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Antoine Sanfuentes on his NBC Rise: ‘It’s a humbling experience.’

Newly-minted NBC News Washington bureau chief Antoine Sanfuentes is in Chicago this week, where last night his predecessor Tim Russert was honored posthumously with the Lincoln Leadership Prize.

This morning, TVNewser caught up with Sanfuentes at the “Morning Joe” taping at Chicago’s RL Restaurant.

Sanfuentes, who’s officially been on the job since Monday, began with NBC in 1989 as an intern at WRC-TV. “Twenty years later, here I am as bureau chief,” he tells TVNewser. “And it’s a humbling experience.”

Sanfuentes holds twice daily editorial meetings in the Tim Russert Conference Room, converted from Russert’s old office. “In some respects, it’s the heart of our bureau…And every single time we go in there, and we talk about what we’re going to do, we feel like there’s this towering presence that helps guide us to do the right thing. It’s a really powerful thing.”

Sanfuentes is at the helm just in time for the ramp-up to the 2012 Presidential election. “The adrenaline is already pumping, anticipating this political season,” says Sanfuentes, who was David Gregory‘s producer at the the White House during the Bush administration. As bureau chief, Sanfuentes also oversees Gregory’s “Meet the Press.”

The show “is number one for a reason,” he says. “It comes down to the moderator, and what they can do, and the way they do it.  And David is a natural.”

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