Juggling act: NBC's White House duo
Monday, May 24, 2010; 9:59 AM
Chuck Todd began tweeting at 6 a.m. -- "the big race is in WV where another DC incumbent could lose a primary" -- and now, nearly three hours later, he is crashing minutes before airtime.
Tapping on a computer in a wrinkled blue shirt, Todd has just finished updating a blog post on Arlen Specter when he asks a producer to find some videotape for his new program, "The Daily Rundown."
"Watching Eikenberry yesterday was like a hostage tape," he says, referring to a strained performance by the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, when Todd and other reporters questioned him at the White House. "Can we get the Eikenberry tape in here? I know it's late, sorry."
Peering over the shoulder of his co-host, Savannah Guthrie, he bats around phrases for the opening script on Afghan President Hamid Karzai's visit to Washington. Moments later Guthrie, wearing a ruffled white blouse and thigh-high boots, raises her BlackBerry in triumph.
"I have the CIA soup of the day -- bacon corn chowder! Yes!" Guthrie exclaims as if she has unearthed a state secret.
Covering the White House these days is no longer a matter of hanging around the briefing room and taking the occasional road trip. It is an all-consuming assignment in which reporters are expected to be multimedia performers, covering everything from soup -- the White House soup-du-jour feature on "Rundown" has been oddly popular -- to the nuts and bolts of foreign policy.
Todd, 38, is NBC's chief White House correspondent, the network's political director, an MSNBC anchor, a blogger on its "First Read" tip sheet and a prolific voice on Twitter. He and Guthrie, also 38, share the beat. When President Obama nominated Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, Guthrie did the "Today" show while Todd appeared on "Morning Joe"; they take turns sticking around for the evening news.
"We're tired," Guthrie admits.
"There are days you can really feel stretched," Todd says.
A passion for politics
"Chuckie T," as he's sometimes called, is an unabashed political junkie from Miami who fed his habit during 15 years at the news digest Hotline. He seems most passionate on television talking about obscure House races and has an encyclopedic storehouse of political knowledge.
"It's one of the enduring mysteries of Chuck Todd," Guthrie says. "I marvel at it every day."
Todd, who left George Washington University six credits short of graduation, was hired by the late Tim Russert three years ago. He was brought in as a backstage numbers-cruncher who would get an on-air tryout. He proved to be a natural, but even now describes himself as a wordy writer who is always tempted to add a parentheses to jam in extra details.