IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Anger over healthcare reform. TRANSCRIPT: 10/23/2018, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Michael McFaul

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: October 23, 2018 Guest: Michael McFaul

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now with Rachel Maddow who has her own podcast coming out, which I am very excited about.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I am -- well, here is the thing.

HAYES: You`re always like this about everything. It`s going to be awesome. You`re stressing it. It`s not going to be good.

I see you every day at 5:00. And then your show is great. It will be great.

MADDOW: You`re very nice to me, but that doesn`t change the way that I feel, which is exactly what you`re describing.

HAYES: But it will be great.

MADDOW: But it will drop in a week. It will drop on Tuesday of next week, and by then, it will be great. But right now, I`m in total crisis mode.

HAYES: I`m confident.

MADDOW: Thank you, my friend.

It`s called "Bag Man", the podcast if you want to subscribe to it now. It`s going to drop a week from tonight.

I am super stressed about it. It`s good. I`m really into it. "Bag Man". Anyway, you can subscribe at

OK, that`s enough of that. It`s a busy news night tonight. We are two weeks out from the big elections.

There has been a rip-roaring debate tonight in the Georgia`s governor`s race which we`re going to be talking about a little later on. That, of course, is becoming a race that is an object of national fascination, and for good reason.

We`ve also got some almost unbelievably impressive new numbers, both out of Georgia and out of Texas in terms of the number of people who are turning out to vote early in this election. We`ll have those numbers coming up for you in just a couple of minutes.

We`ve got former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, joining us here tonight to help us make sense of what just happened in Moscow with Vladimir Putin essentially proclaiming the end of America as a superpower, and President Trump`s national security adviser going right over to meet with him after that, shaking his hand and smiling and telling him everything is fine. It was really weird.

But this election coming up in two weeks is called a midterm election, because it happens halfway through a president`s four-year term in office. And the first midterm election, the first congressional election after a president is elected to the White House for the first time, it`s almost always a rough one for the president`s party. So like the last time we had a congressional election like this, it was two years after a new president was elected for the first time. The last one like this was in 2010 after President Obama was elected for the first time.

In that first midterm election of the Obama era in 2010, Democrats knew they were going to get a beating. And that was in part because it was the first election after this new president had arrived at the White House. History suggests that that almost always goes poorly for the president`s party.

Democrats also knew in 2010, they were probably due for a bigger than usual swing back of the pendulum because not only had Barack Obama won the White House two years earlier in 2008, the Democrats had made huge gains in Congress both in that 2008 election that put Obama in the White House, but also the year before that in 2006 as well when Democrats had huge gains and they won the House and the Senate.

So they knew they were sort of due for it to swing back, right? To the extent that the American electorate likes to see power swing back and forth between the two parties, or at least likes to correct for one party getting too much power, the Democratic Party knew they were really due in 2010. But those are all standard political science factors that everybody could see coming in 2010.

Frankly, you could have predicted. You could have reasonably discussed those kinds of factors for the 2010 election. Even if you hadn`t seen a single paper or single minute of news coverage for the entire year of 2009 and 2010, those principles would still have held and the Democrats would still have known there was something to worry about.

But there was also something specific and unique that happened in partisan politics in 2010 heading into that year`s midterm elections, which was not a generic factor. It was not normal. It was not predictable. It ended up being really important, and it`s something that was a big enough deal that I`m not sure we`re still really sure what we should make of it as a country.


REPORTER: From shattered glass blown out by a pellet gun at the Arizona office of Gabrielle Giffords, to a brick thrown through a window at the New York office of Louise Slaughter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Niagara Falls, we have the FBI, the local police, and the sheriff all in there working together on it.

REPORTER: And today at this Virginia home, a propane tank line was found severed. Congressman Tom Perriello`s brother lives there. That address had reportedly been posted on a conservative activist Website. Political anger and frustration on vivid display in ways both civilized and over the line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a minute, wait a minute.

REPORTER: Washington`s epic 14-month battle over health care has exposed an angry side of America.


REPORTER: And the fault lines of a fundamental Philosophical divide, how big government should be and how involved in people`s lives.

At a conservative tea party protest at the capitol this weekend, some demonstrators hurled racially and sexually charged insults at members of Congress.

REPORTER: This weekend, some of the crowd crossed a very sensitive line.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Speaker, over the last two days, human beings who happened to be members of Congress have been called the "N" word, have been spat on.

REPORTER: These incidents involved African American members of Congress, including John Lewis, an icon of the civil rights movement, targeted near the capitol by opponents of health care reform.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last time I saw anything like that was back in 1960.

REPORTER: In a separate incident, Representative Barney Frank, who is openly gay, was heckled with anti-gay slurs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not a lobbyist with all kind of money to stuff in your pocket.

REPORTER: The debates have been especially passionate from the start. Raucous town halls, talk of death panels, and a chance to bring the president down.

A bunch of finger-pointing at the so-called Tea Party movement, anti-tax hikes and big government, and today insisting its loosely aligned members have nothing to do with the slurs.


MADDOW: That was 2010, heading into the first Obama midterm, the first congressional election after Barack Obama was elected to the White House.

And as I say, you know, the pendulum was always poised to swing back in the Republicans` direction after Democrats had had such big years in 2006 and 2008. But in 2010, that was another factor, this rabid Republican opposition to homeowner to Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, right, that took on a life of its own and became almost -- an almost feral wild part of Republican and conservative political identity in that era.

And when the Republican Party took control of Congress in 2010 after that midterm, when in the president`s memorable words, the Democrats got their shellacking that year, hatred of Obamacare, top of the lungs Republican opposition to every element of Obamacare, that became sort of the main thing that the Republican Party stood for and did in Washington. We actually stopped counting at this show when the Republican-controlled Congress took its 70th -- not 17th, 70th vote to repeal Obamacare. They never actually did repeal the law, but they tried to bite off little bits and pieces of it, and they kept repeatedly going back, making sure they could take 70 different votes that they could label repealing Obamacare in order to show off to the Republican base that they really stoked on this issue that they were doing the absolute most important thing they could do in the country, which is getting rid of that health care reform.

I mean, that effort on the Republican side has continued. Today, there are 20 Republican-led states that are suing in federal court to destroy Obamacare, to destroy everything in the Affordable Care Act, to eliminate it entirely.

But a funny thing has happened over the past few years. This is the "Real Clear Politics" polling average, a chart of that polling average that shows the popularity of the Affordable Care Act over time. The red line is opposition to Obamacare. You see they started -- you see it in the bottom axis there you can se the years.

They started measuring this in 2010. But as you proceed across the graph from left to right, it goes later. It goes 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, up to this current day.

So, the red line is opposition. The black line represents people who have a favorable view of Obamacare, right? And for years, driven by this rabid Republican opposition, Obamacare was unpopular. But, hey, look, switcheroo. Now the black line is on top and people like it, running away with it, actually.

And as a factual matter, once the politics on this got a little hazier, it`s not hard to see why this is a popular thing. I mean, do you personally know anybody who got health insurance because of Obamacare or because of whatever they called Obamacare in your state? Somebody who didn`t have health insurance before but was able to get it because of this law?

Do you know anybody who got health insurance that way or anybody in your family got health insurance that way? Did you get health insurance that way when you didn`t have it before? Odds are the answer to one of those questions is yes, because freaking 20 million Americans got health insurance because of Obamacare -- 20 million Americans who didn`t have health insurance before got it because of the Affordable Care Act.

And the Republicans, of course, have been making this out to be the worst thing in the world. Americans getting health insurance. I`d rather die, right? That`s the worst thing in the world. That`s the end of America.

I mean -- but that was basically the deal. A whole lot of Americans who didn`t have health insurance would get health insurance, and health insurance policies would actually have to cover stuff that people need. They couldn`t be cruddy policies.

So, it wasn`t a radical reconfiguration of health care in America. It wasn`t a single payer system. It wasn`t like we all got Medicare insurance. It wasn`t like V.A. care. We all got government provided care, right?

Basically, they did a small C conservative thing. They made a deal with private companies that provide health insurance. That was a compromise.

Hey, private companies that do health insurance, you`re going get a lot more customers. That`s good for you. But you can`t sell them cruddy plans anymore. Here is a whole bunch of stuff you have to cover now.

So, good for you a lot more -- a lot more customers, but you have to stop selling the cruddy plans. They have to be good plans now. OK, so that`s good for you. That`s bad for you.

Also, the government will give people subsidies to help them pay for their health insurance now. So, hey, health insurance companies, you will actually get paid because more people will be able to afford to buy these health insurance policies from you. That is good for you. But, on the other hand, compromise, you also now have to cover everyone, including people who have preexisting conditions.

And, of course, health insurance companies do not want to cover people with preexisting conditions, right? But they give away that because they`re going get more paying customers. So, it`s a compromise, right? That was the basic deal.

From a distance, you strip away all the rhetoric from it, you strip away all the death panels, death of the republic, this is the end of the world stuff, and you can kind of see this was a small C conservative plan.

This was not a radical thing. This, in fact, started off as a Republican idea for how you might do a Republican market friendly reform of the private health insurance market. It was a deal with the private health insurance companies to get more people covered, and to cover people with better plans that didn`t kick you off just because you were born with a thyroid condition or you had a lump taken out of your breast or you have diabetes or arthritis or something, right?

So, it`s real health insurance for real people that you can actually use that covers tens of more million people in this country. Oh, the horror. That`s what Republicans decided was the end of the world when Barack Obama was president. That`s a big part of how they did so exceedingly well in the 2010 midterms.

Well, now, we`re about to have the next first midterm election following a new president being elected, and now here is the problem for Republicans. Here is the Fox News Channel national poll from this past week. Question 17, quote: I`m going to read you the names of several individuals, items and groups. Please tell me whether you have a generally favorable or unfavorable opinion of each one. And this is a list of things they polled on.

Again, this is the Fox News Channel poll from this past week. Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the Republican tax and Trump administration tax reform law from 2017? The answer from the American people -- meh, 44 percent favorable. OK?

Do you have a favorable or unfavorable view of the Republican Party? Same answer, meh, 44 percent favorable.

Do you have a favorable or unfavorable view of President Donald Trump? Meh, again, 44 percent favorable. Actually, not bad for a president. But still, 44 percent approval.

Interestingly, the next one they asked about was the #metoo movement. OK? Republican tax law, Republican Party, Donald Trump, the #metoo movement. Do you have a favorable or unfavorable view of the #metoo movement? There a little more enthusiasm, 48 percent of Americans have a favorable view of that.

OK. Do you have a favorable or unfavorable view of the Democratic Party? Yes, actually, getting up there. Now, it`s 49 percent like the Democratic Party.

But of all these individuals, items, and groups, what comes in on top? What comes in on top in the Fox News poll for this past week heading into the midterm elections? Of all of these things, which do you like the most, America?

It turns out it`s the 2010 health care law, also known as Obamacare. Yes, that one. They actually used the word "Obamacare" in the question. That one America likes, 53 percent. More than any of those other things that fox news is polling on.

And I don`t -- I mean, that was their whole list too. It`s not like I cherry-picked the ones that made the point. That was the whole list of things they polled on. The most popular one, the one over 50 percent is Obamacare.

And I don`t know if this is what the Fox News Channel was expecting to find as the most favorably viewed thing they were polling on right ahead of the midterm elections, but there is another new national poll just out from Kaiser that sort of proves the same point. Shows that that Fox News Channel result from this past week may not have been an outlier.

So, again, this is from this past week, Kaiser polled on a range of issues and said please tell us which of these issues is very important to you in making your decision on who to vote for Congress this year.

At the bottom of the list was foreign policy. Then tax cuts and tax reform, then immigration, then gun policy, then the economy and jobs. Usually, that`s the top. Usually, that`s what you expect to be the number one issue in the country heading into almost any election.

But this year, nope. By a pretty large margin, Americans say health care is very important in making their decision about who to vote for for Congress this year. Health care more important than any other issue.

And now, really drilled down, same poll. Americans are asked, OK, just narrow it down. Don`t tell us everything that`s important to you. Pick the single most important issue that will determine your decision about who you`re going to vote for for Congress in the important elections this year. What`s the single most important issue?

And again, by a large margin, the single most important issue Americans say will determine who they will vote for Congress this year is health care. The president, Republicans and Fox News right now, they`re all going nuts on anti-immigrant stuff. Twice as many Americans say they`re going to cast their vote in this year`s elections based on health care as the numbers who say they`re going to vote based on immigration. Health care, health care, health care.

And now, here is your autumn miracle for 2018. Yes, Virginia, there is a live and active fight for the future of the country, fought by apparently sentient beings, because I know you`re not going to believe this, but given that data that we`ve got as of this week about how much Americans care about health care right now, how much they actually like what the Democrats did on health care, despite what Republicans promised, right, that they would do to destroy it, given the sort of shockingly large numbers of Americans who say that their vote this year is going to be determined based on who is better for health care, more than any other issue.

Sit down. I don`t want to shock you. Grab ahold of something sturdy.

I am here to tell you that given all that of data, the truly shocking news tonight is that the Democratic Party apparently decided this year that they would campaign on health care. I know. It`s crazy, right? It makes so much sense, it`s almost impossible to believe. But they are actually doing it.

The Wesleyan Media Project has been tracking the content and the quantity of political advertising for the last few cycles in our country. They just took a national look at how candidates are actually running for election this year in these crucial congressional elections. Again, election night is two weeks from tonight. And the results are just clear as a bell and, again, shocking in some ways.

In the U.S. Senate races this year, you look at the content of ads that Democratic candidates for Senate are running, 47 percent of those ads are focused on health care. That`s quadruple the amount of time they`re spending on jobs or any other issue.

In governors` races, same thing. You look at the content of the ads that Democratic candidates for governor are running across the country, they are more about health care than they are about anything else. Forty-five percent of the ads run by Democratic candidates for governor are on health care, more than any other issue.

Now, look at races for the U.S. House of Representatives for Congress. There it`s even more striking. Fully, 61 percent of the ads that are being run by Democratic candidates for Congress talk about health care.

And actually, it`s more than that, because Wesleyan Media Project, they additionally brought out ads that are specific to Medicare. Medicare, of course, is a health insurance program. So, in addition to these 61 percent of Democratic ads run by Democratic candidates for Congress, in addition to 61 percent of the ads being about health care, another 20 percent are talking about Medicare in particular, which suggests that more than 80 percent of the ads being run by Democratic candidates for Congress this year are about health care in one way or another.

And health care happens to be by a large margin the thing that voters most care about heading into this election, right? Like I said, it`s so rational, I can hardly believe it. And what the Democrats stand for on health care, what the Democratic Party has done on health care, the American public likes right now.

Obamacare used to be unpopular. It`s popular now, right? What Republicans have been screaming about for eight years now is how much they hate what is now the very popular Affordable Care Act and all of its provisions, and how much they can`t wait to destroy it.

American public doesn`t like that idea, and it turns out Democrats are holding them to that heading into election night two weeks from now. And so, we`ve got because of that a new weird and widespread dynamic that you can see unfold right now in real-time, even in your home district, no matter who is running in your home district, you are seeing this happen. It`s happening among Republican politicians all over the country, right?

I mean, as I mentioned, Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, it got 20 more million Americans health insurance coverage who didn`t have it before. That`s a popular thing, right? It`s better to have health insurance than not.

But the single most popular element of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act is this thing about preexisting conditions, right? This critical part of the deal that was struck to pass Obamacare where it became a new rule for health insurance companies that they can no longer deny you coverage, and they can no longer charge you extra for your coverage just because you have a preexisting condition. That is a very popular provision of the law that gets rid of what was a huge and devastating and sometimes fatal flaw in what used to be the American health care system before Obamacare reformed it and achieved this deal.

That preexisting conditions thing is also infinitely relatable. Everybody knows someone who has a preexisting condition of some kind, if you don`t have one yourself.

Senator Claire McCaskill up for reelection in Missouri. When she does town halls in Missouri, as part of her reelection campaign, she asks people to stand up if they have a preexisting condition so they understand what`s at stake if the Republicans finally follow through on what they`re trying to do to get rid of Obamacare. She asks people to stand up if they have a preexisting condition or if they know somebody who does.

This is a shot of one of those Claire McCaskill town halls after she asked that question. Stand up if you have a preexisting condition or you know somebody who does. Everybody stands up.

I mean, that`s a snapshot of how it`s working in that campaign. But that`s true in your personal life. That`s true across the country.

In that Kaiser poll from this past week showing how important health care is to people making their decisions about who to vote for in this year`s election, they polled specifically on that part of Obamacare the preexisting conditions part, the part that says your health care insurance has to cover preexisting conditions, has to cover you even if you have a preexisting condition, can`t charge you more just because you have a preexisting condition.

By a 3-1 margin, Americans are in favor of that. It`s got a 75 percent approval rating. Americans love that.

Well, the basic bill that House Republicans voted on a gazillion times to kill Obamacare, it explicitly states that the preexisting conditions guarantee would be ended if Republicans got that passed. That lawsuit by 20 Republican-led states that`s pending in the courts right now to eliminate all of Obamacare, it also explicitly and specifically seeks to remove protections for people with preexisting conditions. Republicans are desperately trying both in Congress and in the states and through the courts to kill coverage for preexisting conditions.

That`s what they`re actively working on. Don`t listen to what they say. Watch what they do. This is what they`re doing.

And they used to think this was great politics. It`s clear that it`s not great politics anymore. The electorate is now absolutely opposed to them on this and really cares about health care as an issue heading into this election.

So, now, there is this weird thing happening, in hotly contested races all across the country, where Republicans who have been inveighing against the evils of Obamacare for years, who have been voting to kill Obamacare for years, who have been supporting these efforts, actively supporting efforts now to get rid of preexisting coverage, preexisting conditions coverage specifically, all these Republicans on the occasion of this election two weeks from tonight, all these Republicans are now pretending, actually on this issue, I`m kind of a Democrat. All these Republicans now trying to run on the Democratic Party`s position on health care -- they`re all running against themselves.


GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: In Wisconsin, preexisting conditions are covered. And as long as I`m governor, they always will be.


MADDOW: Actually, under Governor Scott Walker, Wisconsin is the lead named plaintiff on the federal lawsuit that would eliminate Obamacare, including specifically its protections for people with preexisting conditions. But nice try.


JOSH HAWLEY (R), MISSOURI SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I`m Josh Hawley. I support forcing insurance companies to cover all preexisting conditions.


MADDOW: Actually, Josh Hawley is the attorney general in the state of Missouri who is personally handling that state`s part in the federal lawsuit to kill Obamacare, including its protections for preexisting conditions. But again, nice try.


GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: I support forcing insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions.


MADDOW: Actually, under Florida Governor Rick Scott, his state is suing to allow insurance companies specifically to no longer cover preexisting conditions, but nice try.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m fighting to protect preexisting conditions.

AD NARRATOR: Here`s the truth. Kevin Cramer voted for guaranteed coverage for preexisting conditions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m taking on both parties and fighting for those with preexisting conditions.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Everyone agrees we`re going to protect preexisting conditions.

REP. MARTHA MCSALLY (R), ARIZONA: I want the voters to know I`m committed to protecting people with preexisting conditions. I`m fighting for it. I fought for it, and I voted for it.


MADDOW: Nope. Martha McSally, no, you did not. You actually voted to get rid of Obamacare, including its protections for people with preexisting conditions. So did you, Ted Cruz, Texas senator up for reelection. So did you, Dean Heller, Nevada senator up for reelection. So did you, Dana Rohrabacher, Russian congressman up for reelection. So did you, Congressman Kevin Cramer, running for Senate now against Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota.

You all voted to end insurance coverage for people with preexisting conditions. You all voted for it. You all voted to kill Obamacare, including that provision of it.

And now you`ve all pulled on these latex masks just in time for Halloween to pretend like actually, you`re kind of a Democrat on this issue, and people should vote for you if they want to save Obamacare, despite your voting record, your uninterrupted voting record and your uninterrupted prior political resume of trying to kill it. This is happening all over the country.

Democrats are running on health care. Republicans are pretending to be Democrats running on health care, completely denying their old voting records, and what they`re actually doing right now on the subject. And to put a cherry on top of this sundae, this week, two weeks out from the election, the Trump administration has just announced that they are imposing new rules on the states. That for the first time since Obamacare passed, they will allow health insurance companies to once again start refusing to cover people with preexisting conditions.

States will now be able to have health insurance coverage once again like we used to have that doesn`t cover people with preexisting conditions or that charges them more because you`ve got a preexisting condition. New rule just issued by the Trump administration yesterday. They literally picked the issue that more Americans care about than any other heading into this election, and on that issue they did the exact and specific opposite of what the American people want on this issue, and this issue proves to be more motivating than any other for how people are going to vote in two weeks` time.

How`s that likely to work out?

That`s next.


MADDOW: Two weeks from tonight, you are going to find yourself in a relatively long-term relationship with our next guest. MSNBC national political correspondent Steve Kornacki is going to be your boyfriend two weeks from tonight. At least he is going to be your companion for a very long evening. He is our data guy in terms of tracking the midterm elections. He joins us now live.

Steve, thank you very much for joining us.


MADDOW: I didn`t mean to unnerve you.

KORNACKI: Maybe more than one night. We could have overtime. That`s a whole other thing.

MADDOW: Well, that`s going to be quite a commitment for our viewers.

I want to talk to you about what we`re seeing in terms of health care. This is something that`s been sort of part of the discussion for a long time. But as we head into this last two weeks, it is incredibly striking to me that the polling data seems to indicate that people care -- people like Obamacare. They like Democrats on health care. Health care is more important to them than any other issue in terms of driving their vote.

They really, really like protections for people with preexisting conditions as a specific matter. And Republicans this week are saddled can the Trump administration acting unilaterally to remove those protections. That seems to me like a red hot political factor heading into the last two weeks.

KORNACKI: It is I think unquestionably from an issue standpoint, it`s the single best weapon Democrats have. If you just look at the advantage they have when you ask folks which party do you trust on the issue of health care, the advantage for Democrats is double-digits on the issue. That`s certainly better than they have on the economy. It`s better than they have on any other issue that`s out there right now.

But more than that, they think and they`re hoping that it speaks to a very particular type of voter, and you`re talking about what you might call the Obama/Trump voter. We spent so much time looking at those voters who flipped between `12 and `16. A lot of them blue collar, a lot of them in the Midwest. Not necessarily all in the Midwest.

But it`s interesting because Trump appealed to those voters on cultural grounds. He appealed to them in the sense that they were very frustrated with Washington. They liked that idea of sort of taking the wrecking ball to Washington.

But these are voters when you drill down, they are more open to the idea of government having a role with Medicare, with Social Security, and, yes, when it comes to protections for preexisting conditions and some of these other aspects of Obamacare.

Obama was able to win them in 2008 and 2012. Trump was able to win them over in 2016. Remember, his message in 2016 as a candidate was I`m different than Republicans when it comes to social safety net questions.

And so, Democrats sense right now there is a vulnerability there, that that there could be a little bit of buyer`s remorse with those voters in particular in districts that, you know, Obama won by five points, then Trump won by ten points. And maybe there is a Republican congressman sitting right there and Democrats make that Republican congressman answer on specifically this issue of health care, that might be their best way back in those districts they lost in `16.

MADDOW: So, one of the things that people talk about heading into an election like this, midterm election, when a president is not on the ballot is how nationalized the election is, whether or not people go into the voting booth, they`re thinking about national issues. They`re thinking about national leadership or they`re thinking about a specific member of Congress.

Do we know to what extent that is a factor and that is playing on either side in this race? Because obviously, we just showed all that tape of all of these members of congress, all of these people who are running for Congress and Senate on the Republican side who are like, I`m pretty much a Democrat on this issue. Don`t blame me when you think about repealing Obamacare. If I ever did that before, I don`t want to be remembered for it now.

But then there is Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate saying, yes, we`re going to definitely go after Obamacare if we hold on to the Senate. And there is President Trump`s administration specifically going after preexisting conditions coverage. So those national factors would seem to be a real headwind for individual Republicans who are trying to run campaigns that detach themselves from Republican politics on this issue.

KORNACKI: Yes, and I think that`s the tell. Looking at what the candidates themselves are doing, because they have been looking at the polling on this. They have been absorbing the Democratic advertising. If you look at Democratic advertising all across the country, overwhelmingly health care is the issue Democrats have been using in all sorts of districts to try to put Republicans on the defensive.

And the fact that Republicans are responding the way you`re showing suggests that Republicans feel politically that`s been an effective message. And I`ve had the same question, especially about what McConnell was saying this week. It`s sort of four or five years ago, maybe even more recently, Republicans could put that Obamacare repeal message out there, and it might land a certain way with the base.

But the politics of that seem to change when Republicans got the presidency in both chambers of Congress and tried to move on it. And that McConnell move to me felt sort of like a pre-2017 move on the Republicans` part, something that worked in the last midterm. I`m not sure in this one.

The interesting thing, and this ultimately you look at the kinds of districts I`m describing, though, these Obama/Trump districts. The Republicans have felt sort of a little bit better in the last couple of weeks. Post-Kavanaugh, they felt there is a surge of Republican support there.

It`s going to be interesting to balance that sort of, they think there is a coming home around post-Kavanaugh, balance that with what Democrats think they`re able to do with health care. Which one of those is going have to more resonance in those districts? I think that`s going to go a long way of telling us what kind of night election night going to be.

MADDOW: That`s right. This is going to be one of the few nights I`m interested in the exit poll data to the extent that we have it, that shows the basis on which people made their decision how they were going to vote. If the health care interests remains as high on election night as it is today, I think that`s going to be -- it`s potentially determinative in terms of how this works out.

Steve Kornacki, MSNBC national political correspondent, I hope you`re eating your vitamins and resting and going to the gym.

KORNACKI: I am psyched on this. I`m going to be ready to go. You can count on that.

MADDOW: Thanks.

All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: You might have seen these headlines over the past few days. Quote, Vladimir Putin uses speech to herald end of U.S. hegemony. That was in "The Financial Times".

Also, this one from "The Huffington Post." Putin hails sunset of U.S. global domination due to mounting, quote, mistakes. Again, that`s "The Huffington Post."

Also, this one from ABC News. Quote: Putin says U.S. dominance is ending after mistakes, quote, typical of an empire.

Those are the headlines. They were not exaggerating. In a speech a few days ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke at length about the end of America as a superpower and how grateful he is for that, and how grateful the world should be for that. Quote: Empires often think they can make some little mistakes because they are so powerful. But when the number of these mistakes keeps growing, it reaches a certain level they cannot sustain.

Quote: A country can get the sense from impunity that you can do anything. This is the result of the monopoly from a unipolar world. Luckily, this monopoly is disappearing. It`s almost done.

It`s almost done, by which he means we`re almost done. The Russian president then went on to brag about the fact that the president of this failing empire, this former power that is now almost done, that president does what Putin says, takes his advice and listens very closely to everything he wants.

This is from the write-up of his speech in "The Financial Times". Quote, Mr. Putin said President Donald Trump had listened to his arguments and was not impervious to advice as suggested by some U.S. media.

ABC News coverage covered that part of Putin`s speech in terms that were a little more blunt. Quote, the Russian president also defended President Donald Trump saying he didn`t agree with characterizations that Trump only listened to himself. Quote, maybe he acts like that with someone else, but in that case, they`re to blame, Putin said. I have a completely normal and professional dialogue with him, and of course he listens. I see that he reacts to his interlocutor`s arguments.

This guy, you know, running this falling power that`s almost over, he comes when I call. He does what I say.

That was a few days ago. That speech from Putin was Thursday of last week.

The following day, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed a new indictment charging a 44-year-old Russian national for allegedly being the paymaster, the head accountant for an ongoing multimillion-dollar effort run by and funded by an oligarch close to Putin that was part of the Russian government directed effort to mess with our election to help Trump in 2016. The new indictment says those efforts directed by Putin continue to this day.

That same effort is still in effect. It`s actually spending more money now. It`s a more concerted effort now by the Russian government to try to affect the 2018 election this year too.

So, Thursday was Putin giving a public speech proclaiming the end of America as a superpower, bragging about his ability to direct the president of the United States. The next day, the Justice Department unseals an indictment laying out Putin`s continued, in fact advanced interference in this year`s elections, even after they got caught for what they did in 2016. The day after that, Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton was on his way to Moscow at which point we were promptly informed, naturally by Russian state media, that National Security Adviser John Bolton was likely to meet personally with Vladimir Putin on his trip.

Oh, that`s nice. It`s a nice reward after all the nice stuff that Putin has been doing and saying about us recently. Remember how John Bolton is supposed to be a legendary tough guy?

Today was the meeting between Bolton and Putin. Did you hear the part about Putin kicking off that meeting by insulting and mocking the official seal of the United States to Bolton`s face? And Bolton is sitting there with his hands folded, laughing and smiling about it and waiting for more.

Coming up next, more scenes from Trump tough guy diplomacy, this time shot entirely from the advantage point of Vladimir Putin`s lap. That`s next.


MADDOW: President Trump`s first national security adviser Mike Flynn is currently awaiting sentencing on federal felony charges. After Mike Flynn, President Trump fairly rapidly went through a second national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster. That didn`t last long.

When John Bolton was named the third Trump national security adviser in less than two years, part of the mainstream worry about Bolton was that he is widely seen as a super hard-liner, a screamer, somebody who makes enemies everywhere, whose unreasonably hot tempered and quick to a fight.

Yes, maybe no, it turns out. Today, Mr. Bolton met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This is just days after Putin gave a public speech announcing with some considerable glee the demise of the United States as a world power, bragging in that speech that the U.S. President Donald Trump is essentially at his service and doing things that Putin wants him to do.

This also follows an unsealed indictment from the U.S. Justice Department in which a Russian citizen was accused by the U.S. Justice Department of continuing to essentially serve as the paymaster for an ongoing Russian effort to interfere not just in the 2016 election, but also in the 2018 election. Immediately following that speech and that indictment, Bolton took this meeting today with Putin.

The meeting started off with Putin mocking the official seal of the United States. He asked Bolton if the eagle on the official seal of the United States had gobbled up all the olives from the olive branches held in the eagles` talons, leaving it only arrows, because it gobbled all the food on the seal. John Bolton laughed along with that and made nice.

John Bolton was asked about Russian meddling in the U.S. election and asked if he brought that up with President Putin, or with his other Russian hosts. John Bolton said that the Russian meddling did not have an impact on the outcome of the 2016 election. That was his take on that issue while he was in Russia.

Bolton and Putin then announced plans for President Putin to meet with President Trump next month in Paris. Putin brought that up today at their meeting. Bolton responded by saying president Trump is a looking very much forward to seeing president Putin at that meeting. It`s real tough talk from John Bolton today in Russia, right?

Justice Department unseals a new indictment the day he leaves for Moscow detailing how Moscow at this moment is meddling in our current elections. John Bolton gets over to Russia and says ah, you guys want to get together later? He then sits across from Putin as Putin mocks American symbols, and brags about how he`s got the American president on a leash? And the whole thing ends with, we`ll see you in Paris.

If that wasn`t enough in terms of the timing of everything, today, we learned that U.S. Cyber Command is launching its first cyber operation against Russian meddling, supposedly targeting Russian operatives who are trying to interfere in our elections. That comes apparently just now two years after the 2016 election when we first discovered the Russian meddling, and a few days after we learn that it has continued all of this time, including all through this year.

Joining us now is Michael McFaul. He`s the former U.S. ambassador to Russia under President Obama.

Mr. Ambassador, really appreciate you being here tonight. Thanks for your time.


MADDOW: I am taking a snarky tone about this stuff. I`m cognizant of that. I`m also cognizant of my past personal criticism of John Bolton as somebody who could pick a fight with a fern, somebody who could find conflict where none existed, and who couldn`t be essentially trusted to keep the peace where that was necessary.

I`m seeing a grave contrast in my own previous criticism of Mr. Bolton and his behavior in Moscow. How do you see it?

MCFAUL: Well, it`s selective. He`s still beating up on Iran, it sounds like he even gets inside fights at the White House from reporting we know. But on Russia, he has pivoted. There`s just no question.

He is following what his president wants him to do. I think he does that, in part, because he wants to keep his powder dry for the fight with Iran that he cares more about. But as you just pointed out, nothing that he said today, and even his body language, compares at all. It`s 180 degrees different than the John Bolton we used to see on Fox News.

He has done a complete reversal in terms of both policy and even the optics of the way he deals with the Russians now.

MADDOW: In terms of the remarks made publicly at the conference by President Putin just ahead of this meeting in this two-day visit to Moscow by John Bolton, I know that President Putin in the past has sort of waxed rhapsodic about how he wants there to be -- he wants the United States to no longer be a single super power.


MADDOW: That he thinks a unipolar world where the United States has outsize influence is bad for Russia and bad for the rest of the world, and he looks forward to the day when that is over.

My sense was this was a slightly different tone, and that he`s proclaiming America is over, that the end is near and that he`s glad for this.


MADDOW: Is that actually a representation -- is that a fair representation of his progression on this?

MCFAUL: I thought the tone was different. I agree with you. And I think he believes that because of the acceleration of the decline of American power.

President Trump is the chief instigator of that. I mean, just think about all the things that Trump has withdrawn from, right? He withdrew from the Iran deal. He withdrew from the Paris climate accord agreement. He withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership and just this week he is pledging to withdraw from the INF treaty, a treaty that Reagan and Gorbachev signed, to get rid of a whole class of missiles in Europe.

So, those are all aspects of withdrawal. And then, second, add to that, just look at all the opinion polling around the world, and there`s very few countries -- in fact, I think it`s only Russia and Israel right now, that has a more positive view of the United States today than they did two years earlier.

And then number three, polarization in America, the kind of fighting we are having internally. You put those all three together, that`s all good news for Putin that all suggest American decline, and it`s all happening or accelerating because of President Trump.

MADDOW: And for him to proclaim that and run a sort of victory lap on that, and then have the American national security advisor come over and yak it up with him and congratulate him on how great our relationship is, after he just proclaimed our death as a world power, it`s --

MCFAUL: Extraordinary. And Bolton did not try to refute it. Even in his press conferences and other places, he didn`t take it on head on, what Putin said. That was also remarkable to me.

MADDOW: Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia. Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

MCFAUL: Thank you.

MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: I promised you at the top of the show we had some new data for you that you haven`t seen anywhere else on what`s happening already in the elections as people all over the country are starting to vote early ahead of what is actually Election Day and election night two weeks from now. We`re going to roll the charts, please.

And one of the things we`ve been watching is how many people have been turning out to vote in the great state of Georgia where they`ve got a red hot governor`s race among other contests this year. We`ve been watching this big increase in early voting in Georgia, comparing the first three days of voting in 2018 to how many people voted early there in 2014, which is the last time we had a midterm election.

So, here`s 2014 early voting in Georgia compared with this year`s early voting over those same first three days. Incredible increases in the first three days in Georgia. It turns out not to just be an early burst of enthusiasm.

We`ve now got cumulative data for the whole first eight days of early voting in Georgia, and look at the difference overall. It`s 2014 on the left, Georgia early voting for the first eight days. It`s more than tripled compared to the last midterm election. That`s Georgia.

Same story over in Texas. When Texas started early voting yesterday, people waited in lines that snaked around parking lots and schools and city buildings. Voters even pitched tents to make sure they`d be first in line to vote.

Today, we got our first data snapshot of what that enthusiasm looks like in terms of raw numbers. What we`ve done here is come up with the numbers, the data here for the top 10 counties in Texas by population, top 10 counties in Texas by number of registered voters. Across the last few congressional elections, the first day of early voting in Texas in those big 10 counties has told a little shy of 100,000.

Look at this year. It was more than 334,000. That`s more people voting than the first days of the last two midterm cycles combined.

Used to be that you got way more people on opening day for presidential election. But the early voting this week in Texas is brushing up against the early voting even for 2016 which is the presidential year. So, it`s just -- it`s just crazy.

This is your election. You are living this, two weeks out.

That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.


Copy: Content and programming copyright 2018 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.