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Meet the Press Transcript - October 26, 2014

MEET THE PRESS -- SUNDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2014

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, the election season sidetracked again, this time by two issues. One, the Ebola virus reaches New York City. Do we really need to quarantine health workers returning from West Africa?

ANDREW CUOMO:

This is not the time to take chances

CHUCK TODD:

And is it time for a travel ban completely from all of the affected countries? And two, the homegrown terror threat. Another lone wolf attack, this time in Canada's parliament. And that brutal hatchet assault on police officers in New York. Is the threat of Islamist extremists increasing? Or are these mentally disturbed copycats? And of course, meeting the voters.

MALE VOICE:

I want to fire some incumbents.

CHUCK TODD:

My report from our battleground state road trip, part one of it. And exclusive polling numbers showing the race to control the Senate is on knife's edge. Plus is our democracy being bought and sold by a bunch of oligarchs?

LAWRENCE LESSIG:

We've outsourced the funding of campaigns to this tiny, tiny fraction of the 1%.

CHUCK TODD:

More than ever billionaires trying to buy elections. And finally, what if children talked back to their parents as if they were politicians?

FEMALE VOICE:

Did you eat the cookies?

MALE VOICE:

I am deeply upset by this question.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm Chuck Todd and joining me to provide insight and analysis are NBC's Luke Russert, Nia-Malika Henderson of The Washington Post, Carolyn Ryan of The New York Times, and Dan Balz, the chief correspondent for 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:

Well, good morning, just nine days to go until election day. And this morning, we have brand new polls from six states, that hopefully will tell us something about which way the wind is blowing and which party is going to control the Senate. And what the next two years might look like. As for me, I've been on the road meeting the voters, on my road trips, spending the week in the Midwest in my trusty "Where Is Chuck" bus, covering battles in three states out there.

We stopped in on the unpredictable Senate race in Kansas, the neck and neck Senate fight in Iowa, and then of course that ideological battle for governor in Wisconsin that I feel like's been going on continuously for four years. But before we get to the polls and all of the big races, two big stories this week caused major concern for many.

And of course, it commanded our attention. The specter of homegrown Islamic terror sparked by that shooting incident in the Canadian Parliament building in Ottawa. And then of course there's the New York City doctor who contracted Ebola after returning from West Africa, where he was treating Ebola patients. So let's start with Ebola.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

This week, the virus came to the country's biggest city, when Craig Spencer, a New York doctor who had been treating Ebola patients while working for Doctors Without Borders in Guinea tested positive for the disease nine days after leaving West Africa. The situation in West Africa remains dire though, with the World Health Organization announcing the number of Ebola cases is now past 10,000. But there was encouraging news, with Dallas nurse Nina Pham becoming the latest American to recover from the disease, receiving a hug from the president.

CHUCK TODD:

Many politicians are calling for a travel ban from the affected countries, and New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and now Florida have ordered quarantines for any health workers returning from West Africa who have had direct contact with Ebola patients.

Those quarantine orders have been heavily criticized by Kaci Hickox, a nurse, who was held in isolation for seven hours at Newark Airport on Friday after returning from Sierra Leone before testing negative for the virus. She called the experience frightening and suggested other health workers could be deterred from traveling to West Africa to tackle Ebola. Well, I'm joined now from New York by Sophie Delaunay, the U.S. executive director of Doctors Without Borders. Ms. Delaunay, thank you for coming on Meet the Press.

SOPHIE DELAUNAY:

Good morning, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with these new now mandatory orders that are taking place in New York, in New Jersey, Illinois, and Florida. Are you already finding that you have doctors and other healthcare workers backing out of volunteer trips to the affected areas?

SOPHIE DELAUNAY:

Well, you know, frankly speaking, we are totally confused by these orders because we have put in place over the past few months protocols that are based on non-medical science and accepted. And these protocols have been strictly followed by our staff. They constrict our staff monitoring, they restrict staff monitoring. We ask our volunteers coming back from West Africa to monitor their temperature twice a day during 21 days.

To continue their malaria prophylaxis in order to avoid that there would be a confusion between malaria symptoms and Ebola, which can be similar. And more importantly, we recommend that they report the symptoms as soon as they realize that they exist. And this is, actually, the protocol that our colleague Craig has strictly followed this week.

CHUCK TODD:

You believe that Dr. Spencer did not put any New Yorkers in harm's way?

SOPHIE DELAUNAY:

Well, what we know from medical science is that a person who does not present symptoms is very unlikely to transmit the disease. And even though the disease can only be transmitted through the change of body fluids. So it's actually impossible that a person living, for example, in the same building than an infected person who does not present symptoms could be at risk of being infected with Ebola.

CHUCK TODD:

Is there any new protocol you can add simply to reassure the American public?

SOPHIE DELAUNAY:

Oh, we're definitely working on trying to strengthen the monitoring, of course, of our field workers. But we are also very confused about what are going to be the recommendations by the States. We're still strictly following the guidelines of public health institutions in the U.S. and working at strengthening ours. But what we are more concerned about the health condition of our colleague. We are very sensitive to. And understanding of the anxiety that Ebola triggers.

But more importantly, we are very much concerned about this situation in West Africa where the outbreak is still out of control. And quarantine measures or coercive measures against aid worker could give a superfluous sense of security, while the most important is to tackle the epidemic at its source there.

CHUCK TODD:

Sophia Delaunay of the U.S. executive director for Doctors without Borders. Thank you for your time and perspective this morning. I appreciate it.

SOPHIE DELAUNAY:

Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Now, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is traveling to the infected countries in West Africa. She landed in Guinea this morning. Chris Jansing

SAMANTHA POWER:

All of us need to make clear what these health workers mean to us and how much we value their service, how much we value their contributions. We need to encourage more, we need many more than are going right now. And we need to find a way when they come home that they are treated like conquering heroes and not stigmatized for the tremendous work that they have done.

CHUCK TODD:

In the studio with me now is Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH, who successfully, by the way, treated Nina Pham. Dr. Fauci, welcome back to Meet the Press.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

Good to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

The issue of quarantines. We now have New York, New Jersey, Illinois, three airports there, Newark, JFK, O'Hare, that do receive passengers from the impacted countries. They are doing mandatory quarantines. Good idea?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

Well, the first thing we need to do is make sure the primary goal is to protect the American people. But there are ways to do that that may not necessarily have to go that far at all.

CHUCK TODD:

Have they gone too far? Governor Cuomo and Christie, overreacting?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

I don't want to be directly criticizing what the decision that was made. But we have to be careful that there are unintended consequences. The best way to stop this epidemic is to help the people in West Africa. We do that by sending people over there. Not only from the USA, but from other places.

We need to treat them, returning people, with respect, and make sure that they're really heroes. So the idea that we're being a little bit draconian, there are other ways to protect. There's monitoring, there's direct monitoring, there's active monitoring. We don't necessarily need to do that.

CHUCK TODD:

So the governors of Virginia and Georgia, where Dulles Airport is, and of course Atlanta Hartsfield, which also received people directly from the infected areas. They're probably going to be waking up this morning feeling the pressure to do the same thing that the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Illinois. What's your advice to them?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

Go with the science. That's what we're trying to do here in our government. Go with the science.

CHUCK TODD:

And if the science says--

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

The science tells us that people who are not sick, if you do not come into contact with the body's fluid, if someone comes back from wherever, Liberia, and they're well, they are no danger to anyone. That is for sure.

CHUCK TODD:

But Dr. Spencer was well for a week.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

Right, right. He was well for a week. But we're not saying just leave them off. You monitor them. You can monitor them in multiple different ways. You don't have to put them in a confined place. You monitor them, you take their temperature, you take their symptoms. And remember, Dr. Spencer was not sick at the time that he was going around. And we keep saying it over and over again, Chuck. You have to come into direct contact with body fluids. So the risk to the general public is vanishingly small.

CHUCK TODD:

Apparently though, according to Governor Cuomo, the federal government is considering something more stringent. What are you guys considering?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

Well, certain types of monitoring. You have to stratify risk, Chuck. You know, there's people who are at high risk, there are people at some risk, and there are people at low but not zero risk. And there are people that are at more risk. I'm talking about the healthcare workers.

CHUCK TODD:

These are all healthcare workers?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

They're all healthcare workers. And you fashion what you do with them according to the risk. And one of the ways you can mitigate against this issues is by monitoring. Different types of monitoring. You don't necessarily have to--

CHUCK TODD:

But how do you make sure it's mandatory? That right now it's voluntary, and thank goodness Dr. Spencer was doing it.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

Right. Well, there are ways to ratchet that up. I mean, there's passive monitoring. You take your temperature, and if anything goes wrong, you report it. There's active, where you report it to someone, and then there's direct active, where someone comes in and actually takes your temperature. That's all short of quarantine.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. Dr. Anthony Fauci, thanks for coming back on Meet the Press.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

Good to be with you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Certainly. As we told you, busy week. I want to turn now to the issue of homegrown terror. Officials often say that a lone-wolf attacker, often self-radicalized with no official ties to a terror group, is more likely to happen and more difficult to stop than a coordinated, 9/11-style attack. And we've seen some recent examples.

Monday, near Montreal, a man deliberately hits two members of the military with his car. Authorities describe it as a "violent expression of an extremist ideology." Wednesday, a gunman, a recent convert to Islam, on a Canadian government's watch list, no less, kills a guard in Ottawa's Parliament Hill, and is killed in a firefight with police shortly after.

Thursday, in New York, a self-radicalized Muslim attacks group of four N.Y.P.D. officers with a hatchet, and injured two police officers they call into attack, and the police call it a terrorist attack. And then of course last week, three teenage girls from Colorado get on a plane to Europe, hoping to join ISIS, they are arrested in Germany and returned home.

Joining me now are Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, and Arsalan Iftikhar, senior editor at Islamic Monthly. I want to tackle this in two different ways, the security threat itself, but then also the Islamic community. Michael, let me start with you. Are all these terrorist attacks, Islamic terrorism, in the way you would classify them? Or are these mentally-deranged people glomming into an ideology to make their attack seem more relevant?

MICHAEL LEITER:

And I'm not sure there's a difference between those two categories in many cases. These are terrorist attacks in my view. They are politically motivated, sub-state actors, people who are doing this in the name of Al Qaeda or potentially ISIS. But in many cases, with many terrorists we've seen in the past, these individuals are ones who have had a crisis in their life, who are mentally ill, and they attach themselves to some ideology. In this case, that ideology is being driven to them, and this is, to me, terrorist attacks.

CHUCK TODD:

So how do you deal with it? How do you stop it? Is this more surveillance? I mean, look, conspiracies, you guys are good at breaking up.

MICHAEL LEITER:

Thank God.

CHUCK TODD:

Because once one person talks to somebody, you've got them.

MICHAEL LEITER:

It's what we've built up over the past ten years. It's great that you just talked with Anthony Fauci, because it's the same sort of thing. It is looking at risk in different areas. And that high end, you can protect against them, we're good at it. These small-scale, self-motivated, lone wolves, it's much, much harder.

And we don't have the resources to cover all of them. And what we have to do is mitigate it the best we can, but also not overreact. Because this isn't, in the scheme of risks that we see as a society, this isn't really a life and death matter for the entire nation.

CHUCK TODD:

Arsalan, what is the role of the American Muslim community in this? Because there are clearly some people that are self-radicalizing, coming in. Maybe they're newcomers into the Islamic communities. Maybe it's in a Dearborn, wherever it's happening. What's the role of the leadership in these Islamic communities to identify perhaps people that are joining, converting, but not for the right reasons?

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR:

Well, Chuck, I think it's important to keep in mind when you're talking about groups like ISIS, that we're not talking about the X Men or the Transformers here. We're not dealing with Wolverines or Optimus Primes. Essentially, we're dealing with loner idiots who are sitting in their tighty-whities, in their mother's basements, playing Call of Duty on their XBox Four, who are disenfranchised, disengaged from the rest of the community.

I mean, if you look at Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the shooter in Ottawa, he was actually thrown out of a mosque in British Columbia, similar to the Boston Marathon bombing suspects who were once thrown out of a Boston mosque. So in terms of community policing, the Muslim community in the United States and Canada has done a remarkable job.

And I agree with Michael that, you know, a lot of what we are going to see are these self-radicalized loners that a lot of counterterrorism experts refer to as the "New Jihadi Cool," right? Not part of a centralized terrorist organization, going on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter. I would bet all the money in my pocket that ISIS had never heard of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I understand that. So is this a media issue? Does it become the more attention attacks like this get, does it end up actually serving perversely to convince more of these mentally-deranged folks to say, "Hey, I'm going to use this perverted ideology as a way to get more attention for my attack"?

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR:

Yeah, you know, whenever American Muslims or Arabs are impugned after an attack like this, it helps to serve the agenda of these organizations to say, "See, America is at war with Muslims." But the fact of the matter is that there are over seven million American Muslims that live here peacefully.

Five out of the last 12 Nobel Peace Prize winners, including this year's, Malala Yousafzai, are Muslims. And so, you know, sadly, when you look at the narrative media-wise in terms of listening to all of this negative, extremist, violent narratives that we're dealing with. And that's what we have to push back against.

CHUCK TODD:

Michael, the social media issue, you guys have monitored it. It's been a helpful tool on surveillance. Now it's a recruitment tool in some form or another. What is the best way to deal with it?

MICHAEL LEITER:

Well, I think this is the biggest change between ISIS and previous Al-Nusra or Al Qaeda.

CHUCK TODD:

Al Qaeda wasn't a social media thing as much.

MICHAEL LEITER:

They weren't. They are going. This, ISIS is in social media, and it is going after "Jihadi Cool." What we have to do now is counter that message using social media just as effectively. And that's not something U.S. government over the past ten years has been particularly good at. So we have to monitor, we have to engage, and the partnerships between state and local officials and Muslim communities really have to change from what we've done over the past ten years.

CHUCK TODD:

What's the change? What's something that changes? Just an example?

MICHAEL LEITER:

It's all of us building trust, right? You know, there's been a lot of surveillance, whether it's F.B.I., whether it's other agencies in the American Muslim communities, in intercontinental--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

There's a little distrust, right?

MICHAEL LEITER:

There is a lot of distrust. And so again, to build that trust, letting people know that community policing is a sacrosanct, part of American law enforcement, and that the Muslim community is part of the solution, not the problem.

CHUCK TODD:

Do we have enough Muslim F.B.I. agents?

MICHAEL LEITER:

We don't have enough Muslim F.B.I. agents, we don't have enough F.B.I. agents who understand Islam. And we don't have enough people in government who are doing counterterrorism, who understand 15 to 29 year olds. They're disengaged, and this is also the group which is likely to be most violent. It can't just be Nancy Reagan with, "Say no to drugs." You have to do engagement with that demographic.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, Michael Leiter, Arsalan Iftikhar, thank you both. You've given us a lot to think about. Appreciate it. The panel is here. Luke Russert, Nia-Malika Henderson, Carolyn Ryan, and Dan Balz. Of course guys, it's the politics of all of this. These two issues. Nine days from the midterms. Dan Balz, you were on the road, I've been on the road. How much did you find Ebola and the terror threat coming up in conversations with voters?

DAN BALZ:

Only a little bit. I think these are sort of back-of-the-mind issues. These are not playing significantly in these races. And yet, it adds to the unease that's out there. It adds to the question of, "Are things working, why aren't they working better, am I safe, is my family safe"? So I think that's where it fits into the concern of the larger narrative of this campaign.

CHUCK TODD:

And when it comes to these Ebola quarantines, Carolyn Ryan, you can't help but wonder when you saw Pat Quinn and Rick Scott quickly, governors of Illinois and Florida, both are very tight reelection races, they see what Christie and Cuomo did, and they think, "Boy, we better not let our opponents somehow out-Ebola us."

CAROLYN RYAN:

Exactly. I mean, one thing that was especially jarring and really was unsettling in New York, you had Governor Cuomo come out with Mayor de Blasio, and seemed to be quite confident about how things were going in New York. And the very next day, abruptly, hastily, with Governor Christie saying, "It's not enough."

And I think that it just generates more confusion and public anxiety over this. And I think as you say, we're going to see more and more states. And it creates a patchwork of different protocols, and I think it's quite confusing to the public, and certainly the healthcare workers.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Nia, politics obviously is impacting the way these guys are acting. I mean, you can't help but wonder if they would be moving like this, so sort of, erratically, if the election weren't nine days away.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

Right. And I think that's right. And I think particularly with a certain segment of voters, and I'm thinking women, this seems to be playing quite a bit. There was a focus group down in Charlotte, North Carolina, one down in New Orleans, of Wal-Mart moms, and they are very worried about Ebola, much more so than they're worried about ISIS.

The idea that Ebola is here, ISIS is over there. So certainly, I think these folks who are thinking about politics now and also thinking about politics in 2016, are moving swiftly to allay certain fears. And also, look, Obama was criticized for not acting quickly enough.

CHUCK TODD:

So the governors want to look like, "Hey, look at us."

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Luke, talking to both parties, ‘cause I found the same thing that Dan did, Ebola and ISIS are there, but it isn't the front-of-mind issue on these races. They are engaged on sort of what the issues are.

LUKE RUSSERT:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

But you talk to Democrats, and they'll say, "You know what these two stories do? It delays the chance for the Democrats to make the localized closing argument that they want to make, while Republicans, who are trying to make a national argument, they can just fit it in."

LUKE RUSSERT:

Right, and I'm going to argue that it also ties the Democrats to President Obama more directly. And one thing we've seen throughout these midterms, and even when it really has been the strategy of Congressional Republicans, is to create this sort of culture of incompetence around the Obama administration.

And you've seen that reflected in our pollings. Some polls showed the Obama confidence around what Bush was during Katrina. So that issue there. So you're sort of seeing that play out in these midterms. It delays the local argument. And it puts these Democrats directly in the same boat as President Obama. And it's a tough thing for them to be at. You saw the CDC response a lot better in New York after Dallas.

CHUCK TODD:

And in six months, when we're telling about 100,000 Ebola cases in West Africa, competency of the world is going to end up being a question on this. And this is all going to look like a silly debate that's been happening nine days before the election. We will be back in a minute meeting the voters who hope to give incumbents a black eye. I'll report back from part one of our midterm bus trip we've got our new polls from the key battleground states. We'll be right back.

***Commercial Break***

CHUCK TODD:

Our polls have made it clear, the American voter is not satisfied with, well, anything or anybody in power, especially in Washington. The wild card in this election is how these frustrated voters will express themselves once they walk into the voting booth. This week, I've been on the road to meet these voters. And whether it's Kansas, Iowa, or Wisconsin, it's becoming clear that the close races are going to be decided by how voters come down on the question of this, punishing one party, without rewarding the other.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

On the first day of our Meet the Voters tour, we roll through the heartland. Kansas City, home of World Series baseball, and a Senate race across the state line in Kansas, that could shake the nation. Forty-six year old independent Greg Orman has made himself into a credible alternative to incumbent Republican Pat Roberts.

GREG ORMAN:

And we once again declare our independence, independence from both political parties.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

But he hasn't closed the deal yet with voters. It's a sentiment we heard over and over again at VFW Post 7397 in Lenexa, Kansas.

MALE VOTER #1:

In some cases, I'd like to get rid of all the incumbents, but I think that would be even more to harm what we've got going on.

MALE VOTER #2:

I'm more of the mentality of if they've been there a couple years, they're a career politician, I--

(OVERTALK)

MALE VOICE:

Well, you're that, the, you know, I’m done with everybody--

MALE VOTER #2:

But you know what?

(OVERTALK)

MALE VOTER #2:

If they don't have the guts to put the term limits in themselves, I'll do it myself at the voting booth.

CHUCK TODD:

Just heard your speech in there. I did not hear specifics in there, I didn’t hear anything about immigration, didn’t hear anything about healthcare.

GREG ORMAN:

I think we've spent a lot of time in this tax campaign defining what we think is wrong with America and with we think we need to do to solve those problems. In order to get to that spot though, we've got to fix the dysfunction in Washington first.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

200 miles north in Des Moines, Iowa, another bellwether race. The party that wins this race will likely control the U.S. Senate next year. Republican Joni Ernst is trying to become the first woman in Iowa to ever be elected to Congress.

IOWA STATE FEMALE STUDENT #1:

I feel more of a duty as a female.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

A fact not lost on some of the students at Iowa State we sat down with.

IOWA STATE FEMALE STUDENT #2:

A lot of times, it's hard for older men to understand what is important to women.

CHUCK TODD:

If you can find the word Republican on here, I'll pay you five bucks. I don't see it. That tells you something. It's a reminder of what kind of state this is.

ANNOUNCER:

Joni Ernst, mother, soldier, conservative.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

Ernst wants to benefit from the fact her first name isn't "Congressman." But what could be holding her back in what is clearly an anti-Washington year is some of her very conservative positions, including support for something called personhood, which in some cases, would grant all unborn human beings with equal protections.

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

The personhood thing was a mistake?

JONI ERNST:

No, it is not a mistake. It is stating that I do believe in life. I will never say that's a mistake. Because again, I am someone who is always going to promote life.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

Her opponent, Democrat Bruce Braley is trying to convince voters she's too conservative for most Iowans. Millennials could be the difference in this race. And the millions of dollars spent on the ad war here may not reach them.

IOWA STATE FEMALE STUDENT #1:

A lot of us aren't watching TV. A lot of us are going to be on our phones and checking online.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

Back on the road heading north. Wisconsin. Four years of a hard-core political battle. Republican Governor Scott Walker is fighting for his job for the third time in four years. Democrat Mary Burke is hoping voters are worn out from being the most polarized state in the nation.

CHUCK TODD:

Unfair caricature?

MARY BURKE:

Right now, I think it's fair. Unfortunately. But it's not who we are here in Wisconsin.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

Democrat Mary Burke is trying to capitalize on that sentiment. Former President Clinton campaigned with Burke the day we talked to her. And she's one of a few Democrats who wants the current president by her side as well.

CHUCK TODD:

Why are you comfortable having President Obama here?

MARY BURKE:

It's going to be a tight race. Turnout's going to be important. And yeah, and I welcome the president here.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

Reach Out Wisconsin, a group bitterly divided over Walker, meet every month to move past the Washington-style dysfunction. Conservatives, listening to liberals.

MALE VOTER #3:

You understand the person and why they believe that as opposed to just, again, sort of demonizing them for their political belief.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

And liberals listening to conservatives.

MALE VOTER #4:

Make friends with the person you are most afraid to make friends with.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Well, there you have it there. A fascinating way for that man to end. Let me bring in Senators Chuck Schumer, Democrat from New York.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

Hi.

CHUCK TODD:

Rob Portman, Republican from Ohio. You guys are obviously knee-deep in the election. You're part of the NRSC. You, of course, number two in the leadership. Let me run through our polls very quickly in these battleground states. Let's start with South Dakota, very quickly. Excuse me, we're going to start with Iowa. Bruce Braley at 46%, the Republican there, at 49%, three point lead there for Joni Ernst.

Colorado, another close race, Cory Gardner, Republican, 46%, the Democrat, Mark Udall, 45%. Look at this one in Kansas, the independent still holding the lead. A month ago, we showed a ten-point lead. Now it's down to one. Greg Orman there, Pat Roberts sitting at 44%. Some surprises in the South.

Closer races in places going in different directions. North Carolina, Kay Hagan in a dead heat with Republican challenger Thom Tillis at 43%. Many Democrats believe Hagan still holds the lead. And things are closing in Arkansas with our poll, given Republican challenger Tom Cotton just a two-point edge over Democrat incumbent Mark Pryor, 45%, 43%. Some people thought maybe this race would be put away by now.

Then there's South Dakota. We thought we'd check in on this one since there was some chatter that maybe the crazy three-way race was making an unusual result. That's not the case. Republican Mike Rounds is still way out in front, double-digit lead over the Democrat there Rick Weiland and former Republican Senator Larry Pressler, who's running as an independent, gets 16%.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Schumer, you guys are the ones on the defensive here. We're nine days out. How do you hold the Senate?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

Well, I think we will hold the Senate. You know, I know all the pundits are saying Republicans will take the Senate. Democrats are going to prove the pundits wrong on election day when we keep the Senate, three reasons. First and foremost, economic issues predominate. Ebola's in the news, ISIS is in the news, but the average voter, every poll shows far and away, cares most about economic issues.

They tend to beat the Democrats on economic issues like minimum wage. Like equal pay for women. Like not sending jobs overseas predominate. Second, we have a much better ground game. You can add two to three points at a minimum.

CHUCK TODD:

For all of them?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

For each of those race. Just about every one of those races. So if it's 44, 43, we're probably ahead. And third, as the race get down to the final moments, the voters focus on the two candidates. Not on the national referendum. When the two candidates are compared almost inevitably, we do better. So economic issues, better ground game, better candidates will put us over the top November.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Portman, why is he wrong?

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

Well, but you believe he's right. You know, it's not the pundits who are saying the Republicans are going to get the majority, it's the voters. And your polls show it. Also--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

It's tight though.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

Well, it's tight, but the voter intensity is on our side. You were in Iowa. And you saw that with early voting in Iowa, Republicans are winning. That's never happened before. All the polls show that, you know, this is going to be a good year for Republicans. It's a good environment for us.

We've talked earlier about the incompetence that some people feel about the Obama administration. And that's catching up to them. And people are asked, you know, "What do you think about the president," in your poll today. And you know what they said? He gets less than 40% approval in all those states.

And when the president goes on national TV and says, "You know what, this is about me. These are my policies, all my policies are on the ballot." And when he further says, "And by the way, all these candidates who are trying to distance themselves from me, they all vote with me. And they all want to vote with me." So it is a national election. And Republicans are great candidates. We get the enthusiasm on our side. And look, people are looking for a change, Chuck. They don't want the status quo. And a change is changing the side.

CHUCK TODD:

I let you both go long on that first question, but I want you to keep it tighter here when we go to these things. What is the difference? Why do 51 Democrats matter more than 51 Republicans? What really will matter in the next two years? And the same question is going to be for you. What's the real difference between 51 Republicans and 51 Democrats?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

It does matter. Two words, Supreme Court. You need the majority--

(OVERTALK)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

Not all. But you asked. One reason, Supreme Court. The money that's cascading into our system. If the Supreme Court continues to be the way it is, and there's a vacancy and they buttress that, will the subject to these few people just dominating the elections for decades to come. The Supreme Court on voting rights makes a huge difference. The Supreme Court on women's issues makes a huge difference. Supreme Court.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Portman, what's the real difference for the last two years of the Obama administration with 51 Republicans?

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

Getting stuff done.

CHUCK TODD:

Really?

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

What your polling shows--

CHUCK TODD:

I mean, I just, you know, there's a lot of skepticism--

(OVERTALK)

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

The only way things can get done is with changing majority. If you continue to do what we're doing, we're going to have the dysfunction in Washington that we've got right now. Nothing getting done. We aren't doing budgets. We aren't helping people getting jobs. I was just at a jobs fair in Ohio, and ran into a lot of people who are working part-time, two or three jobs, been out of work for months. What they're saying is, "We need a change."

CHUCK TODD:

John Kasich claims the economy's doing really well in Ohio.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

Well, it's doing better in Ohio than the nation right now. But it's facing the headwinds from Washington. So Washington needs to get its act together and start passing stuff. If you get a Republican majority, Chuck, it will get the president to the table. And we'll begin to solve some of these big problems.

(OVERTALK)

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

That's what people want to see.

(OVERTALK)

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

--by the way.

CHUCK TODD:

--a Republican majority.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

Number one issue in your polling is the gridlock in Washington. If they want to change things--

(OVERTALK)

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

--for the Republican.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

And aided in large part by Republicans in the Senate and the House that create gridlock, then blame the president--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

So let me stop you there.

(OVERTALK)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

--and block everything we do. And you do.

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

Speaking of who's in charge, I want to play you something here about how candidates feel about Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid. Take a listen.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DEBATE MODERATOR:

If he were elected and if he is reelected, will you support Mitch McConnell in Kentucky as the leader of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate?

DAVID PERDUE:

That was a yes or no. And my answer is no Jim.

CHUCK TODD:

To you, Senator Warner. Harry Reid's the best person to lead the Senate Democrats, yes or no?

SEN. MARK WARNER:

Listen, I think he could perhaps do better in both parties moving forward.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

I've got nearly a dozen Democrats, Senator Schumer, a dozen Democrats who are saying, "You know what? I don't know, I'd like somebody else different than Harry Reid." Is Harry Reid bigger than the majority? Greg Orman, of Kansas, says he will not be with the Democrats if Harry Reid is the Senate majority leader. What say you?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

I say then Harry Reid will run for majority leader and he will win with an overwhelming, probably very close to a majority vote.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator McConnell, I'm hearing the same thing from other Republicans. "Look, he's not out of the woods, he can't put his race away." But Greg Orman says he will not sit with the Republicans if Mitch McConnell's in charge. Is one man bigger than the potential majority Republicans?

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

No, but I think Mitch is going to win in Kentucky. By the way, you're the one that he said that she had disqualified herself, her opponent, by saying that she wouldn't tell people whether she voted for President Obama or not. And so I think he's been--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I meant that voters might think that at the time. But to go back, you know--

(OVERTALK)

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

I think Mitch is going to win, I think he'll be the leader.

CHUCK TODD:

But should he be the leader?

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

Yeah, I think he should. But here's the--

CHUCK TODD:

The two of them have shut down the Senate. You don't believe that?

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

No, here's the important point. By changing the majority, having the House and Senate working together, and working with the president, we can begin to solve problems. And the biggest problem right now is jobs and the economy. And we need to give it a shot in the arm and we can. Let's do tax reform. Let's actually do something on energy. Let's agree to the Keystone XL Pipeline, the big--

(OVERTALK)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

Let me say--

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

--project in American--

(OVERTALK)

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

--should happen right away.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

On the issue that--

(OVERTALK)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

--most to American people on jobs, raising minimum wage, equal pay, stop sending jobs overseas, helping kids pay for college, the Republicans have said no on each of those. That's why we're going to win the election. And that's why if they win, we'll be totally in gridlock.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm going to have to--

(OVERTALK)

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

--office, we want the jobs to be--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

I can tell you this, the voters here think it's all going to be gridlock no matter what. That's your real challenge there. Senator Schumer, Senator Portman--

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

Time for a change though.

CHUCK TODD:

--thank you both. Coming up, is our democracy for sale? And are those billionaires who spend all this big money on the campaign good for that money? Right after this.

***Commercial Break***

CHUCK TODD:

$2.99 gas. It's unbelievable, some of the gas prices we saw on the road. You've seen some of our road trip this week. Well, I'm going to be back on the road. The second leg of our trip is going to be down South. Our RV is going to roll into North Carolina on Monday, then it's Georgia, Arkansas, I'm going to finish things up in Louisiana, because we know Louisiana is likely to go into election overtime though.

Along the way, I've been doing interviews with candidates and voters, as long as posting analysis of each race, takeaways from my interviews, and even what we found out about politics, and yes, food, from some interesting Facebook data. All of start online.

Meet the Voters website, it's at MeetTheVoters.NBCNews.com. We'll have a lot more great stuff to come this week. So follow us. And oh, by the way, if you see us, say hi, honk your horn, maybe tweet, well, not while you drive though, use the hashtag, #WhereIsChuck. Stay with us, we'll be back here in a moment.

***Commercial Break***

CHUCK TODD:

Well, we're America, and it'd be fair to say we do most things bigger in this country. And that's certainly true when it comes to elections and campaign spending. My man Luke Russert is here to talk about this. You've been crunching some numbers.

LUKE RUSSERT:

Indeed.

CHUCK TODD:

This stat’s unbelievable.

LUKE RUSSERT:

It's wild, Chuck. Remarkably, you could pay for 80 British general election campaigns with what's being spent on this year's midterms alone. And there's real concern about the role money is playing in our politics with some even going as far to argue our democracy is being bought and sold.

(BEGIN TAPE)

LUKE RUSSERT (V/O):

Sixteen years ago, the 1998 midterms cost $1.6 billion. This year's price tag? As high as $4 billion. Outside groups spent $15 million on that '98 campaign. In 2012, outside group spending was 67 times higher. Over a billion dollars. And this year, it'll be just as high. And that doesn't count so-called dark money, whose sources of donors never have to be disclosed, or won't be disclosed until well after the election.

In the Senate battleground states, outside groups are spending more on ads than campaigns and political parties combined. Funding the financial arms race, a group of modern-day oligarchs.

ALISON LUNDERGAN GRIMES:

On Father's Day, I was with my family and Mitch McConnell was with his too, the Koch brothers.

MALE VOICE:

The Koch brothers.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER:

The Koch brothers.

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN:

The Koch brothers.

SEN. HARRY REID:

Senate Republicans, Madam President, are addicted to Koch.

LUKE RUSSERT (V/O):

On the right, Charles and David Koch, the brothers who run Koch Industries, America's second largest private company. Net worth, $41.9 billion, each. Americans for Prosperity, just one of several Koch-backed groups, has pledged to spend at least $125 million this year. And they have offices in more than 30 states. On the left, newcomer Tom Steyer. Net worth, $1.6 billion. He's already donated at least $58 million in support of candidates with strong records on climate change.

STATE SEN. JONI ERNST:

And that California billionaire extreme environmentalist.

NARRATOR:

The California billionaire.

NARRATOR:

The California billionaire.

LUKE RUSSERT (V/O):

Last month, Steyer PAC began hauling a wooden ark on wheels across Florida, where he's focusing his efforts on retiring Governor Rick Scott. But the Koch brothers, through a number of outside groups, with mundane if not agreeable-sounding names, like Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Partners, Concerned Veterans for America, and Generation Opportunity, are outspending Steyer by nearly five to one on ads in the Senate battleground states.

In the center, former New York City governor Michael Bloomberg. Net worth, $34 billion. He pledged to spend $50 million to support gun control legislation. And became a convenient punching bag for red state Democrats.

SEN. MARK PRYOR (D-AR):

Mayor Bloomberg of New York City ran ads in Arkansas criticizing me for standing up for your Second Amendment rights.

LUKE RUSSERT (V/O):

Now Bloomberg says he'll spend $25 million more backing centrists. And other big spenders, Sheldon Adelson and Joe Ricketts on the right, George Soros on the left, even Mark Zuckerberg, and we could see an election that costs about $44 a vote. The financial arms race has become so crazy that one campaign reform advocate decided to fight fire with fire. He formed the anti-super PAC super PAC.

LAWRENCE LESSIG:

We launched a mayday PAC, mayday as a distress signal, to rally people to the idea of changing the way elections were funded. And in this cycle, we've had more than 50,000 people contribute.

(END TAPE)

LUKE RUSSERT:

The question is, Chuck, do voters even care? In 2012, billions spent against President Obama and Democrats. Didn't really move the needle that much.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, it's mutual-assured destruction, is seems, Dan Balz. Let me show you just a chart in this morning's Des Moines Register. They listed all the different outside groups that have spent on behalf of Bruce Braley. I've got to scroll it. It's that much here. And then here's all the Joni Ernst groups. I've got to scroll it. I mean, there's a dozen groups it seems on each side. But did you find voters that hate the ads, but do they care about this outside money? Do they vote on it?

DAN BALZ:

No, they don't vote on that. They hate the ads. They hate the amount of money that's being spent. But it's not a voting issue. And the interesting thing, Chuck, is I'm sure you've had the same experience. You've talked to the people who are helping to produce these ads. And they're as sick of them as many of the people who are watching them. And you say, "Well, why are you doing it?" For the exact reason you said. We can't afford not to because the other side's doing it.

CHUCK TODD:

It's totally so, it feels like the cold war. I mean, it is a cold, political war, and we're going down a road where we're just, it's going to destroy the two-party system--

(OVERTALK)

CAROLYN RYAN:

And remember, one of the most interesting statistics that came out of this, and Nick Confessore had a story showing that most of the money, most of the advertising spending, is from groups that don't really disclose their donors. So the original free-speech argument was, "Let's list the caps. Let's have contemporaneous disclosure. You'll know where the money is coming from." That's not the case at all.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, I think Nia, very quickly, but I think it's going to drive good candidates from running.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

How do you run in this environment?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

Yeah, because the threshold for getting in there is so high now. I mean, you know Democrats are going to complain about it, but Democrats are pretty good at raising this money and coordinating a lot of these troops on the ground in these different states.

CHUCK TODD:

It's unbelievable. Luke, nice work, scary work.

LUKE RUSSERT:

Right?

CHUCK TODD:

Anyway. In a moment, sometimes kids say the darndest things. But what if children talked back to us like politicians?

(BEGIN TAPE)

MOM:

Did you eat the dozen chocolate cookies that I had left on the counter to cool?

BILLY:

I am deeply upset by this question.

(END TAPE)

(BEGIN TAPE)

ANNOUNCER:

Time now for CNBC’s Executive Edge Week Ahead, brought to you by Comcast Business. Built for business.

ANDREW ROSS SORKIN:

I'm Andrew Ross Sorkin with your week ahead. Wall Street will be reacting to the results of this weekend's European Central Bank stress test. Those tests are designed to gauge the overall health of Europe's financial system. And they come at a time of intense uncertainty over global growth.

And then coming up on Wednesday, we're going to find out whether or not the Federal Reserve will end its bond-buying program when the Central Bank's wraps its two-day meeting. That’s your CNBC Executive Edge. Get all the latest business news on CNBC and CNBC.com.

(END TAPE)

***Commercial Break***

CHUCK TODD:

You've seen the horse race results in the key Senate states, which remain close. But let's go inside the numbers, because they paint a more complex picture of this campaign and perhaps this will help explain why things haven't broken decisively in either party's direction. First, let's start with why Senate democrats are in the position that they're in in the first place.

President Obama is very unpopular. In each of the six states we polled the President's job rating is below his national average. Never topping 40% in any of the states we polled. But if this were the lone factor affecting this year's midterm, we'd see a Republican advantage in all of these battleground states.

Almost guaranteeing the GOP winning back the Senate. But it's not. Here's why. We asked voters what the most important issue was to them in deciding how they would vote next week. And what did we find? Two things that aren't going to help any incumbents, Republican or Democrats. And the first is more than just an issue. It's an atmosphere.

Voters are most concerned with breaking the partisan gridlock in Washington to get things done. This is one of the top two issues for likely voters in four of the six states we polled, including two big ones, Iowa and Kansas where it was the top issue. But even in North Carolina and Arkansas, breaking the gridlock was a close third.

And folks, take a look at this. In all of these polls, if your name begins with "Senator of

"Congressman," you aren't popular. Out of the seven sitting senators and congressman running for the Senate this year in the states we polled, only two, two have a favorable rating, barely above water. Barely. Tom Cotton in Arkansas and Cory Gardner in Colorado.

Believe it or not, breaking the dysfunction in Washington is topping as an issue. It's trumping the economy in some states. It trumped healthcare in just about every state. And this is sure to be the wild card with just ten day to go until this year's midterm election. They want to punish the Democrats without rewarding the Republicans. And they're sitting there, wondering what to do. We'll be back after this.

***Commercial Break***

CHUCK TODD:

I've got the panel back here. Guys, you just saw all those poll numbers. I want to show you, we know what the Republican party's closing argument is. And if you didn't know, wait till you see these next two ads. One's airing in Arkansas, one in North Carolina, and there's one person who seems to be the star. Take a look.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

But make no mistake, these policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them.

TOM COTTON:

President Obama's finally right about something. His policies are on the ballot.

(END TAPE)

(BEGIN TAPE)

KAY HAGAN:

Voting 92% of the time with the president. Whether you support him or not doesn't work here in North Carolina. It is time for someone to reach across the party lines and finally get something done in this country.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Boy, that second ad there, Kay Hagan, that was her voice narrating an NRSC ad, which I'm going to get into in a minute, by the way, a Republican party ad, on that same issue that they've been hitting her on.

CAROLYN RYAN:

That is a powerful ad. And the whole question of the relationship between Democrats in the Senate and the president right now is fascinating. Especially because he seems to be kind of inserting himself and creating more problems for them. I find this--

CHUCK TODD:

You had a great story in TheTimes this morning, the back-fighting has already begun. The finger pointing, the blame game, Democrats, blind quotes, blaming the White House for all their problems.

CAROLYN RYAN:

I find the psychology of this most fascinating, right? Because you have President Obama, who is this ascendant politician, wanting to be a transcendent politician, now it seems like he's unable to confront and absorb the fact that he's unpopular in these states, some of them purple states. And he keeps kind of pushing himself out there. And, you know, our presidents have egos, and they tend to be oversized, but surprisingly fragile. And that's part of what we're seeing here.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, the problem Republicans are having closing the sale, Dan, and you found this, I know, on the road, is that they're not trusted as change agents. Yes, but they have solved the argument that, hey, President Obama and Democrats, they're gumming things up. But they're not buying the Republicans. And the Republicans themselves know it, you know, that ad was paid for not by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. They officially changed their name legally to NRSC because, as a source told me, their name had three words in it that are very unpopular, national, Republican, and senatorial. And they realized they couldn't have that. How do Republicans close that gap?

DAN BALZ:

Well, I think they close it with the kind of ad that you just put on the air, which is to try to bring it back to President Obama. You know, we've talked about this all year long, that the national atmosphere in a midterm election, the President's on the line. And he has been a drag on Democrats all through this campaign, and there have been things that have gotten in the way of that for Republicans that has made it more difficult. And one of them is their own bad brand and questions about them. But in the end, they're going to want to try to nationalize this around Obama.

CHUCK TODD:

Luke, closing argument for the benefits. First of all, did they mess up by distancing themselves almost too much from Obama, where they've made this even too effective?

LUKE RUSSERT:

Well, I think in these individual state races, it's probably better to try and be as most independent as you can. But looking into the poll, what I found fascinating are those two-name issues, job creation, and breaking the gridlock. Republicans overwhelmingly do better on job creation, Democrats overwhelmingly do better on breaking the gridlock. So in theory--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

--voters are troubled.

LUKE RUSSERT:

Right, right.

CHUCK TODD:

But Washington--

(OVERTALK)

LUKE RUSSERT:

Disruption voters, they--

(OVERTALK)

LUKE RUSSERT:

In terms of playing up the independents, if you want to be the "breaking the gridlock" candidate, that's what you do.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I want to sort of have a little lighter moment here, although it's a little bit depressing. I want you to see this. Yesterday, the Des Moines Register, and yes, it's turning into my favorite paper today, as you know, asked, "What if kids starting using political talking points, the talking points politicians use, to talk back to their parents?"

Well, that got us thinking. So we took the liberty of borrowing the Register's idea, added some pictures and sound, so here now, is our version of what kids would sound like if they talked like politicians. Script courtesy of The Des Moines Register.

(BEGIN TAPE)

MOM:

Billy?

BILLY:

Good morning, Mother, and let me say how great it is to once again be back in the kitchen. Am I to understand that you have a question?

MOM:

I certainly do. Did you eat the cookies?

BILLY:

I'm sorry. Could you repeat the question?

MOM:

Did you eat the dozen chocolate chip cookies that I had left on the counter to cool?

BILLY:

I'm deeply upset by this question. I would like to think that we had built the kind of relationship where such questions would not be necessary.

MOM:

Well, it is. When I left the kitchen, there were a dozen cookies cooling on the counter. Now they are gone. Did you eat them?

BILLY:

That's not the question. You know who's behind this, don't you? The Koch brothers.

MOM:

The brothers who run the Koch Industries?

BILLY:

No. Jimmy and Jumbo Rodgers, the twin brothers who live on Koch Street.

MOM:

Answer the question, Billy. Did you eat the cookies?

BILLY:

I have answered that question.

MOM:

You didn't say anything.

BILLY:

That is my answer.

MOM:

Your answer is no answer?

BILLY:

I have no control over how you choose to interpret my answers. And its high time we put the past behind us and looked forward to the future. What's for supper, anyway?

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Nia, I mean, look, we did it in an absurd way because what, do these elected officials know that's how they sound when they do these crazy evasions? And you make us all ask the same question four or five times. It's like that skit out of Austin Powers, ask me three times, and finally Will Ferrell's character will answer the question.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

This idea that your answer is no answer at all, right? And you know, whoever wins come November or January, whenever this thing is going to be decided, they are going to be facing a very frustrated public. A public that doesn't really believe that they can make a difference and break the gridlock. How they're able to convince the public otherwise will be a big test going forward.

CHUCK TODD:

Dan, and this sets the environment for 2016. That's what's actually here, is just distrust of politicians. I mean, it's sort of we made fun of it and mocked it there, but that's going to be the environment.

DAN BALZ:

It is. I mean, one of the big questions is which of these candidates who want to run for president in 2016 has a way to get past where we are today. They'll all talk about it, but is anybody really going to be able to do it?

CHUCK TODD:

Unbelievable. I don't know. That's all for today. I'll be getting back on my "Meet the Voters" bus, follow my trip on our website. Today, nightly news, next week we'll be in New York in our election studio with just three days to go until the midterms then. But for now, if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *