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Meet the Press - January 10, 2016

MEET THE PRESS - JAN. 10, 2016

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, he's defying political gravity and every prediction of his imminent collapse.

DONALD TRUMP:

And who's going to pay for the wall?

CROWD:

Mexico!

CHUCK TODD:

And he now says he's in this race for the long run.

DONALD TRUMP:There's no maybes, there's no maybes. I'm not leaving.

CHUCK TODD:

Going straight to the--

DONALD TRUMP:Going all the way.

CHUCK TODD:

And he's ready to use Bill Clinton's past as a weapon.

DONALD TRUMP:

I don't want to say it's a threat, but it's a threat.

CHUCK TODD:My sit down with Donald Trump. Plus the Republican circular firing squad

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE:

I don't care whether your name is Barack Obama, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. You've never run a thing of consequence in your life.

CHUCK TODD:

While the candidates fight, the establishment frets. Who should they be worrying about more: Trump or Ted Cruz?

And with three weeks to go until the voting begins our new polls in Iowa and New Hampshire are out and don't look now, but we have a real race on the Democratic side.

Joining me this morning for insight and analysis are: Jeff Greenfield of Politico and The Daily Beast, Helene Cooper of the New York Times, Jennifer Jacobs of The Des Moines Register, and Robert Costa of The Washington Post. 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, apologies for all of you that didn't win Powerball, but we've got a huge show for you today, anyway, including my sit down with Donald Trump and a struggling effort by some in the so-called "Republican establishment" to figure out some way to stop either Trump or Ted Cruz from becoming the party's nominee.

We can say this: They've got their work cut out for them. According to our brand new NBC Wall Street Journal Marist poll out of Iowa in New Hampshire this morning, so let's start in Iowa, where Cruz holds a slim lead over Trump, 28-24, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson fighting for a distant third.

But as we'll show you later, if Trump manages to bring in new voters, he does much better. We did two different electorates in Iowa to test this phenomenon. Now here are the single-digit Republicans, by the way, in Iowa, the ones who got at least three percent in our poll.

There's Jeb Bush, stuck at four percent, and by the way, the two previous guys who won Iowa, didn't even get three percent in this, Huckabee and Santorum. Staying with the Republicans, in New Hampshire, it's all Trump, 30 percent with Rubio, Christie and Cruz in double digits, but trailing badly in a battle for second place.

Bush and John Kasich just under double digits, sitting at 9 percent, followed by Rand Paul and a fading Ben Carson. But the new tier may be on the Democratic side, we've got quite a race, we always knew we had one in New Hampshire, but look at this in Iowa, it's now a toss up.

Hillary Clinton's lead there has shrunk to just three points over Bernie Sanders in a critical state there with Martin O'Malley way back at five percent, but that five percent number very important for him for the next Democratic debate. In New Hampshire, just flip the leaders, but essentially the same story, it's Sanders narrowly ahead, but by just four points.

O'Malley barely registers. It's fair to say a year ago no one would have predicted, Bernie Sanders mounting this kind of challenge to Clinton or Donald Trump leading anywhere. But that's where we are three weeks before the first voting.

And yesterday I sat down backstage with Trump in Ottumwa, Iowa, and we began by talking about the cover story of Time Magazine this week, which essentially said in the past tense, "How Trump Won" and whether he's already accomplished what he set out to do.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

If you got out of the race today, do you feel like you have won something?

DONALD TRUMP:

No, I don't. I really don't. I think that the Time article was incredibly well written. I mean, that is a good writer. I will tell you that. A professional. But I feel that, if I don't win all of it, and I mean the presidency, that I've wasted my time. I know I've been given accolades for the job we've done, and everything else, especially--

CHUCK TODD:

You've shifted the debate?

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, especially being somewhat of a novice. People have said very nice things, like Time magazine. But I really feel that if I don't win I can't make the difference.

CHUCK TODD:

You know there's this running conventional wisdom about you with some of the establishment that now say, okay, he's here to stay. But if he doesn't win Iowa, he'll leave. He'll leave the race.

DONALD TRUMP:

I'm not leaving. No, I'm not leaving. You and I had this discussion about two months ago where you said, "Would you leave?" I was in number one. I've been number one just about since I joined up, right? June 16th; amazing. We've had a lot of fun. But you asked me that question.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

DONALD TRUMP:

I started talking about, well, maybe here, maybe there, if this happened--

CHUCK TODD:

Right, there's no maybes anymore--

DONALD TRUMP:

There's no maybes. There's no maybes. I'm not leaving.

CHUCK TODD:

You're going straight to the convention--

DONALD TRUMP:

Going all the way. If I don't win, I don't win. But, you know, maybe that can happen. But I'm leading every poll, big--

CHUCK TODD:

Will you accept the idea that you might lose Iowa? You could lose it.

DONALD TRUMP:

I hope I win Iowa. I've developed an amazing relationship with the people of Iowa. You see it right outside. We have a huge audience, a sold-out audience. Always sold-out; I mean, no matter where I go. But I have an amazing relationship with evangelicals, with the Tea Party, with the people of Iowa.

CHUCK TODD:

Your chief competitor is Ted Cruz. You have brought up the Canadian citizenship issue. But let me ask you your opinion. Do you believe he is constitutionally eligible? I know the Supreme Court has never weighed in on the phrase, "Natural born citizen." What does that mean? But you, yourself, you think he should be eligible?

DONALD TRUMP:

So what happens is I was watching Laurence Tribe of Harvard yesterday, who's a constitutional expert; one of the true experts. And according to him, it's a real question mark. You know, I would say he is one of the great authorities on this subject. He has a question mark. And--

CHUCK TODD:

But do you have a question mark?

DONALD TRUMP:

Let me tell you. From Ted's standpoint and from the party's standpoint, he has to solve this problem. Because the Democrats will sue him if he's the nominee. If Ted is the nominee, he will be sued by the Democrats. And according to one of the great lawyers of the country at Harvard, with strong opinions on this, the whole thing has not been-- as he said, this matter has not been determined.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that. But I'm talking about your opinion.

DONALD TRUMP:

I would say that I would want the Supreme Court to rule because they haven't ruled.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you about-- you said something about Senator Cruz this week in a CNN interview. You said he was for amnesty. That's a big charge. Of all people to charge being for amnesty, where's the evidence on him?

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, number one, he worked for Bush. Bush was heavy for amnesty--

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, but he worked for him.

DONALD TRUMP:

I know, but he worked for him and he was heavy for amnesty. And if you look at Rubio go after him, Rubio and Bush are both, you know, claiming each other was totally for amnesty. And honestly, Marco has a lot of good points as to Ted's feeling on amnesty. Now, Ted just switched his views on ethanol. He was totally against ethanol. Now, all of a sudden, he's for it. You know, it's Iowa and he's for it. Whereas--

CHUCK TODD:

Where are you on ethanol?

DONALD TRUMP:

I've been in favor of ethanol and the people like--

CHUCK TODD:

Subsidies--

DONALD TRUMP:

--me a lot.

CHUCK TODD:

--you're okay with the subsidies--

DONALD TRUMP:

I'm okay with it. I mean, I like fuel. I like fuel. And ethanol is fuel. And the people out here, it's a very important subject. But Ted switched and I think they feel very queasy about that. Look, Ted will switch opinions and I think that's fine. And in the world, you know, you have to have a certain flexibility--

CHUCK TODD:

You've changed a lot. You've changed a lot--

DONALD TRUMP:

I've changed. I've changed opinions over the years. I mean, we change. But it'll be very interesting to see what happens. I'll tell you one thing. I am really looking to February 1st. It's going to be very exciting.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you. Senator Rubio sponsored a bill back in Florida to give in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants. There's a lot of states that allow in-state tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants. I've not heard your position on that.

DONALD TRUMP:

I'm opposed to it.

CHUCK TODD:

Totally opposed?

DONALD TRUMP:

They're here. They're not here legally. I'm opposed to it--

CHUCK TODD:

Even kids born to illegal immigrants--

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I happen to disagree with the whole concept of anchor babies. I mean, you look at anchor babies--

CHUCK TODD:

But that's in the Constitution.

DONALD TRUMP:

No, it's not in the Constitution. If you read and if you look, and if you go to the real scholars, like different people that I can give you, they will tell you. Somebody comes over and they have a baby on our border and it happens to be on this side of the border, we're not mandated to take care of that baby. You do not have to change the Constitution.

You may need a vote in Congress, but you don't have to change. Now, there's a, you know, debate about that. I don't think it's even close. And I've been on this issue for a long time. No, no, people have to come into our country legally, Chuck. They have to be here legally.

CHUCK TODD:

How do you decide if someone's a Muslim, when you're doing this test? How do you--

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, there's got to be some kind of a method--

CHUCK TODD:

How do you do this method?

DONALD TRUMP:

It's not just--

CHUCK TODD:

Because you're taking somebody's word.

DONALD TRUMP:

I'm not taking somebody's word--

CHUCK TODD:

That's my point. And if somebody really wants to do damage, they're going to lie and cheat and sneak into this country--

DONALD TRUMP:

Hey, look, this has become a very big factor over the last week-and-a-half, two weeks, since I made my announcement that we have to see what the hell is going on. In the meantime, the other night, you have a cop shot in Philadelphia with a gun put to his head. And you know the chants and the rantings and the ravings.

Now, you're looking at Cologne, Germany. You take a look at Cologne, Germany--

CHUCK TODD:

No, I understand that but how do you do it--

DONALD TRUMP:

--having riots--

CHUCK TODD:

How do you do it, though? I get it. Or do you just say, "You know what? You do it geographically. You don't even do it a religious test--"

DONALD TRUMP:

Certain people come in. If they're business people, if they're proven. But we have to find out what the problem is. Now, we can be politically correct and never discuss it. But we can't let that happen to our country.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me get some news of the week. China. Clearly, its economy-- they're having a problem. They're having a crisis there. You have railed that China is beating America. And yet--

DONALD TRUMP:

They're killing us.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. We're on our best two-year, job creation streak in 20 years. China is cratering our stock market for the problems they have at home. How is that the definition of China winning and America losing--

DONALD TRUMP:

Okay, first of all, take a look at our G.D.P. And if you look at that, if you look at our productivity, if you look at the fact that people, in ten years, essentially, haven't had a raise, or people going down instead of up. The jobs, a lot of temporary jobs; people are working temporary jobs and jobs that they don't want instead of jobs-- our economy's doing horribly. And you take a look at that jobs report. The jobs report is fiction because all of the people that gave up--

CHUCK TODD:

It's total fiction? You don't think--

DONALD TRUMP:

I would say, honestly--

CHUCK TODD:

--there's been improvement from the crash--

DONALD TRUMP:

Honestly, I would say it's 90 percent. We all have improvements from crashes. I mean, we--

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

DONALD TRUMP:

--had a crash. We had somewhat of a crash. Would it have straightened itself out? Would it straighten itself out? We had somewhat of a crash. But listen, Chuck, you have 60, 70, 80 million people out there that want to work that aren't getting jobs.

CHUCK TODD:

You have said you think President Obama's a terrible negotiator.

DONALD TRUMP:

Obama's one of the worst negotiators I've ever seen on everything except when it comes to dealing with the Republicans. It's unbelievable. The Republicans fold every single time. This last budget was terrible. But you look at the Iran deal. You look at these deals. I always bring up Bergdahl. We get a traitor, they get five people that they've wanted for nine years, and they're back on the battlefield, trying to kill everybody, including us. And we get a dirty, rotten traitor. So let me just tell you, that's the kind of deals we make. The Iran deal? We give them $150 billion. We get nothing--

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, though--

DONALD TRUMP:

We don't even get our prisoners back--

CHUCK TODD:

They just shipped the uranium out, though. I mean, they're living up to the deal.

DONALD TRUMP:

And where do they ship it? To Russia.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, you trust Putin.

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I trust him more than some people I--

CHUCK TODD:

I was just going to say, you--

DONALD TRUMP:

I can tell you that. But what kind of a deal is that? Even that. They're shipping it to Russia, right? Why aren't they shipping it to us? Why aren't we getting it? They're shipping it to Russia. I don't like that.

CHUCK TODD:

You don't like that at all?

DONALD TRUMP:

No, no. I'd like them to ship it to us. It's our deal. So they get $150 billion. We don't even get our prisoners back. And by the way, the people don't know. The 24 days doesn't start until a whole procedure takes place. That 24-day can be a longer--

CHUCK TODD:

Hard to wipe away nuclear material--

DONALD TRUMP:

And they even have rights of self-inspection--

CHUCK TODD:

Hard to wipe away nuclear material in 24 days.

DONALD TRUMP:

I don't know that and you don't know that.

CHUCK TODD:

Scientists tell us--

DONALD TRUMP:

How about their rights of self-inspection? You think that the Iranians are going to give us good self-inspection? I don't. But with the Republicans, Obama's a great negotiator.

(END TAPE)CHUCK TODD:Back in a moment with more of my sit down with Donald Trump, including his plans to use President Clinton's past against Hillary

(BEGIN TAPE)DONALD TRUMP:

I don't want to say it's a threat, but it's a threat

CHUCK TODD:It is a threat?

DONALD TRUMP:Yeah, of course.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. When Hillary Clinton called Donald Trump out for his attitude towards women, Trump wasted no time in firing back. Saying, if she wants to play that game so can he - with Bill Clinton as the target. Well, I asked him yesterday if he's serious about going down that road.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

You've said you're willing to bring up Bill Clinton's past with women if Hillary Clinton attacks you for being a sexist. So is that a threat to her? Is that essentially what you're saying is, hey, you want me to go down that road? You go down that road, I go down this road. Is this sort of public threat--

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I don't want to say it's a threat.

CHUCK TODD:

What is it?

DONALD TRUMP:

But it is a threat. Of course. I mean, I can call it a nicer name, yeah. She was saying he has tendencies toward being sexist.

CHUCK TODD:

Talking about who? You?

DONALD TRUMP:

Talking about me. And I said, wait a minute. She's married to an abuser. A woman claimed rape, and all sorts of things. I mean, horrible things. You read the books--

CHUCK TODD:

You do know, though, if you bring it up, people are going to bring up your--

DONALD TRUMP:

It's okay.

CHUCK TODD:

I mean, your first divorce was ugly.

DONALD TRUMP:

Number one, it's fine--

CHUCK TODD:

All over the tabloids.

DONALD TRUMP:

But, you know what? I wasn't the President of the United States. And I wasn't dealing in the Oval Office, all right? A big difference. I wasn't the president. And my first wife thinks I'm great. And my second wife and my-- and I have a great marriage. I mean, I have a great marriage. So I mean, it's fine. I'm not saying don't bring anything up with me. But when she says that, I had to bring it up. And by the way, they've become very unresponsive since then.

CHUCK TODD:

Oh, they have.

DONALD TRUMP:

And I just won the FOX poll against her, even. I'm up substantially over Hillary in the FOX poll that just came out--

CHUCK TODD:

As you know, people call you a lot of names. Some of it's positive, some of it's negative. I want to throw some by you. Let's see. Some people are calling you the Music Man of this race. Kim Kardashian. Biff, from Back to the Future. George Costanza. P.T. Barnum. What's - any of those do you consider a compliment? Or do you--

DONALD TRUMP:

P.T. Barnum.

CHUCK TODD:

You'll take the P.T. Barnum?

DONALD TRUMP:

P.T. Barnum. Look, people call you names. We need P.T. Barnum, a little bit, because we have to build up the image of our country. We have to be a cheerleader for our country. We don't have a cheerleader. I thought Obama, when he got elected, would be a good cheerleader. That's the one thing I said. I said he'll be a - you know, he'll unify the country, whether it's African American and white and all. You know, he'll unify. He's not unifying. He's been a great divider. On top of that, very bad--

CHUCK TODD:

You think he's been the divider? What about the Republican party--

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I think he's--

CHUCK TODD:

You don't think they've--

DONALD TRUMP:

No, no, I think he's--

CHUCK TODD:

You don't think this has been a two-way street here--

DONALD TRUMP:

Chuck, he hasn't brought us together. He hasn't brought the people--

CHUCK TODD:

And that's on him, not on both parties?

DONALD TRUMP:

I think it's on everybody. But he's the leader. He's the leader. He could've been a great cheerleader and he hasn't been. And that's too bad.

CHUCK TODD:

What do you tell conservatives about '90s Trump? You liked the Clintons, you were pro-choice, you were even for some gun control. You wondered why the N.R.A. wouldn't be for some limitation, some restrictions. 20-16 Trump, you're not that guy.

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I have changed. I've changed in many ways--

CHUCK TODD:

You know, what is it? What's the change?

DONALD TRUMP:

Take a look at Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan was a somewhat liberal Democrat. You know, Ronald Reagan was a liberal Democrat. And he became a fairly conservative not overly but a fairly conservative Republican. And as he grew older-- and I've seen things and I've watched things. I mean, like with guns. If, in Paris, or if, in California, recently with the 14 people that were killed and probably others to follow, in terms of that group, because you have some people that are very, very badly wounded, and in Paris you have some people that are-- but Paris is like-- you can't have guns. In France, you can't have guns. If, in Paris, they had guns, if, in California (on the other side), where the bullets go both ways (not just in one direction, right?), you wouldn't have had the kind of carnage that you've had.

CHUCK TODD:

What should be the restrictions on purchasing guns?

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, first of all--

CHUCK TODD:

Where are you on this?

DONALD TRUMP:

Okay.

CHUCK TODD:

Background checks for everybody?

DONALD TRUMP:

First of all, there's a lot of language right now that the federal government has not taken advantage of. I mean, you know that. There's tremendous language, right now; stuff that's already been passed. And it was passed the old-fashioned way where people actually agreed to it. One of the problems I have with what Obama did is he's always signing executive orders. He doesn't bring people into his office--

CHUCK TODD:

Are you going to sign--

CHUCK TODD:

Are you going to refuse to do executive orders as president?

DONALD TRUMP:

I won't refuse it. I won't refuse them.

CHUCK TODD:

You'll do them, too, right--

DONALD TRUMP:

I will do a lot of right things. Well, I mean, he's led the way, to be honest with you; what he's done on immigration, when he signed those papers. Now, fortunately, the courts, all of a sudden, have done a little bit of a termination. We'll see what happens. But one of the beautiful things about executive orders (from my standpoint) is, if I get elected, many of those executive orders that he signed, the first day, they're going to be unsigned.

CHUCK TODD:

Oh, I understand that. But you're willing to use them, too, yourself?

DONALD TRUMP:

Oh, I'm not going to rule it out.

CHUCK TODD:

Final question, because I know you've got the rally to get to--

DONALD TRUMP:

But I'm going to use them much better and they're going to be, and they're going to serve a much better purpose than what he's done.

CHUCK TODD:

On Tuesday, we're going to hear the president say the state of our union is, in some words, strong or vibrant; all this stuff. What would you say? One year from now, it could be you giving this speech to Congress. A version of it. We don't call it the state of the union in the first one, but a joint-session speech. How would you describe the state of the union--

DONALD TRUMP:

Now, or a couple of years--

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, now or in a year--

DONALD TRUMP:

I think, now, it's a mess. Our military is--

CHUCK TODD:

You'd go up there and say the state of our union is a mess?

DONALD TRUMP:

No, I wouldn't say that. You're asking me for an opinion. No, Obama will say what he's going to say. But I think, right now, the state of our union is a mess. We can't beat I.S.I.S. Our military is falling back. It's not being properly taken care of. Our vets aren't being properly taken care of. Obamacare, as you know, is going to fail very soon, and probably in '17, our health care. We don't have borders. We don't have anything. I think, if I'm there in two years and I'm making a speech, I say we're getting better, fast.

CHUCK TODD:

And in that first speech to Congress, you're going to lay out your first 100 days' agenda, what are those four issues that are going to be on there--

DONALD TRUMP:

I want to build our military bigger and better and stronger than ever before--

CHUCK TODD:

That's number one.

DONALD TRUMP:

I want to take care of our veterans. I want to take care of them. They're being taken care of horribly. I want to fix our health care system. I want to create borders so that we have a country. Because, right now, we don't have a country. We have borders where people just walk across and do whatever they want to do, and then they have babies and the babies become citizens, and we have to take care of them. We're going to do many, many things that are going to make America great again. That's what I want to do.

CHUCK TODD:

There are a bunch of billionaires around the world. Zuckerberg has signed on, on this idea. They want to basically give away more than half of their wealth, in some point, to philanthropic projects. Carl Icahn is a guy who has signed onto this; good friend of yours--

DONALD TRUMP:

Right, who, by the way, endorsed me.

CHUCK TODD:

Right, that's what I mean; good friend of yours. Have you thought about--I'm sure people have asked you to sign this, giving pledge--

DONALD TRUMP:

They've all asked me. They have all asked me.

CHUCK TODD:

Why haven't you done it?

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, so far, I'm a little bit old-fashioned. I have wonderful children who are doing a wonderful job and I believe in that. And we employ thousands and thousands of people. And I like the concept of keeping the company going, as opposed to selling everything and giving it away.

So, right away, I mean, perhaps I shouldn't be saying this, but I'm of the old school. I'd like to see my children take this great company that I I've built (and it is a great company), and I'd like to see it go on for a long time, creating jobs, lots of money, pay lots of taxes, give lots of money away. I make lots of big contributions. I like that better.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Mr. Trump, until we meet again.

DONALD TRUMP:

Thank you.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

One note from our friends at PolitiFact about the interview, they're done some initial fact checking. Donald Trump said the five prisoners who were swapped for Bowe Bergdahl are all, quote, "back on the battlefield." Well, PolitiFact finds that to be false.

Multiple administration officials say they are still in Qatar and there's no evidence to prove otherwise. However, one of them is suspected of trying to contact Taliban associates. We'll have more from PolitiFact and a longer version of my interview with Mr. Trump on our website, Meetthepressnbc.com. Coming up, there's no doubt Trump has inspired enormous enthusiasm among a new slice of Republican voters.

But also, an equal amount of hand wringing among members of the so-called "Republican establishment," who fear that Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, for the matter, at the top of the ticket could be a disaster for the party. When we come back, does the establishment even have a chance or a plan to stop the two men that are dominating this race?

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

In past Presidential years, conservatives battled each other to be the last man standing, only to watch the so-called establishment candidate win in the end. But this year, it's the fight among establishment candidates, that's become a circular firing squad.

(BEGIN TAPE)

MARCO RUBIO:

I just honestly don't believe that the next President of the United States and the Republican nominee should be someone like Chris Christie, who supports Common Core, who has personally donated to Planned Parenthood, who got into politics to begin with to pass gun control. (NOISE)

JEB BUSH:

I believe politicians ought to show up to work, I apologize. I think politicians shouldn't get paid if they don't show up. (NOISE)

CHRIS CHRISTIE:

And I don't care whether your name's Barack Obama, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, you've never won a thing of consequence in your life.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

And while the second tier candidates right now have been going after each other, establishment spit balling on how to take down Trump has ended up on the cover of The New York Times today and The Washington Post that has produced few tangible results. Now with Iowa just three weeks away, the establishment is terrified of either Trump or maybe more so by Ted Cruz at the top of the ticket. I'm joined now by Alex Castellanos, who has worked on campaigns for some of the biggest names in the GOP, including the Bushes, Jeb and George W., Mitt Romney, also here's Ben Ginsberg, former counsel to Mitt Romney and George W. Bush's Presidential campaigns and recently of the Scott Walker Presidential campaign.

The panel is also here, they'll be joining me. But let me start quickly with you, Alex, the week began with Alex Castellanos, famed Republican consultant is briefing donors, looking for people to start to buy into your anti-Trump ad campaign, and yet, you found no takers.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

No takers. It's too confusing this year for the establishment and it's getting late in the game. If you disqualify Trump, you could help Ted Cruz and the establishment doesn't want that. If you disqualify Cruz, you could help Trump. So a lot of the establishment is just sitting on the sidelines and I think the moment to go after either has passed.

CHUCK TODD:

It's too late.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

It's too late. And two-thirds of the party is in one of those guys' pocket, one-third is in the establishment lane. That doesn't argue well for the establishment going forward beyond New Hampshire.

CHUCK TODD:

And Ben, here's what I don't understand is all these establishment guys began the week by beating up each other, sort of laying off Cruz and Trump. Maybe now they're going to find out that wants to take Cruz on and that might make him happy. But it seems to me beating each other up is no way to help each other.

BEN GINSBERG:

Well, it's a demolition derby. And one of them- They all know that one of them will survive, has to survive. And so, they've got to climb over their brother's back before they can manage to take on Trump or Cruz.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, let me bring in the rest of the panel here, Helene Cooper Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times, Jeff Greenfield, a longtime TV correspondent for many networks not named NBC, but also now writes for Politico and The Daily Beast. Robert Costa of The Washington Post and Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register.

Jennifer, let me start with you and you can toss some questions to Alex and Ben, as well, but Cruz v. Trump, Trump wants to take Cruz on. Can Trump beat Cruz in Iowa?

JENNIFER JACOBS:

It's probably going to be very close and you start to detect a bit of nervousness in both of their voices right now. You've got Trump really, you know, trying to lower expectations in Iowa saying, "Eh, if I don't, if I don't win Iowa, it's just because those people hardly ever get it right. They don't pick winners." But then you've got Cruz, who's now coming forward and changing the way he speaks about ethanol in Iowa, which is really important.

And so, you see them really going at each other in ways that Iowans are starting to detect - both of them seem a little bit worried. I mean, right now Cruz has the advantage and he's very popular as far as our polls showed. Seventy-three percent speak favorably of him.

Trump is 57 percent favorable. And then Republicans have more dug in against Donald Trump in Iowa, we've got 30 percent saying they will never caucus for Donald Trump, whereas only 17 percent say that about Cruz.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Trump is running the smartest campaign of anyone right now because he's engaging Cruz in Iowa because he wants to be the alternative to Cruz, should Cruz win in Iowa as they go to New Hampshire. Trump could end up being the establishment alternative to Cruz--

CHUCK TODD:

Well, and that's what's fascinating. There, go ahead, Jeff.

JEFF GREENFIELD:

Well, here's what strikes me. You know, the Iowa Caucuses historically have been nothing in the Republican Party. It's one of the great misunderstandings, it's never--

CHUCK TODD:

Which, by the way, Trump is bringing that up in his rallies now. "Hey, Iowa, don't you want to pick a winner for once?"

JEFF GREENFIELD:

One of the many reasons the Iowa Caucuses are a blight on the system, but that's me. But here's my question--

CHUCK TODD:

Yes. It is just you.

JEFF GREENFIELD:

Here's my question: In '08, when Obama won in Iowa, the resonance was this, if an African-American can win in almost all-white state, the entire African-American vote, instead of going between Clinton and Obama, moved to Obama. If Iowa shows - If Trump can show that his supporters, who everybody has said, "Well, they'll never turn out," if they turn out on in a state that makes participation as hard as Iowa, doesn't that suggest among Republicans that this time Iowa may actually set a pattern that's not going to be stopped?

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

If Trump wins Iowa, we're all going to be wearing combovers. (LAUGHTER) That will be it, that will be the race.

BEN GINSBERG:

I won't be wearing a combover.

CHUCK TODD:

Sir, you wanted to jump in.

BEN GINSBERG:

Yeah, look, part of what you have to realize about the way this is going to play out is that the first four states have less importance and less relevance this cycle than any other cycle for Republicans. So there's a lot of maneuvering amongst all the candidates to play after March 1st and into the calendar.

CHUCK TODD:

What's interesting and we began this segment by wondering, "Where's the establishment? Are they anti-Trump or are they anti-Cruz?" Trump opened up the Canadian birther issue, Robert, what was amazing is watch this little montage we put together of Republicans jumping on that Trump bandwagon, watch.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

From Ted's standpoint and from the party's standpoint, he has to solve this problem, because the Democrats will sue him

CARLY FIORINA:

I find it odd that Senator Ted Cruz did not renounce his dual Canadian citizenship until 2014 when it became clear he was running for President.

RAND PAUL:

I truly believe he is eligible, you know, to be Prime Minister of Canada.

JOHN MCCAIN:

I am not a Constitutional scholar on that, but I think it's worth a real looking into.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

(LAUGH) Am I the judge?

BRIAN KILMEADE:

You're the attorney.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Okay, i'll be the judge.

BRIAN KILMEADE:

Why are you laughing?

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

I want Judge Judy to do this.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Robert, Ted Cruz is now very concerned about this. In fact, he addressed this again last night, they've released birth certificates of his mother. Here he is last night in Iowa.

(BEGIN TAPE)

TED CRUZ:

By virtue of being born to my mother in Calgary, I was a citizen by birth. You know what the American people are interested in? Who is prepared to be Commander-in-Chief? And I recognize that there are candidates in the field that don't want to talk about those issues and they want to, instead, encourage the good people of the media to go down rabbit trails and engage in circus sideshows.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Somebody got under Cruz's skin, that was the first time I've seen him less optimistic on the trail.

ROBERT COSTA:

Speaking of the Cruz campaign, they believe this question has been addressed, but talking to Cruz allies, friend of the candidate, they're worried that he seems a bit rattled. That this, for someone who's so disciplined as a candidate, is finally reacting in a way that it shows Trump's gotten to him.

CHUCK TODD:

It is-- go ahead.

HELENE COOPER:

It's so fascinating because in 2008 when these exact same questions were raised about John McCain. The day after the story broke, I remember Carl Holtz, our Congressional correspondent, went to the Hill and Claire McCaskill had written out on her legal pad, you know, a bill that they were all going to vote for to say that John McCain is a natural-born citizen and they all did it. I'd really like to see if she's going to do this for Cruz. (LAUGHTER)

CHUCK TODD:

How many votes would he get in the Senate?

BEN GINSBERG:

Can I comment?

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Establishment Republicans are jumping on Cruz for this because they fear him as a Republican nominee more than they fear Trump. They're beginning to get comfortable with the idea that Trump, "Okay, he's a deal maker, he's a salesman, he'll adapt, he'll make the next deal, he could run left of Hillary, whatever." But Cruz is kind of bound to who he is and they fear he might--

CHUCK TODD:

And that's the sense I get all of a sudden now, If you're going to make us pick, we'll pick Trump over Cruz.

BEN GINSBERG:

Donald Trump is bringing people who are Republicans into the party, to vote for him. That helps down ticket races. Ted Cruz has said his strategy is to expand the base, that's tougher.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, five months ago I never would have heard those words out of Ben Ginsberg. That is just funny, "Donald Trump is better for the top of the ticket."

CHUCK TODD:

All right, it's got to be last call.

JEFF GREENFIELD:

Just very quickly, the rhinos that are left, and there are moderates in the Republican Party.

CHUCK TODD:

(LAUGH) They all live in Santa Barbara and California, at this point.

JEFF GREENFIELD:

Actually, I've actually talked beyond that area. Some of them are saying on grounds of temperament, that's the issue that they still think is going to separate them from Trump. Are you comfortable with the idea of this man--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

With the same temperament, though, that attracts Reagan Democrats.

JEFF GREENFIELD::

Are you comfortable with this man in charge of the nuclear codes? And I think that's still a hill for Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, and that could be an ad that we might see by somebody. All right, lively conversation. Thank you all. We'll be back in a moment with the role President Obama hopes to play in the Presidential race. He's already fired a warning shot.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Tuesday is President Obama's final State of the Union Address and he has signaled this week that he doesn't intend to go quietly, unveiling some Executive action on gun control, in what was an emotional speech at the White House.

But Tuesday isn't just about his last year in office, it's also about an attempt to set the agenda for the Presidential campaign and he made that clear in a New York Times op-ed on Friday where he stated he would not campaign for any candidate who does not support his common sense gun reforms. Looking ahead to Tuesday and beyond, I'm joined by the White House Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough. Mr. McDonough, welcome back to Meet The Press.

DENIS MCDONOUGH:

Thanks for having me, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with his op-ed in The New York Times, a very common sense gun control, he said the President said he would make it a litmus test for his support in 2016. There's an active Democratic Primary in here and one of the common sense gun reforms he wrote about had to do with giving immunity to gun manufacturers.

Well, one of the two main candidates, Bernie Sanders, voted for legislation that gave immunity. Does that mean the President could not support Bernie Sanders if he were the nominee?

DENIS MCDONOUGH:

Well, this isn't only about the primary, this is about-- we've got a third of the Senate that's running, we've got all the House that's running, we've got Statehouses and Governorships across the country where this is going to be an issue on the ballot, as is should be, and that's what the President's saying.

So when it comes down to the primary. At least he will see who the nominee is at the end of that, that's not our job. That's the job of the party to make those decisions and then they'll take a look at the agendas and the positions of those candidates, then we'll make some final decisions.

CHUCK TODD:

The Sanders campaign claims there is no daylight between the President and Bernie Sanders on this issue, but if he supports immunity for gun manufacturers, is that not daylight?

DENIS MCDONOUGH:

I'm not doing a lot of if/thens here Chuck. I do notice that over the course of the last several days after the President said that that there has been some movement on this question. I think that's what you're referring to specifically.

CHUCK TODD:

The immunity, specifically.

DENIS MCDONOUGH:

So if we continue to see that towards, you know, overall support for common sense gun laws, that's exactly what we're looking for and that's what we'll do.

CHUCK TODD:

But it is remarkable, the President is not committing to supporting one of the two major Democratic candidates because of the gun issue, correct?

DENIS MCDONOUGH:

No, the President is saying that across the board he's going to be a single issue voter on this. He thinks that makes sense, given the enormity of the challenge. 30,000 deaths a year. Over 20,000 people under 18 in the last decade killed by gun violence or gun accidents. More than 500 police officers. It's time to say, "Enough is enough," Chuck, and that's what the President is saying.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, and when can we expect him to make his choice public on who he supports in the Democratic Primary?

DENIS MCDONOUGH:

Well, we'll do exactly what has been done in the past, which is when the nominee will be set, then the President will be out there--

CHUCK TODD:

And so, he's not going to go early?

DENIS MCDONOUGH:

No.

CHUCK TODD:

He's not going to use this gun issue as an excuse to say, "I'm going to support Secretary Clinton."

DENIS MCDONOUGH:

No, no.

CHUCK TODD:

We have noticed he has met privately with her at least three times in the last six months and unless you guys haven't told us something, he has yet to meet one-on-one to meet with Bernie Sanders.

DENIS MCDONOUGH:

Oh, he meets with all of our senators, including Senator Sanders and he has done it--

CHUCK TODD:

He has had a one-on-one with him recently? As many times as he has done with Secretary Clinton?

DENIS MCDONOUGH:

You know, I haven't racked them up, Chuck, on how many-- on how many times he's seen who, but he has seen Senator Sanders, both with the Senate Democratic Caucus and privately. And so, we'll continue to do that. He's obviously a leading senator in our caucus and will continue to do just that.

CHUCK TODD:

Let's move to the State of the Union. And before I get to how you want to talk about it, I want to get you to respond to what Donald Trump said how he would describe the State of the Union.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

The State of our Union is a mess. We can't beat ISIS, our military is falling back, it's not being properly taken care of, our vets aren't being properly taken care of. Obamacare, as you know, is going to fail very soon and probably in '17, our healthcare-- we don't have borders, we don't have anything.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Your response to Mr. Trump?

DENIS MCDONOUGH:

You know, it's hard to segregate him and all the other candidates out there seeming to run down America. I don't really get it. What I see is an America that's surging. 292,000 new jobs just the other day, the fastest reduction in unemployment in more than three decades over the last years and the biggest job growth in two years since the 1990s, when there also happened to be a Democrat in the White House. So this is what we're going to continue to do, is try to make sure that we're going the economy, we're on the offense against ISIL and all the others.

And I do not understand why the Republicans, each of them, including the one we just saw continue to run down America. It's just not--

CHUCK TODD:

You use that phrase, "run down America," so you believe they're being too pessimistic?

DENIS MCDONOUGH:

Well, you can decide for yourself, you just saw the same thing I did.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, do you think that that is having a negative impact? Do you think that it's hurting the country?

DENIS MCDONOUGH:

I think it's not factual and I don't understand why they're doing it. And what we see every day is-- not that we're afraid of the future here, we're the party, and you'll hear this Tuesday night. And the President is somebody who's outlining in a vision as a President, where we will make sure that everybody has an opportunity in this economy, a changing economy.

We use all the elements of our power to secure not only the United States, but our friends and allies across the board. And we will make sure, Chuck, we'll make sure that everybody's voice is heard in this democracy. That's how we've been strong over the course of time. You'll hear a big, optimistic generous view of the future of America from the President on Tuesday.

CHUCK TODD:

You guys have set a high bar for the State of the Union with some of us by saying, "It's going to be unlike anything you've seen before," what does that mean? Why are you guys describing it in certain ways?

DENIS MCDONOUGH:

I'm not sure who you mean by "you guys," let me tell you what this guy thinks. The President sat us down late last year to say, "Look, I don't want it to be a list of policy choices." We have a lot of policy and you will hear a lot about that over the course of this year, but what he wants to do is talk about a vision for the future of this country.

We feel like we can win this future, we feel very optimistic about the future, that's a big difference between us and what's going on in this public debate right now and that's what you'll hear about on Tuesday.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, a couple of other domestic stories I want to ask you about, the Flint water crisis. So far, the state hasn't asked for federal help, are you waiting for the state to ask for federal help or are you guys going to intervene? This appears to be a major crisis going on.

DENIS MCDONOUGH:

Well, obviously very concerned about it, but I don't have any news to make with you on that today, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Nobody has asked you anything yet?

DENIS MCDONOUGH:

We're watching it very closely, but nobody has asked us anything yet.

CHUCK TODD:

And are you prepared, is FEMA waiting to be called in?

DENIS MCDONOUGH:

Well, again, we're going to watch this very closely. I'm going to be very careful what I say about this.

CHUCK TODD:

One of your predecessors as Chief of Staff is now the Mayor of Chicago. The President endorsed him, the President campaigned for him, does the President still have confidence in Rahm Emanuel as mayor?

DENIS MCDONOUGH:

I just had a chance to be back in Chicago, actually, my in-laws live in Chicago and I tell you, the city looks great, the opportunities there are boundless. And so, I think what the President sees is a city and a people of Chicago and a Mayor of Chicago that continue to do very good work.

CHUCK TODD:

So he's still confident in Rahm Emanuel to be able to do the job?

DENIS MCDONOUGH:

The President is and I'll tell you, I just saw it up close and personal.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Denis McDonough.

DENIS MCDONOUGH:

Chuck, thanks for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

Good to have you, sir.

DENIS MCDONOUGH:

All right.

CHUCK TODD:

Thanks.

DENIS MCDONOUGH:

Go Pack, go.

CHUCK TODD:

(LAUGH) Appreciate it. A rare treat from a Vikings fan. When we come back, the big surprise in our poll, Bernie Sanders has all but caught Hillary Clinton in Iowa, another sign, perhaps, that her path to the nomination may be a lot rougher than she imagined.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Lots to discuss with the panel. Jeff Greenfield, Helene Cooper, Jennifer Jacobs and Robert Costa are all here.

I want to bring back, Jennifer I'm going to start with you, because it's a big difference in our Iowa poll from what you guys showed a couple of weeks ago. We've got Bernie Sanders within just three points of Hillary Clinton in Iowa

We always knew that Sanders' home state neighbor in New Hampshire. Do these numbers surprise you?

JENNIFER JACOBS:

Yeah, it's amazing. And when you think about where he was at in Iowa just in January a year ago, I mean nobody knew, we asked, "What do you think about Bernie Sanders," and no one even knew who he was. So yeah, but yet don't forget there is still a really strong passion for Hillary Clinton in Iowa.

Just yesterday they had 500 volunteers show up at 9:00 in the morning, frigid weather, lousy conditions, to knock on doors and make phone calls for her, so there is passion for her as well.

CHUCK TODD:But Helene, I mean look, she can't afford to lose both states.

HELENE COOPER:No.

CHUCK TODD:I mean that turns into sort of hand wringing, Joe Biden's phone starts ringing, you know, we all know the panic machine would kick in.

HELENE COOPER:That would be really, really difficult. But you know I really don't think, shoot everything I say is always wrong (LAUGHS) for the last year I've done nothing but--

CHUCK TODD:

Black swan election, black swan election, you never know

HELENE COOPER:

Exactly, but no I don't-- I am shocked by that poll--

CHUCK TODD:I was too.

HELENE COOPER:And I would be very surprised if she doesn't win Iowa by a substantial-- well not substantial but by a comfortable margin.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, it's interesting I was shocked by the results, and then I saw this ad that's now running in Iowa and New Hampshire. I want to play a piece of it for you Jeff, because I think it's a tell.

Here's a new Hillary Clinton ad that's airing, starting today, in Iowa and New Hampshire.

(BEGIN TAPE)

ANNOUNCER:

Think about it--

DONALD TRUMP:

I would bomb the --- out of them

ANNOUNCER:One of these Republicans--

TED CRUZ:

Carpet bomb them into oblivion.

ANNOUNCER:

Could actually be president--

CHRIS CHRISTIE:Sit down and shut up.

ANNOUNCER:Who's the one candidate who can stop them? Hillary Clinton.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Jeff that's one thing, it's an electability ad, who's the one candidate who can stop them, it means not Bernie Sanders, that's Hillary Clinton. But that means that's a concession that they've lost the passion.

JEFF GREENFIELD:Right. When you hire an announcer to talk like this, it means that you really want to scare people. And what they want to scare people about is if you don't pick Hillary Clinton, one of these could win.

And those poll numbers, even though we know, even this late primary poll numbers can be tenuous, especially in a place like Iowa where it's so hard to--

CHUCK TODD:

They enjoy changing their mind.

JEFF GREENFIELD:

Right, right. Well, okay. But here's the question. If she loses Iowa and New Hampshire, the assumption is, well, trouble, what's Plan B?

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

JEFF GREENFIELD:

The Democrats I thought for a while may have been, you know, for the last eight months building an exclusive trap for themselves where there's no alternative if this obvious frontrunner presumptive nominee looks weak. What's Plan B?

CHUCK TODD:

And Robert, just this week another email surfaces that then suddenly wonders where there's some question: What was she talking about here? Did she actually order a staff member to make classified information on a declassified system? And they have an explanation for it. But it's a reminder, oh, by the way, that thing still sits out here.

ROBERT COSTA:

To me, Democrats, that seems to be more of a general election issue and when you look at Iowa, New Hampshire, Sanders has engaged activists on his side. They want to see the post Obama Democratic Party move to the left. When you go to other states, South Carolina, regular Democratic states that are later in the calendar, they're still with Clinton. And so, Sanders has to prove he has the network, even if he has a few victories early on.

CHUCK TODD:

However, Helene, as Jeff actually brought up in the last segment, if Iowa and New Hampshire both go Sanders and they're sending a message, this idea, and I have heard this from Democrats, "Oh, what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire stays in Iowa, New Hampshire," what? Why are we so sure of that? That wasn't the case for Barack Obama.

HELENE COOPER:

No, but this is different. I mean, you have so many other primaries to come after that. I think it's hard for me to see a path to the nomination for Bernie Sanders once you leave New Hampshire. I don't see it.

JEFF GREENFIELD:

I do want to remind you that there wast a Clinton that didn't compete in Iowa and lost New Hampshire.

CHUCK TODD:

No, I know.

JEFF GREENFIELD:

It is possible.

CHUCK TODD:

He waited, I believe, it's the longest any Democratic nominee went without winning a primary, until he won the Georgia primary--

JEFF GREENFIELD:

Yeah, and so, in that case, what Ben Ginsberg said about the Republicans may be true of the Democrats. And maybe the Plan B is to wait it out, write off Iowa, New Hampshire and wait for the big states. It still means the Democrats are going to be sweating buckets about what this means for Clinton's popularity.

JENNIFER JACOBS:

She's not going to lose Iowa. I'm putting my-- (LAUGH)

CHUCK TODD:

All right, but it's interesting here that Bernie Sanders is now starting to act like a candidate who wants to win and here's what the tell was for me, he went ahead and jumped on the Bill Clinton stuff that Trump brought up. Here's his answer.

(BEGIN TAPE)

BERNIE SANDERS:

Look, Hillary Clinton is not Bill Clinton, but Bill Clinton did, I think what we all can acknowledge was totally, totally, totally disgraceful and unacceptable. But I am running against Hillary Clinton, I'm not running against Bill Clinton, though I gather he's been in Iowa recently.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

That's as close as you're going to hear Bernie Sanders going after the Clintons, but that was more than I expected. "I'm not running against Bill Clinton. Oh, by the way, totally, totally, totally," you know?

JENNIFER JACOBS:

You talked to Iowans, though, on the campaign trail and they love Bill Clinton, they think he's a great communicator, they think he will help Hillary blunt Bernie's appeal in Iowa. They think that eventually that her campaign can unleash him, unleash fire on Donald Trump. They think he's a huge asset.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, Jeff?

JEFF GREENBERG:

I am stunned by the willingness of Senator Clinton supporters to fold everything Bill Clinton is accused of as a private matter. You know, philandering is a private manner. What Bill Clinton has been accused of is not, you know, he may be innocent of it but--

CHUCK TODD:

Well, and I can tell you, there are some in Clinton world who are very nervous about this, very nervous about this.

ROBERT COSTA:

Trump could help Sanders. Trump, from based on my reporting, is going to continue to bring up Bill Clinton on the campaign trail and that makes it an issue nationally regardless of--

CHUCK TODD:

I'm sorry, the Clinton folks suddenly acted different this week as that became-- you could just see it.

HELENE COOPER:

I wonder if it was a little too soon to bring him in?

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I don't think they thought it was, but all of a sudden, you see a little bit of a change in there. All right, let's sneak in a quick break, we'll be back in 45 seconds with our endgame segment. And if you're one of those people that's wondering what's behind all this enthusiasm for Donald Trump, we have a few answers and we're going to discuss it right after this.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

End game time. Panel is here. What's fueling Trump, Robert. And I say this in that - I think we know - I'll put up a quick graphic here so folks can pause it on DVR and you can see it. But, I think it's the income - it is the wage issue that is fueling Trump more. Because here we had a great economic report. I brought it up with Trump, and Trump immediately went to "oh yeah, but these people haven't gotten a wage. And you know what? They're right." This came from Steve Rattner, long time, former treasury official. And only the top 10 percent of Americans by income have seen real wages go up in the last 10 years. Everybody else - the less you make, the more you've seen your wages decrease.

ROBERT COSTA

I was flipping through my notebook the other day, and I found that the most enthusiastic Trump supporters are white males who lack a college education between the ages of 35 and 55.

CHUCK TODD:

They're getting it. This economy is killing them.

ROBERT COSTA:

And Trump talks about scarred landscapes across the Rust Belt. He talks about factories being taken down. I mean, that is connecting with these voters. And they're not ideological. They like Trump because he seems to have answers.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I'll tell ya. And then throw in - I want to bring up this other story because I also think it adds. He also talks about distrust in political leaders. And what do we have in Michigan? This Flint, Michigan where clearly the governor's office - somebody in the governor's office was too passive about it.

JEFF GREENFIELD:

Remember, the last time I was here was right after Paris, and there was this notion that it is going to help the insiders, the experts. I remember saying, but what if people think that the experts have given us the Iraq war, Libya… Well, if the experts at home have given us, including 8, 7 years of Obama, have given us a completely distorted winners and losers picture, and they can't keep kids from drinking led-based water in Flint, why are we surprised the distrust is at historic levels? Not to mention that distrust - not just in politics- in almost every institution has just plummeted.

CHUCK TODD:

But I look at just these two weeks with a democratic mayor in Chicago - the distrust issues are high. The republican governor of Michigan. Both of them actually technocrats. They're not ideological warriors, they're technocrats who we thought at a minimum were the competent guys.

HELENE COOPER:

We did. But this is so - When you start talking about water this is so basic. That is so basic. And that really feeds to this distrust people have. This is from - this is not a third world country.

CHUCK TODD:

I think this is emblematic of what so many people think is wrong with America right now. Before I let you go Jennifer, we had another part of our poll: that if you assume an expanded electorate in Iowa Donald Trump actually leads Cruz 28, 26. Very narrow. But we went ahead and measured two different electorates. Your traditional caucus electorate or the 'what if he brings more people.' What is your sense? There is a new slice of electorate out there. Do you think they're committed?

JENNIFER JACOBS:

What we know is that a lot, some, Iowans are really intimidated by the caucus process. They think of it as the realm of only the super hard-core activists. But I've seen the way that the Iowa team for Trump trains those newcomers - those people who haven't caucused before. They keep their presentation really simple and fun. And then you have Trump in Ottumwa yesterday. His Iowa team, as people were coming in the door, were literally saying "this is exactly where you should go in your neighborhood on February 1st to vote." Smart strategy. And then you've got Trump himself saying, "Hey listen, don't stay home. Don't stay home." Note, he didn't say please. But at least he's asking. Threw in a little insult there, but at least he's asking. People will listen.

CHUCK TODD:

They were waiting in line. It was zero degrees. But they're not going to show up on caucus night in a church basement, Robert?

ROBERT COSTA:

I think they do show up. And you look at who Trump has working for him. Jennifer is so right. Chuck Laudner, he helped Santorum win it in 2012. And I've been going to see these Trump voters - know where that Trump bus goes? Walmart parking lots and it's getting these new voters who don't even go to GOP events, but they shop at Walmart and they may like trump.

JEFF GREENFIELD:

I just want to point out that for decades, the Hollywood, mostly liberal writers have pictured this heroic, populist, emerging-

CHUCK TODD:

Who's going to break up politics, disruptive force--

JEFF GREENFIELD:

Right, and I don't think in any movie that we've ever seen it's turned out to be a billionaire with weird hair. This is not what the Hollywood script writers had in mind, but it seems to be actually more resonant so far.

ROBERT COSTA:

He's their bully, he's a bully, but he's their bully.

CHUCK TODD:

And that's what they like. Well, I want to put myself on the side of being anti- Washington, because I am going to be anti Washington today. I agree, these whole Washington insiders, they don't know what they're doing. They think they can play football. It's good, Midwestern manufacturing towns, the heartland of America, like the Green Bay Packers, they will come to Washington and show the outsiders can beat the insiders. So take that, you Washington fans.

Anyway, that's all we have for today, great panel, thank you, guys. Go Pack, go. We'll be back next week because if it's Sunday, it's Meet The Press.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *