A Political Junkie Finds His Fix in Television

For NBC News' Todd, covering Election Day is pinnacle of a lifetime's preparation

Why This Matters

Chuck Todd


Chief White House correspondent and political director, NBC News, and host, The Daily Rundown, MSNBC


George Washington University, 1990-93

Employment Highlights:

Intern and staff writer, The Hotline, 1992-94

Managing editor,SportsBusiness Daily, 1994-95

Political editor, Politics Now/ Politics USA, 1995-97

Associate editor, The Hotline, 1997-2001

Editor-in-chief, The Hotline, 2001-07

Political director, NBC News, 2007-present

White House correspondent, NBC News, 2008-present

Host, The Daily Rundown, MSNBC, 2010-present


b. April 8, 1972; wife, Kristian; daughter, Margaret, 8; son, Harrison, 5

On the day we met, NBC News’ Chuck Todd had woken up at
1:45 a.m. Having gone to bed early the night before, his body,
now conditioned to getting four to five hours of sleep in the
hectic final weeks before the presidential election, woke him
up in the wee hours. He watched an episode of A&E's Storage
, one of his favorite TV shows, to lull him back to sleep.

As NBC News' political director, chief White
House correspondent and host of MSNBC’s
The Daily Rundown, Todd keeps a busy schedule.
He typically wakes up about 15 minutes
before his 5 a.m. alarm, and often not in his
own bed. In the run-up to the election, he has
been traveling about three days to every two
that he is home in Arlington, Va., with his wife
and two young children.

On this day, his list of commitments includes appearing on Morning Joe, hosting the 9-10 a.m.
Daily Rundown, moderating a panel at NBC
News’ Education Nation summit and prepping
a piece for NBC Nightly News. He tries to shut
down every night between 9 and 10 p.m.

Todd usually travels to New York two or
three times a month, though he finds it harder
to be plugged in to Washington politics when
he’s away from home. But he keeps up with a
media diet that includes an email inbox full of
various news alerts as well as Twitter, where he
follows the feeds of state newspapers to keep a
handle on national politics, his knowledge of
which colleagues call “encyclopedic.”

“He is almost savant-like in his knowledge of
the congressional seats, of the races that have
happened in different places. He has an enthusiasm
for it that is infectious,” says NBC Today
show coanchor Savannah Guthrie, who cohosted The Daily Rundown with Todd from 2010-11.
“Whenever Chuck gives a take on something
that is happening, I always feel that he offers
something unique or a perspective or opinion
that is not immediately obvious.”

Todd attributes his interest in politics to his
family. He remembers being mesmerized as a
13-year-old watching his political-junkie father,
a “dyed-in-the-wool conservative,” and his liberal
cousin drink and argue about politics.

That love of politics brought him to Washington
for college, where he attended George
Washington University on a music scholarship
(he played French horn) and doublemajored
in political science. In his sophomore
year, Todd took an internship at the online
political tip sheet The Hotline and was soon
working full-time. Like others inside the Beltway,
Todd got swept up in the job; he fell six
credits short of graduating, which he calls a
“Washington disease.”

Hotline was in many ways the Internet before
the Internet, aggregating political stories from
newspapers around the country and topping
them with pithy headlines. Todd viewed his
job there as that of an analyst of the political
markets, and never thought of what he did as
journalism until the early 2000s.

Though Hotline groomed other TV journalists including CBS’ Norah O’Donnell and
ABC’s Amy Walter, Todd figured his career
path would lead him to magazine editing, not
television. Even when he joined NBC News as
political director in 2007, he assumed his onair
role would be limited. But in 2008, he became
one of the network’s White House correspondents.
In 2010 he took on the weekday
Daily Rundown, though he says he still finds
writing for television difficult.

“Spouting off and saying things on TV,
that’s not hard,” Todd says. “The harder part
is the traditional correspondent role, narrating
packages, writing for images. It’s more of
an art than is appreciated sometimes.”

Todd credits late NBC newsman Tim Russert
and Nightly News anchor Brian Williams with
helping him learn the art of communicating
on television and serving as his mentors.

“I first spotted him at Hotline—he was
obviously an inside player, a guy who loved
the game. I was not surprised that Tim took
a liking to him—because there’s a lot of Tim
in Chuck. And as a college dropout myself,
I’ve always believed there are too few of us
on the air,” Williams says dryly. “Television
is full of over-educated people! When people
see me talking to Chuck Todd on TV, they
should know: We didn’t get to where we are
based on education—rather, our charm, our
wit, knowledge of the subject area, and in his
case, facial hair.”

At 40, Todd doesn’t want to predict what’s
next in his career: “I don’t feel like I’m at the
end of my road here at NBC. But I don’t want
to linger here,” he says. “Who knows how
long that is? I know it’s only a finite amount
of time.”

One future scenario is to move outside
Washington and teach so that he can spend his
weekends traveling to a different college football
game every Saturday. (A native of Miami,
Todd roots for his hometown University of
Miami Hurricanes.)

But for now, Todd is focused on Nov. 6,
when he will be rolling up his sleeves at NBC
News’ studio in New York to cover the returns
with Williams just as he did on Election
Night in 2010, an experience he calls the
pinnacle of his career so far.

“It was one of those 'I wish my father could
see me now' types of things,” says Todd,
whose father died when he was a teenager.
“He lived for Election Nights. He’d probably
yell at me half the time, but in a good way.”

E-mail comments to amorabito@nbmedia.com
and follow her on Twitter: @andreamorabito