PROFILE: NBC Chuck Todd’s Solo Act

NBC News Political Director and Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd is a real charmer. In some respects. “You know, I’m never crazy about it to be honest,” he says at the onset of our phone interview late last week when I ask if he likes this sort of thing and if he minds being interviewed. “It’s part of the business. I get it. Not to name-drop, but Washington is such a fishbowl these days. Literally. I’m not trying to suck up. Everybody is part of the process.” He pauses for a few beats. “I don’t think it’s how I would like to see the system redesigned.”

Todd, 39, has a wry, sometimes cornball sense of humor. He likes puns. On one morning in April, the White House Soup of the Day was Chili Con Carne. “It’s not a soup, but it’s a good one,” Todd remarked on “The Daily Rundown.” And the kicker? “Chili Con Carne cause everything’s better with Carne!” Like it or not, he has been a part of this system since 1992 and in a sense helped create aspects of the fishbowl by honchoing NJ’s “The Hotline,” which, in the 90s and beyond was an absolute must-read in Washington newsrooms. Today marks the day that he sets off on his own uncarved path as he goes it alone on “The Daily Rundown.” For the past year and a half Savannah Guthrie has been stationed to his right. Now she journeys on to the third hour of NBC’s TODAY show, leaving Todd to try to make the show work without her.

Miami childhood causes minor delusion on tanning

Believe it or not, the auburn-haired fair-skinned Todd was born and raised in Miami. He resents the implication that just because his complexion is the color of glue that he doesn’t fit the Miami image and insists he has seen a beach or two. “The best picture I ever took was on a fake ID,” he says. “I look  like a total beach bum. I look John Boehner tan. My problem is, I still see myself as this guy who was constantly tan his whole childhood.” He concedes he often ends up burned to a crisp.

Todd looks back at his pairing with Guthrie with relief. “I didn’t know her very well,” he says. They had offered him the position but didn’t say who his partner would be. “They had hit a wall,” he recalled.  Eventually they chose Guthrie. Todd phoned her and asked, “Are you ready for this?” She put him at ease, saying, “I’m just so relieved it’s you. I think I can work with you.”

And so it was. Two correspondents with eerie similarities, one being that their fathers died when each was 16. The anchors are four months apart in age. “I imagine this is what it’s like to have a sister,” says Todd, an only child. “We literally lived in a 8 by 15 ft. space, cooped up on buses, on planes, you get to know each other.”

Which isn’t always  a good thing, Todd says, explaining that some pairings can be disastrous with vicious competing. “If you like each other it’s great,” he says. “If you don’t, it’s toxic.”

When Tim Russert calls, it’s hard to say no…

Todd came to NBC in 2007 when Tim Russert called. At that point he had been at “The Hotline” for well over a decade. His answer was an immediate no. He’d just signed a contract with NJ and had no desire to leap from print to TV.  But within a week Todd accepted the job offer and Russert became a new mentor. “Turned out I liked it a lot more than I thought,” he says. “He taught me how to think about politics.”