Chuck Todd courtesy The National Journal/NBC
By the time the 2008 race for the White House is decided, NBC News political director Chuck Todd will have the most famous TV beard since Mitch Miller (Google him). Before joining NBC in 2007, Todd toiled for 15 years at Hotline, a newsletter for campaign insiders. The experience gave him a deep knowledge of the political process. Now he's a must-watch analyst on NBC and MSNBC - even inspiring two fan Web sites, VivaChuckTodd.com and ChuckToddFacts.com. Unauthorized Todd-worshiping merchandise is also available online. The Biz recently caught up with the goateed guru of all things electoral.

TVGuide.com: Do you think you'll soon reach a point where you'll be contractually obligated to keep the facial hair?
Chuck Todd:
I've been teased that there were previous regimes at NBC News where this beard might not have lasted this long. I don't know. My late father would be proud. He had a beard all his life. He looked like Nero Wolfe.

TVGuide.com: What is it about you that viewers are responding to right now?
Todd:
It's a little bit of dumb luck in this respect. The Democratic primary contest suddenly got decided in the weeds. There was a delegate fight. It became a fight about the rules of the process, not about who got the most votes in a state and who won a state. It became about the next level down which is back to the way all nominating contests used to be decided, which was about delegates not votes. I happened to spend 20 years caring about these delegate rules and the primary calendar and all these things that I used to have to keep up with at my previous job at Hotline. Suddenly it became useful information.

TVGuide.com: It feels as if the Democratic primary race became more complicated, your value to NBC News grew.
Todd:
If somehow I have a lengthy career in television, it will all be thanks to the Democratic National Committee's rules and by-laws committee.

TVGuide.com: But you really love this stuff.
Todd:
I love the minutiae. At the Hotline, our job was to know everything going on in politics down to the county and district level. It's a trade publication for campaign politics so you've got to know everything, not just presidential elections. I used to like to mock these people at national networks - "Yeah, every four years you get to be an expert on politics. Well guess what? When the presidential campaign is over I have to start caring about the Pittsburgh mayor."

TVGuide.com: Your other passion is sports.
Todd:
It is. It's the same part of the brain. For a few years I worked at a sports publication. I realized that I missed politics and that you shouldn't make your hobby your full time job. It was a sports business publication and suddenly I'd go to a baseball or football game and I'd wonder, "Who's got the pour, Miller or Anheuser? What kind of signage do they use?" It was like, "Hey, wait a minute - I've got to get back to politics."

TVGuide.com: You were a good enough French horn player to earn a college scholarship.
Todd:
There was a moment when I was deciding where I was going to go to school, and I thought am I going to do this music career thing or not? I chose not to, but that didn't mean I didn't want music to help pay for school. If I went to one school, and pursued a career in music, I'd probably have ended up as a high school band director somewhere. But I knew I wasn't good enough to be in some symphony. My father said I'd never be big enough to get a scholarship in sports, "no matter how good you think your jump shot is. Go play the French horn and you'll be surprised how much free money was out there." And he was right.

TVGuide.com: Do you vote? Not everyone who has a job like yours does.
Todd:
Yes. My feeling is I am lucky enough to know more people about who these people are. I'm doing a disservice to myself if I don't vote. I get all this extra information. Who am I not to vote?

TVGuide.com: What do you think of the fan web sites about you?
Todd:
It seems like the right thing to do is be embarrassed about it... but it's kind of cool. It's harmless, and I hope it stays harmless. It's better to have a fan site than a hate site.

TVGuide.com: Is there a secret about yourself that you'd like to reveal?
Todd:
I would probably quit my job tomorrow if somebody asked me to be the play-by-play guy for University of Miami college football.