Lauer Tosses Softballs to DNC Chair Tim Kaine on Today

Just a day after NBC's Matt Lauer engaged in a rough interview with Republican New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, Lauer engaged in a much more friendly chat, with DNC chairman Tim Kaine as he helpfully asked the former Virginia Governor, on Wednesday's Today show, what Democrats could do to best "chip away"at the GOP's lead in the polls and "counter" their messages. Lauer also jumped at the chance to ask Kaine about a rumor that Hillary Clinton may join Barack Obama on the 2012 ticket as he prodded Kaine: "Any reason why that would kind of get your juices flowing?"

The following is the full interview with Kaine as it was aired on the October 6 Today show:

MATT LAUER: Former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine is the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Governor Kaine, nice to see you as always. Welcome.

TIM KAINE: Matt, good to be back.

LAUER: Let, let me start with this rumor that we've been hearing. Bob Woodward dropped this on CNN yesterday saying, basically there is consideration or it's on the table that we might see President Obama running with Hillary Clinton in 2012. Have you heard talk about it? Is it something that's crossed your desk?

KAINE: No. Other than seeing speculation about it in the press. I talk to the White House and folks there all the time. And I've never heard any conversation about it.

LAUER: As the chairman of the DNC, any reason why that would kind of get your juices flowing? You think it might be a good idea?

KAINE: My, my job is pretty focused on November 2. I don't even know, you know, is there going to be a November 3? I'm really focused on the next four weeks. And that's way down the line. I think it's kind of like is Randy Moss gonna get traded from the Patriots to the Vikings? It's speculation, but I'm not, I don't think there's anything to it.

LAUER: Let's talk about voter turnout. Obviously it's key to you folks in the November midterm elections.

KAINE: Absolutely.

LAUER: The President has said that it would be irresponsible for Democratic voters to stay home at the midterm elections. Yet in the latest polling it seems that even with a high turnout, Republicans hold a 13 point lead over Democrats. If that turnout is low, that lead swells to 18 percentage points. So how do Democrats chip away at those numbers in the next four weeks?

KAINE: Well it's important Matt. We've got a lot of work to do, but the good news is this, from before Labor Day to October 1, the polls have been moving pretty dramatically in Democrats' favors. Generic poll gaps have narrowed in a number of the polls. They are now even, which they weren't. Enthusiasm gap, which was showing up over the summer, has narrowed. We still have work to do. But both in the generic national polls, but also in race-to-race polls we're seeing our hand improving, both because our candidates are out there doing good work and-

LAUER: Right.

KAINE: -and the Republicans are nominating folks that I think paint a real stark choice between the two parties.

LAUER: Let's talk about some themes. Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, wrote a memo to some Republican candidates yesterday saying, basically, what they, they should do is they should make Democrats the party of food stamps and the Republicans the party of paychecks. If Republican candidates use that idea out on the campaign trail, how do you suggest the Democrats counter it?

KAINE: I think the American public will laugh if Republicans try to be the party of paychecks. They put the economy into a tank, into a lost decade where Americans lost money under Republican leadership. The nation lost jobs and poverty gaps widened. They don't have a credible claim about being the paycheck party. The Democrats who have turned the economy from shrinking to growing again, for the first time in years, we'll be able to trump them on that.

LAUER: You know there, there is some talk - the President has talked tough as of late saying that it's time for Democrats to buck up.

KAINE: Yeah.

LAUER: The Vice President said it's time for Democrats to stop whining. Polling though shows, Governor Kaine, that some Democrats have real differences of opinion with the White House over issues like the economy and health care reform. So when they use talk like that, are you afraid at all that it might backfire? That these Democrats will say, "Wait a minute. This isn't about whining, it's about real legitimate differences."

KAINE: There are differences, Matt. You know one of the great things about the Democratic Party is we're a very diverse party regionally, demographically, but that also means we're diverse in ideology, and that, that swing from the progressives to the Blue Dogs is a good aspect of our party. It's also, occasionally, you know, maddening. But I think the President and Vice President's language here is kind of like the coach giving you, you know, the tough love talk before you go out and start the game. And I've been traveling around heavily the last couple of weeks as the President and the Vice President have been saying those things.

LAUER: Right.

KAINE: I don't see Democrats, you know, bummed out or mad that those things are being said. We're seeing these enthusiasm gaps on the ballot close because our Democratic voters, and others, are realizing the stark choice to be made between a party that's doing the heavy lifting and a party that's saying no.

LAUER: I started with a rumor. Let me end, in the last 10 seconds, there's been some talk that Robert Gibbs is eyeing your job and that you may actually move inside the West Wing. What do you want to tell me about that?

KAINE: That was also news to me when I read it Saturday. I'm just out, you know, fighting my way through TSA lines, doing campaign events.

LAUER: We're always the last to know, aren't we?

KAINE: Yeah you're right. I guess it must be on a need to know basis, as they say.

LAUER: Tim Kaine. Governor, it's always nice to see you. Thanks very much.

KAINE: Thanks a lot Matt.

LAUER: Alright.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.