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Notes on the January 15, 2012 broadcast of Meet The Press

January 15, 2012

This morning’s Meet The Press began with Republican presidential nomination candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and the topics most important to Americans got very short shrift.

On growing evangelical support for Senator Rick Santorum’s (R-PA) GOP nomination candidacy, Gingrich said he too has sizable support among this group. On a recent evangelical leader meeting in Texas, Gingrich emphasized, “The one consensus was that virtually no one was for Mitt Romney.”

For long stretches of the Gingrich interview, the “horse race” became the consuming topic rather than a discussion of issues. Even in a flashback clip to last Sunday’s Meet The Press/Facebook debate (where Gingrich was apparently wearing the same time he wore this morning) the focus was on who is the real conservative, not on how to fix or improve America.

For the record, at 7 minutes into the program, Gingrich mentioned healthcare and jobs… the first appearance of such topics this morning. Host David Gregory went immediately back to the roller coaster nature of the 2012 campaign.

The next topic was negative ads and the new, pro-Gingrich super PAC ad attacking Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital. The discussion went on for four minutes. And it was followed by a couple more minutes about Romney’s tax records.

The most entertaining moment in all of this was the reference the Wall Street Journal made to the “Michael Moore” tone of the anti-Bain Capital attacks. As if the earlier discussion wasn’t sufficiently substance-averse, the segment ended with discussion of a Gingrich ad poking fun at Romney for speaking French.

If this is how our most venerable public affairs program prioritizes American issues at this crucial moment, we may, in fact, be doomed.

And then the contrast. After the frothy conversation with Gingrich came a more substantive, but ultimately sleepy, discussion of real issues like jobs and SOPA with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Even here, though, large chunks of the conversation focused on who should get the most blame (Republicans, Democrats, Congress, the President) for gridlock in Washington, DC, rather than on how to improve American lives.

There was, ultimately, a real conversation about what, if anything, can be done to change the dynamics of Washington. Gregory had a couple of good questions here, but the momentum ground to a halt in the discussion of recess appointments.

At 40 minutes into Meet The Press, Gregory asked a very substantive question about income inequality, and then went right back to, “Can Romney win?”

The final segment, rather than the usual roundtable of press and commentators, featured two Republican elected officials from South Carolina, Senator Lindsey Graham and Representative Tim Scott.

Scott say that because unemployment in his state is near 10%, voters there are mostly thinking about who can create jobs. Graham says the voters are focused on who can beat President Obama. This made me wonder if Senator Graham has been in DC too long.

Scott and Graham agreed that South Carolina is the “last stand” for the not-Romney GOP candidates. If Romney has a good showing in South Carolina, he will win the nomination.

Today’s Meet The Press transcript will be here.

Also follow the show on the MTP Facebook page, track Twitter feeds from host David Gregory, Meet The Press, and Executive Producer Betsy Fischer, watch the midweek PressPass interview, and don’t forget Gregory’s blog.

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