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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 8/12/2016

Guests: Lee Miringoff, Bob Shrum

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: August 12, 2016 Guest: Lee Miringoff, Bob Shrum

CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: That`s "ALL IN" for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Steve Kornacki in for Rachel Maddow.

Good evening, Steve.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC GUEST HOST: Good evening to you, Chris. Thanks for that.

Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

Rachel is going to be back in this seat on Monday night.

Well, if you are like me, and if you`re like me, then God help you, but if you`re like me, then you live for election nights. There`s something exhilarating, there`s something fun, there`s something enjoyable about sitting down and watching returns come in from states and from cities and counties and precincts all across the country.

You get to sit there. You get to watch the returns come in, you see the patterns that emerge, one candidate strong here, the other candidate cleaning up over there. You`re trying to figure out why. To watch that happening is really to watch the story of America at that moment, being written right in front of your eyes. I`m a sucker for it. I think it`s exhilarating.

But you know what else I like watching, besides live election nights. I like watching footage from all election nights. I like the old music they used to play, I love the primitive graphics that look straight out of an Atari game. Like the legendary anchors you could see narrating the results.

Look at that. There`s Brokaw. There`s John Chancellor. I like watching the maps get filled in. By the way, those maps we fill in every presidential election night, well, they used to do it a little differently than they do it now. See if you can spot what I mean.


ANNOUNCER: Decision `76, NBC News continues its election night report. Here are John Chancellor and David Brinkley.

DAVID BRINKLEY, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: And first I`d like to give you a quick guided tour of our big beautiful map, so you can see what has been happening there, how the colors are coming in, which means which candidates are carrying which states.

As you can see, there are six states illuminated in red, or dark gray. Those are Carter states. There`s one state lit up in blue, Indiana, and that`s Ford`s one and only state so far.

JOHN CHANCELLOR, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: We have another state to project. NBC News projects Jimmy Carter the winner in Florida. That was not a big surprise. He had campaigned down there. So had his running mate, but you see it on our map.

Now, the south is beginning to fill in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) for ABC News has made the projection. The darker color, the blue, are states that have gone for Carter. The lighter color, the yellow, the states that have gone for Ford.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At 8:15 Eastern Standard Time, on this election night, we have projected Ronald Reagan the winner. And to add evidence to that protection, we are projecting him as the winner in more states. By our calculations, Ronald Reagan is the winner in the state of New Hampshire, in the state of Vermont, Delaware, and South Carolina.

We will be coloring in those on the map now in blue for Reagan or light gray from black and white. New Hampshire is the first state that we are calling for him in this list of states. Vermont, we are coloring blue in a projection for Reagan.

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: The only sure bet for Mondale tonight seems to be the District of Columbia. So we`ll color that red in our big NBC News election map. And these states apparently are strong for Ronald Reagan, where he is doing well, or where the state is leaning his way. So, they`re colored blue on the election map.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, color this blue for Republicans and red for Democrats.


KORNACKI: Did you see that? Sometimes the Democrats, they got blue. Sometimes the Democrats got red back then.

They also told you, if you have a black and white set, you look for the darker color, the lighter color. That`s another relic, too. But the red states and the blue states, we talk about them all the time now. The red states for the Republicans, the blue states for the Democrats.

But for a long, long time, for a long time on election night, there was no standard. You tuned in on election night. Red did not automatically mean a Republican state. Blue did not automatically mean a Democratic state. It was random. Different networks would use different colors in different elections.

And there were broader implications to that too. It wasn`t just how you watched the election on election night. It was how we talked about America. It was how we talked about the intersection of politics and culture in America.

Think about that, we have the red states and the blue states today and that means something bigger. We talk about red America, we talk about different customs, different traditions, different ways of living in red America and blue America. They`re two very distinct things. They have cultural meaning.

But that wasn`t the case for a long time. For a long time on election night, you tuned in on election night and you found out which party for that night was going to get which color. There`s another reason for this, too. A big reason was that in the `70s and `80s, when a lot of those elections we were showing you came from, a lot of the elections were just total landslides.

You saw in 1984 there. 1984, Ronald Reagan won 49 states. So, the color scheme didn`t matter. So no one was going to worry which ones were red, which ones were blue and what that meant.

So, the question is, we showed you the `70s. We showed you the `80s. When did we start talking about the red states and the blue states, the way that we talk about them now?

Well, we can thank for that Tim Russert -- the late great Tim Russert. He is the one who first talked about red states and blue states the way we do wow, and he did it in the 2000 election. That`s what you`re watching right there. Tim Russert talking a couple days before the 2000 election, he`s the one who started talking about them the way we do now.

And that year is key, 2000 is key. Election night in 2000 was the first time in a generation, it was the first time since that Carter/Ford election in 1976, that we actually had a truly close, truly suspenseful, nip and tuck presidential election.

You remember it, right? It went on for weeks, actually. It wasn`t even settled on election night. People trying to figure out who their next president was going to be.

And all night and into the wee hours of the morning on election night 2000, people were at home, staring at their television screens, trying to figure out what combination of states might possibly put Al Gore over the top, what combination of states might mean that George W. Bush was going to be the winner. That`s the kind of night it was.

And the colors that were used that night just so happened to be blue for Gore and red for Bush, red for the Republicans. So with Tim Russert leading the way, people at home, all across the country started talking about the red states as a thing, and the blue states as a thing. The red for the Republicans, the blue for the Democrats. Election night 2000, people started talking that way, tens of millions all watching their televisions at the same time. And it just kind of stuck.

Something else stuck after the 2000 election too -- the polarization of that election, the polarization of what was a near perfect time. It was the Supreme Court that had to step in and ultimately settle the 2000 election. That`s how close it was.

But before 2000, we had a lot of landslide elections in this country, election nights that were over before they started. Think of Ronald Reagan, those 49 states in 1984. Nixon in 49 states in `72. Bush Sr., 40 states in 1988.

But since 2000, since that election night in 2000, presidential elections in this country have been a lot more competitive. And the reason for that is because now, there are a large number of reliably red states, a large number of reliably blue states. We`re a very polarized country now, along partisan lines in a way we weren`t before.

Even a losing candidate in presidential elections these days generally wins at least 20 states, gets at least 45 percent of the vote. You don`t have candidates losing 49-state landslides anymore. That`s something that`s changed since 2000.

The other thing that defines this new polling era -- this new political era -- ooh, I just gave it away. The other thing that defines it, though, polling. It was around 2000. Since then we`ve had an explosion in polling. More outlets are conducting more polls, more frequently than ever before.

We are swimming at any given moment in data -- numbers about who is winning, who is losing and why they`re winning or why they`re losing.

This week, you may have seen this headline floating around the internet. It says that since 1952, no candidate has ever come back to win a presidential election when behind in the polls like Donald Trump is now behind. And yes, there`s truth to that obviously. But take that with a grain of salt because they barely had any polling for many of those elections.

Many of them are also just good, old-fashioned landslides. The one I was describing there. So, of course, the winner in the end was also ahead two weeks after the convention, the winner was ahead for the entire election. When you didn`t have a country as polarized as it is now, you could have candidates leading by 20 points the entire way.

But since 2000, since 2000, it has been a different story. Every election has been competitive, every election has featured a ton of polls that have been conducted for the entire length of the campaign. And what that means, what that means is that we can compare campaigns with precision nowadays.

We can say -- we can say that right now, as I sit here and as I talk with you, it has been two weeks since the final convention in this 2016 presidential campaign. It`s been two weeks since the Democrats finished up in Philadelphia.

Now, the polling bounces have settled down since both of those conventions. We are now fully, officially, totally in the general election. So, with all of that in mind, we can ask, thanks to this new political world we live in, we can ask, where does the Clinton/Trump race stand right now, and how does it compare to the ones before? Is it closer? Is it more of a blow- out? How does it stack up?

So let`s take a look. In 2000, Al Gore`s Democratic convention went second that year. It was over. He got a big bounce right away. His lead started to dissipate. And then at this exact point in the campaign, two weeks after that second convention in 2000, George W. Bush was ahead by literally the smallest possible margin when you averaged all the polls together. He was ahead by about a tenth of a point in the average of the polls.

At this point in 2000, four years later, 2004, President Bush got the second convention. He got a big bounce out of it. Two weeks after the last convention, Bush was up five and a half points when you average the polls together, five and a half points.

Fast forward to 2008, after the last convention, two weeks after it, Barack Obama was ahead of John McCain. His margin was 1.9 points, an average of 1.9.

Four years later, the last presidential election before this one, in 2012, two weeks after the last convention, that was the Democratic convention in 2012, President Obama was leading Mitt Romney. The average margin, 3.1 points.

So, that`s where every race since 2000 has stood at this exact same moment. That was the margin for the leading candidate. And now we can give you a number for right now. Well, the polling has been bad for Donald Trump in the last two weeks since the Democratic convention ended. And right now, when you average them all together, two weeks after the end of Hillary Clinton`s convention, her margin over Donald Trump, she leads by 6.3 points.

Again, that`s according to an average of all the national polls, 6.3 points for Hillary Clinton. Compare that to all of the others since 2000, since the start of this red state/blue state era, we`re talking about, compare her number to all the others, she`s doing better than any other nominee in this period in history at this point in the campaign.

This is a bigger lead than we`ve seen for any nominee at that time. Over six points on average, now just two weeks after the final convention. And in the heart now of the general election campaign. So, that`s where this race stands. Hillary Clinton leading by more than six points on average. Donald Trump seems to know he`s behind.

For someone who bragged a lot during the primaries about all his poll numbers, there`s been a noticeable shift in rhetoric from him. We saw it yesterday in Florida.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: You got to get your people out to vote. And especially in those states where we`re represented -- having a tremendous problem in Utah.

Utah`s a different place and I don`t know -- is anybody here from Utah? I mean, it`s -- I didn`t think so. We`re having a problem.

We need help in Ohio. We`re very close in Ohio. Ohio is very close, but we need help.

And the fact that you`re in Florida, most of you, many of you are in Florida, but if you could send out the word to Ohio, Pennsylvania, some of these really important swing states, I`m telling you, we will do it, because we`re close. We`re very close.


KORNACKI: So Donald Trump knows he`s been having some trouble. We know the national polls. We just took you through them.

Hillary Clinton has been getting great news there. She`s ahead by a larger margin than anybody at this point since 2000. But let`s take a look, we always say, this is a battle for 270. This is a battle for the Electoral College.

And we`ve got brand-new numbers out today. NBC/Marist polls out today in four pivotal swing states, at least we think of them as swing states. But look at this, we`ve got Hillary Clinton ahead by 14 points in Colorado.

Remember, Colorado is a state that actually went for George W. Bush in 2004. It was a coup for Democrats to take that in 2008. Hillary Clinton now up 14 there.

She`s up double-digits in Virginia. Virginia, another state that was long a Republican bastion. It`s been changing a lot.

Look at this, Hillary Clinton, a double-digit lead. North Carolina, a Romney state in 2012, but Hillary Clinton up nearly ten points there.

And in Florida, the always important state of Florida, a closer margin. But, again, Hillary Clinton up five points there. So, across the board, four key swing states. Hillary Clinton`s ahead.

We focus on these three, though -- Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina. I`m telling you about the political histories in those states, Virginia was a Republican state for generations. As we said, Colorado was a Bush state. North Carolina, a Romney state. How could Hillary Clinton be up not just ahead, but ahead by these margins?

Let`s take a look at the demographics in these states. I think it`s going to give you an explanation. So, we talk about this all the time.

One of the defining things in this campaign has been a divide among white voters, between those who have college degrees and those who don`t have college degrees. You see Donald Trump has been doing well with blue collar, non-college white voters. Hillary Clinton, though, has been doing better than any Democrat`s ever done with college-educated white voters.

So, take a look. In 2012, 36 percent of the voters nationwide were whites with college degrees. In Virginia, you see the number was higher, 41 percent. So those are the kinds of voters Hillary Clinton`s been doing particularly well with. And Donald Trump`s been doing particularly poorly with. There are a lot more of them in Virginia than you see nationally. So that`s why Clinton is doing extra well in Virginia.

Colorado, again, that`s above the national average. A key reason there why Hillary Clinton`s so far ahead.

North Carolina, a little bit below average. It`s close enough that Hillary Clinton gets some benefit from that. But there`s another reason why Hillary Clinton might be ahead in North Carolina. You take that white, college-educated vote, where she`s doing well, you add in the fact that North Carolina`s black population, almost twice the national average when it comes to these elections, and Hillary Clinton doing overwhelmingly better than Donald Trump amongst black voters.

Virginia also, one in five voters there are African-American. Hillary Clinton doing very well with that group. So, that`s key.

And in Colorado, it`s the story of the Latino vote. Again, it`s 14 percent in Colorado. That`s a growing number out there, 10 percent nationally. And again, Hillary Clinton cleaning up Latino voters.

So that`s why she`s doing so well suddenly in states that just a couple of cycles ago, we thought of as Republican states. Here`s the bottom line, though, of where this race stands right now.

The gray states are basically your battleground. These are states we`ve been looking at all summer and saying, these could be toss-ups. They`re at least competitive. We`re not sure who is going to win and we`ve been seeing a lot of polls come out of these states.

Here`s the interesting thing. Obviously, Donald Trump has to do more work here than Hillary Clinton. If we only said, let`s color in states if a candidate is leading in the polls by double-digits. Let`s leave everything else as a toss-up, everything else as undecided. Only if a candidate is up double-digits in one of these battleground states will we color it in. We`ll look at this.

Right now, Hillary Clinton is ahead by double-digits, really solid margins in polls in New Hampshire, in Wisconsin, in Michigan. We just saw it today in Virginia, and in Colorado. We just showed it to you.

And look at that. Only based on states where she`s ahead by double-digits, that puts her over 270. That`s a candidate who`s in very good position right now in the Electoral College. She`s not winning squeakers in the swing states, she`s blowing Trump out in enough swing states, that just with the blowouts, she`d be over 270 right now. That`s not even factoring in some of the other states.

So, that`s Donald Trump`s challenge. He`s got two challenges. Not only does he have to flip a bunch of these states, he`s got to just make them competitive. He`s not even competitive in enough states right now. That`s the problem for Trump in these polls.

We`re going to squeeze in a quick break. When we come back, we`ll talk to the man who conducted these polls. We`re going to find out where this race stands.

Stay with us.



TRUMP: We have to win the state of Pennsylvania. I went to school here. My kids went to school here. We`re going to win Pennsylvania.

If we win Pennsylvania, I`ll tell you what, we are very much on our way.

You know, the Republicans do have a tougher path. Not my fault. Not my fault, it`s a tougher path.

For the presidency, it`s just a tougher, winding road. But if we win Pennsylvania, we win Florida, where we`re doing really well, I think we can win Ohio. It will be over.


KORNACKI: Donald Trump this afternoon in Erie, Pennsylvania, talking strategy, talking path to 270, laying out what he thinks is his road to the White House.

Joining us now is Lee Miringoff, he`s director of the Marist Institute for public opinion. All of the swing state polls we were showing you, he`s the guy who took them. So, there`s no one better to talk to right now than Lee Miringoff.

Thanks for joining us. So --

LEE MIRINGOFF, MARIST POLLING DIRECTOR: We`ve made a science out of coin- flipping.

KORNACKI: Well, but, see, this is the thing. These numbers you`re getting in these swing states don`t look like coin-flips right now.

MIRINGOFF: They really aren`t.

KORNACKI: And we`re talking about it. We just said this over here, Colorado, Virginia, and North Carolina, you go back a decade, you`re calling these red states. Now, it`s not just the Republican in danger of losing, but in a danger of being blown out of them. That`s a big change.

MIRINGOFF: Yes, and I think you would tend to fight a lot of the demographic factors, you know, moving this. You know, the fact that the educational difference, the gap between white college, white non-college and, you know, that`s an inversion. That used to be the opposite. Republicans were getting the upscale voters. Democrats were getting the blue collar working class. Well, that`s not happening in this election and that actually bodes well for Hillary Clinton because the people who have higher income, higher education, are also going to be more likely to vote, typically.

So, what we are going to see is, when we go to likely voters and those models and all those polls, well, that`s not going to skew Republican like it has in the past. It should stay pretty much like when we`re seeing right now. So, that`s going to be very interesting.

I saw that Donald Trump was talking a lot about Pennsylvania, because he was there today. Pennsylvania`s gone Democratic the last six times. And he`s trailing there in our poll, which was released mid-week by 11 points.

KORNACKI: Double-digits. I`ve seen a few there with double-digits. Talk more about that. Because Trump has identified Pennsylvania and a lot of I think analysts looking at this race at the outset, looked at Pennsylvania, one reason was Romney, he didn`t win it, but he improved significantly over what happened there in 2008.

So, people sort of thought Republicans were moving maybe in the right direction there. And you think of Pennsylvania as a blue collar state and you think maybe Trump connects with that, but he`s losing more ground than he`s gaining.

MIRINGOFF: Yes. Not only the educational divide we`re talking about the sort of rural versus urban, suburban divide. So, when you look at Pennsylvania, for example, and it`s showing up elsewhere around the country. You look at Philadelphia and the suburbs around Philadelphia, those are overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton right now.

Same thing with the western part of the state, around Pittsburgh, suburbs around Pittsburgh. Again, very Democratic. Trump is doing the rural thing with that. The problem for Trump is, there`s a lot more voters in the cities and the suburbs around the cities than in the rural parts.

So, he`s having the same problem. That`s why these numbers are all moving in the same direction. Because basically the universals in terms of what he`s getting are not pretty right now. So, he can be behind by double- digits.

And a lot of places which you so correctly identified have different things going for them, maybe upscale voters and maybe a lot of African American and Latino voters, there`s different things in the states. The bottom line is, Trump`s not breaking into most of those groups and Hillary Clinton is. So, that`s the problem.

And then the other thing we`ve mixed into it, Barack Obama in the four states we talked about today is over 50 -- 50 or over in each of those four states.

KORNACKI: He`s popular.

MIRINGOFF: So you now have a popular president in these critical, battleground states, about to pass the baton to someone who obviously is identified with his administration, and is running on that as well.

KORNACKI: Very quickly, when you look at these numbers, do you think there`s a floor for Donald Trump? Because presidential elections have been more competitive than maybe for the generation before. Is Donald Trump automatically because we live in that polarized era, likely to get 45 percent or 40 percent, or is there a lower floor?

MIRINGOFF: Well, you know, what we got here is we don`t have -- I mean, look, Hillary Clinton`s ahead, not because people are in love with Hillary Clinton. In fact, her negatives are in the 50s in each of these states. The trouble for Donald Trump, his negatives are in the 60s in each of these states.

So, not to use the old cliche, the lesser of two evils, but what you really have here is someone who is very, very popular in Donald Trump and someone who is not particularly popular in Hillary Clinton. So, that goes Clinton`s way in all these states.

KORNACKI: The best thing that Trump has going for him is Clinton, and the best thing Clinton has going for her is Trump. She`s getting the better end of that deal right now.

MIRINGOFF: Although the Clinton people are more favorable to Clinton, than the Trump people are to Trump. I mean, they`re more motivated, the Trump people, but their dislike of Clinton, whereas Clinton`s people are a little more motivated by their like of her than their dislike of Trump.

So, there`s a little difference there, but the bottom line is, this is an election that has really no great road maps because we`ve been surprised every other day. And there`s likely to be many more of those down the road before we`re done in November.

Right now, it`s playing Hillary Clinton`s way. We`ll see if it continues.

KORNACKI: There`s the bottom line. Lee Miringoff from Marist, did these swing state polls for us. You`ll do a lot more before November, I`m sure.

Thanks for the time. Appreciate it.

All right. Much more ahead. We`ll be right back.


KORNACKI: All right. We got lots more election to come. A big week obviously and all sorts of numbers we`ve been going through.

But it`s not just numbers. It`s what the candidates are saying. And Donald Trump obviously has made his share of provocative, if you want to put it that way, provocative comments.

Well, he just made one that even people who think they`re used to Donald Trump were caught off guard by. That`s going to be ahead.

Stay with us.


KORNACKI: Donald Trump tonight was at a rally in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania, a state that has gone for the Democrats, as we were just saying, in each one of the last six presidential elections, all the way back through 1992.

And even though the latest polling shows him down by double-digits in Pennsylvania, he had something controversial to say about what Hillary Clinton would have to do to win the state.

Listen to what Trump said.


TRUMP: We`re going to watch Pennsylvania very quickly. We`re going to watch Pennsylvania.

Go down to certain areas and watch and study and make sure other people don`t come in and vote five times. Because if you do that, and I know you`re all voting -- is everybody here voting?

If you do that, if you do that, we`re not going to lose. The only way we can lose, in my opinion, I really mean this, Pennsylvania, is if cheating go goes on. I really believe that.

We have to call up law enforcement, and we have to have the sheriffs and the police chiefs and everybody watching, because if we get cheated out of this election, if we get cheated out of a win in Pennsylvania, which is such a vital state, especially when I know what`s happening here, folks. I know. She can`t beat what`s happening here.

The only way they can beat it, in my opinion, and I mean this 100 percent, if in certain sections of the state, they cheat. OK?


KORNACKI: Donald Trump saying that cheating is the only way Hillary Clinton could possibly win Pennsylvania.

Again, the electoral history on Pennsylvania, we`ve been going through this. This is a state that twice voted for Bill Clinton, 1992, 1996, twice voted for Barack Obama. It`s a state where Al Gore won in 2000, where John Kerry won in 2004, it`s a state that last voted for a Republican in a presidential race 28 years ago.

But Donald Trump says the only possible way Hillary Clinton could win that state is through cheating, and saying more specifically that certain sections of the state are prone to cheating.

More on that ahead. Stay with us.


KORNACKI: Eighty-seven days, we`ve got 87 days to go now and counting until the big day, Election Day. We are 87 days out. And as we showed you at the top of the show, Hillary Clinton right now, 87 days out, is in better position than a nominee has been in at this point in a very long time. In the new polls out today, she`s widened her lead in some key battleground states. She`s even up by double-digits in two of them, and these states were red not long ago.

She`s gained significant ground since before the conventions. There`s no question about that. So things are good right now for the Clinton campaign. But how much of this is because of what they`re doing right, as opposed to what Donald Trump and his campaign are doing wrong?

In fact, the Clinton campaign seems right now their single best weapon to be Donald Trump himself. Look at this article. "Clinton happily yields national spotlight to Trump, avoids its glare."

Clinton aides say their strategy is simple. Let Trump be Trump.

Hillary Clinton has no problem with him getting embroiled in controversy while she focuses on her campaign. And so far, the strategy is working for the Clinton campaign. It`s hard to argue with the avalanche of good polling news they`ve gotten lately.

But as we said, there are still 87 days to go until the election. That means 87 days for things to take a wrong turn, for mistakes to be made, 87 days for Donald Trump to somehow find his footing, recover, and make a comeback.

So, what do you do when you`re in the Clinton campaign`s position right now? How do you maintain a lead like this for 87 days? How do you keep the good news you`ve been getting for the last two weeks going for another 87 days? How do you guard against complacency?

It`s been a while since a campaign has been in this position, leading by this much, so close to the election. What do they do for the next 87 days?

Joining us now is Bob Shrum. He was a senior official in the Al Gore and John Kerry presidential campaigns. He`s also a professor of politics at USC.

Bob, thanks for joining us.

Well, let me start with the sports analogy. In football, if you`re ahead trying to run the clock out, you go to the prevent defense. In basketball, you might have the four corners offense. Is that a thing in politics? Is that something a campaign does when it`s ahead?

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, there`s an old adage, don`t get in the way of a train wreck. And that applies in politics.

And I think what`s happening to Trump is a train wreck. It`s a self- induced train wreck. It`s been going on since the end of the Democratic convention, even before that.

Trump has turned this campaign into a referendum on his temperament and his competence and his fitness to be president. And that`s why I think you`re seeing these leads.

Now, if you`re the Clinton campaign, I think they`re being very smart. They had a brilliant convention. I think they`re being very smart right now.

They`re going to the states they`re targeting, they`re doing interviews with local newscasters, local television stations. That is reaching people in those areas.

They`re not trying to compete with Trump in the national news at this point, because truthfully, he`s proving that not all news is good news. I mean, the story ahead just before we came to this segment. I mean, what he said in Pennsylvania tonight.

You can rely on him, once he gets off the script. They try to make him read, that he`s going to get off the script and he`s going to say something incendiary. That`s what he did tonight.

Earlier today by the way, he said, well, they said I was being sarcastic when I said the president was the founder of ISIS. Truth is, not so sarcastic.

He can`t control himself. That`s why I`m skeptical he can turn it around in 87 days.

KORNACKI: So, with that in mind, if Donald Trump keeps doing what we`ve been seeing straight to the finish line, what is the biggest risk, exposure for the Clinton campaign, given the position they`re in and the candidate they`re running against?

SHRUM: Well, it`s an unpredicted event, an extraordinary outside event that has a big impact. Everything thought earlier in the summer if there were terrorist attacks, that would help Trump. In fact, his reaction to them made certain that it didn`t help him.

I mean, he reacted so badly, by saying, for example, I was right, congratulate me, I was right. That kind of stuff, he doesn`t handle well.

But some exogenous event of major proportion would have an impact on this. Other than that, I don`t see what`s going to change the trajectory of the race. The debates? I mean, Trump is A, is fooling around on whether he`s going to show up. B, he`s not getting Sean Hannity as the moderator, no matter how much he might want that. And C, I don`t know if this guy can prepare in a serious way for a different kind of debate, where actually having substantive knowledge is going to matter and where questioners are going to hold him to account.

I don`t know that he can do that. He has to have that debate. Only in that debate now could he pass the threshold of acceptability as president and commander in chief.

KORNACKI: All right. Bob Shrum, Democratic strategist, veteran of many Democratic campaigns nationally, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.

SHRUM: Thank you.

KORNACKI: All right. We`ll be right back.


KORNACKI: All right. Well, needless to say, the last 48 hours have not exactly been great for Donald Trump. Headlines about a meltdown after another round of bad poll numbers. And now, controversy over his insistence that President Obama should be considered the founder of ISIS.

There`s more, though. There was an open letter from dozens of Republicans urging the Republican National Committee to cut off its funding of the Trump campaign.

And last night, reports that members of Trump campaign staff had asked for emergency meeting with RNC officials which was described as a "Come to Jesus" session, designed to get both the campaign and the national party on the same page.

Now, the RNC has denied this was anything more than a typical meeting. Tensions within the Republican Party, though, they were on full public display today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s an open letter penned by some 70 Republicans, suggesting that Reince Priebus pull back funding, maybe data from your campaign. Have you talked to Reince? Are you in contact with Reince, contact with the RNC? Any truth to any of this?

TRUMP: Sure, well, there`s no truth. But I`m the one that`s funding, raising the money. And other people are getting to use the money I`ve raised.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you been in contact?

TRUMP: Yes, I have. He just put out a press release, saying it`s untrue. I mean, if it is true, that`s OK too because all I`ll have to do is stop funding the Republican Party. I`m the one raising the money for him. In fact, right now, I`m in Orlando, I`m going to a fund-raiser for the Republican Party. So, if they want to do that, they can save me a lot of time and a lot of energy.


KORNACKI: So, that was Donald Trump last night saying that if the RNC wanted to take away campaign resources from him, then he could just stop raising money for them in return.

So, with all of that swirling in the background, when Trump held a rally today in Erie, Pennsylvania, he came with a surprise guest. Take a look at this. Reince Priebus, the chair of the Republican Party.


REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: Don`t believe the garbage you read. Let me tell you something, Donald Trump, the Republican Party, all of you, we`re going to put him in the White House and save this country together.


KORNACKI: Now, it`s hard to see Priebus`s sudden appearance on the campaign trail as a coincidence. He generally isn`t Trump`s warm up act at rallies. And in fact, it was just a week ago when Trump held a rally in Priebus` home state of Wisconsin, but the RNC chairman was nowhere to be seen, along with a number of other top Wisconsin Republicans.

Remember, that really came just after Trump had refused to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan`s re-election campaign in Wisconsin.

NBC`s Katy Tur reporting tonight that Reince`s surprise appearance today is part of an effort to make sure Trump doesn`t travel alone. He and other officials are taking turns, quote, "Trump-sitting", in order to keep. That`s a role we`re not used to seeing a national party chair play. But it`s a role that maybe in the Trump campaign, may be the new normal.



TRUMP: Reince, come here for a second, please?

The head of the Republican National Committee has done such a great job. We`re friends, we work together. We work with a lot of other people.

And I have to say, we have great unification. Now every once in a while you read about somebody that wants to be a rebel, they get a little free publicity for themselves. But the way we`ve gotten along and I`ve raised - - I`ve put in a lot of money into the Republican National Committee.


KORNACKI: That was just a couple of hours ago in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Donald Trump bringing up Reince Priebus to the stage with him, singing his praises. Interesting relationship there to dissect.

Joining us now to do it, Robert Costa, national political reporter with "The Washington Post" joining us here in New York. Thanks for stopping by. Appreciate it.

That relationship, the Trump-Priebus relationship, a lot of people are fascinated by it and they don`t know what to make of it. What is the relationship? What`s your sense of it?

ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST: It`s a pivotal relationship within the Republican Party.

Priebus has positioned himself as a confidant of Trump, something to go to New York like he did today, fly with Trump to Erie, Pennsylvania, be a Trump whisperer of sorts, and it`s an important role because many people on Capitol Hill, the party leaders, they don`t really have a relationship with Trump.

KORNACKI: Is your sense that Trump listens to him and follows his advice, or is he just giving advice and Trump disregards and talks about something else?

COSTA: Because Trump doesn`t have a traditional organization, he`s relying on the Republican National Committee to be his grassroots organization, to help out with fundraising nationally. So, he`s leaning on the RNC in many ways. So, it`s a relationship of necessity in some ways for Donald Trump.

I don`t think they`re personally close in a very warm, daily conversation way. But it`s a relationship that`s political, and he sees Priebus as the party, and that`s his way of talking to the party.

KORNACKI: And how about we have all the stories this week about -- there was a move by some anti-Trump Republicans. We should say, looks like they were the never Trump people, been around for a long time. This is their latest grab of the headlines, but saying, hey, cut off the funding to the Trump campaign, not just the Trump-Priebus relationship, but you`re mentioning that Trump relies on the RNC.

What`s the relationship between those two entities, the Trump campaign and the RNC, what`s that like?

COSTA: It`s an important one, because Trump doesn`t have an institutional relationship with the Republican Party. So he`s come into this election, he`s waded into GOP world, and he`s grabbed onto the RNC as his way of communicating with the party and building an infrastructure for the general election. And because the Trump campaign doesn`t have the sprawling organization, it`s really the RNC, which is assisting Trump with hires and grassroots organizations and operations.

It`s the Capitol Hill folks who are different. They`re not intertwined with Trump in the same way the RNC is. So house members are saying, we should start to distance ourselves a bit, running that Paul Ryan better way plan, and if you`re vulnerable in the Senate, you`re starting to maybe rethink your positioning.

KORNACKI: We mentioned this earlier on the show. Donald Trump at that rally we were just showing the clip from in Altoona, talking about Pennsylvania, a state that he`s targeting. In some ways, it`s a target that make sense, a sort of blue collar, white population there. But there`s also -- you got these Philly suburbs, where you got these sort of white collar professionals, they`re fleeing him right now.

He`s down in the polls and he`s saying, the only way I can lose this state is by cheating. What`s your sense -- where is that coming from? What`s the strategic purpose? Where he`s trying t got with that?

COSTA: Well, it`s not coming from evidence. Evidence of voter fraud is quite limited across the country. Where it comes is from a gut instinct, a belief by Trump. And this is fed by some people in his orbit. Roger Stone, his long-time confidant has talked about the idea that the system could be rigged, that there could be voter fraud, people like Alex Jones, and the conspiratorial world of the right. They`ve talked about this type of thing.

And this gets to Trump`s attention and he talks about it in public.

KORNACKI: Is that something, though, when you talk about Reince Priebus having access to him, being able to talk to him, is that something he`s in his ear saying, let`s not go down this road?

COSTA: My reporting doesn`t reveal Priebus saying something specific about voter fraud. And I think it`s -- my own report tells me it`s limited in who can actually get through to Trump. He`s resistant to advice in many ways. He`s resistant to change.

He`s OK if he`s working with an organization on fundraising and operations. But when it comes to strategy, he really relies on himself.

KORNACKI: All right. Robert Costa with "The Washington Post", great insight. Thanks for the time.

COSTA: Thank you.

KORNACKI: OK. One last trip to the big board, I`m going to take the jacket off because I can`t stand wearing that thing, and head over there. That`s next.


KORNACKI: All right. We got a few minutes left in the show so I convinced them to let me come back to the big board for one more segment.

Now, we talked a lot this week about polling. We`ve got all sorts of new numbers this week on the state of presidential race and basically across the boards these were numbers that were good for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, and bad for Donald Trump and the Republicans. We talked about this on the show tonight.

Hillary Clinton right now enjoying a bigger lead at this point in the race at any nominee we`ve seen since the year 2000. Now, if you`re a Republican, obviously, you`re hoping Donald Trump bounces back, unless you`re one of those never Trump Republicans. But that`s a different -- that`s a different subject.

If you`re a pro-Trump Republican you`re hoping he bounces back, gets back in this race in the fall.

But the other thing you`re worrying about right now is not just the presidential race. You`re worrying about something very important to the Republican Party, something that the Republican Party got two years ago and is in danger of losing if Donald Trump loses this November.

What am I talking about? You can probably guess, it`s control of the U.S. Senate, think of how much money, how much effort went in to the Republican`s capturing the Senate, this 54/46 majority they have right now in 2014.

What this means is Democrats this year, if they can pick off five seats -- they get five Republican seats they have the Senate majority. Or if they get four and Hillary Clinton gets elected president, they would also have the majority, because the president`s party gets to break the tie. They probably need to get four if Hillary Clinton wins.

Let`s take a look at what the lay of the land here is in terms of Senate battleground. You see, this is what gets Democrats excited the red states up here, those are Republican held seats that are potentially vulnerable this November. You`ll have Republicans or their seats that are currently held by Republicans where Democrats have a plausible chance of winning.

The blue, those are Democratic seats where Republicans have a plausible chance of winning. And you can see, there are 11 vulnerable red seats, only two vulnerable blue seats, that`s because six years ago when this clash of senators was up, it was a great year for Republicans, it means they`re playing defense. It means there`s a lot of opportunity for Democrats.

So, Democrats put those two things together. They say Hillary Clinton is beating Donald Trump and we`ve got all these pick up opportunities on this map. That means there could be a wave that gives Democrats control of the U.S. Senate. That`s what Democrats are saying right.

Is that what the evidence is saying in terms of polling? Well, it`s telling us a couple of things. There are some states that it`s bearing out right now.

You look in Pennsylvania, Hillary Clinton is way ahead in Pennsylvania right now. The Democratic Senate candidate a challenger against the incumbent Republican, it`s a smaller margin than Clinton is leading, but it is a lead. So right there, Democrats getting what they`re hoping for.

Same thing in Wisconsin, remember this guy, Russ Feingold, former senator, trying to make a come back -- double digit lead right now in a state where Hillary Clinton also has a double digit lead. Those two things might be synced up. That could be a pickup for Democrats.

Also New Hampshire. Here`s another state where Hillary Clinton has opened up a double digit lead over Donald Trump, not coincidentally the Democratic challenger, the sitting governor there, Maggie Hassan, she`s up double digits right now in that race.

So, that`s what Democrats are hoping for. They`re hoping to see states where Hillary Clinton wins are won by Democrats on the Senate side.

But it`s not happening everywhere, take a look at Ohio. Our poll this week has Hillary ahead by five points in Ohio. Five points is also the margin in that same poll for the Republican incumbent, Rob Portman. The senator out there leading his challenger by five points. Portman, at least right now, he`s defying the Hillary Clinton trend in that state.

That`s something Republicans want to see. They`re looking at this and they`re saying we need our Senate candidates to stand on our own if Donald Trump is losing. Portman right now doing that in Ohio.

In Ohio, Chuck Grassley, incumbent senator there, again, he`s ten points up in our poll this week. Presidential race has Hillary Clinton ahead in the state, chuck would be defying the trend in Iowa.

In Florida, again, we showed you Hillary Clinton leading in Florida, the margin is not that big, but she`s leading. Marco Rubio, the incumbent Republican, remember him, he`s ahead by a couple of points there.

So, Republicans that`s their best hope if Donald Trump loses, can their incumbent senator stand on their own and resist the Democratic tide sweeping them out of office? Here`s a fact to keep in mind though.

This is from our political desk, it`s a great fact, since these are races that are -- so great, I stumble over my words -- Senate races one month before an election, 80 percent of them end up going to the party that wins the state in the presidential election. That`s what Democrats are ultimately hoping for.

If Hillary Clinton wins most of these states painted red right now, history says most of them will also end up picking the Democrat. Republicans are saying, hey, maybe it`s people are voting against Trump, and our senate candidates can stand in their own. But that`s what Republicans are worried about, we`ll wave.

That`s going to do it for us tonight. That`s the end of the show. Rachel will be back Monday.