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MTP Daily, Transcript 10/20/2016

Guests: Jeff Flake, Michael Beschloss, April Ryan, Amy Walter, Richard Hasen, Chris Kofinis,

Show: MTP DAILY Date: October 20, 2016 Guest: Jeff Flake, Michael Beschloss, April Ryan, Amy Walter, Richard Hasen, Chris Kofinis,

CHUCK TODD, HOST: Good evening. I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington. And welcome to MTP DAILY. 19 days until the election, actually 18 days 20 hours and.

Political world right now though with these 19 days, Republicans included, spent much of the last 20 hours picking their jaws up off the floor after Trump in front of some 70 million people refused to say whether he`d accept the election results breaking with decades, perhaps centuries of precedent in American democracy.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS CHANNEL HOST: Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely -- sir -- that you will absolutely accept the results of this election?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I will look at it at the time. I`m not looking at anything now. I`ll look at it at the time.

WALLACE: One of the prides of this country is the peaceful transition of power. Are you saying you`re not prepared now to commit to that principle?

TRUMP: What I`m saying is that I`ll tell you at the time. I`ll keep you in suspense. Okay.

HILLARY CLINTON, PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Well, Chris, let me respond to that, because that`s horrifying.


TODD: This is more than a nightmare for Republicans. They had overwhelmed everything else in the debate and it created a whole new issue for down-ballot Republicans. This afternoon, Trump attempted to clean things up but he didn`t walk anything back.


TRUMP: Of course, I would accept a clear election result, but I would also reserve my right to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result. And always I will follow and abide by all of the rules and traditions of all of the many candidates who have come before me.


TODD: A little stronger there, but that`s not all he said. Here`s more from Trump -- we`ll have more from Trump in a moment. Trump`s refusal, though, to accept the election result at the debate is the front page story pretty much everywhere.

Take a look at these front page headlines simply from major papers in battleground states across the country. They are all focused on that one debate moment. That is the headline. Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, North Carolina, Nevada, Wisconsin, Utah, yes, Utah, the battleground state.

We could go on and on. We just narrowed it down to the battleground state major newspapers. His comments prompted an old-fashioned Trump pile-on from Republican leaders and down-ballot Republicans. Senator Jeff Flake called it "beyond the pale". We`ll be speaking with Senator Flake in a moment.

Rob Portman, "The sanctity of the ballot box is critical to our democracy". Lindsey Graham, "If he loses it will not be because the system is rigged but because he failed as a candidate". Kelly Ayotte, "He should accept the outcome".

RNC spokesman Sean Spicer, "We`re going to respect the will of the people. I cannot speak for what he thinks". Trump`s running mate, Mike Pence, "He`ll absolutely accept the outcome of this election". Just moments ago, Senator John Thune, the number three Republican in the Senate, added his voice, "The American electoral process is the cornerstone of our democracy. Suggesting otherwise undermines an electoral system that is a model for nations around the world".

And then there was former Republican nominee, John McCain. "In every previous election, the loser congratulates the winner and calls them my president. That`s not just the Republican way or the Democratic way. It`s the American way".

To chop it off, the campaign`s explanations have been a bit of a mess of contradictions and confusion. As we showed you, Trump seemed to walk back his comments this afternoon in Ohio, but then he added this.


TRUMP: Ladies and gentlemen, I want to make a major announcement today. I would like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supporters and to all of the people of the United States that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election if I win.


TODD: Trump actually had two jokes prepared for today, one saying Trump would accept Clinton`s concession speech without hesitation and the other, one which you just heard. Why do we know that he had two jokes prepared? Because the campaign sent out his prepared remarks from today with both the joke he told and the alternate.

Anyway, I`m joined now by Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona who has called for Trump to drop out of the race, has never endorsed him. But you were never, never Trump but it sounds like you`re never going to get there. Senator is that fair to say?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE, ARIZONA: I had hoped along the way -- I mean he lost me, frankly, at the Mexican rapist way back when. But I had hoped that he would change and realize that he`s a major party candidate and that he would change, but he hasn`t, in fact, has just gotten worse. And I cannot overstate how important this is to deny that you may accept the election results. It is just unfathomable that you could do that.

TODD: You know, the damage is him -- and, first of all, let me ask you this. Did he walk it back enough today?

FLAKE: No, not at all. I mean you could make a joke about it, but he hasn`t walked it back. And if you look at the series of tweets that were released this morning about the last election where he was talking about the revolution and this is a farce, this last election, then you realize that this is not new, that he`s had these feelings before.

And it`s not just disturbing in terms of what democracy means and peaceful transfer of power, but it`s an incredibly selfish thing to do as well for those down-ballot candidates on the Republican side who are counting on a big turnout. To tell your voters, your supporters that the election is rigged and that therefore their votes may not mean anything just drives down turnout. And that`s just like I said a very selfish thing to do.

TODD: Do you believe Donald Trump just doomed the Republican chances to hold the Senate?

FLAKE: Well, he certainly didn`t make it easier. And I hope that Republicans see through it and see, even more, the importance if he`s not going to make it to the White House that we have the checks and balances that we need with divided government.

And so I hope that it drives out turnout. And I think that`s the responsibility of other elected officials to talk about how these elections work. They aren`t rigged. They are run by the states and thousands of volunteers both Democrat and Republican alike in a non-partisan way. And I think the more of us that come out and reassure the voters of that, the better off we all are.

TODD: Do you think Trump loosely throws out the voter fraud? In fact, there is a couple of tweets that he`s put out. This was one four days ago. He said -- one three days ago. He goes, "Of course, there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before Election Day. Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So na‹ve!"

Then he had another one the day before. "The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media, pushing Crooked Hillary -- but also at many polling places -- SAD". Let me ask you this. Do you think he`s had help in selling this myth that our elections are rigged because we`ve had some loose talk from candidates in states, governors, secretaries of states that have tried to -- in pushing a voter ID law tried to drum up the idea that voter fraud is real?

FLAKE: Perhaps, perhaps. I couldn`t identify any specific examples. But I do hear that talk a lot. And it`s always been disturbing to me because we simply haven`t had evidence of that large scale voter fraud. We all know that it happens on the margins but it`s the extreme margins and probably as much on one side as the other.

And so the notion that it affects election results, particularly in a presidential race, is just absurd. And so, yeah, I think, we all need to be more responsible in the language we use with regard to elections.

TODD: Last night, there was something else. I believe you`re in foreign relations, if I`m not mistaken.


TODD: So do you accept the idea that it`s Russia that`s behind these WikiLeaks hacks, the hacks of the DNC and the hack of John Podesta? Do you accept the Intelligence Community`s assessment on this?

FLAKE: That`s the overwhelming consensus of the Intelligence Community. And yes, I do accept it. I think it is disturbing.

TODD: What kind of damage do you believe Trump is doing by not fully accepting the Intelligence briefings he himself is getting? I assume right now he`s probably getting more detailed briefings than you are.

FLAKE: Well, yeah, I mean to dismiss that and to put your own judgment -- his judgement above that of the Intelligence Communities is frightening, frankly. And I don`t think that he does the institutions that he wants to be a part of and represent any good.

TODD: Let me ask you. Do you think we`ve not responded as aggressively as a country because there`s fear of it looking to political domestically? Do you think we`ve made a mistake here? The Obama administration, they`ve been too cautious in responding to Russia?

FLAKE: Well, I think, we`ve had our differences in foreign policy. I just got back from a week overseas in Europe. And it is deeply concerning to the countries there, the adventurism that`s going on with regard to Russia. And so I do think that we need to certainly assert American leadership in a way that hasn`t been in the recent past.

TODD: You`re an Arizona senator. I`ve got to ask you. The Clinton camp really does believe Arizona now is smacked at in the battleground. What do you say?

FLAKE: Well, they are spending money here. They see the polls. And I`ve always thought. I said many months ago that Donald Trump was as likely to win Michigan as he is to win Arizona. He may not win either. And it`s nobody`s fault but Donald Trump. He`s gone out of his way to offend just about every demographic group out there. And you can`t win elections in Arizona or nationwide when you do that.

TODD: If Donald Trump goes on to lose on November 9, how comfortable are you going to be to sit down to help rebuild the party with folks that you may believe enabled him?

FLAKE: I think that we`ll all come together. And the blame will go where it belongs, I think, with a flawed candidate and the positions that he took, the statements he made and the behavior he exhibited.

And so I think that more people will be able to recognize that once the election is passed. And also the manner in which he deals with the election results, if he goes on as he`s talking about and not accepting them, I think that more Americans will realize the true character of the man.

TODD: All right. Senator Flake, always a pleasure to talk to you, sir. Appreciate you coming on sharing your views.

FLAKE: Thank you.

TODD: You got it. Let me bring in the panel. NBC News Presidential Historian, Michael Beschloss; American Urban Radio Networks` White House Correspondent, April Ryan; and The Cook Political Report National Editor, Amy Walter. Welcome to you all. Michael, we have had our share of disputed close presidential election that gets disputed. But once a winner is determined, no matter how, which way, whether it was Al Gore, whether it was Richard Nixon -- and, by the way, both of them didn`t come to it easily, right?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: No, that`s exactly right. Richard Nixon suspected that there was vote fraud, 45,000 votes in Texas, 9,000 votes in Illinois. But he accepted the verdict of the people and conceded. And maybe the gold standard I think is 1860, the most acrimonious presidential election in history led to the Civil War, cessation of the southern states.

Lincoln had defeated Stephen Douglas and Douglas, who you think if there was any election we`d have an angry, sour loser would have been Douglas. Douglas says to Lincoln you are the President and God bless you. And then in 2000 when Al Gore concedes after the Florida recount and your home state and the Supreme Court what does he do? He quotes Douglas speaking to Lincoln.

TODD: I want to play President Obama a few minutes ago on this issue on Donald Trump. Take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you try to sow the seeds of doubt in people`s minds about the legitimacy of our elections that undermines our democracy. Then you`re doing the work of our adversaries for them because our democracy depends on people knowing that their vote matters.


TODD: There is a tactical mistake that Trump has made, April. I have seen it. It looks like the lack of engagement going on in the Obama coalition three weeks ago, not there. The more Trump has talked about this, it`s had a reverse effect. Hasn`t it?

APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT AND WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Yeah. It`s had a big effect. You hear things like Donald Trump talk about and you talk about a reverse effect. He keeps talking about how things are rigged, how the election is rigged.

And everyone is saying, wait a minute, what about voting rights? You had Reverend Jesse Jackson there last night talking about, hey, voting rights, we`ve had an issue with not having voting -- this is the first time in 50 years that we have an election that is not covered by the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. And yet you have him talking about everything is rigged.

Well, if you want to go down that line, let`s go. But this is kind of that what you were talking about this rubber band thing. If you`re talking about, let`s really deal with that kind of issue. Donald Trump is galvanizing now for Hillary Clinton in a lot of ways. And you cannot deny it.

I mean, last night, you had people who were very upset who were in the Republican Party who did not want to talk to Donald Trump because of things that he`s saying against women. So it`s --

TODD: These are his supporters, his spinners that you ran into, right?

RYAN: These are Republican supporters who are very upset.

AMY WALTER, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT NATIONAL EDITOR: Yeah. And I think it has the effect, too, of dampening enthusiasm among Republicans, right.

TODD: I had a Republican Strategist tell me this yesterday.

WALTER: This whole thing is rigged. Why do I show up?

TODD: I had a Republican Strategist say he think that`s done more damage to Republicans who have not done anything.

WALTER: Especially if you are Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, if you are running anywhere where you need suburban, especially suburban women, suburban college voters to come out, Barbara Comstock in Northern Virginia, and you have the leader of your party saying it`s all rigged. It doesn`t matter. Why am I going to bother and show up to vote?

TODD: And I`ll tell you. The way he`s kind of walked it back -- people are going to take it, I believe -- I want to play -- this is a clip from May 5. This is Donald Trump during the primary season. Take a listen.


TRUMP: You`ve been hearing me say it`s a rigged system, but now I don`t say it anymore because I won. Okay. So now I don`t care. I don`t care.


TODD: Probably that`s as honest of a statement --

BESCHLOSS: That`s right. We have to give him for honesty.

TODD: That`s an honest of a statement, pull it effect true, right?

RYAN: But what`s missing is he keeps talking about I`ve won. I`ve won. When you`re in that kind of power, it`s about the people. It`s about serving people. What can I do? And I have not heard anywhere in this equation it`s about the people we`ve won. It`s about I`ve won. If I win I will accept. If I don`t I won`t. I mean where are the people, the American people, his supporters of this equation?

BESCHLOSS: Well, and we all heard Senator Flake use the word selfish which is really interesting because in no place that we`ve all been discussing would this be a very intelligent tactic to try to win the presidential election. So what`s going on here?

And you have to begin to think that what`s going on is that he`s already moved on to the idea of forming this movement after the election, whether it`s a media company or whatever else, and figures that he can try to delegitimize President Clinton if she is elected in the same way that he tried to with President Obama.

TODD: By the way, he said something else last night. He did say he didn`t think she should have been allowed to run.

BESCHLOSS: Allowed to which is offense. Who is it who would have disallowed her from running? I mean what does he have in mind?

WALTER: So, well, that it`s clear from -- I mean this would be -- I don`t know that this is a --

TODD: Oh, I think he`s going down the FBI route. That`s where he`s going.

WALTER: Absolutely, the FBI route and as more e-mails or at the FBI documents show that it looks like some sort of collusion between the State Department and the FBI and that she`s getting extra benefits --

BESCHLOSS: And if they use this as legend to try to undermine the results of this election if she wins and undermine her.

WALTER: But it`s also just pure, selfish petulance. I think maybe reading too much into this about what he`s trying to do further down the road or what he means as a bigger movement. I think this is simply I`m losing and I don`t like it. But there is a movement behind this. There is a certain movement that feels disenfranchised in this nation that we haven`t heard from.

They are rising up. They`re coming from places we`ve never seen and they`re hearing the call and they are following him. And the problem is they will continue to follow him after this. And the question is, can the Republican Party stand this because they are now so divided that they can`t even bridge the gap because change is coming whether he wins or not.

TODD: But I`d tell you now that you have Jeff Flake, you have Husted in Ohio who has been a lightning rod for some progressive activists when it comes about, you have people literally only the Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, who has sort of delved into voter fraud conspiracies himself, is the only one that is like not distancing himself from Trump. So you have an entire party infrastructure saying, whoa, whoa, whoa, guys the elections are pretty fair.

WALTER: You`ll be legitimizing the entire party.

TODD: If they are rigged then apparently they have been rigged in the Republican`s favor. They control the House and the Senate.

BESCHLOSS: Right or even have Trump if he loses sitting in his apartment at the top of Trump Tower, demanding that people address him as Mr. President and perhaps building a replica of the Oval Office, I don`t think so. But it sort of leads there if you think of where this is going.

TODD: By the way, I didn`t bring up. This is the moment of the debate that -- there was one other shocking moment right at the end of the debate. And I think we were all getting ready for the post-debate and we almost missed it. Let me play it right here.


CLINTON: My social security payroll contribution will go up, as will Donald`s, assuming he can`t figure out how to get out of it. But what we want to do is to replenish the Social Security Trust Fund --

TRUMP: Such a nasty woman.

CLINTON: By making sure that we have sufficient resources.


WALTER: Yeah. You know, this is what has confounded him in these debates. In the primary debate, he was able to goad his opponents by dropping things like that into going down with him into those sort of fights. No, you`re nasty. She refused to do that and she got under his skin in every single debate within about 30 minutes.

TODD: Yeah. It lasted about 30 minutes. Yeah.

BESCHLOSS: And itself as the fun begins to crack.

TODD: It did and he --

RYAN: But you could see how much she had gotten under his skin, because at the very end he would not look at her and he knew that she was walking. She was kind of in a moment where she could have shaken his hand and moved on to Chris Wallace. But you could see he was very angry. That`s genderism and that`s also temperament. It speaks to who he really is about women and who he is --

TODD: I mean it is that -- we`re talking about what he`s said and it`s certainly a distraction with the Republican Party when it comes to this concession. That may drive away more voters than anything.

BESCHLOSS: They will.

TODD: I`m going to pause here. You guys are coming back. Donald Trump, though, has been warning of this rigged election. What would it take to actually pull it off? Stay tuned.


TODD: Hillary Clinton was off the trail today, but one of her strongest surrogates is on the stage right now. That`s Michelle Obama. She is rallying supporters in -- that`s right, the newest battleground state -- Arizona. Let`s take a listen.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: And when times are tough, hope is all you have. So the hope that sustains us, it isn`t some naive idea that if you sit around and do nothing, everything will be okay. No. No. Our hope is grounded in hard work and hard-earned faith. It is grounded in beliefs that there is something greater than us, that reminds us that we are all precious and worthy, no matter where we come from or what --




B OBAMA: There`s no way to rig an election in a country this big. I don`t know if Donald Trump`s ever been to an actual polling place where you have Democrats and Republicans who are in-charge of taking the votes. But, you know, he doesn`t even worry if what he says is true. This is just about him worried that he`s losing.


TODD: We`ve said it before and we`ll say it again. Claims that widespread voter fraud exists are just simply bogus, full stop. Let`s break it down. Trump claim number one, there is evidence of fraud in the voter rolls. Trump and his campaign often cite a Pew study from 2012 that found more than 20 million voter registrations are either no longer valid or inaccurate.

And there`s close to two million deceased people on the rolls. Well, that has been debunked again and again. Sure, it`s proof of bad recordkeeping, but there`s no actual voter fraud has been found as a result. Plus, the census estimates that 2.6 million Americans die every year. So, guess what? The latter has more to do with the cycle of life than it does when it comes to fraudulent voter registrations.

Trump`s claim number two cites a Washington Post story to back up a claim that non-citizens are voting. Here`s the story. It`s about Obama`s 2008 victory in North Carolina. It was written by academics, not reporters, and has been widely panned for using bad data.

And, finally, Trump says to look out for fraud in cities like Chicago and Philadelphia and warns of voting multiple times there. Again, it`s not true and let`s find out why from my next guest. Richard Hasen is a Professor at UC Irvine School of Law, co-author of a leading casebook on election. Simply, I guess, nobody in the country and nobody in our industry looks to anybody else other than Rick Hasen. So, Rick, welcome to the show, sir.


TODD: So let`s start with that last item there, the idea that boy, the elections in Chicago and Philadelphia, those polls, you`ve got to watch out for them. People might vote multiple times. Why is that a bogus charge?

HASEN: Yeah. He`s saying that -- it`s pretty clear he`s talking about in the minority areas. He told his supporters to go to those certain areas to look for the fraud. So he`s said people could vote five or 10 or 15 times in places like Pennsylvania because they don`t have a strict voter ID law because that ID law was thrown out by the courts.

Well, if you`ve ever been to a polling place you know that even in a place where there is no strict ID law, once you sign in you`re done. So if you`re going to try to vote five or 10 or 15 times, you would have either had to register in five or 10 or 15 polling places. Or even if you go into different polling places, claim you`re somebody else, hope that person didn`t voted, hope you won`t get caught.

And you`re going to do this on a big enough scale that you`re actually going to swing the outcome of an election. I couldn`t find a single election anywhere in the country where this kind of fraud was used since at least the 1980s to try to swing any kind of election.

TODD: I was going to ask you about that, which is it does seem as if there have been -- there are more safeguards now than there were, say, 20 years ago. And I`m going to get the date wrong, but I know there was a Miami Mayor`s race where there was absentee ballot vote fraud.

Now it was caught. And I think they ended up throwing out the results, having a new election. But they also changed the system down there in Florida, I believe, to make it a little harder to duplicate or forge signatures. How much cleaner are things, say, compared to 30 years ago?

HASEN: Well, they are cleaner but absentee voter fraud remains a real but small problem. That 1997 race, the results were thrown out, but in my same study where I couldn`t find any evidence of impersonation fraud being used to swing an election, I could find from every year some local election where maybe somebody`s paid $20 for their absentee ballot and it swings a small local election.

It`s still a real problem. It`s not the kind of problem Trump is talking about and it`s not the kind of problem where you could actually swing a presidential election by paying thousands of people for their ballots and then voting them without it being detected.

TODD: All right. I want to ask you something about a 1982 RNC consent decree. It was something that Ben Ginsberg, Former Counsellor for the Republican Party and for many presidential candidates -- and there was a lawsuit that the Democratic Party, DNC, filed against the RNC having to do with I guess one would call it voter intimidation, one would call it just simply keeping an eye on the polls. Walk me through it.

HASEN: So in the 1980s, the Democratic National Committee sued the Republican National Committee saying that RNC was engaging what they called ballot security measures which essentially was voter intimidation, for example, sending off-duty police officers with guns in African-American areas in Louisiana. We saw similar problems in New Jersey.

In order to settle the case, the sort of consent decree is a settlement between the parties that`s enforced by the court, the RNC agreed not to engage in this kind of activity. But they still did it and the consent decree was extended. And the RNC and DNC have been fighting about it for years.

It`s set to expire next year, but it could be extended by up to another eight years if there is evidence that the RNC is still engaging in this activity. That`s why you saw a story in this morning`s Wall Street Journal where the RNC is saying, please don`t engage in any ballot security measures with the Trump campaign because they don`t want to be tied up on this for another eight years where they`re not allowed to do any kind of official poll watching or anything from the RNC because they`ll get caught up in this.

TODD: So essentially if Trump`s followers take his, you know, he says, hey, I want you to after you vote, go to other polling places and just keep an eye on things. If that happens, that is gonna cost the republican party another eight years, in your mind? So that would be a judge`s decision?

HASEN: Right. The question is whether Trump would be acting as an agent of the RNC and, you know, the campaigns are pretty mesh now, so the more that the RNC and Trump are seeing this is cooperating, the more likely that the RNC is gonna get stuck behind this which is why the republicans are very scared about this given that Trump is trying to organize this kind of effort and send people to go do their own poll watching.

TODD: All right, Rick Hasen, somebody I have a feeling we`ll be talking to as the election gets closer and possibly on election day and the day after and the day after.


TODD: I know. All right. I appreciate it. Still ahead. Did either candidate doing up to win over the the handful of undecided voters, essentially Ken Bone? We`ll hear from some in the state of Ohio. Stay tuned.


TODD: So how did that the big moments of the debate dial test? Well, we got some fun little moments for you to take a look at. That would be happening in a moment. First, here`s Hampton Pearson for CNBC Market Wrap.

HAMPTON PEARSON, REPORTER, CNBC: Thanks, Chuck. Stocks closing lower on Wall Street. The Dow falling by 40 points, the S&P down two, the Nasdaq finishing down by about four points. U.S. crude oil futures drop settling at $50 and 43 cents a barrel.

Weak revenue and a difference subscribers cause Verizon sales to fall 6.7 percent from a year earlier. And lower mortgage rates in job market are bringing more home buyers to market but supplies are low. Last month, existing home sales rose across the country to seasonably adjusted rates of nearly 5.5 million. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.


TODD: Undecided Ohio voters watching the debate and a focused group last night were divided over who won but united in being turned off by Trump`s negativity. Watch what happened on the dial when Trump called Clinton a liar.


DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PARTY NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT OF U.S.: We have to renegotiate these agreements because our country cannot afford to defend Saudi Arabia, Japan, Germany, South Korea and many other places. We cannot continue. She took that to mean nuclear weapons. Look, she`s been proven to be a liar in so many different ways, this is just another lie.

HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PARTY NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT OF U.S.: Well, I`m just quoting you when there is...

TRUMP: There`s no quote. You`re not gonna find quotes from me.


TODD: There you go. Trump`s barrage of attacks soured this group. As you can see, 50 is neutral, above 50 and those numbers, you see that`s going well, when you dip below, that`s not going well when you watch this dial test. But, this group also was not too impressed with the way Clinton handled the hack of alleged e-mails released by WikiLeaks.


CLINTON: I was talking about the energy. We trade more energy with our neighbors than we trade with the rest of the world combined. And I do want us to have an electric grid and energy system that crosses borders. I think that would be a great benefit. But, you are very clearly quoting from WikiLeaks, and what`s really important about WikiLeaks is that the Russian government has engaged in espionage against Americans.


TODD: As you can see, that answer didn`t really fly. Chris Kofinis moderated the focus group with Park Street Strategies. All right, sir, basically, what did you learn from this focus group? I want to go over one more clip and then get into other things. Overall, what did you learn from this one?

CHRIS KOFINIS, PARK STREET STRATEGIES: That the negativity of Trump, the way he has attacked her -- the way he has attacked her personally has been more than just destructive. It has moved voters away from him that would have otherwise been open to potentially supporting him because of his economic message, which they do react to.

TODD: All right. Let`s show it. This is his TPP answer, and watch this group of undecided Ohioans react to his TPP answer. Here it is.


TRUMP: Jobs are being sucked out of our economy. You looked at all the places that I just left. You go to Pennsylvania, you go to Ohio, you go to Florida, you go to any of them, you go to upstate New York, our jobs have fled to Mexico and other places. We`re bringing our jobs back. I`m going to renegotiate NAFTA. If I can`t make a great deal, then we`re going to terminate NAFTA and were going to create new deals.


TODD: Was that his best answer?

KOFINIS: It was one of the strongest.

TODD: To get up to 80.

KOFINIS: That`s pretty high -- that`s pretty high. We`ve seen this in other groups that we`ve done. I mean, the economic message, especially in a state like Ohio, where you had people who lost significant jobs to trade, it`s appealing.

The problem is he`s his own worst enemy when it comes to these kinds of messages. Because at the moment he seems to be reaching them, he then pivots and makes it a personal attack against Hillary, which totally turns these undecided voters off.

TODD: In fact, you interviewed one of them after it about this. Let me play a little interview you did with her about the negativity issue. Here it is.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just wants to be more of a -- to prove that he won more than actually wanting to be the president and, you know, doing the right things for the country. It is more to say I beat you.


TODD: You said it was a shared sentiment on the negativity.

KOFINIS: One thing we`ve seen, and this is the difference between when you talk about base voters and folks who decided and undecideds and soft leaners. They want a candidate to speak to them as to why they should vote for you, right?

Why they should vote for Hillary, why they should vote for Trump. But when they`re getting to this back and forth and it hurts Trump more than it does Hillary, to be frank, and that`s because he already has this preexisting narrative of being negative.

TODD: He also began every answer attacking her. Even on issue answers, he begins negative and then eventually gets to what he wants to say, but I wonder how much that hurts him.

KOFINIS: So, when I asked him -- the group who was more negative? Just to put it into context, we had seven folks that lean to Hillary slightly but so undecided, 18 that were completely undecided, and seven who lean to Trump that were still open undecided. 21 said that Trump was more negative, one said Clinton, the rest said both.

Here`s the part that I asked at the end of the group. If Trump had been more positive and more presidential in this race, do you think he would be winning this election? 31 out of 32 said yes.

So the part that`s amazing about this, and I know this is probably going to drive some democrats crazy, but when you talk to these folks, especially in some of these key battlegrounds, they want change. They`re frustrated with the political system. His message is there, he`s just the wrong messenger.

TODD:: So the bottom line is he had to work really hard to lose these people and he did it.

KOFINIS: Yes. If there`s one thing that I will tell you that will haunt him until the end of his days is that he had an opportunity here. It wasn`t going to be easy because he`s a flawed candidate, but he had an opportunity here to reach these people because they`re so desperate and they`re so concerned about what they believe is the country going off on the wrong track, right track, it doesn`t matter, they just have these concerns.

Instead of giving of addressing them, instead of giving them a positive visual, he didn`t. Hillary has, and that`s why she`s done a more effective job in these groups and elections as a whole.

TODD: Very quickly. Nobody believes her -- nobody can understand how anybody is undecided. But after being with these 32 people, do you get why people are undecided?

KOFINIS: Yeah. I hear this a lot. How can you possibly be undecided? We feel like, you still don`t know? Listen, if you look at this really objectively, they look at both of these candidates and they see flaws. They see concerns. They like certain things about Trump in terms of his positive message.

They look at Secretary Clinton and they love her experience, they love her knowledge, they know she`s ready to be president. When I asked that question, almost the entire group, but they`re not ready to commit yet. I asked them, how are you possibly still undecided? And some of them actually said, I`m still waiting to hear more. And I wanted to say, what more do you need to hear? It is where we are.

TODD: It is where we are. Ken Bone, where are you? Chris Kofinis, good stuff.

KOFINIS: Thank you.

TODD: Thank you for sharing. I appreciate it. Up next, the three events that will have me on the edge of my seat tonight. Stay tuned.


TODD: Welcome back. Tonight, I don`t have one obsession, I have three, and I really don`t know what to do. Like many of you, I have a favorite team for every sport. And I`m pretty serious about them, every serious. In college football, it`s the Miami Hurricanes, Green Bay Packers, and a major league baseball to Los Angeles Dodgers. They`re all playing tonight, big games, huge games, season-altering games, at the same time.

Hurricanes are 4-2. There`s no way they can afford a third loss and play in the conference championship. This is it. Beat Virginia Tech or the season is lost. Have to watch that. The Packers are 3-2. There are two games behind the Minnesota Vikings. Beat the bears tonight. As far as their season loss? I have to watch that. Then there`s the Dodgers. They`re playing against the Chicago Cubs.

They go down and they have to go back to Chicago down 3-2 with Wrigley Field and an entire country and 108 years of history and perhaps major league baseball against them. Beat the cubs tonight. Or maybe their season is lost. I have to watch. What do I do? Sometime between now and 8:30, I`ll make a decision, but if the Hurricanes, Packers and Dodgers all lose and I`m not here tomorrow, you`ll know why.


TODD: Time for "The Lid." Panel is back. Michael Beschloss, April Ryan, Amy Walter. Okay. I know I was watching that debate last night, not about the presidential election, but about the senate map and the house map. Amy, what happened last night, is the -- a lot of republicans are worried that the bottoms could fall out. What`s the talk this morning?

AMY WALTER, POLITICAL ANALYST, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: I don`t think they feel any better about that. The only thing, if you`re a republican, you can hang your hat on is the following. One, the congressional ballot still has not moved that much. So democrats are up four, six points. Back in the wave elections of 2006, 2008, they were up double digits.

In the latest polling out of the battleground states where Trump`s slipping, you`ve got candidates who are republicans still out-performing Trump by as much as nine points. But if it`s more than nine points, can they hold on?

TODD: President Obama was in Miami today. When you look at our top nine senate races, and we still, believe, are in play, Florida`s nine. It`s sort of hanging on, because Rubio can`t put Murphy away, even though the democrats have basically decided to pull their money out. Here`s what he said.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF U.S.: I agree with the U.S. senator, a republican, who a while back, said that we can`t offered to give the nuclear codes of the United States to an erratic individual. By the way, you know who said that? Marco Rubio. Why does Marco Rubio still plan to vote for Donald Trump? Why is he supporting Donald Trump?


TODD: You know, Michael, during the convention, President Obama made a striking admission and he said, we know what happened in Cleveland. He said, it was neither republican nor conservative. It was almost this permission slip to say, hey, we know, we`re not going to blame the republican party on you. Now here he is going, Trump`s been disqualified, why are you still with him? And he`s trying to create some coattails or reverse coattails?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: And doing it very well. And one thing is, you remember Obama not even just in 2008, 2007, professorial, a little bit stiff, that`s why the campaign did not go so well at the beginning. He`s become a real happy warrior.

The other thing we are seeing more than at any time in modern history, a president really doing everything he can to help his designated successor. If Eisenhower had done that for Nixon in 1960, there would never have been a President Kennedy.

TODD: Just as Michael was finishing his sentence, April, I was thinking today, Hillary Clinton hasn`t campaigned today, but Michelle Obama is in Arizona and Barack Obama is in Miami.


BESCHLOSS: How about that? And which would have been the most effective campaigner of the three today?

TODD: Yeah, exactly.

RYAN: Well the most effective...

TODD: Is the one in Arizona.

RYAN: Yes.


RYAN: ... will not run for office, but she feels this. She feels that she...

TODD: She hates politics. I don`t think people understand how hard they begged her to get involved in `10, they begged her to get involved in `14. She wasn`t thrilled with how much she had to do in `12. This has been different. Trump`s motivated her in a way that she`s never been motivated. RYAN: You have to understand. You know why she`s motivated? Because she, as soon as she was the face of the next first lady of the United States, the attacks started coming. Not only was it about her gender, but it was about her physicality. It was about her as an African-American woman.

So -- and they`ve been coming and coming. I remember the first article -- one of the first newspaper spreads, you know, because she`s an African-American woman, her and her husband were fist pounding and she had an Afro and it was just crazy. And she was supposed to be this militant woman. She was a woman who was proud of her husband, whether she was black, white, Jew, Protestant, or Catholic.

And she`s been under the spotlight, under the microscope for her hips, for her lips, for her look. But this woman has carried the flame. She`s helped young people. She`s helped us with our weight issues. She`s helped us with the veterans.

TODD: She`s the most popular politician in the country.

RYAN: More than anyone -- more bigger than her husband right now. And she`s carrying Hillary Clinton`s water for her.

TODD: What are you watching for to see if this is turning into...

WALTER: Into a big wave.

TODD: ... big wave. A `64/`80 style wave.

WALTER: I do want to see the congressional ballot test, if that really starts to move. And then in these swing states, how much more are these republican candidates able to overperform? If Trump drops, are you still going to see Pat Toomey holding on?

TODD: It feels like if there is anybody, it may be Rubio. The democrats have pulled out, because they`re just figured it`s all coattails, isn`t it?


TODD: An extra $10 million isn`t going to make the difference. It either is going to happen or it`s not.

WALTER: And the fact that priorities USA is now in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania tells you where they think this race drops out.

TODD: Very interesting. All right, guys, thank you very much. After the break, we have a laughing matter to tell you about. Stay tuned.


TODD: Finally tonight, in case you missed it, there is a big, big difference between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. No, not their positions on taxes or climate change or whether the election will be legitimate. No, it`s more about this.




TODD: Hillary Clinton laughs. She laughs a lot. She laughs at things that are funny. She laughs at things that aren`t funny. She laughs at things to give her time to think of a better answer. And then there`s Donald Trump. Have you ever seen him laugh? Ever? I`ll be honest, I haven`t. Trump has more facial expressions than Jim Carrey. Trump smirks, he grimaces, he`s dismissive, and yes, he even smiles, but I`ve never seen Donald Trump laugh, not once.

Why do I care about this? Keep an eye on tonight. You know I`m not going to be watching it, I`ll watch it on tape, but when both Trump and Clinton make an appearance at the Alf Smith dinner in New York, it`s an annual fund raiser for Catholic charities, candidates traditionally poke fun at each other and at themselves and they laugh.

So the question is, will Trump? You can find out for yourself. MSNBC will have coverage of the Alf Smith dinner tonight. It starts at 8:00 eastern, and will of course create the fourth conflict for me. Sorry, Al. That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MTP Daily. Go Dodgers, go Kings, go Pack go. "With All Due Respect" starts right now.