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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, October 20, 2020

Guests: Claire McCaskill, George Goehl, Josh Shapiro, Joshua Wynne, Margie Omero


According to a "New York Times" poll, voters prefer Joe Biden over President Trump on almost all major issues. Mitch McConnell warns the White House against the relief deal. Over 30 million Americans have already voted in the Presidential Election. The Supreme Court allows a three-day extension for Pennsylvania ballot counting. North Dakota is battling a surge in coronavirus cases.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Final stretch of this race, there is one thing left to do, vote. Get your friends and family to the polls and send me your pictures, tweet at me or at the REIDOUT using #VOTINGMVPS. Thanks so much for watching. And "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" -- those are beautiful pictures -- it starts right now.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They may not like me, but they like what I'm doing.

HAYES: Two weeks until the election, Americans aren't just rejecting Trump, they're rejecting his ideas.

TRUMP: He should be in jail. He's a -- he's a criminal and he should be in jail.

HAYES: Tonight, as the president threatens to jail his opponent and lashes out on COVID, new polling and new reporting on what America wants from its leader. Then as Wisconsin voters lineup in the cold weather to cast their votes, the alarming and unprecedented COVID surge in the Midwest.

And the Supreme Court ruling that looked like a victory for democracy but has all kinds of pitfalls for the future voting rights, when ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York. I'm Chris Hayes. All right, we are officially two weeks from the end of voting in the 2020 election. We don't say Election Day anymore, because voters across the country are already mailing in ballots and heading to the polls. Today was the first day of in-person early voting in the battleground state of Wisconsin. You can tell from that footage, it was chilly, and yet we saw long lines at busy polling places.

We're also just 48 hours from the final big set piece event of the campaign, the last presidential debate, which will go on with a rule change. The candidates' microphones will be muted while their opponent gives an initial two-minute answer to each topic. Of course, they made that necessary change because the president is so compulsively anti-social that he cannot abide by just the normal give and take of conversation in debate.

The debate this Thursday is hugely important for President Trump because when you're as far down in the polls as he appears to be, it is a chance to change the trajectory. That said, it is also of course a serious risks because we saw what happened last time.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not here to call out his lies. Everybody knows he's a liar. I just want to --

TRUMP: But you agree --

BIDEN: I want to make sure --

TRUMP: You did it last night first and foremost.

BIDEN: I want to make sure --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, can you let him finish, sir?

BIDEN: He doesn't know how to do that. He has --

TRUMP: He'd be surprised. He'd be surprised.

BIDEN: You know, you pick -- the wrong guy, the wrong night at the wrong times.

TRUMP: Listen, you agreed with Bernie Sanders --

BIDEN The whole idea --


BIDEN: There is no manifesto, number one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please let him speak, Mr. President.

BIDEN: Number two --

TRUMP: He just lost the left.

BIDEN: Number two --

TRUMP: You just lost the left. You agreed with Bernie Sanders on a plan. You absolutely agreed to.

BIDEN: Folks, do you have any idea what this man is doing?


HAYES: I had forgotten how horrible that was. My god, I put it out in my memory. Well, that did not go over well. Not only to the polling immediately show the president lost the debate, if you look at say the FiveThirtyEight polling average, that first debate on September 29th, and Trump's Coronavirus diagnosis, which of course happened just a few days later, they're kind of an inflection point after which he loses three more points.

But here's the craziest thing. During the -- turning the debate into this unwatchable cringe-inducing Boris display actually arguably helped Donald Trump, because keeping the focus on how just outrageously unlikable the president is, is better than focusing on his actual policy positions as compared to Joe Biden, because he is even further behind on the issues.

I mean, keep in mind, this is a very divided country right now we know that. We know that polarization pretty much rules everything around us. And so, a lot of the time, when you ask voters about any specific issue, the results basically converge on whether or not you like Donald Trump, right.

And that is why this new polling out today from New York Times and Siena College is so striking. They ask voters about a whole bunch of issues, some that are major news stories right now, like for instance, a another COVID rescue package. On that, the polling shows an incredible national consensus in favor of a new $2 trillion stimulus.

Now, that comes as we learned today that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the White House not to agree with a deal with Speaker Nancy Pelosi ahead of the election because he's concerned about dividing his Republican conference.

Voters also overwhelmingly support a mask mandate 59 to 39 percent after watching the president who of course discounted the mass for months and made fun of people who wore them fall ill with the Coronavirus and spend three days in the hospital.

The Obama Biden administration signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act which of course, a Trump back lawsuit is attempting to destroy right now in the Supreme Court in arguments week after election day, that also comes out ahead 55 to 40.

As does Joe Biden's current platform, his plan to add a public health insurance option, it would auto-enroll people into it if didn't have insurance, and that has a whopping 67 percent of voter supporting it, 25 percent oppose those are big, big spreads.

Then there are the issues that are less front of mine right now or at least getting less covers, the climate crisis, for example. It's not exactly the top issue among national political talkers at the moment or really either of the campaign, and that's somewhat understandable amidst the pandemic and the resulting economic devastation.

And yet, when you ask voters if they think a Biden administration should invest $2 trillion in clean energy and other ways to help reduce the effects of climate change and reduce carbon emissions by a margin of 40 points they say yes. 40 points on the signature tent pole climate plan of the binding campaign in a country this polarized is remarkable.

Remember, in the past debates, it was very clear that both Trump and Pence thought that fracking was going to be one of their best issues. It was like they're their secret weapon. I mean, they were just talking about how they love fracking. Americans love fracking. Let's frack every last frackable inch in this fracking country. And even put Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on the defensive, you know, promising over and over that they both -- well, we don't have a thing with -- we're not going to ban fracking. Everyone loves fracking. Obviously, let's frack?

Well, when it comes down to it, that's not even true. It's a wash. Voters are evenly split on one of the Trump campaign's best issues, the thing they think is their wedge. And we know the fracking debate is actually largely about one crucial state, Pennsylvania where natural gas is a major issue. But guess what, a majority of registered voters in Pennsylvania actually oppose fracking according to CBS News poll over the summer.

So, Donald Trump's ongoing, negligent, malignant, incompetence in managing the pandemic, the disastrous conditions of the country, eight million people fall into poverty, and Trump's personal odious ness are obviously the big things driving much of this campaign. But in some ways, those things overshadow the fact that Donald Trump's actual policy agenda compared to Joe Biden's is even less popular than the way he is managing his job as President.

Former Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri joins me now. She is a veteran of lots of campaigns and also I think campaigns in which you got to win voters that are maybe not the most plugged in or voters who are not usually voting for your party in a state like Missouri. And it's just striking to me those numbers, that the world of the political conversation and the world of a voter who might just be tuning in now or two weeks, there's a real challenge for Joe Biden just to tell people what your campaign platform is.

CLAIRE MCCASKILL, FORMER SENATOR, MISSOURI: Well, and the thing that was astounding to me, Chris, in addition to all the issues you laid out there where Biden has a commanding lead on the policies that his campaign has embraced, he's even ahead on law and order and the -- and it's a wash on the economy.

HAYES: Right.

MCCASKILL: I mean, Trump is acting like the economy is, you know -- and, frankly, his campaign staff thinks it's the only thing that will save him. Well, right now in America, just as many people think Joe Biden would be good for the economy, as in fact, they think Donald Trump was good for the economy.

And law and order, he is really tried to make law and order the whole deal, and the people say, by six points, that Biden is better on lawn order. And then all the other things that are the intangibles that matters so much in this election, things like uniting the country and bringing us together.

HAYES: The numbers on the stimulus were really fascinating to me, too, because obviously there's this triangulation happening right now. And I find it really interesting to square Republican senators stated theory about the popularity of this, which is that Republicans will get mad at them if they spend all this money, and they'll hate them, and they won't turn up to vote. And what the actual polling data shows, which is that it is an overwhelmingly popular thing in the country. Do people just tell themselves stories that are wrong about the electorate?

MCCASKILL: Well, today was caucus lunch, and McConnell stood up in front of all the Republicans -- I can see him standing there, I can see everyone sitting at their tables eating lunch, and he told them, don't worry, I've told the White House no on their desire to have a $2 trillion COVID rescue package for people who are really hurting right now in the country.

Now, let me see if I get this straight. The Republicans in the Senate would not stand up to this president when he was separating children and putting families in cages. They would not stand up to him when Putin put a bounty on the heads of our soldiers. They would not stand up to him when he said they were very fine people on both sides when Nazis were matching with tiki torches, but now is the moment that they're going to stand up to him and say no, when 72 percent of America agrees with the Democrats that a Coronavirus aid package is needed, not tomorrow, not next week, but today.

And I thought -- I thought it was really fascinating that this is the moment that the Republicans in the Senate who were by the way on the ropes in terms of their majority, this is the line in the sand they're going to draw. It is bizarre.

HAYES: It's such a great point. And it points to exactly to a huge crucial weakness for Donald Trump running this time, verse 2016. Lots of polls show that people perceive Donald Trump as more moderate than Hillary Clinton in 2016. I think that's obviously erroneous, but that was the perception that voters had.

That is not the case this time. And I think in many cases, Mitch McConnell has successfully captured Donald Trump in terms of the agenda, like repeal the ACA, a big corporate tax cut, and now stonewalling a big rescue package is the kind of very unpopular Republican orthodoxy that has made them toxic to voters that now Donald Trump has a yoked around his neck as well.

MCCASKILL: Yes. And don't forget let's protect dirty dark money in politics at all costs. I mean, that is one of you know, Mitch McConnell's go-to. You know, it's fascinating because I think we're all pretty sure that Donald Trump doesn't have an ideology. He's not a conservative or a liberal. The only thing Donald Trump is, it's all about Donald Trump. There's nothing he really believes in other than his own mirror image that he looks at it with all of his orange makeup.

HAYES: Yes. I mean, I think the one thing he's genuine about is his bigotry, which I think is actually not an act. But I guess the final question for you is just in terms of -- when you think about Biden operationalizing this to me, you know, it just struck me that these -- you know, the muting thing on the debate is useful in so much as you can just say something like, I want to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and say that three or four times for an audience that's tuning in that might not know that about you, and polls overwhelmingly popular. Or I think we should have another rescue package, or I think we shouldn't destroy the ACA, those basic pieces of information for the kinds of voters that are still in the gettable quadrant, strike me is pretty important in this next debate.

MCCASKILL: And even going so far as gun safety. I mean, we know that a wide majority of Americans wants more gun safety measures in terms of background checks. And, you know, there are a lot -- Roe v. Wade, you know, and health care, all of these things are things that Joe Biden will have a chance to talk about albeit only for two minutes without interruption, but hopefully he'll get some of that.

HAYES: Yes, exactly. You just have to string together the two minutes of muted time to just deliver your popular messages I think is the goal for Thursday night. Former Senator Claire McCaskill, thank you so much.


HAYES: Someone who's been having meaningful one on one conversations with voters, particularly in rural and pro Trump areas as part of this deep canvassing program for national grassroots organizing network is George Gale. He's the director of People's Action, and he joins me now.

And George, I thought I'd talk to you because I'm thinking a lot about as we -- as we're here at the two-week stretch, most voters have decided. There's a there's a small group of people that if they're just paying attention now or having decided tend to be people that are pretty checked out of politics. And there are kinds of people that your organization has been having conversations with at the door, in-person, about what politics means. And I wonder your read from your perspective on what kind of breakthrough to those kinds of voters.

GEORGE GOEHL, DIRECTOR, PEOPLE'S CHOICE: I think the big thing everybody's freaking out about is folks are just so anxious. So, we've had 100,000 conversations with folks in rural communities, some on the doors, but more recently on the phones. And in the calls, these are deep canvassing conversations are like 15 to 20-minute conversations so much longer than your traditional canvassing.

And we start the calls and say, hey, you know, we want to talk about x, y, and z, you know, how are you doing? And people like I'm fine. And we say, well, I'm not fine. And then the person on the other end of the phone is like, you know what, I'm not fine either. And then a conversation opens up about how anxious people are, how scared they are.

And what we're finding people really want to know is who's going to care for them. And as we dig deeper into that conversation, it's very hard to land on a conclusion that Donald Trump is going to care for you. There's only three things that like people can tend to agree on. Like, we got to get rid of COVID, we need economic relief, and we need a big recovery program, and like he's botched all three. And I think people see that but only in this kind of conversation, this long forum where we listen and where we engage folks.

HAYES: That point about anxiety is so profound that exchange. How are you? I'm fine. Well, I'm not fine. OK, I'm not fine either. And again, that -- I mean, that relates to the -- to me, the national referendum question of like, are things -- are things great? They're not great. Are they good for you? Like, how are you doing? And like the answer is no.

GOEHL: I mean, a lot of the folks we're talking to that are older tell us on the call -- they're talking to a perfect stranger that they've known maybe for 15 minutes at this point, will say I expect to die from COVID. Like, that's where people are operating from. And I think if we can actually -- a lot of I think canvassing that happens in most political organizations is what we call like listening to confirm. We're trying to hear something, confirm it, and then maybe jump on it.

But this listening to learn, like getting deep with people, being really curious about what they're up against, what they want, and how they're making meaning of the world opens up some new space where voters are able to reexamine issues in ways they never would otherwise. Nobody wants to have get on a call with somebody and be told they're wrong.

But if you say I want to build a relationship with you and understand what you're up against, something magical opens up. And three percent of the conflicted voters we talked to doing this deep canvass method switch from planning to support Trump to planning to support Biden. And 8.5 percent of independent women voters switch as well.

So, we think we're on to something. This is happening in battleground states. I think it's part of the trend of why we see better numbers for Biden, and I think we just got to build on it.

HAYES: It's interesting, too, that like, you know, one thing that I think is just been an enormous miscalculation, and I think sometimes on the way we cover it in the national press could exaggerate that, as the President basically being like, don't worry about the pandemic. It's a liberal hoax. I got it and I'm fine. It's nothing. And this idea that he can get 40 or 42 percent of the country to go along with it. He can't really.

I mean, I've been struck just how much really just in the polling and in my own reporting, and in talking to people, no one's buying it. People are still freaked out about it.

GOEHL: No, I think COVID was the bridge too far for people with Trump. People that, you know, we know some people voted for him because of his racism, some voted despite it. And I think for many people, this is when Trump came home to roost was COVID and his lack of ability to take it seriously and do it -- do something about it.

And I would just say, when you look at rural voters, like, I would expect rural voters to move towards Biden in this election. Barack Obama won rural voters, 43 percent, Secretary Clinton 30-some percent, and I think we'll see a swing back to Biden in this election, especially because of his handling of COVID.

HAYES: George Goehl whose organization is doing really fascinating work and you can see -- listen more in the podcast episode, we would be with him in his own podcast to see each other. Thank you, George. I appreciate it.

GOEHL: Good to see you. Thanks.

HAYES: Next, a Supreme Court move the Democrats are celebrating as a win, but experts are warning could set a dangerous precedent for future voting rights cases. What you need to know after this.


HAYES: Last night at this show, we told you about how Democrats were celebrating the Supreme Court's decision not to block a ruling by the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court and its decision that would allow absentee ballots to be counted in that state even if they arrive up to three days after election.

Tonight, some experts are warning that if you look closely, there's a reason to worry about what four of the conservative justices on the Supreme Court are up to. So, there were four justices who did want to take up the case. They wanted to take up the challenge. They did not explain why they did it. There was no opinion issued. But Vox's Ian Millhiser points out "In their briefs, the GOP hones in on the word legislator, arguing that only Pennsylvania State Legislature may set the state's rules for choosing presidential electors, not the State Supreme Court."

OK, so they're saying, look, don't listen to our State Supreme Court, Supreme Court of the United States, you guys can overrule them. And if the dissenting justices were considering accepting that argument, then they're basically toying with the idea that federal courts can just step in and tell states how to interpret their own laws and their own state constitutions.

Plus, it's not clear we've heard the end of this particular case as Millhiser points out. "The GOP may be able to raise this issue again after Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed, potentially securing a court order requiring states like Pennsylvania to toss out an unknown number of ballots that arrive after Election Day. If the election is close, that could be enough to change the result."

Those four conservative justices basically laid out an invitation to come back and challenge those ballots when the court is even more favorable to Republicans than it is now when they have a 5-4 majority. One of the people who filed the Supreme Court on behalf of Pennsylvania is State's Attorney General Josh Shapiro and he joins me now.

All right, this is -- the actual federal civil procedure questions here are actually complicated. And I don't think I did a great job of explaining it just now, to be honest, as I read it, so let's just sort of set it up. You have a state constitution in Pennsylvania that guarantees people a right to vote, correct?

JOSH SHAPIRO, ATTORNEY GENERAL, PENNSYLVANIA: Correct. And there was a lawsuit that said look, the current rules for counting absentee ballots, which would not count ones that were mailed in good faith and set before the election day and happen to come in a few days after, that's denying people their right to vote. And the Supreme Court said -- of your state said, that's correct. Under Pennsylvania State Constitution, we have to count those votes. Is that correct?

SHAPIRO: Yes, that's exactly right. I mean, look, you know, boil this down. This is a matter of state law that was interpreted by the highest court in our state, our State Supreme Court. And our state Supreme Court said very clearly that, you know, basically, when in doubt, err on the side of inclusion, or enfranchisement.

Unfortunately, what you have are repeated attacks against our election laws here in Pennsylvania by Donald Trump and his enablers trying to make it harder for people to vote, trying to make it easier for ballots to be discarded. And so, I've been in court time and time again, defending the right for legal eligible votes to be counted and to make sure that Pennsylvania wins can be heard.

I think what Donald Trump is afraid of candidly, is having all legal eligible votes in Pennsylvania counted, because I think he'll come out on the short end of that stick at the ballot box just as he has in the courthouses where we've beat him. He's 0-3, he's got a big fat 0 on his record. And I think if he continues down this track here, you know, really late in the fourth quarter, to try and make it harder for people to vote, he'll continue to lose in court.

HAYES: So, you got this appeal, right. So, the State Supreme Court says look, yes, like the state constitution of Pennsylvania says, you know, we want people to vote, the right to vote. We're going to try to interpret this in a way that maximizes legitimate votes beginning counted not thrown out in technicalities.

The Republican Party of your state doesn't like this opinion but -- and they appeal it. And they asked the Supreme Court to step in and block that ruling. And it looks like four conservative justices were interested in hearing that argument. Does that worry you at all?

SHAPIRO: Well, it does in the sense that it kind of flies in the face of something -- I'm going to nerd out on you here for a second. It flies in the face of something known as the Purcell Doctrine, which in effect says that federal courts should exercise extreme caution before interfering with state election law. And that extreme caution gets even more extreme the closer you get to an election.

We're not only 14 days away from Election Day, we're already voting here in Pennsylvania. More than a million Pennsylvanians have already voted. So, the idea that the Supreme Court of the United States would step on -- step in on what is clearly a state constitutional law question interpreting state law is a bit troublesome. Nevertheless, they didn't muster the votes necessary to stop or block Pennsylvania election law. And so, when I think --

HAYES: That's true Attorney General, but I do feel duty bound to point out that was a byproduct of a certain math that may change, right. I mean, they needed -- they needed five votes to take it up. They didn't have them. They had four. Four voted against. It's an eight-person court. And Donald Trump and Republicans have been extremely explicit they want Amy Coney Barrett confirmed for precisely this purpose.

SHAPIRO: But look, there's no other way to spin this. She will be a tipping point. It's my hope that she's a tipping point in favor of what Republican and conservative jurists have seemingly always espouse, which is state's rights, referring to this state.

HAYES: Right.

SHAPIRO: It seems to be now sort of in fashion in vogue for these conservative judges to not so much go along with that. But hopefully -- now, we don't really know because Amy Coney Barrett didn't answer a whole lot of questions in her hearing. She couldn't even say if voter intimidation was illegal, which is so much shocking that she couldn't even bring herself to answering that question.

But hopefully, if she is seated on the court, and if this question comes before her, she will follow jurisprudence, she will follow the Purcell Doctrine. She will defer to the state courts as she should.

HAYES: Right. News you can use for Pennsylvanians, early in person voting is happening now. You can also mail in your ballot. You should get that in as soon as possible, rights. Whatever the rulings are, either way, people should be sending their ballots early as possible. Pennsylvania, you have something to say?

SHAPIRO: I'll just say Chris, the enthusiasm is extraordinary. More than a million Pennsylvanians have already voted early. More than half of those who voted in the last presidential election have applied to vote by mail. The feeling of enthusiasm is palpable. People want to vote. People need to stop in the Trump administration and his enablers stop trying to undermine our laws here in Pennsylvania. We're having an election, people need to vote and determine the future direction of this country.

HAYES: All right, let's hope that happens. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, thank you so much for coming on tonight.

SHAPIRO: Good to be with you. Thank you.

HAYES: Ahead, experts say that one massive event in South Dakota helped see the COVID outbreak across the Midwest. And now, states are reporting record numbers of cases that follow. After this.


HAYES: You might remember over the summer that we showed you pictures of this banquet in Prague with a table running across the Charles Bridge, as people in that country have celebrated the end of COVID. They had suppressed the virus. Now, at the time, I had to say that struck me as a dangerous taunt of fate, though looked enjoyable. And four weeks after that, things seemed fine in the Czech Republic. And then, as so often happens with this virus, suddenly it was the cases of Coronavirus have skyrocketed.

This chart is from the Financial Times that shows Coronavirus outbreaks in cases per million, right now the Czech Republic is recording 810 cases per million and rising outpacing every single country in the world. This is just one example of the iron law of COVID. If you pretend the virus doesn't exist, you will eventually have an enormous outbreak. It's that simple.

It's a lesson we've had to learn time and time and time again here in the U.S. including the white house itself. Right now, the iron law is thrashing the states of North and South Dakota. You'll remember that this summer, just over a month after the Czechs were celebrating in Prague, the Sturgis motorcycle rally drew more than 250,000 people to Sturgis, South Dakota in early August.

Public health experts now believe that rally seeded a massive outbreak in the Midwest within just weeks. Remember, this is the graph of the Czech Republic, the worst outbreak for any country in the world right now. Well, this is the graph for the outbreaks taking place in the Dakotas. Right now, South Dakota, the home of Sturgis, is averaging 793 cases per million. North Dakota's averages even higher, 918 cases per million. Meaning, that state, if it were its own country, is suffering the worst Coronavirus outbreak in the world right now.

Dr. Joshua Wynne is on the front lines with an outbreak in North Dakota. He's dean of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, the state's chief health strategist who's warned the state needs to take rising COVID cases seriously. I really appreciate you making some time, Doctor. Give us what your senses of how things are in your state right now.

JOSHUA WYNNE, CHIEF STATE HEALTH STRATEGIST, NORTH DAKOTA: Well, good evening, Chris. And I think you got it right that the numbers are clearly headed in the wrong direction. You know, I think North Dakotans got loathed by that law that you were talking about where when the pandemic started, we were relatively immune. And I think we let down our guard and now we're paying part of the price for that.

HAYES: You know, one of the things I think, early on, right, when you had -- when you had the outbreaks concentrated in fairly dense and urban areas around Detroit, around New Orleans, in Louisiana, and then around the New York metro area, there was a sense that density, you know, related to this, right. That denser places were more at risk. And one of the things we're seeing now, particularly in your state, neighboring states, throughout the upper Midwest, is this is hitting fairly rural places pretty hard.

WYNNE: Exactly right, Chris. One of the things that we've seen is that migration to more rural places. The other thing that we're seeing is that there is -- that the population that's being affected is also younger. So, in North Dakota, right now, the most common age group to be affected by COVID-19 is the 20 to 29-year-old age group. And we think part of that relates to not large gatherings, as you were talking about with Sturgis, but in addition, smaller gatherings where young people get together.

HAYES: You know, we've seen that in other places. We saw in the summer where the first wave of people infected tend to be younger, because they were engaging in more sort of high-risk behavior. But it's been very hard to stop that from getting to older populations. What's being done right now at a policy level in your state to try to contain this thing, because we know where that graph goes, right? We've been through this before.

WYNNE: Yes. Well, exactly right. The real risk from COVID, while it extends across the board, is in vulnerable populations. So, we've been really focused on long term care facilities throughout the state. So, as you probably know, we have a very aggressive testing protocol, especially in long term care facilities.

One of the reasons our numbers are up is because we're doing so much testing. Now, that is a good thing so that we can identify who has it, who are contacts and so forth. So, we are really focused on trying to protect our vulnerable populations, the older segments of the population and those with pre-existing conditions.

HAYES: You know, one thing that really struck me this summer that sort of learned from the Sunbelt outbreak, particularly in Arizona, was there was a kind of, you know, it was brutal and painful and lots of people died, who I think probably didn't have to, but there was a kind of thermostatic relationship between public behavior and case counts that we did see behavior change in Arizona.

When the cases were low and the and the outbreak was being seated, people were out, they were drinking, they were hanging out with each other. They massed up and they stopped doing that when cases went up. Do you have indications of local policy of behavioral changes happening in your state to break the back of this thing?

WYNNE: Yes. That is occurring, and it's happening at the local level. So, for instance, here in Fargo, North Dakota, where our home is, the mayor just yesterday had a proclamation about the importance of masking for citizens in Fargo. There you see Mayor Mahoney with that proclamation. So, we believe that it's really important, but especially in North Dakota, local influence really makes a difference.

And Tim, who by the way, is also a physician, is very well known in the community. And I can assure you that for people who live in Fargo, hearing Mayor Mahoney say you need to wear a mask does a lot more than you are me saying it, Chris.

HAYES: Oh, yes. I wouldn't -- I wouldn't deign to tell the people in North Dakota what to do. but I'm glad there are people, local folks that are saying that. I guess my final question for you is, you know, one of the things that we saw in these outbreaks that were in metro areas is they were places with fairly high hospital capacity, even if they were overwhelmed.

We've seen reductions in rural hospital capacity across this country for years now. Many people suggest we're now kind of paying the price for that. What is hospital capacity looking like in your state?

WYNNE: Yes. So, the good news is that we are in reasonable shape as far as hospital capacity. That isn't to say that there aren't some hospitals that are being stretched somewhat. But throughout the state, we do have adequate capacity. The important thing, again, is to not rest on our laurels. We need to change the direction of that curve so that we don't get into a catastrophic situation where we run out of bed capacity.

HAYES: All right, Dr. Joshua Wynne in Fargo, North Dakota, thank you so much. I really appreciate you speaking to us tonight.

WYNNE: A pleasure to be with you, Chris. Thank you so much.

HAYES: Next, it was one of the early horrors of the Trump administration, and the horror continues to this day. Tonight, NBC News reports that lawyers for over 500 migrant children separated from their families by the Trump administration still cannot locate their parents. Jacob Soboroff on the jaw-dropping headline next.


HAYES: Two and a half years after the Trump administration launched an official policy to separate migrant children from their parents, and after a judge ordered them to reunite those families, hundreds of kids are still without their parents, and those parents cannot be found. NBC News reports that lawyers appointed to a federal -- by a federal judge to identify migrant families who are separated by the Trump administration say they have yet to track down the parents of 545 children, that approximately two thirds of those parents were deported to Central America without their children, leaving the families separated possibly permanently.

One of the top reporters on this monstrous story who detail exactly what the Trump administration did to migrant families in his book separated inside an American tragedy is MSNBC and NBC News Correspondent Jacob Soboroff, and he joins me now.

Jacob, the group of children here at issue are a group of children taken from their parents in the very beginning of the Trump administration is administering this policy. Explain who they are and how this group is different than the later group.

JACOB SOBOROFF, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Precisely, Chris. This is a group of 1,556 children identified by NGOs, the Trump administration, and the ACLU. That group has been winnowed to about 1,100. And of that 1,100, 545 parents are still effectively unreachable is what the group's referred to them as that are searching for them on the ground.

And when I say searching, literally searching door to door in some cases, for parents because the contact information that was provided was faulty. This group of children was separated even before the policy that came to be known as zero tolerance was ever in place during the El Paso so-called pilot program in 2017, and other places along the southwest border around that time as well.

HAYES: Yes, this is -- this was them experimenting with this as a policy in 2017 before they sort of made it a systemic policy that created the backlash. And so, this was all happening much more under the radar in terms of press. What do we know about where these kids are? Like, who is looking after them now? They've now been in U.S. custody for three years?

SOBOROFF: Yes, and it's, it's unbelievable. I actually talked to an eight-year-old boy from Honduras who's living in Northern California with his aunt and uncle. Just last night, you know, expecting this news to be filed in court today, the father is still in Honduras, and he's trying to get brought back to the United States. It's an almost insurmountable legal hurdle based on the terms of this agreement that was made between the ACLU and the federal government.

But I just want to reiterate. I mean, what these children went through has been now categorized as government sanctioned child abuse by the American Academy of Pediatrics, as torture by Physicians for Human Rights. And it was perpetrated by the Trump administration political officials after they were warned by career people in HHS, in DHS, in the Department of Justice, as was reported just a couple of weeks ago, that this policy was going to have the exact consequences that we're talking about right now.

The record keeping wasn't there, they wouldn't be able to track these families down. And here we are, as you said, almost three years later, with trauma compounded if you talk to child health care professionals, probably on a daily basis for these children.

HAYES: In terms of reuniting these families, which is the ultimate goal here, it sounds like there's a few obstacles. One is finding the parents, the other just that I understand what you're saying that, even if they found, they're located, them being able to come back to United States to take their child is harder than it appears. Is that right?

SOBOROFF: Particularly for parents who were deported without their children. In the original class, there were 400 or so that were deported without their children. And I think 29 were brought back to the United States in this expanded class. I think that there's a number that's basically equivalent to that at this point, and that's because of a narrow definition of what can be considered for reunification under the terms of the settlement agreement.

And at the end of the day, I mean, it's almost inexplicable that the government would be able to do this, would be able to take parents and children from one another. And out of 1,100, at this point, we're only talking about a handful or two. And the other thing I should point out is, Chris, some of the parents have opted to leave their children with family members in the United States instead of deport them if the government is saying to them, sorry, we're not going to bring you back to the United States. But that isn't their choice.

HAYES: That is really something. My God. Jacob Soboroff, great reporting as always. Thank you.

SOBOROFF: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: Still ahead, we're just two weeks away from the election. New polling shows Trump consistently underperforming his 2016 numbers in the most competitive House districts. And what that means, after this.


HAYES: We're now just two weeks away from Election Day. There are a bunch of new polls giving us a better sense the state of the race. In the latest NBC News polling average, Joe Biden is still up more than nine points over Donald Trump. It's a gap that former vice president has widened steadily since April thanks in part two is inroads in traditionally red states like Georgia.

The latest New York Times Siena College poll in Georgia found the presidential race is tied there for the second month in a row. That is something. Trump is clearly worried having held a rally in Macon, Georgia just this past Friday. It's also a state the president won but more than five points in 2016, which now looks like a possible flip.

The Times poll shows trouble down ballot for Republicans in Georgia as well. Democrat Jon Ossoff, polling even with incumbent Republican David Perdue whose lead has been slipping recently as he fights for reelection. And then there's another election in that state, the state's special Senate election where it's a so-called jungle election, meaning more than one candidate per party can run for the seat, then it might go to a runoff. The Times found Democrat Raphael Warnock polling nine points ahead of incumbent Kelly Leoffler. Just the latest poll showing Leoffler in danger of losing her seat.

Now, one lesson we learned from 2016 is that congressional district level polls can often be an overlooked indicator of how the national race is going. In 2016, they started to show some problems for Hillary Clinton and upside for Donald Trump. The national polls weren't picking up. But the Cook Political Reports Dave Wasserman who follows these competitive house races told The Washington Post, "This year, in my 13 years of covering House races, it's probably the most consistent cycle I've seen. Trump is underperforming his 2016 margins by eight to 10 points in most competitive districts. If Trump won a district by three points last time, he's probably losing by six this time. It's a pretty consistent pattern."

Margie Omero studies these shifts in polling as a Democratic pollster, and she joins me now. I've been fascinated, Margie, by the various district polls that pop up. We spend a lot of time on national polling, a lot of time in the Senate seats. The district polling is more catches catch can, but I'm curious what your read is of the -- of the data in these competitive seats in aggregate?

MARGIE OMERO, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, so there are a lot of different indicators to look at. The first is -- I mean, in 2018, the big story was the House. The big story with all the freshmen, all the new members, folks who came in from -- were new to public service or first-time candidates. And typically, freshmen can be vulnerable the first time they run for reelection. We're not seeing that this time around.

You see a lot of these folks like Alyssa Slotkin or Abigail Spanberger, or Abby Finkenauer, Sharice Davids, people who won their races, sometimes in battleground or Republican leaning areas who have seen comfortable. So, that's the first time that Democrats are doing well in the House. And then you have places where Democrats can make inroads like Texas. There are districts all around the state. And that's connected to the battleground -- you know, the potential battleground of Texas, whether it's the presidential, the Senate, or even the state legislature, which is also up for grabs. So, that is just a new surge and attention to Texas.

So, if you look at how candidates are doing, where new candidates -- the strength of candidates who have been recruited, the kinds of opponents they're drawing, all of that shows the strength across the fields for Democrats,

HAYES: Is there a through-line here? I mean, it seems to me that there were a lot of sort of Romney-Clinton -- the sort of 2018 hotspots, right, where these Romney-Clinton seats and areas around them, they tended to be relatively affluent and relatively white, and relative -- and quite educated. And in the sort of suburbs and metro areas, you know, that that huge Orange County sweep, the Lucy McBath's seat in the GA and of the Atlanta suburbs. Is that the sort of trend line?

I mean, there's still a bunch of seats left on the table there that fit that kind of profile. Is that we're seeing the most kind of Biden over Trump overperformance?

OMERO: Yes, there's some of that. There are some races that were a little close last time around that are you know, maybe, you know, in play this time around. So, there's another Georgia congressional seat, Georgia seven, so that's a very diverse district, that's open seat. There's Ohio one, Steve Chabot, incumbent in Ohio, which has a high African American population. So, there are some districts that have all kinds of different profiles.

I think the through-line is that Trump is vulnerable -- I mean, as he started, he's vulnerable across the board. He's lost ground with a variety of groups. There continues to be a gender gap, an education gap, that -- an age gap that is, you know, that hasn't really improved in any one direction. It has all moved -- all those groups have moved to kind of similar numbers from 16 to 20, and then to the Democratic side.

You know, it's interesting you say that because a lot of times when we talk about political coalitions and demographics of polling, there's this kind of like trade-off idea. You know, well, this person's going to do better with this constituency. And a lot of times like candidates, one way to do better is just do like a little better with a whole bunch of different people. And right now, that kind of looks like the Biden recipe more or less. Like, he's doing better at the margins with a whole bunch of different sub constituencies. Do you think that's a fair characterization?

OMERO: Yes, exactly right. So, it's not like there isn't this like, super-secret group. And if you just get all of them, then you can lose some other folks. And then there are of course, differences across different demographics. But ultimately, you have, you know, Joe Biden is over performing or increasing his performance across a variety of different audiences, even if there are some groups where he obviously does better than others.

Similarly, Trump is losing ground across the board with all kinds of different audiences. So, it's a sign of the, you know, fundamentals of where the electorate is the cycle, and it is something that House races or, you know, House candidates are going to have a hard time overcoming or running ahead of. You know, they're just going to have a hard time getting beyond, you know, the whatever the national climate is.

HAYES: You know, a lot of people are traumatized in 2016, understandably. They look at the Pennsylvania polling average was or the Michigan polling average and it was quite -- it was off. It was quite off catastrophically in terms of what the outcome was. Are you confident that polling is better this time around particularly not the national number, which came pretty close actually capturing the Hillary Clinton, but the statewide polling?

OMERO: Well, I think as an industry, there is the public polling, which people obviously in the public spent a lot of time looking at. But the polling industry has really spent a lot of time really adjusting to, you know, post-16 and also just adjusting to changes and how we reach people. So, you're seeing more multimodal surveys, you're seeing changes in the way people ask education, changes in the way people look at education. That was one of the big takeaways, more qualitative even in COVID times. We're doing Zoom focus groups.

So, you see, I think, a lot of changes that are happening, you know, really across the board as a way to adjust for that. And you know, certainly there's a lot of consistency in what everybody's seeing both internal, public, data, and also what the Republican side is indicating.

HAYES: Margie Omero, thank you so much for your time tonight. That is ALL IN on this Tuesday night. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.


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