NBC Demands Rubio and Trump Attack Each Other

In back-to-back interviews on Wednesday’s NBC Today, hosts Savannah Guthrie and Willie Geist repeatedly urged Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Donald Trump to attack each other. Talking to Rubio first, Guthrie pleaded: “You've got you and Ted Cruz and some of the other candidates fighting each other, and Trump sailing to victory. A lot of Republicans asking this morning, why not take on Trump directly? What's your answer to that?”

In a follow-up, Geist, filling in for Matt Lauer, claimed to be “channeling a lot of Republicans and conservatives” who “have grown increasingly frustrated that you're not specifically going after Donald Trump, and that you seem more focused on Ted Cruz.” He pressed the Florida Senator: “Why not go at Donald Trump right now?”

Rubio called out the attempt to get Republicans to tear each other down:

Well, first of all, I haven't heard that, and I talk to people all day. I go to rallies all the time, I don't have any voters begging me to attack anyone. Second, I understand – I think that's a media narrative. A lot of people in the media want to see Republicans attacking each other because it makes for good television.

Immediately following the exchange with Rubio, Guthrie and Geist turned to a phone interview with Donald Trump. Geist tried to get Trump to provide a preview of an attack on Rubio: “Mr. Trump, we just talked to Senator Rubio. He's being criticized for not going after you more directly. It strikes me that he's the one guy you haven't really gone after....When it's time, and when you decide it is time to go after Senator Rubio, what will be your line of criticism of him?”

Trump refused to take the bait: “Well, I wouldn't want to tell you. I mean, I wouldn’t want to go that far, but so far he's been very nice and I think I've been very nice to him. We haven't been in that mode yet, but probably it'll happen. And if it doesn't happen, that would be a wonderful thing.”

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Geist tried to tee him up again: “As you look at his record and the things he's done as a United States Senator, what are your impressions?” Again, Trump resisted: “Well, he's somewhat inexperienced, he’s young, and you know, nice guy. He’s a very nice guy. But we'll be talking about it at the right time if it comes up. I mean, so far, really, it hasn't come up.”

After Trump started going after Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Guthrie interjected: “Why go after Cruz if Rubio’s the one who seems to be doing better in the polls and getting closer to you?”

Moments later, sounding like someone encouraging a school yard brawl, Guthrie suggested Rubio was afraid to fight with Trump: “Why do you think Senator Rubio hasn't gone after you? Many Republicans think somebody’s got to take you on. This has to become a one-on-one race. And we just talked to him about it, he hasn't done that. Why do you think? Do you think he's – fears taking you on?”

Trump replied: “Well, maybe because 14 people went after me and 14 people are now, you know, officially gone....But he – he's been very nice, and I think I've been respectful to him, and we'll see what happens....I'm not sure, you'll have to ask him that question.”

Here are transcripts of the questions put to Rubio and Trump in the February 24 interviews:

Rubio Interview
7:09 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Well, there have now been these four Republican contests. Donald Trump has won three of them. We've seen the race – the field of candidates narrow. And yet, this dynamic seems to be the same. You've got you and Ted Cruz and some of the other candidates fighting each other, and Trump sailing to victory. A lot of Republicans asking this morning, why not take on Trump directly? What's your answer to that?

(...)

GUTHRIE: But in point of fact, some candidates have dropped out – sorry to interrupt – but some candidates have dropped out, and actually, what we've seen is Donald Trump grow his numbers. I know you say Nevada is an outlier, but he got 46% of the vote last night.

(...)

WILLIE GEIST: Senator Rubio, I'm channeling a lot of Republicans and conservatives who like you and support you but have grown increasingly frustrated that you're not specifically going after Donald Trump, and that you seem more focused on Ted Cruz. Their concern seems to be that by the time you get rid of Ted Cruz – if that is, in fact, the strategy – it'll be too late. Donald Trump will have too many states and too many delegates. Why not go at Donald Trump right now?

(...)


Trump Interview
7:12 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: You came kind of close to declaring victory of the whole nomination last night. You said, “It's going to be an amazing two months, it might not even take two months.” Clearly, you're feeling good. Is this nomination yours to lose at this point?

(...)

WILLIE GEIST: Mr. Trump, we just talked to Senator Rubio. He's being criticized for not going after you more directly. It strikes me that he's the one guy you haven't really gone after. You've gone after almost everybody else in the field, many of them not in the race anymore. When it's time, and when you decide it is time to go after Senator Rubio, what will be your line of criticism of him?
(...)

GEIST: As you look at his record and the things he's done as a United States Senator, what are your impressions?

(...)

GUTHRIE: Why go after Cruz if Rubio’s the one who seems to be doing better in the polls and getting closer to you? Granted, not close if you look at Nevada's results last night.

(...)

GUTHRIE: Why do you think Senator Rubio hasn't gone after you? Many Republicans think somebody’s got to take you on. This has to become a one-on-one race. And we just talked to him about it, he hasn't done that. Why do you think? Do you think he's – fears taking you on?

(...)

GEIST: We just heard you in a piece a few minutes ago calling Ted Cruz “a little baby.” You talked this week, also, about wanting to punch a protester who was misbehaving at one of your events. You’ve said when you become nominee and you become president, you'll change your tone and temperament. But I'm watching how well you're doing, I’m watching how your life has gone with that tone and temperament. Why would you change that if it's working so well for you?

(...)

GEIST: That style, Mr. Trump, has worked well for you in your life, why change it when you become president?

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC