NBC Hypes Storm as 'Latest in a Series of Distractions' After 'Tough Week' for GOP

In a report for Monday's NBC Today, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd was eager to paint a picture of Republicans in disarray prior to the GOP convention: "The specter of New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina, which proved so politically damaging to George W. Bush, looms large here in Tampa. It's the latest in a series of distractions that has jolted the Romney campaign off its core economic message..." [Listen to the audio]

On Sunday's Today, co-host Jenna Wolfe proclaimed: "It's been a tough week for Republicans." As the headline on screen announced "GOP's Hurdles Heading Into Convention," Wolfe proceeded to rattle off supposed evidence of her assertion:

The Todd Akin situation, the Mitt Romney mentioning the birther situation, then you have Tropical Storm Isaac forcing the convention to be pushed ahead a day. And now we heard an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times, a former Republican governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, throwing his weight behind President Obama. Not exactly the headlines Republicans were looking forward to at the start of this week.

Meet the Press host David Gregory responded: "Well, no, there's a lot of distractions that Mitt Romney has to cut his way through here."

On Saturday's Today, co-host Lester Holt made an almost identical declaration while talking to former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele: "It's been quite a week for Republicans. You've got Mitt Romney's joke about – the birther joke. You've got Todd Akin's rape comments. And now you've got a storm barreling toward Tampa."

Filling in as anchor for Friday's Nightly News, Gregory seized on Romney's birth certificate comment: "Was it a joke? What Mitt Romney said on the campaign trail today that immediately erupted in controversy."

In addition to his Hurricane Katrina reference on Monday, on Sunday's Nightly News, Todd again did his best to tie the 2005 storm to the upcoming Republican gathering: "...as this storm moves to and closer to Louisiana, the specter, the sort of shadow of Bush and Katrina does hang over this convention."

Interviewing current RNC Chairman Reince Priebus on Monday's Today, co-host Matt Lauer focused on how Isaac could disrupt GOP plans: "Conventions are also about emotion, their about momentum, their about a buildup of energy to that acceptance speech on Thursday night. Do you worry that the condensed schedule will take away some of that?"

As Priebus attempted to promote the party's message of creating a contrast with the failures of President Obama, Lauer quickly changed the subject back to the weather: "Let me just stick on the storm for a second....do you worry that it competes for headlines with what you want to accomplish here in Tampa?"

Here is a full transcript of Todd's August 27 Today report:

7:11AM ET

MATT LAUER: Obviously this area has been spared any real damage from Tropical Storm Isaac, but it has wreaked havoc with the Republican National Convention being held here this week. The organizers have canceled basically everything scheduled for today, so now they have to cram four days of events into the remaining three days. NBC's Chuck Todd is our political director, he's also our chief White House correspondent, and he is here in Tampa with me as well. Chuck, good morning to you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Decision 2012; Tropical Storm Isaac Delays GOP Convention]

CHUCK TODD: Well, good morning, Matt. Look, this is the most important week of Mitt Romney's political career. And the idea that it's getting off to a late start is not something that makes the Romney campaign happy. Organizers here are hoping they don't have to delay things further as they keep an eye on Isaac as it churns toward the Gulf Coast. Preparing for his big week in the political spotlight, the soon-to-be Republican nominee has one eye on his Thursday acceptance speech and the other on Isaac's impact on the Gulf Coast, including Florida.

MITT ROMNEY: I hope everybody's fine there. We're concerned about the people that are going to affected by it.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN [REPORTER]: Are you concerned about your convention?

ROMNEY: It's going to be a great convention.

TODD: But the 2008 Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, whose own convention was cut short as Hurricane Gustav threatened New Orleans, said any further delays at this convention could hurt the GOP cause.

JOHN MCCAIN: I think it would be very unfortunate, not just for the Republican Party, but a long-standing tradition of three or four days of intense political campaigning so that the Republican Party and the nominee can make their case.

TODD: Indeed, the specter of New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina, which proved so politically  damaging to George W. Bush, looms large here in Tampa. It's the latest in a series of distractions that has jolted the Romney campaign off its core economic message since Paul Ryan's selection two weeks ago. From the battle over the future of Medicare, to the political firestorm in the Missouri Senate race ignited by Congressman Todd Akin's false claim about women's chances of becoming pregnant as a result of rape.

TODD AKIN: That's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

TODD: Meanwhile, there's no shortage of opinions about the Republican message heading into this convention. Even President Obama weighed in:

BARACK OBAMA: They basically have one message, which is the economy is not where it should be and it's Obama's fault. And there will be variations on that theme. But I think when voters step back, what they're going to be looking at is, who can move us forward?

TODD: Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush called it a critical week for Romney.

JEB BUSH: Governor Romney has a chance at this convention, and then going forward, to reconnect with people, to set the stage for the general election, and show who he is, what's in his heart.

TODD: And Romney himself underscored those stakes.

ROMNEY: I feel like, wow, a lot of people are counting on me. They're hoping I'll be able to win and I'll be able to get America on track again.

TODD: Tonight's primetime speakers were supposed to be South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. They have been slotted in, Nikki Haley Tuesday night, Mike Huckabee Wednesday night, and Matt, Jeb Bush on Thursday night. The hope here, of course, is they don't have to delay Tuesday night.

LAUER: That's right. Chuck Todd here in Tampa as well. Chuck, thank you very much.