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Chuck Todd, host of ‘Meet the Press,’ comes to W.Va. to meet the voters

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Chuck Todd, host of ‘Meet the Press,’ comes to W.Va. to meet the voters
By Brad McElhinny, WV MetroNews

The host of “Meet the Press” says political reporters talked a lot about the candidates during the past presidential election, but they didn’t do enough to meet the voters.

So Chuck Todd came to Charleston.

He and a crew were at Black Sheep Burrito on Wednesday afternoon, talking to West Virginia voters and to Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin for “Meet the Press” and MSNBC’s “MTP Daily,” which airs at 5 p.m.

“The fairest critique of the national press in this election was the lack of capturing the moods and concerns of different voters,” Todd said during a break from his own interviews.

“We just didn’t cover the voters enough. We spent too much time covering the candidates, and there is a difference. We know there are a lot of concerns, we know a lot of voters in West Virginia have lost some faith. Our job is to find out why.”

This has been a common post-election lament. The Federalist wrote, “To regain credibility, the media needs to do more than visit ‘Flyover Country.'” USNews wrote, “Middle America to Washington: ‘You’re not getting it.'”

Chuck Todd doesn’t disagree.

“I wanted to do more of this stuff. I was obsessed in this campaign with Iowa in particular. I thought Iowa was the best place to find Obama voters who were voting Trump. Clearly here, there are a lot of people who voted for a Democratic governor and who voted for Donald Trump. So these are not somehow party line.

“Particularly in rural America, here in coal country, it’s a feeling — whether it’s abandonment, whatever it is — that Washington has looked past West Virginia. The Democratic Party nationally certainly feels as if it’s left West Virginia. I don’t know if the Republican Party has found West Virginia or if it’s just a weigh station.”

The election has revealed a divided America, said Todd, who is political director for NBC.

“There’s a re-orientation with a lot of elected officials,” he said. “You take a guy like Joe Manchin. The Democratic Party, when I was in high school and college, a guy like Joe Manchin would not have been a conservative. That was just a mainstream Democrat. You had a party that was basically half urban and half rural, and you had a Republican Party that was half and half. It is not good in this country when our geographic divides and our political divides are identical. That is how you get resentment.”

Trump’s victory has caused both parties to re-calibrate their messages on the fly, Todd said.

“This could be one of these elections that sort of re-orients,” he said. “You see the Democrats going, ‘Wait a minute, how did the Democratic Party lose touch with working people?’ And Republicans, think of the Paul Ryan wing, going, ‘I guess we’re the party of working people; I guess we’d better act like it now.’ So you see this re-orientation happening in real time. I’ll be curious to see what it looks like in a year.”

The West Virginian voters who spoke with Todd were Tresa Howell and Brett Kuhn. Both were Trump voters. Both said they were approached to appear with Todd within the past couple of days.

“Any time you have a chance to promote West Virginia, it’s a great thing,” Kuhn said.

Kuhn is a teacher for the Boone County school system. He said the school system’s struggles affected how he voted in the presidential election.

“Bottom line, if we don’t have an educational system we can be proud of, our kids are going to fall behind and our state is going to continue to fall behind,” he said. “It’s a shame, in West Virginia it seems like education is the first thing to be cut every time.”

Howell is a member of the Kanawha County Republican Executive Committee and a registered nurse. She said economic development is a key to her outlook.

“I got involved looking at the businesses in our community and what we could do to increase growth. It all came down to the political field,” she said.

“We expect bigger and better things for the state of West Virginia.”

Todd spent a bit of time in West Virginia, visiting a coal mine, enjoying a taco at Black Sheep Burrito and interviewing former Secretary of State James Baker via remote connection before the West Virginians started coming in.

Todd said he and his colleagues should make such trips routine.

“I don’t want to make this just a post-election thing,” he said. “The hard lesson that I hope a lot of my colleagues take away is constantly checking in. Not an election year check-in. The same way that politicians shouldn’t just be checking in every six years when they’re up or every two years when they’re up. You sort of check in on the tapestry all the time.”