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NBC's Chuck Todd says there's a 'tenseness' between John McCain and Sarah Palin

October 22, 2008 |  3:15 pm

Today, it was NBC anchor Brian Williams’ turn to interview Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, making him the last of the network anchors to quiz the Republican vice presidential candidate. Williams conducted a joint interview with Palin and Sen. John McCain this afternoon in Ohio, and according to early reports, the news out of their exchange may be what wasn’t said.

In an on-air discussion with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews about the interview, NBC News political director Chuck Todd offered a frank assessment of what he said was an awkward tension between the two candidates and the sense of gloom that hung over the campaign.

Here's what Todd said:

There was a tenseness, between, first of all, between the two –- there’s no chemistry. I couldn’t see chemistry between John McCain and Sarah Palin. I felt as if we grabbed two people and said, "Here, sit next to each other, we’re going to conduct an interview." They’re not comfortable with each other yet. The other thing about it is you can tell they know that they’re losing. They’re drained, the entire campaign staff is drained. The two candidates seem guarded, they seem on edge. It’s not as if they were rude or anything. It’s not as if they weren’t trying to be forthcoming. It’s a negative intensity -- I don’t know how else to describe it. You’ll see, when you see the two of them together, the chemistry is not all there. You do wonder, is John McCain starting to blame her for things, blaming himself? Is she blaming him? ... But whatever it is, it’s a negative vibe that you get in that room...

I can’t emphasize enough the odd body language. I know Obama and Biden don’t have the great chemistry yet, but there seems to be some chemistry. I didn’t see any chemistry here. It very much feels forced, and you almost wonder, maybe it’s the intensity of the moment. They know they’re down, you have no sleep at night. You need that idea that you can win to keep you going. ... You almost wonder why they wanted the two of them sitting next to each other. ...

This is a very dangerous time in a campaign that is behind. They desperately need some good news, because you do wonder, is that cohesion disappearing inside, not just between the two mates, that we saw today on camera, but with the entire campaign structure?

Williams, standing next to Todd on camera, studiously avoided offering his own thoughts about the mood in the room. Instead, he told Matthews the headline out of the interview: that Palin said she would release her medical records, much to the surprise of her campaign staff.

However, a transcript released by NBC News shows that the Alaska governor left herself a little wiggle room:

WILLIAMS: Did I hear you just agree to release your medical records?

PALIN: The medical records, so be it. If that will allow some curiosity seekers perhaps to have one more thing that they either check the box off that they can find something to criticize or to rest them assured over. I'm healthy, happy, I've had five kids, that's going to be in the medical records, never seriously ill or hurt, you'll see that in the medical records if they're released.

Portions of the interview will air this evening, Thursday and Friday on the “NBC Nightly News.”

-- Matea Gold