Chuck Todd had the best gig in the TV as NBC News' beloved, cuddly political director. He was TV's Nate Silver. Then he had to go and become White House correspondent.
Before taking over the White House beat from the insufferable David Gregory in December, Todd was the Internet's favorite guy on TV. His facility with polling data and self-effacing, not-quite-ready-for-prime-time-but-willing-to-try persona earned him legions of swooning, cheeky fans, who called themselves "Chuckolytes." People started growing out goatees! Fan sites sprang up like mushrooms. Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo loved him, calling Todd "the most talented observer of the political scene on TV today" and celebrating the 36-year-old's rise as a "great generational turnover from a cadre" of talking heads in their 50s and 60s.
As political director, Todd just had to show up now and again on MSNBC to shoot the shit and have fun. But the stresses and pressures of covering the White House seem to have squeezed all that lovable youthfulness out of him. He's freezing up and turning into just another suit. And the Internet is noticing.
Todd's question to Obama at last night's presser was shockingly stupid for someone who's got a reputation as sharp thinker: "Given this new era of responsibility that you're asking for, why haven't you asked for something specific that the public should be sacrificing to participate in this economic recovery?" Who knows what Todd was going for—maybe he got the question from someone on the Internet—but since it ought to be abundantly clear that a lot of Americans are sacrificing plenty, thanks very much, it seems he got his head all tied up in knots in a frantic attempt to pin down Obama with a breakout Dickersonian question.
His fans are disappointed. Marshall wrote that it's "not clear what Chuck Todd was thinking with that sacrifice question," and headlined a post "Chuck, Yer Killin' Me" back in January when Todd asked White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs if the president would veto a stimulus bill that lacked Republican support ("that would be quite a moment," Marshall wrote). Balloon Juice, which used to like Todd, called the question predictable. He's currently coming in at No. 2—ahead of Jake Tapper!—in a DailyKos poll to name the "biggest tool" at the presser.
Todd himself has indicated that he's not entirely thrilled about covering the White House, probably because he's bashful and didn't like talking to Chris Matthews about losing his virginity on national television. But if he doesn't want to lose his fanbase, he'd better loosen up soon and bring back that goofy vibe we fell in love with.