisp in his presentation. Perhaps, should have been more crisp after four years in the White House. Governor Chris Christie, on Meet the Press Sunday, said there would be a different narrative in this race, come Thursday morning. I think a lot of Republicans are gonna feel that, that’s indeed the case.
WILLIAMS: Out to Denver we go. Our political director Chuck Todd. Chuck, first of all how did it play in the room? And second your impressions of what a national audience will take away. How this changes things going into the next two gatherings between these two men?
WILLIAMS: Tom Brokaw is another member of our team in the arena, in Denver. And Tom the conventional wisdom has a way of kind of bubbling up during the event. And I imagine one of the plotlines tomorrow will be here’s Mitt Romney, as we said energized, coming right from the game. He has been in an active, very active campaign heretofore and the President has been on the job, in that realm, during this whole time.
TOM BROKAW: Well Governor Romney did spend a lot of time in this debate and it paid off. He had a well-organized narrative. He knew his brief and this is the candidate that the Republican Party has been waiting to show up, as a matter fact. And a lot of businessmen I have talked to have dealt with Mitt Romney in the past have been bewildered by his performance as a candidate. But this is the Mitt Romney that they described to me, as he sat down at a table and did a deal.
He had a cycle of themes that he wanted to keep coming back to. The objective realities of the economy and what’s going on within it. The fact that he would not raise taxes, he insisted, on the middle class. He accused the President, at one point, of not knowing what he was talking about when it came to deductions for jobs overseas. And at the conclusion he came back, again, to the whole idea that he thinks the private sector can do a much better job than the federal government can do and that the President has not delivered on his own promises of four years ago.
The President has a tough brief to defend on the other hand. The economy is still not in very good shape. Obamacare? However you may feel about it, is a complex piece of legislation. So tonight probably – and I don’t like to make these kinds of judgments generally – tonight will gladden the hearts of a lot of Republican operatives and the people who are working for him in the states around the country.
GREGORY: You had, in a challenger tonight, someone who was feisty. Who was, who was long on ideas and vision. And it does remind me a little bit of Bush/Kerry 2004. An incumbent who falls into that trap of saying, "Look I know this material. I've actually governed." and doesn't seem quite as sharp. And again this was about getting a second look for Mitt Romney. I think he's earned that tonight.
WILLIAMS: Now to David Axelrod. David, I want to read Ron Fournier tonight in National Journal. "Call it the curse of incumbency. Like many of his predecessors, President Obama fell victim Wednesday night to high expectations, a short fuse, and a hungry challenger." Guilty as charged?
WILLIAMS: Let me ask this a different way, because as we've been saying perhaps north of 50 million Americans watched tonight as a television presentation as the first chance to see these two men, their demeanor side by side. Would your advice to your boss be, do the same thing next time? Present the same President Obama as you presented tonight or would you counsel the President, your boss to make some changes?
WILLIAMS: So you're perfectly happy with his energy level and his demeanor tonight?