STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. Welcome to HARDBALL. I`m Steve Kornacki in for Chris Matthews.
Hurricane Dorian is continuing its sweep up the northern seaboard tonight. After grazing Georgia, the storm is now bearing down along the Carolinas with a possible landfall over the vulnerable outer banks of North Carolina tomorrow.
In South Carolina, Dorian knocked out power for 250,000 residents. Rising floodwaters submerged streets in Charleston where the eye of the storm passed within 45 miles offshore.
Meanwhile, tornado sightings have been reported across numerous counties and experiencing the early effects of the hurricane`s outer bands. Among them Emerald Isle, North Carolina, it suffered extensive damage which local officials say was inflicted by a tornado in advance of the storm.
Tonight, North Carolina is bracing for Dorian`s impact. This is a time lapse view from earlier today along the coast of Wilmington. That city is likely to experience hurricane conditions tonight.
All of this comes amid the shock and horror over the extent of the devastation in the Northern Bahamas, where the death toll has now risen officially to 23 people. That is according to the Minister of Health there.
And joining me now is NBC News Correspondent Jay Gray in Wilmington. So, Jay, we said the eye of that storm still off the coast but making its way in your direction. Set the scene. What is it like on the ground there?
JAY GRAY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Steve, a tense waiting game continues here in Wilmington. Throughout the day, we`ve seen people boarding up, getting sandbags in place where they can now. For the most part, this city is empty and people watching to see where Dorian may go next.
As you talked about, this is a storm that`s just been mirroring the coast for quite some time, could make landfall in this area, perhaps a bit north. Either way, it will likely be close enough to leave us with winds gusting over 100 miles an hour, a storm surge that could be seven feet or more and then driving rains for hours here. This is a city that floods even during a rough thunderstorm. Now, you`ve got the power of a Category 2 hurricane behind all of this water moving in. So it could be quite a mess here come early morning tomorrow.
Look, we`ve got some problems as far as people waiting and watching this. When we started covering this story last week this time, this area wasn`t even in the picture. It was all about the islands. It was all about Florida. Now, it`s a possible strike point. We`ve seen people getting ready or evacuating through the week. They`re getting a bit of fatigue.
And there`s really been a strong message from officials, from first responders here, show a little more patience. This thing is coming, and it`s going to cause some problems. You`ve prepared. Now, make sure you take advantage of those preparations.
KORNACKI: All right. Jay Gray is in Wilmington, North Carolina. Jay, thank you for taking a few minutes.
And from where the storm is heading to where the storm has been, I want to bring in NBC News Correspondent Kathy Park. She is in Charleston, South Carolina. Kathy, we were looking at some of those images of flooding in the downtown there. What is it like now as the storm has passed through your area?
KATHY PARK, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Steve, that`s right. So we are on the back side of Dorian. So the wind gusts, the heavy rain showers, they have all calmed down significantly. It`s a big change from what we saw earlier this morning.
Now, we had an opportunity to kind of drive around downtown Charleston. There is some damage on the ground. We saw downed power lines, snapped trees, some blocking roadways. But residents here are breathing a sigh of relief because they were anticipating even more damage.
Now, behind me is the Charleston Harbor. Just a couple of hours ago, the water level was significantly higher. 2:00 P.M., that was a critical hour because folks in this area, they were bracing for high tide. They were also bracing for the potential for even more coastal flooding. Fortunately, that didn`t happen. It looks like even at this hour, the water level is slowly going down.
People here, we had a lot of opportunities to kind of go around, talk to residents in downtown Charleston, and they said they live through a lot of hurricanes. They waited anxiously, prepared for days for this storm. Obviously, they are breathing a sigh of relief because conditions could have been a lot worse here. Steve?
KORNACKI: Yes. And, Kathy, just, again, as we continue to see some of those pictures there, in terms of the cleanup, in terms of the aftermath, you say not quite as bad as they were expecting. But what`s that process going to be like?
PARK: Right. So, you know, as I mentioned, prepare for hurricanes. They spent days cleaning out the drains. People boarded up. They put the sandbags up on their doorsteps to kind of keep the water out. We actually saw some folks coming out of their homes. They`re cleaning off the debris. They`re chopping up the trees. This is kind of routine for them.
Every summer they kind of go through a scare, a hurricane scare. They obviously have to prepare because they just don`t know how the storm is going to position itself.
But, yes, the cleanup is starting to begin. Like I told you earlier, the damage is not as significant. I mean, people here, they were really concerned about the water. They were really concerned because this area is called the low country for a reason. Flooding is susceptible just because of the geography of this area. So they were bracing for significant amount of rain, which we got.
But, you know, it kind of worked in their favor because of just the kind of conditions, the way they were. The water level wasn`t as high as predicted. Steve?
KORNACKI: All right. Kathy Park there in Charleston, South Carolina. Kathy, thank you for that.
And I`m joined now by NBC News Meteorologist Bill Karins who has been tracking every movement of this storm. Bill, we were saying at the top, has passed by the area of Charleston.
BILL KARINS, MSNBC METEOROLOGIST: Yes.
KORNACKI: Just passed Myrtle Beach. Take us to what --
KARINS: Minor damage in both of those places, that they can clean up. They`ve got power outages, 200,000, a quarter million people. It`s kind of a similar situation to Florida. And now, we`re waiting for actually the hurricane winds to move onshore.
So here is the Wilmington area right here. This is obviously the eye, still very well defined, still a strong Category 2, and you can see these northern bands. If you get into these northern bands, that`s when the damage is going to happen. That`s when the power outages will start to occur, the tree limbs begin coming down you. You get the arcs on the power lines there, and the transformers.
And these bands now coming into Oak Island and Little River here in Myrtle Beach, these are 50, 60-mile-per-hour winds. That doesn`t do too much damage. Once you get out here, this northern eye is what we need to avoid. That`s where we could see the winds kicking up to 80, maybe even 100-mile- per-hour wind gusts.
And that`s going brush coast here, the Wrightsville Beach up to Wilmington, as we go 8:00 to 9:00 this evening. That`s the concern. And then we`ll watch it tonight going up the North Carolina coastline and heading up to the Morehead City area, Atlantic Beach.
So we`re not done yet. We haven`t had. Ever since the storm left the Bahamas, we haven`t had hurricane conditions anywhere yet. This will be the first time tonight that that returns. So that`s going to be the big concern, Steve.
And when we wake up tomorrow morning, the storm will be over the outer banks and we`ll be able to assess and just how bad it was this evening.
KORNACKI: Yes. And, Bill, when we talk the idea of the storm maybe making landfall, what is the difference between it actually hitting the land, actually making landfall versus being off the coast 30, 40 miles?
KARINS: Two things. One of them is that the strongest winds are usually on the north or the northeast quadrant of the storm. That`s the part you want to avoid. That`s usually where we have the maximum sustained winds are usually measured in that region. So if this northeast quadrant can stay offshore, that will usually will mean some weaker winds. But these are pretty good thunderstorms on the back side.
The other thing that it means is that if we don`t -- if we have a parallel the coast, we don`t get that water piling up, so we don`t get the high storm surge. It`s much worse if you have a storm approaching a coastline, like when we get them in the gulf, like Katrina did, and approached due south and a hit like a tee. And that pushed all the water and the water had nowhere to go.
Here, the water hits the coastal areas as it`s moving along. And then the backside winds push it down back along the ocean. So it doesn`t allow the water to accumulate. So it makes a big difference, the angle of approach. This angle of approach will bring high winds, but it shouldn`t bring the peak winds unless we get that northeast quadrant over the outer banks. That`s possible around Cape Hatteras and maybe down toward some areas of Carteret County.
So that`s the big difference. That`s why we didn`t have those 100-mile- per-hour wind gusts this afternoon in Charleston or Myrtle Beach, and we haven`t had them yet appear towards Little River or even in Georgetown.
So that`s what we`re going to be watching, Steve, is how much of the core, the damaging part of the storm moves over Eastern North Carolina tonight.
KORNACKI: Okay. Thank you, Bill Karins. I appreciate all the information.
And NBC`s Simone Boyce is in Myrtle Beach. So, Simone, you are the closest. We mentioned the eye of that storm passing just north of where you are. But you were the closest of our correspondents to where this storm actually is right now. Set the scene for us.
SIMONE BOYCE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: So, Steve, it has been just unrelenting rain and wind all day today, starting actually late last night. And I can almost say that it feels as though the storm might be a little bit north of us right now just because the rain has let up just slightly.
But as you can see through our camera lens, it is still coming down out here, and we are still feeling the wind. And that`s the thing. Even as this storm continues to move north, city officials are asking residents here in Myrtle Beach to remain vigilant. They have issued a curfew here for nearby areas. As of just a few minutes ago, asking residents to stay off the roads because there is a potential still for flooding and storm surge, especially flash flooding.
Another concern that we have actually witnessed firsthand here today throughout this whole ordeal is the threat of isolated tornadoes. Those started early this morning. We woke up to an alert at about 4:00 in the morning saying that there was a tornado warning and a potential waterspout nearby. Thankfully, I think the threat, the immediate threat from those tornadoes may have subsided, but the damage is still here.
Have I been traveling up and down Florida following this storm, and I can tell you that the damage I`ve seen here just in South Carolina over the past 24 hours is already worse than anything I saw in Florida, Steve.
KORNACKI: Okay. Simone Boyce there in Myrtle Beach, again, close to where the eye of that storm, it`s off the coast there, but in her vicinity. Simone, thank you for that.
Joining me now by phone, Jerry Jones, he is the mayor of Morehead City, North Carolina. Mr. Mayor, thank you for joining us.
You`re certainly familiar with the reports we`re familiar with. There is a possibility this storm could make landfall where you are. Are you prepared for that?
MAYOR JERRY JONES, MOREHEAD CITY, NORTH CAROLINA: I don`t know if you`re ever prepared. But as I describe hurricanes, it`s always a work in progress. You do the best you can this year. But as we know, hurricanes are unpredictable. So the next hurricane brings new challenges. But we are prepared.
Right now, the model shows the eye, it does not over Cape Lookout, which is in Carter County about eight miles from Morehead City. It will be pretty close. But right now we`re just getting tropical-force winds. I`m looking in my backyard. I`ve got some tree limbs down and stuff.
In Morehead city, we`re under curfew, but it`s kind of hurry up and wait for it to get here.
KORNACKI: When you say you feel you are as prepared as you can be, what does that mean? What goes into that?
JONES: Well, it`s communication. And I`ll hats off to all the media, CNN, you, and everybody, just create an awareness for people to let them know that, hey, this isn`t fun and games. This is serious. And this could be life-threatening, and you need to be prepared.
And so we have had evacuation orders in process for a couple of days, and people have heeded that and left town, and others have stayed here and boarded up. And they`ve got their provisions in the house and their generator is gassed up, and they`re inside just waiting to see what happens.
KORNACKI: And I don`t know if you heard our reporter in Charleston, where the storm was a while back now said that there is damage there, but officials were fearing even worse. Are you encouraged at all by some of the reports you`re getting from where this storm has been on the eastern seaboard?
JONES: Yes. I actually enjoyed listening to the reporters for a few minutes before I was interviewed. It sounds encouraging. But that doesn`t mean you let your guard down by any means. Hurricanes are unpredictable. And just a slight wobble to the west, which will bring the eye more closer to us can make all the difference.
KORNACKI: Okay. Mayor Jerry Jones from Morehead City, North Carolina, again, the storm we are tracking is going to be very close to you, maybe exactly where you are. We wish you the best of luck. Hope you and your community remain very safe over the next 24 hours or so. Thank you for joining us.
JONES: Thank you.
KORNACKI: All right.
And later, we will get an update on the devastation in the Bahamas. Search-and-rescue efforts are continuing there tonight. Again, the death toll has reached 23 there, officially. MSNBC will continue to update you on the hurricane in the hours and days ahead.
And coming up, President Trump heads into the autumn with no clear policy agenda. Instead, he is spending a lot of his time attacking his critics and defending his mistaken claim about the hurricane threatening Alabama.
Plus, the rise of Elizabeth Warren. The Massachusetts senator is getting big crowds and trying to lead the policy debate. President Trump has taken notice and reportedly now sees her as a serious threat to his re-election.
We`ve got much more to get to. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: It`s what we`ve done no other administration in the first two and a half years in history has done.
We`ve done more together in he first two years than any administration in the history of our country.
I think I`ve been the most successful president in the first two years of office. I mean, it`s been a tremendous administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump has often claimed that he`s having the most successful presidency of all time but he has had trouble delivering on key campaign promises with almost half of them being blocked or dropped, according to PolitiFact. And as Michael Crowley writes in The New York Times, quote, President Trump heads into the closing months of the year without a clear policy agenda in an uphill path to achieving any major new accomplishments before he faces voters.
That follows a summer with few highlights. He canceled the trip to Denmark because they wouldn`t discuss selling Greenland. He spent an extensive amount of time on Twitter attacking perceived enemies, using words like disgusting, crooked, nasty, pathetic, psycho and lunatics. And today, he kept up the attacks. He called actress Debra Messing the mess and accused her of McCarthyism after she called for a full disclosure of Trump`s financial supporters.
Barbara Res, former executive vice president at Trump Organization told the L.A. Times that he seems to be working less than when they work together. Adding, quote, it looks like he is not even trying but he thinks he is trying. To him, all the watching T.V. and tweeting is work so he believes he is on the clock 24/7, 365.
And Barbara Res joins me now along with Michael Crowley, The New York Times White House Correspondent and his reporting I just mentioned, and Shannon Pettypiece, NBC News Senior Digital White House Reporter. Thanks to everybody for being with us.
Barbara, let me start with you. This fixation on the trajectory of the hurricane, the map, Alabama, do you have a sense just seeing him up close through the years? Have you seen a tendency in him? Have you seen anything in his behavior that would explain why that matters so much to him?
BARBARA RES, FORMER TRUMP ORGANIZATION EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: I`m trying to figure this out, because, generally, when he does something like that tells a lie. And I think he knew it was lie when he tells it. He has reason. It`s going to help him with something or he is going to get back at someone. I don`t see either at play here, and yet he is so insistent.
And the only time I`ve ever really seen him like that was when his wealth was challenged. He`s even sued people when they charged him on false reports of wealth.
KORNACKI: What about this idea that this is somebody who just can`t admit or won`t admit that he is wrong? He made a statement, it got perceived in a certain way, then he comes back to it because he feels it was perceived the wrong way, and he makes all of these claims that are now being challenged, you know, by all sorts of fact-checkers.
In your experience, did you ever hear him admit he was wrong, ever say he was wrong about something?
RES: Personally, he did, actually, maybe the only time in his life.
But he doesn`t admit to being wrong. He will just back off, or he will just insist on what he wants, which is wrong, knowing that you will do the right thing.
Michael Crowley, we were referring to some of your reporting there. Just in terms of where the president goes from here, if and when he decides to drop this matter of Alabama, Congress is coming back in a week.
Is there a sense that anything can be achieved here legislatively, that he will have any more accomplishments by the end of the year that he can take to the voters in 2020?
MICHAEL CROWLEY, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think there is a sense that it`s possible, but not likely. And it depends on some things. A lot of them involve Trump. Some of them involve the Democrats.
One question is just how much does Trump want to get serious, go after getting some wins in Congress, work members of Congress, try to cooperate with Democrats? You know, he has been talking about doing an infrastructure plan.
It`s, of course, become kind of a running joke in Washington for a couple of years. But he canceled a key meeting he was going to have with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in May because he was upset about Democratic investigations.
Is he willing to kind of start that conversation with Democrats again? There is this revised version of NAFTA that Congress could ratify, the USMCA trade agreement. His people are actually working that on the Hill.
That is somewhat up to Nancy Pelosi. But some other big things really are up to him. What`s he going to do on gun control? Does he want to have gun control legislation? Is he willing to possibly offend the NRA? Do we even know where he stands on something like background checks? I don`t think he has made up his mind.
One other final key example I will mention, Steve, is health care. President Trump has been talking about unveiling a big sweeping health care plan. He told ABC News in mid-June he would be rolling it out in two months or maybe less. Now we`re on the two-and-a-half months, and there is no sign of it. So, is that going to happen?
So, really, a lot of question marks. But when you look at the hostility with Democrats, Trump doesn`t want to seem to work with them. And, frankly, a lot of them, I think, are wary of giving him any victories he can brag about on the campaign trail, let`s be honest.
The odds are not great.
KORNACKI: And, Shannon, I`m curious what is happening behind the scenes there at the White House in terms of, is the president engaged? Is he involved? How engaged, how involved is he just in terms of trying to come up with a legislative strategy, a political strategy, with his aides, with the folks in the White House?
I`m asking because we have that quote we read there from Barbara, who knows Donald Trump well. She says, he feels watching cable news, tweeting is part of work.
But when you get beyond the watching cable news, reacting to it, and tweeting about Debra Messing, how much is he engaged there behind the scenes with a team trying to come up with some kind of a strategy?
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, NBC DIGITAL SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, I do agree with Barbara that the tweeting and the watching TV, I think he does view that as work.
I think the watching TV is analyzing the coverage, analyzing what people are saying about him, the mood of the country. I think the tweeting is about messaging. It`s about showing he is strong, communicating with his base.
I think whether -- we can argue whether any of this is effective or not, but I definitely think that that is work to him. As far as stuff going on behind the scenes, I actually think there is a lot going on behind the scenes right now in the White House.
Particularly, I guess, on the front burner right now is China. That is really a number one priority in the White House is getting a China deal done. There`s indications that talks will continue next month.
The campaign people feel, if they can get a good strong deal with China done, that is really going to help him in the election. That`s something that resonates well with those working-class voters in the Rust Belt.
And then, on guns, there are very active conversations going on right now between staffers, between members on the Hill. The president is being briefed on them about potential gun legislation.
The issue is trying to figure out what could actually get past the Senate before the president gets behind something. I know, I mean, the White House would like to do something on guns. They know that would be appealing to voters like suburban women, for example.
But they want to get behind something that can actually pass. They don`t want a big glaring failure. So, part of the conversations going on right now is trying to find a bipartisan group in the Senate and figure out what they can agree on, whether it`s background checks, red flag laws, straw man purchasing or other legislation, and how to move forward on that.
And on the foreign front, too, you still have North Korea. You have Iran. He has talked about foreign trips to Germany, possibly another one to Poland. So, I think there is a lot going on behind the scenes. And it`s certainly going to be a very busy year for me just covering the White House, let alone trying to cover a campaign too.
So, I don`t think the business of the White House is going to completely shut down, at least not through the rest of the year and early 2020.
KORNACKI: All right.
Well, President Trump, as you probably remember, was elected on that promise that he would build a wall and make Mexico pay for it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we will build the wall. Guys, don`t worry about it. It will be a great wall. It will be a real wall, folks.
I promise we`re building the wall, and Mexico will pay for the wall.
Mexico will pay for the wall. And I think they will end up actually being very happy to do so.
The wall just got 10 feet higher.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: We love it. We are going to build the wall. It will be a real wall, a real wall.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: Who is going to pay for the wall?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved the diversion of $3.6 billion from military construction projects in order to build part of that wall.
The money will come from 127 projects that were planned in 23 states and around the world. They include $400 million from a National Guard training facility in Puerto Rico and $17 million from the Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, which suffered catastrophic damage during Hurricane Michael.
Michael, obviously, this was -- this was the central promise of Trump`s 2016 campaign. It has not progressed the way he talked about it on the campaign trail. What is the sense in the White House? How nervous, how much anxiety is there, nervousness?
Is there anxiety in the White House about going to the voters in 2020 and specifically not having to show for this issue what was promised in `16?
CROWLEY: Well, I think that, you know, people around Trump realize that this is a problem.
But I think their answer to it is going to be to run, you know, kind of a classic play that we have seen from other presidents. Just basically attack the opposition party in Congress and blame them and say, I couldn`t do this because the Democrats wouldn`t let me, so reelect me and give me a friendly Congress, and maybe we can get it done.
Now, the question is whether his voters are going to accept that for an answer. A lot of particularly lower-information voters who don`t follow Washington too closely overestimate the power of a president. They hear a promise like that, and they think a president can deliver it.
And they`re not really very interested in hearing about the legislative logjams that prevented it. So that is going to be a key question going into this election. How accountable will the president be held for some of his most grandiose claims?
And that one probably tops the list.
KORNACKI: Barbara, I wonder how Trump himself approaches this kind of a promise and the follow-through.
In the business world, obviously, he was a very public business figure. We all heard him, just as consumers, make big, bold promises about various business ventures. When he would do that, what was it like with him in terms of how committed was he to the follow-through? How did he generally approach that?
RES: You know, there are different kinds of promises.
I mean, some things, he knew we could deliver, and he promised them, and, yes, he tried to deliver them.
With the wall, I don`t think he ever thought he could do it. It`s not planned out. They can`t build it right now. It would take years to plan it out. There is so much involved in it.
So maybe he -- yes, he didn`t really think it was going to happen, but I think yet he got away with it. And he did, didn`t he, so far. So, I think it`s more that he thought that that would be beneficial to his campaign, and he ran with it.
KORNACKI: The question is, what will it do and what role will it play in 2020?
Barbara Res, Michael Crowley, Shannon Pettypiece, thank you all for being with us.
And up next: the battle for the swing voter. I`m going to head over to the Big Board to look at the issues that pollsters say could take swing voters and move them to the Democratic column, and the one issue they found where maybe it will keep them with Donald Trump.
Big Board next.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: All right, well, every election, we`re trying to figure out, who`s going to win, who`s going to lose?
What is the group of voters we are always talking about? We`re talking about swing voters. How are the swing voters going to break? Are they going to break for Trump in 2020 and get him reelected? Are they going to break for his Democratic challenger and make Donald Trump a one-term president?
We`re always talking about swing voters. And now an interesting way of looking at swing voters, looking at who they are, how many of them there are, and what issues are going to potentially animate them in 2020.
This is from -- this is the Kaiser Family Foundation and our friends at The Cook Political Report got together and put a very interesting survey together.
First of all, this question of, how many swing voters are there? How many folks are there who right now are not sure they`re going to vote for Trump or for the Democrat or against Trump or against the Democrat? How many of them are there?
So, this is how they broke down the electorate. Check this out. I think it`s very interesting. First of all, are you definitely going to vote for Donald Trump? Will you definitely vote to reelect Trump in 2020? Twenty- nine percent in this survey, 29 percent say they are definitely voting for Trump. We would not call those swing voters. Right?
Now, who might potentially be a swing voter? Folks who say, I will probably vote for Trump, but I`m not sure. It`s not definite. My mind could be changed. Some of them say they might actually be willing to vote for a Democrat. Some say they might vote for a third party. Some say they might not vote.
But there`s another 9 percent who say they will probably vote for Trump, but they`re not sure.
OK, now, what about the other side? How about the Democrats? Definitely vote for the Democratic candidate against Donald Trump, there is 34 percent who say they`re definitely going to vote for the Democrat. So, already, you see that, based on this poll, a little more built-in support for the Democrat than there is for Trump.
And how about that, the probably vote for? Not sure they`re going to do it. They`re inclined to do it. But you don`t put them down as definites. There is 13 percent here.
So, interesting, if you add up the probablies and the definitelies, Democrats in this poll 47-38 over Trump. And you think of all those head- to-head matchup polls we have been seeing, Trump has been stuck high 30s, low 40s.
So, then the question is, OK, if these are potentially maybe swing voters, these are potentially maybe swing voters, and all the folks who answer this and say, they already are swing voters, they`re just not sure who they`re going to vote for, that`s your giant pool of swing voters.
It`s almost a third of voters. Almost a third of all voters, they say, are swing voters.
So what issues do they view as differentiating the two parties, Trump and the Democrats? This is interesting. Check this out.
A couple of clear advantages for Democrats. The issue of climate change, those swing voters, 59 percent of them who say they prefer the Democrats to Donald Trump on climate change.
How about the issue of health care? Again, pretty wide margin here, 50 percent for the Democrat, whoever that would be, 32 percent for Trump.
Then the issue of immigration is a little narrower, but, again, you see an advantage here potentially for Democrats, 49-40. These are issues, not surprisingly, you already hear Democrats talk a lot about. These are issues where swing voters, according to poll, tend to prefer Democrats to the president.
But there is one issue in this poll where the president has a clear advantage over the Democrats. It is the issue of the economy. We have been talking so much about this, Trump with the advantage there. All that talk about, can Donald Trump harness the economy to get himself reelected?
You look at this, that is his clearest issue-based path at least with swing voters.
Some interesting data there from the Kaiser Foundation and from the Cook Report.
Still ahead, we will get an update on Hurricane Dorian`s progress, talk to a reporter in the Bahamas about the rescue and recovery effort there.
Stay with us. You`re watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The Carolina coast is taking a pounding from Hurricane Dorian, with heavy winds, rain, and flooding. Right now, the storm is off the coast of South Carolina. It is bringing winds up to 110 miles per hour, storm surges up to seven feet.
Hundreds of thousands of people are now without power.
NBC correspondent Simone Boyce is in Myrtle Beach.
Simone, we were talking to you a few minutes ago. Again, you are relatively close to where the eye of that storm is. You were telling us about some of the conditions.
In terms of what`s to come once this storm passes and things settle down, what are they expecting the biggest challenges are going to be in the Myrtle Beach area?
SIMONE BOYCE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Steve, this is an area that has experienced significant flooding in past storms like Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Matthew, and some of the areas that experienced some flash flooding over the past 24 hours are filled with residents that are still recovering from those two storms.
So, those are some particularly that experienced some flash flooding over the past 24 hours are filled with residents that are still recovering from those two storms. So those are some particularly sensitive areas here that officials are going to be catering to in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
Now another thing I want to mention is the damage from the tornadoes here. There were tornado warnings early this morning and tornado watches in place for most of today. Some of those tornadoes actually ripped the roofs off of homes. People were forced to evacuate from apartment complexes that no longer had roofs over their head.
And several trees have been overturned as a result of those winds. Now, thankfully, the threat from those winds has subsided for now. But those are some of the things that officials are going to be have to monitor over the next few days, as well as downed power lines. That of course electrocution is a major threat after storms like this -- Steve.
KORNACKI: All right. Simone Boyce, stay safe there in Myrtle Beach. I appreciate you taking a few minutes with us.
Turning to the Bahamas, that is where a massive relief effort is just getting started. Rescue workers are making their way to the most devastated areas of the islands. The death toll now is 23, according to the minister of health. That number sadly is expected to rise.
Joining me by phone is Jared Higgs who is a reporter with the "Nassau Guardian".
Jared, thank you for joining us.
The devastation we`re describing, we`re seeing some aerial pictures of, you have seen firsthand. Just describe if you would some of the scenes you`ve witnessed here.
JARED HIGGS, NASSAU GUARDIAN REPORTER (via telephone): I mean, it is absolutely devastating in Marsh Harbour, Abaco. People are quickly losing hope. The desperation, it`s just so clear wherever you go to the government, the government clinic, where everybody is hanging out. Hundreds of people outside.
Whenever you go to another government facility, that many people are using as a shelter, I can`t even describe it. It`s like a favela. This is our office where the office of the prime minister is actually housed. And so, now, like I say, it`s a makeshift shelter.
KORNACKI: In terms of the worst hit, the hardest hit areas, just getting help in there, just getting aid in there, how successful have officials been with that?
HIGGS: I must say, the U.S. Coast Guard has been absolutely vital. They are landing their helicopters in the heart of Marsh Harbour, which is, like I say, the hardest hit area by this storm. And when I say that, I mean you have the government clinic on one side and the U.S. Coast Guard is landing their helicopters 200 yards away. So they`re at the heart of this.
Of course, the Marsh Harbour International Airport, that has been limited in terms of its use. And so, today, they actually had evacuation lights coming in and out. They were getting out women, children, people who were injured, and elderly. They`re of course hoping to open the government fully so they can get more people out of there. The whole place really needs to be evacuated. There is so much destruction, absolutely leveled.
I explained to many people that as a result of the storm, I noticed you mention there the death toll of 23. As a matter of fact, just within ten minutes of being in Marsh Harbour, I was guided by a resident, by someone who lives in one of the migrant village there`s to three more dead bodies. Our officials have a lot of work to do.
KORNACKI: And I don`t know if you`ve had a chance here. You`re moving so quickly here in terms of dealing with this tragedy, but to process it. You are from the Bahamas. This is your home.
What has it been like to see the place you lived, the place you`ve grown up in this state?
HIGGS: This is something that we never, ever, ever expected. You know, we`re from the Bahamas. And so we know that we get hurricanes. But, you know, we feel I think we have this strong building code, and that`s going to save us.
But in this case, that didn`t do much for us. I mean, it`s absolutely heartbreaking. I could never have imagined.
I know that before the prime minister first officially announced that there were confirmed deaths, I was hoping with everything in my that there would not be deaths. And of course that`s not the case. I don`t know where the death toll is going to be. I have kind of come to grips with the fact that there are deaths now, and lots of them.
KORNACKI: It`s just a horrible situation there.
Jared Higgs, thank you for everything you`re doing with the rescue recovery efforts, and good luck. Best wishes to you and to your family there.
HIGGS: Thank you.
KORNACKI: Up next, the summer of Warren. Elizabeth Warren has emerged as a very serious contender for the Democratic nomination. How and why is her message resonating? And is it potentially unsettling the Trump campaign as well?
That`s next on HARDBALL. Back after this.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Perhaps the biggest development in the Democratic presidential race this summer has been the steady rise of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. According to the "Real Clear Politics" average of poll, since Memorial Day, Warren has gained around 7 percent nationally. That has lifted her to second place behind former Vice President Joe Biden.
Meanwhile, a Monmouth University poll in the critical early state of Iowa last month showed Warren in second place there as well, 19 percent for her. That is up from just 7 percent support that Warren had back in April. In other words, she jumped 12 points basically over the summer in Iowa, according to "The Daily Beast".
President Trump has taken notice of this. Quote: The president has specifically highlighted what he views as her surprising political and populist talents during the Democratic primary, and has told multiple advisers and associates that he hears she could be tougher in a general election than many initially expected.
For more, I`m joined by Zerlina Maxwell, senior director of Progressive Programming for Sirius XM, and Kristen Soltis Anderson, Republican pollster and "Washington Examiner" columnist.
Thanks to both of you for being with us.
Zerlina, we have a newsletter here from NBC News. Our politics team every morning, "The First Read" newsletter, they were talking about potential parallels between Warren, and here is a blast from the past, Howard Dean.
ZERLINA MAXWELL, SIRIUS XM SENIOR DIRECTOR OF PROGRESSIVE PROGRAMMING: Yes.
KORNACKI: Summer of 2003, the summer of Dean. He was doing rallies across the country, 10,000 people, 15,000 people, surged to the lead. And, of course, we know how that ended.
Are there parallels there you`re seeing, or is there more staying power here?
MAXWELL: I don`t see the parallels because of the substance she is putting together with the vision. And it`s not just that she`s exciting the base of the Democratic Party and many progressives with essentially having the more bold vision like a Bernie Sanders, but coupling that with a specific policy proposals that you can look at and say, not just where Elizabeth Warren wants to go, but how we`re going get there.
And I think that`s something that voters really -- it resonates with voters, because they can say well I know what she`s going to do as president. It`s not necessarily a black box where you say, well, she has all of these policies that seem radical, and I don`t know what that will look like. She is laying out a vision.
I also think that she has this ability to speak in a way that doesn`t sound like a politician. I don`t know if that`s because she was an educator and a professor, and she is really adept at being able to explain difficult policy nuance in a way regular Americans can understand. And that`s something I think can gain traction. Because when you have somebody who is really a compelling speaker, I think she actually gets hit a bit because there is something about women on television. It doesn`t translate in the same way with men.
And I think that on the stump, she is one of the most charismatic candidates. And I think that the more that people see her. She is doing town hall after town hall. She is going into those Trump counties. People are really connecting with that message and I think the specifics of that message.
KORNACKI: So, we`ll see if her numbers continue to rise. Kristen Soltis Anderson, that piece of reporting there that is potentially Warren and this rise she`s had in the polls has caught the attention of the president. I think there is a school of thought if you`re an incumbent president, your approval ratings is in the 40s, you should be nervous about any potential challenger because you have some clear vulnerabilities there.
But I think relative to all the other Democratic candidates, how worried should Trump and Republicans be about Warren? And I ask that because we had another one this week, this Wisconsin poll this week. Warren was tied with Trump. Biden was nine points ahead. We`ve seen that sort of disconnect a bunch of times.
So, how worried should Republicans be about Warren?
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: What I think should cause Republicans the most concern about Warren is that she takes the economic populist fight, which is a big piece of how Donald Trump was able to put together his unorthodox coalition, and she matches it with rhetoric that is a little bit less out there than what you might hear from a Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders embraces the term socialism and tries to rehabilitate it, while Elizabeth Warren tries to claim the mantle of being a capitalist, but just someone who wants to see capitalism deliver in a different way.
She talks about big structure reform, where Bernie Sanders talks about revolution. So, she takes a policy agenda that is frankly just as progressive, just as sort of to the left as Bernie Sanders, but she tries to match it with rhetoric that might be a little bit more palatable to those voters who are either closer to the center or were part of that economic populist coalition that Trump put together last time around.
KORNACKI: Well, Warren`s rise comes after her campaign initially got off to a rocky start. It was last October that she released the results of the DNA test, indicating strong evidence she said of Native American heritage in an effort to blunt the president`s derogatory Pocahontas slur.
Then in February this year, Warren apologized to the Cherokee Nation for how she handled the situation. According to "The Daily Beast", GOP operatives had a field day and figured they`d feast off that misstep for some time. The report adds that now, quote, with few punches landing, the worry is Trump may have already taken his best shot and that Warren will end up looking increasingly formidable for having bounced back.
So, Zerlina, what do you make of that? There`s -- on the one hand, there`s for Elizabeth Warren, a potentially triumph narrative. She went through the worse of it late last year. She`s been rising since.
Is there a flip side potentially where if she gets the nomination, this comes back against Trump in a general election where the dynamics are just different?
MAXWELL: Well, it depends who you`re thinking will care about that kind of issue, Steve. I think that the folks that could use that as fodder, they`ll continue to do that. Donald Trump is not going to stop calling her Pocahontas, even though that in itself is racist and much more offensive than anything dealing with a DNA test.
So, I would say that, you know, in this particular moment, she has shown that she has tough skin. She can survive that onslaught of the Trump attack, the nicknames, that even the Republican candidates in 2016 couldn`t stand up against. So, she has shown that she can weather that storm.
What I think is most interesting about her campaign in this moment is that I think we forget when we talk about 2016 that we have not elected a woman yet. We still have not done that. And so we are distracted every day by Donald Trump and his antics. And the fact still remains that we have not elected a woman in the history of the United States of America.
And so, whatever Elizabeth Warren does in this particular primary and in a general election will be unprecedented in the sense that if she is successful, she will be the first. And that will still be a hard thing to do, but she has shown that she can weather that storm, the nicknames and the name-calling, and she`s shown that she has that resilience that I think will warrant voters to take a second and third look at her.
And it shows that she can be elected, right? That electability chemical weapon can be answered if she`s able to weather these storms through this campaign and still seem viable come general election time.
KORNACKI: Well, so, let me -- Kristen, let me ask you quickly, what do you make of that? If Warren has weathered it with Democratic primary voters, we will see, does it play -- we`re just talking about those swing voters in the last segment. Does it play differently potentially, Trump going after her like that with swing voters?
ANDERSON: I think it`s way too soon to tell how this will affect a lot of voters in the middle. I think a lot of folks that are not folks are sort of waiting for the Democratic primary to resolve itself before they really tune in. At the moment, Trump tweeting, making fun of people, that`s noise that they`re kind of tuning out.
So, I think it will take a couple of months for us to know if Elizabeth Warren is ultimately the nominee, it will take a little while for us to see if that has an impact. But I do think the fact that she weathered it at the beginning and has risen in the polls by just sort of doing the good things structurally and sticking to policy is a sign perhaps she can weather the strong longer term.
KORNACKI: OK. And again, yes, she has had a terrific summer. Though, we should point out, Joe Biden is still leading the polls a this point Labor Day.
KORNACKI: Thank you, Zerlina Maxwell and Kristen Soltis Anderson.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: That`s HARDBALL for now.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END