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NBC's Chuck Todd: White House correspondent, anchor, blogger, twitterer

And another thing . . . Todd calls upon an encyclopedic knowledge of political minutia for his job on MSNBC's "Daily Rundown."
And another thing . . . Todd calls upon an encyclopedic knowledge of political minutia for his job on MSNBC's "Daily Rundown." (Dayna Smith For The Washingtion Post)

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"In the same way the country got exhausted by it, the New York folks got exhausted by it," he says, referring to the executives at 30 Rock. Todd says the morning show can be a "notebook emptier" for the information he vacuums up but can't get on other programs.

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Chip Reid, CBS's White House correspondent, says that when he was at NBC and MSNBC during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, "I would start on 'Imus' at 6 in the morning and finish on 'Geraldo' at 10 at night." But he says Todd can handle it, as he did, because "you just get into that hyper-adrenaline mode."

'A battle of ideas'

On this Tuesday morning, Todd punctuates the news stories with offhand comments. After a report on the frantic efforts to clean up the Gulf oil spill, Todd says the situation is "looking like the plot of a bad B-movie. Unbelievable." But he sounds more authoritative in saying, "There's a presumption that Elena Kagan is a shoo-in."

Guthrie is the smoother interviewer, and when Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch is on, Todd slips into Beltway-speak. If Hatch were up for reelection this year, he asks, "given what happened to your colleague in Utah, could you survive?" Todd doesn't explain to viewers that he's talking about Sen. Robert Bennett, who was defeated for renomination days earlier at a state GOP convention.

They have just enough time for the kicker: "How to train a hamster" -- literally footage of a rodent taught to run an obstacle course. It is television, after all.

The next day Todd flew to New York to analyze the network's latest political poll with Brian Williams, and the day after that he substituted for Chris Matthews on "Hardball." During last Tuesday's primaries -- Todd unsuccessfully pushed MSNBC President Phil Griffin to do wall-to-wall coverage -- he did cable live shots until 12:30 a.m., showed up at 7 on "Today" and then on "Hardball" and "Nightly News." ("Americans want candidates, Democrats or Republicans, who are as angry at Washington as they are," Todd told Williams.)

The backbreaking schedule, he freely admits, leaves him with less time than he would like for his wife, Kristian, a former Democratic consultant who now works for FedEx, and their two children, 6 and 3.

Todd has surprisingly little patience for those who slam the profession he chronicles. "I hate people that denigrate politics," he says. "Yes, everything is politicized, but that can be a good thing." While it has an undeniably nasty side, says Todd, politics is ultimately "a battle of ideas."

Despite his newfound prominence, Todd, like his colleagues, has limited access to the man he is covering. "Obama himself is the one who doesn't like dealing with the press," he says, exonerating the White House staff. "You can't even do shouted questions."

Todd, who first met Obama in 2002, when the then-Illinois state senator came to a meeting at Hotline, has a theory about Obama's frequent criticism of the 24/7 media culture. Once Obama was elected to the Senate in 2004, "he didn't need to woo the press anymore. The press was there at the drop of a hat. To him, almost all the experience with the press is invasive. . . . He's developed this disdain for us."

Not that Todd is complaining too loudly. White House officials, he says, are quite responsive "to those of us with bigger platforms" -- which obviously includes television anchors.

Todd was an avowed opponent of Twitter, but he and Guthrie have done an about-face. Todd often weighs in on sports -- especially his beloved University of Miami Hurricanes -- and has become online buddies with several football commentators. He keeps up a steady patter of wry political observations and says the 140-character limit imposes great discipline in compressing his thoughts.

The morning before last week's primaries, Todd spoke of having "20, 20, 24 hours to go." Plenty of Twitter types wondered whether they had just heard a reference to the Ramones lyric from "I Wanna Be Sedated." Thirteen minutes into "The Daily Rundown," Todd tweeted back: "Oh yes you did!"


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