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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, October 8, 2020

Guests: Kate Bedingfield, James Carville, Dayna Polehanki, Valerie Jarret, Beto O`Rourke


President Trump pulled out of the debate and his campaign floated moving both remaining debates back a week, but the Biden campaign said it would not allow them to rewrite the calendar. Sen. McConnell in an interview suggests the White House is paying the price for their lax on safety standards. The FBI announced today that they foiled a plot by right-wing extremists to kidnap the governor of Michigan. The latest poll show Joe Biden and Donald Trump tied in Texas.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Trump's very strange day, his strange morning, and the strange things that he said. So, stick with MSNBC for the rest of night because there's a lot of show left starting with my friend Chris Hayes. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.



MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK ANCHOR: Have you been tested recently? Can you tell us anything else about your condition?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I'll be tested first in, but I'm essentially very plain.

HAYES: Contact-tracing the infected president.

TRUMP: I'm met with Gold Star Families. I didn't want to cancel that. They want to hug me and they want to kiss me, and they do.

HAYES: Tonight, as the Trump cluster grows, the president pulls out of the next debate. And Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield is here to respond.

Then, the shocking details will be foiled right-wing extremists plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan. Tonight, the governor is responding.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): When our leaders meet with, encourage, or fraternize with domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions, and they are complicit.

HAYES: Plus, former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett on the big takeaways from the Harris-Pence debate, and Beto O'Rourke and why Democrats are surging in Texas in spite of voter suppression, when ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York. I'm Chris Hayes. Well, it looks for now like we are not going to have a presidential debate next week, though there's some updates on that. The main reason is because our 74-year-old president who is currently infected and contagious with a vicious and deadly virus insists he will only do the second debate next week if he can be close enough to shed his viral load on his 77-year-old opponent. He got to be within infecting distance or Donald Trump just won't do it.

That's where we're at right now. This morning, the Committee on Presidential Debates made the obvious call to make the next debate a town hall event virtual in wake of the President's COVID diagnosis. Trump said no to that. He won't waste his time debating if he can't be in the same room as Biden. No matter that just about everyone in America has spent the last seven months getting used to sub-optimal virtual means of doing their normal work. No, unless the President can maximize the risk, the danger, and the recklessness, he won't do it.

Now, after Trump pulled out of the debate, his campaign floated moving both remaining debates back a week. But the Biden campaign said it would not allow them to rewrite the calendar.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We agreed to three debates back in the summer. This has been going on since the early 90s. The first debate -- first the first, second debate, townhall format, third debate, first the first. We set the dates, I'm sticking with the date, I'm showing up. I'll be there. And in fact, if he shows up, fine. If he doesn't, fine.


HAYES: Trump's refusal to debate virtually is par for the course for a man who is at the center of what increasingly looks like an enormous cluster that the White House is in the midst of trying to cover up. We do not know, we just don't know it, how many people around the President have tested virus -- tested positive and contract the virus or how far the links in the chain go because the White House is not doing contact tracing despite holding an apparent super spreader event.

And now, the Washington D.C. local government has resorted to begging individuals connected to recent White House events to contact their local health department. An internal FEMA memo reported by ABC News says that 34 people connected to the White House, more than previously known were affected. And a USA Today investigation using crowdsourcing found the White House outbreak may have exposed thousands of people all across the country.

And we know a bunch of people who were at that big September 26th event for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett was held before Ruth Bader Ginsburg was even buried. It also had several indoor components and masks were scarce. We know that a bunch of people who were at that tested positive.

Today, the president appeared to try to blame Gold Star Family members who attended a White House reception for his own infection, complaining that they come within an inch of my face sometimes, even though the event with Gold Star families at the White House was the day after what appears to have been the super spreader event. Indeed, it's more likely that those families were put at risk, the family members of the fallen service members. As we now know, the White House itself has quietly acknowledged.

The White House is even flagrantly covering up a crucial easy to ascertain piece of information, when the President's last negative test was. Two officials familiar with the situation told the Washington Post, Trump has not been tested daily in recent months.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was the date of the president's last negative test?

SEAN CONLEY, PHYSICIAN TO THE PRESIDENT: I'm not going to get into all the testing going back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was it Thursday, was it Wednesday, when -- do you remember when he had his last negative test?

CONLEY: I don't want to go backwards.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: Yes, I'm not going to give you a detailed readout with timestamps that every time the president is tested.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know when he last tested negative.

MARK MEADOWS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We don't normally get into the testing protocol for the President.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When was the President's last negative test?

ALYSSA FARAH, DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, WHITE HOUSE: I can't reveal that at this time. The doctors would like to keep it private since it's private.


FARAH: My understanding is that it's just private medical history.


HAYES: I mean, that's patently absurd. I mean, first of all, they give enough negative test results before. Second of all, he's the President of the United States. The medical history isn't private because he's the president. And third of all, the reason they're not answering the question most likely is because it would make them look very bad.

Here's the thing though. The people in the White House appear to believe their own dangerous, delusional story the virus has nothing to worry about. It's either that or they just don't care. I mean, the Atlanta Journal Constitution now reporting that Mark Meadows, who you saw in that clip before, he's the White House Chief of Staff, that he threw a wedding for his daughter this past May in Atlanta with roughly 70 guests despite a statewide order and city of Atlanta guidelines that ban gatherings of more than 10 people to prevent the spread of the virus.

So, you know, you may be out there having not warned the person you love who died and not being able to sit Shiva or attend their wake or their funeral as I have, but Mark Meadows goes and throws a wedding for 70 people. You know, there's a wedding in Maine in August with about the same number of guests which has been linked to at least seven deaths from the virus and more than 175 confirmed cases.

The recklessness of these people, the danger they pose to everyone has been evident to everyone watching. Just this afternoon, after all this with his father, you know, wheezing on videos, OK, just hospitalized with hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical care, Donald Trump Jr. headlining a mostly unmasked indoor rally as though the pandemic were over.

You know, though, who does understand reality? The President's perhaps most important political ally, Mitch McConnell who today said, one of the most devastating things I've ever heard about is Trump and himself. It basically in so many words, McConnell said, I have stayed away from the White House because the president is so incompetent, his team is so incompetence, so dangerous, so diluted, that I would not trust my -- trust him with my own personal health, even though I'm going to do everything I can to keep them in power.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I haven't actually been in the White House since August 6th because my impression was their approach to how to handle this was different from mine. If any of you have been around May -- since May 1st, I've said, wear you masks and practice social distancing. It's the only way we know how to prevent the spread until we get a vaccine. And we've practiced that in the Senate.

Now you have heard about other places that have had a different view, and they are, you know, paying the price for it.


HAYES: Wow. Think about what he just said there. And Mitch McConnell more or less comes out and says, the White House had it coming. I mean, this is the whole nightmarish, destructive, seven months of this pandemic in a nutshell. Just today, this is -- this is what's happening today, seven months into this. The latest COVID tracking data shows nearly 55,000 new cases today. That's the chart in pink. You can see we're now trending upward. It looks to be the third wave, along with 34,000 currently hospitalized. The blue graph, also trending up. And today, another 975 dead Americans.

And you have all these people around the president watching him sabotage the response, still watching the unnecessary deaths pile up day after day, who take personal precautions to avoid being infected by his mismanagement, people like Mitch McConnell, while simultaneously bolstering his political power to keep running the country, except we're all trapped in the Trump White House that they have opted out of visiting.

Joining me now Kate Bedingfield, Deputy Campaign Manager, Communications Director for the Biden-Harris campaign. It's great to have you on, Kate. I want to ask about the debate --


HAYES: -- the debate situation, because the president is now issued a third statement on the debate, basically saying I'll come with a doctor's note next week. His doctor, Dr. Sean Conley released a statement earlier today saying basically, we expect -- Saturday will be 10 days, so he'll be fine. There's no word about what -- if he's testing positive or not or anything like that. But the President wants to come and show up in person with his entire retinue in a doctor's note. What's the Biden response to that?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, I mean, look, you know, the President is trying to change the rules here on the one yard line. You know, we agreed back in June two, three debates. We were requiring -- we expected the Cleveland Clinic and the debate commission to enforce the rules, to enforce the rules to ensure that the debate that we held last week was safe.

Obviously, this White House has not been transparent and that is troubling, that is concerning. So, we will demand. We have every expectation. And by that, I mean, we will demand that the Cleveland Clinic and the Debate Commission make any debate moving forward safe, that we see proof from Trump and from the Trump team that they're not infectious to be there. So, you know, that's first and foremost. We need to ensure that as these debates proceed, that they're safe.

But here's the other thing to remember. So, we -- both campaigns agreed to the terms of these debates back in June. And here you have Donald Trump at the last minute saying today, well, no, actually, I'm not going to show up. He's clearly afraid to take questions from voters, which is perhaps understandable. He doesn't want to have to answer questions directly from voters at this town hall in Miami. Remember, this debate is supposed to be a town hall format. He doesn't want to answer those questions.

So, when he said he wasn't going to show, we decided that we were going to do our own town hall. We're going to do a televised Town Hall, a national televised Town Hall on the night of the 15th. Joe Biden is going to take questions from voters. He's going to talk about his plans to get the virus under control to get our economy working again. And voters are going to have the chance to hear directly from him about what he will do for our country.

HAYES: I'm going to ask you a sort of slightly personal question, which I would love for you to answer honestly, even though I feel like there's always kind of cageyness generally around health and stuff like that. Just -- I know a lot of people that were very freaked out for five or six days about the Vice President. Like, we all saw the vice president on stage with the President. Two days later, the President of the United States, a 74-year-old man says I have Coronavirus.

And the Vice President 77 years old. It would be horrible if he contracted this illness as well. Like, were you guys nervous about this? Was this something that people were worried about?

BEDINGFIELD: Look, he's tested negative. He's consistently tested negative. We have released the results over the course of the last week as he has consistently tested negative. So you know, what I will say is that, you know, for our campaign, the focus is less about the health of Joe Biden, although, of course, we're taking every precaution to make sure that he's safe. And it's more about the health of American families all across this country.

I mean, you know, the way that Donald Trump personally is handling his own illness, that's one issue. But the big issue is how he's handled this illness for families all across the country. He did not take -- he didn't take action. He did not take the steps to contain this virus to get it under control. He lied to the American people.

We know he was on tape, back in February talking to Bob Woodward about how serious the virus was while simultaneously publicly telling the American people that it was no worse than the flu. So, you know, for us, these questions of health are really about the health of the American people. Joe Biden is somebody who is going to put in place meaningful plans that's going to get this virus under control.

And we -- you know, you asked about how he's doing. Look, we've taken every precaution. Our campaign has been exceptionally focused throughout the spring, and the summer, even to the point where, you know, we were taking some criticisms, some political criticism, and people were saying, well, are you doing enough? But we were adhering to public safety guidance to make sure that we were keeping everybody safe, including the people in the communities we were visiting.

HAYES: Yes, it's interesting to note that because right -- like, generally, you know, the health or well-being of various candidates is sort of a little ancillary to policy. I mean, just people get sick, or they don't get sick, they might have conditions. In this case, it's, you know, central to what the country is battling. And I can't help but point out that one of the main messages Donald Trump and his campaign have used to run against you is you're taking the virus too seriously. You're not doing enough. going around with people. You're wearing a mask too much. Like what -- quickly, what's your response to that now as you look at the last month of this campaign?

BEDINGFIELD: The same as it's always been, Chris, which is that it's incredibly irresponsible. It's incredibly dangerous. It's jeopardizing the lives and the livelihoods of people all across the country. Look, we can get through this virus. That's Joe Biden's message. We can get through this by looking out for each other, by protecting each other, by wearing a mask.

You know, he believes that the words of a president matter, the actions of a president matter. He has modeled responsible behavior from the outset wearing a mask, encouraging others to do it. There are steps we can take to get through this crisis to get our economy back on track, but it requires leadership. We've seen it from Joe Biden. We haven't seen it from Donald Trump.

HAYES: Kate Bedingfield with the Biden campaign, thank you for making some time with us tonight.

BEDINGFIELD: Thanks for having me, Chris. I really appreciate it.

HAYES: Joining me now is James Carville, Democratic strategist, co-host of the Politics War Room podcast. James, it's Great to have you. You know, I wanted to get your response to the McConnell's quotes today because I just -- I thought it was such a remarkable thing to say to basically throw the White House under the bus and say I won't even set foot in that place. It's such a, you know, pestilential swamp.

And also it seemed to be a little bit of -- a little bit of a kind of -- I don't know if it was a signal to Republicans Senate candidates that you can distance yourself from the White House, down the street to this campaign. How did you read it?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I read it just like that. You got to go back to John Cornyn at the Houston Chronicle Editorial Board that he's criticized Trump --

HAYES: That's right.

CARVILLE: You got to go to Martha McSally in a debate that refuse to even compliment the president, right? You go to Thom Tillis in North Carolina insisted on wearing a mask of Trump, you know, knowing what's going on. And you're going to see a lot of this between now and Election Day.

Mitch McConnell cares about one thing, power, power. And his Senate candidates are coming in and they're getting slaughtered out there. And so he's trying to give him some space to get away from Trump. I mean, they're running away from Trump like the Devil runs away from holy water. I mean, it's really amazing.

And you can just feel it that all of -- they're looking for some space out there, and McConnell was trying to give them some. That's exactly what's behind this.

HAYES: It's also -- I mean, McConnell also, you know, he is a pretty smart political operator and can read a poll. And I'm just -- you know, we talked about masks and these things being polarized. The numbers here, they're not that polarized. You know, how often you wear masks when you leave home? Always 74 percent, sometimes 18 percent, rarely, never eight percent. This is not a 50-50 issue. It's not a 60-40 issue. It's a 75-25 issue. And McConnell is bright enough, even public health aside, to just look at the data.

CARVILLE: Yes. And again, he's getting all of the people in his caucus that are running and coming up all saying the same thing. You're going to see people -- you're really starting to see separation these Republican candidates from Trump. And all along, people say when are they going to say so? When are they going to say, look, he wants to arrest -- he said he wants to arrest Barack Obama? You know what that's going to do to Lindsey Graham? You know what that's going to mean to African American turnout in South Carolina. You don't just going to do for African American turnout in Georgia, or North Carolina. Do you have any idea?

He is not -- Donald Trump is not trying to win this race. He really isn't. I have no idea who would give him money because the guy is just doing -- he's all over the place. His debate (INAUDIBLE). It I think -- I think Speaker Pelosi is -- there's something really, really wrong with a politician who's running for re-election that's not trying to win.

And then you have this thing in Michigan, the last suburban moment leaving the Democratic Party, please turn off the lights because we were at that stage right now. I mean, I couldn't imagine anything going worse than they'd gone. I mean, this whole thing is just one -- what we say down here, goat roping.

HAYES: Well, let me ask you about -- you mentioned the stimulus, which I agree. I mean, the president loudly announcing that -- on Twitter that he's cutting off negotiations for rescue package, taking the blame for it, and then saying we're going to focus on ramming through the Supreme Court nominee, which is literally the least popular position in polling even among Republicans.

He's now come back to the table on the rescue package. How do you understand the calculation by Democrats politically, at least on this?

CARVILLE: Look, the Democrats were actually -- there was a lot of criticism with people who were calling me and saying, why are they going to give him this election. You know, speaker that was (INAUDIBLE). And people heard about that.


CARVILLE: You just have no idea of how profoundly and deeply people are hurting. People that can't go to work, their kids have to stay home, and they got -- they're doing Zoom, they don't have any money, people are not paying mortgages. And I thought it was a kind of a noble thing that the speaker was doing. Then he turns it down and the stock market crashes of which the only thing he reads.

Then, everybody says, so now he wants to come back. His position in these negotiations is utterly so feeble, you can't imagine it. You can't imagine what a -- what a horrendously weak position he is. And Steve Mnuchin has no bargaining chip right now.

HAYES: Right.

CARVILLE: Pelosi has every card that you can imagine. And he did it to himself. And then he started talking about he wasn't going to debate, now he's going to debate, he wasn't going to do stimulus, now he is. He really is man that -- he can't control his emotions. And McConnell knows that, John Cornyn knows that, Martha McSally knows that, Graham knows that, Thom Tillis knows that, Dan Sullivan knows that, Steve Daines knows that, the whole world knows it.

And the Democrats are just going to drive this home so hard, you can't imagine it. And they better not take their foot off the gas. I mean, just drive it home and get rid of all of it.

HAYES: James Carville, always a delight to talk to you, sir. Thank you so much for making time for us.

CARVILLE: Thank you, Chris. Yes, sir. You bet.

HAYES: Up next, over a dozen right-wing extremists arrested in Michigan, some charged with trying to kidnap that state's governor. And the latest on that, next.


HAYES: The FBI announced today that they foiled a plot by right-wing extremists to kidnap the governor of Michigan. According to the complaint, at least six men were involved in sticking out Governor Gretchen Whitmer's vacation home, allegedly planning to kidnap her and potentially use bombs, even blowing up a bridge to keep police away.

The state also filed terrorism charges against seven other right-wing extremists in Michigan, members of the group who were in contact with the six men who were charged by the FBI. Governor Whitmer has been under attack for months thanks to her swift and thorough response to Coronavirus pandemic in her state. As NBC News reporters Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny noted back in April after the president tweeted out, "Liberate Michigan extremists," took that as a kind of call to arms.

Armed anti-COVID restriction extremists even showed up at the state capitol. Remember that back in April? They're demanding lawmakers lift the lockdown. And according to a Detroit television reporter, at least two of the men charged, they were at those protests. Governor Whitmer held firm on her cover measures and her favorability rating is still high, 51 percent right now.

Today, she dressed the plot against her and made a plea for unity.


WHITMER: I want the people of Michigan to know this. As your governor, I will never stop doing everything in my power to keep you and your family safe. You don't have to agree with me. But I do ask one thing. Never forget that we are all in this together. Let's show a little kindness and a lot more empathy. Let's give one another a little grace and let's take care of each other.


HAYES: Joining me now, Democratic Michigan State Senator Dayna Polehanki who was at the State House back in April when armed protesters, including some of the people arrested today showed up. At that time, she tweeted this photo back then writing, "Directly above me, men with rifles yelling at us. Some of my colleagues who own a bulletproof vests are wearing them. I have never appreciated our Sargent at Arms more than today."

And Michigan State Senator, it's great to have you. First, reaction to hearing this news and learning that it appears that two of those men involved in this alleged plot where there armed in the state capitol.

SEN. DAYNA POLEHANKI (D-MI): Yes, I'm a little bit shaken, Chris. I'm still shaken. Even more so to learn that two of the men in the photo that I took are conspirators in this plot to kidnap the governor and storm the capitol. I really do feel grateful, though, however, to our attorney general, Dana Nessel, the FBI, the Michigan State Police, the U.S. Attorney's Office for thwarting this plot. I'm just so grateful and I wanted to make sure I said that.

HAYES: What is the reaction been among your colleagues today? I mean, you know, I can imagine this being some moment of kind of bipartisan unity. I mean, if the plot is what is alleged by the government, it's pretty horrifying and scary for all involved. Do you have a sense of what the reaction has been more broadly?

POLEHANKI: You would think there would be bipartisan unity, wouldn't you? Unfortunately, just today, the person who was in charge of moving bills, our Senate Majority Leader, pretty much said there -- he doesn't plan on acting to prohibit guns from our Capitol to keep us safe. He said, we can't legislate and get rid of all risk.

He talks about needing to be strong and not be afraid of those who are taking our freedoms away. And it just seems like they're intent on baiting this group. There was a group at the Capitol today and the majority leader said those words to them on the on the Capitol steps. There were -- some of them were armed too. I had to be escorted to my office today by the Sergeants at Arms because there were guns at the Capitol today. It's just -- yes, you'd think it'd be bipartisan, snap.

HAYES: Wait, I want to make sure I understand. So you're saying, there were protesters there today outside the Capitol, and they were -- and some of them had weapons on them, which is protected by state laws. I understand they're allowed to open carry on Capitol grounds.

POLEHANKI: And inside the capitol, except you can't carry signs in our capital.

HAYES: Is that right? You can't carry signs or your capital, but you can carry a long gun?

POLEHANKI: That is absolutely correct. You can open carry, concealed carry, but there is fear that the signs may chip the paint on the walls of our beautiful Capitol, so signs are not allowed.

HAYES: I mean, it really does -- I remember when we had you, I think, on the program back in April. And I remember looking at these images and really being, you know, thinking they were -- they were pretty menacing. And to see that there was an actual plot that there were talks of possibly constructing IEDs, of kidnapping the governor, and bring her to Mackinac Island where I think she has a some kind of house, and having a show trial for treason, I can understand why you were looking over your shoulder today of all days with armed protesters outside your door.

POLEHANKI: Yes. Every day when I enter the Capital's floor, I look into the gallery for armed gunmen. I keep a bulletproof vest under my desk. And that's just how it is in my workplace, and it's unfortunate. You know, the plots -- the news today was, of course, about the plot to kidnap the governor, which is bad enough. But in the affidavit, there was also a plot to storm our Capitol with hundreds of arms men, take hostages, kidnap politicians.

And just today, we had kids visiting our Capital, sitting in the same gallery where the armed men were, and I'm just afraid for them. I'm afraid for them, for myself, my colleagues, the staff, the journalists, everyone.

HAYES: I wanted to ask you about the governor because it is striking to me that she really had a target kind of on her back. The President's, you know, tweets at her, liberate Michigan, telling him that these were nice people, the armed men that showed up, and that he -- that she should give a little, she should work things out with them. And yet she's remained quite popular in your state. She has taken a very strong approach to the -- to the virus there. What is your takeaway about the kind of the politics of this and what Michiganders think about all this?

POLEHANKI: These men, I just want to make it clear, don't represent the vast majority of Michiganders who do approve of the governor stay home stay safe order, her mask order. You know, Michigan is doing a great job with the Coronavirus. And that's in large part because of the governor's executive orders. And she saved lives, thousands of lives. So, it's not surprising to me that she's still popular.

HAYES: Michigan State Senator Dayna Polehanki who goes to work in that workplace, thank you so much for talking to us tonight. POLEHANKI: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: Coming up, the Mike Pence punt. Why the Vice President kept dodging his own platform on the debate last night. Obama's senior adviser Valerie Jarrett joins me next.


HAYES: One of the most striking things I noticed about last night's vice presidential debate wasn't how Pence answered the questions, but he dodged them. A lot of people notice that as well. Time and again, he refused to give straightforward answer because, I suspect, he understands that his ticket is on the wrong side of a bunch of issues that are wildly popular with voters.

This was really notable when he absolutely was given a layup on Roe v. Wade, OK, this is Mike Pence, a man so anti-abortion that as governor of Indiana, he signed a law that basically forced women to seek funeral services for abortions and miscarriages, and he didn't answer the question.


SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: Vice President Pence, you're the former governor of Indiana. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, what would you want Indiana to do? Would you want your home state to ban all abortions? You have two minutes uninterrupted.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: Well, thank you for the question. But I'll use a little bit of my time to respond to that very important issue before. The American people deserve to know Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian general who was responsible for the death of hundreds of American service members.


HAYES: I mean, think about that here. Mike Pence, should they outlaw abortion in Indiana if Roe is repealed? Yes, obviously he thinks that. No, he doesn't say that. He says let's talk about Qassem Soleimani. And then Pence gets asked about the Affordable Care Act and the Trump plan for pre-existing conditions that people will have them, and he doesn't answer that. Instead, he then changes subject back to abortion without ever actually answering the very easy and obvious abortion question itself.


PAGE: Tell us specifically, how would your administration protect Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to affordable insurance if the Affordable Care Act is struck down?

PENCE: Well, thank you, Susan. But let me just say, addressing your very first question. I couldn't be more proud to serve as vice president to a president who stands without apology for the sanctity of human life.


HAYES: You see how he did that, right? The question about abortion, let's talk about Qassem Soleimani. Then, a question about health care, well, let's talk about abortion but not answer the first abortion question. And the big takeaway from the Republican side last night is that whatever vessel you put the message in, they are fundamentally aware of how unpopular key parts of it are.

As for the Democratic message and the performance of Senator Kamala Harris, the first black woman in American history to become a vice presidential nominee, I want to bring in Valerie Jarrett, former senior advisor of President Obama, author of the book, Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward. It's great to have you.


HAYES: Good evening. I thought that Kamala Harris had actually a very hard job last night, because of all the different ways in which there are expectations. Mike Pence is a very accomplished debater. There's all sorts of freighted dynamics around gender and race that can be so difficult to navigate. I thought -- what did you think of the job she did?

JARRETT: She did a terrific job. Why? Because she was authentic. She spoke truthfully, she was enjoying it. I think she's the only one of the two that actually enjoyed the debate process. She came prepared and ready to debate the issues, to speak directly to the American people, to see the world through their eyes, and explain not only what she and Vice President Biden are going to do to get us out of this horrible situation that we are in with the pandemic, with losing jobs, with our racial tensions, but also contrasting with the abysmal job that the Trump administration has done.

HAYES: I thought one thing that struck me about several moments is that first debate with the President was a train wreck because he just wouldn't let anyone speak and you couldn't actually, like get through a sentence. No one can get through a sentence about, you know, just articulating a position.

And because Mike Pence who was interrupting somewhat, but not as much, that Senator Harris had a bunch of moments just laying out basic, fundamental parts of the platform. I thought this part on student debt for instance, which I want to play, was striking because you just hadn't heard it in the first debate because it was impossible to get a message for it. Take a listen.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): For folks who want to go to a two year Community College, it will be free. If you come from a family that makes less than $125,000, you will go to a public university for free. And across the board, we'll make sure that if you have student loan debt, it's cut by $10,000. That's how Joe Biden thinks about the economy which is about investing in the people of our country.


HAYES: Basic sort of brass tacks stuff that was just almost impossible to get out through the maelstrom of Donald Trump in that first debate.

JARRETT: Well, I think that Donald Trump's entire strategy was just to try to keep interrupting in the hope that he would make Vice President Biden lose his chain of thought. He did not lose his chain of thought. But what it really took away was an opportunity for the American people to hear directly from the president, justify his abysmal record, explain what he was going to do in a second term. But he didn't want to do any of that, because you can't justify it. And so, his strategy was just to keep interrupting.

Last night, Vice President Pence I thought interrupted far more than he should have. He showed some disrespect and disdain not only for Senator Harris by interrupting her, but also for the moderator and the rules that the campaign's had agree to ahead of time. You can't just answer whatever question you want to because the American people are listening.

And the questions that they were talking about, for ones that are so important to our lives, and our livelihood, the COVID-19 and the horrible, abysmal way in which this administration has handled it, the Affordable Care Act, knowing that the Supreme Court is going to be hearing in December, the Trump administration's argument for why they should repeal it.

And I thought Senator Harris did a very good job of breaking down that they're coming after you if you have a pre-existing condition, if you want your kids to stay on your plan until you're there 26, women preventive care, all of the ingredients of the Affordable Care Act. She did the same thing on systemic racism. She broke it down in a way that the American people know that she's walked in their shoes.

HAYES: I got to ask you this question about the Affordable Care Act as someone with the battle scars of that -- of that huge political fight. You know, the Affordable Care Act was -- it was unpopular. It was underwater when it passed by 15 to 20 points. It stayed unpopular for longer than a lot of people thought. A lot of people thought it would get right side relatively quickly, and it stayed unpopular. And now here we are 10 years later, and you have republicans basically running on it.

I mean, John Cornyn is cutting an ad about he's going to protect people with pre-existing conditions. And as someone who went through that battle, what is your reaction to watching Republicans attempt to appropriate a law they have spent 10 years and are trying now to kill?

JARRETT: Well, I think what they recognize and they learned this when the Trump administration tried to pass a law that would repeal it, and all of those members went home to their districts, and they were eviscerated by their constituents who said, wait a minute, I like having health insurance that's affordable. I like knowing that I'm going to be covered -- I don't have to worry about being discriminated against if I have a pre-existing condition.

And in a sense, what they're doing now is they're saying President Trump signed an Executive Order saying he's going to protect pre-existing conditions. No, he's not. His executive order doesn't mean anything. And if the Supreme Court rules the way he wants him to, it's going to wipe up the entire act.

HAYES: The whole law, yes.

JARRETT: And then, what's going to happen? They're going to have to go back to Congress.


JARRETT: And that's where I think the disingenuousness of everything that the Trump administration stands for. It kind of comes out with real clarity. How do you argue I'm going to protect pre-existing conditions when you're in court right now trying to get rid of it?

HAYES: Valerie Jarrett, great to talk to you tonight. Thank you so much for making time.

JARRETT: You're welcome. Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: All right, coming up, astonishing early voting turnout numbers across country and a suddenly competitive Senate race in Texas. Beto O'Rourke will join me ahead.


HAYES: There's obviously so much that makes this election unlike any we've had before, the level of interest, the stakes for the country, and of course the pandemic, so you can't really make apples to apples comparisons with elections past. That said, the early voting numbers we are seeing so far are crazy.

According to the United States Elections Project, which is tracking the early vote, over 6.5 million Americans have already cast their ballots either by mail or in-person early voting. In Dane County, Wisconsin, which encompasses Madison and the surrounding suburbs, a third of the votes cast in 2016 are already in with nearly four weeks to go until Election Day. And in North Carolina, I thought this was interesting, a quarter of the early votes that have been cast by mail so far are from people who did not vote in North Carolina four years ago.

Again, none of this indicates one way or the other who people are voting for, which candidates this is benefiting. There aren't any tea leaves to read here about who's in the lead. We do know that Democrats have been fighting all across the country to make it basically as easy as possible to vote, to count as many battles as possible, and Republicans have generally been doing the opposite.

And one of the places where Republicans have been most egregiously trying to make it harder to vote is the state of Texas, where suddenly the Texas Republican Party, which is used to having a total stranglehold on state politics, is now facing an existential threat. I'll talk about that with Beto O'Rourke next.


HAYES: Fun fact about Texas, there are 254 counties in the state, far more than any other state, and the smallest have tiny populations, populations in the low hundreds like Loving County, while a few like Harris County have millions of residents. And Governor Greg Abbott recently ordered that every single one of those counties, no matter their size, can have only one ballot drop off location.

Of course, in the very heavily populated Harris County, it led to lines like these. And it's clear that Texas Republicans are intent on doing just about anything they can to keep voting down because polling in the state is looking bad for them right now. The recent poll show Joe Biden and Donald Trump neck and neck in Texas. And in a sleeper race, long time Senator John Cornyn, who was planning to coast reelection is now in an absolute dogfight with his Democratic challenger MJ Hegar.

Joining me now is someone who is widely speculated to maybe run for that very Senate seat before passing on it, former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke, founder of the grassroots Democratic Organization Powered by the People.

Beto, let me start with where your assessment is of where things stand for Democrats in the state of Texas. I was -- I was skeptical of the Cornyn race and the Hegar race. But I've now seen three polls in a row that show it to be a real race. What do you think?

BETO O'ROURKE, FORMER CONGRESSMAN FROM TEXAS: It is a real race. And I think Texans have been able to connect the dots. They understand that John Cornyn has not only voted time and again to take away health care including protections for pre-existing conditions, but he has enabled Donald Trump.

So, if you're angered by the kids in cages, if you are so frustrated and disgusted by the open racism of this president, the failed response to COVID, and the greatest recession since the Great Depression, that's John Cornyn who in the Senate has made that possible, and MJ Hegar is the alternative. And Chris, you just showed it. She has one point down with five days to go before early voting starts in Texas, and Biden is tied with Trump, and we're about to pick up a majority in the State House. So, this this is a very good year for Democrats in Texas.

HAYES: And there's -- I know that Texas -- Texas politics, it's always been hard for, you know, for years. It's very hard for Democrats to raise money there. There was basically, there's a bunch of trial lawyers who would -- you could go raise money from. There weren't a lot of other sources of donors. That has been kind of redone by Act Blue and online fundraising, as you demonstrated in your race two years ago.

You've now got the Biden campaign is going to spend $6 million on Texas campaign ads. The Lincoln Project has $1 million digital ad campaign in the state. How much does the money matter in a state as big as Texas and as expensive as Texas at this point?

O'ROURKE: Yes, Texas used to be the ATM to the rest of the country. And now you're seeing the rest of the country start to invest in Texas, including -- and I want to thank him publicly, Joe Biden investing $6 million to go on the air, which is probably $6 million more than any Democratic nominee has spent in the state in the last three decades. And I think it's in part because he knows he can win it, and also because he knows you can settle the matter on the night of November 3rd.

We can wait days or weeks for the votes in Pennsylvania to be counted, or we can know who the winner is because Texas will declare its results on the third of November with 38 Electoral College votes. It is mathematically impossible for Donald Trump to hold on to power and have a second term.

We can turn the page on him and Trumpism with Texas. And that's made possible by what the great people and candidates in Texas are doing, and the fact that Joe Biden seize this opportunity.

HAYES: You know, you mentioned the State House, and this has -- this has less national implications but it's interesting to me, and I think a sort of window into what's happening, right. I mean, Republicans that run in Texas, like, you know, it's like Democrats in New York. Like, you know, they run -- I mean, Democrats in New York are a little complicated because the governor made a pact to the Republicans, but like, they kind of view it as a kind of birthright, that they have super majorities.

They have the governor's house, they have the statewide offices, and they do what they want with the state. And you've got -- you've got Abbott upside down approval rating, and a real battle to take over that State House. Like, what has happened in the state that has gotten us here in a very short amount of time?

O'ROURKE: You went from not a red state, but a non-voting state to one that's actually turning out to vote. So we won 12 State House seats in 2018, leaving us only nine down. And, Chris, in 2018, I actually won more votes than Ted Cruz in nine of those districts that we have to win. So, not only can we do it, we have turned out a sufficient number of Democrats before.

And then in addition, since 2018, at least 800,000 new voter registrations just in the last two years. We're going to win that State House. And that voter suppression that you talked about when you began this segment, that Democratic majority can dismantle that infrastructure of intimidation, suppression, the voter I.D. laws, the ballot drop off locations that have closed, the racial gerrymander.

The answer to that is winning the State House, which will also draw in three new congressional districts after the census. So this defines what is possible for a decade going forward, Chris.

One other dynamic that I think is fascinating in Texas is we are seeing particularly white women in metro areas and suburbs who have been Republicans move out of the party. And the candidate MJ Hegar who was running against John Cornyn, she sort of his perfect demographic fit for that.

There was a piece the other day about how she voted for John McCain and Mitt Romney. That seems to be a big driver along with turning out new folks getting people registered. This swings particularly among women in in Dallas suburbs, in Houston suburbs, against the party of Trump.

O'ROURKE: Yes, it's about great candidates like MJ Hegar, or Alisa Simmons, or Akilah Bacy, or Natali Hurtado who are running at the State House level, and it's about all these fired up volunteers. In fact, on Monday, we're going to have a million voter phone bank where we're going to call one million voters before the first day of early voting. That's only possible because literally thousands of volunteers have signed up.

So, this state is fired up. You see it in the registrations. You see it in the candidates who are contesting across the board, including in districts that last saw a Democrat on the general election ballot 20 years ago. This is a different state with a new electorate that's about to shock the country on the night of November 3rd.

HAYES: You know, it's funny, I've never trust polls but I do trust the way politicians act. And John Cornyn is acting like a guy who is really in a race right now. His comments, his ads, he's -- he knows he's got to -- he's got to fight ahead of him. Beto O'Rourke, thank you so much for coming on the show.

O'ROURKE: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: All right, that is ALL IN on this Thursday night. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.


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