Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL Date: August 7, 2018 Guest: Mike Murphy; Danny O'Connor; Amanda Wurst
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And imagine the thrill for Rachel Maddow viewers who finally have you back. I have a message from your fans, Rachel, from coast to coast, from Massachusetts to California. Please don't ever take a vacation again. Is that -- that's doable, right?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": That seems both kind and hostile.
O'DONNELL: It's love, Rachel. It's a love thing.
And I'm so glad you focused on what the judge has been doing in this trial. Some of the newspaper accounts are not complete because they can't include everything that's said in the bench conferences. When I've studied some of the bench conferences in the transcripts, I think, oh, OK, actually, it's OK because -- but today in one of the things you just discussed. Today, the judge actually entered cross-examination making argument for the defense in the middle of the Gates cross-examination, which is something I have never seen before.
MADDOW: And today at one of the bench conferences, we got the transcript of that not in -- we got no transcript of that. It ended up sealed. Something like six pages of transcript from what was discussed at the bench on one really important objection is sealed and not in the transcript. So, we are seeing this thing evolve as we push through this part of the testimony for sure.
O'DONNELL: And there's going to be a lot more. And we have to get straight from you to Steve Kornacki with about one second in between because it's too close to call, as you know.
MADDOW: Right on. Thanks, man.
O'DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel.
It is too close to call in Ohio's 12th congressional district. And that means joining us now with the latest on the Ohio 12th congressional race is Steve Kornacki.
Steve, where are we?
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Almost everything is in, Lawrence. Right now, we are almost entirely down to one county, basically it's this. Danny O'Connor, the Democrat, just in the last two minutes before I came on here, he took the lead in the overall count. You can do the math there at home, 201 votes is the lead for Danny O'Connor.
Now, that's the good news for Democrats. The bad news for Democrats is he did it by basically exhausting what was left in Franklin County. Franklin County, it looks tiny on your screen, but it's a third, at least a third of the vote that's going to be cast tonight in this district. This is densely populated Columbus. Very near Columbus suburbs right here.
And Danny O'Connor's been gobbling up 65 percent of the vote here. And if you'd told Democrats at the start of tonight he's getting 65 percent there, they would have been very happy. But there's only a small number of precincts, 99 percent of them are in out of Franklin County.
So, O'Connor has almost exhausted all of it. He could get I little bit more. The only other thing then that is left on the board with O'Connor ahead 201 and maybe squeezing a few extra votes still out of Franklin County, Delaware County. And we have 2/3 of the vote in in Delaware County.
Balderson, the Republican running, getting a 53 percent clip right now. We're just taking a look a minute ago at the precincts, the individual precincts. We could tell you this.
What did Donald Trump get in 2016 in Delaware County? He got 55 percent. Balderson is running under that.
We just took a look a minute ago. This is by no means comprehensive. You know, the precincts that are left. How many of them are precincts where Trump did better or worse than that 55 percent?
We were able to say -- I think there were some more that were better than 55 than were worse. There were certainly some that were worse. So, I think Balderson -- oh, we just -- Lawrence, let me just do the math right here. We just got a burst. We went from 66 to 82, about half the outstanding vote came in as I was talking. It took it to nearly -- to about 3,900 votes district-wide, countywide. And that does put Balderson back in the lead by 0.4 of a percentage point. That is a margin, as you can see, 677 -- 741, 741 votes is the margin right now.
Seven hundred forty-one votes is Balderson's lead, 17 percent of the vote still to be counted in Delaware County. And just making sure we didn't get any updates here. Still a sliver here in Franklin County. I'm curious to see what they are.
So, Bald -- and then -- look. There's two things to keep in mind here. And I want to just get the countywide up here. Number one, state law in Ohio, if you are within 0.5 of a point that's a recount. It's 0.4 right now. So, that's one thing to keep in mind.
The other is we say this when they're this close at the end of the night, provisional ballots. We're trying to dig up some statistics here. We do think that Democrats are likely to do better than the Republicans in the provisional ballots, about 2 percent.
If you looked in 2016, about 2 percent of the county's totals here ended up being provisional ballot. So, there is probably a couple thousand that might be floating around there. We would expect the Democrats to do a little better. So, that could be a source there for O'Connor.
It's really got to be in the hundreds of votes for that to kick in. It might be, though. We've got to see what comes in here in Delaware County and what's remaining if they happen to be good precincts for O'Connor, he can keep that margin where it is right now, squeeze a little bit more out of here. He'd be within that 0.5 and we'd be talking provisionals.
Obviously, if you're a Republican, you're feeling better now than if you're a Democrat about where this is going to land. But this is still -- this is still a little suspense here, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Steve, what is that name at the bottom of the ballot that's pulling 1 percent of that vote, and who does that affect?
KORNACKI: That is Manchik. That's the Green Party candidate. You can theorize all you want. You would certainly say the Green Party candidate on the left -- the sort of obvious thing you'd say is the Green Party candidate more likely to draw votes from a Democrat than a Republican.
You could also make the case, though, that hey, are there Republicans out there, they don't like Donald Trump, they don't like the Republican Party of Donald Trump and they don't want to vote Democratic, do they just use the other name that's on the ballot. But obviously when you get this close that becomes the question, 1,102 votes. It is less than 1,102 votes that are right now separating Danny O'Connor and Troy Balderson.
O'DONNELL: The Green Party once again possibly making a difference in the outcome of Democrat versus Republican. It's starting to look that way.
Steve, thank you very much. We're going to come back to you as this develops.
We're joined by Amanda Wurst. She's a Democratic strategist and vice president of the Remington Road Group and a political consulting group based in Ohio. David Jolly, a former Republican congressman from Florida. And Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster and MSNBC political analyst.
And, Amanda, to your Ohio expertise, what do you think we're seeing tonight? Where do you think this is going?
AMANDA WURST, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST IN OHIO: Republicans, this should not be a race. The fact that they have spent millions of dollars. Donald Trump was just in Delaware County last Saturday where now all eyes are focused on Delaware county. It's a county he was very successful in.
This should not be a race. This has been held by Republicans for 35 years. And the incumbents have always won by -- with 64, 65 percent of the vote. The fact that we're now watching precinct by precinct in Delaware County is incredible.
O'DONNELL: David Jolly, your former colleague in the House of Representatives, his last run in that district less than two years ago, he won by 37 points. The Republican won by 37 points. This is now down to about half a point.
FORMER REP. DAVID JOLLY (R), FLORIDA: That's right. And however this ultimately turns out I think it's safe to say tonight that Democrats should begin having a conversation about who they want to be speaker of the house because tonight's race continues a pattern of underperformance by Republicans, overperformance by Democrats. You can go back to the Ossoff race in Georgia last March. The Conor Lamb race this previous March.
The reason, though, that tonight is so important and probably more important than any other special election we've seen is its proximity on the calendar to the general election date in November. Right now, Republicans are underperforming by a solid 10 to 15 points in Ohio. There's about 50 incumbent Republicans who could not survive underperforming by 10 points in November.
If you look at this Ohio district, there are 65 to 70 Republican-held seats in Congress that are less Republican than this seat tonight. So you have to begin to count up how many seats are actually in jeopardy in November if we see a performance like we've seen by Democrats tonight in Ohio. It really does spell a lot of challenges for Republicans in November. And Democrats have a lot of reason to be optimistic.
O'DONNELL: Cornell Belcher, what are you seeing in the Ohio 12th tonight and what do you think it means to Democrats if the Green Party candidate in effect snatches away a victory tonight for Democrats?
CORNELL BELCHER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I want to underline what's just been said here. Look, I mean, there are 60-plus seats that are more competitive than this one. And if I'm sitting at the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, I've got to hit the panic button, right? This is not a seat that should in fact be close at all. This is not a seat that has even been competitive.
But I think you're seeing the pattern that we're seeing in other places. And I think Governor Kasich, Republican Governor Kasich, hit on this right. You know, Donald Trump can fire up the base of the Republican Party.
But you need moderate Republicans, especially in those suburban, sort of upscale suburban seats. You have a lot of moderate women, college-educated women. And you see the pattern of this, sort of these especially women, especially college-educated women breaking hard away from the Republican Party, even harder from the Republican Party this year than we saw in 2006 which puts a lot of districts like this, makes a lot of districts like this competitive.
And if you carry that trend over where you see these, you know, upwardly mobile suburban districts breaking away from Republicans at this clip, it's kind of time to hit the panic button and as a Republican you have to choose, do I want to save the Republican Party or do I want to stick closely with Donald Trump, right?
You're going to have to choose between the two because this -- this is a panic button sort of moment.
O'DONNELL: Let's go back to the numbers. We're going to go back to the numbers with Steve Kornacki. It's changing by the minute.
Steve, what do we have now?
KORNACKI: Yes. So I can tell you what the situation is. First of all, just again, the margin we're looking at is 743 votes right now for Balderson. You'll note it still says too close to call.
Why does it say too close to call? Look, you get into these situations when they're this close and, you know, nine times out of ten the party that ends up losing starts saying provisional ballots, provisional ballots, provisional ballots. But this is so close right now and what we know about provisional ballots and we're still learning a little about it suggests we need to understand how many provisional ballots there are in this district because we expect them to break more for the Democrat than for the Republican.
It's 743. There are still some precincts, not many at all, but there are still some precincts in Franklin County where O'Connor's been running up the score. So with whatever is left there you would expect him to make a small but eat into that 743.
What else is left? Only one thing in tonight's vote, 18 percent of the vote still to come in Delaware. The way things are going that would be padded a little bit for Balderson. You would expect that. You would expect that.
And then the question then is provisional ballots. What we have is the counties are starting to tell us. And this is why our decision desk is not changing this from too close to call because we are finding out what is out there and we know what's happened in the past.
We have a sense of it. The counties are telling us one by one how many provisional ballots they have. We've only got two. It's not very useful right now because they're very small numbers. These are very small places.
Morrow is -- there are 68 provisional ballots here. But Morrow is rural. The entire population of this county, population is 34,000. But there are 68 provisional ballots there.
Muskingum, you can come close to doubling it again. This is small but this is Balderson's neck of the woods, 117. But what we want to know really this is the heart of the district, these three counties account for 80-plus percent of the population.
If you want to know, in Franklin County, in Delaware County, in Licking County, how many were there. If you just look at the math for these things in the past they break -- in the congressional race here's what I mean. The last time you had a congressional race where we could track these things a little bit, the Republican candidate did 17 points worse on the provisional ballots than he did in the overall vote.
So, there was a pretty -- a big drop-off there. So, that's why we're looking at it this way. The other thing I said is again, if you're within half a point, 0.5 percent, there is a state law on the books that says that's, it you're going to a recount, we're not calling a winner, we can't call a winner.
So, they're within that right now. They're signature at 0.4.
O'DONNELL: Thanks, Steve. We'll come back to you as you have more developments there.
Amanda Wurst, you were about to say something as we went to Steve. Go ahead.
WURST: Yes, in terms of Republicans hitting the panic button, these two have to match each other again in November. And we have all five statewide executive offices on the ballot as well as a U.S. Senate race. And each one of those candidates going to have to look at this race and say, how do I thread that very delicate needle? By embracing President Trump, that's critical to securing my base, and also incorporating Governor John Kasich, who's growing to help me with moderates and swing voters.
Troy Balderson has frankly faltered every time trying to thread that needle.
O'DONNELL: And, Amanda, just to go back to what's going to happen in Ohio, this is a special election. Special elections for congressional seats don't carry you any further than the end of that particular Congress. So, this seat is going to be up again in November.
Do you expect the same two candidates to run? Do you expert loser tonight to run for this seat in November?
WURST: So we had a very unique process in that the primary for both the special and the general took place in May. So, these two absolutely will have a rematch in November. And Troy Balderson has been greatly supported by the Republican establishment apparatus. Millions of dollars have been spent to support his candidacy. That's frankly just not going to be an option as the map expands and there's more fires to put out for national Republicans.
O'DONNELL: And, David, that's a very important point that Amanda makes, is that the thing about safe seats is you that don't have to spend money on them and the party counts on not spending money on safe seats so that they can spend their money on the contested seats on the difficult pickups. If they have to spend money, as they did in this campaign, the special election, if they spend this kind of money again, around Ohio 12th in November.
JOLLY: To Amanda's point, there's not going to be the resources for it. I was the product of a special election, and God bless these two candidates tonight, but particularly their supporters who are probably arriving at the finish line exhausted and put their heart and soul into it.
November's going to be very different. It's not going to have the national focus. Nor is it going to have the resources.
What's going on at the National Republican Congressional Committee in real time right now is they are looking at their current incumbents and already having conversations about which ones they're going to write off, which ones they know are going to lose in November, and then they shift resources away from those resources to the races they have to save.
And, Lawrence, we're in an environment going into November where you're wondering where the cut line is. Is it incumbent Republicans favored by three or four or five? How high does the water in the blue wave actually reach? That's what they're trying to assess right now.
And at some point, very soon, three months out now, the national Republicans are going to begin to cut their losses, move resources away from certain races. This may simply be one of them that they can't continue to spend on a race that should not be competitive.
O'DONNELL: Joining our analysis now is Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez.
Chairman Perez, what are you seeing in Ohio 12th tonight?
TOM PEREZ, DNC CHAIRMAN: It's amazing, Lawrence, that we're having this conversation. As you've pointed out, 35 years or so since a Democrat has won this seat. It's gerrymandered beyond all get out by John Boehner on behalf of one of his friends in Congress. And here we are in a dead heat. And whoever wins, there's going to be a rematch in 91 days.
And what excited me, and I was out in Ohio last week, what excited me was the unity of purpose on the Democratic side. Danny O'Connor had six opponents in the primary. And after that primary, everyone came together. Everybody was united.
The local Indivisible Chapter supported one of his opponents and they were all in. The swing left, the labor movement, the DCCC, the DNC, the Ohio Democratic Party, everybody together. And that is why we got so close. And we'll see what happens here.
And, you know, if ever we need yet another reminder of the importance of getting out there and voting, here we are in another nail-biter. That's why it's so important for people to exercise their right to vote. And frankly, that's why Republicans like the Republican secretary of state in Ohio engage in such constant shenanigans to make it harder for people to vote.
O'DONNELL: We're going to have to go right back to Steve Kornacki with the latest numbers.
Steve, what do we have?
KORNACKI: Yes, Lawrence, we just got a bunch of them. I'm processing it with you. Balderson's lead has expanded in basically all -- get this. This is Delaware County. So, basically awful Delaware county -- there is still some left but almost all of it's in.
Balderson you can see he's expanded his lead. This has been Trump got 55. He's sitting at 54. 96 percent of the vote is in in Delaware County. What that's done district-wide is it's put him up by 1,680 votes. The lead for O'Connor is 1,685. That is 0.8 percent.
What is -- sorry, I just spilled some water. What is left here is a very tiny sliver of Franklin, a scattering -- small scattering of precincts in Delaware, but also this. I'm not kidding when I say absentees and provisionals. We're tracking these.
What we have right now that we know of, and we know of the counts for everything outside of the two major -- the two biggest counties here. Delaware and Franklin account for 60 percent of the population. We don't have any counts on what's still to be counted there in terms of absentee and provisional.
Outside of that, though, we are sitting at 3,730. This is in 40 percent of the district population-wise, 3,730. What are they? About 1,000 of them are provisional ballots. And we do expect on the whole district-wide those to break Democratic. The other 2,730 are absentee. A very, very, very small portion of that we expect to be military ballots. Those we assume would break Republican.
This is the question. Those other absentee ballots, are they early votes, are they votes -- a huge church, of votes in this district were cast early and O'Connor won the early vote by a very large margin. Folks who were watching earlier saw this as it played out. He won the early vote very big.
Thirty-seven thirty in the rural part of the district, when you add whatever we get out of Franklin and Delaware you can expect that number to more than double. You'd be talking ballpark figure 8,000 total, 8,500, something like that. And again, at that current split that would be what, about 6,000 absentee slash military plus about 2,500 provisional.
With the provisional expected to break Democratic, and the question then that looms is if the bulk of those absentee -- we have to understand exactly what they mean by absentee. We're trying to find out right now. But if the bulk of the absentee are from that category of early vote that we saw earlier, that would be the -- that's an if.
We're trying to find out right now. But that's why again with numbers like this where you still see too close to call on your screen.
O'DONNELL: Steve, we're going to be back to you, Steve, whenever you have more to report to us on those numbers.
And, Tom Perez, I want to go back to you on what this means for other Democratic campaigns, what you're looking at tonight, what it means strategically. What did you see in Danny O'Connor's campaign that you think you want to see duplicated in other campaigns around the country?
PEREZ: Well, listen, Danny O'Connor was fighting for the issues that mattered most not only in his district but frankly across America, fighting for access to health care. He wants to make sure that if you have a pre- existing condition, you can still keep your health care coverage. His opponent wants to do opposite.
Fighting to bring down prescription drug costs, fighting to preserve Medicare and Social Security, and his opponent wanted to raise the eligibility age for those things. These are hard -- these are nuts and bolts FDR Democratic issues that we have been fighting for and that's how we've been winning.
And so, you know, in response to your question, again, there were something like 60 congressional seats that were tighter than this district, and you see we're in a jump ball here. And so, if there's one thing we've learned over the last 18 months on this job, Lawrence, it's that we can win everywhere in this country. We have been winning everywhere. We flipped 43 seats in state races, federal races from red to blue in places like Oklahoma and elsewhere, where Donald Trump won by quite a bit.
And we're doing it by fielding great candidates, by organizing everywhere, by organizing early, by leading with our values. We're fighting for an economy that works for everyone. We're fighting for health care. We're fighting for our democracy.
And that's why we are winning. This gives me great confidence not only in the House races, but we've got opportunities to take over governorships. And this is a 12-year cycle. We have an opportunity, and we've been organizing early in Wisconsin, in Michigan, in Ohio, all of these places, great opportunities for Democratic pickups.
South Dakota, polled the other day. Guy named Billy Sutton, best candidate they've had there since the mid '70s, down by four points and surging. We're organizing across this country and we're talking about those values that are quintessentially American values, the values of opportunity. The values that say we're all in this together.
We're not going to play this zero sum politics of I succeed only if you fail. People want their leaders to fight for everyone. And that's exactly what we're doing as Democrats.
O'DONNELL: David Jolly mentioned earlier that the Republican candidate, no matter how this comes out tonight, will be the Republican candidate in November and will have much more difficulty getting financial help from the National Republican Party when you get into November because of the various demands and extended demands we have around the country.
What are you going to do from the Democratic candidate in this district when it's harder for to you concentrate on an individual district like this?
PEREZ: That's why these coordinated campaigns are so important. And that's why what I said a few minutes is go is so critically important because we don't know what's going to happen in this race. It's a jump ball.
But here's what we do know. Democrats were united in their purpose. They were united coming together. It was the indivisible chapter, swing left, the DCCC, the DNC, the Ohio Democratic Party, the labor movement. Everybody was coming together.
And we see that in Ohio with Rich Cordray running for governor. There's great candidates for attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer. And Sherrod Brown, who is a brand in himself, such a leader, such a titan.
And so, when we invest in coordinated campaigns, and that's the essence of the DNC. Our investments in infrastructure are designed to everybody up and down the ticket. We've already invested in Wisconsin by way of example, in a coordinated campaign. We don't know who the governor nominee is going to be on the Democratic side. We'll know that in about a week. But we didn't wait for that nominee.
We invested early, we invested prior to the state Supreme Court race that was held earlier this year where Rebecca Dallet won by 11 points. I think we can beat Scott Walker. I think we can elect a Democrat in Michigan. I think we can win Ohio and we're going to compete everywhere. And those coordinated campaigns where we're all in this together, that's how we win.
O'DONNELL: Democratic Party Chairman Tom Perez, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
PEREZ: Always a pleasure, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: When we come back, we'll have more with our panel on this election night and Steve Kornacki will be the first thing we see when we come back with the latest numbers.
O'DONNELL: It is another dramatic election night in America, this time in the 12th congressional district in Ohio, which has been in Republican hands for over 35 years. Tonight, the Democrat is within one percentage point of the Republican as the returns stand tonight.
Steve Kornacki is back with us now to give us the latest on those numbers.
KORNACKI: Yes, Lawrence, let me just take you through the numbers. The margin, what happened is the final few precincts in Franklin County, the Democratic stronghold, came in. That's all in. The margin right now sits at 1,688 for Balderson.
You can say everything's counted except there's just a few precincts, 96 percent in Delaware. Where are those precincts? They look like they're in areas that are pretty good for O'Connor relative to the rest of the county. We're not talking places where he's going to be getting 60 percent, 65 percent, 70 percent of the vote.
I think we're talking places where he may not lose thatch more ground, may make slight gains, eat into that 1,688. That leaves you aware, that leaves you with two questions right now. Number one, it's the provisional ballots. We certainly expect these to break for Democrats. We certainly expect them to break for Democrats by a pretty solid margin.
We think -- we don't have numbers from every county. We think they're going to be in the neighborhood of 2,500 provisional ballots here. If you gave a realistic guess, if you said Democrats, you know, got 60 percent of the provisional ballots here, maybe a little on the low end, they got 60 percent, they would net from that 500 votes.
There would be a 500 vote plurality. If they could get 2/3 of those you'd be getting close to 850. That was 900 -- maybe they get a 900 vote -- trying to eat into that figure.
As you can see, that would start to get them there. That would take a big chunk, wouldn't quite get them there. Then that leaves the other issue here.
This is a bit of mystery. And our folks at the decision desk, I'm waiting on word on this. The state of Ohio through the secretary of state's website and the board of elections, these counties are saying they have uncounted absentee ballots that currently number 2,750. And that's not even counting Delaware and Franklin. So, from the rest of the district we're being told individual in these counties, there's nearly 3,000 votes there.
What are those votes? Are those early votes that just haven't been counted yet? We think some of them, a small number, not many nearly 2,700 are military votes. So what are they? Are they actual votes that were casted? If they are early votes? That changes things significantly because the early vote went so Democratic. But we don't know. We are trying to find out.
I will pass word as soon as I know it because that becomes the key question. If the provisional is break Democratic solidly, if O'Connor kind of treads water in what's left in Delaware, you are looking at a gap then of potentially under a thousand votes. It does raise the question of would you be within 0.5 percent and have that automatic recount and it raises the question of are there other votes out there that are falling into this category of uncounted absentee that the secretary of state of Ohio is telling us are there.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Steve, we are going to let you go back to studying the numbers and find out more about those absentee ballots. We are going to go to the panel. We will come back to you, Steve, whenever we have new numbers there.
We are joined by Amanda Wurst, she is a Democratic strategist in Ohio. David Jolly, former Republican congressman. Cornell Belcher, Democratic strategist.
And Amanda, you know this district better than any of us do. I'm just reading this tweet from Frank Luntz, Republican pollster, who is pointing out that the Ohio 12th district has only once, only once since 1938 has it gone to a Democrat. That was once in 1980 when it went to a Democrat. So the hold, the Republican hold on the Ohio 12th goes all the way back to 1938. And in the most recent redistricting, as Rachel Maddow was pointing out in the last hour, it was wildly gerrymandered to make it more solidly Republican.
AMANDA WURST, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST IN OHIO: This is probably one of the most -- of the reddest districts in the count -- in the state. Particularly when you look that it does have part of Franklin County, which is trending more and more progressive. Columbus in particular has Ohio State University and a number of other economic drivers that are bringing younger voters to stay in the city.
You know, I think also what you see in this district and in this race in particular is you have really seen -- I know we have talked a lot about the coordinated campaign, but also you are taking a look at a lot of progressive organizations, independent progressive organizations that have been on the ground since 2016. And because they have been building this progressive infrastructure in central Ohio and throughout the state, one example is for our future Ohio that has been canvassing in this district, was able to flip a switch. So not only were they able to engage in this race and add capacity where there hasn't been in previous elections, but also this was a great trial run for November and a great opportunity to see what the progressive infrastructure can do when it flexes its muscle.
David Jolly, this is unlike other congressional elections where when these two candidates, the winner and the loser if we have one tonight, wakes up tomorrow, they are both running full-scale congressional campaigns just as hard as they were running yesterday. They will be running tomorrow for the November version of this election.
DAVID JOLLY (R), FORMER FLORIDA CONGRESSMAN: And that's it. I woke up the day after my special election and had five or six months until I faced re- election in an equally competitive district as the special. That's when party leaders told me. Your first job is to go raise money. And not to legislate, not to do anything you that expect to do as a member of Congress but go raise money for November.
Lawrence, I think one of the interesting things we may be talking about tomorrow --
O'DONNELL: So David, let's just pause on that. I just want to - so you are talking about you win a special election as a Republican in Florida, you go to Washington, you get sworn in, and they say to you forget about showing up for committee hearings, forget about your duties that you just took an oath to here in this building, your job is to raise money for yourself because you are much more on your own now when it comes to the November election.
JOLLY: That's it, Lawrence. You can imagine when I first said that publicly. It was actually on "60 Minutes." Party leaders kind of put me in a corner.
Yes, look, I had a meeting with a member of party leadership and my deputy chief of staff over at the NRCC where I was told your first job every day when you wake up is to raise money. And I believe they set the target at about $18,000 a day. They wanted me to raise $2 million in about six months. And understand I couldn't rely on party resources or outside money because everybody had just given everything they had.
I got called to the carpet by the NRCC. They said that never happened. So I provided the outlook calendar, the date, the time and the room. And ever since then they have shut up about it. But that is, whoever wins this race tonight is going to be looking at a serious fund-raising hole.
Lawrence, one thing to watch in the morning tomorrow though is this. What does the Donald Trump wing of the party -- actually it is the party, the 90 percent that is Donald Trump Republicans.
What do they say about this? Because the Republican candidate in Ohio, though he has notionally embraced Donald Trump, he has not gone full make America great again. I actually think you are going to see the President and his minions say the reason this was so close is because our candidate in Ohio was not Donald Trump enough. And they are going to delay the blame on the candidate in Ohio for underperforming. They are going to say if he was closer to Donald Trump he would have done better tonight.
O'DONNELL: And Cornell Belcher, we have a report from governor Kasich, Republican governor of Ohio, who said that the Republican candidate Troy Balderson did not invite Donald Trump to come to that district to campaign for him but Donald Trump came anyway.
CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, the problem is -- and you were saying it's all across the country. Is Donald Trump does in fact turn off moderate voters, right? And you have a whole swath of those particularly moderate women who have been leaning Republican right now who clutch their pearls every time Donald Trump speaks. And governor Kasich is right. You know, in these swing moderate districts where you do need to win, you know, college educated women, Donald Trump is a problem.
But I also want to go back to something you said -- you that pointed to earlier, Lawrence, right. And is, we are looking at an election here that's probably after the provisionals is probably going to be less than a point. Right? So I have to say to my fellows who are voting the green party, look, we are facing an existential threat to our climate and to our democracy, right? And I know the Democratic Party isn't perfect. But these elections are too close for you to not make a choice between the lesser of two evils. And in the end you know very well there's a party that doesn't even believe in climate change and one party that embraces science.
We cannot allow, you know, the party that does not believe in climate change to continue to win by these narrow margins, right? People voting third party. And we saw the protest vote in 2000 -- in the last Presidential election, 2016, which I think sort of swung the election away from Hillary.
I hear you green party. I hear you are not happy with the Democrats. But at this point you have to make a choice between the lesser of two evils.
O'DONNELL: We are going to squeeze in a break here. When we come back, we will have Steve Kornacki and the latest numbers.
O'DONNELL: We are back with our breaking news coverage tonight, of tonight's big special election in Ohio's 12th congressional district.
Steve Kornacki is back with us and he has the latest numbers.
Steve, what do you have?
KORNACKI: They are all the same -- all the votes that were cast today, they are now all counted. So you have got 100 percent reporting from all of these counties and you can see the margin there, the margin is 1,766 votes for Balderson. So the question is right now you can see that 0.9 points. That would be north of that 0.5 that triggers a recount. The question now just becomes can that survive the provisional ballots, the absentee ballots, the military votes that are out there?
We think there is going to be probably a little bit north of 2,500, maybe, say, around 2,700 provisional ballots that are cast in this district. If they break democratic, I mean, you could do the math reasonably speaking if the Democrats netted 700, 800 vote plurality out of the provisionals. That would take a big bite out of that. It would raise the question are they going to get within 0.5. It would not overtake Balderson.
We also had the question of absentee ballots, did they exist? What is the secretary of state telling us? We think now that there's a small number of military votes. We expect they would break Republican. A very small number. And the thinking now is those absentee ballots they're probably ballots that were mailed out and not returned and then listed as uncounted absentee.
So it looks like provisional military basically what's left. Balderson ahead. It looks like the Democrats if you told them at the start of the night they were going to get turnout and support they got at Franklin, they would say they won. The Republicans may be bailed out by those rural areas where Trump surged in 2016.
O'DONNELL: Steve, so are we going to have more votes counted tonight?
KORNACKI: So the procedure and the rule in Ohio is that no provisional ballot is counted for at least ten days after the election.
O'DONNELL: OK. So you have created a bit of suspense there. We are going to come back to you, Steve, in a minute.
MSNBC correspondent Garrett Haake joins us from the O'Connor headquarters in Westerville, Ohio.
Garrett Haake, a group of Democrats there waiting for their first victory in over 35 years in this district. What's the latest from there?
GARETT HAKE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lawrence, it sounds like they are going to have to wait a little bit longer. They are trying to keep enthusiasm up here. But as Steve pointed out, the numbers are just really, really tough to make up for this democratic campaign here of Danny O'Connor, who by a lost accounts really ran pretty much error-free baseball especially the last couple of days of this campaign. But really ran into a wall with the math.
I can tell you by being on the ground here the last few days the enthusiasm for this candidacy and for the idea of taking back the house is absolutely real here. And it's something that's going to buoy Democrats across the country that they outperformed here, regardless of the final result.
But that said, moral victories do not a majority make. And Republicans I think will look at this and say their theory of the case, of bringing in President Trump, juicing turnout in rural parts of the district, and then holding on tight might have been enough to get them through here. Can they replicate that in other parts of the state? I think they are less excited to test that theory than Democrats are to test the theory of taking good candidates and running against this President in a lot of suburban districts that look a lot like this around the country.
O'DONNELL: The one thing we know we are going to hear in both candidates' speeches tonight, Garrett, is that they are going to ask their supporters to get out there first thing tomorrow and keep this campaign going because they are both going to be running for this seat in November.
Garrett Haake at Democratic headquarters in the 12th congressional district. Thanks for joining us.
And we are now joined by Republican strategist Mike Murphy.
Mike, joining us by phone, really appreciate you getting in here. You have run Presidential campaigns that needed to win Ohio. You've campaigned hard in Ohio. You know the 12th congressional district. What are you seeing in that district tonight?
MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, it's an interesting one because nothing beats winning. So congratulations to Balderson, who I think is going to take it. But this is a very close race deep in the Republican end zone. There are, you know, more than probably 45 Republican incumbents who have worse districts than this generic generically.
So it's a win for the Republicans but it's a chilling one because we are not supposed to be having to spend millions of dollars to defend a district like this. So, you know, I think both parties can find something to brag about. The Republicans held this seat. That counts for a lot. But this thing shows there are bad headwinds for the GOP, mostly driven by the President.
And you can see it, you know, we need a little more time to look at the precinct by precinct numbers. But clearly, the rural affection for the President is still there. The base Republican affection is still there. But the suburban affection is eroding and giving the Democrats a real opportunity, and the more Democratic areas are really worked up and I think we are going to see when we really analyze this some turnout there, which is another sign that these fall elections are going to be super competitive in a lot of places they normally aren't.
O'DONNELL: Mike, we always try to interpret special election results for what they mean for the next congressional election, but we rarely get special election results this close on the calendar, 90 days away from the November election. Is there something more important in tonight's message than we would have gotten if this was six months ago?
MURPHY: Well, I think this is the Pennsylvania 18 trend. This time it went our way. But these are, if you look at the bigger picture, almost margin of error elections, both in the Republican backfield. So there is a blue wave. It's up against some fairly safe Republican seats to get, you know, beyond the 24. But there's no doubt the majority is very much in play. And I talked to a bunch of Republicans in swing districts, and they are nervous as hell. There will be fighting because this is also a wake-up call for the GOP. So both sides have something here.
O'DONNELL: Mike Murphy, thanks for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
We are going to have more on this special congressional election in Ohio's 12th district straight after this break. Steve Kornacki will be back with us.
O'DONNELL: And we are back with our special coverage of tonight's special congressional election in the Ohio 12th congressional district. Steve Kornacki is back with us with the latest numbers. And what you are reporting, Steve, on when we are going to find out about the rest of these ballots.
KORNACKI: Yes. OK, boy. This is have been - certainly, Balderson is feeling good right now, leading this thing by 1,766. We have a number of provisional ballots for the county. And I want to make sure of the addum, 3,435 is the number district-wide of provisional ballots tonight.
Two things jump out of here. One, that's basically double the level of Balderson's lead in this thing. We know the provisional. We usually expect them to break democratic pretty heavily. Would that be enough to erase 1,766? That doesn't seem likely. Would that be enough to get the margin within 0.5 percent which would automatically trigger a recount? That certainly looms as a possibility.
So 3,435 is what we are looking at for the provisionals. We are also scrambling the secretary of state's Web site says the provisional ballots are not to be counted, these provisional ballots, for ten days following the election. We are making sure that's not a typo. So we are checking the books here on that. But the 1,766 - 3,435 there Lawrence on the provisional.
O'DONNELL: And joining our discussion now is Brian Williams who will be seamlessly taking over this coverage at 11:00 p.m. `
And Brian, we are going to ask the secretary of state, would they please consider counting those ballots during your hour instead of waiting those ten days.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: First of all, I was going to ask you, what about tonight is seamless? Why start now? And secondly, oh, it looks like we --
O'DONNELL: Oh, we have Danny Sullivan -- Danny O'Connor, sorry, speaking at his election headquarters. Let's listen.
DANNY O'CONNOR (D), OHIO CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: -- of our country. I am so grateful. I am so grateful for all of your support. You believed in us. In a race that the pundits said we had no chance even being in. You proved them wrong.
They gerrymandered, they gerrymandered and carved up a district to favor the establishment. But you know what? They never saw you coming. And I'll tell you what. And I want to say something. I want to thank the people behind me, my family, my parents, my sister, my uncle Buzz, and the love of my life, my fiance Spencer. We just good engaged a couple of months ago, nothing else going on, right?
I'll tell you what, this campaign, it is truly something special. We have gone to every corner of this district, because we know if you want to represent the seven counties of this district in congress, you need to fight for Delaware County. You need to fight for Lincoln County, Merion County, Richland County, and Franklin County. That's what we're going to do when we go to Washington.
And as I went across this district, I heard over and over that the people of central Ohio are sick and tired of the same old Washington politics. Folks want new leadership. A new generation of voices that aren't concerned with party politics but with what's best for Mansfield and Delaware and Columbus and Newark and everywhere in between. And as we see division and discord tearing apart our country, we must remember that each and every one of us are god's children and that all of us need to be treated with dignity and respect. And I think we can use a lot more of that spirit in Washington these days.
We have to work. We have to work to find common ground. We have to not only listen to but respect one another. And that's why I'll work with anyone that wants to deliver solutions for central Ohio, because too often folks retreat to their partisan corners and aren't focused on getting things done for working families right here in our community. In our fight, we have rejected, we have rejected corporate PAC money, because big money, we know that big money from big corporations is just one part of the problem with our election. This is a grassroots campaign. Powered by small donations. Powered by people who just want to have a chance at winning the future for their community.
We had seniors on fixed incomes writing us $10 and $20 checks. We had young people saddled with college debt chipping in because they wanted to be able to afford health care someday. There was a woman who had severe arthritis who could only write two post cards a day but every day she wrote those post cards. She kept fighting. She kept fighting because she and all of us are fighting for our country. We are fighting for a better America. We went door to door. We went house to house. We made our case for change. We are going to make that case tomorrow. We're not stopping now. Tomorrow we rest and then we keep fighting through to November. Let's go out there. Let's get it done. Let's change this country. Thank you all.
O'DONNELL: Brian Williams, the one predictable line in both of these candidates' speeches tonight was, we're going to be out there tomorrow, fighting. They are now, no matter who is the ultimate winner of this thing, running for that November election about 90 days away from now.
WILLIAMS: Lawrence, it seems like you have worked in politics before, because even though it's an August night, that was a November pivot if I have ever heard one. And you are right, the incumbent member of Congress will get a stapler and a desk and a chair on Capitol Hill but they won't feel like moving in because nothing will feel permanent, because we will be back at covering this race at some point.
As you know, as you have been saying, special elections are special animals. Because the politics industry has diminishing terms for every different demographic. You are dealing with low information voters, as they are affectionately called, because there's no incumbent to market. There is no incumbent to run on. You are telling life stories in real time. So that is part of the interesting story we have seen play out here tonight.
O'DONNELL: And Brian, we just saw this 31-year-old candidate making his first big election night speech. And he obviously is going to be running pretty hard against the 56-year-old Troy Balderson in these next 90 days. We may not have a winner. Given that the results of this election can't be certified until at least these provisional ballots are counted, and so we're not going to have a seated member of Congress for possibly a couple of weeks.
WILLIAMS: Yes, tonight you had me at good evening. I have been sitting in my office watching Lawrence O'Donnell, and I still felt the need to be honest to our customers. We love having folks as we bridge the hour into late night, this is going to go well beyond late night. We are very likely not going to have a result tonight. When we wake up tomorrow, to your point, if the recount triggers are in fact triggered, we'll be at this a long time.
O'DONNELL: Brian, I have some scripts about the Manafort trial that you can use. I'll have them sent over, that we could not get into this coverage tonight.
Steve Kornacki, I want to get a LAST WORD from you about what remains to be done in Ohio when it comes to counting votes and certifying an election.
KORNACKI: Yes. I mean, it is about 1,700 votes is the margin for Balderson. Double that number, over 3,400. That is the number of provisionals. It may take them ten days to get those things counted. If they break Democratic in big numbers which you kind of expect, that could drop the margin low enough that it's within 0.5 percent. Then there's the mandatory statewide recount. So that was, you know, listening to O'Connor there, that wasn't a concession speech, that wasn't a victory speech. That is one way or another, he is moving on to November.
Well, for the next couple of weeks, potentially, possibly, the fate of this special election still remains officially unresolved.
O'DONNELL: I want to thank all of our guests who joined us in this live coverage tonight. Amanda Wurst from Ohio, David Jolly, Cornell Belcher, and Brian Williams, thank you for coming in here to create what we're going to do our best to be a seamless transition into the live coverage that continues on this election night.
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