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Meet the Press - April 3, 2016

Meet the Press - April 3, 2016

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, it may have been Donald Trump's worst week on the campaign trail yet. He defended his campaign manager, who was charged with assaulting a woman reporter. He called for women who have abortions to be punished.

There has to be some form of punishment.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

For the woman?

DONALD TRUMP:

Yeah, there has to be some form.

CHUCK TODD:

He says he's open to Japan and South Korea having nuclear weapons. And now he's slipping in the polls. Is the Donald Trump campaign finally crumbling? Or will he survive, as he's done so many times before? Plus, Hillary Clinton still can't put away Bernie Sanders. And the frustration is beginning to show.

HILLARY CLINTON:

I am so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about me.

CHUCK TODD:

My exclusive interview this morning with Secretary Clinton. Also, with all the talk of a contested convention, what did John Kasich mean by this?

JOHN KASICH :

"Is Mitt running for president? We've been wondering that ourselves."

CHUCK TODD:

Is it possible that someone not in the race today could be the Republican nominee in July? And joining me for insight and analysis this morning are David Brooks of The New York Times, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, Helene Cooper of The New York Times, and political reporter Charles Benson, from our NBC affiliate in Milwaukee. Happy opening day, and welcome to Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, this is Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. And yes, happy opening day again. How many times have people said, "Okay, now, Donald Trump is done. He's through." And how many times has it turned out to be true? Well, not once. So it's with that big flashing yellow light in mind that we point out that never has Donald Trump had a worse run, or the idea of a Trump collapse look more possible.

Just this week, Trump's campaign manager was arrested and charged with battery. Trump withdrew his pledge to back whoever wins the Republican nomination. He argued it might be time to let Japan and South Korea arm themselves with nuclear weapons to reduce America's military burden. He told MSNBC's Chris Matthews that women should be punished for having abortions.

By Friday night, Trump had articulated five positions on abortion in just over 48 hours. And wrapping up this terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad week for Trump, he now trails Ted Cruz in a number of polls in Wisconsin, which holds its primary on Tuesday. Trump's serial explanations on abortion this week have been condemned by both Republicans and Democrats, including Hillary Clinton.

(BEGIN TAPE)

HILLARY CLINTON:

Donald Trump said, "Women should be punished for having an abortion." (BOOS) He then tried to distance himself, once that kind of reaction came out from his outrageous comments. But we all heard them.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Secretary Clinton is having her own problems putting away Senator Bernie Sanders in her primary. I talked to her last night as she was campaigning in Wisconsin in advance of Tuesday's primary.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

I have a question about a new question that you're running in New York State. Let me play it for the viewers and get you to respond on the other side. Here it is.

(BEGIN TAPE)

HILLARY CLINTON:

When we pull together, we do the biggest things in the world. So when some say we can solve America's problems by building walls, banning people based on their religion, and turning against each other, well, this is New York. And we know better.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Secretary Clinton, is that an ad, have you moved on? Are we going to view this ad as the first one of the general election? It's pretty clear you're targeting Donald Trump.

HILLARY CLINTON:

Well, certainly I haven't moved on. I know that I still have work to do to win the nomination, and I'm going to keep reaching out to every voter, everywhere in these remaining contests. But I also think it's important to draw some pretty clear lines between what I think most Americans, and certainly what I know most New Yorkers believe about who we are as a people, what the values of our country are, against some of what we're hearing from the other side.

And, you know, it's both Donald Trump, as we are well aware, but also Ted Cruz. I know he made a critical comment about New York values some months back. So I want to really hold up the importance of New York and what we stand for. And, you know, we are a state that represents the diversity of America, the role that immigrants have played over the centuries in building-- our nation. And the Statue of Liberty stands in the harbor. So I wanted to start out with a very clear message about our values and--

CHUCK TODD:

Well, in and--

HILLARY CLINTON:

--why I think it's important we stand up for them.

CHUCK TODD:

In that ad, though, you do include footage, that awful footage, of a Trump supporter coldcocking, essentially, a protester at his rally. Why amplify that image?

HILLARY CLINTON:

Because I was horrified by it, Chuck, and I think most Americans were horrified by it. When you, as I've said before about Donald Trump's appearances, his rhetoric, his demagoguery, when you incite violence, you are acting like a political arsonist.

And I want people to understand there's a very different way of working towards our common ground that we have to seek and find in order to move our country forward. We may have differences, of course we do. But we don't condone violence. We don't say we'll pay the legal fees of people who punch other Americans, who are protesting, attending an event. That is just not appropriate behavior when you're running for president.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, also this week you were pretty tough on Donald Trump on one of his positions on abortion. He had five different positions that we've counted up this week on abortion. I want to ask you, what is yours? Give me your straightforward position on the issue of abortion.

HILLARY CLINTON:

My position is in line with Roe v. Wade, that women have a constitutional right to make these most intimate and personal and difficult decisions based on their conscience, their faith, their family, their doctor and that it is something that really goes to the core of privacy.

And I want to maintain that constitutional protection under Roe v. Wade. As you know, there is room for reasonable kinds of restrictions. After a certain point in time, I think the life, the health of the mother are clear. And those should be included even as one moves on in that pregnancy.

CHUCK TODD:

When or if--

HILLARY CLINTON:

So I've had the same position for many years.

CHUCK TODD:

When, or if, does an unborn child have constitutional rights?

HILLARY CLINTON:

Well, under our laws currently, that is not something that exists. The unborn person doesn't have constitutional rights. Now, that doesn't mean that we don't do everything we possibly can, in the vast majority of instances to, you know, help a mother who is carrying a child and wants to make sure that child will be healthy, to have appropriate medical support.

It doesn't mean that you don't do everything possible to try to fulfill your obligations. But it does not include sacrificing the woman's right to make decisions. And I think that's an important distinction, that under Roe v. Wade we've had enshrined under our Constitution.

CHUCK TODD:

You had said you think there is room for some restrictions. So is it fair to say that women don't always have a full right to choose?

HILLARY CLINTON:

Well, under Roe v. Wade that is the law. And as I said, I support the reasoning and the outcome in Roe v. Wade. So in the third trimester of pregnancy, there is room for looking at the life and the health of the mother. Now, most people, not all Republicans, not all conservatives even agree with the life of the mother. But most do.

Where the distinction comes in is the health of the mother. And when you have candidates running for president who say that there should be no exceptions, not for rape, not for incest, not for health, then I think you've gotten pretty extreme. And my view has always been this is a choice. It is not a mandate.

You know, I have traveled all over the world. I have seen what happens when governments make these decisions, whether it was forced sterilization, forced abortion in China, or force childbearing in communist Romania. So I don't think that we should be allowing the government to make decisions that really properly belong to the individual.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me move to the primary campaign. Let me play this clip that got a lot of air time over the last few days, here it is.

(BEGIN TAPE)

GREENPEACE ACTIVIST:

Will you act on your word to reject fossil fuel money in the future in your campaign?

HILLARY CLINTON:

I do not have--I have money from people who work for fossil fuel companies. I am so sick--I am so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about me. I'm sick of it.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Madame Secretary, I know you couldn't see the clip, but you probably heard it. You were caught saying, "I am so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about my record." What are they lying about?

HILLARY CLINTON:

Well, let me first say that, you know, I'm used to criticism. I've been taking it for a very long time. But I care passionately about climate change. And I have been working to try to move us away from fossil fuels for many years. When I was in the Senate, I introduced legislation to take away the subsidies.

I voted against Dick Cheney's energy bill in 2005. And I could go on and on. When I got to be secretary of state, I was at the original meeting in 2009 with President Obama, where we were trying to convince China and India and others to come on board with accepting some restrictions that would lead to what finally occurred with the Paris agreement.

So when people make these kinds of claims, which now I think I have been debunked; actually The Washington Post said three Pinocchios, The New York Times also analyzed it, and other independent analysts have said that they are misrepresenting my record. I'm just not going to, I feel sorry sometimes for the young people who, you know, believe this. They don't do their own research. And I'm glad that we now can point to reliable, independent analysis to say, "No, it's just not true."

CHUCK TODD:

Do you believe that he's been lying about other parts of your record, or just this instance when you said that?

HILLARY CLINTON:

Well, I'm not, you know, I'm not going to go into that. I think that we've tried to run a campaign on the issues. I'm going to keep talking about the issues. I was up in Syracuse yesterday talking about my new manufacturing plan, bring manufacturing back to America, let's make it in America. That's what I think the American people are interested in hearing. And I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing in this campaign, which is to, you know, draw the contrast, but stay on the issues.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, Senator Sanders had something to say about you today actually, campaigning in Wisconsin, and your paid speeches. I'm going to play you the sound and get you to react.

(BEGIN TAPE)

BERNIE SANDERS:

Why else would they pay you $250,000? It must be a speech written in Shakespearean prose. And if it is such an unbelievably great speech, I think the Secretary should share that speech with rest of us.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

I guess it's a backhanded compliment, comparing you to William Shakespeare. But let me ask you this, you have said you would release the transcripts of these speeches when all of the other candidates have done. Bernie Sanders is the only candidate in the Democratic race, and he says he's released all of his transcripts because he didn't give any of these paid speeches. What say you?

HILLARY CLINTON:

Well, what I have said before, I will say again. I've heard him say that. And you know, look, I think what he's trying to imply, and I know his campaign tries to imply this, is undermining or, again, misrepresenting my record when it comes to being tough on Wall Street. I have a record, Chuck.

It is out there in the public. And I'm the only candidate in the Democratic primary, or actually on either side, who Wall Street financiers and hedge fund managers are actually running ads against. So I find this, again, a kind of, you know, circuitous way to raise questions about my record.

But I'm very proud of the fact that I have the most comprehensive approach towards taking on the problems that exist in the economy. I don't just talk about breaking up the banks, because we now have the authority, thanks to President Obama, under Dodd-Frank. I talk about taking the other risks on, like the hedge funds and everybody else.

CHUCK TODD:

But this gets to something else I think he's getting at, secrecy. And the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had a tough editorial against you this week. It said this of your candidacy: "Her horrible track record on transparency raises serious questions for open government under a Clinton administration--so serious, we believe they may disqualify her from public office.

"Regardless of Clinton's excuses, the only believable reason for the private server in her basement was to keep her emails out of the public eye by willfully avoiding Freedom of Information laws ... We encourage voters to think long and hard about the record when choosing the next president." This issue of secrecy, or the accusation that you're secretive, has followed you for quite some time. Is there any way you think you can at least convince Wisconsin voters that that's not the case?

HILLARY CLINTON:

Well, it's just a wrong set of assertions and conclusions. And as you may know, I've received the vast majority of newspaper endorsements. They all have the same information. They have all analyzed it. A lot of them have conducted interviews.

So let me just say again, I sent emails to government employees on their government accounts. I had every reason to believe they were in the government system. It was a matter of convenience. I've said repeatedly, it was not the best choice. It was a mistake. But I think that anybody who's actually looked at this has concluded that I have now put out all of my emails. Go and ask others for their emails. Ask everybody else who's in public office. I'm the one who's done it, and I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do.

CHUCK TODD:

Has the FBI reached out to you yet for an interview?

HILLARY CLINTON:

No, no, they haven't. But, you know, back in August, we made clear that I'm happy to answer any questions that anybody might have. And I stand by that.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you concerned that this isn't going to wrap up before the convention?

HILLARY CLINTON:

No, I'm not. Because I don't think anything inappropriate was done. And so I have to let them decide how to resolve their security inquiry, but I'm not at all worried about it.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, before I let you go, last week on this show Senator Sanders said he wanted to debate in New York. I know you guys have been having a debate over debates over debates over debates. Are you going to debate in New York, and when are you going to debate?

HILLARY CLINTON:

Well, I'm confident we will. Our campaigns are trying to reach an agreement about that. We've offered dates, and we've done it over the last several weeks. So, you know, we've been trying to figure out when we could do this. But there's a lot to talk about. And since the last debate, we've had terrorist attacks in Brussels, Pakistan, and elsewhere--

CHUCK TODD:

You think there's got to be another debate. You think there almost has to be.

HILLARY CLINTON:

I want--Look, I'm confident that there will be. But I'm not the one negotiating it, that's going on between our campaigns. And I do know my campaign has been really trying to get a time that Senators Sanders' campaign would agree with.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, he's proposed Sunday evening, April 17th. Are you in?

HILLARY CLINTON:

I'm not negotiating, Chuck. That's not, you know, we've proposed Thursday, the 14th, which gives people more time to digest what happens in the debate. Is he in?

CHUCK TODD:

All right, well, we will ask him when we get the chance. Secretary Clinton, I will leave it there. From Milwaukee, stay safe on the campaign trail, we'll see you soon.

HILLARY CLINTON:

Thanks a lot, good to talk to you. Take care.

CHUCK TODD:

You got it, bye now.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

And when we come back, the Republican race and more on the worst week yet for the candidacy and candidate of Donald Trump.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

I'm not taking--

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

Just say it. "I'm never using nuclear weapon in Europe."

DONALD TRUMP:

I am not taking cards off the table.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

From loose talk about nukes to multiple positions on abortion, why Donald Trump looks a little less like a sure thing today.

* * *COMMERCIAL BREAK* * *

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Let's now turn to the Republican race and Tuesday's Wisconsin primary. Wisconsin has become sort of a New Hampshire part two. The rare primary that stands alone on the calendar, and that may be as much about momentum as it is about actual delegates. And it comes after a week that saw Trump's poll numbers fall and Republican criticism rise. Not the least because Trump wound up explaining himself on abortion again and again and again and again.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

Very, very tough. I'm not sure which is worse, dealing with the party people or dealing with the press.

CHUCK TODD:

Donald Trump is scrambling to regain momentum ahead of Tuesday's primary.

DONALD TRUMP:

I just wanted to talk to the people of Wisconsin because there's so much misinformation that's being put out there about me.

CHUCK TODD:

Yet again, backpedalling on abortion.

DONALD TRUMP:

As of this moment, the laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way.

CHUCK TODD:

In a statement, Trump's campaign tried to walk back the walk-back. Quote, "Mr. Trump gave an accurate account of the law as it is today and made clear it must stay that way now--until he is president. Then he will change the law through his judicial appointments and allow the states to protect the unborn." It's Trump's fifth position on abortion this week, beginning with these comments to Chris Matthews on Wednesday.

DONALD TRUMP:

The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

For the woman?

DONALD TRUMP:

Yeah. There has to be some form.

CHUCK TODD:

From the day in June when Trump launched his campaign and disparaged Mexican immigrants--

DONALD TRUMP:

They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.

CHUCK TODD:

Trump's slash-and-burn version of straight talk has been the hallmark of his campaign. In July, on John McCain.

DONALD TRUMP:

He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, okay?

CHUCK TODD:

In August, on Fox host Megyn Kelly.

DONALD TRUMP:

There was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.

CHUCK TODD:

And in September on Carly Fiorina, "Look at that face." Trump said he was referring to Fiorina's persona. Trump has survived each episode, and all those that followed.

DONALD TRUMP:

Thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down.

A total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

Just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke, okay?

Don't tell me it doesn't work. Torture works, okay, folks?

I think Islam hates us.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

But I want you to say it, "I'll never use a nuclear weapon in Europe."

DONALD TRUMP:

I am not taking cards off the table.

CHUCK TODD:

But can Trump go too far? Even supporters believe some of his statements are embarrassing.

ANN COULTER:

Do you realize our candidate is mental? It's like constantly having to bail out your 16-year-old son from prison.

CHUCK TODD:

Though Trump's blunt talk has attracted many supporters to his campaign--

MALE TRUMP SUPPORTER:

He's who he is. He isn't a fake.

CHUCK TODD:

Sixty-eight percent of suburban voters, 70 percent of women and 77 percent of Hispanics now view Trump unfavorably. Still, many Republican leaders fear it's too late to stop Trump and are preparing to enter the general election with a wounded nominee.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

I'm joined now by Reince Priebus. He's chairman of the Republican National Committee. Mr. Chairman, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Good morning, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, a month ago, you said when asked about the idea of an open convention, you said this: "It's ... very early to have this conversation. I think that in a month, if we're sitting in a situation where candidates are tied, then I think in a month you start looking at those possibilities. But right now, we've got a long way to go." Well, that was a month ago. Here we are. Is it fair to start looking at these possibilities of an open and contested convention?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Well, it looks like I'm a pretty good prognosticator, Chuck. Yeah, I think that it's quite possible. Certainly Wisconsin's going to be important in that conversation. And still, after Wisconsin, either way, we're going to have two candidates that could get to the 1,237, the majority of delegates before we get to Cleveland. And our role at the RNC is going to be to be a fair arbitrator and be a party that respects the voice and the vote of the voters and the delegates.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, it's interesting you say the voters and the delegates. Who does choose the nominee here? Is it Republican primary voters? Is it the Republicans, or is it the delegates?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

If there's one interviewer that probably knows the rules better than anyone, it's you, Chuck. But I'll answer the question anyway.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, you know what I mean. But the principle of it. The principle.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Yeah, no, I understand.

CHUCK TODD:

Is it the party's voters that are picking this nominee or the party's delegates, which is a different set of people?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

The nomination is won on the floor in Cleveland by the majority of delegates that get empowered and by the vote of the people. So the voters in these states, their votes end up causing delegates to be bound to candidates, and those delegates will have to vote for those candidates on the floor.

There's no way around it. If a delegate is bound to a candidate, even if that delegate decides later, "I don't care, I'm not voting for that person," the secretary at the convention will read the roll as if that delegate voted for the person that they're bound to, period.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, one of the things that I think has been a misconception is that somehow, the rules of 2012 will apply to the 2016 election. And the reason this comes up is because there was a rule in 2012 that said if you didn't win a majority of delegates in eight states, you couldn't get your name put into nomination. What is the likelihood that that rule stays for 2016? Or are all the rules for how this election conducted going to get rewritten come July?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Well, I'm of course guessing here. I don't have any power to change any rules, Chuck. But I think it's probably unlikely that you see major changes. But again, as you say, the 2012 rules were written by the 2012 delegates who were bound to Mitt Romney. And so Mitt Romney's rules of 2012 will not be the rules that apply to the 2016 convention, which will be made largely of Trump and Cruz delegates.

And why would people want the Romney delegates' rules to apply to Cruz and Trump and Kasich? It doesn't make any sense. So the rules committee will come together. Those delegates will get on these committees, they'll review the rules, and the 2016 rules will apply to the 2016 conventions.

CHUCK TODD:

Is it fair, you know, the Trump campaign is not happy with what happened in Tennessee this weekend. It's a state primary he won, he still has the same amount of delegates that he won, 33, but he didn't get to choose the individuals, the state party did. And in fact, his senior advisor in his campaign told this to us, he said, "I've been told two of the delegates are truly Trump delegates. Five are pretend delegates." Meaning these are people that will be bound for two ballots, but don't plan on support him. Is that fair? Is that fair?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Well, first of all, the delegates, there's two parts of the process. One is you've got to get the delegate allocation, meaning when you win the state, you're allocated a certain amount of delegates. Donald Trump has 33 delegates in Tennessee. And they're bound to Donald Trump, not just for one vote, but in Tennessee, they're actually bound for two votes. And nothing can change that.

Now, the selection of delegates, who's in those seats is something that happens at the state party level and these campaigns have to have serious operations in the states, and they have to make sure that those people do their best job in getting their own, the people they want, to be in those seats. So it doesn't just happen automatically. It has to be done through work and preparation.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you confident Donald Trump can win a general election?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Sure, I think all of our candidates can win a general election, especially when you look at Hillary Clinton--

CHUCK TODD:

Is he your best candidate?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

--who quite possibly could be indicted, and who knows. They're the ones that could have an open convention, and Joe Biden could be the nominee of the Democratic party.

CHUCK TODD:

But is Donald Trump your strongest candidate?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

I don't know. Listen, I don't worry about who is the strongest candidate. Obviously, we have our own conversations here. But the fact is that we're here, prepared to support whoever the eventual nominee is, with the biggest, best Republican National Committee that we've ever put together, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

And one last question. Considering we're going to have an open convention, you have three candidates fighting for delegates and worried about who those people are. Should the RNC be in charge of the V.P. running mate vetting process, considering that everything is going to get scrambling. Have you offered to provide those services to the candidate?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

You know, not particularly. I mean, we certainly are equipped with our research team to do it. But that's another interesting question. Because the delegates choose the vice president as well. And that's a subject no one's really talking about, is that that's another vote on the floor that the delegates choose. And so while I'm sure, obviously, the choice of whoever the nominee is going to be important, it's still up for a vote of the delegates.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, all that means is more reasons to watch what happens in Cleveland. Reince Priebus, chairman of the RNC, thanks for coming on the show, sir.

RICHARD "REINCE" PRIEBUS:

Thanks.

CHUCK TODD:

Appreciate it. Later in the broadcast, why many Republicans fear Donald Trump might not only lose the race for the White House, but could cost them their Senate majority as well. And our friends at S.N.L. had some funlast night with Trump saying a woman should be punished for having an abortion. Take a listen.

(BEGIN TAPE)

MICHAEL CHE:

You don't say that on TV. Even if you're on Wheel of Fortune and the board says, "Women should be 'unished,' " don't say it.

(END TAPE)

*** COMMERCIAL BREAK ***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. This Tuesday's Wisconsin primary could be one of the most influential of the campaign season. And it's not the first time the Badger State has been so important in presidential politics. In fact, ever wonder how we got into this whole presidential primary process in the first place? It's all thanks to Wisconsin, the very first state to come up with the idea of a presidential primary, which votes this Tuesday. But it wasn't until April, 1960, that the importance of the Wisconsin primary first came into play. In fact, here was Meet the Press that week. In fact, 56 years ago today, with moderator Ned Brooks.

(BEGIN TAPE)

NED BROOKS:

This week, the eyes of the nation will be fastened on Wisconsin's presidential primary. Two Democratic senators, Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, and John Kennedy of Massachusetts are competing in the first, and perhaps the most important, contested primary of 1960.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Interestingly Kennedy and Humphrey watched the election returns together in the Milwaukee Journal newsroom.

(BEGIN TAPE)

MALE REPORTER:

How have the votes in thus far shaped up according to your expectations?

PRES. JOHN F. KENNEDY:

Well, I was hopeful we could take six districts and I think we had a good chance to do that. Which will give us--I hope--win the majority of the popular vote, which would give us the result.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

And look at that, talking about district delegates. Anyway, Kennedy would win that night on his path to the nomination, and eventually the presidency. Let's then jump ahead to 1976, with contested primaries in both parties. President Gerald Ford beat Ronald Reagan handily in Wisconsin, no doubt thanks to this photo op two days prior, with Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr, Go Pack Go. But the real race was on the Democratic side. Jimmy Carter versus Mo Udall. That evening, it looked like Udall had squeaked by Carter.

(BEGIN TAPE)

MO UDALL:

And let me tell you, I've finished second, and tonight I finished first. And I like first a lot better.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

But as more votes came in overnight, Carter took the lead, and the networks reversed their calls, giving Carter his very own "Dewey defeats Truman" moment. The next day, Mo Udall told reporters, "You know all those times I said 'win' last night? Well, strike that and insert the word lose." As always with Mo Udall, he always had a sense of humor no matter what the result. So what will the Badger State hold in store for us this week? It's going to be a fun one. But here's what we do know. It's going to be influential.

When we come back, Republicans are increasingly worried that Donald Trump could take the party down with him. What are the chances that they could take the nomination away from him first?

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Panel is here. It is Wisconsin primary week. So we flew in one of the smartest reporters from the state, Charles Benson from our local affiliate there, WTMJ in Milwaukee. Helene Cooper, Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times is also here, Amy Walter, editor of The Cook Political Report, and David Brooks, columnist for The New York Times, welcome all. Charles, I'll start with you. On the ground, is this looking as bad for Trump as the polls say it is?

CHARLES BENSON:

Well, clearly he had a bad week. But the anti-Trump forces were already going at him. You know, they knew that they were going to come into Wisconsin and make Wisconsin their Waterloo. But what they found out when they got there, the ground troops were already there, especially with conservative talk radio. I mean, they have been hammering him locally, local conservative talk radio been hammering him for weeks. But also, you have to keep in mind, Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, alright? Scott Walker's endorsed Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan hasn't endorsed anybody. But clearly, those two guys, their brand of politics has been really big time conservative issues.

CHUCK TODD:

And they've won.

CHARLES BENSON:

And they've won.

CHUCK TODD:

So they have something to be happy about in Wisconsin.

CHARLES BENSON:

They do. And so they, when they look at that brand of politics, that works better than what the Trump brand of politics is right now.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, David. We've been here, I want to say four weeks ago you were convinced Trump wasn't going to get the nomination. Two weeks ago, you wanted to say you were convinced, but you weren't comfortable saying anything. Where are you today?

DAVID BROOKS:

Morally defeated.

CHUCK TODD:

Something's changed though. Something has changed, we think?

DAVID BROOKS:

Yeah something has changed. All these people keep waiting for him, "When is he going to turn into a philosopher king? It's time he should become Abraham Lincoln." He's Donald Trump. You know, he's - you know, it's all aggression, it's all ignorance, it's all the time. But I think he's going to have a bad week this week. I think he'll probably rally in New York, and it'll all come down to California.

The people in the Republican party are not going to stop him. Look at that Reince Priebus' interview today. Like, the week that we had with Donald Trump, he's a catastrophe of the party. Priebus is off in la la land, talking about technical stuff, and not really seizing the mantle. That's where the Republican establishment. So they're not going to beat him.

The only way he gets beat is if he internally collapses and if his supporters morally collapse because of bad defeats in places like California and New York. They're like Oklahoma at the end of the Villanova game, there's nothing there. But nobody's going to take it away from him.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think David's right? Or I feel as if though something changed. I mean, you look at what's happening on the ground, in the technical parts of this, right, where you have Tennessee party chair making sure he's putting party operatives into the delegate spots, even in the Trump seats, that they're at least seeding this so that they can stop Trump if they have the opportunity.

AMY WALTER:

Here's where Republicans are right now. They get to decide if they wanna have a civil war if Trump wins, or a civil war if Trump loses. There is no winner out of this whole fight. So he can either come into Cleveland with the amount of delegates. I think Wisconsin will tell us whether or not he will be able to get 1,237. He loses Wisconsin by a big amount, I don't think he's going to be able to make that up. Or he'll be very close.

Or we go to Cleveland and we have another civil war where yeah, technically, they could take it away from him. This is how it works. Reince isn't incorrect. The delegates select who the president is. But there are going to be a whole bunch of Republicans very upset about it, even people who didn't vote for Donald Trump, because they see, as you pointed out, is this fair?

Is this fair? And that is going to just split this party apart. And anybody who thinks that Donald Trump is just going to go away if he loses this like, "Oh, well, he's not going to be able to get on a ballot," he's got Twitter and he's got cable TV. And he's going to spend all of his time there.

CHUCK TODD:

Helene, I'm curious. You know, he's talked a lot about NATO this week in weird ways, he's talked a lot about nukes and nuclear policy. I'm just curious, what do the folks at the Pentagon think? And I'm not talking about the political operatives, I'm talking about the career folks who are going to be there if Trump's elected president or if Clinton's elected president.

HELENE COOPER:

No, they were appalled. You know, last week, I was on a Navy cruiser in the South China Sea that was doing this diplomatic dance with China. We had a Chinese ship that was trailing us. And several times, I got into conversations with sailors about, you know, "This is all about how we, you know, how we strategize in a really important area, could Donald Trump even handle something like this?" And then you had this week, with Donald Trump's message is about, and what he said about South Korea and Japan, which the Japanese prime minister immediately recanted, or dismissed. But, and you have that juxtaposed against President Obama's Washington Nuclear Summit, in which you had heads of states from all over the world sitting here, carefully talking about nuclear disarmament and how do we go about doing it.

I just think when you look at all of the things that happened to Donald Trump this week, and the abortion issue was horrible for him, but I think the nuclear issue, I think, ends up scaring people particularly at the Pentagon and the national security apparatus a whole lot more.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. If Trump falls though, the beneficiary is Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz, if Ted Cruz wins Wisconsin, Charles, is it because there are a whole bunch of Cruz Republicans, or is he really benefiting from Stop Trump right now?

CHARLES BENSON:

Well, I think he's benefiting from the Stop Trump right now. Clearly, it's getting late to get to the dance, and they were looking for a dance partner, and Ted Cruz was the guy.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, why Cruz and not Kasich though? Some of us would have thought Kasich might fit this state better.

CHARLES BENSON:

Right when you look at the match-up from Kasich, you would think he would match what the conservative brand would be in Wisconsin. I mean, Wisconsin's pretty conservative right now. They've got the conservative governor, got a conservative legislature, they control both houses. And they have a conservative high court.

He got the backing Kasich of the former governor, Tommy Thompson, who has won there four times. But I think they felt that Cruz, when they were looking at the difference between Cruz and Kasich, they were saying, "Who can beat Trump? How can we get to the convention with a guy?" And they felt Ted Cruz was the guy.

CHUCK TODD:

David Brooks, what do you most likely think is going to happen now? Is it Trump, Cruz, or Paul Ryan?

DAVID BROOKS:

I think it's likely to be Trump. I think he's the walking dead. I think he'll get the nomination and he will just go down to a crushing defeat. And will be known for a hundred years from now, people will say, "Who's the biggest loser in American politics?" And it won't be McGovern, it won't be Dukakis, the word Trump. And I hope when he's down there in Hades he's aware of all that.

CHUCK TODD:

Wow.

HELENE COOPER:

Very subtle.

CHUCK TODD:

Very subtle. Why do I have a feeling Mr. Brooks is going to hear from Mr. Trump sometime on social media today? Anyway, with that, we'll take a pause. When we come back, down ballot blues. We're going to stick with Wisconsin as a theme. What does Donald Trump at the top of the ticket mean for Republicans further down? We'll be right back.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. One of the reasons the Republican establishment has the jitters over Donald Trump is the worry that having Trump at the top of the ticket will hurt the party's chances of keeping control of the house and the Senate. My next guest, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson is up for reelection in November and does face a tough fight to hold onto his seat in a swing state that has gone blue more often than not. Senator Johnson, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Morning, Chuck. How are you doing?

CHUCK TODD:

I'm pretty good. Let me ask you straight up. Are you going to say who you're voting for on Tuesday? Are you going to endorse before Tuesday?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

I have not endorsed. You know, I've certainly stated my intention to support whoever the Republican nominee is. I've got to have faith in Wisconsin primary voters as well as American - or the Republican primary voters on a national level. So that's my intention.

CHUCK TODD:

It's interesting you put it that way. Do you plan on supporting the candidate who wins the primary on Tuesday in Wisconsin? Do you think that's the most appropriate action?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Well, again, what I will do is I will support whoever the delegates in the national convention actually chooses for a nominee. And we've got three and a half months to go here before that's actually determined. You know, three and a half months is a lifetime in politics. So nobody can predict exactly how this is going to turn out.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, you've been - it's been surprising to hear from you as compared to some of your other fellow Republican senators who are running for reelection in swing states. You're one of the few that says publicly that you think Donald Trump helps you in your reelection, that he doesn't hurt you. Why?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

No. I think what I've been talking about is, you know, from my standpoint, I'm a businessperson. I'm a completely outsider. And that certainly is what has resonated about his campaign in many respects. But, you know, from my standpoint, I think what this campaign ought to be about is, you know, growth. How do you grow our economy? It's the number one component for a solution.

I think what candidates are finding out here in Wisconsin is we have some very discerning primary voters here on the Republican side. And like Charles mentioned, a lot has to do with our exceptional talk radio hosts across the state. And I think some of the candidates found out exactly exceptional they really are in terms of asking tough questions. And that's really what elections are about, and sort of primaries about, is getting out the truth.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Senator, by saying what you said, you're all but implying you're not for Trump. You're all but implying by essentially praising how great these conservative radio can be, how do we not interpret that as an anti-Trump sentiment coming from you?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Because I'm saying what I'm saying. I'm not endorsing somebody. That obviously speaks for itself. The last primary, I did endorse Mitt Romney, and I'll tell you why I endorsed Mitt Romney, it's why I met with him beforehand, he said, "Ron, I expect to be a one-term president, because I'm going to fix these problems." And then when he picked Paul Ryan as a running mate, it just confirmed that my choice was correct.

So obviously, I don't have a comfort level. You know, let's face it. No two people agree on everything. I'll tell you what, though, is certain, is I will never vote for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or whoever the Democrat nominee may be. So again, I'm looking, and I've got to put my faith and trust in Republican primary voters, and I intend to support the Republican nominee, whoever that person may or may not be.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this. What advice would you give Donald Trump to improve his chances in Wisconsin? Right now, we've got polling that shows he trails Hillary Clinton by ten points. Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton are tied in Wisconsin. And John Kasich actually leads her. But if Trump's the nominee, what advice would you give Donald Trump to improve his standing in Wisconsin?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

It's the same advice I'd give anybody in a primary or a general election. Show your vision for America, for Wisconsin, and certainly in a Republican primary, show the primary voters how you intend to take that vision to defeat the Democratic nominee. Let's face it, we're going to be facing either a socialist, I think we should all remember that socialism isn't hasn't worked. Not in the Soviet Union, not in Venezuela, certainly not in what should be the island paradise of Cuba. And Hillary Clinton has so much baggage, you know, she's going to be a very flawed candidate if she ends up being selected.

CHUCK TODD:

Alright, final question. Merrick Garland, the President's choice for the Supreme Court vacancy, you said something interesting. You said, you implied that if this were a Republican president filling a conservative seat, this would go through without a problem. I guess my question to you is if Merrick Garland were replacing a liberal seat on the court, would you be more inclined to see this nomination and confirmation process go forward?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

No, I think what Vice President Biden said in 1992 is pretty accurate. In such a politicized atmosphere, with just a couple, literally eight months before an election, let the American people have a voice in choosing the direction of the Supreme Court when they're choosing the direction of the country.

CHUCK TODD:

Under any circumstance? You don't think Supreme Court nominations should happen in a final year of a presidency in a presidential election year ever?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

I think it's pretty problematic. And particularly with the Judge Garland in Wisconsin here, he appears to be pretty hostile to Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms, which would not be popular in Wisconsin. So I'm doing my job in protecting the Second Amendment rights of Wisconsinites by just withholding my consent.

CHUCK TODD:

Alright. Senator Ron Johnson, Republican from Wisconsin up for reelection. Thanks for coming on the show, sir.

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Thanks for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

You got it. We'll be back in 45 seconds with our endgame segment and the Democrats. Why can't Hillary Clinton put away Bernie Sanders?

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

And we're back with endgame. I want you to listen to something Bernie Sanders said Thursday.

(BEGIN TAPE)

BERNIE SANDERS:

We have won six out of the last seven caucuses. Most of them by landslide victories. And I think that, uh, superdelegates should listen to the will of their people. If you get 60, 70, 80 percent of the vote in a state, you know what, I think superdelegates should vote for us.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. So we decided to crunch the numbers on that basis to see how much it would benefit Senator Sanders, if all of the superdelegates in states he's won so far chose him. So take a look. Right now, looking at states where people have voted so far, the current superdelegate count in those states is Clinton, with 253 versus Sanders with just 25 superdelegates, with some superdelegates still undecided.

If those superdelegates vote the way their states have voted so far, then they would divide this way: Clinton would actually increase her lead a little bit, increase her total to 260, Bernie Sanders would get to 124, because some of those undecideds that were in there would be allocated to help Hillary Clinton. But those numbers just show you, Hillary Clinton still would lead with superdelegates too. He doesn't have a path, does he?

AMY WALTER:

No. Look, this race is, it's still going on, and it's important for Hillary Clinton to remain engaged. And I give Bernie Sanders a lot of credit from starting from zero and getting to where he is right now. It's an impressive-- and he's made this debate about his issues and he's made her fight on his turf. That said, the delegate math is not going to add up and it's not working.

But when you compare where Democrats are to where Republicans are, Democrats are having a skirmish right now. Republicans are in thermonuclear war, okay? It is not-- so it's a little bit messy, and so it's going to be a little harder for her, and maybe it's not over until June. But they are going to be united, Democratic partisans right now like Bernie Sanders as much as they like Hillary Clinton. They are not going to have a problem unifying the party in the way Republicans are.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, David-- go ahead.

CHARLES BENSON:

Alright, let me just say. I think Wisconsin's going to be good for Bernie Sanders. He's expected to win there. This is not going to be 2008 though for Hillary Clinton where she got clobbered by double digits. This could be a single-digit win. But everybody knows that Bernie Sanders needs a big win.

And you talked about April 5th, 1960, John F. Kennedy, you know, coming out of Wisconsin, getting some legitimacy. But think about it, April 5th, 1910, Wisconsin, I should say Milwaukee, was the first major American city, key word there major American, to have and elect a socialist mayor. They've done it three times. So that's good news.

CHUCK TODD:

For Bernie Sanders.

CHARLES BENSON:

For Bernie Sanders.

CHUCK TODD:

Former socialist mayor of Burlington . But David, why--

DAVID BROOKS:

I think he voted in that election.

CHUCK TODD:

Oh, come on. Boy, you are just going to make everybody mad, aren't you? But Hillary Clinton is struggling to close out this nomination. Let's call it what it is. She is struggling to do it. Amy's right. It is a skirmish. It is not this-- but if there wasn't a Republican fight, we'd be going, "What's going on here? Why can't she close the deal?"

DAVID BROOKS:

If Donald Trump didn't exist, we would all be talking about how she is the most unpopular nominee in recent American history.

CHUCK TODD:

She would be that, instead Donald Trump is that.

DAVID BROOKS:

There happens to be this other guy. What strikes me is there are two motivations for voters. There's philosophy, and Sanders sort of has that. But there's also party loyalty. I was watching your interview with her earlier. And I was thinking, "If Ed Muskie or Hubert Humphrey came back and they saw her, they'd thought, "That's what a Democratic candidate looks like.'"

CHUCK TODD:

Or-- and sounds like.

DAVID BROOKS:

Yeah. And so she's part of the party, the embodied history of the party. And so there's a machine-like quality, it's hard to get super excited by her, but there's a comfort level for Democratic voters. And that's carrying her, but it doesn't inspire.

HELENE COOPER:

I was also struck though during your interview with Hillary, with Senator Clinton, on your questions about abortion. And you guys spent a lot of time during that interview, about four to five minutes.

CHUCK TODD:

It's something you don't do very often with Democratic candidates.

HELENE COOPER:

No, you don't. But she answered you and she went back and she had history and she had precedent to cite, and she talked about third world, uh, other countries she went through. And then I started imagining you doing that interview with Donald Trump. And where he gets that, when he's with Chris Matthews, and he gets that deer-with-his-eyes-caught look in his face, where you see he's grappling for an answer and he's out of his depth and he's not sure how he's going to answer it.

And I think what this week and what happened with Donald Trump played the beneficiary of this the most I think is Hillary Clinton. Because if ever there was, like, you had, like, a sort of, an edging out the differences between candidates, she's the one who I think is the winner.

CHUCK TODD:

But I wonder, the more clarity, it's funny. I agree. This week, this was the first time you thought, "Boy, she could really--" you could see how she's going to match up pretty well with Donald Trump. Republican delegates are going to see that Amy, right?

AMY WALTER:

Well, they haven't seen it yet.

CHUCK TODD:

Right, but they're gonna--

AMY WALTER:

This is really the most fascinating thing. There have been polls out now for a long time that showed that he has problems with women. That shows that he has problems with pretty much every single demographic group. And yet--

CHUCK TODD:

Except white men.

AMY WALTER:

Except for white men. And yet, it has not impacted him in these primaries. In fact, I went back and I looked at this point in 2012, almost 40 percent of Republicans said beating Obama was their top priority and they voted for Mitt Romney. Today, 13 percent of Republicans say that electability is their top issue. It's not about beating Hillary Clinton. It is about putting the candidate that they think represents their values better. And that's where Trump and Cruz fit the bill.

HELENE COOPER:

But this is how they ended up losing in 2012. That's how we get back to, now we're moving towards a general election. Now we're starting, you know, what we've seen so far are these two, these two, in these two, primaries the people on the left and the people on right.

CHUCK TODD:

Charles, let me ask you this, you get the final comment on this. Who's going to have an easier time coming together, this sort of a polarized Democratic electorate in Wisconsin or a polarized Republican electorate in Wisconsin?

CHARLES BENSON:

I think the Democrats have an easier time coming together. You know, they both are looking pretty good, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and I think at the end of the day, we saw it last night. They had the founders party for the Democrats. You could have called it the unity party-- the unity, uh--

CHUCK TODD:

They didn't fight that much?

CHARLES BENSON:

They really didn't fight that much. So I think they'll be able to come together.

CHUCK TODD:09:58:21:00

All right, thank you all. Charles, thanks for coming down.

CHARLES BENSON:

Thank you for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

You've got to get out of here, because I know, you've got some more work to do. That's all we have for today. We'll be back next week. Because as you know, if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

***END OF TRANSCRIPT***