During a report on Tuesday's Nightly News, White House correspondent Chuck Todd was largely dismissive of the current crop of Republican candidates: "[Mitt Romney] skipped the first debate last week, leaving Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty as the only major contender alongside a slew of long shots jockeying for attention."
But when it came to President Obama, Todd declared: "One of the few announced candidates for president was out campaigning and raising money today." Later, Todd put pressure on GOP hopefuls that had yet to announce: "With the clock ticking and President Obama raking in millions, some on the fence are making decisions."
In a similar report on Wednesday's Today, Todd proclaimed: "...the busiest presidential candidate hadn't been a Republican, it's been the incumbent, Barack Obama....[he] worked crowds in Texas, Tuesday, raising money in his push for a second term....with a confident president out raising millions, [GOP] candidates are starting to make decisions."
In both the evening and morning reports, Todd used sound bites from former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and Texas Congressman Ron Paul to mock the first GOP debate in South Carolina. In one clip, Johnson was responding to a question about what kind of reality television show he would have. In another, Paul called for the legalization of drugs like heroine. Todd did not include any of the numerous instances in which the candidates offered sober criticism of Obama's policies.
In addition, in his Today report, Todd strangely left businessman Herman Cain's name off the list of debate participants: "Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty appeared among relative unknowns – former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, among others – at a recent Republican debate." Many Republican South Carolina primary voters thought Cain won the debate.
Here is a full transcript of Todd's May 11 report on Today:
MATT LAUER: Let's turn now to the presidential race in 2012. The GOP field is starting to take shape. With former House Speaker Newt Gingrich officially throwing his hat into the ring today. Chuck Todd is NBC's chief White House correspondent and political director. Chuck, good morning.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Gingrich Running; Who Else in GOP Will Challenge Obama in 2012?]
CHUCK TODD: Good morning, Matt. Well, look, over the last month the busiest presidential candidate hadn't been a Republican, it's been the incumbent, Barack Obama. The Republican field has been a little bit unformed, but all of that begins changing today. President Obama worked crowds in Texas, Tuesday, raising money in his push for a second term.
BARACK OBAMA: Now's the time where you can help shape this campaign, just like you did the first time. Make sure we get out of the gate strong.
TODD: The President had an extra bounce in his step, buoyed by recent polls showing him in a better political shape thanks to the capture and the killing of Osama bin Laden.
OBAMA: Those three simple words that summed up our last campaign and that will sum up our spirit as a people, 'Yes we can.' Thank you very much, everybody.
TODD: Still, a new NBC News poll shows that dissatisfaction over the President's handling of the economy lingers, with just 37% approving of the job he's doing. Giving Republicans a clear opening in 2012.
But so far, few big name contenders have stepped up. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich makes his candidacy official today with an announcement on Twitter and Facebook. He's trying to confront some of the marital problems that have been a political liability by making his third wife, Calista, a center piece of his campaign.
And while GOP hopeful Donald Trump has captured most of the headlines in recent weeks, only Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty appeared among relative unknowns – former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, among others – at a recent Republican debate.
RON PAUL [REP. R-TX]: How many people here would use heroine if it was legal? I bet nobody would put their hand up. 'Oh, yeah, I need the government to take care of me, I don't want to use heroine, so I need these laws.'
TODD: Some analysts believe staying off the trail early on is a lesson learned from 2008.
MIKE MURPHY [NBC NEWS REPUBLICAN ANALYST]: They're not going to fall for the trap of last year, we're they got in early, spent $8 or $9 million on wasted overhead while the voters weren't paying attention.
TODD: Still, with a confident president out raising millions, candidates are starting to make decisions. Mitt Romney, who says he is still, quote, 'exploring a bit,' is giving a major speech this week aimed at convincing conservatives that his health care plan in Massachusetts was different from the one President Obama signed into law. Romney's problems with conservatives and the weakness of the current field have Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner pining for more charismatic choices. He told Matt Lauer this about New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie.
JOHN BOEHNER: I think he's done a great job and he speaks English. English, like in plain talk.
TODD: And he said this about Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.
BOEHNER: Another person who's got a real track record of reform in this state, the kind of reforms that we need to have in Washington, D.C.
TODD: Now Matt, we still have a lot of decisions we're awaiting on the Republican side, from Sarah Palin to Mike Huckabee, who's still dominating the polls, to other people like John Huntsman, the former – President Obama's former ambassador to China.
LAUER: Alright, Chuck Todd at the White House. Chuck, as always, thanks very much.