I was sitting down to write today's post when Tim Russert called with a major piece of news out of Washington: Democratic Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota is hospitalized at George Washington University Hospital (which houses a superb trauma center) having suffered a stroke. Sen. Johnson is a young man, not quite yet 60, known to be in good shape. Given his political contacts with the South Dakota delegation, I called Tom Brokaw and shared the news and we all got working on it. It goes without saying that our thoughts and prayers are with the senator and his family. That is first and foremost at this hour. There are also obvious political ramifications that play a potential role here: should the senator become incapacitated, the Republican Governor would appoint a successor under South Dakota law. That would put the Senate at 50-50 and tilt effective control to the Republicans under Vice President Cheney's role as tie-breaking vote. This is a big breaking story on so many levels, and we are all working it. Chip Reid is on it in Washington, and Tim Russert will be by my side on the air tonight here in New York. Right now on MSNBC, Bill Press is making a very important point: GWU Hospital has a world-class stroke unit and is full of top-flite professionals... that is what we should emphasize right now, until we learn more. We hope to have much more by airtime. (Editor's note: You can read the latest on Sen. Johnson's health here.)
Tim will also be with us tonight to debut our new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll numbers -- which, while embargoed for release, reach new benchmarks in the President's approve/disapprove category and his handling of the war. And while this breaking news above sends the top of our broadcast into some flux, we'll also cover Iraq, Secretary Rumsfeld, President Bush's comments today, the search in Oregon (and the coming, collosally bad weather there), the front in Afghanistan, today's medical news, and our featured story about a shopping trend this holiday season.
So its back to work, back to the phones and we hope you will join us for our Wednesday night broadcast.