MTP Daily, Transcript 12/23/2016

Guests: Robert Costa, Molly Ball

Show: MTP DAILY Date: December 23, 2016 Guest: Robert Costa, Molly Ball

CHUCK TODD, HOST OF "MEET THE PRESS DAILY" ON MSNBC: Air Force saying goodbye to 2016 and hello to 2017, then it must be a special year end edition of MTP Daily and that starts right now.

I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington and welcome to this special edition "MTP Daily" as we close the book on a wild 2016.

We`re taking a looking at the highs and the lows of the campaign. And at the political norms that were smash and how the divisions in the country seemed to be getting deeper. And we`ll also use this hour to look ahead a little bit to what it will all mean for the future of American politics.

But, we begin with a look at how far from the very beginning of this race that Donald Trump defied all of the laws of political gravity. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Top Republican operatives were laughing at Trump`s latest flirtation with running. On a scale of 1 to 10, how close are you mentally, emotionally, spiritually to the idea of running for president?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump says, this time he really means, he said he is serious about running for president in 2016. Once again it`s peanuts time as far as I`m concerned. And once again, Lucy is promising Charlie Brown, she won`t drop the football.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Until Donald Trump really does release that full government disclosure form, it`s really hard to take him seriously.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he doesn`t, today`s declaration means nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did Donald finally go too far? Trump taking aim at Senator John McCain`s war record.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nearly every single Republican in the race pouncing, one demanding Trump dropout.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Then Lindsey Graham was also running for President tonight called his opponent his words a "jackass".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Iowa`s largest newspaper now calling for Trump to dropout of the race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have familiar you going all the way through Iowa?

TRUMP: I would be totally committed unless I see that some reason I`m not going to win.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t see him competing beyond the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary. He might even dropout before votes are cast in either state.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: New Hampshire is a fiercely independent state, it is known to surprise and although Donald Trump is up by a lot, those leaving the Trump rally early on Sunday told me they were going to see John Kasich.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s the way New Hampshire primary?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was absolute madhouse in here yesterday. And as you said, basically, this was an effort by the Stop Trump forces, one last gasp at stopping the man from becoming the presumptive nominee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Veterans groups demanding Trump apologize for criticizing the parents of a fallen Muslim soldier.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dozens of Republican had to make on the record formal statement saying they disagree with Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think he is going to walk now and he`ll do the other to the base? What`s your sense here for tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think, there is a big question. Not whether he will do the other to debate. I think that was a disaster for him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump apologizing for lewd comments made about women back in 2005.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I respectfully ask you with all due respect to step aside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even gold water had more allies inside the Republican Party than Donald.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, are you expanding the map or looking for, you know, a dent in that wall to see if you can find a path?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: We are scaling the blue wall and crumbling it down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is why we are not have to suffer through four years of Donald J. Trump. Because he has no ideology except the ideology of Donald J. Trump. He will -- maybe unintentionally break laws.

TRUMP: I should have given up in this campaign five times. I should have given up according to them, 10 times. I can take you over 10 different things that happened where people would have given up. But they never gave up.


TODD: And so we have president-elect Donald Trump. Here with us this hour, our expert panel MSNBC`s Joy Reid, of course host of AM Joy, Hugh Hewitt, host of the Hugh Hewitt shown on Salem Network, and an NBC News Political Analyst, Robert Costa of the "The Washington Post" also an NBC Political Analyst and Molly Ball of the Atlantic.

Well, Molly, let`s see, I`ve also heard Donald Trump, he won`t even make it through the first year of the presidency. And Donald Trump he`ll get impeached. And Donald Trump will quit the presidency, you know, 16 years later we may look at Donald Trump and he is still president of Unite States, the defier of expectations that`s probably the marker of Donald Trump.

MOLLY BALL, THE ATLANTIC: Well, and it`s also a marker of how people just haven`t learned to stop underestimating him right. I mean, it`s amazing that the predictions are still be made when so many times he has shown that they were wrong. And, you know, he -- nobody likes reciting this history better than him. He loves to recite, "Oh, they said I was not going to run. And they say, and, you know, we -- it`s our job to be skeptical as reporters and a lot of skepticism was warranted after it had publicity flirtations with running for office in the past.

But he also has broken a lot of the conventional rules of politics in a way that I think we should listen to and reexamine whether those were rules in the first place. Whether any of this -- this so-called truisms were real or whether, you know, our assumptions were wrong.

TODD: Chris Matthews has a great mind as Donald Trump`s got of year -- one of the best years for what the public wants to hear or what he`s public wants to hear better than Washington does.

JOY REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that`s because he hasn`t been in office. He`s been in media, right? He has been in the business entertaining people. I think one of this we learned in 2016 is that political norms are only political norms because politicians decide to follow them, they decide of their own.

So, lot of people went into this campaign thinking there`s some law right, some -- detect the turn. We never tested what would happen if a politicians simply refuse to follow and even norms. So, they simply say, "No, I`m not going to do that. I`m not going to follow any of the rules of politics. I`m going to keep tweeting when you tell me to stop. I`m going to keep talking sort of this off the top of my head, not losing my budgets. I`m not going to take my security briefings. And so what Donald Trump has done is expose the fact that most of the norms that we think of in political politics are fictional and that the only stand because of an agreement, the gentlemen`s agreement between politicians.

TODD: It`s fascinating, did you?

HUGH HEWITT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, it is, I close the coffin on Trump campaign more times than Dracula. I`ve been wrong more than anybody else this year.


TODD: A lot of people is are -- not touch.

HEWITT: I mean, I want to remind people as well that part of the reason we`ve been off is that President Obama was a singularly potent political force but he changed the rules too. And that the "blue wall" existed because president Obama built it. He built a coalition that was unique it -- I was thought a very potent Romney campaign and `12 because he blew away 2008.

And that we may have been expecting Secretary Clinton who I really believed had this thing locked up for two years. You may have been expecting anybody would have failed who try to follow President Obama because he was so uniquely potent politically.

It`s interesting that comparison, Robert, because there is something about the idea . If the number one Barack Obama was attacked by John McCain for being too big of a celebrities, it took almost like, it is too iconic, too singular as far as the campaign was concern.

But, there is something about it, I mean, our modern presidents of all have been called some personality whether it`s the Bush family, whether it`s Clinton, whether it`s Reagan. This is actually a model that works more often than we realize and we forgot it I think during Trump.

ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think that`s spot on. These were overwhelming political figures we`re talking about. But, I think President-elect Trump is a particularly overwhelming and that`s on how he shutters the norms, but in how he changes his own party. I mean, the Republican Party this year changed in a fundamental way in becoming -- by Trump`s election the party of Trump. The issues and ideologies that they talked about on foreign policy the hoax on spending, in entitlement, reform on domestic front. These are gone, Trump is wiped it clean and that`s how he is also changed the game.

TODD: Well, here is a word that everybody got overused for the last five years Molly, destruction, disruptor, all, right? It`s a big hot word in Silicon Valley, who wants to be the -- it`s cool to be a disruptor. That`s what Donald Trump is. He is the ultimate disruptor of our political system.

BALL: Well, and look what he did to the establishment he defeated the Republican establishment, and the republican primary, and he defeated the Democratic establishment in the general election.

TODD: He defeated the Bushes and the Clintons.

BALL: He defeated the Bushes and the Clintons, both of them. But I do want to point out too, here`s the point. I mean, Barack Obama didn`t build that "blue wall" if they expect to the `80s. But Obama held it up. And one of the signals that we should have read more into in with respect was the mid-terms, where all of those Roosevelt states were going for Republicans when Obama was not on the ballot and the Democrats just said, oh, that`s turn out it`s like the weather, there is nothing you could do. That`s not true, those people could have voted if they want it .


REID: And I think one of the presidents you have to put on that Donald Trump defeated was Ronald Reagan. The idea of American exceptionalism, American singular leadership around the world, and who would have thought I mean, right will be it`s Barack Obama`s spinning his grave they knew, that his party -- that the Republican Party would become a Putin party essentially, to develop an affinity for Russia, which is one of the other innovation but I`m not sure it`s a good one of the Trump candidacy and campaign.

HEWITT: He does have in common with Reagan though the promise to rebuild the American military and that is the ability to rebuild the military and I think that 350 ship metric that he`s put out there. He will be held to as much as to the wall. He has promise that eventually build every bit as robust for the times that President Reagan was.

I also think we`re going to see -- my first boss was David Eisenhower. He wrote a book about his grandfather and retirement, I think you`re going to see President Trump calling president Obama a lot, Even as President Kennedy called I can Gettysburg.

TODD: More often than people realize --

HEWITT: More often than people realize. And I think he is going to be willing, he`s got no private place and I think President Obama is showing he is open to that.

TODD: By the way .

BALL: How does it make you feel as a conservative?

HEWITT: I`m fine with him taking advice from anyone on international crisis. I`m really fine with that.

TODD: I want to -- one thing I want to get credit to here because there was a set of models that got this right. And it`s our friends in the academic community. Essentially, the social scientists understood there is sort of historic arks both with our economy and where at this moment and Lichtman (ph), you know, who made famous to keys to the presidency and he keep saying, "I know what the poll are saying but I`m telling you, you know, and they -- he wasn`t alone. This wasn`t an accident. A lot of the academic models understood we`re in a unique moment with income disparities combined with the two term Democratic. It would come on with a lot of things that gave Trump an opening.

BALL: Well, I actually think Lichtman was relatively, there were a lot of other academic models that forecast that Clinton win. And every year there`s someone whose model gets it right and that person looks like. That`s all.

What I like about Lichtman`s model though is pretty subjective. He`s making judgments about a lot of these things based on the candidates, based on the actual condition of the parties. It`s not pure fundamentals like someone of this academic model. So Lichtman was evaluating and he wasn`t saying he likes this outcome, but he was evaluating the actual conditions of the campaign.

TODD: What did Michael Moore get right? Why did he, you know, a lot because everybody was Cassandra, right? Well, he was right about something.

JOY REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And he called them the Brexit States because he did go to the three states. I mean, the big stars out of number that comes out of this election is that the national polls were right in terms of how much Hillary Clinton would win the popular vote spot. They were pretty much spot on, right.

TODD: Better than four years ago.

REID: Absolutely, absolutely. They predicted that Hillary Clinton would win the national popular vote and indeed she did. But in these three state and Michael Moore said it, he said it when I was Bill Moore with him, he said these three states are uniquely poised to succeed from the ideas of how the economy should be run and to walk away from the notion that it leads that experts know what they are doing. And that these states were poised to do it. Hillary Clinton underperformed in precisely, exactly the three states, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan that Michael Moore predicted.

COSTA: That was a real test though coming up when he`s finally inaugurated because this Brexit states are going to expect something more than just a carrier deal here, a carrier deal there. How is Trump going to confront NAFTA? How is he actually going to renegotiate trade policy? Can he really promise to bring back jobs to the industrial part of the country that are the rust belt?

REID: Yes.

COSTA: No, I didn`t think right?

TODD: Well, let`s see. I`m going to pause. But I will take away this. I have to say NAFTA, I kept hearing it in those states, Iowa is another one by the way, and I think the Clinton campaign and we under estimated the potency.

REID: Yup.

TODD: NAFTA is a five letter acronym that is a four letter word, all right. Guys, you are here with us the whole hour. It`s good to fun.

Coming up, the 2016 campaign didn`t just break the all rules, it demolished them. So, what does that mean for a Trump presidency? What was that mean for campaign politics in the near term? We`ll be right back. You are watching a special edition of MTP Daily.



TRUMP: He referred to my hands of this small something else must be small. I guarantee you there`s no problem. I guarantee, all right. OK. Moving on.


TODD: That happened at a presidential debate. It was Donald Trump earlier this year talking about the size of his hands. Folks, normally you don`t say stuff like that in public. You don`t say stuff like that in T.V, millions of people watching. And as you`re running for president no less, and it`s certainly not supposed to be what successful presidential candidates say. But 2016 was not a normal year in politics. In fact 2016 was the year where political norms went to die. Thanks to Trump. Here are just a few.

Normally, a successful campaign means you win the ad wars. He didn`t. You raise more money. He couldn`t. You have a unified party. He wouldn`t. You stay on message, never. Conventions matter. They didn`t. Debates matter. You can argue he was off to three. You don`t flip flop or take 141 different stances on 23 issues. We counted. You rack up endorsements and the National Inquirer doesn`t count. You keep your rhetoric in check. You don`t attack war heroes and globe star families. You avoid gaps and scandals and not feed them. And you do not talk about the size of certain body parts.

And if you don`t do all of those things, usually you don`t win, but Trump did. The rest as they say is history. Panel is back, Joy, Robert, Hugh and Molly.

So, Hugh, look, we`ve talked about the stuff that was a shock to the system. But is there any -- what changes has Trump brought that actually might carry forward in a non-Trump political environment in four to eight years?

HEWITT: Emphasis on candor and in going and being available. You know, Secretary Clinton never did a truly hostile interview. I mean, one more she sat down with someone like me where you know going and it`s going to be a conservative coming after you and politicians issues not personality. She did not go even into safe zones, like AM Joy where she would have top at fair interview with a like minded person, I mean, ideology. She played it safe from the beginning.

Trump went everywhere. Now, he insisted on doing it from the tower sometimes which broke the rules but nevertheless everyone had to do it. And he would do at the beginning every interview endlessly, I think that tells candidates going forward, engage and answer the question, even if it`s not consistent.

TODD: I hope you are right. I don`t -- I worry that`s not.

REID: You know, what so funny, is that what you just said is actually not an innovative campaign 101. And so what sort of interesting is that in this year when and you just showed all those rules that that were broken. The one rule that was certainly not broken is that in order to win, you have to campaign. You have to be on the ground in Michigan to win Michigan. You have to be on the ground in Pennsylvania to win Pennsylvania. You can`t come in with Beyonce and Jay Z with the last minute and call it a campaign and air wars and ads don`t win campaigns, grass roots win campaign. That`s what I learned in Politics 101 and actually it turned out to so be true.

BALL: Well, and it`s also the case, if I can add on that, that there is no substitute for a movement, that you cannot build through perspiration what you don`t make through inspiration. And you can hire all the staffers in the world and have them check all the boxes on the list but if you don`t have people who really believe in you, who are really passionate about you, then you`re not going to get anywhere.

TODD: Robert, she run, I want to know, you better be good. That`s pretty good, perspiration is for everyone. You got some work to do.

COSTA: I think, you all raise great points and I think coming back to Hugh`s that I remember at the beginning of the Republican primary process, you may remember this too. If you wanted to interview one of the 17 Republicans running, you get an e-mail from a staffer saying, you know, 6.5 minutes. And they give you some guidelines of what issues they wanted to talk about you, so I want to talk about those issues. I don`t, I would like that 30 minutes. Trump for all of his flaws, he would go on the phone forever. And why that worked, I think in the social media age, I`m no expert, but he saturated everything.

TODD: That`s right.

BALL: I would like point out that that he doesn`t do that anymore. And it`s been a while. He hasn`t had a press conference since the summer. Hillary Clinton was much more available to the press and in stages of the campaign than Donald Trump was. She was on the plane, she was talking to the press on the plane. But we all have this memory. We were sort of imprinted with how accessible and free wheeling Donald Trump was early on. That has changed. And he is not, now, he`s on Twitter and he still, he get saturation covered for everything he does without copying it.

REID: And I think that`s the point. That`s the other norm that was broken, is that the media is no longer the arbiter or the filter to what people who want to believe a certain message will believe. Donald Trump can actually set the agenda of who Hillary Clinton is. He calls a crooked Hillary for an hour on television that his rally is being played wide. He then goes on Twitter and reinforce his message that she`s crooked Hillary. There`s no interrogatory aspect to be message he`s sending out, there`s no one to refute it, there`s no interviewer to intercede. And he can essentially get around the press and I`m sure will continue to do so.

TODD: Maybe, falling an issue, obviously when his campaign is successful, there are whole bunch of copycats. If we get a whole bunch of that -- of copycats, I`m going down this road, don`t we end up with the crudest and like almost world wrestling-like -- if we basically have two campaigns that engage the way they engage, attacking people, attacking press personalizing everything such a show, what is that going to do to American politics?

REID: I think, I mean, American politics already has become quiet vulgar to use with an old fashioned word. And one of the things that, you know, surprise me and surprise a lot of people was that the sort of core vulgarity of Donald Trump doesn`t offend a lot Americans. We think people are more offended by vulgar than they are.

Well, I want to paused you there because I actually think one of the more fascinating Twitter discussions that I saw in late December was this idea that historians will look back in 50 years and they won`t pick at this election and then we will talk about the press coverage. And they will look at the -- oh, Donald Trump was the result of a culture 30 years in the making.

REID: Yeah.

TODD: Robert?

COSTA: Yes and no. I mean, as much as celebrity drove his populism, I think jut based on my reporting, the voters I encountered they were intrigued and entertained by a celebrity, but it was really the economic populism that drove Trump more than anything in the Sates that he had to win during the election.

HEWITT: I know -- I have the chrysalis (ph), a frequent guest on the show with last week that the most successful campaign of 2016 was Rob Portman. The gentlemen`s gentlemen, the quint to essential play by the rules and do everything the right way and never raise your voice, do it the old style gentlemanly way and so it work, he won by 21 points over Ted Strickland. He beat Donald Trump in Ohio. So, I don`t know that he changed the model forever. I think you might have .


COSTA: Portman walk back, he was USTR for President George W. Bush. And he saw, pulling that antenna, and he said, I`m going to run a Trump style campaign on policy. He become an economic populous in Ohio and he was a German.

REID: And so trying to run this (inaudible), I think one of this some of lasting question that I take out of this campaign is that, the one of the darkest figures I see coming out of it is when 80 percent white evangelicals will support someone like Donald Trump who also flies in the face of the stated .

TODD: By 2012, they said, no I love that poll. I think it was few that came out right? In 2011 they said that and said morality matter.

REID: Then morality matters and now I think it becomes very difficult for that particular faction of the right to have any moral?

HEWITT: Justice Scalia, that is a very smart part of the electorate. They knew exactly what was on the ballot, it was Justice Scalia seat that is vacant. They voted their Supreme Court interest, not their --

TODD: OK, does that mean without the Scalia opening, do you think then evangelicals would have been less supportive?

HEWITT: Absolutely, 100 percent.

REID: No, I disagree. I think it`s --

TODD: Well, that`s fascinating.

BALL: They supported him in the primary.


HEWITT: They did, but Scalia died in January, I believe .


COSTA: I feel a lot of the evangelical voters that I meet and I`ll be interested when I had to say on this. They didn`t -- they knew Trump was not one of them. They talked about the cracker, but he was a threat. They saw the state as a threat and they saw him was a hammer to the state. He would be someone who truly disrupted the state on religious liberty fronts and others.

BALL: Well, and I don`t think you can ignore that Donald Trump said he was going to ban all Muslims and there were a lot of people who responded to that. A lot of Christians who feel Christianity is in a holy war with Islam. And ..

HEWITT: I think that`s a very small.

BALL: I met a lot of people like that, I met a lot people like that that Donald Trump rallies .


BALL: You can look at polls and a majority of Republican voters believe in the Muslim ban. It was a very -- Donald Trump`s own campaign said it was one of the most powerful messages and they meant to do it, because they knew it .

HEWITT: Different messages than Christians .


BALL: I don`t mean that Christians .

TODD: I want to land this playing that almost -- and where we begin. And we are talking about broken political norms. Isn`t there actually to go back to your point Joy, that sometimes actually he did some things that are just what you should do which is camp pain 101. He was also himself. He was who he was, he never tried to be someone he wasn`t. And ultimately as authenticity the greatest political advice you can get.

REID: I mean, it worked for bill Clinton, right, in 1992.


REID: But I do think it is sort of fascinating we go in this trajectory from Gary Hart being bounce set up not just that campaign but politics itself for having a woman not his wife on his lap. And so they slide in American source of sense of what moral value the presidency hold. I think that`s one thing we need to be concerned about, that if one needed respect the president, if he doesn`t need to be a person sort of that is worthy of a bit of reverence. Then I think we are on a low track .

TODD: You know, what the evangelicals will say, that started with Bill Clinton.

REID: And they solve there moral authority in my view so that they -- it`s going to be very difficult for the religious right, there`s particular component of religious rights because they`re a black Christian conservatives too. We`re not part of this. It`s going to be very difficult for them to make a moral case for American policy based on having supported Donald Trump.

COSTA: And the more raw he got sometimes, the more support he seemed to find, especially among men and women particularly men I encountered in the campaign trail, who said they can`t say what they feel anymore at work. Their kids come home from college and they can`t even say what they believe at home. And so they felt right.

REID: What did they want to say? Is it on race?

COSTA: Could be racially charged.

REID: And that is another aspect. I think that he brought out of the wood works some of the racial resentment of white who want to be able voice.

HUGH: Very quickly last word. The academics always say you react to the president who is here. He is the least like Barack Obama who is always that`s -- and so that`s one of the academic arguments I credit.

TODD: All right. We`re going to pause here. You guys are sticking around.

Coming up, we`re looking ahead to the next big political fights. We`ll look at, that`s right, mid-term races. And here`s a few of them to watch. And who might already be laying the ground work for a run in 2020. Perhaps Republican, Democrat and Independent and like. That`s ahead on this special year end edition of MTP Daily.


TODD: Welcome back from the Iowa Caucuses to the debates, the conventions, and a bunch of places in between, MTP Daily has hit the road a lot this year. Take a look.


TODD: This is MTP Daily live from Capitol Hill, and it starts right now.

Maybe the best setting we`ve ever had here in Iowa, the West End Architectural Salvage Center right here in downtown Des Moines.

Special coverage of the Iowa caucuses.

Good evening from a snowy Manchester.

A happy primary day from New Hampshire.

Good evening, everybody, and good afternoon out here in Las Vegas.

This is "MTP Daily" coming to you live from Florida.

We`re coming to you live from Buffalo, New York. Our host tonight are a Nickel City staple, the lovely folks at Anchor Bar, home of this.

Good evening. I`m Chuck Todd right here at the Red Owl Tavern in Philadelphia. We`re out west. I`m coming to you live tonight from Seattle, Washington, the other Washington.

Good evening. I`m Chuck Todd live in Cleveland. It`s happy hour here in Cleveland right now.

Just inside the area here in the Wells Fargo Center here in Philadelphia where the convention is now officially underway.

What a location. I`m Chuck Todd here live at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum right here in good old New York City.

I`m Chuck Todd in Chicago.

We`re live on the campus of Hofstra University. It is the site of the first presidential debate.

I`m coming to you live from the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, UNLV, home of the Runnin` Rebs.

I`m Chuck Todd right here at Elections Headquarters in New York City.


Ah, it`s the year in gray for my beard, as well. We`ve got much more of this special year-end edition of "MTP Daily" coming up. After the break we`re looking ahead to the potential mid-term mayhem and beyond, and we`ll tell you who we`re going to be watching in the new year, but first here`s a look at some of today`s top headlines.



RICHARD LEWIS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hi. Richard Lewis with breaking news this hour for you. Actress Carrie Fisher suffered a heart attack earlier while on a plane traveling from London to Los Angeles. She was rushed to a local L.A. hospital.

Her condition is reportedly not good. MSNBC learning the actress went into full cardiac arrest. Fisher is best known for playing Princess Leia in the "Star Wars" films. She also recently published an autobiography.

No other information is available yet, but we`ll keep you updated right here on MSNBC. For now, back to a special edition of "MTP Daily."


TODD: Welcome back. Just how early will the 2018 mid-term mayhem start? How about right now? We`re just about 685 days away from Election Day 2018, and you may want to look away if you`re a Democrat.

It`s an excruciating landscape for Minority Leader Chuck Schumer`s team. Republicans are defending just eight Senate seats. For Democrats, that number is 25, and 10 of those Senate seats they have to defend are in states Donald Trump won in 2016.

In five of those states, Trump won by close to 20 points. Remember, these are states Democrats won in 2012 and again in 2006 and again in 2000, believe it or not. This cycle has been a Democratic blow out three straight cycles, so it may be coming home to roost for them, and there`s no Barrack Obama or any popular Democrat at the top of the ticket in 2018.

A filibuster-proof majority for the Republicans could be within reach two years from now, but hey, what are the politics of 2018 going to look like? So at "MTP Daily" it`s never too early to start the presidential cycle, either, and in 2020 the Democrats have a wide-open field.

The first time in over a decade without Hillary Clinton looming at large over. Here`s just a sample of the lawmakers we could see booking trips to Iowa/New Hampshire, in the very near future. There`s Warren. There`s Sanders. Put on Sherrod Brown; maybe a Cory Booker. How about a Gillibrand?

Kamala Harris. She hasn`t even sworn in. Amy Klobuchar, Al Franken, Tim Kaine, one of the Castro brothers. Why, it could be Julian or Joaquin. Let`s bring back our all-star panel - Joy, Robert, Hugh and Molly.

Obviously, Robert, you look at a mid-term, you`ve got to look at the party out of power. It`s certainly an opportunity for the Democrats, but it feels as if it`s not about Washington that they should be focused on. It`s going to be about the governors` races.

ROBERT CASTRO, GUEST: It`s going to have to be. It`s fascinating to see how the Senate Democrats respond to Trump`s bait, especially on things like infrastructure. If you`re up in a red state, how much do you play ball with this administration?

You see Senator Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Heitkamp, they`ve taken trips to Trump Tower. They don`t mind being seen in front of the cameras, knowing some of their base likes the Trump administration to an extent on certain issues, but there`s so much pressure from the left of the Democratic Party to not play ball at all.

This is an apocalyptic time, and you have to be out there fighting.

TODD: Joy, the great debate in the Democratic Party, do you do what Republicans did in `09, which is, you know what, line up against them, let them think they`ve got the whole thing, let them have it, sort of the McConnell, "Hey, let Democrats govern."


TODD: "Give it a shot and we`ll just be sitting here to clean up the mess," and it, politically, was a great strategy.

REID: I think the Democrats need to learn from the successful, right? Listen to the people who are successful at politics. If you think about it, I can think of two people. One of them is Mitch McConnell, who came in and had a strategy of holding his caucus together to be the "no" caucus and giving Barrack Obama nothing.

Because the base of a party, if you are a party, if you really want to be a political party and not just a compromise entity on Capital Hill, is that you`re base needs to see you fighting. Now that the Republicans have unified government, the smart move, you would think, for Democrats, would be to follow the successful Mitch McConnell strategy.

Let Republicans own it. On the infrastructure plan, we now know that it`s basically just tax cuts. It`s tax cuts for rich developers. That isn`t the same as-


TODD: We all know that,, but you`re right. I hear you, but you`re right.


REID: But that`s what we`re hearing. That`s what it is. It`s easy to oppose. Democrats need to remember their prime directive - protect Medicaid, protect Social Security from Paul O`Ryan and protect and to defend their base. That`s one.

And the second one is Harry Reid. You know, Harry Reid gave a lot of advice to the Clinton campaign that they didn`t take, but they wish they took it now. Catherine Cortez Masto, really, by all rights, shouldn`t have won. She was trailing Hillary Clinton in Nevada. She got in.

I think the smart strategists on the Democratic side are going to say, "Hold together." Can Chuck Schumer hold those Democrats together?



TODD: Democrats love to legislate. Republicans run against government, so it`s a more comfortable place to be. Eh, forget it.

BALL: It`s not just that-


TODD: -harder for them-

BALL: It`s not just that. These are all people who are on the record eight years ago up in arms about the Republican strategy of obstruction, saying the president was legitimately elected and it doesn`t matter if you disagree with him ideologically, and it is terrible to not compromise.


TODD: -the campaign and start governing. Right.

BALL: And be constructive, and help him achieve his agenda. All of those people are going to turn into big hypocrites if all of a sudden they employ the McConnell strategy and-


REID: #DonaldTrump. Nothing you say today matters tomorrow. We`ve now learned, again, follow the successful. Donald Trump literally will change his mind in 24 hours. We`ve now learned none of the norms apply. Nothing you said before matters. This is the new politics.

TODD: But let me just remind people, Hugh. Right now these red-state Democrats are thinking, boy, do they have to work with Trump and all this stuff, because they`re assuming a mid-term is going to look like `10 and `14.

I remember the 2006 midterms. It wasn`t good to be a Republican, because there was a Republican president. This isn`t always what you think it is.

HUGH HEWITT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: In 2002 midterms, W. actually picks up Senate seats, one of the rare times, because it was a national security election.


TODD: Right. Right. Ronald Reagan had bad `82, bad `86, so-


HEWITT: I wasn`t here in `82, so-


TODD: Most of the time, there`s a reason they call it an itch.

HEWITT: And so what I think is, on the National Defense Authorization Act and the military rebuild, these red-state Democrats - Bob Casey and others - have to vote to rebuild the military. They have to vote for the 350, and they can`t stop.

Thank you, Harry Reid. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the Reid Rule. They can`t stop the judges or any appointee, so they should not try and obstruct like they did when they had the on appointees with Leahy and Reid. We have a different world. They should work on defense and obstruct when they can on healthcare.

TODD: Let`s move to the governor`s races, because I think this is where we`re going to find out. You know, we talked about, and I`m going to do it in a 2020 conversation, because I have this feeling, Robert, that I put up all those people up there that-

I didn`t put up the Democratic nominee in 2020. I just don`t believe I did. Now maybe it will be Cory Booker or maybe it will be Elizabeth Warren. I don`t know. It`s possible that it is the predictable name, but maybe it`s Tim Ryan, a governor of Ohio. Maybe it`s John Hickenlooper, the outgoing governor of Colorado. We don`t know.


CASTRO: I think that`s so spot-on, because the Democratic Party, in the last 10 years, has been depleted in the state legislatures and in many of the governor`s mansions, and until the Democratic farm team is rebuilt, how these 2018 senators interact with Trump or who`s elected Democratic National Committee Chairman will be really outside questions, because the party needs to reclaim its soul, perhaps-

Ideologically, that`s a D.C. discussion, but who`s in the party? Who`s in the ranks?

REID: And not only that, but Democrats, I think, are finally coming to the realization what really matters when it comes to these elections, especially 2020, is who controls that Secretary of State`s office, who`s making the laws and the rules in terms of who has access to vote.

Voter suppression is in the hands of the states. It`s where you have to be strong, and rediscovering grassroots politics and being able to turn out your base. Look, there`s some opportunities. You have what`s going on in Michigan. If those indictments, as they get closer and closer and closer to the outgoing, soon to-be-outgoing Republican governor, that`s an opportunity.

Florida, you`ve got great candidates-


REID: -open seats.

TODD: Yeah. Gwen Graham.


REID: Gwen Graham and-


REID: -were two potential, real Democratic stars. You`ve got to start there.


TODD: And even Texas. Look, the underwritten story of 2016 was Hillary Clinton`s remarkable success in Texas, which was really about Donald Trump flipped the switch on the Latino vote in Texas that showed up in ways that Democrats didn`t think was possible.

What if they recreate in the midterm with Julian or Joaquin Castro?

BALL: I think Texas is still a very, very high bar for Democrats.

TODD: But in a governor`s race?


BALL: But, but the point is, I think, and Joy`s point is, you hear even President Obama saying now, like, he`s going to devote himself to try to build the party down-ballot. Well it`s about time for a lot of the Democrats that I speak to, because they really feel that he didn`t do a lot of party building during his term.

He left the DNC language. Having run against the Democratic establishment to get where he was in the first place, never had a lot of respect for it, and as a result, the party`s not just decimated in the House and Senate. Goes all the way down to state legislatures.


REID: Let`s remember, too, that Democrats in the House and Senate ran from Obama like he was on fire in 2010 and 2014. Any hope that he would have offered, they said, "No thank you." I can remember covering the race in Georgia. Democrats in red states were saying, "Please do not help me."


REID: They didn`t want anything to do with him.

TODD: Same way Republicans ran away from Bush. That just, to me, I get why you do it. You think, in the moment-


REID: Never smart.

TODD: Voters never.Let me move quickly to this idea. Donald Trump`s success is going to mean non-traditional people are going to think they too can run for president, and maybe try to do it outside the party. Mark Cuban`s an obvious candidate.

I saw a story about Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. I say this as a Miami guy. It would be fun, but I`m not dismissing it out of hand-



TODD: How can you?

CASTRO: I mean, I remember thinking back, when Donald Trump went to Iowa in 2013, I spoke to him then and I said, "This guy could run." I have a thing on my desk, says, "Assume nothing." I think you have to take Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson seriously. Kanye West 2024.

TODD: Not taking Kanye-


CASTRO: I`m serious.


TODD: But I will take-


CASTRO: Celebrity populism worked once. Why couldn`t it work again?


TODD: Are you a fan of Kanye?


REID: No, no. I`m with you on Kanye, but I`m going to go ahead and declare it right here on your show, Chuck. Clooney 2020.


TODD: Hugh would have a hard time. If Clooney ran for governor of California, I know where you`d-


HEWITT: But my advice to Democrats, think ahead to their primary schedule and to their debates, because Republicans learned the hard way that these debates propel candidacies in ways that you do not know. You`ve got to set the rules and live by them, `cause there`s an incentive to run even if you`re not serious, and their new chairman, whoever it is, has got to figure out now what are we going to do in 2020 on scheduling debates.

Reince Priebus, he deserves to be chief of staff, because by setting up debates he did, he got Donald Trump.


TODD: Very quickly, anybody here think there`s a serious primary challenger to Donald Trump in 2020?

REID: If there is, keep in mind-


BALL: I have no idea.


JOY: -it`s Mike Lee or someone like that from the wing of the party that-


CASTRO: I think Rand Paul from Kentucky, certainly.

HEWITT: Almost certainly there will be one.

TODD: You think?

HEWITT: Almost certainly.

TODD: It will be McCloskey in California, right, just like with Nixon?

HEWITT: No, no. It will be.You can look to one of the disappointed genuine conservatives on the Freedom Caucus like Mitt Romney-


HEWITT: It will be someone-


HEWITT: You could look at someone outside.


BALL: Kasich.


TODD: Interesting. All right, guys. That was a great conversation. Not shocking. You guys, we`ll be back in just a few minutes. Coming up, though, we`re doing predictions but with a twist. We`ve got a fun way to look ahead to the first year of the Trump presidency, so stick around.

You`ve been watching a very special edition of "MTP Daily," so keep it here.


TODD: Welcome back. Perhaps to the chagrin of some of you but to the happiness of many, we launched a new segment that allows me to share with you the many, many things I get obsessed with in arcane ways, sometimes. Here`s some of my favorites of the year.


TODD: Time now for our new segment we`ve debuted this week called, "I`m Obsessed With." Tonight I`m obsessed with outrage.

--with empty promises.

I`m obsessed with the apocalypse. No, not just any apocalypse, but a zombie apocalypse.

Tonight I`m way more obsessed than usual. In fact, there`s an issue that quite literally is keeping me up at voters get their news.

--people blockading themselves in their own ideological silos.

--email. Make it stop. Here`s a radical idea -- a federal tax on every reply-all email.

Tonight I don`t have one obsession, I have three. The Hurricanes, the Packers and the Dodgers all lose and I`m not here tomorrow you`ll know why.

Today I`m obsessed with hating Bill Belichick.

--the college football playoffs.

--the seven-game series. I don`t think Chicago or Cleveland fans could have handled even more games.

As you probably assume, I`m obsessed with polls.

--with election music. Election day.well, you know, that`s my Super Bowl, so of course I have a sort of pump-myself-up playlist. "90, 90, 96 hours to go. I want to be sedated."

I`m obsessed with the swingingest swing seat in the country.

--revisionist history, specifically the pipe-smoking and chin-stroking about the 2016 elections.

I`m obsessed with the election blame game. The election is now the ultimate scapegoat for everyone else`s troubles. It works for everything. Just blame the election.



TODD: Welcome back. Time for the lid. Panel is still with us.Joy, Robert, Hugh and Molly. We`re going to do a little fun twist today on the idea of predictions of the year to come. It`s more of a.I`m kind of a gambler. I enjoy gambling, with fake money, of course. So it`s over-unders for 2017.

So first up, Trump`s approval rating. Over-under July 4th. Hugh, I`ll start with you. In the new world, I think 45 percent is your baseline. Over-under, where are you on July 4th?

HEWITT: Under.

TODD: Wow. Why?

HEWITT: Because he will not be able to deliver with the rapidity that his base insists, and I think he`s going to do an immigration overhaul, which will upset a lot of people-


HEWITT: -and Democrats unhappy with it will not reward him for it.

TODD: Over-under 45 July 4th?

BALL: I learned about a year and a half ago never to predict what lies ahead for Donald J. Trump, and that is a firm policy at this point. I feel like it could be 80. It could be 20. I have no idea.

TODD: Yeah. All right. 45, which is basically the point-


CASTRO: I think Hugh`s point about immigration, if there are mass protests on the border and Jeff Sessions becomes a vilified figure, it will be under, but I will say if he moves fast on tax reform and other fronts and trade and gets jobs back and has a lot of theatrical carrier events, it could be very well over.

TODD: See you there. That`s an interesting thought.


REID: I think under, because those carrier events are very short lived, because as soon as you start to unpack them they`re not what they seem, and you won`t be able to deliver on the jobs fast, as fast as much of the Rust Belt wants.

I think Democrats.He`s never going to get better than, you know, 10 percent, so it`s going to be very difficult to get much over.

TODD: I think it all depends on the sequencing, right? It all depends on how he`s sequenced Capital Hill. If you sequence it with taxes, sort of the easy Republican stuff that you can win-


CASTRO: Ryan`s getting it ready. Ryan has a stack of bills that`s been sitting there for years.

REID: And privatizing Medicare, that ain`t going to help. That`s not going to be helpful to Trump or the Republican Party.

TODD: Well all right. Let`s move to the next one, which I believe.Let me put it up on screen. Over-under, Reince Priebus as Chief off Staff, six months?


TODD: Mr. Costa, I`ll let you go first on this one.


COSTA: Well, I think he will still be there. So, over, but toughest job in Washington. Bannon`s kind of on an island in the operation as chief strategist. Reince has to make the place run, and Trump is someone who has so many lines coming in to him - phone, conversations.

Controlling that will be exceedingly difficult. We`ll have to see.

TODD: All right. Six month`s over-under on Priebus as Chief of Staff?

REID: I think over. I think he`ll make it about a year. Trump needs someone who can talk to Capital Hill.

TODD: What about you? Does he get-

HEWITT: Way over. I think Reince`s underestimated. He`s had a terrific run as chairman of the RNC. The debate reform, the schedule reform, moving the convention up. He`s got the perfect personality for a four-year Chief of Staff. Very Jim Baker-ish in terms of his calmness, so I`m very high on Reince.

TODD: Wow. No chief of staff usually can get by after 13 months, but OK.


TODD: How about you?

BALL: On the one hand, Reince`s got where he is by being able to manage and put up with and ride the roiling seas of Trump world. On the other hand, he used to be in a position where Trump couldn`t fire him.

TODD: Yeah.

BALL: That`s not the case now, and I don`t think he has the same personal closeness to Trump as other people in the inner circle. There may be a time when somebody has to go under the bus.

TODD: Well, and we`ll see. Again, it all depends. How is that relationship with Ryan, what it looks like with Congress. All right, our next one is the number of cabinet picks that don`t make it. Obviously confirmation hearings begin, basically, in mid-January. Some may bleed into mid-February.

We`re going to put it 0.5, which means do you believe there will be one or none? So either, basically, one or zero? Joy, you get to go first.

REID: I mean I think there could be one. I think Democrats are going to pick one of these cabinet nods.

TODD: What`s the best one of them to do, message wise?

REID: I mean, for the base of the party, it`s smart to oppose Sessions. Sessions is such an anathema to particularly African-Americans.

TODD: Hardest one to beat.

REID: Yeah, they`ve got to fight it, because that`s voting rights, that`s everything that the party stands for. If they don`t fight it, I`m not sure why they`re Democrats.

TODD: All right. Do you think one survives? I mean, do you think one doesn`t survive?

BALL: Well I think it`s going to depend on what comes out. I think it will be easier.It all depends on Republicans. They`re the ones who have the votes, and it will be hard for them to oppose these nominees simply on ideology, but if something comes out in the background of one of these nominees, that may give an excuse to-


HEWITT: -the first transition with the Reid Rule, and therefore I don`t think they get any absent.There`s not great vetting going on. They don`t have a team of lawyers. If they screw up and they miss a court filing, if they screw up and they miss an arrest, could have them. Otherwise, not.

TODD: I`m going to speed it up here. Go, quick.

CASTRO: Rex Tillerson. If Republicans break, they`re uncomfortable with him on Russia, he could be the one to fall in spite of all the accolades he`s gotten from the establishment.

TODD: All right. I think Minuchin`s the most vulnerable. That`s mine. I think, by the way, every transition has one, and it`s all of how it`s messaging-wise.

All right, Dow 25,000? 15,000? Hugh, what`s more likely?

HEWITT: 15,000.

TODD: Dow 25,000 first, 6:00 at December 31st? Molly, you`re not going to bet on stocks, are you?

BALL: For the sake of my 401k I hope it`s the over.


TODD: You hope it`s the over.

CASTRO: I think Wall Street`s gone wild with the-

TODD: Will they keep it up by then?

ROBERT: Well I think it will be between 20 and 25, because of the prospect of getting rid of all the regulations.

TODD: All right.

REID: I think this is a quite (ph) coup-d`e-cratic administration. So many Wall Street guys in it. Wall Street`s going to love it. It`s going to be a bubble, though.

TODD: I have two more, and I`ll do them fast. Nights that Trump spends in Trump Tower in 2017 - 45. Over-under? Molly?


BALL: Oh, boy.

TODD: You`ve got to be fast for me, now.

BALL: Sure. Over.

TODD: All right.

HEWITT: Over-over.

TODD: Over-over?

CASTRO: I think he`s going to be in New York and Mar-a-Lago a lot.

TODD: Oh, you can`t through Mar-a-Lago in there, though. We`re doing Trump Tower.

REID: Way over.


TODD: I think I`m going to be the contrarian and go way under. I think once he`s in the home office he`s going to realize, "Oh, wow. Why should I go anywhere?"


TODD: What a terrific panel. Joy, Robert, Hugh, Molly. You guys were the, in my sense, four of my favorite people to have on.


HEWITT: That`s very generous. Thank you.


TODD: I very much appreciate it.


HEWITT: Have a great end of the year.

TODD: Stay with us throughout the hour, by the way. That`s all for this special year-end edition of "MTP Daily." You can, of course, watch us every weeknight at 5:00 p.m. right here on MSNBC, Sundays, of course, on the network. Happy holidays. Happy New Year. Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukah from all of us at "MTP Daily."