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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, November 2, 2020

Guests: Stacey Abrams, John Fetterman, Sherrod Brown, Beto O`Rourke, Rebecca Traister, Jelani Cobb


Joe Biden and President Donald Trump are making their final push before Election Day. Polls will open tomorrow in Georgia from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Final polls show Joe Biden is ahead in Pennsylvania. Polls open tomorrow in Ohio from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Coronavirus cases are surging across the country ahead of Election Day.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Your commitment and determination have given us all so much life. I'll be back here tomorrow night for election night coverage starting at 6:00 p.m. Eastern with Rachel with Nicole. It's going to be amazing. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, on a special election eve edition of ALL IN, 97 million Americans have voted early, and the rest who are going to vote are going to do it tomorrow.

Tonight, the final rallies as Trump's pandemic offensive continues and Joe Biden tries to restore the blue wall in the state of Pennsylvania.

We're going to go live to Stacey Abrams in Georgia, to Ohio and Senator Sherrod Brown, to Pennsylvania with Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, and to Texas with Beto O'Rourke when ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York. I'm Chris Hayes. You know that music. Maybe you love it, maybe it traumatizes you a little, but by this time tomorrow night, we will be in special election night coverage with some polling places already closed and the counting underway. And who knows, at this point tomorrow night, the President may have already preposterously declared premature victory as part of an effort explicitly outlined by Donald Trump and his campaign to stop ballots from being counted and to torture American democracy.

Today, both Trump and Joe Biden did a final pre-Election Day push. Biden in that crucial state of Pennsylvania, Trump in four states including the state of Wisconsin. Now, this is a live shot of the President's rally right now in the city of Kenosha. It's in the southeastern corner of a state where right now, the Coronavirus crisis has gone from bad to worse.

Cases are spiking all across Wisconsin. You could see it in red. Hospitals are nearing capacity. There is no relief in sight. The numbers keep ticking up and up and up day after day. And Donald Trump is there with huge crowds assembled. His decision to come to Wisconsin and hold one of his rallies where attendees taking their cues from the president that don't much worry about social distancing or masks is not going to make anything better.

In fact, there's a study from Stanford Economist, and I should note the authors are not epidemiologist, the study has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, but they ran some numbers and they estimate that 18 Trump rallies resulted in more than 30,000 confirmed COVID cases and likely lead to more than 700 deaths. That's just the President's rallies.

We know the math on getting big groups of people together is bad. But Trump has just tried to ignore any damage he's doing as part of his ongoing effort to pretend that this once in a century calamity, this pandemic doesn't exist, even as it sets records and kills more than 1,000 Americans every day and gets worse and worse and worse under his stewardship.

And the stark difference between the two presidential candidates in their approach to the virus seems to be a big part or at least a part of the reason why former Vice President Joe Biden has built a relatively solid lead heading into Election Day. The best way to sort of characterize the lay of the land right now with 97 million votes already cast, that's a record for early voting, is it Joe Biden is favored to beat Donald Trump right now, but Donald Trump could still win.

I think it's probably worth a little bit of expectation setting as we think about tomorrow. Everyone spins their wheels in anxiety. First thing to get through everyone's head, I think here is that democracy is not like a sports bet, right? There's no over-under. You don't have the line to beat. You win or you don't.

For proof of that, look no further than the fact that Donald Trump is president right now because he won by less than 80,000 total votes across three Midwestern states, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, while losing the popular vote by a wider margin than anyone who's ever been sworn in as president. And most everyone, including people in the Trump camp, when they talk to reporters, expects Donald Trump to lose the popular vote again tomorrow.

And there's this idea that Joe Biden needs a blowout to overcome voter suppression efforts, and Trump's lawyers and, of course, the Electoral College, and all these other factors stacked on top of each other. And I get that. We've talked a lot about it on the show, the optimal outcome from the standpoint of American democracy and its flourishing is a massive and historic repudiation of this chapter.

But just remember, the spread doesn't matter in a presidential election. What matters is that you accumulate more votes than your opponent in states that add up to 270 electoral votes. You don't need one single vote more than that. And if you get enough votes, you become President of the United States.

And that is decided when all legitimate votes are counted. If that takes one night, or four days or a week or more, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if Trump says it's over before the counting is done. It's like a tweak. That's not how it works. The National NBC News polling average right now shows Joe Biden holding steady with more than seven-point lead, which is really a lot in a country that is this polarized.

Just for some context, take a look at this headline. I was just looking at this the other day, from the Boston Globe. It's back in 2010 and it's after the Republican there Scott Brown. Remember him? He won a special election, surprise upset win in Massachusetts. Big win for Brown, Republican trounces Coakley for Senate. Trounces, he trounces her.

Scott Brown won the election by less than five points. This is a polarized and divided country. Every national race is relatively close down. There's no such thing as a 30-point blow up. We live in a divided nation. And Biden's lead, by modern standards, is big. It is sizable, it is significant, both nationally and also crucially in Pennsylvania where Biden holds a lead bigger than the final margin in that race where Scott Brown supposedly trounced his opponent.

Now, we know things might look very different on election night than they will once all the votes are counted. We also know that Trump's lawyers and the GOP are using every possible legal tool and possibly some extra-legal tools, frankly, as well, to intimidate voters and suppress votes and use the courts to stop certain people from voting or to throw out their votes.

The way that everybody's kind of countered that is to say that the pro-democracy forces in the country to come together and overwhelmingly repudiate the attempt to undermine our democracy. And there's good reason for people to feel that way and it matters. The popular vote margin matters for arguments about legitimacy. Every single vote in the country matters for an expression of what this nation is.

But no one should lose sight of the fact that it is nowhere in the Constitution you got to win by eight or nine points to take power. And no one should succumb to this idea that if Biden doesn't win by a huge margin tomorrow, well, then Trump can work the angles and get some favorable court rulings and guess to stay in power. No, that's not how it works, OK.

The winner is the person who gets more votes when all the votes are counted in the states that add up to 270. Don't let them game expectations. That's it. No amount of election night presidential declarations, or lying or gaslighting, or spinning, or lawsuits by their army of lawyers can change that basic fact.

Now, here at NBC News, it's the job of our director of elections, John Lapinski, to make sure we call the race as accurately and without bias. And he joins me now ahead of what will likely be a fairly busy Tuesday. And I appreciate you taking a little time for us, John.

There's some things that are different this year than normal in a lot of ways. So, talk to me how you guys have adjusted the way that you're thinking about crunching numbers, making calls this year as opposed to elections past.

JOHN LAPINSKI, NBC NEWS DIRECTOR OF ELECTIONS: Yes, I think there's a couple things that we're really looking at. I mean, one for expect -- you know, on the expectation front, in some of these states that really haven't done a lot of early voting in the past, it's going to be a little bit slower for them counting the vote.

And so, it has nothing to do whether the results will be counted correctly, because I think they will. But we just have to know that in the states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, even maybe potentially in Minnesota, it just might take a little bit longer than we're used to.

The other thing, Chris, that is obviously the most important thing is this huge disparity that we're expecting where, you know, President Trump is going to do a lot better with the Election Day vote, and Vice President Biden is going to really do much better with the early vote. And so, we're really working hard and being able to separate that out and build that into our models.

HAYES: Yes. One of the things you just mentioned there, I think it's key for people to understand is that the most straightforward way for Joe Biden to win is to -- is to take back the three states in that upper Midwest region that Hillary Clinton famously lost that made Donald Trump president, that's Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania.

The thing is, those are three states that have -- don't have a long history of huge amounts of early voting, of vote by mail, and are probably going to be later in counting. Whereas a lot of those states through the Sunbelt, we're thinking we're going to have more complete results earlier, even though those aren't the same sort of like, obviously straightforward, dispositive route of the upper Midwest.

LAPINSKI: No, that's exactly right. Because on election night, it would be my expectation that a state like North Carolina and Florida, even if those results are close, if they're a couple points apart, the odds are that we'll be able to put a checkmark in for a winner.

And so, you know, you had said like, you know, the clearest way and probably the safest way for the Democrats to sort of win the presidency is through the Rust Belt, but there are alternative ways also.

HAYES: Right.

LAPINSKI: And so, if you know, Vice President Biden were to win in North Carolina or Florida, that puts President Trump in a real tough spot.

HAYES: Yes. And that's a great point. And there's a bunch of -- a bunch of those states that we're going to be getting probably close to full counts by election night. The other thing I've been thinking about is exit polling. Obviously, there's a consortium that does this. And this year, it's going to be very different. How is the exit polling methodology different? What are we going to learn from exit polls?

LAPINSKI: Yes, so we've had to adjust, you know, so we've had to do a couple things. First off, with all the early voting, we actually now our exit polling -- in-person exit polling people as they leave early voting locations. We used to really do that primarily on Election Day.

In addition to that, we're calling -- for people that do mail ballots, we're doing really high-quality telephone polls, where we call people off voter lists where we know they voted to see how they've cast their ballots. And we've also had to do a lot of, you know, PPE -- you know, personal protective equipment in making sure that people feel that it's safe to take exit polls. And we've demonstrated that in the primaries that it works. And so, we have had to adjust.

HAYES: That's interesting. So, you're using -- that makes a lot of sense. You're using the voter file matched records that says this voter, you know, in Pittsburgh, we know that they're part of -- they get fed into an algorithm that spits out a representative sample. And then you're calling it knowing they voted to do the exit polling stuff you would normally do standing outside a precinct in Pittsburgh.

LAPINSKI: Yes. And we're doing it all. Like, right -- I mean, so just to realize, we have to triangulate on this. And so what we've had to do, we're the only exit poll out there. And you know, so we need to -- you know, when you exit p0ll somebody that's an early voter, and you know, how many, Chris, there are this time around, it's an amazing number, you know, we do that and exactly right, we sort of use the most advanced techniques that we can for phone polling to make sure that we can capture that very large mail -- you know, sort of mail ballots that are coming in right now.

HAYES: What about the sort of the pace after election night? I mean, presumably, there's going to be several more days of counting. And that counting may or may not determine the weather -- winner. It depends on what the, you know, Electoral College looks like, it depends on what the margins are in the States. How do you sort of approach that?

LAPINSKI: Yes. So, the decision desk, you know, which is right behind me, we're not going anywhere. And we have a full expectation that I mean, even if we call the presidency, even if we call control the Senate, which we don't know, we don't know if we'll do that on election night. You know, we're planning to be here for a while.

And, you know, what we don't want to do is we don't want to rush the states. I mean, we want the state to count the vote accurately. We want to count all have the vote. And so, we're in no hurry.

HAYES: Yes. John Lapinski who's got his sleeping bag and a cot behind them there, they're all -- they're ready to huddle in inside the decision desk there, and will be working very, very hard. It is already working very hard. John, thanks for taking a little time out for us.

LAPINSKI: Thank you.

HAYES: Those images you saw there was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania sort of final election night rally. You got John Legend and Common on stage. Kamala Harris, if I'm not mistaken, I think will be appearing at that event. We also make it the vice president later in this hour at a final Pennsylvania event.

Now, someone who's fought firsthand against voter suppression and fought to count every vote in a very narrowly contested election is, of course, Stacey Abrams. In 2018, she came within 1.4 percentage points to becoming governor of Georgia. Today at a rally with former President Barack Obama, she had a message for Democrats on Election Eve.


STACEY ABRAMS (D), FORMER GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE, GEORGIA: I need you to do two things. Number one, don't panic. Say, don't panic. They're about to turn up the mess. We know that intimidation is on their ballot. We know that suppression is their only weapon. But we know who we are and whose we are, and we are Georgia and we will win.

We're going to call our friends, we're going to harass our neighbors. We're going to call people we owe money, people who owe us money, people who we're mad at, people we broke up with, but we are calling every Georgia Democrat and we're calling them to action.


HAYES: Stacey Abrams is the founder of Fair Fight Action, co-founder of the Southern Economic Advancement Project. She joins me tonight from Atlanta, Georgia where polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. tomorrow.

I thought, Stacy, the "don't panic" message was pointed and well taken. Because you know, someone just noted, you got -- here we are on election night, Donald Trump is polling seven, or eight, nine points down in national poll, high-quality polls, Democrats are on the edge of their seats biting off their fingers, while republicans are like, it's coming for you. Here comes the Trump train. We're going to blow you out. It's really bizarre when you look at what the actual data is telling us.

ABRAMS: Well, look, we had a scare in 2016 that turned into a nightmare for four years. And so, there is necessarily a great deal of trepidation. No one wants to believe the obvious. But I know that we have done the work of making it safer for voters to cast their ballots, to increase access to voter protection, and to give them opportunities if they have problems to call 866OURVOTE to get some support or to go to to get answers. But yes, we're going to find anxiety matched with, I would say, overconfidence and hopefully anxiety wins.

HAYES: Yes, 866OURVOTE. Tomorrow -- you just mentioned safety, and I think this is important. And I think I'm someone who I'm not an epidemiologist, I'm just a journalist, I've worked very, very hard to synthesize as much as the data from back in February through now. I think polling locations where people are wearing -- if you're wearing a mask, it's space, the lines are outdoors, which I think is largely going to be the case, most public health experts I've talked to overall say this is very, very low risk. Is that -- is that what's going to happen in Georgia and is that what you are telling people who are going to be going to vote tomorrow and there will be 10s of millions of them?

ABRAMS: Yes. So, what we tell people, don't panic, but also don't leave. We are going to have socially distanced lines. We are hopeful that we will have lines that move with alacrity. But no matter what, we need voters to understand that they can protect themselves with PPE, but they can protect the future by staying in line and voting. And that's why it's so important for both of these messages to be conveyed.

We know that one of the opportunities that the Trump campaign sees is scaring people out of line, convincing them that it's not worth it. And we need people to believe the data, believe the science, believe -- most importantly, believe in the mission which is casting your ballots and making the choice to change the future of America.

HAYES: You know, we've seen some sporadic examples of voter intimidation over this early voting period, although in a country where 97 million votes are cast, I think actually, relatively few thankfully. There's this talk about pole watchers being recruited by the Trump campaign. What -- how do you -- how do you talk about this? Because one thing, I think that there's a danger, of course, in amplifying the specter of it as intimidation is that you end up sending a message to be afraid to people which then sort of furthers their message. And yet there are some untoward activities being undertaken, it would seem. What do you say about those?

ABRAMS: That's why I use the phrase, don't panic. We know they're going to try to scare voters out of line. But once you're in line, if you're eligible to vote, your vote will be cast and be counted if you don't get out of line. They're trying to use misinformation to force you to overreact.

And we need people to understand that this democracy is ours. And we protect it best by showing up and electing people who will defend it. And by ignoring those who would trample on it for their own personal gain. And so, our message, don't panic, don't leave.

HAYES: Polls open 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. in Georgia right now. Georgia is one of the states that I think is at the center of the political world right now. There are two Senate seats. There could be two run offs after an election which could determine the Senate which make it even more the center of the political world.

You and I sat down six years ago when you were a state legislator, and we were doing a special about the, sort of, the fact that Georgia could be a swing state, it could be a blue state. This was six years ago. You've worked very hard to bring about this moment. How are you feeling right now on the eve of an election in which Georgia is undeniably a battleground state?

ABRAMS: I'm energized. I know that this is work that I've been a part of, but so many others have invested in, have worked towards, and have done so despite our evidence being met with skepticism. For this election and in 2018, we finally got the investment we need to turn demographic opportunity into actual progress.

We've been able to turn out voters who are ignored. We've been able to expand access to the right to vote, and we've been able to protect voters. It didn't come soon enough in 2018, but I believe 2020, Fair Fight has done its work. Mark Elias has done his work. Organizations across the country have invested, and native grown Georgia organizations have done their best. And I'm energized. I believe that this is going to be a tight race, and I think that the odds are in our favor.

HAYES: Do you think -- I mean, Joe Biden right now is I think I've seen in the polling averages actually leaving the state of Georgia. He's come to Georgia multiple times. There are a lot of different cross pressured, you know, forces coming down in your state. The President was there yesterday. Are you -- do you think Joe Biden could win that state?

ABRAMS: Absolutely. Donald Trump is the best signifier we have of the likelihood of Democrats winning. You do not come as a fitting Republican president of the state of Georgia three times simply because you like the weather. You come because you know you're in trouble and we're trying to make certain that. And this, at least, he's right.

HAYES: Yes. It's funny you mentioned the weather because every time I watch one of these shots, I think it's a real big difference those Upper Midwest rallies and those ones in Georgia and Florida for everyone involved. Stacey Abrams, great to have you on. Thank you very much.

ABRAMS: Thank you.

HAYES: All right, we got a lot more to come. We'll check in in three of the most crucial states of the race. We just checked in on Georgia. We've got Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania joining us, we've got Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown. And Beto O'Rourke is here to tell us about the record-breaking turnout in Texas and whether this is the year it goes blue. It's the night before Election Day. Do not go anywhere.


HAYES: Polls close in Pennsylvania in less than 24 hours. Last time around, 2016, Donald Trump won the state by less than one point. The razor-thin margin of just over 44,000 votes separating him and Hillary Clinton. This year, polling indicates a race with a clear favorite. Joe Biden leads in the FiveThirtyEight polling average by 4.8. points, 50.2 percent to 45.4.

Here with me now, the Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania, John Fetterman. Lots of eyes on Pennsylvania. You've got the former Vice President and Senator Harris both in your state tonight. Are you feeling good and confident about the basic administration of the elections in your state tomorrow?

JOHN FETTERMAN (D), LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA: I mean, I feel that it's certainly the Vice President is in a strong position polling wise. But I would again, never make the mistake of underestimating the President's popularity here in our Commonwealth. He did a rally in Butler a few nights ago that estimated the crowd at over 50,000. So, I don't believe that's a campaign that has a small chance of winning.

I think it's competitive. And I think the sheer amount of visits that both campaigns are paying Pennsylvania, I think is indicative of just how competitive the race is and how the campaigns believe how competitive it is.

HAYES: I know that there are different constitutional offices and your Commonwealth, Attorney General and Secretary of State, and they and they're sort of have to look after the sort of election ministration. But you know, you can't help but notice that in a state like Pennsylvania, unlike say, Georgia or Texas where there was massive, massive early voting turnout, there are still going to be a ton of voters on Election Day tomorrow. Do you think you guys have the capacity essentially, to make sure that this is a smooth operation?

FETTERMAN: Oh, yes, absolutely. I mean, the truth is that voting in Pennsylvania has gone incredibly smoothly. That one documented case of voter fraud in this cycle in Pennsylvania was a registered Republican in Luzerne County who tried to vote for his dead mother.

So, the truth of the matter is that voting in Pennsylvania is going incredibly smoothly. We had 3.1 million ballots out. We still have around I would probably say half a million out, and those are still coming in. So, you know, no real examples of voter intimidation or anything like that. So, that's the real story is that it's actually going smooth. And our top counties in terms of population size have well-oiled machinery ready to process the ballots.

HAYES: You know, one of the things I thought it was interesting is that in Bucks County, you know, there's a what's called a curing process for folks that send an absentee ballots, and there was a problem. These are -- these are just a line of voters who are going in to cure their ballots, right? They were notified -- they're notified that there was a problem of their ballots, but would go in and actually correct it, which is a great opportunity for folks that want their vote counted. It doesn't exist in every state, but it does exist in your state.

FETTERMAN: Yes. And thank you for highlighting that video. It's emblematic of just how smoothly things are going. Errors in the ballots have been caught early on, and the voters were given the opportunity to rectify that. And you have 24 hour drop off places in Philadelphia and Chester County.

And I want to add, Chester County, Commissioner tweeted out today that they could have turnout as high as 90 percent. And that would be like a true -- what's the term, you know, Panera, you know, women revolution or whatever. I mean, you have a lot of positive signs there.

But at the same time, I would absolutely take it seriously because Donald Trump is very popular, and he has done an enormous amount of barnstorming across the state too.

HAYES: You're from -- you're a mayor of a town Braddock, if I'm not mistaken, in Pennsylvania, that has -- that has, in some ways is has all of the kind of global economic factors that have hit many small towns in America, particularly in the greater industrial Midwest, and Pennsylvania as well. What of four years of Trump been like for the people that you used to represent as mayor?

FETTERMAN: Sure. Well, I can say that, you know, my community where I'm actually at right now in Braddock is going to vote overwhelmingly for Joe Biden without a doubt. But you go just outside Braddock's borders, throughout Allegheny County, you're going to find strong pockets of support for Donald Trump.

You know, do not ever make the mistake of underestimating Donald Trump's popularity in Pennsylvania. And you can feel good about where the Vice President is at in terms of polling and how you feel on the ground, but at the end of the day, don't take my word for it. The simple fact that both campaigns are wrapping up as I speak in Pennsylvania, I think should tell you one, just how critical Pennsylvania is, and two, just how competitive these campaigns believe it to be.

HAYES: That's right. Kamala Harris, we have right now speaking in Pennsylvania. Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, John Fetterman, thank you so much. Next door to Pennsylvania, a state a lot of people thought had permanently gone red, basically written it off. Donald Trump carried Ohio by eight points in 2016 with 51.7 percent of the vote. This year, it is absolutely a battleground state with Trump up by just over half a point in the FiveThirtyEight polling average.

Joining me now is Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio. You know, I was -- you know, in the times that I've covered national elections, particularly presidential elections, there's two states that always stick out Florida and Ohio. And for many election cycles, those were the two states that were the sort of the biggest and most important battlegrounds, Pennsylvania also to a certain extent.

There was a lot of people I think, who just thought demographically, in terms of the trends, Ohio is moving out of the Democrats' column, not gettable not winnable. What is your assessment of why it's so close in your state now after four years of Trump as president?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): Well, because Joe Biden is the right candidate. I mean, Joe Biden is the most pro-worker candidate, pro-union candidate we've seen in either party for a generation. He uses the word union. Unlike many Democrats, he clearly fights for workers, cares about workers.

And he makes -- he makes the contrast between the dignity of work of Joe Biden and governing -- campaigning and governing through the eyes of workers and contrast that with Trump's betrayal, refusal to raise the minimum wage, putting in as a Secretary of Labor a corporate lawyer who's made millions of dollars in his career by take -- by fighting workers, who took away the overtime rule that Joe Biden and Secretary Perez and I implemented in an announcement in Columbus, Ohio in 2016, which would have meant a raise 130,000 workers (AUDIO GAP) choose corporate interest or choose workers every time Trump chooses corporate special interests. Biden is the worker workers candidate and it shows and that's why he's going to win Ohio.

HAYES: You think he's going to win Ohio?

BROWN: I do. I think there's -- not that I believe anyone, poll, Quinnipiac came out today, plus four for Biden. I don't think he wins it by four, I think he wins it by one or two. And I think that contributes to an Electoral College landslide because if it's close in Ohio, and we went Ohio, especially it means that we win Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and potentially Iowa and who knows, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, as those southern states move towards Biden.

HAYES: I'm curious about the state of the pandemic in your state. You know, Mike DeWine, a long standing Republican-elected office holder in the state of Ohio, the governor, I think was probably one of the most aggressive governors in the nation, Democrat or Republican, in terms of dealing with the pandemic.

He's taken a very different approach in his level of seriousness about it than say, the president. What does that mean, the distance between your Republican governor and the White House that's going around basically saying, Hey, I got COVID, you'll be fine. And what does it look like right now in terms of what's going on in your state and what it's meant for the people that you represent?

BROWN: Well, in the early months of the pandemic, and February, March, especially March, April, into May, I would say when asked, and I could easily say it wasn't a partisan statement that Governor DeWine saved people's lives because he took it seriously and he did the right things. And Donald Trump cost people lives because he, you know, he lied about it, then he ignored it, then he said, it'll go away, and he call all the things the Democratic hoax and all that.

Unfortunately, Governor DeWine has been -- has been less aggressive in dealing with pandemic now. And it's meant that the numbers have gone up pretty high in Ohio. It's unfortunate. I mean, I don't put DeWine in the same places. He's still taking it seriously. He's just been much less effective as I think he's listened to business interest that it kind of sits pretty much set open at any cost, no state masks mandate, you know, none of that. But the beginning was that the differences were so sharp.

But Trump is seen as -- DeWine is still seen as handling relatively competently. Trump is seen as -- Trump betrayed workers, he's betrayed our state and our country by his unwillingness to acknowledge the seriousness of the pandemic and actually do something about it.

HAYES: Senator Sherrod Brown of the state of Ohio which is a battleground state, we're going to be looking at it very carefully tomorrow. Senator, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

BROWN: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: I want to just listen to Senator Kamala Harris giving her closing argument in Philadelphia right now.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He looks straight into the cameras, at the American people, and lied about it. He covered it up. Now, can you imagine -- can you imagine what you would have done if you had known on January 28 what he knew? What you might have done, what your family might have done to prepare? Can you imagine how our businesses how our schools might have been able to prepare? How we as a country might have been able to prepare?

But Donald Trump doesn't think about what's best for America. He only thinks about what is best for himself. And as a result, we have lost 230,000 lives to COVID. So many people forced to die alone because of the nature of this virus, 230,000 Americans. The last time we experienced loss like this was World War II.

In addition, we're looking at over 9 million people who have contracted the virus and we know it's hitting communities of color, the hardest. Latinos are contracting COVID at three times the rate of others. Black folks are dying at twice the rate of others. And let's be clear, we are also in the worst economic crisis we have faced since the Great Depression because Donald Trump failed to contain this virus. He failed to lead.

23 million people are receiving unemployment. One in five mothers with a child under the age of 12 is describing her children as being hungry in America. In one in six households, folks are behind on their rent and concern they may not be able to pay rent. One in four small businesses have closed. And yet, nine months into this pandemic, this President still doesn't have a plan to contain it. We have witnessed the greatest failure of a presidential administration in America's history.

And on top of it all, President Trump is in court right now trying to end the Affordable Care Act and take health coverage away from over 20 million Americans. He's trying to end protections for the over 100 million Americans with preexisting conditions. Conditions like asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer. Honk if you know somebody, raise your hand if you know somebody with diabetes, or high blood pressure, or asthma, or breast cancer because this fight includes a fight for them.

America, we cannot afford four more years of Donald Trump. And the first thing Joe and I will do when we are in the White House is get this virus under control. We will listen to the scientists and public health experts. We will provide free testing and treatment, and when it is available, a safe vaccine for all. We will provide schools with the guidance and resources they need to reopen safely. And we will build back an economy that actually works for working people.

And let me be clear, Joe and I will not increase taxes on anyone making under $400,000 a year, period. But we will ask the super-wealthy and biggest corporations to pay their fair share. And we'll invest those tax dollars to rebuild our nation's infrastructure, to tackle the climate crisis and create millions of good-paying union jobs, make childcare more affordable and invest in our nation's schools and in our nation's teachers.

We will build on ObamaCare and expand access to health care to tens of millions of Americans, including expanding mental health care, because we understand the body doesn't just start from the neck down, it includes the neck up, and it deserves the health care that all people need.


HAYES: Until health care parity has been a long standing fight on the Democratic Party. And you got to see a little bit there. It's interesting to listen to that closing argument how kitchen table meet (INAUDIBLE) substantive it is about the policy differences between the two candidates on things like wages and taxes and health care.

And that has been to me one of the most important themes of this campaign is lots of messaging about decency, and the battle for the soul of the nation. You see that there on the on the placard that's on the podium. But much of the message of Biden-Harris really has been laser-focused on those kitchen table issues.

Now, Texas is a state like Georgia that I didn't think we necessarily four years ago we'll be talking about as battleground state. It is of course the biggest pool of Republican electoral votes in the country. It's the biggest single state hall that Donald Trump won in 2016. And the GOP, let's be clear, has just absolutely dominated in Texas for over 20 years.

Get this. The last time the Democrats even won a statewide election, just one, was 1994, 26 years without a statewide win. Guess what? Texas is basically a dead heat in the presidential race heading into Election Day. The FiveThirtyEight polling average has Trump ahead by only one percentage point well within the margin of error, basically every poll up there. And Texans have already cast more votes this year than they did in the entire presidential election four years ago, which means all bets are off for what actually happens after the votes are counted.

Joining me now is someone who's played a crucial role in getting Texas to where it is now, former Congressman Beto O'Rourke, Democrat of Texas. What is your read on the turnout situation in your state which has just blown up all the expectations and all the records?

BETO O'ROURKE (D), FORMER CONGRESSMAN, TEXAS: It's really good to state the obvious. We were 50th in the country right before the last midterm in 2018 in voter turnout. This year, so far, we've led the country as being the first state to surpass our 2016 vote total. We've led the country in young voter turnout. It's up 600 percent in Texas over 2016. And we've led the country in total ballots cast.

And that is coming from a state that was not only dead last but was dead last because of the most onerous voter I.D. laws, 750 polling place closures, a racial gerrymander of the state, and in Greg Abbott removing the supplementary absentee ballot drop off boxes, and in this latest frivolous Republican lawsuit to seek to disenfranchise 127,000 voters after the fact which will not succeed but seeks to sow chaos and confusion heading into Tuesday. The Texas voter has overcome all of that. And I think that bodes very well for election night tomorrow.

HAYES: Yes, that 127,000 votes, those were votes the are cast in Harris County through a curbside voting program the county implemented because we are in a once in a century pandemic and infectious diseases raging across the country. People can drive up and vote. Republican plaintiff, Republican lawyers sued unsuccessfully of State Supreme Court to get those votes tossed. They were before a federal judge today who tossed them out of court on standing grounds.

But I thought this was interesting to go to your point. This is the lawyer for the lawsuit, plaintiff's attorney, a guy by the name of Jared Woodfill, probably a good name to know and remember for the role that he's playing right here. Jared Woodfill, plaintiff's attorney, in the courtroom after the decision. "Harris County goes against Trump in large numbers, then we could lose Texas. As far as I'm concerned, this is ground zero." It seems like an admission.

O'ROURKE: Yes, it's an admission of desperation. These numbers do not look good for Republicans. You had on the first day of early voting in Harris County 120,000 ballots cast, which exceeded all ballots cast in the first day of early voting in the entire state of Georgia. And it has kept pace every single day through early voting. It shattered by a country mile every voting turnout record ever set in the state of Texas and easily surpassed all ballots cast, including Election Day ballots in 2016.

So, if you cannot win fairly at the ballot box under the rules that all parties agreed to, and you've tried to change the rules after the fact, or intimidate voters. You saw the Trump caravan trying to push the Biden bus literally off the road. You've seen Trump supporters show up at early voting locations to intimidate voters, sometimes showing up with guns. And yet those voters, Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike have shown up to cast their ballot ensure that their voice is heard.

I think -- I hope the story of 2020 is going to be the Texas voter who overcame all of this stuff to step up and help Texas decide the outcome of this election because, Chris, as you know, if these 38 electoral college votes go for the Democratic nominee for the first time since 1976, it is game over for Trump.

And that will happen on election night. We didn't expand early voting. We started counting our early voting ballots on Friday. We'll have those vote totals tomorrow. And we'll know who the winner is in Texas. And a Biden victory averts Trump prematurely illegally claiming victory or trying to contest this in the courts or any number of other things he will do to retain his purchase in power. A lot rests on Texas right now.

HAYES: You know, you obviously ran statewide just two years ago. And you know, when you run a campaign, you have a vote number. You've got -- it's broken down. But basically, your campaign runs a bunch of algorithms that say like, this is the number of votes we think we need to win. And I just can't imagine that every campaign in Texas right now has no idea what the vote number is because everyone is modeling off a turnout universe that's just demonstrably no longer true.

And I think we should say that that's probably true for Republicans too. Like there's a ton of Republican turnout in a state that is now a swing state, you know, where you can say, well, I didn't get to the polls. So, now, you know, everything comes down to this. It just seems to me that the spectrum of possibilities in Texas tomorrow night is very wide.

O'ROURKE: That's absolutely right. I mean, we may have thought of a win number that was a million or two million votes less than what we will actually see tomorrow because this turnout has exceeded anybody's wildest expectations. And it's not just for president. MJ Hegar could defeat John Cornyn and flip control of the Senate. U.S. congressional seats, the railroad commissioner which oversees oil and gas and environmental issues, and in the state house which will decide the redistricting landscape for the next decade is in play. And Democrats only need to pick up --

HAYES: All right, Beto O'Rourke there in his hometown of El Paso which is going through it right now COVID wise, and we're sending our thoughts to all your neighbors there. You saw Lady Gaga in Pittsburgh, you got Common and John Legend and Kamala Harris here in Philadelphia, and then you've got Lady Gaga who is in Pittsburgh with Joe Biden. That is all happening right now, those sort of closing arguments being made. And we will continue to keep tabs on all that.

Ahead, Coronavirus outbreaks raging across the country, utterly uncontrolled. Tens of millions of voters will likely turn out tomorrow to cast their ballot. Rebecca Traister and Jelani Cobb are here to talk about the pandemic election coming up.


HAYES: Tomorrow is Election Day. Did you know that? And if you haven't voted, you should definitely vote tomorrow. Also, I will be hosting of this network some special Election Day coverage at 5:00 p.m. And then after that, our full MSNBC election night coverage will start at 6:00 p.m. And I'll be part of that. That effort to help you understand what to expect and all the ways the night could unfold.

Of course, this monumental election is happening in the midst of a global pandemic. Hence, the honking horns of cars at the socially distance rallies where Kamala Harris are just speaking. It's happening in a country where right now, as I speak to you, there is uncontrolled transmission of the deadly virus. And that effect looms over everything.

I mean the two biggest stories of 2020, the once in a century pandemic and the national referendum on Donald Trump will converge in full view of the world tomorrow. And it will happen at a time when the country is arguably in the worst phase of virus transmission while the President is doing the worst job he's ever done on it, which is saying something.

Writer Rebecca Traister recently explored both these topics in a piece for New York Magazine's The Cut titled Wide Awake while New Yorker staff writer Jelani Cobb has been examining the implications vote suppression will have on this election in a frontline documentary titled, Whose Vote Counts, and they both join me now.

You know, the strangest thing I've ever seen in my life covering politics, in my adult life which I've been covering politics more or less full time since I'm about 22 years old, is the fact that the president's approval rating and the head to head matchups of Joe Biden are essentially unchanged from the before times. Before a mysterious respiratory infection started make its way around Wuhan out of the fish market and through Hubei province and crept over the country and changed all our lives. That I'm talking to you now on Zoom and on FaceTime and you're living in different places, and our kids aren't going to school. And there's 20 million people on unemployment, and 230,000 dead and all that's happened, and it's all the same, and it just -- it just drives a stake through my head. But at the same time, I think it also probably contributes to the fact the president right now is not favored to win. How do you understand that central fact, Rebecca?

REBECCA TRAISTER, WRITER-AT-LARGE, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Well, in some ways, I understand it as being reflective of the fact that even prior to this completely universe-altering pandemic, the feelings about Donald Trump were pretty cemented, right. It's not like his presidency had been going great up until March.

HAYES: Correct.

TRAISTER: And there was so much -- you know, the past four years have been a period of so much political engagement and activation amongst people who had not previously been activists. And people felt very strongly how they felt about Trump, about politics, about their participation in this process, and that was all in advance of the pandemic.

Now, does that explain how what I understand to be his gross and malevolent mismanagement of that pandemic didn't actually erode more of his very steadfast and unwavering support? I can't totally explain that. But I do think it's that his -- the way in which Trump and his administration and his party have responded ineptly irresponsibly murderously to the pandemic is not at odds with how they had been governing previous to the pandemic.

HAYES: Right. It's a great point that essentially -- I mean, one of the themes on this show from the first day that he became president was that there was a very high likelihood of catastrophe because of who he is and how he was governing and that we were all playing collectively a kind of game of Russian roulette. And just if the chamber was empty over and over again, it didn't mean that we had gotten away safe.

Jelani, you've been looking at the question of voter suppression, which I think intersects in interesting ways with the pandemic, because obviously, these efforts made at the state level to change the way people vote are because of taking seriously both the virus and people's concerns over it. And there are still going to be tens of millions of people out there voting tomorrow.

JELANI COBB, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Right, yes. And so, I think this ties to Rebecca's point to this issue of voter suppression too, you know, which is to say that, you know, this candidacy was never about policy, but about ideas. It was about who Trump is and what Trump is and the fact that people identify with that, for whatever reasons that -- you know, whatever cultural or antagonistic, or racial, or bigoted, or any of those kinds of things, you know, the kind of ball of, well, deplorable things that he brought to the table, and people identified with.

And then at the same token, if you're running a campaign that is contingent upon the support of those people, knowing that you will alienate lots of people in the middle and certainly not get any votes from people who are on the other side, the only way that you can win is to minimize the vote of returns of your opponents. And that's what we've always seen.

And quite frankly, you know, Trump takes the blame for this, but all he is doing is accelerating and being much more overt about what has been a Republican playbook, what has been in the Republican playbook for years now.

HAYES: And it's the explicit for 44 percent strategy, right, or 45 percent strategy, or 46 percent strategy, which is, in most cases not enough to win, it's not enough to govern. He was able to be elected president from that position is never increasing. At the same time, we're now on the eve of the culmination of tremendous amount of political work that has been done.

Rebecca, you had a great piece about this. I mean, just from the women's march on, I'd like to hear you both sort of talk about the amount of activation, the amount of organizing, the amount of work that has done by many millions of just fellow Americans to bring us to a point in which there's the possibility of this kind of pro-democracy majority repudiating what we've seen. What's your feeling about that as we're on that threshold, Rebecca?

TRAISTER: So, I think that what's happened in this four years has been really powerful on that front. And a lot of -- I want to be clear, a lot of the activism extends well before. Its roots are in the Obama administration. And in some cases, the Bush administration, certainly Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, Occupy, all that was an Obama administration sort of development of protest.

But the masses flooding the streets as they did with the Women's March on the first day of Donald Trump's inauguration as they did a week later in going to airport protests in response to the Muslim ban, protesting gun violence after the Parkland shootings, certainly this summer, and people taking to the streets and more than, you know, 2,200 cities and towns around this country to proclaim that black lives matter. We've been in this period of mass protests that I think is pretty unprecedented.

But I want to point out that the words you used, which is -- because it's not exactly a left policy set of protests, right? It's very -- it's so big, that it's sort of more dilute than that. It is pro-democracy. And one of the things that Jelani's work is so clear on and that is so clear in these days leading up to the election is that the fight is for democracy. It's for the ability to vote.

And I've never seen in, in fact, in response to these masses out suddenly in ways that are pretty unprecedented. What you're seeing is a lockdown on minority rule and open defense of minority rule. Open pride in trying to suppress the vote, open lawsuit saying we don't want these hundred thousand votes in Harris County that were cast legally counted.

Somebody like Senator Mike Lee saying democracy itself is a problem. Republican gubernatorial candidate in Washington State Loren Culp is saying the same thing. Republicans actually repudiating the very notion of democracy in response to a set of mass movements and to mass engagement in politics. And what you can see is the opposition party, not just replying in opposition to ideas or policies, but actually in opposition to the notion of democracy itself.

HAYES: And Jelani, that's why tomorrow feels so monumental. Its stakes seem impossible, frankly, for me to articulate and because something essential about the nature of the country we live in really seems up for grabs.

COBB: Listen, 1,455, that's the number of days since the last election. People have had this in mind, like finish line in a marathon and ultra-marathon. And you know, to Rebecca's point, I think she just really made this very clear, very plain, that, you know, we understand this. The people who look at the history of this country, we understand this cyclically.

And you know, while the administration and various people on the right have attacked the 1619 project for wanting to tear America down for talking about the racist history that has been present in the country since its founding, it is to benighted a perspective to understand that what we're actually trying to do is point out the contours of the failures of democracy.

These are America's vulnerability. These are the things that America has to address if it actually wants to be what it proclaims itself to be, which is the benchmark for democracy in the world. And it's not a secret. Why do we think it is that Vladimir Putin and the Russian bots, that was such a factor in 2016, targeted African Americans and target whites and tried to widen the gap the chasm of racial animosity, because they know that is the way that you undermine the country. And we have a president who has consistently gone further and further down the road of widening that chasm.

And so this is what is essentially at stake. It's not simply a matter of progress, a matter of particular policy prerogatives, it is a matter of the extent of America's ability to actually refer to itself as a democracy and not be telling a lot.

HAYES: And that is what is on the ballot. It has been on the ballot, it will be on the ballot tomorrow. If you're watching this right now and you haven't voted yet, please go vote tomorrow. Take a mask and make some time if you can. Rebecca Traister and Jelani Cobb, it is always great to talk to you both. Thank you so much.

TRAISTER: Thanks, Chris.

COBB: Thank you.

HAYES: All right, well, that is ALL IN on this Monday night. I love my country. I know you watching this do too and I'm rooting for it. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.


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