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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, Northam digs in. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam refuses to resign.

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM:

The person I was is not the man I am today.

CHUCK TODD:

After denying that he is in this photo from his medical school yearbook page.

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM:

This was not my picture. I was not in that costume, either, as blackface or as KKK. And it's not me.

CHUCK TODD:

With the Democrats universally denouncing Northam, how can they get him to leave? I'll talk to two leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus, Karen Bass and Donald McEachin. Plus, Democrats divided on the best way to defeat President Trump. On one side, progressives, like Elizabeth Warren.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

Let's be really clear. Capitalism without rules is theft.

CHUCK TODD:

On the other, moderates like Michael Bloomberg.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

I'm a little bit tired of listening to things that are pie in the sky.

CHUCK TODD:

My guest this morning, the Democrat who says he could be one to bridge that gap, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Also, the president, the speaker, and the border wall.

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI:

There's not going to be any wall money in the legislation.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

She's just playing games. So if there's no wall, it doesn't work.

CHUCK TODD:

Will President Trump declare a national emergency? Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida is here. Joining me for insight and analysis are Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post; NBC News chief White House correspondent Hallie Jackson; Rich Lowry, editor of National Review; Maria Teresa Kumar, president of Voto Latino; and Mark Leibovich, chief national correspondent for the New York TimesMagazine. 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. When Ralph Northam beat Ed Gillespie in Virginia in 2017, it was in a racially charged governor's race that Northam won thanks, in part, to strong support from African American voters.

[BEGIN TAPE]

PRES. BARACK OBAMA:

Ralph believes that, if we're going to talk about our history, then we should do it in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds, not in a way that divides.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Now, his career may be over, after this photo from Northam's medical school yearbook page, which emerged late Friday. Within hours, Northam apologized, writing, "I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now." But yesterday, a reversal. Northam said he'd never seen the yearbook before. And he claimed he was not in the photo.

[BEGIN TAPE]

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM:

This was not my picture. I was not in that costume, either as blackface or as KKK. And it's not me.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Northam conceded that people will find it difficult to believe him. Then, perhaps underscoring that prediction, he revealed that he had worn blackface before.

[BEGIN TAPE]

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM:

That same year, I did participate in a dance contest in San Antonio, in which I darkened my face as part of a Michael Jackson costume. I look back now and regret that I did not understand the harmful legacy of an action like that.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Northam's political future is clearly in peril. Virtually the entire Democratic establishment, including Virginia's two Democratic senators, has called for his resignation. And Northam's press conference only accelerated those calls. Pretty much the only Democrat we haven't heard from is Former-President Barack Obama. It's possible that, ten or 20 years ago, a politician like Northam could have apologized his way out of this. But the political climate has clearly changed. Democrats, in particular, are showing zero tolerance, especially among their own, for behavior that they have condemned President Trump for. And if Northam won't go on his own, what do Democrats do? Joining me now are two members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Karen Bass of California is the chair of the CBC, who joins us from Los Angeles. And Congressman Donald McEachin of Virginia is also in CBC leadership. He has also been an important player and participant in Virginia politics, going back to the mid-'90s. Welcome to both of you. Congressman McEachin, let me start with you. I know you've called for his resignation. Is there anything he can do that would somehow convince you to give him more time in office?

REP. DONALD McEACHIN:

No. And I consider Ralph a friend. We were elected to the State Senate at the same time. But look, he’s lost the authority to lead. He's lost the authority to govern. He has to resign. It's in the best interest of the Commonwealth. It's in the best interest of the party.

CHUCK TODD:

Congresswoman Bass, why is this so important, nationally, in your mind, for Governor Northam to go?

REP. KAREN BASS:

Well, because I think he's been completely dishonest and disingenuous. He knew this picture was there. And he could've come clean and talked to African Americans that he's close to decades ago. And I think, given the overall climate around race in this country, especially over the last two years, it's completely unacceptable. The good news is, though, is that there is a zero tolerance. And people do understand. And he needs to resign immediately to stop the pain in Virginia and, frankly, around the nation.

CHUCK TODD:

Congresswoman Bass, I want to follow up, though, on something that Governor Northam, himself, said yesterday. He was making the case that, if he quickly left office, then this gets swept under the rug, and we don't have a conversation. He's trying to make the case that, somehow, him staying in office, that in some ways, it's the harder thing to do. And it forces a conversation that we don't normally have on race. What do you say to that?

REP. KAREN BASS:

No, he’s forc-- he's forcing the wrong conversation. What he should do is resign. And then, if he has any integrity at all, he should participate in that conversation. You know, he was completely disingenuous, when he talked about he didn't understand this in 1984, and that this was commonplace. He's basically saying that he participated in it and especially when he described the time that he did the Mart-- the Michael Jackson impression. He even acted, at the press conference, like he was willing to moonwalk, until his wife stopped him, which shows that he still does not understand the seriousness of his actions.

CHUCK TODD:

Congressman McEachin, have you talked with Governor Northam in the last 48 hours? And if so, what's his explanation to you?

REP. DONALD McEACHIN:

I haven't spoken to him since Friday, I believe. And at that time, he was apologetic for having been in the photograph and that sort of thing. So I was really surprised when, the next day, he comes out and says, it's not him. That was quite a surprise to me.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to play something else that he said, Congressman McEachin. And that is, he was talking about the climate of the '80s, where he grew up. Here he is, Governor Northam.

[BEGIN TAPE]

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM:

While I did not appear in this photo, I am not surprised by its appearance in the EVMS yearbook. In the place and time where I grew up, many actions that we rightfully recognize as abhorrent today were commonplace.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Congressman McEachin, this is one year before the state of Virginia made history, at that time, and elected the first African American statewide officeholder in Doug Wilder as lieutenant governor in 1985. 1964, that would've made sense to me. 1984, in Eastern Virginia, this is the son of a judge and a schoolteacher, mind you. Is that an explanation that you can accept?

REP. DONALD McEACHIN:

No. My family's been from Virginia, and I've lived in the Richmond area since third grade. And I can tell you that, to the best of my knowledge, it was not commonplace in 1984. But let's assume, without conceding that it was, indeed, commonplace, slavery was commonplace. That doesn't make it right. Massive resistance was commonplace. That doesn't make it right. Jim Crow was commonplace. That didn't make it right. And so too, if blackface was commonplace in 1984, that doesn't make it right. And Ralph should've known better.

CHUCK TODD:

Congresswoman Bass, I'm sure you -- and I’m sure some Virginia Democrats feel this way, the fact that he won't leave, everybody -- as I said, I think there's only two people, technically, that haven't called for his resignation on the Democratic side of the aisle: Former-President Obama and the current lieutenant governor, which both -- it's understandable. He would directly benefit. So he's been hesitant to fully call for the resignation. What else -- what other, what other ways are there to get him out of office?

REP. KAREN BASS:

Well, I mean, I think that's up to the legislators. But I believe that they can impeach him. And I think that that is a perfect example of extending the pain. If he was sincere at all, he would recognize the pain that he has caused. But the way he described 1984, I mean, that is just so not true. 1984 was a time of great hope. We were hopeful that we would have the first black president. That was in the middle of Jesse Jackson's campaign, in the middle of the anti-apartheid movement. So he basically has shown that he is not honest. He's disingenuous. He needs to resign. And if he has any, any way that he wants to regain his integrity, he would resign and then participate in the discussion.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Congressman McEachin, it seems clear to me that Governor Northam thinks, "Wait a minute. Does my record in public service count at all?" That his argument is, look what I’ve -- his first executive order was expanding what is discrimination in the state of Virginia, and that his explanation is, when it's counted, he's been on the right side of these issues. Where does that fit in here, as you make these determinations about his future?

REP. DONALD McEACHIN:

You know, we're certainly grateful for the contributions he's made to the betterment of Virginia. But the question now is, is can you lead? Can you help us heal? And given the actions that he's demonstrated over the past 48 hours, the answer is clearly no. You can’t -- it can't be you in the photograph one day, and then it's not the next day. You can't excuse it all and say, "Oh, I know that I didn't do blackface in this yearbook, because I did it in a Michael Jackson dance contest." And, and by the way, I don't know if anybody heard it besides me. But his notion that you can't get polish off your face easily suggests to me that that was not the first time that he had tried blackface. So, um --

CHUCK TODD:

That jumped out at me, too, congressman. It was something I was going to bring up with the panel later. But yeah, you're sitting there, going, that was a -- "Why do you know -- have such familiarity with it?"

REP. DONALD McEACHIN:

Exactly.

REP. KAREN BASS:

But he -- but excuse me, but he has also been inconsistent. So he was great after Charlottesville, in terms of the Confederate monuments. And then he backtracked on that and said, "Well, maybe we shouldn't get rid of them. Maybe it should be a local decision." He's been inconsistent.

CHUCK TODD:

Congressman McEachin, I'd love for you to tell us a little bit about the lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax. There's some poetic justice, perhaps, if he becomes the next governor. The day before he took the oath to be a lieutenant governor, his father had done some research in his family trees and found the manumission papers that freed his ancestors. And it says this, from the-- at the time. He said, "It was the manumission papers from my three-greats-ago grandfather, Simon Fairfax, in 1798. And he was freed by the Ninth Lord Fairfax. And so as I raise my right hand to take the oath of office as lieutenant governor of Virginia, I had in my breast pocket, the papers that freed my three-greats-ago grandfather." His surname comes from his slav -- from his descendant's slave owner. Is that poetic justice to you, congressman?

REP. DONALD McEACHIN:

It is a wonderful story that Justin has. And he has been a fantastic lieutenant governor. He's been a fantastic public servant. And should he ascend to the governorship, he will be a fantastic governor. And, you know, I want America to remember that this is the 400th anniversary of Africans coming to the shores of Jamestown, in chains. And so the look of that commemoration service combined with a governor that's been talking about blackface and misleading us about blackface is not the look that, I think, Virginia wants to portray to the nation.

CHUCK TODD:

Congressman McEachin, Congresswoman Bass, thank you both for coming on this morning and sharing your views.

REP. KAREN BASS:

Thanks for having us on.

CHUCK TODD:

Much appreciated.

REP. DONALD McEACHIN:

Thank you for your time.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, the first wave of calls for Northam's resignation, nationally, came from those either running or considering a run for president, including my next guest, who just spent three days in Iowa, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Senator Brown, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

It's good to be back. Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, you added your name. You said, "He's got to go." He doesn't want to go. Let me ask this -- the question this way. Is there anything he can do to convince you he should remain in the public square to lead in the healing?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

Well, he should remain in the public square by explaining and talking and working to heal. But he should do it from a position of private citizen. And I, I agree with Congresswoman Bass and Congressman McEachin. I thought their insight, insights were very important. I think he should resign now. He then can contribute to this dialogue. But as I said, he should do it as a private citizen.

CHUCK TODD:

What does it say that something like this is now -- folks are now being held accountable for blackface in ways, frankly, that we didn't, we didn’t have that kind of, that strong of a moral code, I would argue, in our politics, until recently? Why do you think that is?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

Well, I think this country hasn't dealt well with the issues of race. I mean, we have a president who's a racist. Who we have, you know —

CHUCK TODD:

Let me pause you there. You believe, in his heart, he's a racist?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

Well, I don't know what, "in his heart," means. I know that he built his political career, knowing what he was doing on questioning the legitimacy and the birthplace of the President of the United States. I know, early, and we -- there have been all kinds of news reports about what he did early in his career on housing. We know, I mean, read TheNew Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Read The Color of Law, about housing discrimination and decades and decades and decades of housing discrimination. And we know that the Trump family, including the now-sitting president, played to that and deepened that. So these issues, this is not a recent — Charlottesville was only a symptom and a more-public viewing and outing, if you will, of the president's views about race. I mean, there's just no question about that. We know the president doesn't tell the truth frequently. We know he lies frequently. And we know of his racial back — racist comments and background.

CHUCK TODD:

You spent the last couple of --

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

You know, and that's not even counting, Chuck, that's not even counting the policies of this administration. We have consent decrees all over this country, including in Cleveland. We have a Justice Department that's turned its back on it. We know about voter suppression. I was secretary of state of Ohio. My job, when I was secretary of state, was to encourage people of all races to vote, especially young people, and especially young people of color. And we worked at that. We now have a government that suppresses the vote. And we know what happened in Georgia. And we know what happened in Florida.

CHUCK TODD:

One of the ways you've talked about your potential candidacy for president, while you were in Iowa, you talk about talking to the working-class voters that you thought Democrats had been ignoring. There is a racial component to that conversation, as far as some are concerned, that the white working-class vote, it's a cultural reason, that even though the Democratic policies, maybe they agree with. But there's cultural reasons why they're not comfortable with the Democratic Party. How do you bridge that divide? Because it feels like race plays a role in this.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

Well, I mean, listen to what we've been saying, whether it's in Iowa or when I'm going to South Carolina in a couple of weeks or our hometown of Cleveland and where Connie and I live, in a, you know, racially mixed neighborhood, of course. And the -- when you talk about the dignity of work, I'm talking about all workers, whether you swipe a badge or punch a clock, whether you're working on salary or working for tips, whether you shower before work or after work, whether you're raising kids. And always recognizing that women and people of color have even more challenges in the workplace, in terms of wages, in terms of benefits, in terms of schedules, where they arrange childcare, and their employer then changes their hours that they're working. So the dignity of work is, clearly, all workers in this country. And if -- it's, it’s a pitch to the broad numbers of people in this country that aren't treated well, that don’t — that work hard every day and simply aren't getting ahead. If you love your country, you'll fight for the people who make it work, across all races. And that's the theme of my campaign, if there — if I do run for president, certainly, the theme of the dignity of work.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, you said something else to Yahoo News earlier this week. You were talking about your election in Ohio, your recent reelection. You said, "There are 88 counties in Ohio. I won 16 of them. And I won the state by seven points. But in many of those other 72 counties, we got emasculated. They weren't even close. There's this awful divide between the metro areas and the smaller towns." What did you mean by, "emasculated," there?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

What would you —

CHUCK TODD:

And what is the divide? What is the divide?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

That may have not been exactly the right word, maybe massacred —

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

— maybe, blown away. What did President, what did President Obama say, when -- after the ‘10 elections? He had a really good word about how we didn't do so well in some states. I mean it’s -- one of the reasons, in Iowa we started our -- in 15° below 0° weather, we started in Cresco, Iowa --

CHUCK TODD:

Get used to that.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

-- and went to Clear Lake and went to Mason City and went to smaller towns, because I mean, Wall Street overlooks, bypasses those towns. And state and federal government just ignores those towns, like my hometown of Mansfield. And those towns are often racially mixed. This isn't a metro, diverse, metro area versus a white, rural area. These are small towns that are hurt from globalization, hurt from a tax policy. In Trump’s tax, in the president's tax law, you shut down production in Dubuque, where we were this week and had a great turnout, you shut down production in Dubuque and move overseas, you get a 50% off coupon in your taxes. That's the problem. That's what we're doing to these small cities, in rural areas, whether it's Iowa or Ohio or California.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to talk about some of the issues that could divide Democrats a bit. One of them is the issue of universal healthcare. And you've got some that are calling for Medicare for all. You've got Michael Bloomberg, who almost seems to share a little bit of your frustration, when it comes to over-promising. Take a listen to what Michael Bloomberg said in responding to a whole bunch of these ideas.

[BEGIN TAPE]

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

I'm a little bit tired of listening to things that are pie in the sky, that we never are going to pass, never going to afford. I think it's just disingenuous to promote those things.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

You seemed to say that -- you were asked about Medicare for all. And while you said kind things about it, you seemed to express a similar frustration. We talk about it, talk about it, make no progress. That's a mistake. How do you campaign on incrementalism, when some voters want big, bold change that probably is difficult to follow through with?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

Well, nobody's accused me, in my career, of being an incrementalist. I have always fought for bold change. I live in a state, Ohio, I represent a state where Trump's promises of bringing back jobs and re-industrialization and opening up new factories have clearly just fallen flat. I mean, he's done nothing on these promises. So I know a whole lot about a president over-promising and breaking those promises and selling out and betraying workers. But let me answer the question this way. I was in Dubuque. A woman came up to me, early 60s. She told us that her -- she told Connie and me her husband had died of cancer. She had quit her job to take care of him. She is very anxious about what happens with her healthcare, now. So I want to expand Medicare. I'm for universal coverage. I promised, in my first congressional race, I'd pay my own insurance, until Congress passed it. I did, for years, pay my own insurance. Connie and I are now on the Obamacare exchanges, with millions of other people, getting our insurance. But if we move, if we — so I have helped to write, with Senator Whitehouse of Rhode Island, the public option. And we've worked for Medicare for all. I want to help people quickly. I want to pass Medicare at 55 or even 50, so she can get coverage, and her life can improve, and she can have that anxiety allayed, so she has -- so she can have a better life with her kids and her grandkids. That's what I want to see done.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Senator Brown, unfortunately, I have to leave it there. Much appreciate you coming on and sharing your views.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

And we hope to see you first, when you make your final decision. Thank you, Senator.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

All right, thank you for that.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, why the Ralph Northam debacle is so much bigger than the fate of just one politician. Panel is next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, the panel is here. Eugene Robinson, columnist for The Washington Post; Maria Teresa Kumar, president of Voto Latino; NBC News chief White House correspondent Hallie Jackson; Rich Lowry, editor of National Review; and Mark Leibovich, chief national correspondent for the New York TimesMagazine. To reinforce this notion that there is, pretty much, no one left in the Democratic Party who's not called on Northam -- we have to do a scroll of -- and these are just the prominent folks that have called for his resignation. You'll see James Comey is on there, as well. For some reason, he chimed in. He's a Virginia resident. Eugene Robinson, the only two people left are Justin Fairfax and Barack Obama.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Exactly.

CHUCK TODD:

I feel like Barack Obama's the closer here, the the last hostage negotiator to call the guy, like, "Come on, Governor Northam."

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Well, you would think that the two sitting senators, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, plus the dean of the Virginia Congressional Delegation, Bobby Scott, you would think them calling him and saying, "You've got to go," would have done it, right? Because the entire Democratic Party, in Virginia, is against him, says he has to go. He's supposed to be the governor of Virginia. You can't do that. I mean, how do you effectively govern the state of Virginia? And the answer is, you cannot, if you are Ralph Northam. You probably could not, after Friday's story. You definitely could not, after yesterday's press conference.

CHUCK TODD:

Press conference made it worse.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Oh, it absolutely made it worse.

HALLIE JACKSON:

If there's one thing I've learned, covering Donald Trump's campaign and his administration, it's that the lifespan of a political scandal can be incredibly short. And I talked to some folks familiar with the situation, some Democrats, who say, "Listen. Ralph Northam could stay governor," right? He clearly doesn't want to step down, or he would have done it by now. He has to accept he's going to be a lonely pariah who is weak and ineffective. But he could stay in that job. Because really, the only way out now is for the legislature to impeach. That's a fairly high bar. You have to get the House to vote on malfeasance, corruption, neglect of duty, and then the Senate, two-thirds of the Senate, to remove. I'm not -- setting aside what he should do. Because I think every Democrat says, what he should do is step down. What he could do is hunker down for the next six months and accept he's going to be ineffective.

MARK LEIBOVICH:

Because the word, should, becomes very irrelevant very quickly here. Because if you're going to use should, it's confined very much to one party. You could say that Steve King should resign. You could say, Donald Trump should've stepped out of the race in 2016.

HALLIE JACKSON:

After Access Hollywood.

MARK LEIBOVICH:

The fact is, one of the safest jobs you can be in in America, is a public figure, is if you were accountable only to voters.

MARIA TERESA KUMAR:

Well, I think the difference between the individuals that you mentioned is that the Democratic Party has really demonstrated their brand. They've actually said, "Look. We are going to be a zero-tolerance party." That is why Al Franken had to go. And this is why he has -- Northam has to go. And the reason it has to be a zero-tolerance party, a lot of folks will say, "You know what? He did this when he was 24. That was 35 years ago." Do we really want to have this conversation in 35 years, when two years ago, we had tiki torches running down, marching down the street in Charlottesville, because they were just young, young white, American men just trying to be impressionable? It's not okay.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

And in the year 2019, 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans who were enslaved, 1619, in Jamestown, as Congressman McEachin mentioned, that's going to be going on all year, you know, marking that date, all year.

CHUCK TODD:

Rich, you went to UVA. You went to public schools in northern Virginia. You are a Virginian through and through. I'm just curious. How do you feel this morning?

RICH LOWRY:

Well, not a great day for Virginia. I had no use for Ralph Northam prior to this. I found his comments on abortion totally repellant. Last week -- he’s absolutely torched his credibility over this. But I do think, outside of Northam, and the specifics of this case, because now, there are all sorts of other things in play, maladroit he's been handling it. I'm hesitant about creating a political culture where lapses, 30 or 40 years ago, are used to entirely define someone's life and career, especially if there's no evidence that they're part of a pattern.

CHUCK TODD:

That, to me, Eugene, that, to me, is sort of what we're struggling with. We have zero tolerance, and yet, his record, on the public square, was pretty good.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Right. Okay, so we could've had this discussion, you know, at another time. We could've had this discussion, when he was running for governor. We could've had this discussion, this information, out there for voters to use, as they decided who to vote for for governor. He was elected, he would not have been elected, had not African Americans in Virginia voted overwhelmingly for him. I mean, you know, that's the way the electorate works in Virginia. And so it's past time for that. Had he disclosed this question, and now, he says, "I didn't know about my own yearbook page photograph," which is not credible.

HALLIE JACKSON:

But he did know about the other time he did blackface.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

But he did know about --

HALLIE JACKSON:

The other time he did it, right?

EUGENE ROBINSON:

-- you know, the shoe polish and Michael Jackson.

MARIA TERESA KUMAR:

But I think, Eugene --

EUGENE ROBINSON:

And we didn't know.

MARIA TERESA KUMAR:

But I think, Eugene, I think the crux of the issue really is, is the Democratic Party going to espouse any leeway for this to happen? And I say this, because in order for them to be the party of authenticity, the party of the future, they're going to need every single voter, coming into the 2020 election. So if they allow any kind of movement, they’re -- all of a sudden, their coalition breaks down. And they have to be very clear that, "We are moving forward."

HALLIE JACKSON:

You talk about that there is sort of this struggle between what Rich talked about -- Democrats aren't struggling with that. Democrats have made up their mind about what they want.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Oh, yeah.

HALLIE JACKSON:

My question for Ralph Northam is, what do you want? Because if you want to be governor and be not effective, you're not chair of the DGA, my friend. You're not going to get a speaking spot at the convention, right? Do you want to just stay in that governor's mansion, no matter what? Or do you really want to try to be somebody who ends up trying to have these conversations to heal? Because it doesn't feel like his path is the one.

RICH LOWRY:

To inject a little cynicism into this conversation, right? We are in Washington. This is a gimme for Democrats, right? Because the lieutenant governor has much more political upside. He's a compelling figure. He's an African American. He has a great story. And he can run again after serving out the rest of Northam's term. So this is, politically, this is easy.

CHUCK TODD:

To follow up on that, if the lieutenant governor were a Republican right now, I think the resignation calls would be there, but would we have a different reaction?

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Oh, I don't think so. I don't think the reaction would be different. I mean, I think, and again, especially after yesterday, I think people who watched and listened to that press conference yesterday lost confidence in the ability of Governor Northam --

CHUCK TODD:

I was going to play the moonwalk moment. We're low on time. But the moonwalk moment was, you're just like, "What did I just see?"

MARIA TERESA KUMAR:

It's a car crash.

CHUCK TODD:

I mean, thank God for the first lady.

MARK LEIBOVICH:

Look, I mean, first of all, the other thing is, what if he were a Democratic Senator, and there was a Republican Governor of Virginia? That would be a very different conversation, also. But the fact is, look, I don't think this is settled law within the Democratic Party. I don't think it's settled law within politics. I think that there are a lot of gray areas here. And if you talk to a lot of people who have jumped out of the race, whether it's Gary Hart, in 1988, or Al Franken, in 2017, whenever it was, they will say that they struggled with whether they should get out or not. And that is the seminal question of their public career.

MARIA TERESA KUMAR:

But I actually think that, right now, the American public, they are sick and tired of having to rehash these conversations. And in 35 years, we don't want to have this conversation. So the way you do it is not stamp it out. You actually have to weed it out.

RICH LOWRY:

I think just -- you have to make some allowance, because we're human beings, for stupidity, bad taste, ignorance, and be willing to accept sincere apologies.

HALLIE JACKSON:

But I think the challenge was that he did not come out and tell the American people, "I may have done blackface."

RICH LOWRY:

Oh, I mean, it was terrible --

HALLIE JACKSON:

I mean, I covered it Friday night --

RICH LOWRY:

Yeah, his response was terrible.

HALLIE JACKSON:

-- when this was all breaking. And it was -- you couldn't get in touch with the Governor's office, if your life depended on it. Then he came out and said, "I did a racist thing." Then he came out the next day and said, he didn't do that racist thing. But he did another racist thing. So I think there are some who are questioning how sincere the whole thing actually was.

CHUCK TODD:

I think if he were going to be on the ballot box soon, I think everybody would say, "well, let's let the voters decide." But he's not going to be on the ballot box, perhaps, ever.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

No, if perhaps ever, no. And you know, I mean, look, if we were talking about something he did in 1884 or 1934 or something like that, I think I would have, perhaps, a different reaction. I would, perhaps, accept his explanation. "Oh, well, everybody did it."

HALLIE JACKSON:

Yeah, but I think --

EUGENE ROBINSON:

But everybody didn't do that in 1984. It's just simply the case. Everybody didn't do that in 1984. Everybody didn't put shoe polish on their face.

HALLIE JACKSON:Right.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, again, the state of Virginia was one year away from making history with Doug Wilder. When we come back, that sound you hear is the clock ticking down to another government shutdown deadline. Senator Rick Scott of Florida joins me next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. With two weeks for the president and congressional leaders to make a border deal, Republican leader Mitch McConnell is, reportedly, warning President Trump, both in public and private, against using his exit ramp, a national emergency declaration. But is the president listening?

[BEGIN TAPE]

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

I'm for whatever works, which means avoiding a shutdown and avoiding the president feeling he should declare a national emergency.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

I think there's a good chance that we'll have to do that. But we will, at the same time, be building, regardless, we're building a wall. And we're building a lot of wall. But I could do it a lot faster the other way.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now is Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida. And I say, "Senator," because this is his first time on the show as senator. Senator Scott, welcome. And have you decided, like a bunch of other former governors in the Senate, that you miss the old title?

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

Oh, Chuck, it's a different job. But you know, I ran for the job, because I wanted to get something done. D.C.'s dysfunctional.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, well --

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

It's very frustrating.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, let's start about this frustrating topic.

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

We're going to get there.

CHUCK TODD:

You actually -- it's ironic. You had to take the oath during a shutdown, right? All of these new members elected in 2018, taking an oath of shut -- talk about your metaphor for dysfunction. Has the president, and his public threat of a national emergency still, does that undermine -- doesn't that undermine the negotiations that are happening now on Capitol Hill?

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

Well, first off, I don't think the first thing you want to do is use your emergency power to do things like this. But if I was the president right now, I'd be pretty frustrated. You know, everybody says, "Oh, gosh. We don't want government shut down." And everybody says, "We need border security." And then you see Nancy Pelosi sit there and say, "There's not going to be any money for a wall." When you talk to border security, they say, "You have to have barriers." So people are being disingenuous. It's like they're just actors. And there's just a lot of hatred up there for President Trump, on the Democratic side. And it's frustrating. We've got to get something done. It's not my first choice for him to use his emergency power. But he's proposed things. Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are not being -- they’re not negotiating with him in good faith, I don't believe. And so if I was sitting in his position, I mean, I would go out there, and I would say, "I'm going to use whatever power I have to solve the problem." We have to have border security. We have to take care of the DACA kids. And on top of that, I think we need to have a permanent solution for TPS. Let's go start solving these problems, instead of just talking, talking, talking, and nothing gets done.

CHUCK TODD:

TPS, by the way, Temporary Protected Status for quite a few other communities. And in Florida, I know that it's, particularly, some Central American immigrants, in particular, on that. But I want to ask you about something you just said. You said that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer were being disingenuous, and the president wasn't. I'm just sort of curious. He had -- he walked away from two deals that seemed to be on the table. And then he walks away. So why should Democrats trust the president? DACA for the wall was about a 48-hour deal. And then the president walked away from that. And then 48 hours -- Senator McConnell thought he had a deal, at least to avoid a shutdown. And the president walked away from that. So is this really just on the Democrats? Doesn't President Trump own some of this disingenuousness?

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

Everybody does. You know, everybody's got to act in good faith. Everybody's got to stop saying, "This is all about, you know, this is about winning and losing." It's not. It's about what's good for the American public. The public wants border security. The public doesn't want government shut down. You know, I ran, basically, saying, "We've got to change the direction of Washington. We need to have term limits. You know, you do a shutdown, you don't pass a budget, Congress shouldn't get paid." So we've got to make sure that people start working together. And I think everybody's got to figure out how to do that. And I'm going to try my best to be part of that.

CHUCK TODD:

What is it that you think is a reasonable compromise, at this point? Would you advise the president to take half of the money he's asking for at this point, I mean, actually come to a compromise, acknowledge divided government? What would your advice to the president be? I know you and him are, professionally, very close.

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

Sure. What I would say to him is, we have to have border security. From my standpoint, what I would want would be -- I'd want a permanent fix. Let's fund -- let’s talk to -- and which I did a week or so ago. I sat down with border security. What do you need? They need people. They need technology. They need barriers. We need to do it permanent. Let’s -- I think -- what I like is, I think what I'd like is to fix everything: fix that, welcome our Dreamers, a permanent solution for TPS. But I'd start the path. What I did as governor, I just, "What could I get done today," and I did it. And I went forward with the next thing.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, there is a compromise on the shelf. In fact, your colleague, Marco Rubio, in the Senate, was one of the, essentially, one of the sponsors and organizers of it, the Gang of Eight compromise from 2013. You were governor of Florida at that time. What's wrong with that compromise? It had new barriers. It had -- it dealt with DACA. As Michael Bennet said, very dramatically on the Senate floor, it had $46 billion in border security funding, not just $5 billion.

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

Well, first of all, I want to thank Marco Rubio. Because I know he's been a big proponent of taking care of the Dreamers and working on trying to fix TPS and also working on border security. I think something like that, we need to look at all of the provisions, what's in that, as compared to where we are today. But I think we ought to look at things like that. We ought to do a big deal. But I want to get something done. I do not want government shut down. I want to have border security. We all know we should do this. People have to stop being actors and sit down and get something done. You shouldn't go into negotiation, like Nancy Pelosi did, and say, "There's going to be no money for a wall." There has to be border security. There has to be barriers. We all know that.

CHUCK TODD:

What -- this issue of shutdown versus national emergency, if the president doesn't want to do national emergency but won't sign this deal, you're stuck with a shutdown. What do you do, as a Senate Republican?

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

I think it's going to be tough. I think it's going to be very difficult. I was very frustrated, as an example. Our Coast Guard didn't get paid during the shutdown. I think, and first off, I don't, I don’t like shutdowns. But our Coast Guard, part of our military, didn't get paid. And we had a bill sponsored to do that. And Chuck Schumer stopped that, even. I mean, there's just so much hatred up there right now. And people aren't working together. We've got to stop and say, "Let's act in the best interest of the American public, instead of, 'Oh, how do I win the next election?'"

CHUCK TODD:

I want to switch gears here, the issue of Venezuela. What is the line? The president has not ruled out sending the military in. We've sent humanitarian aid in. I assume that it has some military protection, as we send that aid in. When do you think it is appropriate to send in the American military to overthrow Maduro?

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

Well, Chuck, what you hope is, if Maduro understand that that is an option, and if he actually believes that's an option, and world leaders all over are telling him that he's got to step aside, and you see those protests yesterday, then I think he’ll , hopefully, he'll step aside.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think the president, then, needs to be more aggressive in threatening the use of force?

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

No. I think they've been clear. I think they've been clear that everything's on the table. I mean we’re seeing, look at the number of people that protested again yesterday. We're starting to see the military move now, which is the key right now. That's the only thing that's propping up Maduro, and the Cuban thugs that are there. So I'm optimistic that something's going to happen here. I spoke to Juan Guaidó last week. I told him, "I'm going to do everything I can to help." You just feel so sorry. Most families, nine out of ten families, don't have enough money for food. 80% of the kids under five are malnutrition -- have malnutrition. I mean, I heard stories, on Friday, from a lot of Venezuelans. And it's just you can't believe -- why would Maduro be doing this to his citizens? And so I think everything's got to be on the table. I hope we never have to use military force. But everything's got to be on the table.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Senator Rick Scott, the new senator from Florida, former Republican governor. Thanks for coming on and sharing your views, sir. Good to see you here.

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, for decades, politicians like to claim, "There's just little difference between the two political parties." Well, people don't believe that anymore. And we have the numbers to prove it. That's next.

CHUCK TODD:

We are back. Data Download time. Two years into the Trump presidency, and Americans now agree that the two political parties represent two drastically different points of view. Maybe that doesn't shock you today, but it's shocking. According to new data from Pew, 54% of Americans say there's a great deal of difference between the two parties. This is actually the first time that a majority of the country has agreed on that issue. Consider that, in 1987, only 25% of respondents said the same thing. In fact, the exact same percentage of people said there was hardly any difference between Republicans and Democrats back in the late '80s. Right now though, this divide seems just fine, particularly with Republicans. In fact, they want more separation from the Democrats. 57% of Republicans say they want the party to be more conservative than it is now. Only 39% think it should be more moderate. Democrats, on the other hand, though, seem to be a bit more uneasy about the party's move to the left. Only 40% of Democrats, not a majority, think the party should be more liberal. That's not something you'd like to hear, if you're, say, Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. 54% of Democrats think the party should take a more-moderate route. So do any of these divides provide an opening for a viable third-party candidate? According to a Gallup poll from the fall, 57% of Americans still believe a third major political party is necessary. Sometimes, I've seen that number as high as about 65%. But in this poll, it includes 54% of Democrats, the same percent who want Democrats to be more moderate. Those could be the voters that someone like Howard Schultz is hoping to pick up, if he runs as an Independent. Look, looking at this data, we can expect more of the same from President Trump, heading into the 2020 election. He knows what his voters want. And it's not moderation. On the other side, though, we keep hearing how the Democrats are lurching to the left. That may be true of some Democratic candidates. But this suggests that party voters may want something a bit more moderate. They may be looking for someone that's a bit more electable. And when we come back, we'll look at the fight for the Democratic nomination and at the looming deadline for another government shutdown.

ANNOUNCER:

Meet the Press Compressed is sponsored by BP. At BP, we see possibilities everywhere.

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with End Game. There's a lot of other stuff to get to. Hallie Jackson, the president seemed to have a third option. He has national emergency. He has government shutdown. Or he has just say the wall's been built. Take a listen to the president earlier this week.

[BEGIN TAPE]

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

The chant now should be, "Finish the wall," as opposed to, "Build the wall." Because we're building a lot of wall. We haven't declared the national emergency yet. Yet, we're building a lot of wall. We're already appropriated. We have a lot of appropriation. It's already been done.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Needless to say, there's a lot of confusion about where the president is on this.

HALLIE JACKSON:

Is there?

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah. What is -- is there a White House strategy? I know that's, probably, a dumb question.

HALLIE JACKSON:

Yeah. I mean, listen. There is, in the sense that they are keeping this national emergency idea in the President's back pocket. I don't know that it's going to happen Tuesday night, at the State of the Union, right? I think there are some question marks around that particular piece of it. But I do think, here's what I see, when I talk to my sources over in the administration and then sources over on the Hill. The common area is it's fencing, right? I mean, it's semantics. We are now in the semantics argument of, when is a wall a wall, and when is it a fence or a barrier? There are people, at high levels inside the White House, who would be very happy with the idea of new fencing. They think that Donald Trump would buy that and be okay with it. There are Democrats who have now signaled, increasingly, that they're totally okay with fencing, including, by the way, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on the record, this week, said she'd be okay with it. I think that that could be where this is heading, as long as there is not some last-minute curveball from President Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

It's obvious how this deal looks like, Rich, unless the president has decided he wants the issue instead of the compromise.

RICH LOWRY:

Yeah. So he goes back and forth on messaging. Either it's being built, or we need to shut down the government or declare a national emergency to build it. I think the first is the better message. There has been a lot of refurbishment of the wall. You just take what you can get in this negotiation. Build a little bit more as quick as you can. Do the same next year. And then you have a convention video with this slat fence that will look quite impressive. And that seems, to me, the most realistic alternative. Because a national emergency, it's not a way to win. It's just another way to lose because it'll get blocked in the courts. Even if it ultimately wins the Supreme Court, it's 12, 18 months of nothing happening.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

But you said the word, "realistic." And so that's so last century. I mean, you know, that's not the Trump presidency. So my question is Hallie's. Yeah, that deal is obviously there. And it's about semantics. But will the president take it? Or will he blow it up at the last minute?

MARÍA TERESA KUMBAR:

Well, but I think Mitch --

EUGENE ROBINSON:

And I think he probably will blow it up at the last minute.

MARÍA TERESA KUMBAR:

Well, Mitch McConnell actually led a vote into the floor. And I think the challenge for the president is that he knows the majority of the Republicans want this. But do his pundits, the people that are in his ear, want it? Do the Coulters of the world want it? Do the Rush Limbaughs of the world want it? And that is his challenge.

MARK LEIBOVICH:

Let's be honest. If he tries to do this as a semantic thing, to say that this wall has already been built, he will be mocked. He will be mocked by his base. He will pay very close attention to this, might be like the rank and file. But this will -- this will upset him to a great degree. And he will be seen as weak. And it will embarrass him.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I want to pivot to 2020. We had a lot happening this week. The Howard Schultz earthquake was among them, Cory Booker getting in. Meghan McArdle, I thought, did a tremendous job at summing up this debate. ‘The question is which way Democratic primary voters will bet: on some boring centrist who will never even try to deliver the radical change so many of them crave, or on the fire-breathing progressive, who might accidentally deliver them another four years of Donald Trump?’ Hallie, that's probably as good of an expression of this divide as any.

HALLIE JACKSON:

Sure. And when I talked to folks over on -- because I cover the White House and Donald Trump, on the campaign side for that, sources sort of familiar with that, you know who they're looking at very interestedly, is Howard Schultz, just as much as Democrats are, as well. Because that changes a lot of the ways that they're going to go and strategize and plan and try to do some of their issues.

MARK LEIBOVICH:

Are they looking at him with enthusiasm or with fear?

HALLIE JACKSON:

So enthusiasm, obviously, enthusiasm.

MARK LEIBOVICH:

I mean, I would imagine with enthusiasm because Democrats are not.

HALLIE JACKSON:

But also the idea that it changes the way that they would end up doing some of the things in their strategy, moving forward. So they're as curious as Democrats.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I want to interrupt the conversation. But let me just add one more little additive here. Howard Schultz's sort of budding campaign, it's not official, but they did some polling. They released some of it. They did polling following this week, where he got beaten the living daylights out of on the media. Here's one matchup. They sent us two matchups of Trump-Harris-Schultz and Trump-Warren-Schultz. As you can see here, this is a poll conducted after the rollout, so in the last two days of Thursday and Friday. Essentially, Trump and Harris tied, Schultz sitting at 17. The point they wanted to make here, Mark Leibovich, is that, hey, even after this horrible rollout, where he got battered, left and sometimes right, he's still sitting in the mid-teens, which, their argument is, shows you how much room there is for an independent.

MARK LEIBOVICH:

Well, it's the half-caff strategy, actually. I didn't even mean to do that. But no. I mean, look, is he trying to make the point of the Democrats? Because that basically says, you know, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, they could be up by seven, eight points in these polls. And yet, I mean, you have Donald Trump in the lead. So I mean, it's hard to see what they're trying to do here, except that he has gained some traction.

CHUCK TODD:

There is room for him. Did Democrats -- are Democrats overreacting?

EUGENE ROBINSON:

There's room for him to lose. I mean, there's room for him to lose.

MARIA TERESA KUMAR:

No, and I think --

EUGENE ROBINSON:

There's no path for him to win the presidency. There just isn't.

MARIA TERESA KUMAR:

Well, and for the Democrats to lose. I think what the Democrats are really counting on is more of a centrist piece of the nominee, on their end, to bring in a lot of the independent and moderate Republicans, who do not like where their party is going. Schultz basically tears that away.

RICH LOWRY:

Well, this is the thing, though. If you're really worried about this liberal Democrat in good standing, the day before yesterday, cleaving off enough moderate voters to swing the election, moderate on some issues. And that's the one thing the Democratic Party seems to have zero interest in doing.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

No. What's happening in the Democratic Party is a debate about issues. It's very healthy. It's very good. That's what ought to happen, to talk about actual issues.

MARK LEIBOVICH:

And Howard Schultz should join that debate in the Democratic Party.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

You know, universal healthcare has been in Democratic policy for decades.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I can tell you this -- I can tell you this, I think electability is going to end up being the biggest issue, come Iowa night. Before we go, a quick programming note. Please join myself, along with my colleagues, Lester Holt and Savannah Guthrie, and the entire NBC News team on Tuesday for the president's State of the Union address. Our live coverage will begin at 9:00 Eastern, 6:00 Pacific. That's all for today. Thank you for watching. Enjoy the Super Bowl. For everybody except in New Orleans, enjoy the exhibition game. We'll be back next week. Because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.