Nightly News   |  January 03, 2012

How much does electability matter in Iowa?

NBC’s Chuck Todd joins Brian Williams to discuss what will matter more to Iowa Republicans tonight: the candidates’ electability or ideology.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: We want to go back into Des Moines now, and our political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd . Chuck , what an interesting race. How many leaders have we had? Roughly seven over the course of polling here. Now the last minute, Santorum surge. Romney trying to hang on. And look at the percentages the winner will ultimately get.

TODD: Right. Well, and the -- and the unknown question tonight is what will matter more to Iowa Republicans, electability or ideology? You answer the question, you'll have a good idea who will win. Mitt Romney 's been making the case he's the best equipped, the most experienced to beat the president, the electability argument. Rick Santorum is asking Republicans not to settle but to go with their hearts and conservative beliefs. That's the ideology argument. Well, what was interesting is four years ago here, Romney lost to Mike Huckabee largely because, look at this, 80 percent who showed up to the polls said values and core beliefs matter to them more and Huckabee carried those voters by a mile. When you look at the experience and electability argument, only one in five Iowans showed up for that, and that was good for Romney but it wasn't enough to put him over the top. What Romney's hoping for tonight is that more casual Republicans show up, and if they do, they're thinking about electability first. And that's how he could win. Brian :

WILLIAMS: All right. Chuck Todd in Des Moines for us tonight. Chuck , thanks.