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Meet the Press - December 17, 2017

NBC News - Meet the Press

“12.17.17.”

[BEGIN TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, a political earthquake, Democrat Doug Jones' win over Roy Moore in Alabama changes the political calculus for 2018.

DOUG JONES:

We have come so far and the people of Alabama have—have spoken.

CHUCK TODD:

Republicans may be relieved that Roy Moore is gone.

SEN. BOB CORKER:

I'm really, really happy with what happened for all of us.

CHUCK TODD:

But Democrats suddenly sense the possibility of taking back both the House and the Senate.

SEN. CORY BOOKER:

I think that the energy going into 2018 has already begun.

CHUCK TODD:

My guests this morning, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Governor John Kasich of Ohio. Plus our brand new NBC News Wall Street Journal poll out this morning and it suggests Democrats may be right, that a wave is coming. We'll bring you all the numbers. And Republicans get the votes to pass their tax bill.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

This is going to be one of the great gifts to the middle-income people of this country.

CHUCK TODD:

But can they keep their promise that the tax cuts pay for themselves? And who gets hurt if they don't? I'll ask the White House Director of Legislative Affairs, Marc Short. Joining me for insight and analysis are syndicated columnist George Will, Helene Cooper of the New York Times, Al Cardenas, former head of the American Conservative Union and former Obama deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter. Welcome to Sunday. It's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, the longest running show in television history. This is Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. If you have the sense that history may be repeating itself, you're not alone. Back in 2010 there was a president with sinking approval ratings, an unpopular piece of legislation, Obamacare, supported by just one party. And a Republican, Scott Brown, won a Senate race in cobalt blue Massachusetts, suggesting a huge Republican wave was coming. Well, it was.

Republicans won 63 House seats in 2010 and six Senate seats. Today we have a president with sinking approval ratings, an unpopular piece of legislation, the tax bill, supported by just one party. And a Democrat, Doug Jones, won a Senate race in ruby red Alabama. Democrats are hoping to catch a wave and sit on top of the political world. And our brand new NBC News Wall Street Journal poll suggests that the surf's up. When asked who they would prefer to control Congress 50% said Democrats, just 39% said Republicans. You have to understand our poll doesn't show this very often, this kind of spread. It was the first time the Democrats had been at 50 in our poll with a double digit lead since September, 2008, before the Obama-led Democratic wave of that year. The enthusiasm is all with the Democrats as well. 59% of Democrats tell us that they have a high level of interest in next year's elections compared to 49% for Republicans. As for President Trump's approval rating stands at 41% in our poll versus 56% who say they disapprove of his performance. That's actually slightly better for him than two months ago when the results were 38/58. Still, that 41% is lower than any other president has scored in our poll at this stage of the presidency. And a year out from the 2018 midterms the Democrats do have reason to be optimistic.

DOUG JONES:

So far and the people of Alabama have—have spoken. They have said, "We--"

CHUCK TODD:

A stunning Democratic victory in a deep red state is the latest evidence that it may be time for Republicans to panic. Challenged by the president to vote for Roy Moore--

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

Get out and vote for Roy Moore.

CHUCK TODD:

Many Republicans stayed home. And in a state which elected Mr. Trump last year with 62% of the vote just 48% of voters this year said they approved of the president.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

They run as a party of Trump and Moore. Like I said, that's not a winning combination in 2018.

CHUCK TODD:

Democrats see a wave of enthusiasm heading into 2018.

SEN. CORY BOOKER:

I think that the energy going into 2018 has already begun.

CHUCK TODD:

African-American voters were highly motivated on Tuesday making up a higher share of the electorate than in 2012, the last time President Obama was on the ballot. Plus, the cultural revolution on the issue of sexual harassment and assault did not skip over Alabama, contributing to a 16 point advantage for Doug Jones with women powered by 98% support among African-American women. And Alabama, once again, exposed the deep divisions between the Republican Party's establishment and populist wings.

SEN. BOB CORKER:

I know we're supposed to cheer for our side of the aisle, if you will. But I'm really, really happy with what happened.

CHUCK TODD:

Republicans blame Roy Moore.

CORY GARDNER:

This is a rebuke of a candidate.

SEN. JIM INHOFE:

We had a blemished candidate.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN:

We had a flawed candidate.

SEN RON JOHNSON:

Alabamians didn't want a — somebody who dated 14-year-old girls.

CHUCK TODD:

But despite Moore's obvious flaws Democrats are sounding confident.

Sen. Chuck Schumer:

The Republican brand, even in deep red Alabama is positively toxic.

CHUCK TODD:

One challenge for the party, many base voters are enthusiastic about impeachment and Democrats risk overplaying their hand.

CHUCK TODD:

You don't think impeachment should be the primary message of the Democratic Party in 2018?

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN:

No I do not.

CHUCK TODD:

Democrats are defending 26 Senate seats next year compared with just eight for Republicans. Ten of those Democratic seats are in states Mr. Trump won including five he carried by at least 18 points. But Democrats just won a Senate seat in a state he carried by 28 points. And the party is becoming extraordinarily confident about its chances in the House.

Tom Perez:

I think we're going to win the Senate and the House.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now is one of those red state Democrats that is on the ballot in 2018. It’s Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Senator Manchin, welcome back to the show, sir.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN:

Thanks for having me, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with this. You are representing a state that President Trump won by 40 points. You’re up for reelection in 2018. Does Doug Jones--

SEN. JOE MANCHIN:

I think 43 points.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, there you go. Does Doug Jones’ victory in Alabama, does that give you more confidence or does that tell you, ‘Well, if I get to run against Roy Moore, I can win.’?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN:

Well, I feel good in my state. I’ve been in my state all my life, born and raised here. And I’ve been in public office for quite some time in different capacities, most recently as a governor before U.S. senator. So I think the people know me. My brand is very independent and my brand is all about West Virginia. And you have to be -- whether you’re Democrat or Republican -- you have to be who you are for the state you represent. And I think people know that I’m going to put West Virginia and my country ahead of my party.

CHUCK TODD:

What should Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi take away from this? They’re the titular heads of your party right now, uh, on both the House and the Senate. What lesson do you want them to take away from Doug Jones in Alabama?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN:

Well, let me just talk about Washington Democrats, which I am not one. I am not a Washington Democrat. I’m a West Virginia Democrat. And I believe that Doug Jones is an Alabama -- Alabamian -- Democrat. The Washington Democrats have to understand we’re a little bit different. We do -- and we are very much concerned about the social issues that have divided -- and it seems like the Democrats have abandoned. But we’re going to stay true to our roots and who we are. And as long as they understand that and leave us alone, let us do our job here, we’re going to be just fine. And when we go to Washington, it’s not with a Chuck Schumer, who I think the world of, a good guy, nice person and a good friend of mine. But still, yeah, Chuck knows I’m going to be voting for West Virginia. He accepts that. He understands that. And he knows exactly who I am and the people of West Virginia know who I am. So that’s really what it’s about. And that’s what Doug Jones needs to do.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, you’re not the only politician I’ve run into that says, ‘whoa, whoa, whoa, I’m not going to be assigned with the national party. People know me in my state. They will judge me as my state.’ But you know all politics are national these days, more so than they ever used to be. So, I guess, let me ask you about the national message. There’s a lot of base Democrats that are fired up about the idea of impeaching President Trump. You had 58 House Democrats vote for that idea. You have a billionaire donor to the party who may want to run for the U.S. Senate, talking about the idea. Do you think that that is good or bad for your chances at reelection for 2018, if impeachment is one of the national messages of the Democratic Party?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN:

Here’s the thing, Chuck, that really bothers me more than anything. Because I am up for reelection in 2018, I guess people think in Washington that I’m going to vote differently or I’ll be differently or I’ll have to kowtow, if you will, to what they think may be popular. I don’t think impeachment is something we should be talking about. If facts come out, if these investigations go down that line, and if the rule of law is exercised and we see that there’s reason to go in that direction, the House will make that decision first, before it’s given to the Senate. So I’m not going to waste my time or energy on that. I think it’s futile at this point in time.There’s so much that needs to be done for this country, for our military to be strong and defend us and for a tax reform, not just a tax cut that works for all America.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me -- I want to pick up on two points you just brought up. One quickly is the investigation. You’re on the Senate Intel Committee. I know you’re part of that investigation. One of your colleagues, Senator Roy Blunt, he said the following about the Bob Mueller issues right now, "I'm concerned that he couldn't put a team together that wasn't so overwhelmingly on one side of the ideological spectrum. But maybe even somebody as capable and experienced as Mueller can learn a lesson from this." Do you believe Mueller's investigation has been compromised, pure and simple?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN:

I do not at all believe that Mr. Mueller has been compromised or his investigation. I think he's beyond reproach. I think anybody who's ever worked with him, who have watched him operate for the last how many years under Democrats and Republicans.

They even asked him to stay on after the Bush administration. I think that he is the person, the right person, that when he finishes his investigation that we're going to have confidence it was done in a fair and balanced way. I truly believe that. And I'm not led to believe that anybody on intelligence committee thinks that he would not be the right person, there's anybody better than him.

CHUCK TODD:

Have you been troubled at all of what you've seen come out of the selective leaking of these texts that have come out of the Justice Department regarding these F.B.I. agents?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN:

Yeah, that bothers you. But these are human beings too. I understand on both sides. But the bottom line is that Mr. Mueller got rid of the people immediately, soon as he was made aware of them. And that's not going to impede his investigation I think in a fair and unbiased way.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me pick up on taxes. It was interesting to me that you said you wanted to work on tax reform instead of just tax cuts. I take it that's a little subtle jab at this tax bill. You didn't vote for it. But you also claimed this is not the bill President Trump wanted. That's not what he's saying. He seems to be really excited about this bill. How did you get cut out of this? I think a lot of us expected you to be more involved in this process.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN:

I wanted to be more involved. First of all, I thanked the president for inviting me to the White House. I was there for lunch. I was there for dinner. We spoke about really reform such as what Ronald Reagan did in the 1986. It was total reform. Or what Erskine Bowles and Al Simpson recommended in Bowles/Simpson. That was reform.

And the president told me, he said, "Joe, this is not going to be a tax cut for the rich like me." And I said, "Mr. President, that's good." He said, "It's going to be for the average working person who's got left behind." I said, "That's great." Well, I really believe that the president wanted to work in a bipartisan way. Marc Short and I have been talking. We exchanged ideas back and forth.

So I gave them a whole litany of things that I thought 10 or more Democrats would vote for to have it 60 or 65 votes. I really believed is possible if you had regular order. Once Mitch McConnell has decided that 51 votes was all he needed and they were all going to be Republicans and make it political, that's exactly what happened.

CHUCK TODD:

So let me clarify this, you--.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN:

This is not a reform. This is a tax cut.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me clarify. You don't hold the president responsible for this. You hold Mitch McConnell responsible for this tax bill?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN:

I think Mitch McConnell basically told the president, "We can do this under a budget reconciliation," which is a budget gimmick. He passed a budget with $1.5 trillion of deficit going in. So he had $1.5 trillion of deficit to work with and giveaways tax cuts and everything else rather than revenue neutral which is what Ronald Reagan did, which is what Bowles and Simpson did, which is what I wanted to do and many Republicans kind of wanted to do I thought.

But that's not what we ended up with. And Chuck, the only thing about it -- when you look in '86, Ronald Reagan did it and did it in a way that everyone was involved and got bipartisan support. George, George Bush number one had to pay the price for that because he saw that we had an exploding debt that wasn't supposed to have happened. But it did. And he had to make adjustments for our country, which he did and sacrificed his own political career and re-election as president.

This is what we're dealing with. And I'm saying anybody that would have gone, Chuck, to the all-member hearing that we had last Thursday, Thursday before, and heard the readiness of our military, the need that they have, and can vote with a clear conscience, this is the right thing for America, and our children and our country, they were at a different meeting than I was at.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Manchin, unfortunately I've got to leave it there. Democrat from West Virginia, thanks for coming out. Appreciate you sharing your views.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN:

Well, thank you. Appreciate it.

CHUCK TODD:

You got it. Joining me now is Republican Governor John Kasich of Ohio. Governor Kasich, welcome back to Meet the Press.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:All right, I will start where I ended there with Senator Manchin which is on the tax bill. But I'd like you to answer the question from the point of view of a governor who's got your own fiscal issues to deal with. Is the tax bill good for the state of Ohio?

GOV. JOHN KASICH:Yeah. I think -- Chuck, here's, here’s what's in that bill. And I know this has been characterized in many different ways that I don't happen to agree with. Look, the corporate tax rate in our country is -- was way too high. One of the highest in the world. We needed to bring that down so that companies are gonna invest in America and not invest overseas. Secondly, they have a provision in there, I don't know all the details of it, that if you made money overseas you can bring your money back here. You're going to be able to repatriate that money which means that's more money hopefully for investment. Small businesses are given a break, something I did in Ohio which is why we're up about a half a million jobs here in the state since I've been governor. Look, do I think they could have done better for the middle class? I do. Do I think they could have done better for the working poor? I mean, Rubio tried to get something. He made some progress. But they could have increased the rates a little bit for big business. It wouldn't have mattered. A little bit and given more relief out.

CHUCK TODD:So why do you think they didn't?

GOV. JOHN KASICH:So.

CHUCK TODD:Why do you think they didn't? Is it the lack of inclusion of Democrats in there and a lack of need for--

GOV. JOHN KASICH:Well, yeah.

CHUCK TODD:--compromise?

GOV. JOHN KASICH:Let me say what Manchin said is true because I was there in 1986. It wasn't just Ronald Reagan. It was Senator Bradley, it was, it was Senator Packwood. It was, it was a different time, Chuck, in 1986. Gosh, Reagan was special too. And, look, it was hard. And at the end because they made such dramatic changes in the code, and I remember the real estate industry went crazy. The Democrat and Republican senators stood on the edge of the cliff. And just like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid they held hands and they jumped. And, you know what, we got great progress. We got a cleaned up code and lower rates. But remember, at that point in time the top rate was 70% it's not that today. But look, I do believe that cutting taxes makes sense. My concern about this bill is the debt. And they did not do enough to be able to cover. This bill is not going to pay for itself. Everybody knows that. So at the end, Chuck, here's the problem, as debt gets higher and higher and higher it slows the economy down. So when you cut taxes to provide more economic growth, at the same time you drive up the debt they kind of work in opposite of one another.

CHUCK TODD:And then you don't get the--

GOV. JOHN KASICH:And that's why they now need to look at the savings.

CHUCK TODD:Right, you don't end up--

GOV. JOHN KASICH:They need to.

CHUCK TODD:--getting the surge that you were once hoped for. I want to talk about the state of the Republican Party. But I also want to talk about the state of your relationship with the Republican Party. Here's a montage of various things you've said this year about your relationship with this version of the Republican Party--

GOV. JOHN KASICH:Merry Christmas.

CHUCK TODD:Exactly.

[tape begins]

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Can you offer yourself as an alternative, as a third party candidate?

GOV. JOHN KASICH:Chris, I'm not doing anything now to plan other than to have an organization--

CHUCK TODD:At what point do you think you won't be able to change your party?

GOV. JOHN KASICH:I never give up, Chuck. If the party can't be fixed, Jake, then I'm not going to be able to support the party. Period.

[tape ends]

CHUCK TODD:Well, here we are in December. Is the party in a better place than it was at the start of this year or in--

GOV. JOHN KASICH:You know, may--

CHUCK TODD:--worse place? And where are you? Are you prouder to be a Republican today than you were at the start of this year?

GOV. JOHN KASICH:Well, I'm always proud to be a Republican. But the party is my vehicle, never been my master. Chuck, when you look at Alabama there's some very interesting things. 20,000 -- they think 20,000 Republicans voted for somebody that wasn't on the ballot. I would also say Senator Shelby, he spoke out and said he was not for the candidate down there. In other words, were beginning to see more, more of a tug of war pulling people towards a better position on the party. That's my sense. And in terms of -- so I'm kind of optimistic with some of the things. But here's the thing, two paths. There's some in the party that look at problems and they're negative and they're angry and they're small. And there's other people that look at the problems and say, "We can fix them." So instead of losing the future which is what we're doing today, turning off millennials. Hey, let me just give you an example. Can you explain to me why the Republican Party that's a majority in the House and the Senate with a Republican president don't tell the dreamers, the DACA kids that they're going to be able to stay in the United States? That makes no sense. And the idea that they were just get rid of Obamacare which needs to be reformed and then people were going to lose their health insurance, what are they thinking? And they need to do something to make sure that program doesn't go away. They need to reform it, and sure it up. Immigration, what are you kidding? Immigrants have helped our country. Trade. We're not anti-trade. And the millennials believe we have a global place in the world. And we're losing them, Chuck. But, look, I keep thinking, I look at Alabama, and I say, "People are not happy with us being small, angry and narrow." They're starting to say, "No." That means that those of us who believe in a positive party are beginning to win. But we have a long--

CHUCK TODD:Let me ask you--

GOV. JOHN KASICH:--way to go.

CHUCK TODD:--you had some optimism about the president when you met with him in February of this year. You said you were optimistic that he listened to you, listened to your concerns. At the time it was in particular -- it was focused on the issue of healthcare and the concerns you had about it. I got to ask you, what is your relationship today? When was the last time you and the president have spoken? And are you optimistic about his presidency still?

GOV. JOHN KASICH:Well, first of all, I haven't spoken to him for a very long time. I think he called me during the healthcare debate in the House and I told him at the time I couldn't support the bill. And that is the last time I've spoken to him. But, see, Chuck, what I'm trying to do is lead by what's happening in my state which is, you know, we're up jobs, we've got money in the bank, we're taking -- we’re making sure people at the bottom get help and they're not ignored. So we have a policy here. We've got a problem, we're going to go and fix it. We dealt with race. We're now beginning to deal with the problem of gun violence. We don't turn, we don’t put our heads in the sand. We look at problems and we look for positive solutions. And that's my message to the national party. That's my message to anybody at the White House that wants to listen. And, look, Chuck, I think being open, being positive, being pro-growth and solving problems for the future. Stop thinking about what the hecks happened in the past. Move on. Because if they don't do it we're going to lose a lot of elections.

CHUCK TODD:Very quickly I want -- quick foreign policy question for you, Senator Lindsey Graham said this about the chances of the U.S. resorting to a military response against North Korea. He said, and he appeared to be sort of channeling the president here, "I would say there's a three in ten chance we use the military option. If the North Koreans conduct an additional test of a nuclear bomb there's seventh. I would say 70%." Country ready for the idea--

GOV. JOHN KASICH:No.

CHUCK TODD:--that we may be headed for a military confrontation?

GOV. JOHN KASICH:In the beginning I think the president, by putting pressure on North Korea, was doing the right thing. But this is, it’s getting carried away. And bluster and threats and throwing around the fact that we're going to be engaged in some kind of a war that could involve nuclear weapons or result in the death of millions of people, I just -- I think is just not right. And I don't think it's correct foreign policy. Here's what I do believe, I don't believe that we have put the sanctions on across the board, including those things that would affect Chinese banks, those things that would require that you cannot have a global transformation of dollars called the Swift Program. Or the ability to ensure ships that travel. The fact is the United States needs to be put together, Chuck, a coalition, the same way we did with Iran, to put the kind of pressure on both the Chinese and the Koreans. We've not done that.

CHUCK TODD:Well--

GOV. JOHN KASICH:Regardless of what they say, we haven't done it. You need to squeeze them.

CHUCK TODD:I'm going to leave it there. But as you know, I don't think this president is very, is very into the Iran example either, governor.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:Well, that's what brought them to the table, Chuck. I mean maybe the deal was flawed. Okay? But it got them to the table because the pressure that was put on them economically was severe. It's the same kind of pressure across the board that you've put on North Korea that will affect Chinese banks. Now--

CHUCK TODD:I got--

GOV. JOHN KASICH:--Chuck, I've got to tell you, I had a Christmas party last night. And somebody said, "What are you doing tomorrow?" I said, "What am I doing tomorrow? Well, tomorrow's Sunday, isn't it? And therefore it's Meet the Press."

CHUCK TODD:There it is. How better way to end it right there? Governor Kasich--

GOV. JOHN KASICH:Happy holidays.

CHUCK TODD:--Merry Christmas. Happy holidays.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:Merry Christmas.

CHUCK TODD:And all that to you.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:God bless.

CHUCK TODD:All right. Appreciate it.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:When we come back much more on the changing political landscape and why Democrats now think they do have a real chance of capturing the House. And now thanks to Doug Jones the Senate as well.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panel is with us. Syndicated columnist George Will, Helene Cooper of the New York Times, former Obama deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, and former head of the American Conservative Union, Al Cardenas. Welcome all. Uhm, the Republican Party, I want to read something, George, and I want to give you the first start here.

This is what Michael Gerson wrote on Friday, "This is the sad logic of Republican politics today. The only way that elected Republicans will abandon Trump is if they see it as in their self-interest. And the only way they will believe it is in their self-interest is to watch a considerable number of their fellow Republicans lose." That that is sort of the summary of the post-analysis in Alabama. What say you?

GEORGE WILL:

Well, self-interest has broken out in American politics.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you shocked?

GEORGE WILL:

Who knew? Yeah. I think that's right. I think these people are having trouble finding out how to balance the fact that he does, in fact, set the tone of the party and that a substantial portion of the base is still furiously enthusiastic about him. And therefore they have to navigate this. It does help that he and his echo, Mr. Bannon, failed in Alabama. But with an extraordinary flawed candidate they came very close.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me look- I’m going to put up here, Al, the various missed opportunities thanks to essentially flawed candidates for the Republican Party. You have the infamous 2010 trio of Angle, Buck and O'Donnell, Nevada, Colorado, "I'm not a witch," and the 2012, uh duo on their weird beliefs about the issue of rape, Richard Murdoch in Indiana, Todd Akin in Missouri, and now Roy Moore. That's six Senate seats you could argue that they've handed to Democrats.

AL CARDENAS:

Ouch. Without a doubt. Flawed candidates have been too much a part of our history in a primary. And that's why I'm for open primaries. I think when you narrow the field to voters in particular states at a particular time you don't come up with the best possible candidate. But that's for another day.

Look, I'm a lot more worried about the election results in Virginia than I am in Alabama. Alabama, the candidate was an anomaly, just like the ones you cited. In Virginia we had great candidate I thought. And Ed Gillespie is a suburb candidate and we lost there. But we lost downfield. And those state Senate and House losses of good people worry me a lot.

CHUCK TODD:

Alabama, how much do you take away from it for the Democrats?

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

Well, I think if Alabama were in isolation then you would have to look at it based on the flawed candidacy. But it's not an isolation. It is the latest in the trend that we've been seeing happening all year. Special elections. Even in very deep red states.

Democrats might not be taking all of them. But the margins that they are making up in very deep red districts are significant. Add that to Virginia, Alabama, what's happening all over the country. Republicans are having a hard time recruiting people to run. These are all signs that something is happening. So Alabama is not an isolated incident. There are very deep, troubling signs for the Republican Party coming out of that.

CHUCK TODD:

Helene, I want to show some more from that generic ballot we just released. Eleven point lead for the Democrats. Let me take you inside the numbers on who should control Congress here. Among those aged 18 to 34 they prefer the Democrats by 48 points, 69/21. That is not a misprint. Women favor Democrats to control Congress by 20, independents by 12. These are landslide numbers among those demographic routes.

HELENE COOPER:

They really are. But at the same time I think it's important for us to remember, particularly when you look at the Alabama election, that close to 600,000 still voted for an incredibly flawed candidate which says that at one level the Republicans have a deep base that's not going to go anywhere.

So they're starting from this certain percentage. And they have nowhere that puts them in a better position out of the starting gate. That said, you're right. I think we're absolutely looking at another case of what happened in 2010 where sort of the 2009 you saw the Scott Brown and Martha Coakley Massachusetts special election give way to the wave and the blowback against President Obama. And you are starting to see something that looks like that now.

GEORGE WILL:

Democrats are well-positioned to pick up seats in Nevada and Arizona. They, in the last week or so, got a very strong candidate who's run statewide in Tennessee twice of a popular ex-governor. And the Democrats who should be in trouble in red states carried by enormous margins by Trump in North Dakota and Montana, for example, are not in trouble.

AL CARDENAS:

Ever since Eisenhower the party in the White House has lost seats in Congress and state legislatures with exception of Ronald Reagan during his first term. All the conditions that we see now indicate that. And so the question really is are we going to lose majorities or not. But it's hard to see not losing some seats.

GEORGE WILL:

There's a second question also and that is is the country better off? Do we have better government if Congress is divided? And I think it is.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

Stephanie, I noticed a little pattern here of these candidates that Democrats have had some success with, Ralph Northam, Doug Jones, Phil Murphy, even John Ossoff in Georgia state. I guess charitably I'll called them bland. Meaning they're not fire breathers on the left. Is that something Democrats ought to very quietly be looking for is very sort of just non-threatening type, moderate style candidates? Even if they're not moderate in their ideology?

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

Well, I actually think what Senator Manchin said was what Democrats need to do. And I think that Chuck Schumer keeps this front of mind all the time, that the candidates need to fit the state or fit the district. And that's what you saw with Northam, that's what you saw with Jones, that's what you saw with Ossoff except for the fact he didn't live there.

CHUCK TODD:

That was a problem.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

That was a problem. And these guys fit the states. Jones ran as an Alabamian.

HELENE COOPER:

But don't forget, it's the Democratic base that is getting them over the line. It's the hard, true blue Democrats, it's the black voters. These are the people that are getting these. Suddenly coming, turning out at the polls. And they're the ones who are--

AL CARDENAS:

To me, the most fascinating thing is the theme. What are we going to run on? The personalities or getting things done, problem solving. I think there's a growing caucus in the House and in the Senate. And the Senate led by Joe Manchin and Susan Collins of problem solvers, people getting sick and tired of gridlock. And we'll see--

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

And not ideological. Which is really what-

AL CARDENAS:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

Looking for less idea. But she brings up, the bases do want that anyway. That's tension we will discuss a little later in the show. When we come back if the new tax bill is so good for the middle class as Republicans claim then why is this bill unpopular right now? I'm going to ask a top White House official next.

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CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, Republicans are hoping to pass their tax cut bill this week and give President Trump a chance to sign the bill into law before Christmas. The bill does this: it lowers the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent, it lowers the top individual rate from 39.6 to 37 percent, and as an added bonus to those at the top, it raises the income level where that rate kicks in, but the bill also nearly doubles the standard deduction for taxpayers who do not itemize, potentially a help for lower and moderate income holders, and it doubles the child tax credit also there were a number of changes in the final days that restored or expanded popular deductions like those for student loans and for medical expenses. Still some economists say this bill is heavily tilted in favor of the wealthy, and most Americans seem to agree with that assessment, 65 percent said that, according to a Quinnipiac poll out this week. And that perception could become a big challenge for Republicans in 2018. Joining me now is the White House director of legislative affairs, Marc Short. Mr. Short welcome back to the show.

MARC SHORT:

Chuck, thanks for having me back.

CHUCK TODD:

Uh I want to play for you a list of promises the president made when it came to taxes and discuss them with you after you hear it, here it is:

[Tape starts]

DONALD TRUMP:

At the center of our plan is massive tax relief for the American middle class.

DONALD TRUMP:

We’re gonna have three brackets instead of seven we’re doing a major major major simplification.

DONALD TRUMP:

And we’re gonna make it nice and simple.And we’re getting rid of carried interest.

DONALD TRUMP:

All of this does not add to our debt or deficit. In other words it’s going to cost me a fortune.

[End tape]

CHUCK TODD:

Alright, none of those things are true right now. We can debate the middle class aspect, in a minute, that I that that that I concede. But we’re still at seven brackets, no more tax simplification, we still have the carried interest issue which is something he vowed to get rid of multiple times as a candidate, and by the way, he does personally benefit from every analysis on this, and there is a hit on the debt. What do you say to those broken promises that the candidate Donald Trump made on taxes?

MARC SHORT:

Chuck there are many deliveries here in the bill that the president made promises on. One, it does simplify the tax code, some of the things you’re not talking about is that it eliminates oil and gas production credits, it also eliminates many deductions that families and business were taking such as specifically lobbying expenses. It’s helping to drain the swamp. There are promises he made he delivered on. There are certain industries here that made it impossible for us to deliver on every single one of those. But keep in mind what’s most important, Chuck, we’ve lowered the corporate rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, to bring jobs back to our country. That was a signature accomplishment in this bill, a 40 percent reduction, he is lowering and delivering middle income tax relief to families across the country. For an average single mom, earning $40,00 a year with two children, she gets a $1,400 dollar tax benefit. For the average family of four earning $70,000 a year, they get a $2,000 dollar tax benefit. He delivered on his promise to focus on middle income families as well as to provide corporate tax relief. The simplification, there are several elements we did simplify. We didn’t get as much as we want, it’s a part of the compromise here you have to work with.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, it was interesting to me that you led with you think the singular accomplishment here is on the corporate side of things. You made that permanent. The middle class relief you described is not permanent, and it in fact, in order to stay within the rules, it keeps creeping up when they expire. And I know you believe a future Congress won’t have the guts to let it expire, but that’s that’s -- why subject individual Americans to that cliff and not corporate America?

MARC SHORT:

It’s a fair question, Chuck. But here’s the reality of this. We would love to have the individual side permanent too. The reality is that corporations need to make investments years in advance to know what’s going to happen as opposed to numbers continuing to gyrate. You’re giving them assurances to where we’re gonna be 10 years out so they can make long term investments in our country. The budget reconciliation rules in the Senate are somewhat arcane and make it difficult to do both. If we could get the individual side permanent, we would love to do that also and we will continue to try to work and do so.

CHUCK TODD:

Is it possible Joe Manchin is right, if you opened up a bipartisan door here you could’ve actually done real reform? Instead of basically only doing a tax cut?

MARC SHORT:

Oh it is real reform. It’s the most significant tax reform we’ve had since 1986. So the reality is that I sat in Joe Manchin’s office many evenings trying to find a pathway forward to make this bipartisan and as much as I’m sorry that Senator Manchin continues to torture himself by staying in the party of Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren, we think there are ways Joe Manchin could’ve helped us out. But we could not get eight additional democrat senators to get us above a 60 vote threshold. Therefore we go the budget reconciliation route because this is important to the American economy and the American people.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to ask you about 2018. Speaker Ryan has said he wants entitlement reform to be a focus of 2018. Here’s what the president promised on the campaign trail about entitlements.

[Start tape]

DONALD TRUMP:

Save Medicare, Medicaid, and social security without cuts. Have to do it. Get rid of the fraud, get rid of the waste and abuse. But save it.

[End tape]

CHUCK TODD:

Will that campaign promise be held by the president no matter what Speaker Ryan proposes?

MARC SHORT:

Yes that campaign promise will be will be held.

CHUCK TODD:

No cuts, no way anybody will interpret any reform of Medicare as a cut?

MARC SHORT:

Keep in mind, keep in mind--

CHUCK TODD:

He’ll veto it.

MARC SHORT:

Keep in mind what we tried to do when we actually tried to repeal Obamacare would’ve had the single greatest entitlement reform in Medicaid to make sure the program was preserved. It’s on an un-unsustainable path so the president does not want to --

CHUCK TODD:

The president didn’t want to do any cuts there, but you did do cuts to Medicaid.

MARC SHORT:

We did because he was trying to protect the program. And right now it’s on an unsustainable path that will not last.

CHUCK TODD:

So without cuts, so that is a pledge he can’t keep?

MARC SHORT:

On Medicaid he has looked to make sure the program was preserved for future generations.

CHUCK TODD:

Alright, I’ve got to ask you about the Alabama Special Election.

MARC SHORT:

Yeah sure

CHUCK TODD:

Because of what you said to me a month ago about this race. Here it is.

[Begin tape]

MARC SHORT:

There’s no Senate seat more important than the notion of child pedophilia, Chuck, I mean that’s the reality.

[End tape]

CHUCK TODD:

Alabamians agreed with you, but the president didn’t. Why?

MARC SHORT:

Well the President felt his responsibility to the party that he is the standard bearer of the party, it’s who the party chose. But he also recognized that Roy Moore was a deeply flawed candidate. And the day after the election something that has not frankly received as much coverage, is the president called Doug Jones. He congratulated him on a well run campaign, and he said I look forward to working with you when you get here. We hope that frankly Doug Jones will help us change the climate here in Washington, where we can actually begin to work in a bipartisan manner. The question will be will Doug Jones actually work to represent the people of Alabama or will he side with Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer on their agenda.

CHUCK TODD:

If you knew the president was going to end up supporting Roy Moore would you have told me that?

MARC SHORT:

Chuck, those those sentiments were sentiments that were heartfelt.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you about the news overnight. I know that there is a Trump uh a lawyer for the Trump transition, Trump for America, that says that Bob Mueller’s investigation got the transition emails, ptt.gov is how all those email addresses end, got those government-issued or government-used emails um unlawfully. Mueller’s office says that’s not true. A statement this morning, “We have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner’s consent or appropriate criminal process.” Implying perhaps that there was a subpoena to GSA, do you believe these were unlawfully –

MARC SHORT:

Chuck

CHUCK TODD:

Gotten

MARC SHORT:

Chuck thankfully I’m not in communication with the transition lawyer for the Trump team. The reality is that this administration has complied in every single possible way with the special counsel, tax payers have spent millions and millions of dollars on this investigation that has not yet proven any sense of collusion with the Russians. I think the American people are ready to turn the page.

CHUCK TODD:

Ok, but is the president going to continue to cooperate?

MARC SHORT:

He is continuing to cooperate—

CHUCK TODD:

Or is he setting the stage—

MARC SHORT:

No, come on, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

For firing Bob Mueller?

MARC SHORT:

No, there’s no conversation—

CHUCK TODD:

There’s no way he’s going to fire him?

MARC SHORT:

There’s no conversation about that whatsoever in the White House, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

None whatsoever?

MARC SHORT:

You guys keep bringing that up. We have continued to cooperate in every single possible way with that investigation.

CHUCK TODD:

Ok. Marc Short, I will leave it there. I appreciate it. Thanks for coming on and sharing your views.

MARC SHORT:

Thanks Chuck, thanks for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

You got it. When we come back, a republican defeat in Alabama on Tuesday is about a lot more than Roy Moore and why that should give the GOP reason to worry.

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CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Data download time. Republicans are very quick to point out Roy Moore's many flaws as a candidate and want to call his loss in Alabama simply an outlier. But Alabama is another example of a bigger issue for the GOP, a retreat from the suburbs. Let me explain. In the five counties where the most votes were cast places with the big suburban populations, Republican Roy Moore took a beating.

He lost these counties in total by 24 percentage points. Compare that to how Republican Senator Richard Shelby did in his race a year earlier. He won those same counties by nine percentage points. Of course he had the advantage of incumbency and it was a presidential turnout. Still, a striking swing.

In 2017 you could see the beginnings of this suburban tide rolling in off-year races across the country. This was apparent in the governor's races last month in New Jersey and Virginia. In New Jersey, the top five counties gave Democrat Phil Murphy an 11 point edge, the same counties went Republican for Chris Christie by 23 points four years earlier.

In Virginia the advantage was 23 points for the Democrat Ralph Northam. In 2013 those same counties gave the Democrats only a ten point edge. Even in places where Republicans won special elections in 2017 there were signs of suburban erosion. And that infamous Georgia six special, suburban Atlanta, Republican Karen Handel eked out a four point win. But in November, 2016 the Republican margin for that suburban house seat was 23 points. Similar story in the Kansas fourth district which includes the suburbs around Wichita.

Republican Ron Estes won his special election by six points. The year before, the seat went Republican by a whopping 31 points. But what else do these places have in common? The data showed nearly all of these suburban communities also had trouble supporting President Trump in 2016.

He did far worse than average Republicans in most of these same counties. If this problem in the suburbs persists for the GOP it's going to be difficult for the party to hang onto seats all across levels of government. Whether we're talking in places around Phoenix, Nashville, Dallas, you name the urban community. When we come back, the latest on the Russia investigation and Republican efforts to delegitimize Robert Mueller.

ANNOUNCER:

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End-game, brought to you by Boeing. Continuing our mission to connect, protect, explore and inspire.

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with end-game. All right, this tax bill, Al, is it going to be all that what cures what ails the GOP for 2018?

AL CARDENAS:

You know, I don't know how we can take a lot of mileage out of it. As a big believer in the corporate tax reduction, we've got to be competitive globally, we've got to bring back taxes from abroad, those are not sexy political issues. When it comes to --we've got a long way to go to convince American voters that this was good for them. It doesn't seem like the polling numbers are heading in that direction. But we're betting the farm for 2018 on that. So we've got a long way to go.

CHUCK TODD:

George, I know you want to respond to something Marc Short said.

GEORGE WILL:

Well, first of all, he said it's the best simplification since 1986 which is rather like being the tallest building in Topeka. The fact is, they took a 70,000 page tax code and made it more complicated. Then the question rises, "Well, will the Republicans reform entitlements?" The tax code enriches the entitlement menu by doubling the child tax code and making $1,400 of it refundable which means a check goes out to people who don't pay taxes. Lowering the corporate tax rate, the proper rate for corporate taxation is zero because we don't know who pays them. Economists argue about whether it comes out of employees' wages, shareholders, passed onto customers. If you don't know who's paying a tax, don't have that tax. Reduce it 21%, it's a great thing to do. But any company that was paying 35% needed to fire its lawyers and accountants. The fact is most companies are paying on average about 28% anyway. So the whole thing here is they said, "Pass this thing. We will get 3% annual growth." They get that, everyone will forget their complaints about the tax code.

CHUCK TODD:

Stephanie, can you run against this tax bill as--

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

Sure.

CHUCK TODD:

--effectively as you claim now though when people at least temporarily feel like they're getting a couple bucks back?

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

A couple of bucks compared to what the people at the top 1% of the income chain are getting or corporations. Look, I'm not saying that corporations don't need a tax cut. But there's a way to do it and pay for it. And there's a way to reform the tax code and make it a little bit more fair. That is not what they've done here. Throwing some money for the child-- couple of dollars for the child care tax credit. People absolutely need that. And that's how you get money in the economy. But 60% of the benefits of this bill go to the top 1%. And they're asking people at the bottom of the chain to pay for it. We've seen this movie before. This is nothing new.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

Well, you're not paying for it.

AL CARDENAS:

No, I mean, it's going to--

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

There are people. Right. Which means that our kids are going to be paying for it.

AL CARDENAS:

Exactly.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

And we all are going to be paying for it in some way because to pay for this debt we have to cut somewhere.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Very quickly I want to pivot quickly to the Mueller investigation. It seems as if, again, this week more House Republicans making the case that the process they believe is rigged, that the process is rigged. And even this morning the lawyer, everything is questioning the process that Mueller is using. The only thing I keep looking at here though as far as the president is concerned is they don't have any exculpatory facts to push back against Mueller. So they're pushing back on the process. Effective enough though for the politics of this?

HELENE COOPER:

I don't think so. One thing you didn't add is also President Trump saying that he's not ready to talk about pardoning Michael Flynn yet which is another thing that adds to sort of the layers of the attacks on this Mueller investigation. It feels a lot like gaslighting right now. And I don't know that this is actually going to help. I don't think it helped. It seems enormously transparent what's been happening. And Robert Mueller just comes to the table with so much innate credibility behind him that I don't see how this can fly.

CHUCK TODD:

I don't know. This groundwork looks like it's softened up on the right here a little bit, George.

GEORGE WILL:

It is astonishing that a man of Mueller's experience, probity and intelligence would not be more careful than he was in hiring these people who had records that were vulnerable to this. Those of us who have argued for decades that independent councils are a bad idea because it represents a failure of confidence in existing institutions and because a lawyer with one case tends to become Ahab looking for his white whale are rather enjoying this.

AL CARDENAS:

Well, here's the thing, all of that is true. What is inescapable is the fact that there have been charges against Paul Manafort. No one argues that they seem right. There's been two members of the administration who've pled guilty already with competent council.And so when they say, "Well, this thing's taking too long." Well, what are you talking about? The last person who pled guilty pled guilty a month ago. And so in spite of what one may see it seems like their product, meaning the indictments or pleading guilty, have been on point. And nobody's argued those. So the arguing about closing this up while these charges are taking places to me is reckless. And the last part is, boy, we're undermining the basic institutions of our country.

CHUCK TODD:

No, no, no. Unfortunately I have to end that conversation here. But finally we're reminded this week of George Carlin's famous routine, Seven Words You Can't Say on TV, when we learned that the Trump administration has come up with its own list of seven words you can't say at the CDC. That's right. There are seven words or phrases that the Centers for Disease Control is being told it should not use when it asks for its budget approval from Congress. Now we're not going to put up a graphic with all the words. But clearly this is not science-based.

To be fair, the CDC has no entitlement to use any particular words. And we use assume there's a diversity of opinion on this ruling. After all, there is evidence-based disagreement over the viability of a fetus. And we're all aware of the emotional debate over transgender Americans that has played out in recent years. But anyone who has observed totalitarian regimes knows how vulnerable we all can be to government overreach. That's all for today. Thanks for watching. We'll be back next week because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press. That was (UNINTEL).

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