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NBC Hypes 'Squabbling' in Romney Campaign: Is it an 'Ominous Sign'?

Pushing the narrative of Mitt Romney losing the presidential election on Monday's NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie seized on an article in Politico that "details squabbling among Romney advisers, a lot of blind quotes, anonymous quotes." She turned to political director Chuck Todd and wondered: "Is this a fairly ominous sign for the campaign, that they're already blaming each other anonymously in print?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Todd proclaimed: "Well, this certainly doesn't happen in winning campaigns, right, Savannah? This is the type of thing you read about losing campaigns. It reads like a pre-bituary, if you will, as if people are looking to see who's going to get the blame for blowing the Republican Party's best chance at knocking off an incumbent president in nearly 30 years."

However, Todd did downplay the report to some degree: "That said, this feels like over-panic, if you will. 50 days, we still have a ways to go."

Earlier in the discussion, Guthrie asked about the political impact of the crisis in the Middle East: "Romney is obviously trying to seize the moment, but I guess the question is, is he smart to go with foreign policy, to the extent that distracts him from the economy, which is his calling card for the election?"

Todd suggested more Republican infighting: "There's an internal dispute in the campaign about which direction to go....I think that's sort of the dispute internally in the campaign....the Romney folks don't want to look like they're off message....and the public may turn around and say, 'Hey, wait a minute, what about the economy?'"

Here is a full transcript of the September 17 exchange:

7:09AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: How are these attacks and protests abroad impacting the presidential race? Chuck Todd is NBC's political director, chief White House correspondent. Chuck, good morning to you.

CHUCK TODD: Good morning, Savannah.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Politics & Protests; How Are Obama & Romney Reacting to Embassy Attacks?]

GUTHRIE: Of course, these events don't take place in a vacuum, they take place in the middle of a presidential campaign, and all along the President's advisers have said they worried about an outside event, something beyond their control that could impact the campaign. Does – do these protests in the Middle East have the potential to have that kind of impact to the extent they expose weakness in the President's policies?

TODD: Look, they do. By the way, I'm reminded, listening to [Al Arabiya Washington Bureau chief] Hisham [Melhem], all politics is local, even overseas, and when you hear some of his descriptions of what's going on. But, yes, this qualifies as one of those events. And it plays into this narrative of, okay, are things better? You know, the President made promises about an outreach to the Muslim world. Are things better? Matt brought up the speech in Cairo. I remember being at that speech. I think you and I were both traveling with the President at that time, and to think that this is what we're seeing almost four years later, where America is being protested as if it didn't matter who was president again. So I think when it calls into question some of those promises, yes, this is the type of unexpected event that could end up, looking back, it could be one of those things that derails the reelection.

GUTHRIE: And meantime, Mitt Romney is obviously trying to seize the moment, but I guess the question is, is he smart to go with foreign policy, to the extent that distracts him from the economy, which is his calling card for the election?

TODD: Savannah, there's an internal dispute in the campaign about which direction to go, because on the one hand you could make the argument this plays into status quo versus change. Are you better off? Are you better off in the relationship in the Middle East? Are things better off here at home? On the other hand, at the same time, is the economic message working? You know, that's what he had been focused on for seven months, and it hadn't made progress, it sort of hit a ceiling. So I think that's sort of the dispute internally in the campaign. On one hand, the Romney folks don't want to look like they're off message. You know, foreign policy crisis, as fast as they come, arise, they sometimes dissipate just as quickly and the public may turn around and say, "Hey, wait a minute, what about the economy?"

GUTHRIE: And real quickly, I want to ask you about an article in Politico which details squabbling among Romney advisers, a lot of blind quotes, anonymous quotes. Is this a fairly ominous sign for the campaign, that they're already blaming each other anonymously in print?

TODD: Well, this certainly doesn't happen in winning campaigns, right, Savannah? This is the type of thing you read about losing campaigns. It reads like a pre-bituary, if you will, as if people are looking to see who's going to get the blame for blowing the Republican Party's best chance at knocking off an incumbent president in nearly 30 years.

That said, this feels like over-panic, if you will. 50 days, we still have a ways to go. Those first debates are still coming up, and I've got to tell you, both campaigns are so concerned about the first debates, they both have taken a lot more time out of their schedules to do debate prep than maybe people realize.

GUTHRIE: Alright, Chuck Todd in our Washington newsroom, thank you.