A Slow “Race”

The Observer has a piece about David Gregory’s troubles with “Race for the White House.”

From the moment the show kicked off on March 17, things looked grim. The format was essentially a high-tech version of, say, The McLaughlin Group, with various journalists sitting around debating topics of Mr. Gregory’s choosing.

There was one innovation: Instead of sitting around a table, the heads of the various guests appeared in boxes. An unfavorable review of the show in The New Republic promptly described the look as “intergalactic Nancy Grace.”

The show was minimally staffed. In the absence of an experienced, aggressive booker, the decision was made to cull each evening’s guests from the long roster of NBC and MSNBC political contributors. As a result, on each day’s show, Mr. Gregory spends much of the hour debriefing fellow reporters and pundits such as Michael Smerconish, Eugene Robinson, Harold Ford Jr., Tony Blankley, John Harwood, Michelle Bernard and on and on.

Halfway through his stint at the 6 p.m. hour on MSNBC, Mr. Gregory’s numbers are solid but not remarkable. For the second quarter of 2008 (from late March to late June), Race for the White House averaged roughly 526,000 total viewers and 161,000 in the 25-54 demographic–roughly twice the audience that Tucker Carlson averaged during the second quarter of 2007. …

And numbers for Race for the White House have been relatively flat from month to month, suggesting that Mr. Gregory has already attracted the audience that will recognize and follow his name. Now it’s a question of what his show can do. And while his colleagues at MSNBC have been stirring up controversy and grabbing attention from viewers inside the Beltway at every turn, Mr. Gregory has yet to make much noise.

We’ve discussed our thoughts on that before — “He’s the Pete Sampras of television…good at everything but you just can’t bring yourself to truly adore the guy (Go Agassi!)” — and the problem with “Race for the White House” (and perhaps Gregory generally) is that it represents yet one more “face” of David Gregory. On “Race,” Gregory is rather hyper and awkwardly happy, which juxtaposes oddly with “This is serious David Gregory, reporting from the White House,” and therefore doesn’t help create a Tim Russert-like “Just a regular Joe” aura for Gregory.