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Meet the Press - November 15, 2020

Michael Osterholm, Ron Klain, Asa Hutchinson, Al Cardenas, Jeffrey Goldberg, María Teresa Kumar, Carol Lee

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, no concession and a growing Covid crisis. President Trump refusing to admit defeat.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Whatever happens in the future, who knows which administration it will be? I guess time will tell.

CHUCK TODD:

Republican allies reacting either with silence --

REPORTER:

Senator, is it time to acknowledge that President-elect Biden has won the election?

CHUCK TODD:

-- or support.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

President Trump should not concede.

SECY. MIKE POMPEO:

There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.

CHUCK TODD:

As Trump loyalists march in Washington --

TRUMP SUPPORTERS:

U.S.A., U.S.A.!

CHUCK TODD:

Echoing the president's false claims of a stolen election. The administration withholding sensitive information from President-elect Biden.

JOE BIDEN:

I just think it's an embarrassment, quite frankly.

CHUCK TODD:

My guests this morning: Biden's incoming chief of staff, Ron Klain, and the Republican governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson. Also, record Covid spike.

DOCTOR:

This is kind of like standing on the beach and watching the hurricane roll slowly towards you.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE:

This surge is much more intense, widespread and dangerous.

DR. POTHOF:

We’re heading towards a cliff.

CHUCK TODD:

Forty-nine states see a rise in cases. Many cities and states finally cracking down.

GOV. KATE BROWN:

I am announcing a two-week freeze for the entire state.

MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT:

Stay at home, unless you must go out for essential reasons.

CHUCK TODD:

I'll talk to a member of President-elect Biden's Covid transition team, Dr. Michael Osterholm. Joining me for insight and analysis are NBC News correspondent Carol Lee, Republican strategist Al Cardenas, María Teresa Kumar, president of Voto Latino and Jeffrey Goldberg, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic. 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:

And a good Sunday morning. Nearly two weeks after an Election Day contest won by Joe Biden by more than 5.5 million votes so far, and by a comfortable electoral vote margin, the country is facing two interconnected crises. One, the president of the United States refuses to concede the election, claiming falsely that it was somehow stolen. His attorney general is currently encouraging investigations into voter fraud, despite a lack of evidence that any exists. His secretary of state is suggesting the president will be inaugurated for a second term. Perhaps, he was kidding. The president has fired his defense secretary and is filling the Defense Department with loyalists, some of whom traffic in conspiracy theories. If this were happening anywhere else, our State Department would be issuing grim reports about the future of that country's democracy. But that country is this country. It's happening here. Making matters worse, the administration is refusing to allow Biden's team access to secure communications and classified briefings, including Operation Warp Speed, which covers vaccine distribution for the exploding Covid crisis. And in fact, this is happening as President Trump is all but ignoring the pandemic, reportedly not having even met with his own coronavirus task force in at least five months. The pandemic is at its highest peak yet. In just the last week, 31 states have set records for new cases and the last six days have seen the highest case counts nationwide. In short, President Trump is refusing to acknowledge two realities: his defeat and Covid-19. But the virus does not care as it continues its march across the country, doing exactly what experts have long predicted it would do.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Whatever happens in the future, who knows which administration it will be? I guess time will tell, but I can tell you this administration will not go to a lockdown.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump acknowledging for a moment on Friday that he may not have won the election, even as he continues to refuse to concede.

PETER NAVARRO:

We're moving forward here at the White House under the assumption that there will be a second Trump term.

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Trump, out of public view for most of the week, but tweeting hundreds of times, suffered a string of legal setbacks in Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Michigan on Friday, as Joe Biden's Electoral College win grew to 306 electoral votes, matching Mr. Trump's in 2016.

DONALD TRUMP:

We had a massive, landslide victory, as you know, in the Electoral College. I guess the final numbers are now at 306.

JOE BIDEN:

We are already beginning the transition. We're well under way.

CHUCK TODD:

President-elect Joe Biden, also largely out of public view, but criticizing the president.

JOE BIDEN:

I just think it's an embarrassment.

CHUCK TODD:

As Republicans, eyeing the coming Senate runoffs in Georgia, where they believe they need to mobilize Mr. Trump's voters, largely rallied around him.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

President Trump is 100% within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

The election's not over, by the way.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

The future of America is on the line in Georgia.

CHUCK TODD:

But by Thursday, cracks emerged as Republicans began to call for Biden to receive intelligence briefings.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD:

For me, this is just an issue of saying let's learn the lesson of 2000 and let's make sure that both sides are prepared.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

I think it's important that both continue to get those briefings until the Electoral College makes its final determination.

SEN. MIKE ROUNDS:

Should we need a transition in the future, this would simplify that transition.

CHUCK TODD:

The leadership vacuum of the lame duck period comes as the coronavirus pandemic is shattering records with more than 176,000 new cases on Friday. Cases are up over the past two weeks in 49 states and D.C. More than 69,000 people are hospitalized and deaths have risen in 31 states.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE:

This surge is much more intense, widespread, and dangerous.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER:

It is spreading rapidly everywhere.

DR. POTHOF:

We're heading towards the cliff. I don't know if the vaccine gets to us before we have horrible things happening here in Wisconsin.

CHUCK TODD:

More states are issuing new restrictions, including a mask mandate in North Dakota. And on Friday, Wyoming's governor said he is considering one as well.

GOV. MARK GORDON:

We haven't got our head in the game. We're running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Let's get serious.

CHUCK TODD:

As the coronavirus continues to spread.

GOV. KATE BROWN:

I am announcing a two-week freeze for the entire state.

GOV. GINA RAIMONDO:

Total lockdown if we don't start to get more serious and follow the rules.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY:

You know what's really uncomfortable and annoying? When you die.

CHUCK TODD:

And as you can see by this chart, the number of new cases has skyrocketed, more than doubling in recent weeks. One person has been predicting this kind of turn in the pandemic since he first appeared on Meet The Press back on April 26th. Dr. Michael Osterholm said then we were in the foothills of this crisis and had mountains yet to climb. And if you could see that daily case count since the start of the pandemic, it looks like an ever-growing mountain. Dr. Osterholm is, of course, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota, and he's now a member of President-elect Biden's Covid advisory board. Dr. Osterholm, welcome back to Meet The Press. I thought it was important to get your perspective --

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

--first before I got to President-elect Biden's chief of staff, Ron Klain. So, let me just simply ask you this. We're seeing the exponential rise that you sadly predicted would happen in Covid cases -- you and many others -- this fall and winter. Here we are. Are we going to plateau anytime soon, or is this, is this trajectory just going to keep going up and up?

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM:

Well, thank you again and let me just say at the outset that our future’s in our hands. And right now, for at least the next three weeks, because cases are already in the -- we would say in the pipeline, meaning they're already infected -- these numbers are going to go way up. Our job is to imagine what the world could be like if we do make the changes we need to make. We're going to be heading to a vaccine in the next few months, where we can start to imagine having summer baseball back, barbecues, etc. But in the meantime, we are in a very dangerous period, the most dangerous public health period since 1918. And if we don't basically take important steps like stop swapping air with our, our neighbors, our friends, our colleagues, we're going to see these numbers grow substantially.

CHUCK TODD:

So, what should happen right now? I mean, I've talked to plenty of mayors this week and governors this week, and they all feel like that -- you can tell -- they all want to do more, and they're hesitant because of the fatigue, because of the economic impact, because of the lack of leadership from the federal government, perhaps the lack of money from the federal government. This is the situation we are in, not the utopia that we'd all like to have in governments working together. What do we do right now? What does a local mayor do without the help of the federal government?

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM:

Well, it's critical that we do get the help of the federal government, and I can't make that any more straightforward than that. If we're going to control this virus out in our communities right now, we're going to have to support those who are going to be suffering economically. You know, you have a choice: do you want to have schools open, or do you want to keep bars and restaurants open? Well, if you shut down bars and restaurants, they're hanging on by a thread. That single mother waitress that basically doesn't have any other income, we have got to support them and help them to do the right thing. They want to. I don't know anybody that doesn't want to. If we're going to help our healthcare system right now try to respond to this crisis and we know that they are at a tipping point, we have got to have help right now. And so I just urge that the last thing we do is support our governors. They are the frontlines right now. There is no national leadership on this issue. They're trying. I don't care if they're Democrat or Republican, they're trying and we've got to support them and these issues.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, now that you are a member of President-elect Biden's Covid advisory board, any comments you make are suddenly going to get put through a different prism, so I want to give you a chance to clarify what you meant by the four-to-six-week lockdown because you said even back in August, "Look, we've got to have some pause here and have some sheltering in place if we have any chance at bending this curve."

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM:

Well, first of all, we've got to reframe this issue. We have got to understand again that what we're trying to do is get to the summer when we have vaccines that can fundamentally change how safe it is to be in everyday life. And what we need to do right now is focus on what's going to make that difference. And as I just said, it's very important that, first of all, we don't swap air with people. That's how this is being transmitted. And, and we have got to do whatever it takes to support that. You see the governors struggling right now. They want help. I have actually talked to five governors in the last two days, all of whom said, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all at least be on the same page? But right now you've got -- my state is surrounded by four other states and they all have different recommendations.” That, by itself, is what we're talking about -- standardizing how we're all going to approach this. This virus doesn't care what party you are. It doesn't care where you live. We have to understand that that's what we have to work on right now.

CHUCK TODD:

Dr. Osterholm, it certainly looks like we’re -- the case count's only going to go up, the hospitalizations are only going to go up and the death count is only going to go up between now and the beginning of passing out this vaccine. How close to the breaking point is our hospital system? And at what point is that going to be the point where the hospital system's going to force us to shut down and we all will have no choice?

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM:

Well, I think you said it very well. You know, my worst fear is what we saw happen in other countries, where people were dying on the streets. People literally were dying in the waiting room of emergency rooms after spending ten hours just waiting to be seen. That's going to start happening. The media will start reporting it and we will see the breadth and the depth of this tragedy. That, I hope, will not be the way that we finally decide to reduce our risk, this idea of swapping air. We've got to stop doing that. And so, I think it is the health care system’s breaking, literally breaking, that will unfortunately bring us to a sense of reality of what we must do in the short term.

CHUCK TODD:

And how close are we to that point?

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM:

Well, you know, the case numbers, as you've seen how quickly they've been rising. I think that's going to continue. And there are many health care systems that a few more weeks of this level of activity and that will happen. That will happen.

CHUCK TODD:

Dr. Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota, we have you on here to give us the straight talk and you always do. I appreciate you coming on and sharing your perspective with us --

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

-- and your expertise.

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

So, joining me now is the President-elect Joe Biden's choice for chief of staff. It's Ron Klain. Mr. Klain, welcome to Meet The Press. Here’s --

RON KLAIN:

Thanks for having me, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

The models indicate that another 100,000 Americans may die before January 20th. We may be sitting at a case count well over 200,000 by the time you take over in this administration. So, what do you do now in anticipation for what looks like is going to be exponentially worse in 60 days?

RON KLAIN:

Yeah, Chuck, I mean it's a very grave situation. Back in September, then candidate Joe Biden warned that America was headed to a very dark winter if the administration didn't step up its action. And you know, the very first business day of his transition, on Monday of this week, the president-elect met with his Covid Task Force and then made a public statement afterwards where he called on all Americans to mask up. He urged governors to impose masking mandates now and reiterated the fact that when he becomes president he will impose one on a nationwide basis. And so, he's not the president now. There's not that much that Joe Biden can do right now to change things other than to reiterate kind of the message you heard from Dr. Osterholm, which is that all Americans and our state and local governments need to step up right now. If the president and the administration is not going to lead, that's where the leadership has to come from. That will change on January 20th, but right now we have a crisis that's getting worse. You know, we had never had a day with 100,000 cases in a single day until last week. By next week, we may see 200,000 cases in a single day, so this is getting much worse, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

What do you -- I'm curious, with your coronavirus advisory board, has there been any even informal contact between the task force and your advisory board? Has there been informal contact, at -- for instance, between the president-elect and Dr. Fauci?

RON KLAIN:

Unfortunately, Chuck, we can't. We can't until we get that GSA ascertainment that authorizes us to contact government officials. And so, we can't have any of those kinds of contacts until we get to that stage of ascertainment. Obviously, there's information that passes in scientific circles. The people on our task force, like Dr. Osterholm, are leading scientists. But, but Chuck, I think you hit a key point, which is that Joe Biden's going to become president of the United States in the midst of an ongoing crisis. That has to be a seamless transition. We now have the possibility -- we need to see if it gets approved -- of a vaccine starting perhaps in December or January. There are people at HHS making plans to implement that vaccine. Our experts need to talk to those people as soon as possible so nothing drops in this change of power we're going to have on January 20th.

CHUCK TODD:

Have your folks been able to have any contact with Pfizer at all? And do you have a better understanding of, of just how soon the vaccine could get distributed?

RON KLAIN:

We're going to have meetings between our top scientific advisors and the officials of these drug companies, not just Pfizer, but there are other promising vaccines as well. We're going to start those consultations this week. But again, I think that there are two issues here, Chuck. One is the scientific issue around the vaccine, but I think in some ways the bigger issue -- I've been saying this since April -- the bigger issue will be the mechanics of manufacture and distribution, getting this vaccine out. And that really lies with folks at the Health and Human Services Department. We need to be talking to them as quickly as possible. You know, it's great to have a vaccine, but vaccines don't save lives; vaccinations save lives. And that means you've got to get that vaccine into people's arms all over this country. It's a giant logistical project.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, you have said convincing the American public, in a previous interview, you said, "In 2021, convincing them to take the vaccine might actually be the biggest challenge we face as a country." But I want to stick with one more issue on the current Covid crisis, which is you've heard Dr. Osterholm, every expert has said, if we’re going to -- we might have to have a temporary shutdown, but we can't do it if you're not going to basically pay these people not to open their businesses; can't do that without Congress agreeing to something. How urgently do you think -- House Democrats, Senate Republicans, they're at loggerheads. Do you take what you can get now or do you support Speaker Pelosi holding out?

RON KLAIN:

Well, the president-elect had a conversation with Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer on Friday and they talked about the need to get urgent action. I mean, we need action during the lame duck. There's a lot of things that are going to have to wait until Joe Biden is president, but this is not one of them. Getting help to people, getting help to state and local governments, I mean, it’s not -- obviously, we need urgent help to individuals, but we're going to see layoffs of police, of firefighters, of teachers in the next month in a lot of states and localities unless these local governments get the aid they need. I know that Speaker Pelosi's committed to that. I know Leader Schumer is committed to that. This shouldn't be partisan. By the way, these layoffs are coming, not just in so-called blue states, but red states also. This is a national crisis. It needs bipartisan, national action now.

CHUCK TODD:

Has the president-elect spoken with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell yet about this issue or any issue?

RON KLAIN:

He has not, he has not spoken with Senator McConnell about anything yet. We're hoping that Senator McConnell will accept the reality that is just the reality. Joe Biden won this election. Kamala Harris won this election. And I think it's time for leaders in both parties to get to business of this transition, to get to business of working together to start to plan out a legislative agenda for next year.

CHUCK TODD:

You said it's urgent for Congress to act in the lame duck, and to -- are you, are we to read in between the lines that you're telling Speaker Pelosi, "Look, don't, don’t stick to your guns completely. Compromise where you have to"? Is that the message that you wanted her to hear?

RON KLAIN:

Well, Speaker Pelosi has done a magnificent job of handling this. What I want her to hear is that we have her back in handling this, but we have the backs of the American people. Speaker Pelosi, by the way, has, was in long negotiations with Secretary Mnuchin to try to find that compromise. I mean, Chuck, it's not that she hasn't been at the table. She's been at the table. We just now see the administration -- current administration -- has walked away from the table. So, our message to Speaker Pelosi is keep doing what you're doing. To the Republicans, let's get this done. I mean, this could be a first example of bipartisan action post the election. The last thing I'll say, Chuck, is I think the American people sent a pretty strong signal on Tuesday, on the Tuesday of Election Day, which was --

CHUCK TODD:

A couple Tuesdays, yeah.

RON KLAIN:

-- that they wanted to see -- a couple of Tuesdays ago now -- they wanted to see the people in Washington work together to make progress. That's the message I think that came out of that election. They want to see action. Getting Covid aid out there is at the top of that list of action they want to see.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, the president, this morning, has tweeted something that a lot of folks are trying to interpret because the first line is, "He won because the election was rigged." And the president's tweet goes through all of his reasons, what he believes, why this election was unfair. But it's the first time he's said he won. In our own reporting, Mr. Klain, we've asked an official and said, "Is this-- is this the closest we're going to get to President Trump admitting that Joe Biden won?" and we were told yes and that this is the beginning of a concession process. Do you accept that as sort of step one here?

RON KLAIN:

Well, look, I accept it as a further confirmation of the reality that Joe Biden won the election, and not through any of the rest of that tweet, not through fraud or anything else the president is baselessly alleging. He won because he got more votes, okay. That's why he won. He got more votes in the popular vote by a lot and he won the same number of electoral votes that President Trump himself called a landslide four years ago. But look, if the president's prepared to begin to recognize that reality, that's positive. Donald Trump's Twitter feed doesn't make Joe Biden president or not president. The American people did that. What we really want to see this week, Chuck, is the General Services Administration issue that ascertainment so we can start to do the kinds of things you and I talked about a few minutes ago, meet with these vaccine officials, kind of get the intelligence briefings for the president-elect, the vice president-elect. That's really the measure of how this is moving forward this week, I think.

CHUCK TODD:

And finally, I want to ask you the importance of the Georgia runoffs to the president-elect's agenda. Look, Joe Biden, he ran on a pathway to citizenship, repealing tax cuts on corporations and the rich, passing the Equality Act, taking aggressive action on the pandemic and on climate change. To what extent does that agenda essentially lay in the hands of voters in Georgia and those Georgia runoffs? Does the president's agenda get curtailed if you don't have control of the Senate?

RON KLAIN:

Well, Chuck, it's obviously important to win those seats in Georgia, not because, necessarily just because of Joe Biden's agenda or whatever, but I think we have better senators in Washington, we're going to get a better output in Washington. And we have more people who support the kinds of things that Joe Biden supports, I think we're going to have, you know, again, a better government, better whatever. We're going to -- we’re going to work hard to help win those Senate seats in Georgia. I think you'll see the president-elect campaign down there as we get closer to election day. We're going to put people, money, resources down there to help our two good candidates win. I'm very hopeful that we can win those seats, but we’re going to work, but one thing that I think Joe Biden's made very clear -- you've talked about it all year long, Chuck -- is that he's going to work with whoever gets elected Democrats, Republicans, Independents, people across the country, people in civil society, people in all kinds of sectors. And so, that's what he's going to do. We want to win those seats in Georgia. It will certainly be helpful to win those seats in Georgia, but we're not going to let anything deter us from moving forward with our agenda.

CHUCK TODD:

But does your stack of executive orders decrease if you -- if Democrats win both of those Georgia Senate races?

RON KLAIN:

Well, we're going to have to work all that through. What I'd say is that we have a big stack of business for day one already. We're going to rejoin Paris, we're going to protect the Dreamers on day one, we're going to take other action on health care on day one that the president-elect's talked about during the campaign. So, we've got a busy, busy day one on ready scenario here.

CHUCK TODD:

And of course, the pandemic. Ron Klain --

RON KLAIN:

Yes sir.

CHUCK TODD:

-- it is a busy and a large inbox as the incoming chief of staff. I appreciate you coming on. I look forward to more conversations like this as we go forward, sir.

RON KLAIN:

You bet, Chuck. Thank you very much.

CHUCK TODD:

You got it. When we come back, most Republicans have been either silent or supportive of President Trump's false claims that the election was stolen, with a handful trying to acknowledge reality and appease the president. In a moment, I'll ask the Republican governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, who he thinks won the election. We'll be right back.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. On Friday, NBC News projected President Trump the winner in North Carolina and called Joe Biden the apparent winner in Georgia, meaning the results are close enough that the outcome could depend on the recount that is currently underway. That's when we use the word apparent, whenever it can slip into recount territory. As we mentioned earlier, Biden has matched President Trump's 306 to 232 electoral vote margin of four years ago.The President refuses to concede, just reiterated again on social media. And Republicans have either backed his false claims of fraud or have remained silent. We invited every single Republican senator to appear on Meet the Press this morning. They all declined. But we are very pleased that Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas has agreed to join us this morning. Governor, thank you. Welcome back. And in fact, I hope to talk to you as much about Covid as we do about politics here, but let me get the politics out of the way. Who do you believe won the election?

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON:

I expect Joe Biden to be the next president of the United States. It was good actually to see President Trump tweet out that he won. I think that's the start of an acknowledgment, and it is very important that Joe Biden have access to the intelligence briefings to make sure that he is prepared. During times of transition, our enemies have an opportunity to try to take advantage of us. We want to make sure that there is a smooth transition, particularly when it comes to the vaccine distribution, the coronavirus, that everybody understands what we're doing there and what the plan is for the future.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you concerned that the next president of the United States, Joe Biden, is going to have a large chunk of your party's rank and file not accept the legitimacy of this election because President Trump keeps feeding false narratives out there?

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON:

Well, it is important that we accept the outcome of the election. And there's a process to get there. There are some constitutional assertions in Pennsylvania. There's a recount in Georgia. It is important that those processes go through, and that probably is the reason you -- the president does not want to undermine those legitimate processes by jumping ahead and conceding the election. But we still have to start that transition. In the end, you're absolutely right. We need to come together as a nation. There’s not any -- our Department of Homeland Security indicated this week that there's not any evidence of rampant fraud in the election that would undermine the result. We need to accept the result. Once that process is completed, come together and recognize we've got new leadership. And we need to pull together as a nation.

CHUCK TODD:

And you're a former, uh, you’re a former DHS veteran there. I assume you trust those folks there.

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON:

Actually, it's Chris Krebs, is one of the team members who made that finding this week. And I was briefed by him on the election security issues probably ten months ago. And it was interesting that as he briefed the governors, that he said, "Patience, you have to have. But we have systems in place to make sure that we can have an honest election, free of fraud, this year. There's always some challenges. But we have a great system in our democracy to work through those." And so yes, I have confidence in what he has done and his statement.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm going to put up a graph here of cases for Covid. You know the graph well. You've had a mask mandate going for a while. Cases are rising. And rising everywhere. You're not alone here. What do you need from the federal government now that could help you deal with this? Because I do get the sense -- you heard Dr. Osterholm. I think you're all at your, at your sort of, people could argue, look, you could do X, you could do Y. But there's some things that you're limited in doing without the support of the federal government. What do you need?

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON:

Well, it's very important to understand, and this was a little bit offensive, the implication in previous interview, that’s, nothing's being done currently. And I'll be having a meeting tomorrow with the White House Coronavirus Task Force. They're very engaged. They're providing support for the states. We're dependent upon them, in terms of our reagents for antigen, our testing capacity. That supply is coming and it's increasing. So a lot is being done. We're coordinating with them on our vaccine distribution which is critical to have in place very quickly because once they have the emergency use authorization, I expect that vaccine to be out for our medical care providers within 24 hours. What do we need? We need to make sure that we have the support in those terms and that those resources continue. We're not going to be able to put restrictions on our economy to get us out of this. It is wrong to tell people, “you're out of business,” without giving them financial support. I think that point was made by Dr. Osterholm, that you know, you cannot do that without providing compensation because it's a taking of government, and that's the last thing that we need to do right now.

CHUCK TODD:

What are your advisors telling you would be the best way to start to get this to plateau in your state? Because it does seem as if we can't get this surge to plateau right now.

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON:

Well, it is very, very worrisome. And as you know I put together our winter task force primarily looking at the hospitalization issue. That is, sort of governs everything that happens because you want to have the hospital space for Covid patients, but also for others that have needs that require elective surgery. And so we are engaged in that. What has to be done is everybody do simply what the medical professionals, our scientists say, nationally. And that is to protect yourself and others by following the public health guidelines. We have a mask mandate. But you cannot have a mask mandate - it does send a great signal, it does increase compliance - but there's never a 100% compliance. And that's a challenge that we have right now.

CHUCK TODD:

Before I let you go, on January 21st, who's the leader of the Republican Party?

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON:

Well, first of all, uh, I've been through that situation before and we'll elect new leadership. But there'll be a lot of different voices. Clearly, President Trump will have a voice for a long time in the party. Anybody that can generate those kind of crowds, that's had the accomplishments that he has had in office -- he will have the influence for some time to come. But there'll be other influencers. And there's going to be a significant debate as to exactly the direction of our party. Our fundamentals are sound. This election was a good election for Republicans. We just did not make the presidency. But overall, governors, House, Senate, legislators, it puts us in very, very good position for the future. The public still embraces the Republican philosophy that we have put forth. We'll continue to debate how that has to be refined.

CHUCK TODD:

Governor Asa Hutchinson, Republican from Arkansas. Always appreciate your willingness to come on, come on here. And you're always very respectful. I appreciate that. Thank you, sir.

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON:

Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Many of President Trump’s supporters marched in Washington yesterday, echoing the president's false claims that the election was rigged. So what is President Trump's no concession strategy? Is it a strategy? Or is this a tantrum? The panel is next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. The panel is with us. NBC News correspondent Carol Lee, Republican strategist Al Cardenas, María Teresa Kumar, president of Voto Latino and Jeffrey Goldberg, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic. Carol Lee, I'm going to start with you because you are doing some reporting in real time, I'm asking Ron Klain questions about your reporting in real time, and as soon as we're done, the president puts up this tweet. So we were told that the “he won” might be the beginning. "Well, no, no, no," he says, "He won in the eyes of the fake news media. I concede nothing. We have a long way to go. This was a rigged election." So I guess for ten minutes there we thought the president was beginning the concession trail. I guess he concedes nothing, Carol.

CAROL LEE:

Yeah, a bit of whiplash this morning, Chuck. As soon as he sent that first tweet that said Biden won, I heard from a White House official who said, "It looks like the president is admitting that Biden will be the next president and that this could be the beginning of the president's version of a concession," which we've been told all week would sound something like what he tweeted. And then 90 minutes later, the president comes out with this other tweet saying, "We will win," and then going on again to make these accusations that are unfounded. And the same White House official said, "He doesn't believe that." But this is where we are. And, you know, we've heard from a number of officials that the president is not necessarily fully dug-in privately on his belief that this is something that he can actually turn around. But he's fundraising off of this. That's part of potentially what's motivating him. And what aides have been saying to him is they don't even use the word “concession,” Chuck. They call this a conclusion. So when they talk to him, they say, "Well, maybe we can get to this conclusion." And the conclusion that they've been proposing to him in recent days is something like what he tweeted. He'll never admit that he actually lost fair and square. And then he'll say he's running again in 2024. And that is designed to keep the money flowing, to keep him relevant. It boxes out a lot of Republicans. But when he gets to that point, officially, formally and it's consistent? We, we just don't know. And clearly today doesn't seem to be the day.

CHUCK TODD:

Al Cardenas, it's one thing for elected Republicans to start to accept that Joe Biden won the election. How do you convince the rank-and-file?

AL CARDENAS:

Well, you convince the rank-and-file with reality. We're in the midst of a meltdown on so many different areas. Now, the political meltdown, we can all live with. The governmental meltdown we cannot. I mean, Joe Biden needs to start his transition. I lived it in 2020 when George Bush was not able to start it. And when he was sworn in on January 20th, he didn't have his team ready, and that hurts. This time around, there are real crises where Biden has to have his team ready. Ron Klain is great, he'll do a great job in helping him put it together. But he needs a, he needs a runway, a transition runway. And then the other part of it is, the president can have a political meltdown. But he needs to agree sooner rather than later to a bill that would allow the government to assist the private sector in getting through this Covid crisis. And that cannot be part of a meltdown. So we'll live with the political side of it. The government side of it is something that's inexcusable.

CHUCK TODD:

Jeffrey Goldberg, I want to read you something Matt Lewis wrote. He doesn't understand why the Republican Party isn't kicking Trump now. "Instead of kicking Trump while he's down, these Republicans think they can finesse and co-opt their way to the top. They've been making the same mistake for years. They think Trump will eventually reward loyalty — that the old man will retire and turn the store over to you to run. It never happens." Right? All of this is -- right now, this appeasement is this Georgia Senate runoff strategy. But as Matt Lewis lays out, if past is prologue, we know how this ends.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

Right. You know, the interesting thing here is that Trump's behavior is completely predictable in this regard. The thing that I would add to what Matt Lewis wrote is this: President Trump got 70 million, more than 70 million votes. President Trump is extraordinarily popular with his base. They love his transgressions. They love his no-concession, no-conceding kind of policy that he's taking on these days. And he's formidable. And, you know, you and I have both talked to many, many Republican office holders who will say to you privately they live in fear of his tweeting. They live in fear of his most mobilized base. And so he has extraordinary power over people. And so no one is going to step up and say, "Look, thank you for your service. But you can leave the White House now and retire to Mar-a-Lago and we've got this from here." That's not going to happen.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, María Teresa, I was asking Ron Klain this governing challenge, if you will: when you're going to have a large chunk of the country that isn't going to accept Joe Biden as president, and you're going to have Republican office holders who can't publicly treat him with respect or they think that they can't treat him respectfully for whatever reason, how do you govern? How do you handle that if you're Joe Biden?

MARÍA TERESA KUMAR:

Well, and I think that this is where we have to recognize that President Trump has these autocratic tendencies. And so it's not a surprise that he's not conceding. And it's not a surprise that there's rumors that he's going to announce, that he’s going to have a conclusion of this conversation of his presidency, but that he's going to announce his 2024 presidency. The danger in that though is that he starts siphoning and creating a shadow government that he will always have over the Republicans. And we keep hearing the Republicans saying, "Well, we're just humoring him." Well, we've been humoring Donald Trump for the last four years. And he's really created shock waves throughout our institutions, through our government and through our population. And this is where there might be an opportunity for Joe Biden to actually bring in not the die-hard Donald Trump base, but some of the individuals that voted for him. Let's not forget, Chuck, 58% of white, of white voters voted for Donald Trump -- 55% of white women. But they still believe in the voting process. Is there an opportunity the longer that he basically says that Biden did not win — despite the fact that the Department of Justice said that this was our most secure election — is there an opportunity for Joe Biden to bring some of those people back into the fold of at least moderation and recognizing our democratic institutions?

CHUCK TODD:

Well, it's certainly, I think, the mandate he has to try to accept. Very quickly, I'm not going to ask any of you to respond to this, but we did put together a fascinating -- the Trump campaign has sent out 200-plus emails since Election Day, from November 4 to November 14. And they all claim to be somehow about the recount. But just so you know, the Trump's leadership PAC, according to the fine print, keeps all the money up to $5,000. Basically, until a donor gives more than $8,300 does any of the recount funds actually get money to focus on the recount there. Just wanted to get that out there and clarified for folks. When we come back, the battleground map changed again. What it could mean for both parties in the years to come.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Data download time. You've heard us say it before, we are in the midst of a political realignment. So we want to take a look at how the political battleground map has shifted since President George W. Bush's reelection in 2004. Sixteen years ago, 11 states were decided by five-point margins or less, with five of those states based in the Great Lakes region. 2008, Barack Obama won by such a large margin that he changed the map by pushing the battleground into some Republican territory. Look at Montana there. But it didn't stick. By 2012, there were only four states decided by a five-point margin or less. When we saw some southern battleground states emerge like North Carolina and Virginia. By 2016, Trump's strength in the industrial Midwest became clear when Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, all close, were in his column. But this year, we see a map that seems to show the battleground maybe transitioning for the next few cycles. Especially when we see battleground map newcomers Georgia and Arizona. So let's take a closer look at the last two presidential reelection cycles: 2012 and this year. As I said, by 2012, Obama's 2008 strength had waned and we were back to the more traditional competitive states. Only four were within five percentage points: Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida. Notably, Wisconsin and Michigan had moved off the map entirely. Now compare that to this year's outcome, among those close states are the ones making up the blue wall. Recaptured by Joe Biden in the Midwest. Plus, North Carolina is back on the list. And very narrowly in the red column. While both Georgia and Arizona flipped blue, barely. And just off the list of closest states this year, Texas, which Trump is currently carrying by about 5.7 percentage points. Add it all up, and the 2012 battlegrounds largely straddle the industrial Midwest and the Sun Belt, with the latter region gaining momentum. And the road to the presidency looking different than it did just a few cycles ago. When we come back, Democrats have waited for decades for the Latino vote to come in. It just did but not in the way they expected. That's next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. As we teased, we wanted to make a deeper dive on the Hispanic vote in America. And María Teresa Kumar, The New York Times framed, I think, the conversation that I want to have pretty well. “For years, many Democrats have presumed demography is destiny, believing that Latinos would come to vote for them with the same kind of consistency that Black voters do ... That dream ran into reality in this election ... The Latino vote is deeply divided and running as not Trump was always going to be insufficient.” So, where do you begin when you look at the mistakes that the Democratic Party made on its presumptions with the Hispanic vote?

MARÍA TERESA KUMAR:

So first of all, Chuck, let’s all, you know -- you and I had these conversations before --

CHUCK TODD:

Yes.

MARÍA TERESA KUMAR:

You can't have -- demographics is not destiny if you don't have strategic infrastructure investment. That's the bottom line. And when you look at the map of where the future is of growing, you mentioned the Sun Belt. The reason that North Carolina, the reason that Georgia, Arizona is on the map is because of that 4% to 20% of the Latino vote. That did not exist even ten years ago. But the challenge is that you have to be able to invest in that. The reason Arizona flipped, Georgia is on the line and North Carolina is that you have wonderful grassroots organizers that are there year-round. The Democratic Party when they start seeing fault lines in Florida, we flag. But people didn't realize that Trump never stopped talking to the Latino community in Florida. There was a real apparatus of misinformation and disinformation. And when we talk about, “Well, why was that not caught on a broader level?” Facebook did a fantastic job of catching it for the most part in English. But not in Spanish. So this is an opportunity for us to say, "Well, how do we take a step back and how do we communicate with the Latino community continuously?" But even in Texas. Texas is interesting because even though it didn't flip, first of all, it's not supposed to. But even though it didn't flip, you had a 600% increase in the Latino youth vote from 2016. But you can't pack your bags after an election and expect people to come back. You need to continuously talk to people. You need to create investment and you need to run candidates.

CHUCK TODD:

Al Cardenas, I'm going to put up what María Teresa was just talking about, the Spanish language targeted advertising misinformation. They are showing smiling faces of Maduro and Joe Biden together which took place at the inauguration of a previous president of Brazil. And the numbers in Miami-Dade County, I mean, 200,000 of Donald Trump's 330,000 vote margin statewide came out of his improvement in Miami-Dade County where he lost it by 30 points in 16, only seven points now. How much was that disinformation impactful on Joe Biden, Al?

AL CARDENAS:

Well, look, I think there's some reasons to give the Trump campaign some kudos there. Jeffrey's colleague, Anne Applebaum, wrote a book recently about the seduction of authoritarianism. And frankly, the Trump cult really hit hard on the Hispanic community there. Most people came as exiles from countries that were used to authoritarian figures. The second thing is, the socialism stuck hard. And the Democrats never fought back. And Trump had a four-year investment in Miami. That's 3.1% of the total Hispanic vote. And it was very peculiar. And it hit hard. It was probably half of a winning margin in Florida for Donald Trump. But, you know taking on a little bit of Jennifer's article, there were 15 million Hispanics more or less who voted. And about 30% voted for Donald Trump. Historically, the last seven or eight presidential elections, the margins have been between 25% and 40% for Republican. So he was kind of on the lower side. The net gain for Biden was 6.5 million voters in the Hispanic community. And frankly, he won by five million votes. So if you're a Latino organizer, you could say, "Hey, we got him a net polarity which exceeded the national polarity." So I don't think they did that bad. I think there were a couple of pockets like Miami and Texas that were an outlier.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Jeffrey Goldberg and I look at our own coverage of the Hispanic vote, and in general the broad mainstream media's coverage of it. And I think it has been a bit sort of shortsighted. It hasn't gone into the peculiarities of the Latino vote the way we do in the white vote. And guess what, it's just as diverse.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

Right. I mean, that's the thing. Even the expression Latino vote is a little bit of a miss.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes it is.

JEFFERY GOLDBERG:

There's a Cuban-American vote, there's a Mexican-American vote, there's a Mexican-American vote in California and a Mexican-American vote in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Those are different votes. So we need to do a much better job of diving deeper into the complexity and diversity of this enormous community of Americans and trying to understand where they're headed. I would add only one thing, that smart Republican strategists will do the very same thing because you do have certain through-lines there, religiosity, entrepreneurialism, a community filled with small business people who want to be big business people, family, and all of the rest. And the Republicans always have this opportunity never fully realized.

CHUCK TODD:

And Carol Lee, I know you've been talking to some Republican strategists who view this as sort of the future of broadening a Republican coalition. If they can basically be the party of the working class regardless of race.

CAROL LEE:

Yeah, that's right, Chuck. And the Trump folks feel very proud of this. They've worked very hard for it, in their view. They spent -- not just the campaign was focused on it, the White House was focused on it. There were events focused on Latino entrepreneurs. You had Mike Pence speaking to Latino evangelicals. They tried to use some of Biden's comments about oil refineries in Texas against him. The question is whether or not they can continue this and build on it, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I plan to do more dives on this going forward which means I look forward to more of this conversation with all of you. But that's all the time I have now. That's all we have. Thank you for watching, we'll be back next week because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.