Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: November 5, 2018 Guest: Sabrina Siddiqui, Shannon Pettypiece, Steve Schmidt
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight THE 11TH HOUR of the 2018 midterm elections, Donald Trump insisting his rally audiences think of him when they are voting tomorrow.
He`s still going heavy on fear but told an interviewer today he wishes he had a softer tone. That was before he brought out his closer, Rush Limbaugh.
A long night of nervousness for a lot of Democrats who have stake so much on this election, hoping to turn red to blue on the map.
Tonight, the final polls are out. The first vote will be cast just hours from now. Our experts will weigh in on where they see the vote, what they think might be the message of these midterms as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on this election eve Monday night.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters, our election headquarters here in New York. Day 655 of the Trump administration. And as we come on the air tonight, the question hangs in the air, are things about to change again in this country? The last polls are done. That means the last wave of polling data is in. Predictions are being made and with only hours to go until polls open on election day.
The President is out delivering his closing message to voters. Tinged by a regret he admitted earlier today which we will get to here tonight. Here he is from the past hour, Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will say we have to get out tomorrow and we have to elect a Republican Congress. We have to do it.
We`ve got to stop crying Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi from erasing everything that we`ve gained. Our economy is setting records on a daily basis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That rally tonight stop number three for him today following Ohio and Indiana. He appeared with Missouri native, Rush Limbaugh in Missouri tonight.
And today the President was asked by Trump friendly Sinclair broadcasting if he had any regrets about the last two years. And there is much speculation that the answer you`re about to hear came after the last wave of polling data perhaps was shared with him. And again, perhaps but not necessarily, including what may be a sizable gender gap favoring Democratic candidates tomorrow night. Here is the President on his regrets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT THUMAN, WJLA-TV: Is there anything, as you look back at your first almost two years that you regret, that you wish on you that you could just take back and redo?
TRUMP: I would say tone. I would like to have a much softer tone. I feel to a certain extent I have no choice, but maybe I do, and maybe I could have been softer from that standpoint. But I want to get things done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Any regret over softness and tone, of course, comes too late for a change in tone for Donald Trump and his party.
Philip Rucker of the "Washington Post" writes that in Trump`s closing arguments, the President is, "Painting an astoundingly apocalyptic vision of America under Democratic control in the campaign`s final days, unleashing a torrent of falsehoods and portraying his political opponents as desire crime, squalor and poverty.
At one mega rally after another and the run up to Tuesdays midterm elections, Trump has taken his no boundaries political ethos to a new level, demagoguing the Democrats in whirl of distortion and using the power of the federal government to amplify his fantastical arguments."
Tonight, for those of you wanting the latest on what may be the races you are following and most interested in, we have one last round of polling. This will be the last until we get election returns tomorrow night.
In Missouri, a new NBC News Marist Poll is showing Democratic incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill leading Republican Josh Hawley by three points. And the battle for Florida`s governor, a new NBC News Marist Poll has Democrat Andrew Gillum, leading Ron DeSantis by four points.
Same poll also had Democratic incumbent Senator Bill Nelson leading by four over current governor Rick Scott. Indeed a new Quinnipiac Poll out today shows Gillum and Nelson both leading their respective races by seven points.
And in what`s become a closely watched Senate race across the river from here in New Jersey, a new Quinnipiac Poll out today, this was surprising, it shows Democratic incumbent Bob Menendez who has dealt with profound ethics and legal problems leading Bob Hugin, his Republican challenger, by 15 points.
In Georgia, in that hotly contested race for governor, here is the last data available, poll form Emerson College released Friday, shows Republican Brian Kemp leading Stacey Abrams by two points. But remember that data is dated.
And on the national level, our new NBC News, "Wall Street Journal" Poll has Democrats with a 7-point advantage when it comes to control of Congress, the so-called generic ballot.
We`re also getting a look at some new job approval numbers for Trump just ahead of an election that is widely viewed as a referendum on his presidency thus far. Our NBC News "Wall Street Journal" Poll reveals his approval is at 46 percent. But just today a new CNN Poll looks at much different with President Trump`s approval rating sitting at just 39 percent. That is a very low number. That`s lower than any other polls, and it may indeed be an outlier, but there it is.
With all that established, let`s bring in our lead-off panel for a Monday night, the aforementioned Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize Winning White House Bureau Chief for the "Washington Post." Sabrina Siddiqui, Political Reporter for the Guardian. And Shannon Pettypiece, White House correspondent for Bloomberg. Good evening and welcome to you all.
Phil, since we knew you before Rihanna, I want to thank you for appearing anyway with the likes of us. Let me ask you about tonight`s rally. We had various charges from the lectern of especially about Hillary Clinton. We have the President relitigating the same points over and over.
And yet we heard the President expressing that regret over tone like today. How do you square it all? What do you make of it?
PHILIP RUCKER, WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Brian, if he has any regrets on tone, he`s not changing his playbook here. He has had a very divisive campaign in the home stretch, and it goes back to the way he ended his 2016 campaign. That is really his only formative political experience as a politician, and he won that campaign against most of the odds by turning to natives themes, by stoking divisions in the country to his personal political advantage and having a very divisive tone with regard to his opponent, then Hillary Clinton.
He`s doing the same thing here. He`s demagoguing the Democrats. He`s making accusations left and right about the Democrats would do if they regain control of Congress that are simply not true or misleading or exaggerated.
The torrents of falsehood from the President in the last few weeks has been breathtaking. The "Washington Post" fact checker analysis has shown an extraordinary uptick in the number of false and misleading claims that he has been making.
But he is driving the discussion. The narrative of this campaign is turning on what the President has been saying at these rallies. That`s what people on the news are talking about, that`s what a lot of voters are talking about and that`s what Democrats are having to respond to. And it`s been a challenge for the Democratic candidates and for the Democratic party leadership to grapple with all of this.
WILLIAMS: Sabrina, I want to show you two different graphics. Number one is the classic pollster question of right track, wrong track about our country. And these numbers were kind of astounding when they came out. Fifty-four, I believe, believe were on the wrong track, 38 percent, right track.
With that in mind, what is Paul Begala doing, the Clinton political veteran writing this on Twitter? "I`m as nervous as a porcupine in a balloon factory."
What are Democrats so nervous about tonight as we go into tomorrow?
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, THE GUARDIAN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I think that Democrats are always going to be concerned with the prospect of complacency, that this sort of this baked-in narrative that we have a blue wave upon us. And so there might be some voters that think they don`t even need to go out to the polls.
And the fact of the matter is that midterms are typically a base turnout election. And the President is still overwhelmingly popular among Republican voter, that`s why he`s taken such an outside presence on the campaign, an effort to boost his supporters, the base, in terms of going out to the polls.
But what`s striking about this is if you look at the numbers and you look at the people who do think the majority of the Americans that, the country is on the wrong track, this is happening at a time when the economy is booming. If it was any other president, the argument would be that we have managed to maintain strong job growth and a lower rate of unemployment. But this President, his approval ratings have been fairly stagnant, if not falling. So he`s not getting credit for the economy, and that`s very much why he`s falling back on this very hard line message when it comes to immigration, because he knows that that`s what motivates his voters to the polls.
And ultimately he hopes that they will in turn make this election very much about fear, particularly when it comes to immigration, and that way he can distance himself from the fact that he is not getting that credit for the economy where it`s due.
WILLIAMS: Shannon, you have come to know this President`s communication skills very well.
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, BLOOMBERG NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
WILLIAMS: If tomorrow night doesn`t go well for his team, what do you think we might hear from him starting tomorrow night on Twitter but certainly by Wednesday?
PETTYPIECE: So, I`ve been asking White House officials and his advisers about this, because there is a sense --
WILLIAMS: I`m sure (ph) they appreciate it.
PETTYPIECE: There is a sense within the White House that the Republicans will lose control of the House, they`re optimistic. They still pick up two seats in the Senate. So point one is to shift attention to the Senate. But on the House, they`re going to sort of emphasize that this was always an uphill battle, this has nothing to do with the President and his job performance, that this is all about, you know, how historically the party in control of the White House loses Congress. They`re going to point to all these historic numbers.
That will be the official message. That`s the official message being discussed in the White House right now.
The unofficial message, though, that I`m hearing from sort of his outer circle advisers are things like pointing to Paul Ryan as a potential fall guy for all this. And this issue of censorship that they feel of conservative media and social media and, you know, this ad not being aired, this immigration ad they didn`t want to air.
PETTYPIECE: So there is this under bubbling conversation too I`m hearing that, "Oh, you know, you can see how the media sensor conservative. That I wouldn`t be surprised if that start to perkily up possibly to the Presidents Twitter feed.
WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, you`ve written about this topic and, of course, we can`t predict, it`s not art form. But what do you think is coming later this week?
RUCKER: Well, Brian, the White House has been preparing for a pretty major shake-up on the staff of the White House and within the Cabinet. You know, the midterm is sort of a natural transition point for most administrations where, you know, people who are tired of being in government service for two years will look for an exit. But that may be in overdrive for President Trump.
And there is some sense that a number of officials will be announcing departures or be fired in the coming days. The most vulnerable at this hour seems to be the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. His allies and confidantes tells us at the "Post" that he is expecting to perhaps be fired as early as Wednesday, the morning after the election. You know, perhaps if the results are bad for Republicans, the President may want to try to make some changes within his administration to reset the narrative and try to look for a reboot for his presidency because the recriminations on him personally are going to probably be very bad if Democrats are to prevail tomorrow.
WILLIAMS: Sabrina, you`re at the Republican National Committee, is there anyone at these races tomorrow night, ideally East Coast, that`s early on that you think you`re looking to, to see if it`s going to be a good night for the Republicans?
SIDDIQUI: Well, I think that what we`ve been able to glean from the President`s closing message is that a lot of the attention now is on maintaining control of the Senate. Because we talk about this closing argument that is so heavily focused on immigration. The House is ultimately going to come down to a number of competitive suburban districts. And Voters over there, their top priority is not immigration when they go to the polls.
The Senate, on the other hand, will ultimately come down to a handful of reliably red rural states. And that`s where the President had won in 2016 by double digits. And so I think they are looking at Indiana, at West Virginia, and you know, North Dakota. These are some of the states where you have very vulnerable incumbent Democrats were on the ballot. But make no mistake, regardless of the results and there may well be a mixed result with the divided Congress, this is a referendum on the President.
And he has placed himself squarely on the ballot. Because in delivering his closing argument, he very much told Republican voters, "vote as if I am on the ballot.` So he wants it to be about him.
WILLIAMS: Yes. He certainly did that.
Hey, Shannon, the President issued a warning on Twitter today. I heard someone on another network tonight say this was right out of the Lester Maddox playbook from the old south, a south we thought we had moved on from. "Law enforcement has been strongly notified to watch closely for any illegal voting which may take place in Tuesday`s election, or early voting. Anyone caught will be subject to the maximum criminal penalties allowed by law. Thank you."
And, of course, in the old south, the last refuge was to say, well, when you show up to vote, you may be in legal trouble.
PETTYPIECE: He is really drawing from his greatest hits album right now. Immigration, illegal voting, I mean, I`m wondering why we haven`t heard about the Russia witch hunt hoax in a while. He`s really started pulling out all the stops in the last messaging here. And I mean, because there is a sense that they have lost the House, and as Sabrina was saying, it is a battle for the Senate.
And I would just caution, too, when we look at all these polls and when you see him sort of pulling out these messaging, this last attempts, so many of these polls are still within the margin of error. When you see Democrats up by two, by three, by four, that is still basically a tied race. And the White House knows that, and the President knows that, and he`s in full fight mode. So he`s going to pull out every messaging strategy he can at the end here because, really, the second half of his term as President depends on it.
You know, Republicans are going to controls the House or Democrats are going to control the House is really going to derail his domestic agenda. But the same with the Senate, boy, they`re go any sort of judicial nominees reappointing anyone new to his Cabinet. They realize they cannot lose the Senate right now and his presidency depends on it.
WILLIAMS: As we go to break, I want to share with our audience Facebook is out tonight with a statement about what they have identified as being some potential bad actors on their front. The statement says, "On Sunday evening U.S. law enforcement contacted us about online activity that they recently discovered and which they believe maybe linked to foreign entities. Our very early stage investigation has so far identified around 30 Facebook accounts and 85 Instagram accounts that may be engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior."
So Facebook eager to let us know they are on the case or trying to be. They note that most of these were in a foreign language but appeared to be involved in illegal behavior.
Well, with that, our thanks to our initial panel tonight, Phil Rucker, Sabrina Siddiqui, and Sharon -- Shannon Pettypiece. Sorry, it`s late already and it`s just the night before.
Coming up for us, we`ll be joined by two gentlemen named Steve Kornacki is here at the big board with a preview of tomorrow evening. And Mr. Schmidt will join us with his prediction of the kind of country we`re going to wake up to on Wednesday.
THE 11TH HOUR just getting started tonight.
WILLIAMS: President Trump is still speaking at the final rally of the midterm season in Missouri tonight and make no mistake in addition to elections in all 435 House districts across this country tomorrow, it is a test of Trumpism. No matter what he may say on Wednesday, the President has been on the trail for days saying, "A vote for blank, fill in the local candidate, is a vote for me."
Our National Political Correspondent Steve Kornacki at the big board tonight where he`ll be tomorrow night and probably into the morning. Steve, folks want to know where this stands.
STEVE KORNACKI, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And so we`ve talked so much about the House side is the polls in the individual races in the final days, they do seem to be moving in the Democrats direction. Now, the polls can be wrong, they can miss things, so we will see what that leads to tomorrow.
But we did want to say, well, if the House does end up moving at the last minute in the Democrats direction, does that brings the Senate back into the picture. We`ve talked about the long path there for Democrats.
So let`s just take a look at that. It`s a possibility tomorrow, we can put it like that. Let`s see what it would take for Democrats. So what you got here is sort of the battlefield. We got two that we think are sort of toss-up states but the polling in each in New Jersey, you mentioned earlier, Bob Menendez a Democrat, double digits ahead there. In North Dakota, the Republicans we`ve had polls was then double digits ahead.
So let`s put those in those respective party columns for now. And let`s take it sort of any order, it`s going to come in the night. Just give you a sense of this, look, Indiana is the first state that`s going to close. Trump won the state by 20 points, Joe Donnelley is trying to defend it. Look how close the Republicans star (ph) in terms of coming to 50 seats. So right away, this is a must win for Democrats. Joe Donnelly must win in Indiana.
Florida is going to close at 7:00 o`clock. Again, same category for Democrats that Bill Nelson must hang on there. He`s leading by a couple points in the late polls. But they`re going to need Indiana and Florida.
And you come to Tennessee, this one gets interesting, Democrats still have some hopes here. They think Phil Bredesen, very popular personally, the polling maybe it`s coming a little closer toward the end of this race. For now, put that in the Republican category and you can see it puts the Republicans on the cusp of 50 just by getting Tennessee.
West Virginia, Manchin has been running ahead. He better hold on for a Democrat seat.
Then you get to Texas. Texas, you know, we`re going to start getting numbers about 8:00 o`clock Eastern. If Beto O`Rourke cannot pull a surprise there and Tennessee is already gone, I mean, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas, that right there would be 50. That could be the end of the night there.
But let`s say the Democrats succeed in shaking one of these loose. Let`s just say it`s Texas for the sake of argument right now. Let`s say they`re able to put it in their column. That would change the game. Because then at that point if Claire McCaskill could hang on in Missouri, she leads in our final poll there. If Chester could hang on in Montana, scant polling there but he`s led in what we`ve seen. And then Arizona and Nevada, these two Republican held seats, Sinema, the Democrat, is late in the poll there.
And Nevada, that`s Dean Heller, that`s Jackie Rosen polling very even there. If Democrats ever got that one, that would be 51. That is an awful lot to ask for if you`re Democrats. This is by no means a prediction that it`s going to happen. But with this, we talked so much about the House in terms as suspense on the Senate side. I think you see it between Tennessee and Texas you got to see a surprise there tomorrow for the Democrats. And everything has to go their way after that.
WILLIAMS: Well put. And that`s why we make the states so they can slide back and forth between categories.
Steve, a long day journey. And tonight we look forward to seeing you here tomorrow night. A lot resting on your shoulders as we go into getting the raw vote tomorrow evening.
Few people have been as outspoken during the run-up to this election as Former Republican Steve Schmidt. He is a veteran of both the Bush White House and the McCain presidential campaigns. I imagine he`s still getting use to hearing former Republican. And he is here with us to talk about all of it on election eve.
Steve, you`ve run your share of campaigns and worked on them. I want to begin by asking you where you think this is.
STEVE SCHMIDT, FMR. MCCAIN CAMPAIGN CHIEF STRATEGIST: Well, if you look at the polls, Brian, and I think that when you look at the totality of all the early votes and how staggeringly large it is, I think it busted all the models. So I don`t think anybody has any idea what they`re talking about when that he say predictably what`s going to happen tomorrow.
That being said, anecdotally the evidence suggest, as Steve just pointed out that there`s movement in the Democratic Party`s direction number one. And the composition of that early vote is from demographics that are favorable to the Democratic Party. So you may well see a wave.
Now, this idea that a wave would hit and it would only affect the House and not the Senate is like saying a tsunami would hit the California Coast but missed Oregon. If there`s a substantial wave, it`s going to hit everywhere, and we`ll see that play out tomorrow.
Missouri is an example that it seems that there is some late movement in that race in Claire McCaskill`s direction, and you see that in a couple of other states as well.
WILLIAMS: And what`s your favorite East Coast either Congressional district or statewide race that you, Steve Schmidt, will be looking at tomorrow night?
SCHMIDT: I`m going to be looking at that Indiana race early, the Donnelly race, and then of course the Georgia governor`s race and the Florida governor`s race.
You know, for Republicans, they`re going to need to do what happened two years ago. They`re going to have to pull an inside straight. There`s a lot of close races coming into the final weekend of polling. We don`t have any really good new data after last Thursday or Friday. We have some of the NBC Marist Polls. All of those polls suggest movement on the Democratic side. But we just have to wait and see.
What we do know is this may be the largest turnout, midterm election, looking much more closely like a presidential election than a typical midterm. And when those voter turnout models are completely busted by the excessive turnout we`re going to see. It`s just anyone`s guess about how that`s going to play out.
WILLIAMS: Steve Schmidt has agreed to stay with us as we bridge this next commercial break. When we come back, I might ask him what the next of this week might look like, especially for the Republican Party. That and more when we continue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW, HOST: They say we`re divisive, but it`s -- we`re not divisive, we`re defending an America that is strains from our founding.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They talked about the elites, the elites. Well, I know all of the elites. They`re not very smart in many cases. They have a lot of hatred in their hearts. But let`s let them be called the elites because you, we, are the super elites. We are the super elites.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Native Missouri son, Rush Limbaugh, there followed by the President. There have been many assessments of exactly what this particular election will mean.
One that caught our attention comes from a veteran journalist, Dan Balz, of "The Washington Post." He writes, "It`s about something more elemental. What kind of country Americans see today and want to see in the future. This debate about America`s divisions has been underway for some time, but Trump has raised the emotional level to something not seen before."
Still with us here tonight is Steve Schmidt. And Steve, when they write the book on this period, let`s say just these last two years, is it going to be written that Trump is fortunate to have had a period where the leadership and the Republican Senate and Republican House has been so unencumbered by principles or ideology or a sense of stewardship over the country that they have allowed Trump to just completely take control of that party?
STEVE SCHMIDT, THE NEW YORK TIME WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brian, we tend to look in campaigns and say that the outcome is determined by the last event that occurs that has meaning. So tonight we saw the President with Rush Limbaugh, as if that will influence the outcome as opposed to focusing on the first thing that happened.
And the first thing that happened in this election is this. When Donald Trump was inaugurated, there were still three political parties in Washington. There were Republicans, there were Democrats, and there was Trump.
The whole sale capitulation to Trumpism by the leadership of the Republican Party lock, stock and barrel, all of them, from Lindsey Graham on down, there is exactly one elected Republican left in the country that`s been faithful to his previous principles, that`s John Kasich.
And so that decision to surrender without a fight to Trumpism will either be validated by the outcome of the election tomorrow, or the Republicans are going to face a massive repudiation by the American people.
What Donald Trump has done fundamentally is stoke a cold civil war in this country. He`s not acted as the President. He has acted as the insider in chief. He has acted as a tribal chief in at war with the other half of the country.
This campaign has been loathsome. It is disgusting. It`s not race bating, it`s not dog whistles, these are overt racial appeals field with racial animus and antagonism, the invention out of whole quad (ph) of an invading disease-infested illegal immigrant army about to crash through the southern border. It is as outrageous as it is despicable.
And I think that the American people, by and large, don`t want to live in that type of country. But to watch over a two-year period the devolution of the Republican Party into a white ethnocentric, blood and soil populist nationalist party is something to behold, and I think something tragic to behold.
But tomorrow, the American people will get their first opportunity electorally to render a verdict about Trump and Trumpism. And make no mistake, that`s exactly what this election is about. It`s what Trump has made it about. It`s about Trumpism, period.
And tomorrow, though we don`t know the outcome, we do know for sure by sometime on Wednesday, we`ll know if Trumpism has been validated and there are profound consequences if that is to be so or if it`s repudiated. And there are outcomes that are significant if that is so.
WILLIAMS: Steve, we have under a minute left. Final question is about Paul Ryan. I`m not trying to pick on anyone here tonight, but remember his urban anti-poverty campaign at first a few years back. Does this mean that he just goes off into the good night and flies back to Janesville without ever speaking up and he will have been a party to all of this?
SCHMIDT: I saw Paul Ryan yesterday. As is typical of Paul Ryan, he was affable, he was friendly. But this man, a tremendous talent in so many ways, at a moment when the country needed statesmen and it needed leaders, and it needed leaders of toughness and conviction and principle, he made a tactical decision to capitulate to the President, to Trumpism and all the vile aesthetics and characteristics associated with it.
He leaves the speakership, a person who began his career with Jack Kemp, a Republican who marched with Martin Luther King. As the speaker of the House that is seeking to keep its majority with this terribly, racially antagonistic campaign and leaving behind deficits that are approaching a trillion dollars a year. That`s the legacy. It`s a tragic one in many ways.
WILLIAMS: Steve Schmidt, it`s always a pleasure. We look forward to talking to you as we go along tomorrow night, whatever the story line is that we encounter. Steve Schmidt with us on THE 11TH HOUR tonight.
Another break for us, when we come back, why your proximity to a certain kind of food store may say a lot about the politics where you live? That and more when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Democrats are inviting caravan after caravan of illegal aliens to pour into our country, overwhelming the schools, your hospitals and your communities. If you want more caravans, if you want more crime, vote Democrat tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: And check that distinction there, the Democrats are inviting those waves of caravans to come toward our country. This is the closing argument the President took to the states he won back in 2016.
In a "New York Times" piece headlined "GOP sees Trump`s playbook as best hope in some tight races." Jeremy Peters who is standing by right here to join us writes, "The goal-through overt frontal attacks on prominent liberals, minorities and immigrants is to stoke an us versus them narrative about the country`s security, culture and heritage, in hopes of getting conservatives to see the election as a battle to save the nation`s future."
With us here in New York tonight, the aforementioned, Jeremy Peters, Political Reporter for "The New York Times." It was the closing argument he has put a much finer point on it because he`s got this unknown group coming toward our southern border. Month or so away doesn`t seem to matter.
JEREMY PETERS, THE NEW YORK TIMES POLITICAL REPORTER: I think, Brain, that this actually more powerful as an issue than build the wall was in 2016.
WILLIAMS: Yes, and Mexico will pay for the wall. I don`t know if you heard that.
PETERS: I don`t think they`ve written a check yet --
WILLIAMS: Yes, I guess.
PETERS: -- the last I looked it up. But in all seriousness, this is the visual manifestation of every fear that a voter that is likely to support Trump would have about an immigrant invasion as Trump has put it himself, as conservative media pundits has put it. I mean, this is a story that has popped unlike anything I think I`ve ever seen in the last few weeks of a race.
I remember being out on the road in Nebraska three weeks ago at a Republican dinner, and I pay pretty careful attention to conservative media. First question to the Republican congressman running, a woman (INAUDIBLE) hand up, what are you going to do about the caravan? I hadn`t really heard about the caravan yet, but to me that`s where this all started.
And to this day it will be the defining issue for the Republicans in this race, for good or bad, because I think it really shows, it`s very, very revealing about the lengths to which a modern American political party will go to stir paranoia and fear among its base.
WILLIAMS: I do want to read you something, noting that you`re just back from America, returning to New York. "Blue wave in a nutshell, Democrats are doing really, really well anywhere that`s within like a 20-minute drive from a whole foods market." Dave Wasserman, for folks who don`t know his name, may be the foremost authority on this house visits this year. This has become kind of axiomatic out in America.
PETERS: You know, absolutely. And it`s true, because you look at the districts where the Republicans are in the biggest trouble. It`s these affluent, educated suburbs where there are whole foods.
And the places where they still have a fighting chance, although in talking to Republicans over the last 48 hours, I will say they are getting more and more nervous even about the districts that are redder that don`t have whole foods. You see these realignments kind of taking place with the electorate here where increasingly gerrymandering isn`t the only thing that bifurcating our politics.
It`s self-segregation. Its self-selection where you live is met and how you feel about President Trump is determining a lot of our culture and our society in a way that I don`t think any modern leader of this country has ever done to us before.
WILLIAMS: Is the American suburbs, do you think that is -- that`s going to pass for most of the battleground this time around?
PETERS: I really do. And then there is a handful of races that are in more rural parts of the country that are kind of split where they have an urban segment like you`re talking about a race, for example, outside of Cincinnati, one outside of Lexington, one outside of Des Moines. You know, these are -- if Republicans start losing those, it is going to be a very bad night for them.
WILLIAMS: Our own Ali Vitali spent some time with Trump supporters. They were in line to get into one of today`s three rallies. She asked them some questions to see which issues had gotten through to them, which issues had the most traction. I want to show you this and we`ll discuss it on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a door on your house?
ALI VITALI, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: Of course.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you lock it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not because you hate everyone, but because you want to make sure you know who is getting in your house. I think the same is true for the country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that the border is a very good idea. I mean, we`re a country built by immigrants. And I believe like Trump believes, we want the immigrants here but we want them to do it legally.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is enthusiasm on both sides. I think when you look at what`s happening with the caravan and with Justice Kavanaugh, the way he was treated. I`ll tell you, my mom is an 86-year-old Democrat from Pennsylvania. She just changed parties to Republican this year. I`m never --
VITALI: Because of Kavanaugh.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because of Kavanaugh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: I know you encountered the Kavanaugh talk on the trail. It`s the mistreatment of Kavanaugh. You heard the caravan is getting through. And if you have a door on your house, well, you`d lock your door, wouldn`t you? Same is true with immigration.
PETERS: I think these are all kind of pointing toward the same sentiment, the same anxiety that a lot of voters, especially white voters, have. Trump well understands himself that their place has slipped from the pinnacle of American culture in society. And that`s Kavanaugh, right, because if Kavanaugh, who is the ultimate avatar of privilege, if he can be taken down, what`s stopping them from coming after me?
You then combine that with what`s happening with the caravan or what they are told by the President and by the most watched news network in the country is happening with that caravan. And it really instills a sense of fear.
What I will say, though, has got me thinking that maybe this isn`t going to work for Republicans in a way that they hoped. I went to enough of these rallies over the last few weeks. I talked to one person who told me they`ve voted early at Republican rallies, that is. I don`t know that Trump`s popularity transfers down ballot and that`s the big question mark.
It`s something you talk to Republican strategists about throughout the course of this midterm and they say, "We don`t really know yet how to take that energy at the rallies and bring it to the doors, to the people knocking on the doors, bring it to the ballot box." And that could be the difference tomorrow night.
WILLIAMS: Wow, that`s interesting. It will be interesting to see tomorrow. 31 million early votes are in. Jeremy Peters, "New York Times," thank you so much for stopping by our New York studios.
When we come back, a full day of campaigning for the President just came to an end less than 15 minutes before midnight. We`ll talk about it when we come back.
WILLIAMS: We are back, and we have just made contact with Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times," importantly, because he`s been traveling with the President, ending up in Cape Girardeau, Missouri tonight.
Peter, I guess I`m curious, would you have known, watching and listening to this President all day, that he was the same President who admitted to Sinclair broadcasting early today that he had regrets about his tone, that it could have and should have been softer these past two years?
PETER BAKER, NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that would not be the President you heard tonight here in Cape Girardeau. No. I think he`s full of red meat rhetoric. Tonight, of course, he`s finishing up his campaign here at Missouri, a red state that he needs to help win for the Senate, to beat Claire McCaskill, and he was not going with a soft tone here, that`s for sure.
Now, he might go on Wednesday, that`s where he`s trying to suggest, I think, to a different audience, but with a crowd of supporters he wants to turn out tomorrow, he wants them to hear his speech full of energy and division, that he`s been practicing on the campaign trail now for several weeks.
WILLIAMS: I talked to one person tonight who believes that what the President said to Sinclair, Peter, could be the result of what is always shared with presidents on the eve of an election, the kind of last best estimates by their team, how the numbers look.
He also tends to mention his homework, so we`ve seen him pepper into his speeches in the last few days, women want security, women like security. That`s almost a briefing line that he`s repeating by wrote. So, we could be seeing a kind of confluence of internal polling and a pretty truthful look at what may be unfolding tomorrow.
BAKER: Well, it`s a very interesting, of course. You know, if, in fact, the numbers that people have seen that that show the House might go Democratic, he`s going to be facing a very different political reality starting Wednesday morning. So, the interview with Sinclair could be the beginning of a pivot, we don`t know.
He has on occasion flirted with the idea of a more bipartisan approach to governing, to working with Democrats like Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi. I`m not going to talk about that here tonight. And hasn`t lasted very long when he has tried it over the last two years. But if he`s faced with a Democratic House, he will have a new reality he has to adjust to, and you might be seeing him beginning to come to grips with that even that he`s still out here campaigning.
WILLIAMS: I have to ask you, Peter, since you`re in Missouri and so many people are curious about that Senate race, where do you put it? Is there any poll you buy into more than the others?
BAKER: Well, I think we learned two years ago not to make predictions. This is a bell weather state, though, it makes a big difference. If Claire McCaskill goes down, that`s a sign of what could happen elsewhere across the country.
She voted against Judge Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court. She voted against the tax cut, so she has seen by the Trump forces as a key example of the kind of red state Democrat they want to be able to take out.
She faces Josh Hawley, a pretty, you know, energized, young conservative Republican, attorney general of the state. He`s doing well in this state but, you know, I wouldn`t want to make a prediction based on a short visit here. Clearly, in this hall, you know, we know which way they`re going to do.
But it`s interesting, you know, this is a crowd that turns out for President Trump. They didn`t really turn out for Josh Hawley. I talked to somebody beforehand, he said, "Look, you know, I`m here because of Trump. I`ll vote for Hawley because I think that`s the way to keep President Trump`s agenda going." So that`s the message that President Trump wants to get across to his voters tonight.
WILLIAMS: Fascinating. Well, if it`s Monday, it be Cape Girardeau. Long days journey in tonight for Peter Baker, three events today. Peter, always a pleasure having you on the broadcast. Thank you so much for joining us from what was the President`s rally within the last hour.
Another break for us, when we come back, a fair warning tonight about something taking place tomorrow that could make for a huge disruption or distraction, if someone is so inclined. That story, when we come back.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight, is just something to put on your radar for tomorrow. And while it will be a busy day with the midterm elections, there`s another story we must keep an eye on under the category of what could go wrong.
Tonight, in the Norwegian Sea, NATO exercises are under way. They are huge and closely coordinated. They`ve been planned for a long time. From the North Atlantic to the Baltic Sea, including Iceland and the air space over Finland and Sweden. We`re talking about 50,000 troops from different nations, 65 military vehicles, over 250 aircraft, all of it from the 29 NATO member nations. And because you can`t have a military undertaking without a grandiose-sounding name, this one is called Trident Juncture.
Then, the Russian government posted this. It`s a notice to airmen from Russia`s air traffic management center, and it says, "This is to inform you that the Russian Navy," and this is where the translation suffers a bit, "the Russian Navy plans to rocket test firings in the basin of the Norwegian Sea." Now, that means that commercial flights are being kept away from the area, and this means that both sides had better be hyper aware of preventing mistakes.
This is, we remind you, also, what the Pentagon does. They deal with this kind of thing all the time. It`s just good to have it on our radar in case anyone is perhaps looking for a distraction or a disruption tomorrow. It`s all part of our world, as Monday is about to give way to midterm election day across this country. And that is our broadcast for this Monday night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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