The first debate of the Democratic presidential primary will be held in Miami at the Adrienne Arsht Center. We chatted with NBC moderator—and Miami native—Chuck Todd (who will be joined at the debates by Savannah Guthrie, Lester Holt, Rachel Maddow and José Diaz-Balart) about his Florida roots.
How did growing up in Miami influence your career choice and lead you into journalism and politics? You know, I don't think location had an impact, per se. But coming from Miami has given me perspective on the diversity of America. I always say that what the country is going through now, Miami went through 30 years ago. I've never felt more prepared to understand what this debate is like in different communities. People don’t remember this, but there was a big ‘English only’ fight in Miami in 1979. And all of these issues that you see now popping up in other states about language barriers or about angry generational back and forth — that was Miami in the 70s and 80s. There are some issues that are front and center in today’s America that Miami was confronted with a long time ago.
How has the city changed? Miami is tomorrow’s problem today. If you look at the issue of climate change—it is really acute in Miami. You might not see it quite yet in Cincinnati, but, trust me, this is your coming attraction. So there is a sense that Miami is a leading indicator. But then there's also a part of Miami that is such a unique place. There is no other city like it in America. There is so much diversity.
How does that perception of Miami translate among political journalists? There are still a lot of stereotypes about Miami. WhenI tell people in Washington that I grew up in Miami, they look at me and say, ‘You don’t look like you’re from Miami.’ What does somebody from Miami look like? That’s the point of Miami. It’s like Singapore or Hong Kong. It’s so eclectic.
Where do you see Miami in the national political landscape? What is its role? Miami is the star city in the most important battleground state in the country. But the downside is that Miami—even within Florida politics—is the outlier. It’s Miami and everywhere else. It’s sort of the State of Miami in that sense.
How do you stay connected with Miami? I don't have any close family who live in Miami anymore, but I do still have that hometown pride. I'm a University of Miami season ticket holder. Even if I'm not able to go to the games, it’s a connection that I like to keep. My parents were season ticket owners, my grandad was a season ticket holder. It’s an important family thing to me —and I am an obsessive University of Miami football fan!
I always tell people, it's the coolest city to be from. I’m sorry, New Yorkers—I love being able to say I’m from Miami.
What are your thoughts on the team right now? I am just going to confess: I am drinking so much of this Manny Diaz Kool-Aid. I think he is the reincarnation of Jimmy Johnson. I am ecstatic about Manny for so many reasons. You have to have somebody who understands Miami. This is the city of distraction, so having somebody who understands Miami and the parts that could be distracting for kids is so important.
We wish the stadium was in Little Havana! My dad used to talk about Tropical Park. That’s where it belongs!
We all know about The Florida Man. Any Florida Man stories this past year that really caught your eye? Can I just say that everybody who has lived in Florida is always one alligator sighting away from being their own Florida Man story. I grew up on one of those canals and I always used to have the nightmare where it was me and a lawnmower and an alligator. Every Floridian is one alligator away from being a Florida Man. I’m just thankful that I never became one.