An analysis of the 2016 presidential race, predictions for Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush and witty remarks doused with pointed humor were all components of Todd’s political lecture at John Carroll University’s Donahue Auditorium on Wednesday, March 18.
The Rev. Robert Niehoff, S.J. kicked off the talk, welcoming WKYC’s Russ Mitchell, lead anchor and evening news managing editor, to the podium. Mitchell then introduced Chuck Todd.
Todd currently serves as moderator of NBC’s Sunday morning political talk show, “Meet the Press,” as well as NBC News’ political director. Before that, Todd was NBC’s chief White House correspondent, and hosted MSNBC’s weekday morning political talk show, “The Daily Rundown.”
Todd began the talk, saying, half-jokingly, “I can’t take three steps from my office without running into a John Carroll grad these days. You guys are everywhere.”
This brought a laugh and a round of applause from the JCU community.
The self-described political junkie kept the lecture light, mixing in his witty comments with astute insight on the presidential election campaigns.
According to Todd, the presidential race has escalated and is happening significantly faster than six months ago.
“There’s a lot of things that happened that changed this,” Todd explained.
The first thing to happen? Jeb Bush’s campaign.
“When he decided to run, he went quick,” said Todd. “There was a lot of skepticism about whether or not he was going to run. He’d been sort of sitting out there as a candidate and waiting for a couple of cycles, but there’s been this sense of, ‘Oh, he’s really not going to do it. His last name is too much of a barrier, so it’s not going to happen.’”
Todd explained why Bush was determined to disprove that notion.
“Since he went early, you could see the panic in the rest of the Republican people,” said Todd.
Todd explained that the American people are going to see more news about the presidential race within the next two or three weeks.
“It’s all a bit of a scramble,” he explained. “[The candidates] wanted to wait closer to Memorial Day to get things started, but that’s not going to happen.”
Todd added that this campaign calendar is important for Washington, D.C.
“The minute campaigns take over, Washington’s not going to get anything done,” said Todd. “We have an escalated calendar, so this race is full on.”
According to Todd, Clinton is predicted to announce within the next three weeks or so. However, this wasn’t always her plan.
“They wanted to wait, but they can’t,” he said.
Todd went on to explain the importance of timing for Clinton, and why her supporters want to delay the start of her campaign.
“One of the lingering historical elements of Hillary Clinton in her politics is that the idea that Hillary Clinton is always more popular when she’s the off-story,” said Todd. “Her numbers have always been highest when she’s not the central focus.”
Todd drew on past history to support his claim, mentioning the Monica Lewinsky story, Clinton’s time as senator and secretary of state, as well as her previous presidential campaign.
“You’re starting to see now when she’s becoming the central political figure, her numbers are back down to a more polarizing level,” he added. “We say the same thing happened back in ’93 and ’94 when she was the central figure during healthcare.”
Todd also talked about the function of Washington and the possible challenges Bush and Clinton might face. He later took questions from the audience.
Both professors and students applauded Todd for sharing his insights on the presidential race and his vast knowledge of politics.
Junior and student body president, Cole Hassay, said, “Being the anchor of ‘Meet the Press,’ Chuck Todd has a unique perspective [on] politics and the media – something he made apparent during his visit. His engagement with students was excellent, and I hope that one day we can invite him back to campus.”
Senior Shamir Brice echoed Hassay’s opinion. “Chuck Todd is one of the brightest political analysts and commentators alive today. For him to share his thoughts and analysis with students at John Carroll was an incredible experience for myself and other John Carroll students,” said Brice. “His thoughts on the challenges of Jeb Bush’s run for the Republican nomination and challenges Hillary Clinton will face in the general election were very insightful. I also loved it when he said that our generation needs to get into politics so that we can fix a very broken Washington.”
Colin Swearingen, professor of political science, agreed with Hassay and Brice, saying, “Chuck Todd was prescient in his comments on the state of the 2016 elections, media and politics. I think students were impressed and challenged by his optimism in the Millennial generation and the comparison between us and the Greatest Generation. It felt like he would have talked politics all day if he could, and I think the John Carroll community appreciated that.”