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Chuck Todd claims he’s nervous.

“You’re just adding to my anxiety,” he complains when I tell him that since the premiere of NBC’s Meet the Press in November 1947, there have been fewer changes in the moderator’s chair—the perch he’ll occupy starting this Sunday—than inside the Oval Office (12 presidents compared with 11 MTP moderators, Todd included). “So basically you’re saying that if I can’t survive a term or two, I’m in trouble.”

For someone who just landed his dream job—the same Inside-the-Beltway throne from which the late Tim Russert, his NBC News mentor, reigned supreme for nearly 16 years—the goatee-wearing Todd is doing a fair impression of angst, though somehow it’s reminiscent of Br’er Rabbit’s briar patch phobia.

“I have not gotten a lot of sleep for the last three weeks,” Todd confides from NBC’s Washington bureau. “It’s driving my wife [political and corporate communications consultant Kristian Denny Todd] crazy, but I think I wake up every two hours with something I’m worried about or an idea that I have. Part of me is thinking it’s such a cool honor that even if I totally fall on my face, they can’t take away the honor that I got to do it.”

It’s unlikely that Todd—who, at 42, gave up the White House beat and his own MSNBC politics show, The Daily Rundown, to accept the new gig, but remains NBC’s political director—could fall very far.

It’s difficult to nose-dive out of a basement.

While MTP still makes news and gets some 2.4 million viewers, the audience is much-reduced from the glory days of Russert, and the iconic Sunday public-affairs program is a battered franchise in need of repair.

Todd—a history buff and political junkie who steeped himself in policy and substance as NBC’s chief White House correspondent for the past 5 1/2 years—seems ready for the challenge. He’s looking fitter than ever on camera, and has slimmed down in the past year—and managed to reduce his chronic bouts with kidney stones—by jogging for 20 minutes every morning on his treadmill at home in Arlington, Virginia.

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