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NBC's Lauer Chats With Obama About GOP Candidates 'Pummeling Each Other,' Cues Obama on If Romney 'Can Identify with Middle Class?'

Once again touting the latest cover of New Yorker magazine, NBC Today co-host Matt Lauer lobbed this softball to President Obama in a pre-Super Bowl interview: "...you watching the big game on TV...on screen it's not the Patriots and the Giants. It's Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, same team, and they are pummeling each other. And look at the smile on your face there. Is art imitating life here?" [Listen to the audio]



Obama began to answer: "Well, you know, look, I've been through these primaries, they're tough." Lauer quickly followed up: "But does this help you?" In an interview with Mitt Romney on Wednesday, Lauer promoted the same magazine cover and wondered about the ongoing primary race: "How can it not damage you?"

In an earlier segment, Lauer cued Obama up to expound on whether he thinks 'Romney can identify with the middle class and the underclass in this country?' Lauer:


Mitt Romney is the guy who's running for your job. He may eventually become the nominee. He's a guy who's been incredibly successful in his life and career. He's made a lot of money. It's not a crime. It's part of the American dream. Do you think though that Mitt Romney can identify with the middle class and the underclass in this country?


Lauer did follow up:

This idea of being able to reach out and connect to the middle class and having the middle class reach out to a political candidate. On Friday you held a fundraiser. You raised $900,000 in a couple hours, twenty-five wealthy individuals paid $36,000 apiece to spend a couple of hours with you. How do you think the guy sitting, drinking a beer and eating chips watching the game today can identify with something like that?


Back to the later excerpt, Lauer continued to go soft on the President, asking about the First Lady:

Mrs. Obama gave an interview recently reacting to something that was written about her in a recent book, where she said that, you know, the image that has been out there since you decided to run for president was she was some kind of angry black woman....as a husband, how does it make you feel when she's forced to address something that's clearly a characterization that upsets her?


Obama replied: "You know, as a husband, one of the things – and a father, one of the things that is toughest for me is that my family gets brought into the political realm, which isn't always very pleasant. And you know, that weighs on me."

Lauer then assumed the President's re-election: "Is she ready for four more years?" Obama declared: "Well, I think she is....And I think even those folks who wish that I was doing more of this or more of that or questioning me on these policies or those policies, when you ask them about Michelle Obama, they give her a thumbs-up, and rightfully so."

Here is a transcript of that portion of the interview aired on the February 6 Today:

8:22AM ET

(...)

MATT LAUER: Here we sit on Super Bowl Sunday. There's the cover of the New Yorker, the most recent New Yorker, and it has a picture of you watching the big game on TV. And there you are sitting there and up on screen it's not the Patriots and the Giants. It's Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, same team, and they are pummeling each other. And look at the smile on your face there. Is art imitating life here?

BARACK OBAMA: Well, you know, look, I've been through these primaries, they're tough.

LAUER: But does this help you?

OBAMA: You know, I think ultimately this will be forgotten by the time they make a decision on who their nominee is. And the American people are going to make a decision on my platform and where I want to take the country and where the Republican does. A lot of this stuff is good for selling newspapers and boosting ratings on TV, but I think in the end what they're going to be asking a question about is not the horse race. They're going to be asking, "How is this going to help me in my life?"

LAUER: And finally on a personal note, Mrs. Obama gave an interview recently reacting to something that was written about her in a recent book, where she said that, you know, the image that has been out there since you decided to run for president was she was some kind of angry black woman. And she said, "That's not me. And the way to fight it is just go out there and be me and hopefully people will judge me based on me." Taking the fact that you're the president out of it, as a husband, how does it make you feel when she's forced to address something that's clearly a characterization that upsets her?

OBAMA: You know, as a husband, one of the things – and a father, one of the things that is toughest for me is that my family gets brought into the political realm, which isn't always very pleasant. And you know, that weighs on me. Having said that, Michelle has been as good a first lady as I think anybody can imagine. And when I watch her making a difference all across the country in terms of changing how kids are getting exercise and eating, and the passion she brings to the military families, I could not be prouder of her. I think she had some reservations about taking on this whole process going on this journey at the beginning of it and she's admitted that. She's talked about it. She's turned out to be really good, so-

LAUER: Is she ready for four more years?

OBAMA: Well, I think she is. Because she thinks the work is really important. And I think even those folks who wish that I was doing more of this or more of that or questioning me on these policies or those policies, when you ask them about Michelle Obama, they give her a thumbs-up, and rightfully so.

LAUER: That is President Barack Obama.


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