At the top of Sunday's NBC Meet the Press, moderator David Gregory announced Mitt Romney was backed "against the wall" in the presidential race and proceeded to ask both New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Obama advisor David Plouffe: "Is the race over?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
After Christie rejected the notion and suggested Romney's performance in the upcoming first debate on Wednesday would reset the campaign, Gregory incredulously replied: "Why isn't it too late to believe that the presidential debates, after you announce your running mate, after you have your own convention including keynoter Chris Christie, that you can restart with the presidential debates?"
Like Christie, Plouffe dismissed the idea of the race being over, prompting Gregory to observe: "But you don't look like a guy who thinks that they're going to come back and tie it in Ohio." Plouffe then laughably responded: "We know the news media is anxious to write the Romney recovery and comeback story."
Gregory seemed more anxious to write the Romney campaign obituary.
Filling in for Matt Lauer on Monday's Today, Gregory kept up the drumbeat of Romney being on the ropes. Wrapping up an interview with Callista Gingrich about her new patriotic children's book, Gregory turned to politics: "Big debate coming up this week....How do you handicap this one?...Is his back against the wall here? Is there a sense he's behind and this is sort of his last moment?"
Here are relevant portions of the September 30 Meet the Press:
10:30AM ET TEASE:
DAVID GREGORY: This morning on Meet the Press, Mitt Romney needs a game change. Is the first presidential debate it? He's back now against the wall. Romney is behind in all of our battleground polls. The candidate presses for a rebound.
10:32AM ET SEGMENT:
GREGORY: Joining me now, the Republican Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie. Governor, welcome back to Meet the Press.
CHRIS CHRISTIE: Happy to be back, David. Good morning.
GREGORY: Let's look at the state of the race. The key battleground states, nine of them, we've done polling in all and here's the result. In all nine, it's Obama advantage across the board. Look at Ohio, plus seven. Look at Virginia, plus five. These are key states. Is the race over?
CHRISTIE: Absolutely not. And that happened pretty quickly, right, David? I mean, you saw the change in those polls happen very quickly. And – and I'm here to tell you this morning, it can happen very quickly back the other way, and I think the beginning of that is Wednesday night when Governor Romney for the first time gets on the same stage with the President of the United States and people can make a direct comparison about them and their visions for the future. And Wednesday night is the restart of this campaign and I think you're going to see those numbers start to move right back in the other direction.
GREGORY: How do you restart a campaign, Governor, at that last moment where you can reach tens of millions of people? Why isn't it too late to believe that the presidential debates, after you announce your running mate, after you have your own convention including keynoter Chris Christie, that you can restart with the presidential debates?
10:46AM ET SEGMENT:
GREGORY: Is this race over?
DAVID PLOUFFE: Absolutely not.
GREGORY: But you don't look like a guy who thinks that they're going to come back and tie it in Ohio.
PLOUFFE: Well, three o'clock in the morning I wasn't sleeping because you worry about everything. So no, no. We – first of all, there's some benefit from be – going through this before. There's going to be ups or downs. We know the news media is anxious to write the Romney recovery and comeback story. So we understand that – first of all, we're not going to win battleground states by 10, 12 points. This race is going to tighten. We – we've built the presidential campaign with the belief that it's going to come down to a few votes in a few states. So this race is going to tighten.