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Newsvine Q&A: Chuck Todd on U.S. Politics

The following is a summary of the Questions and Answers, pulled from the Newsvine comment thread below:


Questions re the Latino vote & swing states. . . I know Obama has a big lead among Latinos right now (68-28), but unlike African Americans who vote in large numbers already, there's a huge opportunity to get Latinos to register and vote, thus changing the electorate in many swing states.

From my anecdotal perspective -- I am half Latina -- Everyone on the Latino side of my family would vote for Obama-Richardson hands down. AND MOST OF THEM AREN'T CURRENTLY REGISTERED TO VOTE. Just like identity politics with Obama, the Latino community would rally around a Hispanic on the Ticket. In fact, without Richardson, the elder Latinos in my family may not vote for Obama, or wouldn't register to vote at all, as they still harbor some racist thoughts about African Americans. Sad but true.

Per the US Census Bureau, states with the largest Hispanic population are NM (44%), TX (36%), CA (36%) and AZ (29%). Other swing states with at least a half-million Hispanic residents are: Colorado (20%), Florida (20%), Georgia, (7%), Nevada (25%), New Jersey (16%), North Carolina (7%), Pennsylvania (4%), and Washington (9%). Since many of these states are swing states, this seems to bode well for Richardson being on the short list.

1. Can you do your infamous Chuck Todd math regarding how the Latino vote could move some swing states into the Obama column -- given their population and potential for new voters?

2. Do you think having two people of color on the Ticket would deter some Americans (especially the South & Appalachia) from voting for the Dems? Or, are these voters not likely to vote for Obama regardless who's on the Ticket?

3. Given Richardson's less than stellar debating performances, is he or should he be on Obama's short list?


The four swing states where a significant chunk of Latino voters could swing the state are: New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and Florida. But I'm not sure Richardson would help an Obama ticket... as you pointed out; he didn't prove to be a great campaigner; he just didn't wear well on the campaign trail. The resume is fantastic but in practice, he may be too undisciplined of a politician to trust being the running mate. And, yes, I do think breaking two color barriers at the same time is certainly tricky... but Richardson is pro-gun and culturally might appeal to these rural white voters who might otherwise have issues regarding the color barrier.

Chuck: In last week's blog, you answered a question re Gen. Zinni as Obama's possible VEEP candidate. You thought Zinni's lack of campaign experience would prevent him from being on the short list, but your comments intrigued me more . .

"You should know that the very first person I ever heard from on the idea of Zinni... Tim Russert. Tim thought Zinni was in play long before his name started circulating.

1. You obviously know that we all revered & respected Russert's integrity & opinions. He will be remembered as the best political journalist in my lifetime. Accordingly, the fact that Tim Russert mentioned Zinni is fascinating. Would you mind sharing more with us re your conversation & why Russert thought Zinni was in play?

2. Also, I am blown away by Zinni's qualifications and courage. If he's not on the VEEP short list, do you have any inside info about whether he's in play for the Cabinet -- either as Secretary of Defense or Secretary of State? I think his nickname of "Warrior Diplomat" says it all.


Tim thought Zinni was in play for a couple of reasons: he's Wes Clark without being as flamboyant; he was a Bush appointee in the Mideast; he was well-respected on both sides of the aisle but was starting to show some interest in becoming an active Democrat. All of those reasons made Tim think (and also report) that Zinni was somebody who was going to be a player in the Veepstakes for either Clinton or Obama. I definitely think Zinni will be a player in an Obama admin... perhaps NSA

Dear Chuck,
As political director for NBC News, for which you do a great job, I was curious as to what a typical workday involves for you. Other than appearing on Morning Joe, Hardball, Countdown, Today, etc., what other functions and duties do you perform on a regular basis? It is easy to tell that you really enjoy your work.


The political unit has to have constant contact with the campaigns... we are always putting together research books for internal consumption, sometimes they are primary guides, sometimes VP guides etc; we work with producers and correspondents putting together pieces for the various shows... brainstorm ideas for talkers on the cable side... basically, we're the in-house resource on all things politics... first line of defense for the outside world to get their political pitches into the network. And then there's First Read which we love doing but which also forces us to stay on top of political news so we don't get caught flat-footed.


Do you see an agreement between the U.S. and Iraq on a timetable withdrawal hurting the Obama campaign by removing one of his two biggest talking points? He was seen as the guy who would go and bring our troops home from Iraq, but without that platform, doesn't it have the potential to hurt him in a big way, and remove a large part of his attack on McCain for agreeing with President Bush on Iraq?

-Matt, 20, San Diego

I don't; I think this has become an election about the economy; the public has issued its Iraq verdict and nothing will change that. Now, if there are new int'l issues in the Middle East which arise before November, then those issues could sway voters, but barring a sudden rise in violence in Iraq, I don't see anything Iraq related truly changing the landscape of this election.

Hi Chuck,

This is long but not a rant, I promise. I posted this to the comment thread as well. My question is, why isn't Richardson being discussed?
Here is my reasoning. Based on current polling averages of the head-to-head matchup of Obama and McCain in each state; along with the electoral votes. As of July 4th and the latest polling. Here is the notation: State(electoral votes) +XX where Obama leads McCain and XX is the number of percentage points ahead for Obama. I am only showing the states where Obama leads. WA(11) +15 means in Washington state with 11 electoral votes Obama is up by 15. Places where Obama leads by 5 points or more:

WA(11) +15
CA(55) +20
MN(10) +09
WI(10) +11
IL(21) +29
ME(04) +22
NY(31) +26
VT(03) +34
NH(04) +12
MA(12) +16
RI(04) +28
CT(07) +20
NJ(15) +16
DE(03) +09
MD(10) +13
DC(03) +81
HI(04) +30
MI(17) +06
MT(03) +05
NM(05) +05
IA(07) +05

That is 239 electoral votes out of the 270 needed. We will assume Obama can hold his lead in these states. We need 31 more electoral votes to win. Here are states where Obama leads by a little, in descending order:

PA(21) +04
OR(07) +03
CO(09) +03
VA(13) +02
IN(11) +01
OH(20) +01

That is 81 electoral votes, which means we have 50 more than we need. Let's look at just the top three: PA(21), CO(09), and OR(07). That is 37 EV, six more than we need. In these three states, Obama is ahead by at least the margin of error in the polls. So first, notice we don't need VA, IN or OH. We don't need FL, NC, MO. We don't need Appalachia (WV, KY, TN). We don't need the south.

What we need is hard campaigning in Pennsylvania, Oregon and Colorado. Now, Obama is only down by 3 in NV(5), and if Richardson was on the ticket, I think he brings NV(5) and CO(9), we don't even need OR(7). That lets Obama spend about 1/3 of his time campaigning in PA(21) and neighboring states.

There are MANY ways for Obama to win without the south, without Florida, without Appalachia, without Ohio. He does need Pennsylvania, but PA has gone Democratic in the last four presidential elections, and this year is not likely to be different if Obama campaigns there enough. (OH went for Bush the last two times and Clinton the two before; IN hasn't been Dem for the last four PE, and neither has VA).

I think conventional wisdom does not apply in this election, the populace is shifting and the polls reflect that. Obama does not need military experience in his Veep, as long as he keeps telling people what they want to hear: We are getting out. What he needs is not help on credentials but help nailing down some votes, and Richardson does that.

Richardson makes NM(5)+5 a double-digit lock, probably makes CO(9)+3 a solid lock, and tilts NV(5)-3 into the blue. Richardson doesn't hurt in OR. I think Obama concentrates on PA and MI with stopovers in OH, and spends about 2/3 of his time making forays into other states to keep the campaign looking "national" and improve his strength in those marginals where he is polling ahead but by less than 8. If he does that, he wins. In retrospect, I suspect this is why Plouffe and Axelrod (numbers guys like me) spent so much time in PA, they knew this long ago. This is my reasoning behind thinking Richardson is the right choice.

Also, Obama is only down 9 in TX(34). That's crazy, if Richardson threatens TX, McCain is in bad trouble. This is a big big state to be defending and spending money in. Polls may reflect the mood at the moment, but one thing we know about Obama is that when he campaigns he closes the gap when he is behind, and widens the margin when he is ahead. My argument is that Obama has already changed the electoral map, the keystones in this election are PA(21) and Hispanics (19) (NM, CO, NV). PA is reliably Democrat if he campaigns there, so the veep that helps Obama the most politically is Bill Richardson, who can flip the Hispanic vote and put three states that went for Bush by less than 5 points in 2004 into the Democratic column.

And for those worried that Richardson alienates HRC voters; I don't think so. The women dissapointed that Hillary didn't win don't care about Richardson's endorsement that much; they would be offended by Obama picking a woman, but I doubt they'd be offended by him picking Richardson. The insiders might not be happy, but I don't think the voters care that much about the inside game.

For those worried about MI(17), It has been solidly democrat for the last 4 PE also, both Kerry and Gore won it, by 3 and 5 respectively, even when Bush was popular. In this environment, MI is an easy win if Obama provides some economic hand-holding once in a while. He got some credit there on the Rules and Bylaws committee by not going for the even split he had the votes for.

A military veep sends a signal of uncertainty in his CIC ability, and economics is the #1 issue but is more about a team than a veep. Psychologically, the CIC must react quickly to military and national security issues, but fixing the economy is not a war, it takes a well considered plan of recovery. We don't need an economic veep, we need to see his economic team. It is a cabinet level problem.

Finally, I think the number of people that would vote for Obama but consider a Latino #2 a deal breaker is vanishingly small; anybody with that much racial antipathy was not voting for Obama anyway. Richardson also knows how to campaign and win office.

So that's the question: Why is Richardson so far off the radar?
-Tony C. SA TX

yes... very long question! I think Richardson's run for president and the failure of his campaign and some of the mistakes he made is giving some Obama folks pause. His resume is stellar and his positions on key culture issues could be helpful but he just seemed not ready for prime time in the view of some of Obama's folks. How would he do on the campaign trail? What about the VP debate? Remember his performance with Tim Russert on "Meet the Press"? I've never seen a presidential candidate as unprepared for a Tim examination as Richardson. That's going to give plenty of VP vetters pause.


What do you think of Bloomberg as Obama's VEEP? Is he on the short list for VEEP or a Cabinet spot?

Obviously his economics expertise is unparalleled. And, if McCain chooses Romney, Bloomberg would be a good counterpunch. But . . .

He doesn't seem to bring any of the other needs. He's not going to bring any swing states, except perhaps the Jewish vote in FL. He's not likely to bring the WM vote from Appalachia or the South as I doubt those former HRC supporters would find much in common with a billionaire. And, he seems to add to the characterization of Obama as an elitist.
Finally, from a strategy perspective, do you think it's wiser to choose a VEEP in McCains' weak spot (the Economy) or in Obama's weakness (Military & Foreign Policy)? Which way is the Obama Campaign leaning?


Five months ago, I was convinced Bloomberg would be the Obama VP pick. But I think the mayor's lack of foreign policy cred will steer Obama away. That said, I think it's very likely Bloomberg could end up a Treas. Sec. in an Obama admin; and possibly in a McCain admin as well.


An observation followed by a question:

Observation: Your relatively recent face time on MSNBC nothwithstanding, you are an especially balanced, competent and trustworthy political analyst. Thanks for doing it right.

Question: The common wisdom seems to be that as Obama and McCain gear up for the fall by tacking to the center, they are in danger of trading base votes for independent votes. Is there any methodology you can use to determine the accuracy of this notion? And if so, is McCain more vulnerable because of the Barr campaign?

Note: I recognize that the answer to these two questions might be a big, fat maybe. But I am very interested to hear your analysis.

Thank you

-Ian Walter

No strict methodology. Sure, it's possible... but I think mainstream nominees lose votes to third party ideologue candidates when the nominee is having trouble exciting their base. For instance, Gore didn't get liberals THAT excited in 2000 and therefore he was vulnerable to a Nader taking away a few percentage points. I think McCain has to be nervous that Barr will do the same thing to him simply because some conservatives who always vote won't want to support Obama but won't want to vote for McCain. But this is a function of the candidate simply not exciting his party's electorate; less about ideology. If McCain looked like a winner (like he would have, for sure, in 2000), then he wouldn't have to worry about a Barr.


I know it's a long shot but could Texas and its 34 electoral votes ever be in play for Obama?

Here are my thoughts

1.If Richardson is the nominee, it will bring a large contingent of the Hispanic population to the polls. Combining the 36% Hispanics population with the 12% African American vote, this is 48% of the population and a huge voting block that is nearly a majority by itself.

2.There's still a strong core of Ann Richardson yellow-dog Dems in the State to supplement the Minority Vote.

3.The state has over 100 college campuses, not counting community colleges.

4.The state has a lot of young voters in Austin & Houston.

5.Obama has a strong organization in TX -- as demonstrated by his caucus performance.

6.Query if the reason HRC won the Primary was because of Limbaugh's "campaign"

7.Demographic Problems for Obama ... Bush, huge Evangelical population, and fact that only 23% of state has a Bachelors Degree or more.

Another Plus for Obama . . . independent Texans who have been embarrassed by and want to distance themselves from Bush.
Thanks Chuck!


Texas will be a swing state.... by 2016... just not yet... The state is growing more urban and as more non-native Texans swell the voting rolls, the state will become more up-for-grabs. I think Texas will be closer in '08 than it has been in years because Bush won't be at the top of the ticket. But it's not there yet... too much good will for Bush and the GOP among indies in that state. But I wouldn't be surprised if Obama, for instance lost the state by only 8 or 9 points, which would be considered progress for the Dems. Gore lost the state by 21 points, for instance


What do you think of Wesley Clark as V.P ?
-Barry Rutherford

Before the incident of last week, I would have thought that Clark was fairly high on the Obama short list. Now? I think Clark's shown he's just not good on the stump; he might be smart and qualified but he isn't a good campaigner; he's messed up like this before and it stepped on the second most important speech Obama has written this year, the speech about patriotism... Clark will not be on the ticket


I am relatively new to this part of the election cycle so maybe there is a set date for this sort of thing, but WHEN do you see either nominee picking a VP? Is it usually reserved for the convention, or do they do it a week or two out? I am just as interested in WHO as I am in WHEN! I am personally getting tired of waiting. It seems like there is relatively nothing new to talk about until that day comes. All that seems to be shown on news shows is the guessing game. I'm not a big fan of speculation in either the election or the economy.

-Matt, 20, San Diego

I think Obama picks a running mate as early as the end of this month or sometime before the start of the Olympics on Aug. 8. McCain will probably wait until the Friday after Obama's acceptance speech to name his VP... create some sense of suspense about his own candidacy.

Is there any value for either Obama or McCain to pick a VP EARLY? It seems McCain in particular might be interested in using his VP pick to step on Obama's news cycle; perhaps some scheduled speech or rally or event. McCain could claim that not following the common wisdom and waiting proves he's a maverick straight-shooter that gets things done and won't play political games. It would let him paint Obama as just another politician, and also give McCain an important surrogate to deploy.

(It may not sound like it but I am an Obama supporter!)
-Tony C. SA TX

The value of having a VP right now is to have an extra principle to send into swing states and garner local coverage for the campaign...

chuck, do pollsters consider the responses from someone who did NOT vote in the last election?

Yes they do... At some point, we'll be doing some survey research to get a handle on just how many new voters will show up. Not just young voters but voters who haven't gone to the polls in a decade. There's a lot of invented C.W. that suggests a bunch of new voters will show up this Nov., I think it's our job to see if there is any truth to this C.W.

Chuck do you think that there will be any way for Obama to shake all these flip flop accusations? There is a lot of evidence that on some of the issues he hasn't changed much at all while McCain has been caught lying and flip flopping undeniably on the trail. Should we be very concerned that for some reason the term seems to be sticking on Obama while leaving McCain realitively unscathed thus far?


He certainly can't let this narrative take hold for much longer; once a pol is painted a flip-flopper, it's hard to shake the tag (ask John Kerry). I think Obama started to figure out a way to push back on this charge but he probably needs to get more aggressive. Because to the avg. cynical voter, he may be starting to look like just another politician.

Any discussions of Gerrymandering underway for your political predictions?

Gerrymandering is a form of redistricting in which electoral district or constituency boundaries are manipulated for electoral advantage

Am curious to hear your take on post November district maps and what states might be most impacted.
-Pacific Northwest Blogger

Another good point, the Census is coming in less than 2 years. Congress will have to redistrict again. If the Democrats still control congress, and they probably will, how far do you think the Democrats will go to undo the gerrymandering of the Republican in 2000?

If you want some good examples, look at the Florida Congressional map. Notice how districts 3,4,5,6,7,8 and 24 are wrapped around each and are stretched out in such a way to pack all the dems into District 3 (90%) democrat. That is great for District 3, which stretches from Jacksonville half way down the Florida coast to south Orlando, but it makes the other six districts primarily republican.
Florida Congressional Map link.

Chuck, if you do focus on the gerrymandering story of the Republicans, Winter Park, FL is a good example of the Republican mapping strategy of 2000. Winter Park is a town in NE Orlando, about 3 square miles, with a population of approx. 20 thousand. Winter Park is represented by 4 congressional districts (3/7/8/24). The city of Winter Park has more congressional representation Miami or Tampa.
For that matter, Winter Park has more seats in Congress than over half the states in the country. When you add in the fact that both US Senators live in Orlando, one only 2 minutes from downtown Winter Park, it makes you wonder if Winter Park is DC south.


Well, Democrats are set up to do pretty well in state. legis. races this year, but the big year in preparation for redistricting is 2010... the redistricting process begins in 2011 so the 2010 GOV and state legis. races will have more impact.

Hey Chuck, thanks for continuing the series.

Obviously, a good deal of us want to know stuff about the next VP choices. Who do you think the candidates will pick, and who do you think would be most beneficial to them? There's two questions there because, for example, a whole bunch of people think McCain will go for Crist, and that wouldn't surprise me at all, but I really think Sanford would be a better choice, for this reason:

I believe the GOP has a Ron Paul/libertarian problem. (Tons of small-government old-fashioned conservatives, you know.) Would you agree, and what effect might that have on the general election?

I think McCain has a list of folks he can't pick but wish he could; and then there's a list of folks who his consultants want him to pick. My guess is that if Obama's VP pick helps solidify the small lead Obama now enjoys both nationally and in most of the toss-up states, McCain just might roll the dice and go with his gut.
Among the folks who I think he'd like to pick, but can't politically (or so he's being told), including: Tom Ridge, Joe Lieberman and Jeb Bush. The consultant/adviser short list includes folks like Mark Sanford, Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty.

I think McCain's got to be tempted by Ridge because if McCain nabs Pennsylvania, the path to 270 for Obama becomes a LOT more difficult.

Thanks for the opportunity to ask a question.

It would seem to be a real opportunity in the Senate for th Dems to make big gains. 6 Senate seats. DRI-55-43-2
The House would seem to have at least a swing of 5, to the Dems. DRI-241-194-0

Currently, all the focus is, understandably, on the Presidential race. Whomever wins that race will have to deal with a much stronger Democrat Party Congressional makeup.

Is it too early to analyze the Congressional makeup for 2009? If not, what would be those projections?

Not at all and if your numbers turn out to be correct on the House and Senate, Democrats should consider that a bad night. Republicans are bracing for HUGE losses, perhaps as many as 8 senate seats and 25 House seats... Democrats will not have another environment this favorable, perhaps, for a generation. They should borrow as much money as they can find because 2010 and 2012 are not going to be as good of opportunities down the ballot.


In what state will Barr's Libertarian candidacy have an impact on the McCain vote, thus making it possible for Obama to turn the state Blue?

The Obama campaign believes AK and GA are the two places Barr will take enough votes away from McCain to make those states competitive. We'll see. GA seems possible because of Barr's previous electoral success in the state's old 7th District. I think Barr only becomes a factor if enthusiasm for McCain begins to decline. Barr's a landslide maker, he's not somehow who will tip the WH in Obama's direction if everything is close.

Hi Mr. Todd:

My question: with regard to a potential electoral shift in the "Solid South," SC is not considered to be in the picture. I understand that other states (e.g. NC, VA) are becoming more competitive because of the shifts in demographics, and SC is, ostensibly, a lock for McCain. (Just as it led the way in moving towards Republicanism, SC is apparently viewed as the "last bastion" of Republican strength in the region, should Obama be victorious in other southern states.) However, in the state of SC, the Republican party consists of three "separate" groups - the social conservatives in the upstate, the defense-minded, small-government conservatives in the Midlands, and the fiscal conservatives on the coast . (Please note: I may have gotten the Midlands conservatives and the coastal conservatives mixed up.) So far, I don't see McCain having an insurmountable lead in ANY of these groups, and there is no existing data to suggest otherwise. In addition, SC is experiencing considerable growth as well (though not of the same proportions as the aforementioned states). Therefore, given (1) the perception that Obama's beginning to tack toward the center, (2) his plan to woo the religious right, (3) his stance regarding issues which appear to some as equivocating (e.g. FISA, gun control), and (4) his plan to increase voter registration (especially among African-Americans and the young) and open an office in SC, is it reasonable to think that Obama may actually win SC?

I just don't see how SC is in play for Obama... I'm not sure he'll be able to appeal even to the most moderate Republicans in that state; I think Democrats could begin to see some success winning statewide races if they borrow a page from the Kansas Democratic playbook and begin to run, essentially, as moderate Republicans and try to unite the Democratic wing with the moderate GOP wing... Not sure this will happen on the national level though.

Hi Chuck,

In the past few days, the comparison has been made frequently to the 1976 and 1980 elections in the historical context of untested candidate vs tired candidate. In your opinion, what are the similarities and differences between Obama and Carter and Obama and Reagan? It's a sometimes unsettling comparison for Obama supporters when Carter's name is brought up when talking of his inexperience and infamous first and only term. Tip O'Neil once remarked that Carter was by far the most intelligent President he ever worked with; Obama is certainly not deficit in intelligence. With that said, having the brains to assist in building nuclear submarines didn't help Carter. Do you think pieces are in place for history to repeat?

I really do... I think Obama could easily become Carter or Reagan... Obama's has more charisma than Carter and that should help him a bit if he falters... Obama would never deliver a "malaise" speech (and yes I know that Carter never uttered the "malaise"...) It's possible Obama does for the word "liberal" what Reagan did for "conservative" but it all rests on Obama having some success in turning around the economy and in dealing with an int'l crisis or two. Sometimes, I do wonder if the times make a president or if a president can make the times. Evidence on both sides of the argument is littered throughout history.


It is looking more and more like it will be Joe Biden. Biden should be traveling to Iraq with Obama very soon (now that Iraq wants the US to get out). That could be Joe's final test.

However, my only concern is that Biden is up for re-election with the Delaware Primary set for September 9.

Would there be enough time for the Democrats to put another candidate on the ballot?

Since the Democrats wouldn't want to lose in Delaware, this could mean that Biden would be named earlier than anticipated (maybe early August)?

Do the Democrats have a strong candidate to take Biden's place for the Sept. 9 primary?
-G. Williams

According to our crack VP NJ/NBC campaign reporter, Mike Memoli, Biden can run simultaneously for both the senate and VP in DE.

Thanks Chuck. This may be a very critical as to Barack choosing Biden.

I assume therefore if Biden wins both VP and the Senate, that the Democratic governor would chose another Democrat, at least until a special election is held.

This is very good news.
-G. Williams

Well, don't assume Delaware will have a Dem GOV... the GOV seat is open in the state this cycle and the Dems are favored to hold it but it's a potentially competitive election.


What are your thoughts about Obama throwing out some names of a few members of his potential Cabinet in the weeks after the Republican Convention?

Of course they would have to be people who wouldn't be expected to hold elected office in 2009.

For example, John Edwards for Attorney General, as already strongly rumored.

Chuck Hagel for Sec. of Defense?

Most important would be for General Clark at the role he is suited for - Sec. of State.

The reason for doing this is that it would raise Edwards, Hagel and Clark to the Super-Surrogate status in the fall.

Currently, the Media thinks that McCain is stronger than Obama on Natl. Security.
However, the team of Obama-Biden-Clark-Hagel would BLOW AWAY McCain.

If Obama only comes close to McCain on Natl. Security and Anti-Terrorism, then the election will be over.
Obama has said he wouldn't be Traditional. This would be a perfect example.
-G. Williams

I think had Obama secured the nomination in March, he would have rolled out a cabinet officer or two along with his VP. But since the primary campaign lasted so long, I think he won't do that anymore...

Why is the media so quick to shoot up the S.O.S flare indicating Obama is moving to the center, especially on the war?

Don't we want a President who can get the facts from the Generals on the ground in Iraq, in order to firm-up his plan for a 16 month withdrawal based around the Generals assessments and Intel?

I think everything about Obama is being watched more closely than with McCain because Obama's the frontrunner and he appears to be the guy who might be taking the oath. So he's going to get more scrutiny of his words; This may seem like it's unfair but it's human nature; we're always more interested in what the frontrunner is doing or saying than the challenger or trailer.

I understand what you are saying.
However, many of us believe that the Media just wants to tighten up the race to increase ratings.
I don't expect you to agree in writing.
-G. Williams

It's not that we want the race to tighten up; if anything, I think the voters have taught us over the last few election cycles that nothing is inevitable.


How hard is it going to be for McCain to overcome the Democratic registration gains in states like Nevada which saw a 1-point Republican advantage turn into a 5-point Democratic advantage?

Likewise, doesn't the 100,000+ Democratic registration increase in Pennsylvania make it that much harder for McCain to take that Kerry state?

The Dem voter regis. story from the primary season is one of the reasons why so many smart observers believe this is Obama's election to lose. The advantages you have pointed out in NV and PA are big deals. And there are new voter regis. numbers in Colorado that indicate more problems for the GOP in yet another swing state. In 2000, there were a lot of Dems who were convinced that McCain Republican primary voters wouldn't vote for Bush, particularly in a state like New Hampshire; well, it turned out a lot of McCain Republicans who were new regis. voters in 2000 ended up sticking with the GOP in Nov. Let's see what happens in this Nov.

Hi Chuck.

I always thought Webb's reputation for sexism (in blaming women for the Tailhook scandal in particular and also his comments on women in the military and military academies) pretty definitively ruled him out as a veep. But a few weeks ago, he was playing the wallflower, saying he wasn't thinking about it (as if he could help but think about it after being asked about it ten times a day). Then suddenly he makes a definitive statement: No how, No WAY is he going to be veep, his senate work is too important.

Without any evidence to support the thought, I think the Obama camp must have quietly told him to take himself out of the running; it makes Webb look like he is choosing his own fate, keeps him from looking like a loser in the veepstakes, makes him look loyal to his constituents, and keeps Obama from looking like he actually rejected Webb as being unsuitable for veep.
When we see this kind of cheerful non-committal coyness followed a few weeks later by adamant self-removal, for either party, is this the scenario that is playing out?
-Tony C. SA TX

Actually, from everything we've learned about Webb's decision, it appears the Obama campaign approached Webb about participating in the VP vetting process and instead of turning over his papers to the vetters, Webb decided to take himself out. My guess is that Webb didn't want to re-litigate some of his controversial writings over the next few weeks unless he knew for SURE he'd get picked; And I think he realized he wasn't going to be picked that he was only going to be vetted because Obama's team didn't want to disappoint the netroots who are a big Webb believers.

Chuck, I cannot help but yell "Viva Chuck Todd" every time I see you on tv! My question is "Do you think that the accusation that Obama has been flip flopping on issues is actual flip flopping or just sloppy reporting or a combination of both?
Thanks & Viva Chuck Todd

Thanks for the shout out... as for the flip-flops... i think it's a combination of both. For the life of me, I don't understand why Obama just didn't say on Iraq, for instance, that "Look, I never said my position was set in stone and I always wanted to leave myself some wiggle room. Now, is it true that I emphasized the 16 month timetable and de-emphasized the wiggle room part, yes because that's what I wanted to be the goal."

But the stubborn nature with which Obama tried to defend the consistency of his Iraq position only dared the media to keep digging in its heels. It may seem silly on one level but I think Obama's handling of this drove the negative narrative. Just my .02

What do you expect the political effect will be of Obama's Iraq/Afghanistan trip?

I think the crowds he receives in Paris and Berlin and possibly London will have more impact than anything that happens in Iraq or Afghanistan... just my sense

If we are not counting the swing states, what percent would Obama be ahead by?


Can we take a vote on NBC, I would love to see you be the replacement for Meet the Press.

I think you are wondering about how well Obama's doing in the non-swing states vs. the swing states. I do expect Obama to over-perform Kerry's number in a lot of the non-swing states, including ones he'll carry big (like CA and NY) and ones he'll lose (like TX and ID). I haven crunched the numbers exactly, but my sense is that Obama could win the popular vote by potentially as much as 5 million voters and lose the electoral college. Now, is that likely? No. but it's more mathematically possible than many folks realize. McCain's strict emphasis on his narrow path to 270 combined with Obama's decision to hire staff in all 50 states could create a real lopsided popular vote to electoral vote ratio.

I see comparisons being made to the '76 and '80 elections---but to what extent do you see similarities in 08 to '92 or '96? I'm a republican wondering where McCain is about right now.

Sometimes I worry all of us political junkies try too hard to find historical comparisons. I think you can make a case that this election could be '68, '76, '80 or '92. That said, I think I see where your going with your '96 comparison re: McCain. Both '92 and '96 were elections where Republicans were not enthusiastic about their pres. candidate and the result was defeat. I think McCain's in a better position than either Bush 41 in '92 or Dole in '96; now he could still lose but I'd rather be McCain now than either Bush in '92 at this point or Dole in '96.

I heard you on MSNBC this morning talking about the impact of Jesse Jackson's smear of Obama. You indicated you thought this could help Obama with those voters who need to know Obama is a little more mainstream & not as militant as many have characterized Revs. Wright, Sharpton or Jackson.

Obama has already accepted Jackson's apology and certainly can't use Jackson's statement -- even in a tacit way. Given that the story will probably be in the media for only a day or two, how can Jackson's smear have any long-lasting impact on those swing voters you referenced?

It seems to me that it will take more than a soundbite to assuage their deep-rooted racial concerns that were only buttressed by Wright's statements.

Oh, I dont think this goes away as quickly as you think because Obama is going to give another personal responsibility speech to blacks at some point in the campaign; he may even give an affirmative action speech which calls for rolling back some of those laws and when those speeches take place, we'll get a re-airing of these Jackson comments as supposed proof that he's a different type of black political leader.

Dear Mr. Todd, Thank-you for this opportunity to weigh in with my question:


My understanding is that Senator McCain's current position is that fossil fuel energy is a critical national strategic commodity that could severely impair the U.S. economy and/or our U.S. national defense capabilities if our ability to obtain free-flowing oil at relatively fair market pricing were to be affected by world and/or economic anomalies. [McCain to confirm by self admission]


[the perfect economic storm]

Given Senator McCain's position on fossil fuel, why has his position on the ERON loophole evaporated, why has he not looked into the current risks with the policy regulations of the CFTC [Commodity Futures Trading Commission] which oversees U.S. fossil fuel price speculation and why has he not taken a more cautious/rational approach with Iran(?); If Iran were to be attacked they could conceivably disrupt the flow of oil from the Middle-East while unregulated oil commodity price speculation could devastate the U.S. economy rather quickly before we could react or recover! What is McCain's plan to protect the U.S. from the perfect economic storm?

Please feel free to edit as needed.

-Don't spin me bro!

I'm not going to claim to be an expert on energy policy but the scenario you've come up with certainly is one of those hypotheticals that they'll have to answer in a debate. McCain would likely answer the question by saying his policy is about trying to diversify our energy resources and that he would hope to not have the U.S. in a situation where one country could hurt our economy with an oil sanction. You'd see the answer as a duck because there just isn't a good answer that the voters would want to hear.

As a follow-up to my own question;

X-senator Phil Graham just made a fatal blunder for the McCain campaign, when he implied that Americans are whining about the economy and the current economical climate is physiological.

What do we know about the Graham's:

- X-senator Phil Graham presided over the senate banking commission and his policies are speculated to have led to the current mortgage crisis. He [X-senator Graham] is also one of the most influential banking lobbyist on capital hill today.

- X-senator Phil Graham's wife, Katherine headed the CFTC when it was put into existence and put in place the policies that has lead to the current ERON loophole which caused the previous energy crisis in California with ERON and now the oil commodities speculation crisis. She [Katherine] is also a very influential banking lobbyist on capital hill in her own right, in addition to being on the board of directors of some major financial institutions.

How is John McCain going to maintain his anti-lobbyist position and have America's best economic welfare at heart when some of his top campaign strategists are some of the biggest financial lobbyist in politics? I.E. how is McCain going to protect America from the perfect economic storm?
-Don't spin me bro!

I think the McCain campaign is trying to make it crystal clear that they are tossing Gramm under the proverbial straight talk express bus.

Dear Chuck,

A simple, but direct question for both presidential candidates:

QUESTION: Considering you are both law-makers and both of you took a Salmon oath to uphold the constitution on behalf of your constituents, what is your position with respect to Carl Rowe refusing to obey the law and appear before congress to testify as so ordered by the people of the United States, and what is your plan to ensure no one is above our constitutional law of the land?

-Don't spin me bro!

I know this isn't going to be a popular answer with you but Rove Cong. hearing today seemed like a silly political stunt.

Hey Chuck,

A lot of bloggers seem to feel that Obama is taking a turn to the center and are starting to feel a little betrayed. Do you think that Obama will use his VP pick to continue to the center or possibly pick someone who might reinvigorate his netroots base?

I remain convinced that Obama will be thinking about national security and a potential October surprise when he makes his VP pick.

Hello Chuck, I enjoy watching your unbiased opinions about both parties. One thing I hope you would answer. Why is it that no one is challenging the fact that Christians under the present situation is Iraq are suffering? Under Saddam Hussein, they had more religious freedom than they have now and could practice their Christianity openly. CBS had a good report on 60 minutes about the persecutions Christians are suffering now. I also have first hand proof of that from fellow Christians who lived under both regimes. So, why do we always talk about liberating Iraq and consistently fail to mention that there is no real liberation if there are religious persecutions and no religious freedom? Why is it that no clips of 60 minutes got more attention on cable news and other network news? I hope that you can remedy that and spread the word around. I am an avid watcher of MSNBC from early morning to late evening. Thank you and look forward to seeing my question posted and answered.
-Monica JA

Well, I think the U.S. gov't and many observers over there are hesitant to stoke the fire of the religious issues which already dominate the Middle East. There's a lot of sensitivity over exactly what the definition of religious freedom is in the Middle East. One person's religious freedom is another person's belief that their own ability to spread their faith or practice their faith is being hindered. Bottom line, I think there's a lot of nervousness in the gov't and in the media about delving into issues about minority religions in the Arab world.

Since Joe Biden and John Edwards are the perceived VP frontrunners for Obama, could you please outline which lean states you think both will help bring?
-B. Coutant

I think both Edwards and Biden would be the most help in Obama's weakest region: the Rust Belt swing states of MI, OH and PA. It's possible Edwards could help a tad in NC or in GA... but I think primarily both would help in wining over working class whites in those three Rust Belt states.

Why hasn't there been much discussion about Al Gore as the Vice Presidential candidate? Seems to me he satisfies a variety of criteria--well-known, safe, experienced, seen as qualified to be President, re-assuring for many voters, can lead environmental/energy/global warming policy initiatives, relatively young etc....
-Elton B

THere are a lot of Dem elders inside the party pushing the Gore as VP idea. I don't buy it; I can't imagine Gore would want to be somebody else's number 2... again; but who knows, if Obama offers him a co-presidency of sorts, maybe he'll be tempted. I think you are more likely to see Gore's 2000 primary rival on the Obama short list before Gore (I'm talking about Bill Bradley).

Chuck, are there books, recent or otherwise, that stand out for you, that you'd recommend as particularly insightful about the U.S. political process? Also, are you working on or planning any literary efforts of your own?
-Lenore K.

Like anyone who finds themselves on TV, I aspire to write a book; But I hope to do one that doesn't read as if I dictated it into a recorder and had it transcribed. The two books I usually recommend to aspiring political reporters are "What it Takes" by Richard Ben Cramer (a chronicle of the '88 presidential race) and Hunter S. THompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72... a humorous, yet political smart (though VERY liberal) look at that race.

How big a liability has Bush presidency placed on the Republican party?
-brian anderson-372196

I think it's THE liability for the party.

Hi Chuck,

How do you view Obama's decision to move his acceptence speech to a 75,000-seat stadium? Do you this will lead to a bigger post-convention bounce or have little effect?
-Neal NJ

Well, let's see what he actually says because we declare his bounce to automatically be huge; That said, I think it will lead to a bigger bounce for Obama in the state of Colo., an important swing state because so many locals will now have the chance to attend the convention, something that is normally the case. But I also think the decision to move the speech to the football stadium actually helped Obama reign in expectations for his acceptance speech a bit. The bar was so high already that this venue change gives another level of drama for the speech that can allow Obama to still surpass the already high expectations for his speech that simply giving a traditional acceptance speech in the Pepsi Center would not have.

Although the situation is fluid and we are four months away from the elections, who do you think will end up winning the White House?

I think the playing field is tilted in Obama's favor but McCain's the best candidate the GOP could have nominated under the circumstances.

How coincidental do you think Florida Governor Charlie Crist's engagement was?

I know what the cynical side of folks believe on this... but one can't help who they fall in love with so I choose to not question someone's personal life motivations.

Why is America talking so tough to Iran out of one side of our mouth and selling millions in household goods out the other side?

It's a great question. Iran's been a frustrating country to watch from the sidelines. On one hand, the country has the potential to be the next India, economically. And yet, there's a conservative religious element in the country that doesn't want to see Iran become a westernized economy despite the potential the country has of becoming a big deal. And that split screen view of the country leads to the conflicting ways we interact with them, both as a government and in the private sector.

Hi Chuck.
Is there a place to find out how the Bush tax cuts affected different people based on income? i.e. if you made >$50k your tax benefit was $X and if you made $200k it was $Y

I'd like to know what the actual $ impact would be if the cuts were repealed.
-MI, Rochester NY

There should be and we probably should have something like this for users on our own web site. I gotta think we can find something along these lines somewhere online.

Over the past few months, I've seen an assortment of bizarre Internet rumors concerning Obama. I'm sure you know the ones... the type of strange statements that turn up on Snopes.com.
What I'm wondering is whether these are independent of each other (just originating from individual citizens with prejudices), or whether these belong to a deliberate smear campaign on the part of another campaign or organization?

If I knew the answer to this question, you'd know the answer. I think the internet is spurring all sorts of dark side antics among amateur political strategists. I don't think this is coordinated; i think it's contagious.

I am curious about the new McCain camp strategy. They seem to be hitting Obama on his most divisive issues; re McCain's noting of Obama's abortion stance, his Iran stance and his flipflop with public financing. Do you think the new strategy is conceding to Obama that he does lead the narrative of this race only to then make this race a referendum on the characters of the candidates... or, do you think it is too early to tell if this will be the strategy of "The Bullet"?

I think they need to concede this, cause he does own the narrative, seemingly, plus it allows them to distance themselves from the Bush persona who would otherwise be the "other" person in this election... thoughts?

I think Team McCain believes the campaign should be a referendum on Obama's character and experience; I think Team Obama believes the campaign should be a referendum on the Bush-led GOP; The one thing we know this campaign won't be is a referendum on John McCain.

Can you share how Joe Scarborough's baby is doing? As the father of a baby born 10 weeks premature, I'm aware of what a challenging road it can be.
-Neal NJ

The fact you are seeing Joe on set in NY means it's all good news at home; His son is now home, weeks before doctors thought.

Hello, Chuck

You stated in the veepstakes that Kathleen Sebelius didn't have much of a chance at the VP spot, because she isn't Hillary. Question #1 - Do you honestly believe that? There's no better choice than Kathleen Sebelius in my opinion. She has executive experience, she can help kill the idea that "Hillary" is the only chance for a female president in my lifetime!" that some women have, she appeals to independents, moderates, and moderate Republicans, and she's a solid campaigner who can appeal to midwesterners. I know she doesn't have the foreign policy experience, but I think he could probably choose Kathleen if, at the same time, he announces a few of his main Cabinet positions and they include a boat load of foreign policy experts. I thought foreign policy was the job of the President, Secretary of Defense and the National Security Advisor. Question #2- What role does the vice president play concerning foreign policy? Thanks

Well, I think Obama would like to pick Sebelius, to be honest. Obama personally has a good relationship with her but I think the potential politics of an October nat'l security surprise dictates that the VP pick for Obama has to have nat'l security cred. It may seem silly in the long run but I think the politics of the moment dictates that. That said, I think Sebelius is on the short list and is being vetted.

As a Dem living in MT, don't count us as a red state just yet. Has anyone been paying attention to what our Rep. party is doing in the Senate race against Bacus? They voted Lib. Kelleher in and our now trying to get someone else to run. Kellerher has ran for every office you can imagine since 73, and lost all of them! We have Dem governor and two Dem Senators, Rehberg is the only Rep left... The tide might be changing more than you think in this "red" state.
-Jeanine Unsworth

That is one wacky SEN candidate that the GOP nominated; I've been reading about his self-oppo research that he released. Wow, this guy's a character. As for Montana turning blue; it's possible. My best guess is that if Montana ends up blue, it means Obama won some 300+ electoral votes;

Hello Guru:
I have some questions for you on the presidential election. first, why is it that most of McCain's gaffs are not been re-aired just like that of Senator Barack Obama. secondly, who do u honestly believe Obama would choose has his running mate, and who is best for him as a pair. Lastly, do you really believe McCain has a chance of winning this presidential election, because am seriously scared o McCain been a President. Thanks and keep up the good work
-Benzzy Sunny

1. I think Obama's getting the frontrunner treatment; 2. my best guess these days is Biden; 3. I think McCain has a better chance than, say, Bob Dole.

Chuck - Gail Collins wrote an insightful column this morning in the NYTimes. She pointed out that Obama has been running as a change candidate who has made clear from the outset his intention to be less ideological than previous Democratic and Republican candidates. She notes that nobody should be surprised by his positions on issues like the Second Amendment or child rape or faith-based initiatives. She observed that his primary consideration when taking a position, has been and remains "is it dumb?"

My observations about Obama have been similar. I am a Republican who intends to vote for Obama because he seems to address issues one at a time without all that much partisanship. I agree with Gail that aside from campaign finance, Obama has been pretty darn consistent about what he believes and what he will do.

And yet Morning Joe and others seem to promote the silly "flip flop" story every morning.

Is it me or is Gail Collins the only one listening out there or are the TV pundits simply looking to fill time?

I have beIs it me or . questionss atake intends to bring both sides together by

She made the best case for defending Obama's supposed flip-flops than the candidate himself. I think it's how Obama's handled these questions about the supposed flip-flops which have driven this narrative.

Hey Chuck,

I was wondering what you think the costs/benefits of choosing Tom Ridge as McCain's VP would be. It seems to me that Mitt Romney and Tom Ridge would be the best choices for him based solely on electoral math, but the notion of Ridge as VP seems to get shot down pretty fast because he is pro-choice. How badly do you think that would honestly damage McCain? The very socially conservative republicans already aren't particularly pleased with McCain being the nominee, won't they still hold their nose and vote for him with Ridge on the ticket? Which states do you think he would be at risk of losing over this issue?
-Brian S., Maryland

I think McCain's spooked enough about losing evangelical support in places like GA, NC and VA that he won't do it. But I'm of the opinion that McCain may need to take a rise and Ridge just might help carry PA and could easily end up being a good enough campaigner to convince conservatives that he isn't going to force his abortion views on McCain or his judicial appointments. We'll see.

What are the key qualities that Obama needs in a VP candidate? Similarly, McCain?

Obama needs to pick someone who is seen as credible on national security and makes Obama seem like a comfortable, safer choice. McCain needs someone who will convince the electorate that he is not a conventional Republican and that he is truly an agent of change.

As a Dem living in MT, don't count us as a red state just yet. Has anyone been paying attention to what our Rep. party is doing in the Senate race against Bacus? They voted Lib. Kelleher in and our now trying to get someone else to run. Kellerher has ran for every office you can imagine since 73, and lost all of them! We have Dem governor and two Dem Senators, Rehberg is the only Rep left... The tide might be changing more than you think in this "red" state.
-Jeanine Unsworth

I answered a MT question earlier: bottom line, I don't expect MT to go blue and, say, FL and OH to go red. My guess is that if MT turns blue, so will enough states to give Obama an electoral landslide. That's why McCain isn't contesting MT; he knows if he can't carry MT, he can't carry a lot of swing states.

Will the candidates get some time to rest before the election? Should we expect during the Olympics for things to be pretty slow
-Marie Thomas

Both candidates will likely take one more week off before the convos... Olympics seems like a good time to take a break

Folks like Bill O'Reilly say that NBC News is in the tank for Obama. What say you?
-Brandon Ragle

I know he's wrong. I don't THINK he's wrong; I know he is; since I work here; We are covering the election, not trying to influence it; O'Reilly appears to be the one with the agenda given his obsession over us.

why does the media allow the candiates to spin everything without calling them out on it.
example - Obama camp saying Graham thinks the high prices and bad economy are only in people heads?

Why would the reporter not say: Now that is not what he say we all know he said that the reession is mental because the truth is we are not in a recession according to the definition of a recession?

We do the best we can... we can't always assume candidates are spinning; our job is to cover what they are saying; give context and let viewers and voters decide what's right and wrong. But our job is certainly to give enough relevant information so that the viewer can make an informed decision.

Do the Udall's Senate runs in CO and NM bring coat tails to Obama?
-JC; San Diego

I think Tom Udall is in a stronger position to provide help to Obama in NM than Mark is in CO. Mark may need Obama more than Obama needs Mark.

Tony C and Craingirl raise some very interesting numbers. What was raised peripherally is the coattail effect. For Obama to achieve passage of legislation in the senate he needs to have a filibuster proof majority which means a net gain of nine seats. Currently there are open seats in Colorado and New Mexico. The last polling data I saw showed Rick Noriega 5 points behind in Texas. Thus the selection of Bill Richardson for Veep could mean that he could campaign for the democratic candidates in those states. Also, another interesting will be Georgia which has only a 4% Latino population but Bob Barr is running as a Libertarian and I expect that there will be a Libertarian running against incumbent Saxby Chambliss for the senate seat. The combination of Richardson, increased Democratic registration and the lingering distaste for the Karl Rove classic smear campaign which Chambliss ran against Max Cleland could put the peach state in the win column for the dems. Richardson could also have a beneficial in some Florida house races such as those against the Diaz-Blart brothers. The south Florida Hispanic vote is no longer monolihtically Republican and tends to split based upon age and place of birth. Also the I4 corridor particularly around Orlando is increasingly Hispanic, primarily Puerto Rican but others as well and Richarrdson could help the GOTV effort there. In short Richardson could be influential in picking up 3 possibly 4 of the needed 9 seats in the senate and thus is worthy of consideration.

I just don't think Richardson impressed a lot of folks with his own pres. run which is why I think he won't end up on the very short list. As for Obama getting a filibuster proof senate; it's HIGHLY unlikely; I think Dems will pick up betwen 5-8 seats but come a few short of the magic number of 60. But here's the crazy thing, it wouldn't totally shock me if somehow Dems did get 60, the landscape is that bad right now for the GOP.

hello, since you are the man with the map and the numbers and i do enjoy the possibilities that what happens if or that happens.

if you were to do an analysis of the comments on your discussion board, does it not seem to be overwhelmingly pro obama? and if you agree what then would you say on tv about this interactive conversation.
i too like richardson very much as a person, but i don't think he will bring much to obama's ticket in the second slot. biden has been a great spokesperson for obama and is most definitely up on obama's positions. if that is the criteria then he is perfect.

bloomberg brings more to the table than the jewish vote in florida, he is seen as an independent person and he too is quite appealing as a possible running mate.

i like edwards, but i think he took too long to endorse obama. which for me demonstrated a lack of political courage, but if that is the dividing line then we are back to richardson -- for all the heat he took for his early endorsement.

i'm glad caroline kennedy is on the team to gather info on the possible choices. from what i read recently she is very good at talking the talk and getting people to talk to her and she is also a champ with her dealings with the press -- she doesn't. she keeps her own thoughts to herself and shares them with obama.

so, chuck, back to my question of -- what will you say after reading all the messages -- what is your analysis of people's varied perspectives.

I definitely detect a pro-Obama tilt in these questions. We are doing our best to advertise this chat in some conservative blogs in order to even out the debate. I think folks on both sides of the aisle would benefit from a bipartisan discussion.

Hi Chuck (and gang of educated voters too!!)

I live in metro-Detroit, and I know Michigan is a swing state in this election. Things are bad here...think Flint in the 80's. I wo