So You Wanna Be President? with Chris Matthews

By NBC News

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The ultimate playbook for winning a presidential campaign. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and campaign veterans who have had front row seats to presidential history dive deep into the six most important lessons learned from presidential campaigns that win. Chris and his guests tap into their experience, historical insight, passion for electoral politics, and love for our country to explain why these lessons matter, and how they’ve separated winners from losers. 

Episode Date
6 - Go Negative

It's the oldest, worst, and most effective part of American politics: go negative. Voters say they hate it, but it works. There's no way to frame your opponent's weakness any better. Chris deconstructs history's hardest hits—and how they were so effective—with Andrea Mitchell, senior Washington correspondent for NBC News and host of "Andrea Mitchell Reports," and Mike Murphy, who's handled media and strategy for Republicans running for President, the US Senate, and governorships.

Feb 24, 2020
5 - Ride the Galloping Horse of History

When Jack Kennedy phoned Coretta Scott King to express concern over her husband’s arrest in 1960, it was a risky move in a tense civil rights era. It also helped propel him to victory against Richard Nixon. So, be like Kennedy and jump on that galloping horse of history as it flies by. You don’t get a second chance. Chris is joined in this episode by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham and former Congresswoman Donna Edwards.

For a transcript, please visit

Feb 17, 2020
4 - Play from the Back

Maybe Iowa didn’t go as planned, but there's a still a chance for your campaign. In a crowded field, great politicians know how to play from the back. They know how to turn a loss into a win. Bill Clinton did just that when he called himself the "Comeback Kid." We break down that moment—and how it helped propel him to the White House—with Republican strategist Susan Del Percio and Beth Fouhy, senior editor of politics for NBC News.

For a transcript, please visit

Feb 10, 2020
3 - The Walls Have Ears

The country is always listening. Put another way: Don't say something you don't want every voter to hear. On this episode, Chris Matthews remember the candidates who forgot this lesson—and paid the price—with Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today, and author and historian Michael Beschloss.

For a transcript, please visit

Feb 03, 2020
2 - See Something, Say Something

Lesson two: see something, say something. When unscripted moments flare up in a campaign, voters want to see candidates who can show some spontaneity. They want to know that their nominees can live without their talking points—that the lights are on and somebody's home.

Chris Matthews dissects the most memorable campaign turning points with Peggy Noonan, a Reagan speechwriter, and Jon Allen, a political analyst at NBC News.

For a transcript, please visit

Jan 27, 2020
1 - Win Iowa

Lesson one: win Iowa. An astounding number of Democrats and Republicans won their party's nomination after winning first in the Iowa caucuses—but America's first battleground hasn't always been a priority for campaigns. Jimmy Carter was the first to realize that a win there could propel a candidate into the national spotlight.

Chris Matthews examines Carter's approach to the 1972 campaign with Gerry Rafshoon, who handled political advertising for the candidate, and veteran journalist Judy Woodruff, who covered the campaign in her early years with NBC.

For a transcript, please visit

Jan 27, 2020
Introducing: So You Wanna Be President?

Host Chris Matthews and campaign veterans who had front row seats to presidential history go through the archives to uncover what has always separated winners from losers. We see these six lessons play out every four years, regardless of party. Campaigns that ignore them do so at their peril.

Jan 17, 2020