MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace on Newt Gingrich's War With Megyn Kelly and Why Clinton Will Win
George W. Bush's former communications director has become a familiar face on cable TV, featuring on a host of MSNBC shows including 'Morning Joe' and Brian Williams' 'The 11th Hour.'
This is the latest in an ongoing series of one-on-ones with the political pundits who have been at the forefront of the cable-news conversations this election season.
So here’s the thing: If you don’t like Nicolle Wallace, it’s highly likely you’re the one with something wrong.
The woman that Americans probably first really learned about after she was played by Sarah Paulson in HBO’s Game Change, is one of the most delightfully Republican, cheerful and friendly people in political discourse today.
Wallace is a seasoned politico, having started in the California legislature, eventually becoming a trusted voice to the Bush family working for both Gov. Jeb Bush and Pres. Bush 43. Most famously, the film depiction of her role in the McCain-Palin 2008 Campaign showed Wallace’s fierce, opinionated side, showing her at serious odds with then-Governor of Alaska and Vice Presidential nominee, Sarah Palin.
Today, Wallace is a little bit of everywhere with her perspective, which is decidedly not a fan of Donald Trump, though she won’t say who she’s voting for after the movie showed her telling her little secret — she didn’t vote for the McCain-Palin campaign of which she was a part.
Her days start at Morning Joe on MSNBC and the Today Show in the mornings, guesting with appearances on Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell, big debate and election night coverage, and closing with Brian Williams’ new show, The 11th Hour, in the evenings.
I talked to Wallace Monday afternoon, between returning from walking her dogs in Central Park and being mom to a four-year-old son, Liam. And before heading back for seemingly more television in the evening.
Nicolle Wallace is the latest from our series of Q&As, Know Your Cable News Pundit.
To listen to the full audio, and some of the funny moments and candid stories that didn’t make of the pr/interview with Wallace, click here. Below is the edited version of the discussion. Enjoy.
Current City of Residence: New York City
Education: University of California, Berkeley (Journalism and Communications); Medill, School of Journalism (Broadcast Journalism)
Political experience: CA State Legislature; Press Secretary, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; Communications Director, The White House, President George W. Bush; Senior Adviser, McCain-Palin 2008 Campaign; Political Analyst, MSNBC.
Political persuasion: Center right - Bush Republican. I became a Republican because of the Bushes.
Which networks do you appear on primarily, and why?
I'm a NBC News/MSNBC political analyst. I appear regularly on The Today Show, Morning Joe, election/debate night programming and The 11th Hour with Brian Williams
How do you prep for appearances?
I read three newspapers every day and check them a few times a day. Before Morning Joe, the night before between 10 and 11, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal and fortunately for me most of their stories are up the night before.
The Today Show segments are a little different; they’re produced the day before. For the 11 o’clock, I sort of update those papers and try to check in with both sides, with the Trump campaign and the Clinton campaign every day.
Are there any shows you can’t or won’t go on?
No, but in the middle of the morning and the late night I try to raise a four-year-old and then walk two dogs, so my life is sort of what transpires in between. But that has nothing to do with who or what I go on. I also when I’m not working, I’m doing other things, I also travel for speeches, and do other things, but the shows I don't appear on are just because I’m not available.
What is a common misconception about being a pundit?
I just think punditry is kind of a misconception [itself]. What it is is people who’ve worked on campaigns before who are able to reach out to people who have the same types of jobs they had, and pass along information and speak in a common language, sort of translating what's happening in a campaign.
Today is an example, we had a poll a week ago that had Hillary Clinton up by 12 points, and we had a poll that came out [Monday] morning that said she was up 1. It's the job of a person who’s worked on a campaign before to say “here’s the deal, she was never up 12 and she’s not up 1, the truth is she’s somewhere in the middle.”
It’s sort of to be a translator through all of the over-abundance of information that comes around in an election year. Your job is to cut through the malarky, and the spin, and speak from experience.
What are the most valuable appearances for you / which are the spots you really want to do?
I’d say reporting out this mom vote has been really interesting and really gets you out of yourself and your own notion that what you say matters. When you go out and talk to voters and you see them struggling to make a decision; struggling with being personally offended by Trump’s language and personally offended by the sense that Hillary Clinton doesn’t follow the rules, that’s been the most grounding experience.
What was your most memorable appearance so far? Any notable / memorable moments that got especially heated, went viral? (Link if available)
There was the thing that Republican women were talking about for a long time, about a gender war; after last week when I was watching Megyn Kelly and Newt Gingrich, I was on my way to do [The 11th Hour with Brian Williams] and I just sent out a quick tweet, I said there was a gender war going on and that it would end badly for Republicans.
I was surprised to see that it got picked up the following few days by The New York Times, and The Washington Post, and read on PBS. It wasn’t a well thought out thought, but it was something that a lot of Republican women were talking about amongst themselves — that was something I didn’t even say on television I just sort of wrote it on Twitter, in the back of a taxi, on my way to Rock Center for my third appearance of the day.
Oh! And Brian Williams had me read the letter that George H.W. Bush left for Bill Clinton. I couldn’t see it, because I’m blind so someone had to get me glasses and I read it, but I barely got through it without choking up. But that was the most special thing I’ve been asked to do this election season.
Whose show is your favorite show to appear on?
I love all of it! I used to get to fill in sometimes for Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, two guys I’ve known and admired for a very long time and they anchor one of my favorite shows on television, With All Due Respect they’re real fun and exciting and quirky, and wonderful and brilliantly written show. I love all the things I get to do. I wish I didn’t need any sleep and then I’d do all of it all the time.
I love being on Morning Joe, I love walking over to The Today Show, I love being on Brian and Rachel, and Eugene for these [long] nights. And then I’ve been able to do a lot of the network shows at the conventions and debate night and you sit there across from Tom Brokaw and it’s a little intimidating, but those have been amazing too.
I love them all, I really do! I love them all because Joe and Mika and Willie, what they’ve built is incredible, and The Today Show is The Today Show. It’s this iconic program, and to be on most mornings at 7 o'clock is total pinch me, and the surprise thrill for me is for the extended election and debate nights with Brian [Williams], Rachel [Maddow], and Eugene [Robinson] and I. There is not one that I love more than the other, I really love being on all of them, and to be asked to sort of stretch beyond “as a Republican, what do you think?” are always the segments I enjoy the most, but I’d say all of the shows use me in that way, so I’ve had a great time on all of them.
After the election, where would you like to see yourself next?
I mean this in all honesty, because I have two dogs and a four-year-old, I deal with my life about 48 hours ahead, making sure there’s someone to watch the kid and walk the dogs early in the morning and late at night. I’m literally living in about a 48- to 72-hour window and I don’t think beyond it. So if someone used me less, that would be very good news.
But I worry and think that this political intensity will not drop off suddenly, no matter what happens, we’ll be inaugurating a new president at the end of January, so I think we’ll have at least a few more months of a lot of attention being paid, and even if the rancor of the contest ends, I don’t know that the divides of politics end, but that’s something that I’m really interested in finding out from people living their lives.
Prediction? (As of Monday afternoon, Oct 31)
I think it’s really close, she’s probably ahead 1 or 2 points. I think it’ll be really close, I think Hillary Clinton will win, mostly because of Donald Trump’s self-inflicted wounds, but with the new revelations from the FBI, I think absolutely anything can happen, and wouldn’t bet more than a box of Milk Duds on that!