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“Meet The Press” moderator addresses gun control debate, Iowa’s importance in presidential election

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) – Chuck Todd, the moderator of NBC’s “Meet The Press” spent Thursday and Friday in Sioux City covering U.S. Senator Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign.

KTIV’s Matt Breen sat down with Todd to talk about gun control legislation, in Congress, in the wake of the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. And, with less than six months until the Iowa Caucuses, they also talked about the importance of Iowa in the presidential election process.

“The shootings in El Paso, and Dayton, have thrust the issue of gun control into this election cycle,” said Matt Breen. “The president even said he would consider stronger background checks. That puts him at odds with members of his own party, and the NRA.”

“It is going to be interesting to watch this because you have a new split in the Republican party on this issue of guns because, in the 2018 midterms, one of the conclusions many Republican strategists I’ve talked to was… one of the ways they lost in the suburbs of the larger cities, whether it was in Texas, Florida or Arizona, was they admit the gun issues has flipped on this,” said Chuck Todd, “Meet The Press” Moderator. “More suburban Republicans. Republicans that live in more urban and suburban areas, who are more open to background check, and more open to more restrictions. So, I think what you’re going to see is a split. While the Democrats are more unified in what they want. If there’s disunity it’s sort of ‘how far do you push it’. The Republican split it going to be a rural-suburban split. You’re going to have the more rural senators… you’re already seeing it now… Mitch McConnell, from a more rural state, is skeptical. John Cornyn, after what happened in El Paso, he’s more open to something. Marco Rubio, from Florida, is more open to something bigger. So, you’re going to see the split less along ideological, but geographical lines.”

“You mentioned Senator McConnell, and that brings up a good point,” Breen said. “Congress is recessed, right now. You’ve spoken to Senator Kamala Harris, and she would like to see the Senate reconvene and maybe take up those two bills that the U.S. House has already passed that deal with gun control.”

“That looks like that’s not going to happen,” Todd said. “But, Mitch McConnell publicly saying they have to pass something… that’s a marker. He put a marker in the sand. Here’s what that tells you… he’s feeling pressure from some of his Republican members that feel as if ‘hey, we’ve got to vote on something. Maybe not the assault weapons ban, maybe not this level of background checks, but maybe these ‘red flag’ laws. There’s clearly a little steam being let out of the valve so some of these Republicans feel. The question I have is ‘how hard do Democrats push?’. Whatever McConnell is willing to bring to the floor, it’s probably not going to be what a majority of the Democrats would like to see. Do they stand on ceremony a bit and say ‘we need to go tougher, or nothing.’? Or, do they take an incremental step. And, I think that will be an interesting debate because presidential candidates might be in one place, and maybe those in the rank and file Senate in another.”

“Those two dozen candidates are in Iowa, right now,” Breen said. “The political rite of passage, the Iowa State Fair, so they’re all in the state, and they’re all campaigning. Where do they land in October by the time that we see the next presidential candidate debate where the criteria is a bit tougher to hit.”

“You can tell there’s an urgency,” Todd said. “I want to say this is my sixth straight August, in Iowa, in the year before the caucuses. The urgency you feel this August compared to previous ones before presidential caucuses, you can tell that some candidates realize that if they don’t make noise this month, or have a good Iowa State Fair, or pop in the poll, they may not make the next debate stage. We’re already starting to see a split. A consistent top five, then another three to five that are teetering on relevancy, or irrelevancy. And, I think we know which ten are not going to be on that stage in October. But, they have to come to that conclusion. I think they want to see ‘do we make that debate stage?’.”

“I’m an Iowan, born and bred,” Breen said. “And, I can’t remember a time when the Iowa Caucuses didn’t matter in a presidential election cycle. Should Iowa, should New Hampshire, should South Carolina play such an important role in the presidential election process?”

“Look, you were born and raised in Iowa,” Todd said. “My father was born and raised in Iowa. I have relatives buried all over the state. I think Iowa does a tremendous job as the introductory, the winnower. Iowans take this so seriously. That said, I understand why 49 other states wonder, ‘why can’t we go first every once in a while?’. So, there is a sense that there should be a rotation. But, that’s for the future. Here’s what I find amusing. Every four years I’m told, ‘Iowa’s not going to matter as much as it did last time.’. Iowa is going to matter more this time than we’ve ever seen before. I mean, you look at some of these candidacies. The Warren-Sanders rivalry in New Hampshire gets decided in Iowa. Biden’s viability gets decided in Iowa. Kamala Harris… she wants to do well in California. You better do well in Iowa. It’s impossible to overstate it sometimes. Iowa feels more important this time than it has even in previous cycles.”

Chuck Todd’s exclusive interview with Senator Kamala Harris– done during her campaign swing through Sioux City– airs Sunday morning on “Meet The Press”. You can watch the interview, which is Harris’s very first on “Meet The Press”, starting at 8:00am, Sunday morning, right here on KTIV, and NBC.

Matt Breen

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