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NBC's Lauer Asks: 'How Big a Gift' for Obama Are GOP Attacks on Romney?

On Friday's NBC Today, after touting an ad from the Democratic National Committee attacking Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital by using sound bites from his Republican opponents, co-host Matt Lauer asked Meet the Press host David Gregory: "David, is it too early to tell how big a gift these Republican candidates have given to Barack Obama and his campaign?"

In response, Gregory joked: "It may be a stocking stuffer at this point." He explained: "We know that this was going to be a line of attack that the President's going to use. I think that Romney, by the time of the general, will be pretty well prepared....But there's no question that the President will pick up this baton and run with it."

In the DNC ad, this text appeared on screen: "Mitt Romney has a record of destroying the economic lives of companies, individuals, and entire communities as a corporate buyout specialist."

Here is a full transcript of the January 13 segment:

7:08AM ET

MATT LAUER: Let's bring NBC's David Gregory into the mix. He, of course, is the moderator of Meet the Press. David, good morning.

DAVID GREGORY: Good morning, Matt.

LAUER: It seems like there's conflict here, there's confusion. And some of these Republican candidates aren't sure of the message they want to send out right now. Is Mitt Romney a bad guy, a vulture capitalist, or do they start to think that's hurting them?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Decision 2012; Have Attacks on Romney Backfired?]

GREGORY: Well, they certainly think it's starting to hurt them. They're hearing the chorus within the Republican Party saying, "Don't do this." And it does smack of desperation. It also smacks of something else, that there's really no alternative to Romney. The best they've come up with is an alternative idea, which is not a separate narrative from what Romney's offering, it's simply to say he's going to have a real problem against Obama because of this issue. But it's become complicated by even Gingrich saying, "Well, I'm just asking questions. You know, this is part of the mix. I'm really going to attack him for being a conservative." None of this is helping one alternative emerge to really challenge Romney.

LAUER: And what adds to the confusion here is while the candidates might be saying one thing, the super-PACs that support them are clearly saying something else. So I guess the question is what are the people of South Carolina going to believe?

GREGORY: Well, they're going to have to believe both and they're going to have to believe that it's all one message, even if you're not supposed to coordinate. If you're Newt Gingrich, you're saying one thing on the stump, you're maybe backing off the Bain bashing for just a day. You still have a super-PAC out there that has this film attacking Romney for his time in Bain leading that charge, that's going to go on and voters are going to see all of that. In the meantime, you see this evidence of what numerous Republicans have been talking about in South Carolina to me, consolidation around Romney. Some establishment support behind him, leading conservative figures. By the way, Jim DeMint, the senior senator down there, who is all but endorsing him by saying he doesn't have a problem with him and that some of these attacks are a mistake.

LAUER: Well, but he hasn't come right out and said he's endorsing him. He did endorse Mitt Romney in 2008. And he, to this date I believe, has remained neutral. But I agree with you. His defense of Mitt Romney certainly leads us in that direction.

GREGORY: Yeah, no question about it. And could he tip the balance? He could certainly help with social conservatives. He did endorse Romney back in 2008, that didn't help up against John McCain. But John McCain only won with 33% in 2008. And with a splintered field you look to see a potential result along the same lines, if Romney doesn't do even better.

LAUER: Yeah, and if Mitt Romney becomes the nominee, we've talked about this over the last several days. Not only do these attacks hurt him in the primaries, but if he does become the nominee, they could spell trouble in the general election. To that end, take a look at an ad or some footage that's already been released by the DNC. We'll talk about it on the other side.

[TEXT ON SCREEN IN AD: Mitt Romney has a record of destroying the economic lives of companies, individuals, and entire communities as a corporate buyout specialist. But don't take our word for it. Here's what his fellow Republicans and pundits had to say:

JON HUNTSMAN: Governor Romney enjoys firing people.

RICK PERRY: There's a real difference between venture capitalism and vulture capitalism...

[END OF AD CLIP]

LAUER: David, is it too early to tell how big a gift these Republican candidates have given to Barack Obama and his campaign?

GREGORY: It may be a stocking stuffer at this point. We know that this was going to be a line of attack that the President's going to use. I think that Romney, by the time of the general, will be pretty well prepared, if he's the nominee, to take this issue on and make it part of a broader question about the economy. But there's no question that the President will pick up this baton and run with it.

LAUER: Who do you have Sunday on Meet the Press, David?

GREGORY: We have Newt Gingrich on his final stand in South Carolina. Also, the majority leader of the Senate, Harry Reid, to talk about what kind of year we're going to see out of Washington. And I will add my voice, too. Happy 6-0, Matt.

LAUER: Well, we are the second longest running show on television, I believe, behind your formidable program, David. So thank you very much, appreciate it.

GREGORY: Thanks, Matt.


- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.