The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 8/12/2016
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: August 12, 2016
Guest: Lee Miringoff, Bob Shrum
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: That`s “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Steve Kornacki in for Rachel
Good evening, Steve.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC GUEST HOST: Good evening to you, Chris. Thanks for
Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
Rachel is going to be back in this seat on Monday night.
Well, if you are like me, and if you`re like me, then God help you, but if
you`re like me, then you live for election nights. There`s something
exhilarating, there`s something fun, there`s something enjoyable about
sitting down and watching returns come in from states and from cities and
counties and precincts all across the country.
You get to sit there. You get to watch the returns come in, you see the
patterns that emerge, one candidate strong here, the other candidate
cleaning up over there. You`re trying to figure out why. To watch that
happening is really to watch the story of America at that moment, being
written right in front of your eyes. I`m a sucker for it. I think it`s
But you know what else I like watching, besides live election nights. I
like watching footage from all election nights. I like the old music they
used to play, I love the primitive graphics that look straight out of an
Atari game. Like the legendary anchors you could see narrating the
Look at that. There`s Brokaw. There`s John Chancellor. I like watching
the maps get filled in. By the way, those maps we fill in every
presidential election night, well, they used to do it a little differently
than they do it now. See if you can spot what I mean.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Decision `76, NBC News continues its election night report.
Here are John Chancellor and David Brinkley.
DAVID BRINKLEY, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: And first I`d like to give you a quick
guided tour of our big beautiful map, so you can see what has been
happening there, how the colors are coming in, which means which candidates
are carrying which states.
As you can see, there are six states illuminated in red, or dark gray.
Those are Carter states. There`s one state lit up in blue, Indiana, and
that`s Ford`s one and only state so far.
JOHN CHANCELLOR, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: We have another state to project. NBC
News projects Jimmy Carter the winner in Florida. That was not a big
surprise. He had campaigned down there. So had his running mate, but you
see it on our map.
Now, the south is beginning to fill in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) for ABC News has made the projection. The
darker color, the blue, are states that have gone for Carter. The lighter
color, the yellow, the states that have gone for Ford.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At 8:15 Eastern Standard Time, on this election night,
we have projected Ronald Reagan the winner. And to add evidence to that
protection, we are projecting him as the winner in more states. By our
calculations, Ronald Reagan is the winner in the state of New Hampshire, in
the state of Vermont, Delaware, and South Carolina.
We will be coloring in those on the map now in blue for Reagan or light
gray from black and white. New Hampshire is the first state that we are
calling for him in this list of states. Vermont, we are coloring blue in a
projection for Reagan.
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: The only sure bet for Mondale tonight seems
to be the District of Columbia. So we`ll color that red in our big NBC
News election map. And these states apparently are strong for Ronald
Reagan, where he is doing well, or where the state is leaning his way. So,
they`re colored blue on the election map.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, color this blue for Republicans and red for
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Did you see that? Sometimes the Democrats, they got blue.
Sometimes the Democrats got red back then.
They also told you, if you have a black and white set, you look for the
darker color, the lighter color. That`s another relic, too. But the red
states and the blue states, we talk about them all the time now. The red
states for the Republicans, the blue states for the Democrats.
But for a long, long time, for a long time on election night, there was no
standard. You tuned in on election night. Red did not automatically mean
a Republican state. Blue did not automatically mean a Democratic state.
It was random. Different networks would use different colors in different
And there were broader implications to that too. It wasn`t just how you
watched the election on election night. It was how we talked about
America. It was how we talked about the intersection of politics and
culture in America.
Think about that, we have the red states and the blue states today and that
means something bigger. We talk about red America, we talk about different
customs, different traditions, different ways of living in red America and
blue America. They`re two very distinct things. They have cultural
But that wasn`t the case for a long time. For a long time on election
night, you tuned in on election night and you found out which party for
that night was going to get which color. There`s another reason for this,
too. A big reason was that in the `70s and `80s, when a lot of those
elections we were showing you came from, a lot of the elections were just
You saw in 1984 there. 1984, Ronald Reagan won 49 states. So, the color
scheme didn`t matter. So no one was going to worry which ones were red,
which ones were blue and what that meant.
So, the question is, we showed you the `70s. We showed you the `80s. When
did we start talking about the red states and the blue states, the way that
we talk about them now?
Well, we can thank for that Tim Russert – the late great Tim Russert. He
is the one who first talked about red states and blue states the way we do
wow, and he did it in the 2000 election. That`s what you`re watching right
there. Tim Russert talking a couple days before the 2000 election, he`s
the one who started talking about them the way we do now.
And that year is key, 2000 is key. Election night in 2000 was the first
time in a generation, it was the first time since that Carter/Ford election
in 1976, that we actually had a truly close, truly suspenseful, nip and
tuck presidential election.
You remember it, right? It went on for weeks, actually. It wasn`t even
settled on election night. People trying to figure out who their next
president was going to be.
And all night and into the wee hours of the morning on election night 2000,
people were at home, staring at their television screens, trying to figure
out what combination of states might possibly put Al Gore over the top,
what combination of states might mean that George W. Bush was going to be
the winner. That`s the kind of night it was.
And the colors that were used that night just so happened to be blue for
Gore and red for Bush, red for the Republicans. So with Tim Russert
leading the way, people at home, all across the country started talking
about the red states as a thing, and the blue states as a thing. The red
for the Republicans, the blue for the Democrats. Election night 2000,
people started talking that way, tens of millions all watching their
televisions at the same time. And it just kind of stuck.
Something else stuck after the 2000 election too – the polarization of
that election, the polarization of what was a near perfect time. It was
the Supreme Court that had to step in and ultimately settle the 2000
election. That`s how close it was.
But before 2000, we had a lot of landslide elections in this country,
election nights that were over before they started. Think of Ronald
Reagan, those 49 states in 1984. Nixon in 49 states in `72. Bush Sr., 40
states in 1988.
But since 2000, since that election night in 2000, presidential elections
in this country have been a lot more competitive. And the reason for that
is because now, there are a large number of reliably red states, a large
number of reliably blue states. We`re a very polarized country now, along
partisan lines in a way we weren`t before.
Even a losing candidate in presidential elections these days generally wins
at least 20 states, gets at least 45 percent of the vote. You don`t have
candidates losing 49-state landslides anymore. That`s something that`s
changed since 2000.
The other thing that defines this new polling era – this new political era
– ooh, I just gave it away. The other thing that defines it, though,
polling. It was around 2000. Since then we`ve had an explosion in
polling. More outlets are conducting more polls, more frequently than ever
We are swimming at any given moment in data – numbers about who is
winning, who is losing and why they`re winning or why they`re losing.
This week, you may have seen this headline floating around the internet.
It says that since 1952, no candidate has ever come back to win a
presidential election when behind in the polls like Donald Trump is now
behind. And yes, there`s truth to that obviously. But take that with a
grain of salt because they barely had any polling for many of those
Many of them are also just good, old-fashioned landslides. The one I was
describing there. So, of course, the winner in the end was also ahead two
weeks after the convention, the winner was ahead for the entire election.
When you didn`t have a country as polarized as it is now, you could have
candidates leading by 20 points the entire way.
But since 2000, since 2000, it has been a different story. Every election
has been competitive, every election has featured a ton of polls that have
been conducted for the entire length of the campaign. And what that means,
what that means is that we can compare campaigns with precision nowadays.
We can say – we can say that right now, as I sit here and as I talk with
you, it has been two weeks since the final convention in this 2016
presidential campaign. It`s been two weeks since the Democrats finished up
Now, the polling bounces have settled down since both of those conventions.
We are now fully, officially, totally in the general election. So, with
all of that in mind, we can ask, thanks to this new political world we live
in, we can ask, where does the Clinton/Trump race stand right now, and how
does it compare to the ones before? Is it closer? Is it more of a blow-
out? How does it stack up?
So let`s take a look. In 2000, Al Gore`s Democratic convention went second
that year. It was over. He got a big bounce right away. His lead started
to dissipate. And then at this exact point in the campaign, two weeks
after that second convention in 2000, George W. Bush was ahead by literally
the smallest possible margin when you averaged all the polls together. He
was ahead by about a tenth of a point in the average of the polls.
At this point in 2000, four years later, 2004, President Bush got the
second convention. He got a big bounce out of it. Two weeks after the
last convention, Bush was up five and a half points when you average the
polls together, five and a half points.
Fast forward to 2008, after the last convention, two weeks after it, Barack
Obama was ahead of John McCain. His margin was 1.9 points, an average of
Four years later, the last presidential election before this one, in 2012,
two weeks after the last convention, that was the Democratic convention in
2012, President Obama was leading Mitt Romney. The average margin, 3.1
So, that`s where every race since 2000 has stood at this exact same moment.
That was the margin for the leading candidate. And now we can give you a
number for right now. Well, the polling has been bad for Donald Trump in
the last two weeks since the Democratic convention ended. And right now,
when you average them all together, two weeks after the end of Hillary
Clinton`s convention, her margin over Donald Trump, she leads by 6.3
Again, that`s according to an average of all the national polls, 6.3 points
for Hillary Clinton. Compare that to all of the others since 2000, since
the start of this red state/blue state era, we`re talking about, compare
her number to all the others, she`s doing better than any other nominee in
this period in history at this point in the campaign.
This is a bigger lead than we`ve seen for any nominee at that time. Over
six points on average, now just two weeks after the final convention. And
in the heart now of the general election campaign. So, that`s where this
race stands. Hillary Clinton leading by more than six points on average.
Donald Trump seems to know he`s behind.
For someone who bragged a lot during the primaries about all his poll
numbers, there`s been a noticeable shift in rhetoric from him. We saw it
yesterday in Florida.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: You got to get your people out to
vote. And especially in those states where we`re represented – having a
tremendous problem in Utah.
Utah`s a different place and I don`t know – is anybody here from Utah? I
mean, it`s – I didn`t think so. We`re having a problem.
We need help in Ohio. We`re very close in Ohio. Ohio is very close, but
we need help.
And the fact that you`re in Florida, most of you, many of you are in
Florida, but if you could send out the word to Ohio, Pennsylvania, some of
these really important swing states, I`m telling you, we will do it,
because we`re close. We`re very close.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So Donald Trump knows he`s been having some trouble. We know
the national polls. We just took you through them.
Hillary Clinton has been getting great news there. She`s ahead by a larger
margin than anybody at this point since 2000. But let`s take a look, we
always say, this is a battle for 270. This is a battle for the Electoral
And we`ve got brand-new numbers out today. NBC/Marist polls out today in
four pivotal swing states, at least we think of them as swing states. But
look at this, we`ve got Hillary Clinton ahead by 14 points in Colorado.
Remember, Colorado is a state that actually went for George W. Bush in
2004. It was a coup for Democrats to take that in 2008. Hillary Clinton
now up 14 there.
She`s up double-digits in Virginia. Virginia, another state that was long
a Republican bastion. It`s been changing a lot.
Look at this, Hillary Clinton, a double-digit lead. North Carolina, a
Romney state in 2012, but Hillary Clinton up nearly ten points there.
And in Florida, the always important state of Florida, a closer margin.
But, again, Hillary Clinton up five points there. So, across the board,
four key swing states. Hillary Clinton`s ahead.
We focus on these three, though – Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina. I`m
telling you about the political histories in those states, Virginia was a
Republican state for generations. As we said, Colorado was a Bush state.
North Carolina, a Romney state. How could Hillary Clinton be up not just
ahead, but ahead by these margins?
Let`s take a look at the demographics in these states. I think it`s going
to give you an explanation. So, we talk about this all the time.
One of the defining things in this campaign has been a divide among white
voters, between those who have college degrees and those who don`t have
college degrees. You see Donald Trump has been doing well with blue
collar, non-college white voters. Hillary Clinton, though, has been doing
better than any Democrat`s ever done with college-educated white voters.
So, take a look. In 2012, 36 percent of the voters nationwide were whites
with college degrees. In Virginia, you see the number was higher, 41
percent. So those are the kinds of voters Hillary Clinton`s been doing
particularly well with. And Donald Trump`s been doing particularly poorly
with. There are a lot more of them in Virginia than you see nationally.
So that`s why Clinton is doing extra well in Virginia.
Colorado, again, that`s above the national average. A key reason there why
Hillary Clinton`s so far ahead.
North Carolina, a little bit below average. It`s close enough that Hillary
Clinton gets some benefit from that. But there`s another reason why
Hillary Clinton might be ahead in North Carolina. You take that white,
college-educated vote, where she`s doing well, you add in the fact that
North Carolina`s black population, almost twice the national average when
it comes to these elections, and Hillary Clinton doing overwhelmingly
better than Donald Trump amongst black voters.
Virginia also, one in five voters there are African-American. Hillary
Clinton doing very well with that group. So, that`s key.
And in Colorado, it`s the story of the Latino vote. Again, it`s 14 percent
in Colorado. That`s a growing number out there, 10 percent nationally.
And again, Hillary Clinton cleaning up Latino voters.
So that`s why she`s doing so well suddenly in states that just a couple of
cycles ago, we thought of as Republican states. Here`s the bottom line,
though, of where this race stands right now.
The gray states are basically your battleground. These are states we`ve
been looking at all summer and saying, these could be toss-ups. They`re at
least competitive. We`re not sure who is going to win and we`ve been
seeing a lot of polls come out of these states.
Here`s the interesting thing. Obviously, Donald Trump has to do more work
here than Hillary Clinton. If we only said, let`s color in states if a
candidate is leading in the polls by double-digits. Let`s leave everything
else as a toss-up, everything else as undecided. Only if a candidate is up
double-digits in one of these battleground states will we color it in.
We`ll look at this.
Right now, Hillary Clinton is ahead by double-digits, really solid margins
in polls in New Hampshire, in Wisconsin, in Michigan. We just saw it today
in Virginia, and in Colorado. We just showed it to you.
And look at that. Only based on states where she`s ahead by double-digits,
that puts her over 270. That`s a candidate who`s in very good position
right now in the Electoral College. She`s not winning squeakers in the
swing states, she`s blowing Trump out in enough swing states, that just
with the blowouts, she`d be over 270 right now. That`s not even factoring
in some of the other states.
So, that`s Donald Trump`s challenge. He`s got two challenges. Not only
does he have to flip a bunch of these states, he`s got to just make them
competitive. He`s not even competitive in enough states right now. That`s
the problem for Trump in these polls.
We`re going to squeeze in a quick break. When we come back, we`ll talk to
the man who conducted these polls. We`re going to find out where this race
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have to win the state of Pennsylvania. I went to school here.
My kids went to school here. We`re going to win Pennsylvania.
If we win Pennsylvania, I`ll tell you what, we are very much on our way.
You know, the Republicans do have a tougher path. Not my fault. Not my
fault, it`s a tougher path.
For the presidency, it`s just a tougher, winding road. But if we win
Pennsylvania, we win Florida, where we`re doing really well, I think we can
win Ohio. It will be over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Donald Trump this afternoon in Erie, Pennsylvania, talking
strategy, talking path to 270, laying out what he thinks is his road to the
Joining us now is Lee Miringoff, he`s director of the Marist Institute for
public opinion. All of the swing state polls we were showing you, he`s the
guy who took them. So, there`s no one better to talk to right now than Lee
Thanks for joining us. So –
LEE MIRINGOFF, MARIST POLLING DIRECTOR: We`ve made a science out of coin-
KORNACKI: Well, but, see, this is the thing. These numbers you`re
getting in these swing states don`t look like coin-flips right now.
MIRINGOFF: They really aren`t.
KORNACKI: And we`re talking about it. We just said this over here,
Colorado, Virginia, and North Carolina, you go back a decade, you`re
calling these red states. Now, it`s not just the Republican in danger of
losing, but in a danger of being blown out of them. That`s a big change.
MIRINGOFF: Yes, and I think you would tend to fight a lot of the
demographic factors, you know, moving this. You know, the fact that the
educational difference, the gap between white college, white non-college
and, you know, that`s an inversion. That used to be the opposite.
Republicans were getting the upscale voters. Democrats were getting the
blue collar working class. Well, that`s not happening in this election and
that actually bodes well for Hillary Clinton because the people who have
higher income, higher education, are also going to be more likely to vote,
So, what we are going to see is, when we go to likely voters and those
models and all those polls, well, that`s not going to skew Republican like
it has in the past. It should stay pretty much like when we`re seeing
right now. So, that`s going to be very interesting.
I saw that Donald Trump was talking a lot about Pennsylvania, because he
was there today. Pennsylvania`s gone Democratic the last six times. And
he`s trailing there in our poll, which was released mid-week by 11 points.
KORNACKI: Double-digits. I`ve seen a few there with double-digits. Talk
more about that. Because Trump has identified Pennsylvania and a lot of I
think analysts looking at this race at the outset, looked at Pennsylvania,
one reason was Romney, he didn`t win it, but he improved significantly over
what happened there in 2008.
So, people sort of thought Republicans were moving maybe in the right
direction there. And you think of Pennsylvania as a blue collar state and
you think maybe Trump connects with that, but he`s losing more ground than
MIRINGOFF: Yes. Not only the educational divide we`re talking about the
sort of rural versus urban, suburban divide. So, when you look at
Pennsylvania, for example, and it`s showing up elsewhere around the
country. You look at Philadelphia and the suburbs around Philadelphia,
those are overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton right now.
Same thing with the western part of the state, around Pittsburgh, suburbs
around Pittsburgh. Again, very Democratic. Trump is doing the rural thing
with that. The problem for Trump is, there`s a lot more voters in the
cities and the suburbs around the cities than in the rural parts.
So, he`s having the same problem. That`s why these numbers are all moving
in the same direction. Because basically the universals in terms of what
he`s getting are not pretty right now. So, he can be behind by double-
And a lot of places which you so correctly identified have different things
going for them, maybe upscale voters and maybe a lot of African American
and Latino voters, there`s different things in the states. The bottom line
is, Trump`s not breaking into most of those groups and Hillary Clinton is.
So, that`s the problem.
And then the other thing we`ve mixed into it, Barack Obama in the four
states we talked about today is over 50 – 50 or over in each of those four
KORNACKI: He`s popular.
MIRINGOFF: So you now have a popular president in these critical,
battleground states, about to pass the baton to someone who obviously is
identified with his administration, and is running on that as well.
KORNACKI: Very quickly, when you look at these numbers, do you think
there`s a floor for Donald Trump? Because presidential elections have been
more competitive than maybe for the generation before. Is Donald Trump
automatically because we live in that polarized era, likely to get 45
percent or 40 percent, or is there a lower floor?
MIRINGOFF: Well, you know, what we got here is we don`t have – I mean,
look, Hillary Clinton`s ahead, not because people are in love with Hillary
Clinton. In fact, her negatives are in the 50s in each of these states.
The trouble for Donald Trump, his negatives are in the 60s in each of these
So, not to use the old cliche, the lesser of two evils, but what you really
have here is someone who is very, very popular in Donald Trump and someone
who is not particularly popular in Hillary Clinton. So, that goes
Clinton`s way in all these states.
KORNACKI: The best thing that Trump has going for him is Clinton, and the
best thing Clinton has going for her is Trump. She`s getting the better
end of that deal right now.
MIRINGOFF: Although the Clinton people are more favorable to Clinton, than
the Trump people are to Trump. I mean, they`re more motivated, the Trump
people, but their dislike of Clinton, whereas Clinton`s people are a little
more motivated by their like of her than their dislike of Trump.
So, there`s a little difference there, but the bottom line is, this is an
election that has really no great road maps because we`ve been surprised
every other day. And there`s likely to be many more of those down the road
before we`re done in November.
Right now, it`s playing Hillary Clinton`s way. We`ll see if it continues.
KORNACKI: There`s the bottom line. Lee Miringoff from Marist, did these
swing state polls for us. You`ll do a lot more before November, I`m sure.
Thanks for the time. Appreciate it.
All right. Much more ahead. We`ll be right back.
KORNACKI: All right. We got lots more election to come. A big week
obviously and all sorts of numbers we`ve been going through.
But it`s not just numbers. It`s what the candidates are saying. And
Donald Trump obviously has made his share of provocative, if you want to
put it that way, provocative comments.
Well, he just made one that even people who think they`re used to Donald
Trump were caught off guard by. That`s going to be ahead.
Stay with us.
KORNACKI: Donald Trump tonight was at a rally in Altoona, Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania, a state that has gone for the Democrats, as we were just
saying, in each one of the last six presidential elections, all the way
back through 1992.
And even though the latest polling shows him down by double-digits in
Pennsylvania, he had something controversial to say about what Hillary
Clinton would have to do to win the state.
Listen to what Trump said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We`re going to watch Pennsylvania very quickly. We`re going to
Go down to certain areas and watch and study and make sure other people
don`t come in and vote five times. Because if you do that, and I know
you`re all voting – is everybody here voting?
If you do that, if you do that, we`re not going to lose. The only way we
can lose, in my opinion, I really mean this, Pennsylvania, is if cheating
go goes on. I really believe that.
We have to call up law enforcement, and we have to have the sheriffs and
the police chiefs and everybody watching, because if we get cheated out of
this election, if we get cheated out of a win in Pennsylvania, which is
such a vital state, especially when I know what`s happening here, folks. I
know. She can`t beat what`s happening here.
The only way they can beat it, in my opinion, and I mean this 100 percent,
if in certain sections of the state, they cheat. OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Donald Trump saying that cheating is the only way Hillary
Clinton could possibly win Pennsylvania.
Again, the electoral history on Pennsylvania, we`ve been going through
this. This is a state that twice voted for Bill Clinton, 1992, 1996, twice
voted for Barack Obama. It`s a state where Al Gore won in 2000, where John
Kerry won in 2004, it`s a state that last voted for a Republican in a
presidential race 28 years ago.
But Donald Trump says the only possible way Hillary Clinton could win that
state is through cheating, and saying more specifically that certain
sections of the state are prone to cheating.
More on that ahead. Stay with us.
KORNACKI: Eighty-seven days, we`ve got 87 days to go now and counting
until the big day, Election Day. We are 87 days out. And as we showed you
at the top of the show, Hillary Clinton right now, 87 days out, is in
better position than a nominee has been in at this point in a very long
time. In the new polls out today, she`s widened her lead in some key
battleground states. She`s even up by double-digits in two of them, and
these states were red not long ago.
She`s gained significant ground since before the conventions. There`s no
question about that. So things are good right now for the Clinton
campaign. But how much of this is because of what they`re doing right, as
opposed to what Donald Trump and his campaign are doing wrong?
In fact, the Clinton campaign seems right now their single best weapon to
be Donald Trump himself. Look at this article. “Clinton happily yields
national spotlight to Trump, avoids its glare.”
Clinton aides say their strategy is simple. Let Trump be Trump.
Hillary Clinton has no problem with him getting embroiled in controversy
while she focuses on her campaign. And so far, the strategy is working for
the Clinton campaign. It`s hard to argue with the avalanche of good
polling news they`ve gotten lately.
But as we said, there are still 87 days to go until the election. That
means 87 days for things to take a wrong turn, for mistakes to be made, 87
days for Donald Trump to somehow find his footing, recover, and make a
So, what do you do when you`re in the Clinton campaign`s position right
now? How do you maintain a lead like this for 87 days? How do you keep
the good news you`ve been getting for the last two weeks going for another
87 days? How do you guard against complacency?
It`s been a while since a campaign has been in this position, leading by
this much, so close to the election. What do they do for the next 87 days?
Joining us now is Bob Shrum. He was a senior official in the Al Gore and
John Kerry presidential campaigns. He`s also a professor of politics at
Bob, thanks for joining us.
Well, let me start with the sports analogy. In football, if you`re ahead
trying to run the clock out, you go to the prevent defense. In basketball,
you might have the four corners offense. Is that a thing in politics? Is
that something a campaign does when it`s ahead?
BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, there`s an old adage, don`t get in
the way of a train wreck. And that applies in politics.
And I think what`s happening to Trump is a train wreck. It`s a self-
induced train wreck. It`s been going on since the end of the Democratic
convention, even before that.
Trump has turned this campaign into a referendum on his temperament and his
competence and his fitness to be president. And that`s why I think you`re
seeing these leads.
Now, if you`re the Clinton campaign, I think they`re being very smart.
They had a brilliant convention. I think they`re being very smart right
They`re going to the states they`re targeting, they`re doing interviews
with local newscasters, local television stations. That is reaching people
in those areas.
They`re not trying to compete with Trump in the national news at this
point, because truthfully, he`s proving that not all news is good news. I
mean, the story ahead just before we came to this segment. I mean, what he
said in Pennsylvania tonight.
You can rely on him, once he gets off the script. They try to make him
read, that he`s going to get off the script and he`s going to say something
incendiary. That`s what he did tonight.
Earlier today by the way, he said, well, they said I was being sarcastic
when I said the president was the founder of ISIS. Truth is, not so
He can`t control himself. That`s why I`m skeptical he can turn it around
in 87 days.
KORNACKI: So, with that in mind, if Donald Trump keeps doing what we`ve
been seeing straight to the finish line, what is the biggest risk, exposure
for the Clinton campaign, given the position they`re in and the candidate
they`re running against?
SHRUM: Well, it`s an unpredicted event, an extraordinary outside event
that has a big impact. Everything thought earlier in the summer if there
were terrorist attacks, that would help Trump. In fact, his reaction to
them made certain that it didn`t help him.
I mean, he reacted so badly, by saying, for example, I was right,
congratulate me, I was right. That kind of stuff, he doesn`t handle well.
But some exogenous event of major proportion would have an impact on this.
Other than that, I don`t see what`s going to change the trajectory of the
race. The debates? I mean, Trump is A, is fooling around on whether he`s
going to show up. B, he`s not getting Sean Hannity as the moderator, no
matter how much he might want that. And C, I don`t know if this guy can
prepare in a serious way for a different kind of debate, where actually
having substantive knowledge is going to matter and where questioners are
going to hold him to account.
I don`t know that he can do that. He has to have that debate. Only in
that debate now could he pass the threshold of acceptability as president
and commander in chief.
KORNACKI: All right. Bob Shrum, Democratic strategist, veteran of many
Democratic campaigns nationally, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.
SHRUM: Thank you.
KORNACKI: All right. We`ll be right back.
KORNACKI: All right. Well, needless to say, the last 48 hours have not
exactly been great for Donald Trump. Headlines about a meltdown after
another round of bad poll numbers. And now, controversy over his
insistence that President Obama should be considered the founder of ISIS.
There`s more, though. There was an open letter from dozens of Republicans
urging the Republican National Committee to cut off its funding of the
And last night, reports that members of Trump campaign staff had asked for
emergency meeting with RNC officials which was described as a “Come to
Jesus” session, designed to get both the campaign and the national party on
the same page.
Now, the RNC has denied this was anything more than a typical meeting.
Tensions within the Republican Party, though, they were on full public
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s an open letter penned by some 70 Republicans,
suggesting that Reince Priebus pull back funding, maybe data from your
campaign. Have you talked to Reince? Are you in contact with Reince,
contact with the RNC? Any truth to any of this?
TRUMP: Sure, well, there`s no truth. But I`m the one that`s funding,
raising the money. And other people are getting to use the money I`ve
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you been in contact?
TRUMP: Yes, I have. He just put out a press release, saying it`s untrue.
I mean, if it is true, that`s OK too because all I`ll have to do is stop
funding the Republican Party. I`m the one raising the money for him. In
fact, right now, I`m in Orlando, I`m going to a fund-raiser for the
Republican Party. So, if they want to do that, they can save me a lot of
time and a lot of energy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, that was Donald Trump last night saying that if the RNC
wanted to take away campaign resources from him, then he could just stop
raising money for them in return.
So, with all of that swirling in the background, when Trump held a rally
today in Erie, Pennsylvania, he came with a surprise guest. Take a look at
this. Reince Priebus, the chair of the Republican Party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: Don`t believe the garbage you read. Let me
tell you something, Donald Trump, the Republican Party, all of you, we`re
going to put him in the White House and save this country together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Now, it`s hard to see Priebus`s sudden appearance on the
campaign trail as a coincidence. He generally isn`t Trump`s warm up act at
rallies. And in fact, it was just a week ago when Trump held a rally in
Priebus` home state of Wisconsin, but the RNC chairman was nowhere to be
seen, along with a number of other top Wisconsin Republicans.
Remember, that really came just after Trump had refused to endorse House
Speaker Paul Ryan`s re-election campaign in Wisconsin.
NBC`s Katy Tur reporting tonight that Reince`s surprise appearance today is
part of an effort to make sure Trump doesn`t travel alone. He and other
officials are taking turns, quote, “Trump-sitting”, in order to keep.
That`s a role we`re not used to seeing a national party chair play. But
it`s a role that maybe in the Trump campaign, may be the new normal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Reince, come here for a second, please?
The head of the Republican National Committee has done such a great job.
We`re friends, we work together. We work with a lot of other people.
And I have to say, we have great unification. Now every once in a while
you read about somebody that wants to be a rebel, they get a little free
publicity for themselves. But the way we`ve gotten along and I`ve raised -
- I`ve put in a lot of money into the Republican National Committee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was just a couple of hours ago in Altoona, Pennsylvania.
Donald Trump bringing up Reince Priebus to the stage with him, singing his
praises. Interesting relationship there to dissect.
Joining us now to do it, Robert Costa, national political reporter with
“The Washington Post” joining us here in New York. Thanks for stopping by.
That relationship, the Trump-Priebus relationship, a lot of people are
fascinated by it and they don`t know what to make of it. What is the
relationship? What`s your sense of it?
ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST: It`s a pivotal relationship within the
Priebus has positioned himself as a confidant of Trump, something to go to
New York like he did today, fly with Trump to Erie, Pennsylvania, be a
Trump whisperer of sorts, and it`s an important role because many people on
Capitol Hill, the party leaders, they don`t really have a relationship with
KORNACKI: Is your sense that Trump listens to him and follows his advice,
or is he just giving advice and Trump disregards and talks about something
COSTA: Because Trump doesn`t have a traditional organization, he`s relying
on the Republican National Committee to be his grassroots organization, to
help out with fundraising nationally. So, he`s leaning on the RNC in many
ways. So, it`s a relationship of necessity in some ways for Donald Trump.
I don`t think they`re personally close in a very warm, daily conversation
way. But it`s a relationship that`s political, and he sees Priebus as the
party, and that`s his way of talking to the party.
KORNACKI: And how about we have all the stories this week about – there
was a move by some anti-Trump Republicans. We should say, looks like they
were the never Trump people, been around for a long time. This is their
latest grab of the headlines, but saying, hey, cut off the funding to the
Trump campaign, not just the Trump-Priebus relationship, but you`re
mentioning that Trump relies on the RNC.
What`s the relationship between those two entities, the Trump campaign and
the RNC, what`s that like?
COSTA: It`s an important one, because Trump doesn`t have an institutional
relationship with the Republican Party. So he`s come into this election,
he`s waded into GOP world, and he`s grabbed onto the RNC as his way of
communicating with the party and building an infrastructure for the general
election. And because the Trump campaign doesn`t have the sprawling
organization, it`s really the RNC, which is assisting Trump with hires and
grassroots organizations and operations.
It`s the Capitol Hill folks who are different. They`re not intertwined
with Trump in the same way the RNC is. So house members are saying, we
should start to distance ourselves a bit, running that Paul Ryan better way
plan, and if you`re vulnerable in the Senate, you`re starting to maybe
rethink your positioning.
KORNACKI: We mentioned this earlier on the show. Donald Trump at that
rally we were just showing the clip from in Altoona, talking about
Pennsylvania, a state that he`s targeting. In some ways, it`s a target
that make sense, a sort of blue collar, white population there. But
there`s also – you got these Philly suburbs, where you got these sort of
white collar professionals, they`re fleeing him right now.
He`s down in the polls and he`s saying, the only way I can lose this state
is by cheating. What`s your sense – where is that coming from? What`s
the strategic purpose? Where he`s trying t got with that?
COSTA: Well, it`s not coming from evidence. Evidence of voter fraud is
quite limited across the country. Where it comes is from a gut instinct, a
belief by Trump. And this is fed by some people in his orbit. Roger
Stone, his long-time confidant has talked about the idea that the system
could be rigged, that there could be voter fraud, people like Alex Jones,
and the conspiratorial world of the right. They`ve talked about this type
And this gets to Trump`s attention and he talks about it in public.
KORNACKI: Is that something, though, when you talk about Reince Priebus
having access to him, being able to talk to him, is that something he`s in
his ear saying, let`s not go down this road?
COSTA: My reporting doesn`t reveal Priebus saying something specific about
voter fraud. And I think it`s – my own report tells me it`s limited in
who can actually get through to Trump. He`s resistant to advice in many
ways. He`s resistant to change.
He`s OK if he`s working with an organization on fundraising and operations.
But when it comes to strategy, he really relies on himself.
KORNACKI: All right. Robert Costa with “The Washington Post”, great
insight. Thanks for the time.
COSTA: Thank you.
KORNACKI: OK. One last trip to the big board, I`m going to take the
jacket off because I can`t stand wearing that thing, and head over there.
KORNACKI: All right. We got a few minutes left in the show so I convinced
them to let me come back to the big board for one more segment.
Now, we talked a lot this week about polling. We`ve got all sorts of new
numbers this week on the state of presidential race and basically across
the boards these were numbers that were good for Hillary Clinton and the
Democrats, and bad for Donald Trump and the Republicans. We talked about
this on the show tonight.
Hillary Clinton right now enjoying a bigger lead at this point in the race
at any nominee we`ve seen since the year 2000. Now, if you`re a
Republican, obviously, you`re hoping Donald Trump bounces back, unless
you`re one of those never Trump Republicans. But that`s a different –
that`s a different subject.
If you`re a pro-Trump Republican you`re hoping he bounces back, gets back
in this race in the fall.
But the other thing you`re worrying about right now is not just the
presidential race. You`re worrying about something very important to the
Republican Party, something that the Republican Party got two years ago and
is in danger of losing if Donald Trump loses this November.
What am I talking about? You can probably guess, it`s control of the U.S.
Senate, think of how much money, how much effort went in to the
Republican`s capturing the Senate, this 54/46 majority they have right now
What this means is Democrats this year, if they can pick off five seats –
they get five Republican seats they have the Senate majority. Or if they
get four and Hillary Clinton gets elected president, they would also have
the majority, because the president`s party gets to break the tie. They
probably need to get four if Hillary Clinton wins.
Let`s take a look at what the lay of the land here is in terms of Senate
battleground. You see, this is what gets Democrats excited the red states
up here, those are Republican held seats that are potentially vulnerable
this November. You`ll have Republicans or their seats that are currently
held by Republicans where Democrats have a plausible chance of winning.
The blue, those are Democratic seats where Republicans have a plausible
chance of winning. And you can see, there are 11 vulnerable red seats,
only two vulnerable blue seats, that`s because six years ago when this
clash of senators was up, it was a great year for Republicans, it means
they`re playing defense. It means there`s a lot of opportunity for
So, Democrats put those two things together. They say Hillary Clinton is
beating Donald Trump and we`ve got all these pick up opportunities on this
map. That means there could be a wave that gives Democrats control of the
U.S. Senate. That`s what Democrats are saying right.
Is that what the evidence is saying in terms of polling? Well, it`s
telling us a couple of things. There are some states that it`s bearing out
You look in Pennsylvania, Hillary Clinton is way ahead in Pennsylvania
right now. The Democratic Senate candidate a challenger against the
incumbent Republican, it`s a smaller margin than Clinton is leading, but it
is a lead. So right there, Democrats getting what they`re hoping for.
Same thing in Wisconsin, remember this guy, Russ Feingold, former senator,
trying to make a come back – double digit lead right now in a state where
Hillary Clinton also has a double digit lead. Those two things might be
synced up. That could be a pickup for Democrats.
Also New Hampshire. Here`s another state where Hillary Clinton has opened
up a double digit lead over Donald Trump, not coincidentally the Democratic
challenger, the sitting governor there, Maggie Hassan, she`s up double
digits right now in that race.
So, that`s what Democrats are hoping for. They`re hoping to see states
where Hillary Clinton wins are won by Democrats on the Senate side.
But it`s not happening everywhere, take a look at Ohio. Our poll this week
has Hillary ahead by five points in Ohio. Five points is also the margin
in that same poll for the Republican incumbent, Rob Portman. The senator
out there leading his challenger by five points. Portman, at least right
now, he`s defying the Hillary Clinton trend in that state.
That`s something Republicans want to see. They`re looking at this and
they`re saying we need our Senate candidates to stand on our own if Donald
Trump is losing. Portman right now doing that in Ohio.
In Ohio, Chuck Grassley, incumbent senator there, again, he`s ten points up
in our poll this week. Presidential race has Hillary Clinton ahead in the
state, chuck would be defying the trend in Iowa.
In Florida, again, we showed you Hillary Clinton leading in Florida, the
margin is not that big, but she`s leading. Marco Rubio, the incumbent
Republican, remember him, he`s ahead by a couple of points there.
So, Republicans that`s their best hope if Donald Trump loses, can their
incumbent senator stand on their own and resist the Democratic tide
sweeping them out of office? Here`s a fact to keep in mind though.
This is from our political desk, it`s a great fact, since these are races
that are – so great, I stumble over my words – Senate races one month
before an election, 80 percent of them end up going to the party that wins
the state in the presidential election. That`s what Democrats are
ultimately hoping for.
If Hillary Clinton wins most of these states painted red right now, history
says most of them will also end up picking the Democrat. Republicans are
saying, hey, maybe it`s people are voting against Trump, and our senate
candidates can stand in their own. But that`s what Republicans are worried
about, we`ll wave.
That`s going to do it for us tonight. That`s the end of the show. Rachel
will be back Monday.
Now, it`s time for “HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS”.
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