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MTP Daily, Transcript 10/25/2016

Guests: Jonathan Cohn, Avik Roy, Jeff Roe, Steve Schale, Steve McMahon, Ramesh Ponnuru, Molly Ball, Hampton Pearson, Marc Caputo

Show: MTP DAILY Date: October 25, 2016 Guest: Jonathan Cohn, Avik Roy, Jeff Roe, Steve Schale, Steve McMahon, Ramesh Ponnuru, Molly Ball, Hampton Pearson, Marc Caputo

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Yes, it`s Tuesday. Rising health insurance costs could be the cure for struggling down-ballot Republicans. That`s if the top of the ticket can get his message straight.

Tonight, is Donald Trump muddling what should be a late campaign lay up on all things Obamacare.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Obamacare is just blowing up.


TODD: Plus, as the candidates push the early vote, who has the edge two weeks out? And could Trump cause Marco Rubio an election for the second time this year?

This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.

Good evening, 14 days -- it`s less than 14 days now, believe it or not. I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington and welcome to MTP DAILY. We now -- can now say less than two weeks until Election Day.

Republicans got an October gift basket after the White House announced a staggering 22 percent hike in its benchmark Obamacare premiums. The news gives down-ballot Republicans a closing argument in their races and something else to talk about other than Donald Trump`s troubles.

But Trump himself has struggled a bit today to take advantage of this Obamacare news. Here`s how he attacked the issue while addressing employees at his Doral Golf Club in Miami earlier today.


TRUMP: I can say, all of my employees are having a tremendous problem with Obamacare. You folks, this is another group, is that a correct statement? I mean, you look at what they`re going through with their health care is horrible because of Obamacare.


TODD: But Trump`s employees do not get their insurance through Obamacare. They get their insurance through Trump`s business which Trump`s general manager at Doral clarified to reporters minutes after Trump made those comments.


DAVID FEDER, GENERAL MANAGER, TRUMP NATIONAL DORAL: I`d say 99 percent of our employees are insured through the hotel, through our insurance. And maybe there`s a few that are insured through Obamacare but very, very few because we supply it. The company, typically, picks up almost 70 percent of the premiums, and the employee only picks up about 30 percent. So, it`s really a good deal for our staff.


TODD: Minutes later, Trump himself did correct that error on Fox.


TRUMP: Yes, I`m at Trump National Doral in Miami. And we don`t even use Obamacare. We don`t want it. We don`t use it.


TODD: His version of a correction, anyway. The big questions, though, for down-ballot Republicans, can this news turn the tide? We`re already seeing ads cut and candidates using the news to pivot away from talking about all things Trump.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump`s a badly flawed candidate, as I said. But if he were president, he`d probably sign a bill repealing Obamacare which we badly need.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This election matters to you. When you open your health insurance bill and find your premiums are doubling, remember that McCain strongly opposes Obamacare.


TODD: So, whether you`re a Senate candidate, a nominee or the president, explaining how you`re going to fix the problem is, perhaps, the hardest part. Because, by the way, no one agrees on what the problem is. Progressives say the law is failing because it`s not single payer or socialized medicine. The White House says it`s because the law hasn`t been fully implemented. And many Republicans say it`s been doomed from the start because it chokes competition.

And a Republican nominee has held just about every position on health care that you can think of. Remember, there was at one point he talked about single payer. And then, the idea, well, you`ve got to cover everybody or at least those that need it the most. Let`s just say he`s evolved on the issue.

But let me dive into the policy implications on this a little bit. I`m joined by a dynamic duo that we`ve had before on this show. Avik Roy, President for the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity. And he was a health care policy advisor to Mitt Romney in 2012. And Jonathan Cohn, Senior National Correspondent for "The Huffington Post" who specialized in health care and social policy reporting. The good news about both Avik and Jonathan is that they can disagree without being disagreeable. So, that, I appreciate.

Jonathan, since the law is going to get battered here, where do you fall on why we`re at this point that it appears that, at least as far as the exchanges are concerned, they`re not working the way they were supposed to.

JONATHAN COHN, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE HUFFINGTON POST": Well, I would qualify that carefully by saying Obamacare is a big ambitious program and it`s got some things that are working and some things that aren`t.

I think what we are seeing is that they have been successful at helping people to get health insurance. Millions of people have signed up for coverage. And even now, despite all the headlines about the increases for next year, a lot of people are going to be able to get very affordable coverage on the exchanges. And it`ll be good coverage and comprehensive benefits.

At the same time, we are clearly having some problems. And it`s -- you`ve got to remember, when we talk about Obamacare, we talk about it as one program. But it`s really 51 different markets, one for each state plus the District of Columbia.

And we are seeing, particularly in some states, insurers have found they are not attracting enough healthy people to offset the cost of the sick. And so, they are raising prices. They are pulling out of markets. And so, you have some states with some real serious problems. I think the -- sort of the worst that you are hearing is Arizona where there is only one insurer in the Phoenix area and premiums are really jumping.

TODD: I want to point this out more, Avik. Let me put up this graphic here. It looks like almost half, some 20 plus states, have seen at least one insurer pull out. Obviously, Arizona is an outsize example. But I`ve (INAUDIBLE) another battleground state, North Carolina. I was studying up on this for moderating a gubernatorial debate. They only have two insurers. They`ve had somebody pull out. But they really have one dominant insurer.

Is there a way to fix this without suddenly forcing younger healthier people on to the exchange?

AVIK ROY, PRESIDENT, FOUNDATION FOR RESEARCH ON EQUAL OPPORTUNITY: There are. I mean, we`ve talked for years, and sometimes on your show, about some of the regulatory aspects of Obamacare that have driven up these premiums.

And it`s very important to focus on that because the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, in 2010, predicted that 21 million people would be in exchanges in 2016. It`s only 12 million.

So, the law is falling short on enrolling people because these premiums are so high. And that`s driven by regulations that the ACA imposes on the insurance marketplace that make insurance more expensive.

TODD: The regulations you`re talking about though are a minimum standard of coverage and to meet the minimum coverage that the law is requiring, insurers are hiking premiums.

ROY: Yes and the minimum is a miss -- it`s a misnomer in the sense that it`s a base line that it`s created that`s very high.

TODD: Yes.

ROY: And because it`s a high -- the base line is very high, again, what those plans have to cover exceeds what a lot of younger and healthier people need, in terms of health insurance. So, if you`re younger or healthier, and the insurance is costing a lot more, you`re, like, well, I don`t go to the doctor that often. Why am I spending $3,000 a year, $4,000 a year on health insurance that I don`t use?

TODD: Jonathan, is it that simple that if they lowered the standard, if they allowed more of a basic -- didn`t -- you know, didn`t force some of the, you know, bare bones mandatory coverage that the law forces. If they let that go, would you see more competition? Would it be that simple?

COHN: Well, it wouldn`t be that simple. I mean, look, Avik is absolutely right. The -- you know, a main goal of the Affordable Care Act was to go into the individual insurance market and say, we want to make these plans better. The plans that were being sold, they frequently had huge gaps in coverage. You know, they wouldn`t cover maternity. They wouldn`t cover mental health.

TODD: Right.

COHN: Sometimes the prescription coverage was lousy. And, remember, also, the insurance companies could turn away people who were sick before, right? I mean, they could say, if you have a preexisting condition, we`ll turn you away.

So, the law ended all that. Those were regulations -- when Avik talks about the regulations that were imposed on the insurance, those are regulations. They did make insurance more expensive.

If you take those regulations away, then, yes, it would get cheaper. But who would it get cheaper for? It would get cheaper for younger, healthier people who could get insurance before but it would become more unavailable and more expensive for people who are older, for people who are sicker and for people who bought policies. You know, they`d think they were fine but then, all of sudden, you know, what happens? You have a mental health episode, whatever, and you end up with these huge bills.

ROY: Not necessarily. So, you could have a much more market-oriented exchange where insurers were free to price plans more fairly for younger and healthier people who don`t have as much health care consumption. But subsidize the people who need the help, the poor, the sick, the vulnerable.

TODD: Let me throw out a -- and you both should respond to this. If there was no Obamacare, premiums would have increased, probably the same. Is there any way to -- could you actually say -- and Jonathan I`ll start with you and Avik, you respond. Would our premiums be any lower today if there was no Obamacare? And I ask this way because could it be that there`s nothing can be done as long as the insurance industry is operating as a free market?

COHN: You know, I don`t know that I put this so much on -- I mean, everybody loves to blame the insurance industry for the premiums. But this -- a lot of the problem we have here is that the high cost of health care in this whole country is sort of baked into our whole health care system. It`s the prices we pay doctors. It`s the prices we pay hospitals. It`s what we pay for our drugs.

And, you know, the Affordable Care Act does -- you know, there`s a whole other part of the law that tries to address that in different ways. If you talk to liberals, you get a set of solutions. If you talk to Avik, you get another set of solutions.

But, you know, your fundamental point here is right which is that health care in the United States is expensive. And when you give people insurance that`s going to cover their bills, it`s going to be expensive.

TODD: This goes to the whole thing. Unless you do fee for -- unless you do, sort of, fee for service.

COHN: Well, you got to --

TODD: You go totally to a fee for service. Is that the only way to truly bring down cost? That if we operate this way, we`re always going to see these rate increases, whether it`s the government involved or just insurance companies.

ROY: We definitely have to reform the way we pay for health care. And a big part of that is giving patients more control of their health care dollars instead of insurance companies, employers and the government.

But on this question that you asked about how health care premiums would have evolved if not for Obamacare? If we say it was six percent a year which would`ve been standard health insurance premium growth, that`s about 24, 30 percent over a four-year period. With Obamacare, it`s more like 110 percent. So, it`s much higher as a result of the ACA than it would have been otherwise for the people who are buying insurance on their own.

TODD: All right. Is there -- what is the biggest legislative fix, Jonathan, that a president Hillary Clinton could realistically get done that might stop this sticker shock?

COHN: Well, you know, I mean, look, I think most liberals, if they had their druthers, would make the plan -- the program more generous. You know, they`d add to the subsidies, help a little more with out-of-pocket cost which is something Hillary Clinton has proposed.

The key is can you find some kind of bipartisan cooperation on this? And, you know, Avik, before, was talking about changing -- you know, changing and making it possible for younger people to pay less and older people to pay more. You know, that`s not a reform most liberals like, but you can imagine a deal coming together, right, with conservatives and liberals and each getting a piece of one and the other in a normal functional health care system.

So, I think the real question going forward is is there that kind of political environment where, like in the old days, Democrats and Republicans could say, look, let`s do a little horse trading here. We`ll do a little bit of what you want. We`ll do a little bit of what we want. We`ll make some technical fixes that nobody minds and that could actually make a difference.

TODD: Look, I`d would love to get into that aspect of it because I`m with -- I get you, Jonathan. I don`t know if there is that type of bipartisan cooperation. But let me ask you this, Avik. If there`s a president Trump, which would probably mean a Republican Senate and a Republican House, what would a new plan look like in a year?

ROY: Well, at --

TODD: Do we have a good idea?

ROY: -- my new think tank,, we`ve actually published a whole 100-page health reform plan called trendsetting Obamacare so people can go to the Web site and look at the details. But the question is, does Donald Trump have the commitment to health reform to see through? We all know health reform is hard. It usually fails so I`m not optimistic with some grand replacement will happen if Donald Trump is president.

TODD: Do you think, more than likely, some Republicans are going to have to accept tinkering with Obamacare?

ROY: I think that they should. I think if their responsive to their constituents, we have to say, look, this is the law of the land. Let`s try to make it better for the people who are harmed.

TODD: Avik Roy, Jonathan Cohn, look that this, we can do policy in a presidential election. Who says it can`t happen? Anyway, gentlemen, thank you, both. I appreciate it.

Coming up, what we know about who`s winning the early vote. Plus, how both candidates in Florida`s tight Senate race are starting to feel the heat for their ties to Donald Trump. Stay tuned.


TODD: Well, we love, who does number two work for? Tonight, you get to find out in spades. It`s "veep" night on MSNBC. Tonight, we`ll hear from the two men who want the job and the man who has it.

Starting with (INAUDIBLE) exclusive, here is vice president Joe Biden, talking about all of this rigged election talk.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let`s say he gets (INAUDIBLE) 38 to 40 percent of the vote. I think at least two thirds of that vote knows it`s not rigged. You`re going to have people though. You always have them. Whether they -- whatever their background who are going to believe it`s rigged. We`ve always had that element in every election. The difference is we`ve never had the head of a great party saying that it is rigged. But I really don`t (INAUDIBLE) what would be a problem.

And so, in fact, it`s very clear if you have a Gore, you know, Bush election, God forbid, and he says it`s rigged, if you were on the short end, it`s -- you know, I don`t often agree with Charles Kraut (ph) on that. But he wrote a hell of an article three, four, seven years ago about how fragile democracy is and you can`t play with it. That should be disqualifying in and of itself.


TODD: You can hear more from the vice president with playing a little "Hardball" at 7:00 Eastern. Then at 9:00, it`s the Democratic V.P. nominee. Tim Kaine joining Rachel Maddow. And at 11:00, it`s the Republican nominee Mike Pence who will go one-on-one with Brian Williams. As you see, we will always do it every other hour. Keep it right here. It`s a special night of vices. Number two. We`ll be back in 60 seconds.


TODD: Welcome back to MTP DAILY. We are counting down to Election Day. But in more and more places around the country, it`s already election month. According to data provided by the Democratic firm, Target Smart, nearly 8 million people have already voted in the presidential election nationwide, either in person or by mail.

History tells us that Republicans are more likely to vote early by mail, but the Democrats tend to vote early where it is available in person.

Here`s what we know. The 12 states that we`re tracking most closely, more Democratic affiliated voters appear to have cast ballots in nine of them. Those include the critical states for Trump and for the GOP Senate candidates like, oh, North Carolina, Nevada and Ohio.

In North Carolina, Democratic early voters are outpacing Republicans ones 49-27. A big gap compared to four years ago. And in Nevada, where early in-person voting started on Saturday, Democrats have a 14-point lead in ballots cast, 48-34. According to our Nevada expert, John Ralston, that`s pretty similar to the first three days of early voting in 2012 when Barack Obama ended up winning the state.

And finally, Florida, according to Target Smart and the Florida Division of Elections, Republican affiliated voters are outpacing Democrats among returned absentee ballots. But it is much closer, 42-40. In 2012, the GOP had a three-point advantage on absentees. But when you look at only the in-person voting, Democrats have an advantage here, 46-37.

So, joining me now, two guys who know a thing or two about voting early. Steve Schale was Obama`s Florida director for 2008 and 2012 and Jeff Roe, former campaign manager for Ted Cruz. So, Steve, I will start with you because I want to stick with the critical state of Florida. What are you seeing and explain what you`re seeing now, compared to four years ago and compared to eight years ago.

STEVE SCHALE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I mean, it`s really remarkable. As you know, Republicans have always had an advantage in vote by mail here in Florida. And it took us into the second week of in-person early voting in both 2008 and 2012 to catch up. As of about 10 minutes ago, we`re only about 7,000 votes behind the Republicans. On the second day of early voting, almost 2 million people have already voted. So, I mean, we`re well ahead of where we were four years ago.

TODD: Jeff, when you see these numbers -- I want to get into what you`ve got here. We`ve got some great data from your firm. You tracked the most important swing counties in six critical battleground states. I`m going to show that data in a minute. But let`s talk about early vote. You`re a data guy. What are you seeing -- you`ve seen what we reported. I know you`re getting other numbers. What concerns you? What has you hopeful?

JEFF ROE, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER, TED CRUZ CAMPAIGN: Well, in Florida alone, there`s 850,000 more people that have already voted than before. So, the data gets a little bit skewed from the standpoint the old reliable numbers that in person obviously represents a more Democratic vote and the absentee by mail is more Republican.

So, I think when you have that kind of increase, those numbers get softened a little bit. And you have to look at the electorate at large which I think you do in all of these states. There`s 3,000 fewer Democrat votes, at this point, in Nevada than the -- than four years ago.

So, I think the numbers -- I think it`s a little bit too early. We have eight million votes cast out of what will likely be 110 million. But I think there`s a couple paradigm shifts that you have to acknowledge. One, the energy is certainly not there. And, frankly, it`s not there on either side. That is -- that`s one, I think, by product of what`s happened in this election.

But number two is the Democrats have put an enormous -- put an enormous, you know, push in the early voting because their entire electorate -- you know, their map depends on it. And so, that`s what -- and the reason why it depends on it is because they want to say this race is over. They want to say, this is it. This is a fate of complete.

TODD: Right.

ROE: Because the number one predictor of who`s going to win the election is who people think will win the election. And when you talk to Republicans, they are demoralized because they think Trump is going to lose. When you look at the data, it`s simply just not the case. It`s -- there`s a clear Clinton current advantage. But for this to be over is just not the case.

TODD: Steve Schale, answer that -- let me go specifically to this critique that I`ve heard from other Republicans who said, hey, it`s now a Democrat - - you know, Democratic party operatives are pushing voters to vote early. And so, it`s just shifting some of the vote. What do you say to that?

SCHALE: Well, I mean, I think it`s fair but I don`t think it`s for the reasons Jeff talks about. I mean, there -- you do it so that Election Day, you`re (INAUDIBLE) to get to your win goal shorter. You know, if our win goal is 4.5 million votes in Florida and we get 3 million of them a little bit easier before Election Day, it`s just easier on Election Day.

And it doesn`t have to be about enthusiasm. I also don`t agree with that. I mean, you look at Broward County and Dade County yesterday. Both had a record turnout. Those, as you know, are strong Democratic counties. And almost 30 percent of our voting so far are among people that are either brand new to the process or they`ve only voted once in the last three or four elections. So, we`re seeing a real uptick of unlikely voters showing up early to vote for Hillary Clinton.

TODD: Jeff, is any of this, though a -- is any of this gap attributable to the fact that the Trump campaign hasn`t been emphasizing an early vote as much as, for instance, the Romney campaign did?

ROE: I think we`re a little bit slower to adapt, as the party in general, to be honest. But if you take a look at a state like Iowa where Republicans have led, you know, five days in the last week --

TODD: Right.

ROE: -- early voting, or Ohio. It is reflective a little of what we`re seeing in the numbers. I don`t think there`s any big surprises. And that`s particularly what it means is very close races in all the battle ground states at either tied or within the margin of error, one way or the other, in all these critical states.

TODD: I want to shift here. And, Steve, you`re going to love this stuff that Jeff provided. I`m only going to show three, but it`s some real -- we could really geek out on some of this stuff. So, Jeff, you`ve been tracking different counties and different bellwethers. I`m going to pull up three, Virginia, Florida and Nevada. Loudoun County, your most recent bellwether tracking had Clinton up eight. If you`re up eight in Loudoun, that`s usually a recipe for winning. Is that why Virginia is off the map?

Yes, it`s done. It`s baked. It`s in the Clinton -- it`s in the Clinton corner. And if they`re spending any money there, please pull out quickly because that state is done.

TODD: All right. Let me go to Hillsborough because I want to get Schale into this conversation. He knows that area well. You`ve got Hillsborough, the bellwether capitol county of the country, you could make that argument I believe. Two times Bush. Two times Obama. This one you`ve got at 46- 44. Steve Schale, let me get your reaction to that.

SCHALE: Well, you know, we carried it by six points in 2012. And I`ve seen some polling that has it, you know, a little better than two. I will say, yesterday was 49-35 DTR (ph), in terms of first day of early voting. Total early voting and absentee, at this point, is about plus seven. So, it`s doing a little better, in terms of those voters, than four years ago. It`s also getting more Hispanic. There`s a large growing Mexican population there. So, I suspect that, again, if we Hillsborough, we win Florida.

TODD: Right. Very quickly, Schale, when was the last time someone won Hillsborough County and did not win state-wide?

SCHALE: It`s the same time that the last time a Republican went to the White House without Hillsborough -- without Florida. That`s Calvin Coolidge.

TODD: Oh, Calvin Coolidge. All right. And then, Jeff, let me put up Washoe County here in Nevada, the bellwether county of Nevada. Trump up six. This is fluctuated. You had him up double digits over the summer. Is this good news for Trump at six right now, average news or bad news? How do you clarify it?

ROE: Right. So, that`s a real critical county. As we all know, we watch that county on election results as they came in that night. And one of the things to point out is we do 800 samples in these counties.

TODD: In surveys, right?

ROE: In that actual county, right? So, we`re getting a ton of data. Nobody does that. It`s crazy, actually, to do it. If not -- if I were running the presidential campaign, I -- frankly, I couldn`t do it. But I think what has happened that you see is that things are starting to return to a norm. Presidential elections have a systematic approach to the -- to the -- to the data. And I think we`re starting to see that come back. At one point in the campaign particularly early with white, no college degree, men, Trump was plus, you know, 70 points.

TODD: Right.

ROE: I think that`s come back to earth a little bit. He was also getting crushed by college educated whites.

TODD: Yes.

ROE: That`s come back to earth a little bit. So, I think what you see is more normalcy being returned to this very erratic political campaign. And I think what it means is we`re in for a long night on election night. Because if that -- if much of the counties are plus six in a state that we actually have him winning in Nevada, that`s going to be a long night on election night. This is not a done deal.

TODD: Steve Schale, when you`re -- final question to you on this early vote. When should we look at it and say, oh, wow, this is over? When would you ever sit there and say, OK, is it another week`s worth of data that looks like today? What would be the correct way of looking at it?

SCHALE: Yes. I mean, so, in 2008, I think you know the story, I had a chance to tell Barack Obama going into Election Day, we have pretty much won the state. We went into Election Day with a 450,000-vote advantage. I think by Monday, we get to the first weekend of souls to the polls. We just kind of see how it trends out this week. I mean, I think if we see anything like yesterday play out over the week and into the weekend, by Monday, we`re going to have a pretty good sense of where we`re headed.

TODD: All right. Steve Schale, Jeff Roe, good day to geek out with you. We`ll do it again before the election, I promise.

Let me bring in my panel. Ramesh Ponnuru, Senior Editor for "National Review," Molly Ball at "The Atlantic," Senior Staff Writer; Steve McMahon, Democratic Strategist.

Steve, are you ready to spike the football? Are you where Schale is or are you where Jeff Roe is, going, eh.

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, first, let me just say, you guys were totally geeking out. I teach a -- I teach a polling class at NYUNDC and (INAUDIBLE) just made the class. That was a great expedition of what`s going on and how you can look at little counties and make projections. I`m not quite ready to spike the football but very nearly there. I think by next Monday, we might have the answer.

TODD: Is there -- like, when do Republicans have the heart palpitations about this early vote? I think yesterday made them gulp a little bit. But I think they`re probably thinking the way Jeff`s thinking. All right, Democrats are making this emphasis. Let`s see what it looks like in a week.

RAMESH PONNURU, SENIOR EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW": I don`t think that Republicans recognize heart palpitations anymore this year because there`s been an entire year`s. But, I mean, it`s --

TODD: If your heart`s beating to an amount and been at it for six straight months, you forget to know what`s a palpitation.

PONNURU: Let me just make one really basic point because that was a great segment. But one, sort of, 101 point that needs to be made is one of the thing things means is that even if these are random samples and let`s say Trump is five points behind, if you have enough of those early votes, it means that by Election Day proper, he doesn`t just need to close the gap to win. He actually need to get a little bit ahead. And that`s one of the reason why if you`re party is up, you`re going to want to get your people to vote early.

MCMAHON: In fact, it`s one of the reasons why Mitt Romney thought he won in 2012 because he thought he had won on Election Day. And he had lost Florida, for instance, before the Election Day even came.

TODD: (INAUDIBLE) Obamacare. Shouldn`t today be the best day Republicans have had in six months? You would think on paper. In six -- let me put it this way. If six months ago, if I told you, two weeks before Election Day, the Obama administration is going to have to admit that Obamacare has got to raise premiums an average of almost 25 percent.


TODD: What would you say to that?

BALL: I would say, you better hope Donald Trump is not your presidential nominee (INAUDIBLE.) No, look, I mean, I think the case scenario for Republicans is that voters in Senate battleground states have tuned out the presidential election enough that they do start focusing on these issues and they do have a little bit of a hunger to hear a policy debate and want to hear something substantive that affects their lives. Because, yes, for Republican down-ballot candidates, this is a gift of an issue and something for them to talk about.

We have heard Trump also talking about Obamacare but also making it very clear that he doesn`t actually understand what it is, doesn`t know if his employees are eligible for it, really sort of districting from the issue. So, you know, kind of like the heart palpitations thing. There have been so many missed opportunities for Republicans this cycle that it`s just (INAUDIBLE.)

TODD: And (INAUDIBLE) just -- he didn`t have a way to take advantage of this moment. By the way, a lot of people saw this coming. They don`t -- in October, we were -- you know, because it`s sign up time, it`s enrollment time. We knew these plans were going to come out. He didn`t want to -- I can`t -- do you know his health care plan?

PONNURU: I have actually read his health care plan, but I am not confident that he has read his health care plan. And it`s not a particularly coherent plan. It`s just -- it`s not something that he has devoted a great deal of attention.

TODD: But if he were at state lines (ph).

PONNURU: Yes, that`s about it. I mean, what he knows about it is, get rid of the lines around the states. And what it`s going to be a particular problem for is the people who are making too much money to be eligible for subsidies.

TODD: Right.

PONNURU: Also have their premiums spiking and if they don`t buy this expensive insurance, they`re going to get fined. And I think if it keeps going like this, it`s going to be a real problem for the Democrats in the election of 2018.

TODD: Wow, looking ahead. Right past 2016. We`re going to have Obamacare be a number one issue in yet a third straight mid-term election. Anyway, I`m going to pause it there. You guys are coming back in a few minutes.

Still ahead. We are going to go back to state of Florida. The Florida fighter Marco Rubio is holding on to a slim lead over his challenger Patrick Murphy. But could he be swept off in a democratic way? We will be back in a minute.


TODD: Are you mathed out? We`ll let you know after this with more "MTP Daily" in just a minute. First, here`s Hampton Pearson with CNBC Market Wrap.

HAMPTON PEARSON, REPORTER, CNBC: Thanks, Chuck. We had markets closing lower today, the Dow dropping by 54 points, the S&P loses 8, the Nasdaq has 26 points. A federal judge approved 15 billion dollar Volkswagen payout to settle most of the claims stemming from its emission cheating software scandal.

Meanwhile, Nordstrom is planning to hire more than 11,000 temporary workers for the holiday shopping season, about 3 percent fewer than last year. General Mills said it will introduce a limited edition girl scout cereal line in January. It will come in two flavors. Caramel crunch and of course thin mints. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.


TODD: Both presidential candidates in the State of Florida without doing one four to four to Florida. Because that`s where both presidential candidates have been today, that`s where we gonna find our race of the day as well.

Down-ballot wise Marco Rubio versus Patrick Murphy. The democratic senate candidate Patrick Murphy was on stage with Clinton this afternoon in Cocoa Beach, but notably absent from Trump`s rally in Sanford, republican senator Marco Rubio. Rubio of course still endorses Trump but his on attacks on Trump from the presidential race are haunting him a bit. Here was President Obama last week on those hits.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF U.S.: I agree with the U.S. senator, a republican, who a while back said that we can`t afford to give the nuclear codes of the United States to an erratic individual. By the way, you know who said that? Marco Rubio!

(END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: Still, Rubio hasn`t trailed in the polls since being nominated. The most recent Quinnipiac poll has him up two points. Partly because he is running against one of the more flawed democratic candidates in the country. In late June, reports surfaced that Murphy was not truthful about his own record as a small business owner and overstated his experience as a CPA.

By the way, those stories broke the same week as the senate filing deadline in Florida. It didn`t give democrats a chance to find another candidate because the filing deadline literally was the next day when the story hit. Just today, CNN has a report detailing Murphy`s family business ties with Donald Trump. It is something Murphy himself denied on the trail.

On NBC political unit, we rank the Florida senate race as the ninth most likely senate seat to flip in a nine-state survey for what it`s worth. But it is on the competitive list and we do believe a wave could be strong enough to sink Rubio as he is not totally pulled away.

Joining me now from Miami is Marc Caputo. He`s of course a senior writer for Politico and frankly our best authority these days on Sunshine State politics. Mr. Caputo, welcome, sir.

MARC CAPUTO, SENIOR WRITER, POLITICO: Thank you for having me, Chuck.

TODD: This is a strange senate race in this respect. On one hand, the national democratic party pulled out. They are not spending new money on behalf of Patrick Murphy. On the other hand, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton now don`t step into the State of Florida without talking about the senate race.

So, I was always careful when people reported a pull out to say this is not necessarily them giving up on Murphy, this is them acknowledging it`s a coat tail state or bust. Fair?

CAPUTO: Yeah, that`s about right. I think the big problem that you are seeing in top democratic circles is that Chuck Schumer had made the calculation, you got to pull out the money to spend it in other states, because it`s cheaper in the other states. So, what you are seeing is Patrick Murphy was promised 16 million more in T.V. ad spending than he is getting.

And so now, he is just kind of out there and someone told me that the big problem that democrats are having is their anger with Schumer and company but they are basically told, look, papa Murphy, that is Patrick Murphy has a very wealthy father who had some of these business dealings that involved the Trump brand, could just stir up another check. That doesn`t look like it`s not going to happen. So now they are hoping that mama Clinton can drag Patrick Murphy across the finish line.

TODD: Let me ask this. I guess the bigger question is, everything is working against Patrick Murphy except the poll numbers. Marco Rubio hasn`t put this race away. Is that a Marco Rubio problem? Is that an election dynamic problem? Is that the landscape itself? Is it just the State of Florida and nobody is ever going to win a race, a state wide race for a federal office by more than four to six points? What is it?

CAPUTO: I think it`s a Donald Trump problem. In fact, if the republicans had any other candidate aside from Marco Rubio, I think it`s a pretty good bet that Patrick Murphy would actually be in front. Rubio is uniquely situated to be able to survive a blue wave.

Now, the question is how much of a blue wave can he survive? He is bilingual. He is very well known in the Hispanic community, both in Spanish language and English language. Patrick Murphy is not. He is just not well- known. In addition to that, Marco Rubio`s home base is Miami-Dade County. It is the most populated county in the state.

It`s a county that the democrat needs to carry by big margins in order to survive a losing by bigger margins. Right now, in Miami-Dade, they are tied. If you spot the republican being tied in Miami-Dade County and tied among Hispanics, and by the way those two data points track each other, the republicans are more than likely going to win and right now that is what we are seeing.

TODD: Let me ask another wild card here. The more Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton talk about Marco Rubio`s criticism of Trump but then not pulling away from him now, doesn`t that oddly help with some voters who think well, that`s right, Rubio doesn`t really like this? That it`s actually Obama and Clinton reminding voters that Rubio doesn`t really like Trump. Doesn`t that oddly help Rubio and not hurt him?

CAPUTO: I think in some respect, it does. I`m done with guessing with how it hurts people.

TODD: I`m with you.

CAPUTO: We shattered the looking glass. We don`t know where it is. But, yeah, Marco Rubio right now is a tight rope and he is doing his delicate bouncing act where he basically communicating to the rest of Florida, hey, I`m just like you.

TODD: Right.

CAPUTO: Donald Trump sucks, Hillary Clinton is worse. That`s what Marco Rubio is saying and so far it seems to be working.

TODD: What`s the one thing you are going to watch before the election to tell you whether Rubio is gonna survive or not?

CAPUTO: If the democrats are only ahead marginally by a point, two points, and maybe three points just in the pre-election ballots and at the polling holds, I think Rubio does cross the finish line. But if it is looking like democrats are ahead by pre-election day ballots by about five, remember those are the hard core partisans, and if the polling remains as it is, then it`s just gonna be a tough road for Patrick Murphy.

And again, a lot of democrats around here are going to blame Chuck Schumer for what happened here, for making the calculations, not playing Florida and not following through with the spending here, and going into these other states. You remember this, not only does it hurt Patrick Murphy, hurting Hillary Clinton because Marco Rubio can rehabilitate his image and challenge her for years.

TODD: It is. You know who Chuck Schumer is going to blame? The people who did the initial recruiting in Florida of Patrick Murphy. That is going to be a separate battle he fights later, I think. Marc Caputo, I`ll leave it there, my friend. Good to see you.

CAPUTO: Thank you.

TODD: We will dig deeper in some other tight poll numbers and close races ahead in "The Lid." Keep it right here.


TODD: Welcome back. Tonight, I`m obsessed with clarity, a lack of clarity in our election projection maps. Look, we try to be precise but precision can beget confusion. Let`s take NBC News political union map. I`m going to start with the states that lean democratic and put them in light blue. We will add the states that are solid democratic and put them in dark blue. So far, so good. You can figure this out.

How about the solid republican states? We will put them in dark red. So, we will add those to the map. Then of course, there are the lean republican states. We will put them in pink. Others prefer light red. However you want to describe that color. Now you start to see, things are getting a little messy. Hard to read, right? Let`s not forget the states we`ve talked about most of all, the battleground states.

We like to put them in gold. Five colors. We spared you the seven-color lean, likely, and solid scenario. Have you had enough? We haven`t. As you know, Maine split its electoral votes by congressional district. It is likely that Hillary Clinton will win one district in the whole state, but the other district is a toss-up, Trump could win. So, we have to stripe blue for Clinton and gold for toss-up in that district. Same thing in Nebraska.

Only this time, it`s Trump who is likely to win state-wide. So, we will stripe Nebraska red for Trump, gold for the toss-up second congressional district. Confused yet? Sorry. We are still not done. Evan McMullen, the independent candidate, he is surging in Utah. It leans green, I guess. So, if he pulls ahead, Utah turns green on our map. By the way, Idaho, I guess we should put it in light green. He is doing well there too. We could add yet another color.

Bottom line, there you have it. Every state makes perfect sense and the result is perfectly accurate. As you can see, we end up with maps that are utterly unreadable. For that, we apologize. That is unless you have about a half hour to study it which you are not going to get. On that note, we are open for suggestions. In the meantime, watch these messages. We`ll be right back.


TODD: Time now for "The Lid." Take a look at our latest NBC News survey monkey, weekly online tracking poll. Voters in the four-way race there. We have it very steady. Clinton, 46, five-point lead over Donald Trump, 41, it`s essentially been the same. By the way, Gary Johnson sitting at 7. Stein at 3. A number that`s very slowly going away.

Donald Trump hasn`t been a fan of polls in general that don`t have him leading. But he does like the investor`s business daily poll. Their trackers had Trump in the lead since September, but today even that poll shows Clinton has taken a lead by a single point. We`re not big fans of it, we don`t show it very often, but as you can see, if that`s moving against him, some problems.

Bring back the panel. Ramesh, Molly, and Steve. Ramesh, we`re in this weird place in this campaign where everybody thinks they know what the results are going to be. But by the way, there`s still two weeks left of voting. So, you know, how do you prosecute this, if you`re the Trump campaign?

PONNURU: Well, trying to figure out the strategic thinking of the Trump campaign is often difficult. And so, I don`t know exactly what they`re going to do. So far, everything they`ve been doing seems to have this kind of paradoxical quality, where Trump is really good at driving the story. We`re talking about generally what he wants us to be talking about.

However, he doesn`t pick that message to actually serve the interests of his campaign strategically. So, for example, we`re talking about the rigging of the vote. But if his people start thinking that the vote is rigged, they`re less likely to show up. And I think we`re probably seeing that in the early voting already.

TODD: But, Molly, strategically, I would say today is one of those days, as good as they can be. They`re in the state where early in-person voting is beginning. So they`re not letting Clinton own Florida today, I think that`s smart. His spin is basically, don`t give her the state by herself on early voting opening day. And they`re trying to do Obamacare.

BALL: They`re trying. The problem is that at some point, it`s too late. We talked about early voting earlier. So many Americans have already voted. And will have already voted before we get to election day. I really think it`s reached the point where it`s very difficult for him to turn around the trajectory of this campaign, to actually stop being behind and start pulling ahead.

Instead, he seems mired about where he is. A lot of people seem to have shut the door to his candidacy. And we just don`t see very much evidence of a lot of people who didn`t want to vote for him before changing their minds.

TODD: Steve, let me put up some other state polls that are out there. Here`s one, North Carolina, the three-way race. This is "New York Times" Siena College, they`ve got Clinton up 7. North Carolina to me is the deep battleground state of the year and this is the hard of the culture wars. By the way, I should throw up the governor`s race there. They`ve got Cooper, the democrat, up 6. Senate race, 1-point lead for the democrat there.

MCMAHON: We were talking about this before we came back on the air. It`s sort of like lava is running down the hill away from Donald Trump and they don`t seem to have a strategy or an ability to sort of stop it and shift it the other way. If this was a good day for Donald Trump down in Florida.

I shudder to think about what a bad day is. Because he went out there, he was given this gift on Obamacare. Whoever wrote that bill to have the premiums reset two weeks before the election should be taken out and dealt with, and it was a democrat, but Donald Trump had this thing served up to him, and he swung and he missed.

Mitt Romney would have never made that mistake. John McCain, never. George W. Bush, never. This guy has never been ready for prime time and he shows it every single day.

TODD: Let me make the conservative argument against Trump on this and against Romney. They say, you know what? Romney was the godfather of Obamacare so he didn`t know how to run against it, and Donald Trump`s instinct is single-payer so he the doesn`t know how to run against it. Some day, the republicans will nominate somebody who knows how to run against Obamacare, right? Isn`t that the argument someone will make?

BALL: Maybe 30 or 40 years.


TODD: They`ve never had a pure policy wonk that knows how to make this argument.

PONNURU: That`s right. There were people who would have been able to, but they all lost the primary. I mean, we may know the outcome in terms to presidential, but one of the things those polls are showing us, we don`t know how bad the damage for the republicans gonna be down-ballot. Does Burr end up losing in North Carolina?


TODD: I`m not sure I`m of Steve`s mind yet. I think there`s a chance the bottom could fall out. But I don`t know if the house gets fully into play, because where democrats have to win house races, Trump is strong.

BALL: Structurally, it is so hard for democrats to win the house. And I think this is such an unusual election that we may see an unprecedented amount of ticket splitting by republicans who don`t want to vote for Trump, but still consider themselves republicans and still want to vote. The real problem for republicans is if their voters get so discouraged, they don`t turn out at all.

TODD: That`s the unknown in all of this, the turnout game. Thanks, guys. Steve, thanks. We`ll be right back right after this with our own version of "The Truman Show." Stay tuned.


TODD: In case you missed it, Truman beat Dewey back in 1948. Ever since then, Truman has been the patron saint of candidates trailing in the polls. So no big surprise that republican VP nominee Mike Pence went there with Rush Limbaugh. The only surprise is that it was about a week earlier than normal. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, my role model in all of this, Donald Trump and I have talked about it, is Harry Truman in his campaign in 1948. I know you`re a great student of history. But with a similar deal, you had a poll -- remember, the Truman and Dewey race, Rush?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You had this glamorous guy named Dewey, who the political establishment all loved, the media all loved him, and Truman just wasn`t having any of it.


TODD: Anyway, points to Pence for dressing Dewey up a little bit. Pence went on to reference the famous photo of Truman holding up the "Chicago Daily Tribune" the day after the election. In 1984, Mondale waved the copy of that paper at a late October rally telling the crowd, quote, the tide is turning in the election. It wasn`t.

Perot did it in 1992, two days before the election at a rally in California. And in 1996, Dole appeared multiple times in the final days with the famous 1948 newspaper headline. So what do all three of these people do have in common? They lost. That`s the thing.

You know who brings up Dewey-Truman in the days of the presidential race? Usually those that end up losing. But don`t forget, we are about to see something that hasn`t happened since 1948. The Cleveland Indians are in the world series.