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UP, Transcript 12/20/2015

Guests: Martha Raddatz, Nan Hayworht, Bob Herbert, Mark Kelly, Steven Shepard, Brent Wilkes

Show: UP Date: December 20, 2015 Guest: Martha Raddatz, Nan Hayworht, Bob Herbert, Mark Kelly, Steven Shepard, Brent Wilkes


JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC HOST: Bernie Sanders apologizes.

Good morning. I`m Jonathan Capehart. Thanks for getting UP with us this Sunday morning. The Democrats debated last night in New Hampshire. There were some heated moments and the candidates also had a lot to say about the Sanders campaign data breach. We`ll have more from New Hampshire in just a moment.

Donald Trump emerges at the top of even more polls. But does he have the ground game to win Iowa? New details ahead.

Also this hour, Washington pulls off a rare example of bipartisanship. But not everyone is happy about it especially the Republican presidential field. We`ll also look at the new attack on Hispanic voting rights.

And, do you have the right stuff? Captain Mark Kelly will be here to talk about NASA`s search for a new class of astronauts.

But we begin this hour with the Democratic debate last night in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders called somewhat of a truce over the voter database controversy. The debate came only hours after the Sanders campaign suspended two more staffers in connection with the alleged data breach. NBC`s Kristen Welker is in New Hampshire with more on how this controversy played out in last night`s debate.

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Jonathan, good morning. It was a night largely dominated by foreign policy and the fight against ISIS. But the controversy over the Sanders campaign inappropriately accessing the Clinton campaign`s voter files also loomed large. And we learned late last night that in addition to firing one staffer, the campaign has now suspended two more.



WELKER: Eager to put the data breach issue to rest, Bernie Sanders quickly apologized.

SANDERS: Not only do I apologize to Secretary Clinton, I want to apologize to my supporters.

WELKER: Clinton agreed it was time to move on.

HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... because I don`t think the American people are all that interested in this.

WELKER: The debate quickly pivoted to an issue many voters are interested in, foreign policy, with Clinton seizing the opportunity to slam Donald Trump`s controversial rhetoric.

CLINTON: He is becoming ISIS` best recruiter. They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.

WELKER: But Clinton came under fire for sounding an optimistic note on ISIS.

CLINTON: We now finally are where we need to be.

WELKER: Republicans pounced. Jeb Bush twitting, we are not where we need to be. Bernie sanders arguing she`s weak on national security.

SANDERS: ... that Secretary Clinton is too much into regime change and a little bit too aggressive without knowing what the unintended consequences might be.

WELKER: Sanders and Clinton clashing at almost every turn.

DAVID MUIR, ABC MODERATOR: Should corporate America love Hillary Clinton?

CLINTON: Everybody should.

MUIR: And will corporate America love a President Sanders?

SANDERS: No, I think they won`t.

WELKER: There were some heated moments, Martin O`Malley hitting his opponents on guns.

MARTIN O`MALLEY, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The flip-flopping political approach of Washington, we need...

SANDERS: Calm down a little bit Martin.

CLINTON: Yes, let`s tell the truth, Martin.

WELKER: And some levity, Clinton at one point a few seconds late after a commercial break.


WELKER: The Democratic front-runner surging in the polls showing a little bit of swagger with a memorable closing line.

CLINTON: Thank you, good night and may the force be with you.


WELKER: Secretary Clinton went into last night`s debate with a 31-point lead over Bernie Sanders. And by all indications, there was no major shake-up last night. Jonathan.

CAPEHART: Kristen Welker, thank you. The voter database controversy wasn`t the only hot topic at the debate. As Kristen reported, sparks flew over gun control, foreign policy and the economy. Here`s Sanders making the case that some taxes are good investment.

SANDERS: What the legislation is, is $1.61 a week. Now you can say that`s a tax on the middle class. It will provide three months paid family and medical leave for the working families of this country. I think Secretary Clinton, $1.61 a week is a pretty good investment.

WELKER: Clinton distanced herself from the President a bit on the Syria strategy and was pushed over her no-fly zone proposal.

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: ISIS doesn`t have aircraft. Al-Qaeda doesn`t have aircraft. So would you shoot down a Syrian military aircraft or a Russian airplane?

CLINTON: I do not think it would come to that. We are already deconflicting air space.

RADDATZ: But isn`t that a decision you should make now whether...

CLINTON: No, I don`t think so.

RADDATZ: If you`re advocating this?

CLINTON: I am advocating the no-fly zone both because I think it would help us the ground to protect Syrians. I`m also advocating it because I think it gives us some leverage in our conversations with Russia.


CAPEHART: Joining us now as our panel, CNBC Contributor Ron Insana, former Republican Congressman from New York Nan Hayworth, and Bob Herbert, Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos. Thank you all for being here this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great to be with you Jonathan.

CAPEHART: So -- OK, we got to start with Secretary Clinton. She had a strong debate. But on foreign policy you heard her on the defensive over the no-fly zone in that last clip. And she may have made another gaffe in describing the fight against ISIS. Let`s take a listen to that.


CLINTON: I wish we could say, "Yes, let`s go destroy ISIS and let`s let Assad continue to destroy Syria which creates more terrorists, more extremists by the minute." No, we now finally are where we need to be. We have a strategy and a commitment to go after ISIS which is a danger to us as well as the region.


CAPEHART: Where we need to be? Should the Clinton camp be worried over her foreign policy stance and particularly that answer?

RON INSANA, CNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I would say that that answer was taken somewhat out of context because she did talk more broadly about the United Nations` resolution in which they`re looking for a political negotiated solution to the Assad regime and some sort of power sharing down the road with those who oppose him inside the country while attacking ISIS at the same Time. So, to say that we`re where we want to be, we are with respect to the United Nations` resolution that recently passed 15-0, we`re certainly not there when it comes to defeating ISIS per se.

CAPEHART: You know, Nan, I saw you -- you`re still shaking your head what Ron said but Ron make a good point. You know, she`s like, now, finally where -- we are where we need to be and the we is not just the United States but the world, and especially what Ron was talking about, the U.N. resolution plus France and Britain getting involved. You don`t buy that.

FRM. REP. NAN HAYWORTH, (R) NEW YORK: Well, Hillary Clinton has been an integral part or was for many years, an integral part of the administration that got us to this point. She has also been inattentive in crucial ways when she was in a position in which she could have had more influence as Secretary of State. We have not empowered the Sunni Allies whom we should have in the Middle East for years. We need to have more support for our allies, like Jordan, friendly leaders like the king of Jordan, like Saudi Arabia`s leadership that needs to be more responsible and more involved. We`ve got a lot, the immolates (ph), we`ve got the Kurds. We`ve got a whole cohorts that we have ignored.

CAPEHART: Bob, I mean, have we really ignored the Jordanians and the Saudis and our Middle Eastern partners?

BOB HERBERT, DEMOS: I think we haven`t ignored them but one of the big problems with these debates, these types of debates is that there`s so much empty rhetoric, and you don`t get really follow-up questions. So, the question that you`re asking this morning is the question that the interviewers last night should have been asking Hillary Clinton. You know, what do you really mean? And I think that that`s never clear, especially on foreign policy issues and on issues of terror and warfare. These candidates make these comments one way or another including, you know, shooting down Russian planes and that sort of thing that have nothing to do really with the real world and what a president would actually do if he or she was faced with that kind of situation.

INSANA: And I think, you know, there`s a certain mythology that`s arisen in the last several years about what the U.S. can do in the wake of the Arab Spring which we`re on the ground, grassroots revolutions that took place starting in Tunisia, spreading to Egypt. I mean the U.S. may have a role but certainly could not control the outcome of some of these things.

And so, listen, I mean the President may have said or may have articulated too strongly U.S. positions suggesting that if Bashar al-Assad gassed his own people, we would go in and blow him up. That was a mistake and, you know -- because that is so-called red line. Bob and I were talking about this before the show. You know, it made no sense because it wasn`t something we were likely to do. And I think that most people assume that we somehow could have controlled these revolutions. We`re not in that position. We just came out two of wars in which we didn`t control the outcome. You can`t go into three more.

HAYWORTH: But we could have better empowered in ways both covert and overt if you will.

CAPEHART: But Morsi was going to end up the president of Egypt no matter what.

HAYWORTH: Friendly -- well, but friendly allies. Understood but we could have done more. And, I might add, with the Iranian nuclear deal, we have significantly worried friendly Sunni Muslim populations in the Middle East because, of course, that`s a Shia regime.

CAPEHART: Well, to something you were saying earlier, Bob, you know, with these questions on foreign policy, the questions are simple. The answers are complex.


CAPEHART: And you in a minute, 90 seconds, there is no way you could have in your answer the conversation you all just had right now about what`s happening in the Middle East. Well, let`s bring. Let`s bring it home a little bit and talk about Martin O`Malley because, you know, let`s play this clip again on Martin O`Malley, gun control and the reaction from Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton.


O`MALLEY: Excuse me, no.

DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Governor, we have to abide by the rules here, we`ll call on you here shortly, but I do want to pick up on something...

O`MALLEY: I am the only person on this stage who has actually passed comprehensive gun safety legislation with a ban on combat assault weapons, David. But you know what we did in Maryland? We overcame the NRA`s objections. We overcame all of the crowds that were coming down there. We did our own rallies and at least if we enact these laws in a prospective way, we can address a major vulnerability in our country. ISIL videos, ISIL training videos are telling lone wolves the easiest way to can -- buy a combat assault weapon in America is at a gun show and it`s because of the flip-flopping political approach of Washington that both of my two colleagues on the stage have represented there for the last 40 years. We need commonsense gun safety legislation...

SANDERS: Let`s calm down a little bit, Martin.

CLINTON: Yeah, let`s tell the truth Martin.


CAPEHART: What I love about that interaction is that, you know, it was focused on gun control, gun safety legislation but Martin O`Malley, Governor O`Malley has done other things that the Democratic Party base wants. Not just gun control but minimum wage, same sex marriage and a whole host of other issues. So, if the Governor has actually done what the Democratic Party base wants, why is he mired in third place and being lectured still by two people who have only talked about these issues but not done them?

HAYWORTH: But Jonathan, what does his record as a Mayor of Baltimore and as Governor of Maryland tell us? I mean unfortunately Baltimore is still in turmoil. The people who lived there who need a break and need a better life are not getting it. Blatantly are not getting it after decades of failed policy. None of the candidates on that stage last night offered a really innovative approach that would make if they believe in government doing it that would make government more effective, each one of them.


HERBERT: I`m not sure I quite agree with that. I mean, Martin O`Malley was talking about gun control first. There was a desperate quality there. It`s almost like he`ll grab on to any issue that might get him a little bit of attention. But if you want to talk -- if you want to talk about gun control in this country, I mean Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are not your targets to use a bad pun I guess. They should be focusing on the Republicans. It`s the Republican Party that has stood in the way of serious gun control legislation in this country.

INSANA: And look. I mean, you know, I happen to be an advocate of the Australian motto, which is to just take the guns and buy them back. And then, you know...

Hayworth: I bet it will never work.

CAPEHART: It works in Australia.


Real quick Bob, we have to go.

HERBERT: I believe in the buyback program but I think it could be done effectively in the United States.

HAYWORTH: It will not stop ISIL terrorists from doing...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many ISIS terrorist are going to American gun shows and buying...

HERBERT: Gun control is not stopped by...

HAYWORTH: What we need...

CAPEHART: OK, so talk about control. I`ve got to take control of this panel. We`ve got to go. We`ve got to go. We got to go.

We didn`t even get a chance to show the Amy Poehler clip playing, you know, Hillary Clinton. Again, just go to You Tube and watch it on there.

Up ahead, bipartisanship scores a big win in Washington but not everyone is happy about Democrats and the GOP working together. Those details are next. Stay with us.


CAPEHART: We`ll get to politics-- back to politics in just a moment. But first we want to update you on a developing story in Kenya where an Air France flight made an emergency landing this -- early this morning after a suspected bomb was found mid-flight.

And here`s what we know right now. The plane was headed to Paris from Mauritius. Police say a passenger noticed something in the laboratory that looked like a stop watch mounted on a box. Authorities are questioning six passengers about the object including the man who reported it. This is the third Air France plane diverted in recent weeks because of security concerns. We`ll bring you more information as it becomes available.

But now back to Washington in a rare display of bipartisanship on Friday, Democrats and Republicans coming together to pass a $1.8 trillion budget deal and avert a government shutdown.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY) MAJORITY LEADER: And so as we end the year, I think by any objective standard, it`s been a year of significant accomplishment, and I want to thank the Democrats who did cooperate.


CAPEHART: The achievement was also praised at the President`s Year-end Press Conference.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE OF AMERICA: I know we`ve gotten kind of used to last-minute crises and shutdown threats and so forth. And this is a messy process that doesn`t satisfy everybody completely but it`s more typical of American democracy. And I think that Speaker Ryan deserves a role in that.


CAPEHART: And even though the Democratic President was ready to praise the New Republican Speaker of the House, the Republican frontrunner wasn`t.

According to Donald Trump, "If anyone needed more evidence of why the American people are suffering at the hands of their own government, look no further than the budget deal announced by Speaker Ryan."

Criticism of the bipartisan measure also came from candidates who still have day jobs like Senator Marco Rubio who skipped the votes and argued that it was just as good as voting against it.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R-FL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look at this omnibus vote that we just -- that just happened in Washington, this massive grotesque piece of legislation. That`s the kind of thing that shouldn`t be happening.

Well in essence not voting for it is a vote against it. Although my position on it is clear because they needed my vote to get it passed, to get the 60 votes because of the Senate rules.


CAPEHART: And if it seems Rubio and fellow Senator Ted Cruz don`t agree on much these days, at least they have the Funding Bill.


SEN. TED CRUZ, (R-TX) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan passing the Democrat agenda, funding Obamacare, funding amnesty, expanding low-skilled immigration so we`re driving down wages, we`re costing people jobs. It`s an absolute betrayal. It`s why people are furious and frustrated.


CAPEHART: So we`re going to bring back the panel. I want you guys react to this. Ryan Lizza has a new piece entitled, "How Big Oil and Nancy Pelosi Defeated the House Freedom Caucus" in the New Yorker, it was in Friday and he writes.

"This was House Speaker Paul Ryan`s first big test and he got a failing grade." Raul Labrador, a founder of the Conservative House Freedom Caucus told Ryan Lizza via text message, "Not a good start." Nan, you`re shaking your head again.

HAYWORTH: Yeah. I`m doing a lot (ph)...

CAPEHART: Is this a harbinger of bad -- old bad things coming back to the House of Representatives under Speaker Ryan, you know?

HAYWORTH: On fiscal issues, on fiscal issues the House Freedom Caucus is exactly right.


HAYWORTH: They are exactly right but they`re not going to get what they want right now. And the problem we have is that -- as has been the case for years. We can`t have a circular firing squad among the folks who are trying to represent the conservative -- fiscal conservative agenda as best they can.


INSANA: I`d rather deal with this from an economic perspective which is something I`m more familiar with. If you look at sequestration over the last two years, it`s cut one percentage point off GDP in each of the last two years. So, the fact that we`re getting back to a better balance budget at a time when the Federal Reserve Justice last week raised interest rates for the first time in a decade and Fed policy is going to be slightly less friendly than it`s been over the last six years, you need some relief on the fiscal front.

So, this is not a time in which you want to be passing austerity budgets and have the Fed normalizing interest rate policy. You need some offset to what the Feds in process of doing. And so, it`s been a while. And this fiscal tightness has had a real impact on the economic growth. And it`s really restrained. It became restrained for the last couple of years.

CAPEHART: And Bob, so Ron took the economic analysis. We`ll give you the opportunity to do the balancing political analysis.

HERBERT: Exactly which is what I wanted to do, the political analysis, and I think that this is another example of so many in the Republican Party being really out of touch with the American electorate. And the party has been going down this road for a long time and it`s almost as if they have a death wish. I mean, just one quick example is the way the party has treated the issue of immigration and their approach to Hispanic voters in this country. If you just look at the numbers, just look at the demographics and talk about self-interest, the Republicans are not apparently paying attention.

HAYWORTH: Bob, with all due respect, if you look at State Houses and State legislatures across the country, they have gone Republican. The challenge we have right now in terms of passing legislation must pass legislation like these budget resolutions or continuing funding at the government is that the Republican majority in the House and the majority in the State which we know is not 60-vote majority has to deal with President Obama. We can`t pass anything unless President Obama is accommodated. CAPEHART: Well, OK, so let`s -- Chuck Todd has Speaker Ryan on Meet the Press this morning and let`s play a clip of something that Speaker Ryan told Chuck and then we`ll talk about on the other side.


REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We don`t agree on much. We see things very differently. I think what we will probably try to do is where we can get things done, where we can find common ground without compromising principles, get those things done, make sure that that government works. But we`re going to have one heck of a contrast in 2016.


CAPEHART: Now, on to my mind, that is a breath of fresh air after the last seven years that we`ve had. But the House Freedom Caucus, they`re not going to like that, Nan.

HAYWORTH: Well, and shame on them for not forming unified front with Paul Ryan and saying, look we understand, what we face in terms of systematic obstacles, if you will, legislative obstacles and we will work with Speaker Ryan to craft the best legislation we can. Is it perfect? No. But it`s the best we can do.

CAPEHART: Bob, Ron, real quick in less than 30 seconds.

INSANA: Look, the best we can do is real governance, right? When everybody is upset about it, it`s the right piece of legislation.

HERBERT: It`s scary when Speaker Paul Ryan is considered a breath of fresh air.

CAPEHART: Well after the last seven years of Washington, to have a speaker of the House who can actually get a budget passed is great.

Up next, former Space Shuttle Commander Captain Mark Kelly is here to tell us it`s not too late to join the space program. No, really. Stay with us.


CAPEHART: NASA released this stunning photo yesterday of Earth rising over -- look at that, rising over the moon. And if you ever wanted to see Earth from that perspective in person, now is your chance.


CHARLES BOLDEN, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: NASA is on a journey to Mars and we`re on the look out for a new generation of space pioneers. Do you think you have what it takes to join NASA`s next astronaut class? Then I want you to apply for NASA`s astronaut program.


CAPEHART: That`s right. For the next two months, NASA will be accepting applications for possible opportunities to live and work on the International Space Station or maybe be a crew member on a commercial spacecraft or pilot NASA`s Orion deep space exploration vehicle or maybe even be part of manned missions to Mars.

Here to tell us more about NASA`s new hiring program is retired Space Shuttle Commander Captain Mark Kelly whose twin brother Scott. You may recall is nine months into a year-long stint on board the space station.

Thank you very much for being here this morning.


CAPEHART: So, what sort of qualifications is NASA looking for in its applicants? Not that I`m asking for myself, but just curious.

KELLY: You know, the typical applicant -- when we say the typical person that`s selected to be an astronaut, we have a lot of applicants, maybe 6,000. But the typical selectee is somebody like me who is a military test pilot with a graduate degree, in my case an aeronautical engineering or might be a PhD scientist like a chemist or physicist or a PhD engineer or an engineer with a master`s degree. But also folks that have a lot of experience in those fields and have done well.

CAPEHART: OK. So that leaves everyone on this set out in terms of applicants. So, but once those applicants are selected, what will the interview process be like?

KELLY: It takes about a year and a half. I mean they`re collecting applications now through February and then they`ll start to vet those applications. So they`ll probably get upwards -- yeah, I think last selection when, you know, that was the class joined in 2013. There were about 6,000 total applicants counting civilian and military. So they eventually narrowed that down to eight people. So it takes a while.

Eventually it includes -- for the people that continue -- it includes a weeklong interview. I think it`s done in two parts now but you spend a lot of time at the Johnson Space Center. It`s a weeklong physical with multiple interviews with different groups of former astronauts and engineers and managers at NASA. And ultimately, they`ll pick a very small group of new astronauts.

CAPEHART: So, Mark, and what advice would you give applicants?

KELLY: Well, when they`re little kids what I tell them normally is they need to go into a field that they really like so they can do well at it.

But if their ultimate goal is to be an astronaut, I mean you got to come from one of the typical astronaut backgrounds and that`s science, engineering, a little bit mathematics, the military, including mostly test pilots like myself and my brother Scott.

CAPEHART: So, you know, there`s a possibility that some of these applicants will participate in a mission to Mars. What`s it going to take? What`s it going to necessary to make a Mars mission possible?

KELLY: You know -- so I was at NASA in the astronaut office for 15 years. I think that`s kind of a little bit on the long side. My brother -- when he gets back from this flight he`ll have been an astronaut for 20 years. So if you consider somebody shown up in 2017, if we send that first crew to Mars in 2035 like NASA wants to, it would likely be somebody, at least the more senior people on the mission would be people from this class we`re going to select the next time.

So, that would be an incredible experience to one of these, you know, young people in this nation right now that are thinking about of applying. But, you know, a mission to Mars would be incredibly challenging, it would be difficult thing to do but it also be incredibly rewarding not only for that individual but for our nation.

CAPEHART: Yeah. Mark, you mentioned your brother, Scott, now I was going to ask you the close out, how is your brother Scott doing up there on the international space station?

KELLY: Considering he`s been in space for 9 1/2 months, he is doing remarkably well. Sometimes I think he could go another year. Now, he probably wouldn`t agree with that. He gets home on March 2nd. But he`s doing really great. He has an unexpected, unplanned space walk he has to do next week. It might be as early as tomorrow, I think. I`ve got to take a look at the schedule.

He`s getting ready for it now. A little bit of a failure on the outside of the space station that they have to correct before a Russuan Soyuz spacecraft can dock. So he has to go out and do this unexpected repair.

CAPEHART: Captain Mark Kelly, thanks very much for coming on this morning.

KELLY: You`re welcome.

CAPEHART: Up next, why Donald Trump`s huge lead nationally may be masking some real troubles for the GOP front-runner.



JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just one other thing, I`ve got to get this off my chest, Donald Trump is a jerk.


CAPEHART: Well, that was Jeb Bush yesterday during a town hall in Iowa. What he called a moment of self-therapy and part of a sudden aggressive pushback against Donald Trump.

At the end of another re-Trump is still at the top of the latest polls. But there are new reports that question his ability to make it all the way to the nomination. The New York Times reporting this morning that his campaign is struggling to mobilize caucusgoers in Iowa and doesn`t have a well-organized ground game in the Hawkeye State.

Steven Shepard, POLITICO Campaigns and Elections editor also wrote about Trump this week in an article titled "Trump`s soft underbelly" writing "Trump`s lead in national polls at this point of the campaign is hardly predictive of a glide path to the nomination. And even if he maintains that edge going into Iowa, there`s evidence the caucuses can scramble the race, even if the winner of the caucuses doesn`t become the eventual nominee.

For more, we`re joined by Steven Shepard. Steven, thanks for being here.


CAPEHART: So Trump was on Meet the Press this morning and moderator Chuck Todd asked him about Iowa where Ted Cruz has caught up in the polls. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m doing really well with evangelicals who I love. I`m doing really well with every group, the Tea Party groups, everybody, and I can only speak for myself. We really have a good team in Iowa. And I`ll find. Let`s see what happens on February 1st.


CAPEHART: Steven, your reaction?

SHEPARD: Well look, you know, evidence of Trump`s a ground game in Iowa is difficult to say. The Iowa caucuses are a very low participation event. Fewer than 20 percent of all registered republicans in 2012 took part in the Iowa caucuses. It ended up being less than 6 percent of the overall Iowa electorate. The number of registered voters in Iowa participated in this.

You need to go for, basically, the entire evening on a cold night, the beginning of February, and spend a significant amount of time. It`s not going to vote at your polling place and then leaving and getting back in the car and going home. Will Donald Trump get people to do this for him? It requires the ground game that right now all -- the only evidence we have that is ground game strong is, well, I`ve got the best ground game and it`s going great in his work.

CAPEHART: Now Steven, one of the cases you make is that Iowa could be a big stumbling block for Trump where Cruz is surging. But others republican candidates are counting on New Hampshire to keep their campaigns going. And Trump is doing fine there. So why is Iowa such a big deal for him?

SHEPARD: Well, Donald Trump`s entire campaign seems predicated on being a winner. He`s a winner. These other guys are losers. I`ve won. We don`t win enough. Well, if he comes out of Iowa and finishes third in Iowa, that`s going to be ding his campaign a lot.

Look, we can go back to 2012 at this point, Newt Gingrich who was doing great in Iowa. That didn`t last. We can go back to 2004 on the democratic Howard Dean, who at this point in the campaign. You know, Iowa was a couple of weeks earlier than it is this time around. But at this point, as we headed toward the holidays, Howard Dean was ahead nationally. He was ahead in Iowa. He fell short in Iowa and that really stunted his momentum. A lot of his campaign, you know, if we look at the polls in New Hampshire, if we look at South Carolina and Nevada, these states don`t happen in a vacuum. Iowa happens first. And you can gain or lose momentum by what happens there.

CAPEHART: And soon, we`ll going to bring the panel in. But I want them to listen to this Trump also responded to the Jeb Bush is a jerk comment about an hour ago on Fox & Friends. Take a listen.


TRUMP: This is a sad case. That maybe is a sad case. And it`s been very sad actually to watch him. That`s a sound bite given to him by his pollster. The way he said it, it was just like, let`s see, I`m supposed to say he`s not no gravitas. He`s down to less than three in the polls.


CAPEHART: Is this going to be effective in Iowa? I mean, what happened to Iowa nice? Do they like this sort of thing?

HERBERT: Well, you know, I don`t know if it will be effective or not but I think that the whole issue about the ground game is really important in Iowa. But two things strike me. One, we pay too much attention to the polls period, in general, which is the only reason why we`re talking about Trump all the time. And the second thing is why is -- why are the caucuses in Iowa so important to the election in presidents in the United States in any event? I mean, it`s not representative of much of anything in the United States.

INSANA: Zero really.

CAPEHART: Yeah. Real fast Steven, one more question before we have to go. What are some of the other warning signs for Donald Trump going forward?

SHEPARD: Well I think if you look at -- he`s still a polarizing figure among republicans. His favoritability ratings are 50 or 60 percent. There are currently 60 percent of republicans are supporting another candidate when they`re ask in even in these polls. You know, he`s a polarizing figure. He needs to get all the republicans behind him eventually in order to win the nomination.

And right now, that seems difficult because there are a significant chunk of republicans even though if he`s leading those 14 candidate fields who just don`t like him.

CAPEHART: Oh we got 43 more days to go before we actually get real voters voting. POLITICO Campaigns and Elections editor, Steven Shepard, thank you.

SHEPARD: My pleasure.

CAPEHART: Still ahead, two years after the Supreme Court gutted the voting rights act, there are new efforts to suppress minority voters. We`ll tell you where they`re flourishing next.


CAPEHART: After the Supreme Court invalidated Section 5 in the voting rights act a little more than two years ago, many were left to speculate about the fallout and what new efforts there might be to restrict voting. Now it seems we`re getting our first look.

Jim Rutenberg of The New York Times tells the story of Pasadena, Texas, a deep dive into the state of Hispanic voting rights in the U.S. as seen through the lens of just one Texas town. He shares the story of a Latino man trying to fight back against local redistricting efforts.

The strategies being used that Rutenberg writes about are many and it`s hard to do them justice in this space, but suffice to say that his reporting is raising new questions about whether the local republican establishment is actively trying to suppress a growing minority of untapped voters. A minority that could soon be a majority.

Joining me is Brent Wilkes, National Executive Director for the League of United Latin American Citizens. Thank you very much for being on, Brent.


CAPEHART: Brent, the Supreme Court is now considering a case that would also dramatically shift voter representation in this country instead of counting total population to draw congressional districts. States would only have to account for the number of eligible voters to determine representation. So what kind of impact could that case have?

WILKES: Well that would be more devastating than getting rid of Section 5 in the voting rights act. It`s -- that would actually a severely undermine the strength of Latino voting throughout the country would probably cut the congressional spending caucus in half and it would be absolutely devastating to minority communities across the country. So, we certainly see that as a very serious threat although we don`t believe that that case will be successful.

CAPEHART: You know, in a recent interview, former Attorney General Eric Holder reacted to a question about voting rights challenges in the Obama era. Here`s what he had to say.


ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: For all that we thought that that would mean, the election of Barack Obama, and it`s meant, you know, substantial positive things, but it is also galvanized the opposition in ways that I think I was a little surprised by the intensity of the opposition and the ways in which the opposition operated.


CAPEHART: Brent, do you agree with him? Have you been surprised by the intensity he talks about?

WILKES: I`m not sure if surprise is the right word. Certainly, there`s been a lot of intensity and there`s been a lot of pushback and -- but I honestly would have said that we expected that. I think the fact that, you know, we had the first -- the nation`s first minority president elected.

Lot of people said this is now the end of race discrimination throughout the country and we used to agree with that. We know that there are backlash and in fact, that`s exactly what we`ve seen. And you`ve seen now this active effort by eliminating Section 5 and all the states trying to pass these restrictive voting laws. In fact, that`s the case that they`re actually -- instead of playing fair and allowing people to vote one person, one vote. They`re actually trying to undermine our political system and game the system.

In fact, we call it cheating. They are trying to cheat to get people elected who actually don`t have the majority support of the communities in which they are supposed to represent.

CAPEHART: I think we have a map of the states where all those voting restrictions are. If we have it, we`ll be great to put it in. Let me ask you this question, what`s your organization doing to fight these voter restriction efforts and what are you hearing from the Latino community specifically?

WILKES: Well, we`re doing two things. I mean, on the one side, we actually are engaging on these lawsuits. We`re providing amicus briefs or in some cases, leading the suits. And I think, you know, the problem with eliminating Section 5, it used to be the justice department would preclear the states, moves like this. And that was so much easier to get involved in a preclearance discussion versus having a file whole separate lawsuit.

And in the case of these lawsuits, most of the time these restrictive voting laws go into place. They`re already in place while we`re fighting the case, and so damage is being done even if we end up winning the elections took place before the case gets resolves and that`s what`s happening in Texas, for example.

So, yes, it`s a serious problem for us and we`re fighting case by case but at the same time, I think what`s really important is to ensure that despite these new laws we`re continuing to register Latino voters. We`re continuing to mobilizing the turnout. We`re trying to make sure that we continue to do the things that we need to do to make sure this Latino community does have a say even given the voting laws that we have in place.

CAPEHART: And on that then we`re going to have to meet that. Brent Wilkes, National Executive Director for LULAC, thank you for being here.

Up next, from front-runner to fourth place, what`s behind Ben Carson`s sudden fall?


CAPEHART: And we want to update you on that bomb scare on board in air France flight. The airline`s CEO speaking at a news conference says the suspicious device was a false alarm. The flight from Mauritius to Paris was diverted to Kenya after a passenger noticed something that looked like a stopwatch mounted on a box in the plane`s lavatory We`ll bring you more information as it becomes available.

Now, Ben Carson is currently making headlines for canceling his upcoming trip to Africa citing security concerns. A senior campaign official claims the cancellation is not related to Carson`s recent slide in the polls that many are attributing to his apparent weakness on foreign policy.

Carson has plummeted to fourth place in the latest poll from fox news with just 9 percent of GOP primary voters` support, a 14-point drop since October when Carson was neck and neck with Donald Trump. Carson`s first apparent slip came in last month`s debate when he incorrectly said that the Chinese had intervened in Syria Carson`s top two advisors admitted to The New York Times that Carson had quote, "Struggled to master the intricacies of the middle east and national security and that intense tutoring was having little effect."

The Paris attacks and San Bernardino shootings have shifted the national conversation primarily to terrorism and foreign policy. So is that the cause of Carson`s downturn or is there more?

Now, I wrote about this last week and I quoted, "Harvard professor Leah Wright Rigueur who argued "Race is integral to Carson`s fall but not in an explicit sense." She noted as the only black candidate in a largely white party, "You have to be extraordinary and not just in one area like brain surgery or neuro science."

And my conjecture was that the thing that made Carson the, you know, a serious contender is the thing that`s brought him down, and my contention is race. Bob, I`m going to start with you. Do you agree with me? Do you agree with that premise or am I out there on a limb?

HERBERT: I think that that`s part of the race thing. So these republican voters could have a little bit of cover on the race issue. But the other thing is that he came across as a nice guy. I think it indicates again our overreliance on the polls. But Carson was never going to be the GOP candidate. I don`t think anybody on this panel believes that and the first opportunity to have a reason not to vote for him these people answering the polls hopped off the train.

HAYWORTH: I think it`s a -- look, there is a discerning primary electorate out there. There are thoughtful republicans like me who are looking at these candidates. And I will say it is not because I do support Carly Fiorina but if you are looking for someone who is not from within the government but also understands foreign policy intimately, Carly Fiorina if you compare her comments to those of Dr. Carson, they are much more detailed and much more expert. Dr. Carson is an impressive man but he`s shown his limitations. It has nothing to it .

INSANA: Equally inaccurate but much more solidly deliberate on Carly`s part.

HAYWORTH: She -- what the external affairs committee for the CIA.

CAPEHART: Well, yeah, but look, you know, we do have someone who also has no foreign policy experience have said as many .

HAYWORTH: President Obama, as a matter of fact.

CAPEHART: . no, no, no, actually I`m talking about Donald Trump. Donald trump has numerous foreign policy of the state. (Inaudible) thinking that he is number one.

HERBERT: Important point is that Trump comes across as a strong man and Ben Carson never appeared to be a strong figure.


INSANA: Look, I think The New York Times piece was actually fatal for him. When your own people start to submarine you in the middle of a race and say that you cannot learn, I think that`s, you know, that`s -- it`s beyond damning and I think that was the beginning really of Carson`s decline. I think that that in many ways if your own people won`t support you in the press, you`re kind of dead anyway.

HAYWORTH: And it would be one thing if he came back from that story and didn`t have a tentative performance at best in subsequent appearances but that`s all he`s done.

CAPEHART: The New York Times story was damaging, but then also there was his speech to the Republican Jewish coalition which was also I think equally bad. I mean, you don`t go to that group and deliver what`s the equivalent of a middle school classroom presentation on Middle East history. But again, I keep coming back to the fact that, yet you still have people in this race who are just as bad as him who are leading in this race. Ultimately, do you think when people go to the polls, will we see a reorienting and that the less serious people fall back and the more serious people come forward?

INSANA: It depends -- I mean, if you`re defining Donald Trump as less serious -- I mean, I think he`s unique in the regard that he has no experience, he has said things that are wildly inaccurate, and yet he has a solid base of support within this process thus far, that has been part in media field.

He is -- and, you know, as Bob was saying, the commercial break, the Kardashian candidate. There`s, you know, he does have a broad, deep popularity, even though those of us who have dealt with him in the past know what he`s really like. You know, when you get away from New York where if he`s at the U.S. open he gets roundly booed when he`s on the Jumbotron. No one else in the country realizes that.

CAPEHART: On that though, we`re have to leave it there. I`d like to thank the panel for being here really, for being here today, Ron Insana, Nan Hayworth and Bob Herbert. And thank you for getting UP with us today.

Up next is "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY". Joy Reid is in today for Melissa. And Joy will be talking to DNC chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz about the party`s dispute with the Bernie Sanders campaign. Stay tuned for that. And we`ll see you next weekend. Have a great week.