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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday closing arguments. President Trump and the Republicans focusing on immigration.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Republicans want strong borders, no drugs, no gangs, and no caravans.

SEN. TED CRUZ:

You mean the people of Texas want to stop the caravans?

CROWD:

Yes.

REP. MARTHA MCSALLY:

Secure our border, build the wall.

CHUCK TODD:

While Democrats talk about health care.

MAYOR ANDREW GILLUM:

Well you're going to have a governor who will work to expand Medicaid.

SEN. TAMMY BALDWIN:

Health care is on the ballots this year.

CHUCK TODD:

And who we are as a nation.

PRES. BARACK OBAMA:

Well maybe most of all the character of our country is on the ballot.

CHUCK TODD:

This morning we're on the ground in four of the most important battleground states. Arizona, Missouri, Florida, and Texas. Plus, I'll talk to Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia, Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, and Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee, the head of the Republican Governors Association. And one last look at where the race stands. Will Democrats win back the House? Will Republicans actually make gains in the Senate? And what message will voters be sending to President Trump? We'll have the results of our final midterm NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Joining me for insight and analysis are Today Show co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, Hugh Hewitt, host on the Salem Radio Network, NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent, Kasie Hunt, Democratic pollster, Cornell Belcher, and NBC News senior correspondent, Tom Brokaw. Welcome to Sunday, and a special midterm edition of Meet The Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News, the longest-running show in television history, this is a special edition of Meet The Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning from our election headquarters right here at Rockefeller Center in New York City, where on Tuesday night we'll be reporting on the first national referendum on the Trump presidency. At stake, all 435 House seats, 35 Senate seats this year, 36 governors' races, and, of course, thousands of state legislative seats are on the ballot.

For the Democrats, a great night for them would be winning back the House convincingly, somehow even gaining a Senate seat, even if they don't gain control, and winning nearly a dozen governors' mansions. The Republicans dream? Hanging onto the House, solidifying their hold on the Senate with a gain of three or four seats, hitting 54 or 55 in total, and holding their losses in governors' races to fewer than five.

We've got two days to go. And we have a brand new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll this morning that was completed early this morning. We were calling that late. Among likely voters Democrats have a seven point lead, 50-43, in their pick for Congress. That's a slight improvement for the Republicans, compared to two weeks ago when the Democrats led 50-41 nationally.

Like so much about this midterm election, how people vote reflects how they feel about President Trump. Among likely voters the president's job rating is basically unchanged from two weeks ago. It's 46% approve, 52% disapprove. In previous midterms a 46% job rating for a sitting president would mean his party was headed for a big defeat. That they'd be throttled.

But is it possible President Trump has changed the rules? Or that the geography of our political divide has changed the rules? By the way, even though election day is Tuesday, some 33 million people have already voted. It's a record for the early vote for midterms. We could be on our way to our first ever midterm with 100 million voters. A mini presidential, if you will.

We have correspondents across the country covering just a few of the races we're going to be watching on Tuesday night. But these are the big four states that we're focused on right now. And we'll begin in Arizona, where Democrats are hoping to pick up an open Senate seat. It's our own Vaughn Hillyard there in Tempe for us. And, Vaughn, this is very, very close. And in many ways Democrats think if they can't win an Arizona Senate seat this time, when can they?

VAUGHN HILLYARD:

Chuck, Arizona is the place where Barry Goldwater gave birth to what was known as modern day conservatism. But with the passing of John McCain and the retirement of Jeff Flake, it's the Democrat here, Kyrsten Sinema, who is trying to take that political mantle as the Arizona maverick. She's been up on the airways since the spring, highlighting herself as sort of that western independent. Where if you look at Martha McSally, the Republican in this race, there's been a lack of images of Arizona's past. Instead, she's stood solidly behind President Trump.

And though having conversations on the ground here, there's been many independents and Republicans who have expressed frustration with McSally standing by the president. Namely on that health care vote back in 2017 that would've weakened protections for those with preexisting conditions. So with the absence of McCain and Flake, it'll be quite telling on Tuesday night what the future of Arizona looks like here. Chuck?

CHUCK TODD:

Vaughn, thanks very much. One guarantee, Arizona's going to be sending a woman to the United States Senate. That we do know, and that we can call with confidence. Vaughn Hillyard, thanks very much. Let's turn to St. Louis, Missouri, where our own Morgan Radford is there.

Democratic senator Claire McCaskill is in danger of losing the Senate seat. The attorney general, Josh Hawley had actually agreed to be our guest this morning, but he canceled late yesterday afternoon, citing his campaign schedule. And, Morgan, don't think that it was lost on us that a couple of polls over the last couple of days have suddenly shown a consistent Hawley lead suddenly shrinking to a tie. What's going on in this race?

MORGAN RADFORD:

Well, Chuck, that's why he's doubling down. He's decided to fire up his base and really focus on telling voters that control of the Senate could come down to Missouri. Because every single poll shows him locked in a dead heat with incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill. And interestingly, McCaskill is in the fight of her political life.

Because her team tells us that the vote here in Missouri isn't actually as much about President Trump as people outside of the state are led to believe. She says her voters care about health care, and they care about keeping local jobs. But if you cross the aisle, Chuck, and you talk to Hawley's voters, they say the number one issue is immigration.

And what's interesting here, Chuck, is that it's going to come down to who can peel off those moderate voters, and in which direction. Because here in Missouri, unlike a lot of those other states, there is no straight ticket voting. There's also no early voting. So they're going to keep us guessing until the very end, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, Missouri will tell us what the later voter decided because of that lack of early vote. Anyway, Morgan, well done there. Thanks very much. And now to the swingiest of swing states, Florida. It has everything. A tight governor's race, a tight Senate race. And ready for this? A half a dozen competitive House races.

Catie Beck is in South Daytona for us. And we had the president there last night. I have to say, Catie, is this something that both Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott, the two Republicans at the top of the ticket, did they need this last night? Did they need Donald Trump there in Florida?

CATIE BECK:

Well Donald Trump certainly thinks so. He has been making Florida a top priority on the campaign trail. He's made multiple stops here in recent weeks, including one just last night in Pensacola, Florida, where he was doing some tough on immigration, saying that barbed wire at the U.S. border can actually be a beautiful sight.

Now, as you mentioned, Chuck, this state is almost evenly divided when it comes to both the Senate race and the gubernatorial race. So folks here are counting on those endorsements, counting on that support from the president. We're going to see more Trump support headed this way today when Rudy Giuliani heads to Daytona beach to campaign for Ron DeSantis. Chuck?

CHUCK TODD:

Catie, thanks very much. In Florida it's going to be all about what is the composition of the electorate? How much of it is white? How much of it is nonwhite? And that's something we won't know until election day. Catie, thanks very much. And finally, let's go to Garrett Haake. He's in Austin, Texas for us.

And is it a sideshow, or is it a real thing? Democratic Congressman Beto O'Rourke has been a national superstar among Democrats. He's hoping to pull the upset of the year against Republican Senator Ted Cruz. Garrett, in this last two weeks of this race it's actually looked like a race. Is it real or not?

GARRETT HAAKE:

Well it's real, Chuck, but make no mistake here. The math still favors Ted Cruz. He's led in every public poll of this state. And Texans haven't elected a Democrat to any statewide office since 1994. But there has been real momentum around the O'Rourke campaign, especially over the last couple weeks.

He's been drawing these big, diverse crowds all over the state. Places where Democrats don't normally go. He's built a get out the vote operation from scratch. I've heard a lot of people compare this campaign to the Obama campaign in 2008. But it actually reminds me more of the Trump campaign in 2016 in that his supporters are poll truthers. They say the numbers do not capture the enthusiasm here on the ground. And his campaign is buoyed by these get out the early vote numbers, which have been extraordinary in Texas.

CHUCK TODD:

Garrett, what a great comparison. Because you're right. And all the national smarty-pants people, right, we thought we knew what we were talking about in 2016. And we all think what we know about there in Texas. Guess what? Let's wait for the vote. Thank you, Garrett. And thanks to all of our correspondents on the ground.

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now is Democrat Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. He's the man who's in charge of getting Democrats elected to the Senate. Senator Van Hollen, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN:

Chuck, it's great to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, you were the DCCC chair in the 2010 midterms, when Democrats lost more than 60 seats. It was the first midterm of President Obama. You are the DSCC chair here in the first midterm of President Trump. Compare the two atmospheres.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN:

Well, I was also DCCC chair in 2008, which was another very good year for Democrats. But look, there are big differences between the House and Senate seats in this cycle, Chuck, because on the one hand you have kind of a wave, a blue wave, although how big it will be, we don't know. But then in the Senate races, we've got a lot of senators who are running in states that Donald Trump won. And for them, they've been very clear from the beginning that their number one job is to stand up for the people of their states. And if that means working with Donald Trump on something that helps their states, they will. If it means opposing him and Republicans, they will also do that, for example, on protecting people with pre-existing health conditions. So, it's a very different, sort of, political battlefield in Senate races than House races.

CHUCK TODD:

So, look, I'll let you set the bell curve for yourself here. Define a good night. Is a good night losing just one Senate seat?

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN:

You know, I don't want to define a good night because what we see right now is a situation that is a whole lot better than anyone would have predicted 18 months ago, when Republicans were saying that they might win another eight seats and have a filibuster-proof majority in the United States Senate. No one's talking about that right now. We do have a narrow path to a Senate Democratic majority. It's a narrow path, and it requires holding a lot of these very tough seats and then picking up one of, you know, the four or five Republican seats where we're competing. So, as you know, everything comes down to turnout. And we've got more than seven Senate races that are, you know, down to the wire and the margin of error. So, it's all about turnout.

CHUCK TODD:

It strikes me – I'm going to pick out four Senate seats, two are held by Democrats two are held by Republicans, that are all in red territory. And it strikes me, you’ve got to win one to have a good night and two to even remotely talk about the majority. It's Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, and North Dakota. So, Missouri and North Dakota, and then Tennessee and Texas, where you're on offense, Missouri and North Dakota, you're on defense. Is it fair to say you can't go 0-4?

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN:

Well, you can't go 0-4 in, in all those states, that's right. And that's not going to happen. We're not going 0-4. Let me just, first of all, say no one should ever count Heidi Heitkamp out. She was down more than ten points six years ago, came back to win. Claire McCaskill also is always sticking up for Missouri, and she's known as a fighter for her state. And then in those two pick-up seats, we have incredibly strong candidates who have also said that their job, number one, is to stand up for their states, working with Donald Trump if it helps but fighting him if that's necessary to protect the people in their state. So --

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Tennessee and Texas strike me as fascinating in this respect. They're both supposedly red states and yet you have one Democratic nominee who's been comfortable using the I-word, impeachment, in Beto O'Rourke down in Texas, and he's within striking distance. And then you have one Democrat, in Phil Bredesen, who's been saying, "No, no, no, no, no, if you worry about party, I'm not going to win. If you vote the person--" he's almost running as a, a centrist Republican in a state. And yet they're both in the same position. What does that tell you about where the Democratic messaging works best? Is it better to be, sort of, a base progressive like Beto or better to be this centrist like Bredesen?

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN:

Well, Chuck, it tells you that the quality of the candidate is really important and their ability to communicate on issues that people in their states care about. And we have candidates in both Texas and Tennessee who are doing exactly that, as you say, different approaches. As you know, in Texas, Hillary Clinton got 45 percent of the vote. In Tennessee, she didn't get close to 45 percent of the vote. So, look, what you see in Beto is somebody who is working to really expand an electorate which can be expanded in Texas. In Tennessee, the electorate can't be expanded that much, although you are seeing larger turnouts than typical midterm elections. And in Phil Bredesen, you've got a two-term governor who really focused on the pragmatic art of governing, and he's been very clear. As I was saying, his job is to stand up for the state of Tennessee. He's talked about areas where he can work with the president, but he's also talked about areas where he'll fight the president, like the issue that is top of mind for most voters around the country, which is protecting people with pre-existing health conditions.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Phil Bredesen and a few other Democrats, Kyrsten Sinema is sort of -- has been trying to reject her party label a little bit, saying she's not really a proud Democrat. They've all made promises that they won't be – they won’t be just sort of blank checks for the Democratic leadership. Phil Bredesen even said he wouldn't vote for the current leadership. If he wins, do you feel as if -- that the Senate Democrats have to look for new leaders because that's a promise that was made in order to get the Senate majority, for instance?

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN:

Well, those, those members running, I'm sure, will fulfill their commitments, but that doesn't mean that we don't have a strong leadership team in the United States Senate. Look, this is an example of what I was talking about earlier, that what voters want are senators whose number one job is to stick up for their states. And sometimes that means working with their party leadership, sometimes that means working in the opposite direction. But that's very different than, you know, Republican candidates who are simply rubber-stamp Trump supporters. And what we see from voters, even Republicans, is they want a senator who is going to hold the president accountable and also work with the president if it's good for their state.

CHUCK TODD:

If a blue wave comes ashore geographically, starting on the Atlantic, there's one place where there appears to be a riptide. And that is on the coast of the Jersey Shore. New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez – let me read to you what The New York Star Ledger said. The headline was, "Choke it down, and vote for Menendez.” “This race is rated as a tossup now in a year when a generic Democratic could win in a walk. Our hope is that voters remember that Trump is on the ballot, that they choke down their reluctance and vote for Menendez. He's no gem, but he's better than Hugin," referring to Bob Hugin, who is the Republican nominee there. Did Democrats make a mistake when they didn't encourage a primary challenger to Bob Menendez, so at a minimum he could litigate this ethics problem that he's been dealing with?

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN:

No, look, Bob Menendez has been a fighter for the people of New Jersey. And the people of New Jersey definitely do not want a Trump rubber stamp in the United States Senate. And Hugin would be a Trump rubber stamp in the United States Senate. The reason Hugin is competitive is because he's spent tons of his own money, money that he got by really –

CHUCK TODD:

It’s not because of Menendez's legal problems?

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN:

Well, there's no doubt that Bob Menendez has had that issue. And he has had to litigate that throughout the campaign, which he has. But it also the fact that Bob Hugin has now spent $30 million of his own money, money that he gained as the CEO of a pharmaceutical company that really overcharged people for cancer drugs. And I don't think the people of New Jersey want somebody who, you know, made his way that way. And so, I'm confident that Bob Menendez will win.

CHUCK TODD:

Chris Van Hollen, I'll leave it there. I believe there's nobody that has done what you've done. DCCC chair a decade ago, '08 and '10, and DSCC chair now. Nobody knows this country's elections probably at this point better than you, other than my pals over at the Cook Report. Anyway, Chris Van Hollen –

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN:

Or all of you there.

CHUCK TODD:

– Democrat of Maryland.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Thanks very much.

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now is Republican Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee. He's the person in charge of getting Republicans elected to state houses across the country. Governor Haslam, welcome to Meet The Press.

GOV. BILL HASLAM:

Good morning. Thanks.

CHUCK TODD:

Well let me start with a similar question I started with Senator Van Hollen. What would you consider a good night for Republican governors? Is it limiting the number of losses? I mean, I know you're defending a lot of seats, sort of like the Senate Democrats. How would you define a good night for the GOP?

GOV. BILL HASLAM:

Yeah, so on the, on the governors map it is sort of the reverse of what it is in the Senate. There's currently 36 governors' races, 26 of which the Republicans, we hold the seats. So it's easy to say this is a little bit more of an uphill battle for us than it has been historically with that many seats. That being said, we feel good about the position we're in, but we're not blind to the fact that a president's first midterm when we have this many seats up, like I said, 26 of the 36, we knew we had our work cut out for us. That's why at RGA we've worked hard. We've, we’ve raised a record amount of money this cycle. And we're making certain we're putting all that money to good use here in the last three weeks of the campaign.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, it’s interesting, if you look at the Great Lakes region in general, sort of that part of the Midwest, it seems to me that that’s gonna, it's possible you'll have Democratic governors in pretty much all of the states that touch a Great Lake if things don't go your way. And particularly I'm thinking Wisconsin in particular. But Michigan, you're behind, and all of these. What do you need to do in the Midwest to make it, to make it feel like it's a better night than we think you're going to have?

GOV. BILL HASLAM:

So eight years ago we had a pretty great night, in terms of taking over a lot of those governors in Michigan, and Wisconsin, and in Illinois as well. Wisconsin, Scott Walker, we all know what a great campaigner he is. He's one of the best retail politicians I've seen. And he's got good results to show in Wisconsin. So that's a very, very tight race. But I have a lot of faith in the end that the people of Wisconsin will re-elect Scott. Michigan is a little bit more of an uphill battle for us. But Bill Schuette has been working hard. He's out trying to get his message and as he’s pointed out in his attorney general races in the past, he has closed a lot stronger than people thought he would. So while that's a difficult part of the country for us, we are by no means throwing in the towel. And we're actually somewhat optimistic.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this. There's an interesting conundrum here. You've got a couple of Republican governors in very blue states that are going to cruise to reelection. I'm thinking Charlie Baker --

GOV. BILL HASLAM:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

-- in Massachusetts, Larry Hogan in Maryland in particular. And at the same time, you're struggling in some of the reddest states in America, your candidates. In Oklahoma and Kansas. What are the, what are--

GOV. BILL HASLAM:

Yeah, I --

CHUCK TODD:

-- Hogan and Baker doing right? And what are Kris Kobach and Mr. Stitt doing wrong?

GOV. BILL HASLAM:

Well I think one thing to remember in all this is while the Senate races sometimes just turn into red jerseys versus blue jerseys, the governors' races are different. So you made a great, a great point in New England. We, right now, have Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, skipping down a little to Maryland. We have a really good shot to win in Connecticut. I think which, I tell people all the time, that surprisingly Bernie Sanders' governor is a Republican.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

GOV. BILL HASLAM:

But I think what you're seeing is people look at the practical aspects of electing a governor. Who's going to create jobs here? Who's going to produce the best schools? And who's going to run our state's budget in a way that works? And so it's a lot different decision voting for your governor than it is for your senator, and definitely than it is for your House member.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to ask you about two races in particular. Because they both feature Republican secretaries of state who are Republican nominees. And there's some Democrats who don't think the vote's going to be counted fairly. I'm talking about Georgia and Brian Kemp, and I'm talking about Kansas and Kris Kobach. First of all, should those gentlemen have resigned their seats? Recused, you know, you would say they would -- should they have essentially recused themselves from the vote count?

GOV. BILL HASLAM:

I don't think so. Again, I don't know the specifics of exactly how the process works in their states. But I know how it works in our state, and the secretary of state's role in it. And while he oversees the process, there are a lot of people involved in that. Again, if our secretary of state was running, I wouldn't ask him to step down because there are so many checks and balances in the process that I just don't have any fear about the integrity of the ballot. I can’t, I don't know exactly in Kansas and Georgia how they work. But I personally don't have any concern about that.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump is a huge issue in the Florida governor's race. In some places some candidates run away from him. On your side I can think Larry Hogan and Charlie Baker, for instance. Some have been running with him. Is it safe to say that President Trump complicates things in some places and helps in other places? I mean, is he, if he -- if you lose Florida, is it on the president?

GOV. BILL HASLAM:

Well I don't think it’s, any race is entirely on the president, win or lose. I think again particularly in a governor's race it comes back down to is your, as the senator said just prior to this, even more so in governors' races it's about the quality of the candidate. I think in Florida the choice is this, in Florida, I think my numbers are right, I think they've added about two and a half million jobs in the last eight years under Rick Scott. The economy is booming. It's even more critical now. You know, the new tax plan, you can no longer deduct your state and local taxes. And so states like Florida, like Tennessee, Texas, that don't have income taxes have all of a sudden become very happy hunting grounds --

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

GOV. BILL HASLAM:

-- for folks to go out and recruit, particularly out of some of the high states in the Northeast. We've seen that. Florida is on a boom. And if I was Florida, I would not want to turn that around. I compete with Florida all the time. I have a unique perspective as --

CHUCK TODD:

Alright.

GOV. BILL HASLAM:

-- to governor of Tennessee. We're obviously competing with them all the time for new jobs. To me, if they turned around --

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

GOV. BILL HASLAM:

-- the way they were going -- the direction they've been in now, it would be a big mistake.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me quickly ask you about your home state. You said this about the Tennessee Senate race in the New York Times about Phil Bredesen, the Democratic nominee, and your predecessor as governor. He's making the argument, "I'm another pragmatic in the tradition of Tennessee leaders. I'm going to do what's best for Tennessee." And then you said, "That's always been a good argument in Tennessee." Is it a good enough argument for him to pull the upset?

GOV. BILL HASLAM:

I don't think so. And that has been Governor Bredesen's argument. And he could point back to a good term as governor. But a couple things. Number one, Marsha’s run, Blackburn, has run a really good race throughout this time. I think they're well positioned. Number two, Tennessee is one of those states where the Kavanaugh hearings did change things. People realized well it really doesn't matter, kind of, what you're saying. The color of the jersey you're wearing up there is really important. And I don't, I’m not, I don’t know exactlyut I think the Kavanaugh hearings had a five or six-point swing in Tennessee.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

GOV. BILL HASLAM:

I personally think Marsha will win by at least that much.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Republican Bill Haslam, the chair of the Republican Governors Association from Tennessee. Thanks for your time and sharing your views. Appreciate it.

GOV. BILL HASLAM:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, what does an unusually large turnout mean? It means a lot of pre-election predictions can turn out to be meaningless. The panel is next. As we go to break today, though, we're going to look at some of the more memorable moments of the 2018 campaign.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. We have more room in our election headquarters here in New York. So that means we have more panel. More cowbell. It's now an election night. It can't be an election night without NBC News senior correspondent, Tom Brokaw. So you're God-darn right he's here. Today Show co-anchor, Savannah Guthrie, NBC News Capitol Hill Correspondent, Kasie Hunt, and Democratic pollster, Cornell Belcher, and Hugh Hewitt, host on the Salem Radio Network. Welcome, all. I'm going to shut up here in a second. But I want to show you some of the word clouds that came out of our new NBC News Wall Street Journal poll. Because we asked a simple message to voters, what message do you want to send with your vote if you could send that message? And here's what folks who prefer a Republican-controlled Congress told us. Check out this word cloud. You see immigration pops up big, do your job, work together.

By the way, keep track of that. And now take a look at the message that those who prefer a Democratic Congress. First of all, you see the word Trump a lot there. Get rid of Trump, stand up against Trump. But look at, do your job shows up there too. And work together shows up there.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE:

We need a work together do your job party.

CHUCK TODD:

Savannah, yes. There you go.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE:

That's what I take away.

CHUCK TODD:

Bring America together.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE:

Wait, this is so happy. This a bipartisan result here. It's interesting. I was listening to Governor Haslam talking about, you know it's not going to be Trump’s fault if, for example, they lose in Florida. But the problem is that Trump, in contrast to many presidents you and I have covered, has actually almost literally put himself on the ballot. "A vote for Marsha is a vote me," in Tennessee, and so far and so forth. So he’s- you have to say, he's a gambling man. He's all in on it. First of all, he's working his tail off. What is it, 11 stops in the last three days? And he has said, "It's about me." And most presidents, even when it is a referendum on him, and we all know it, will never accept that. And Trump is all in, saying, "Yes, it is about me." So that's what Tuesday is going to be, in my opinion.

CHUCK TODD:

Not since FDR, is the last--

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

--president to do this, Tom.

TOM BROKAW:

Well it has not just the optics but the tone of a presidential election. And that's where we are in American politics. Because it's now 24/7, jam-packed. I must say that in the last week or so, what has been very unsettling to me is to see American soldiers unspooling concertina wire on the border with their weapons nearby. This is how we're dealing with what is not yet a threat of any kind. If you had imagination in the White House you'd go to the UN, and you'd go to the very many private agencies in this country, International Rescue Committee, the Catholic charities, Save the Children, and work out some kind of a complex deal to get them stopped on the Mexican border. They're not coming in here on their own terms. And say to Mexico, "If you want aid from us, you're going to have to get involved in this." But instead it's pointing a gun. And I don't just think that's what this country is about. But that's what’s also elevated this to a presidential election.

KASIE HUNT:

Can I just say this, though, Chuck. I spent the last week, four states, four days, talking to voters and also to Republican and Democratic candidates. And while, you know, Tom is right, this election, to a certain extent, has national tones. And I certainly talked to Republicans who say immigration is their top concern, I actually came away with a much different picture. I went to an event with the House speaker and Scott Walker, who's in the race of his life in Wisconsin. And you listen to them, and you'd barely know that President Trump was in the White House. They have a Republican president. And he was barely mentioned by name. They wanted to talk about jobs and the economy. And every Republican candidate I talked to, I spoke with David Young in Iowa, he said the same thing when you pushed him on these questions. They do not- the Republicans in tough races, they do not want to be on the terrain that the president's on. Now, they acknowledge they need excitement from their base. The president is trying to do that. But I think in many ways he's been a bigger problem than help for a lot of these guys.

CORNELL BELCHER:

You know, and I'll go back to the point that Mr. Brokaw was making. He's being practical. But look at that word cloud. And for those who want Republican’s control, immigration is the big thing--

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

CORNELL BELCHER:

--in the word cloud. And I think the president is driving this. Because they think- they think midterm elections are about base turnout. They always have. And Democrats have done a poor job of turning out their base. So he's trying to drive their base. And the problem is- and I was looking to the Wall Street Journal's numbers, the vote as a signal of opposition to the president is higher right now than it was for George Bush in '06 or Barack Obama in- in 2014. And so the president's job disapproval right now really means something.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Hugh, I had a Republican pollster say to me, "If Rick Scott with a 54 percent job rating doesn't win, it's not Rick Scott's fault, it's Donald Trump's fault."

HUGH HEWITT:

Yeah. But I think he is gonna win. In fact, when I listened to Chris Van Hollen, I heard less than an enthusiastic guy. When I listened to Bill Haslam, he’s up Marsha Blackburn by six points. When I got the poll this morning at 6:30, I went to the one number which is the economic, "Are you very satisfied or somewhat satisfied?" 74 percent people think their own personal economics are good. That is a remarkable thing for a national election. The president would be--

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE:

But then how do you--

HUGH HEWITT:

--excited.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE:

I know. But then you put that side by side with the wrong track number.

HUGH HEWITT:

Right. Exactly.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE:

It's like we're not in an economic recession, we're in a political recession.

HUGH HEWITT:

But when you go in to vote, you go in to vote and you're in Arizona, you got to pick Martha McSally, who's surging. Did the Star-SpangledBanner at the ASU game. Do you vote to keep the economy humming, or do you vote against President Trump? And I think you end up voting--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

Hey, I got to show you what Donald Trump said about talking about the economy though. It was something else. Take a listen to what he said about why he doesn't talk about the economy, Hugh.

(ON TAPE)

TRUMP:

He's got the greatest economy. Why is he talking about the border? Well you can only say so many times that we just created 250,000 jobs last month, right? They all say, "Speak about the economy." But sometimes it's not as exciting to talk about the economy, right?

TOM BROKAW:

But the fact of the matter is Hugh is right. At the end of the day people have the best job creation economy we've had since the 1960s. I mean in the industrial Midwest, where Trump did so well in the last election, it's booming out there. The economy is humming. You cannot, you cannot overestimate the importance of the economy when people walk into that voting booth.

CORNELL BELCHER:

Really quickly, here's the fundamental problem with that. These college-educated women in the suburbs who are, who are leading the charge of resistance going on, it's not about the economy for them. It's what's happening in Washington, the disrespect. It is not- It's disconnected from the economy, so somebody needs to-

TOM BROKAW:

Well not the only thing.

KASIE HUNT:

Well this is--

TOM BROKAW:

But you cannot discount it--

KASIE HUNT:

--where health care plays in.

TOM BROKAW:

--as a point.

KASIE HUNT:

Health care absolutely plays into this. Because it's as much of an economic issue as it is a personal issue in this election. Because the premiums are so high, people are worried about bankruptcy, and it's contradicting the other numbers.

CHUCK TODD:

For sure. If health care's on your mind, you know where you're voting. And if immigration's on your mind, I think you know where you're voting. The question is, if it's Trump on your mind, how are you going to vote? When we come back, Democrat Stacey Abrams, who's in that neck-and-neck race to become governor of Georgia.

CHUCK TODD:Welcome back now to one of the tightest governors' races in the country and one that we've all been following from a national perspective. That's in Georgia, which has been flooded with surrogates. Oprah on Thursday. Vice President Pence, who reminded us he was kind of a big deal too, was also there that day. President Obama on Friday. And President Trump, who is holding a rally in Macon, Georgia there this afternoon. So joining me now is the Democratic nominee for governor, Stacey Abrams. If she wins, she would make history as the nation's first female African-American governor. Ms. Abrams, welcome back to Meet the Press.

STACEY ABRAMS:Thank you for having me.

CHUCK TODD:Look, let me be honest. Did you think the Sunday before the election you'd be in a coin flip race?

STACEY ABRAMS:We were preparing for every eventuality. And I'm excited to be in a dead heat because I know that we are going to turn out voters who have never voted before.

CHUCK TODD:It feels as if the final debate about this election has really been about how to count the votes and who gets to vote. It hasn't been as much about some of the issues. How concerned are you that this is going to be a fair vote? I know the last time we were on you, you expressed optimism that this was going to be a fair election, that you would, you would, trust the results. Do you still feel that way?

STACEY ABRAMS:I do. We have seen unprecedented turnout in this race from people who normally do not engage and do not vote. Some of that has been driven by the conversations of voter suppression. Because one of the best ways to encourage people to use something is to tell them that someone's trying to take it away. Luckily, we've had two court decisions against Brian Kemp, one that requires that absentee ballots be counted even if the signatures aren't exactly the same and a second one that forces him to stop using the exact match system to disqualify voters who are qualified. But what is more important is that we have talked about issues. We've talked about jobs, and health care, and education. And that's also engaging people and turning them out in waves that we have not seen in Georgia in decades.

CHUCK TODD:The president's going to be in Macon, Georgia today. He said you just simply weren't qualified to be governor. He didn't say why. How did you take that assessment?

STACEY ABRAMS:I find his assessments to be vapid and shallow. I am the most qualified candidate. I am a business owner. I'm a tax attorney who has trained at Yale Law School. I am a civic leader who helped to register more than 200,000 Georgians. I am a very accomplished political leader who worked across the aisle to improve access to education, to transportation. And I blocked the single-largest tax increase in Georgia history. There is no one more qualified standing for this office in Georgia. And I look forward to having the voters of Georgia say the same.

CHUCK TODD:You know, it's interesting. When Oprah Winfrey came to campaign for you, she said something that may have surprised some of your supporters that were in the audience that day. Take a listen.

[BEGIN TAPE]

OPRAH WINFREY:I am a registered independent because I don't want any party and I don't want any kind of partisan influence telling me what decisions I get to make for myself.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:Obviously you want to win over independents. So on one hand, of course having somebody as famous as Oprah Winfrey saying, "I'm an independent. Come on, independents. Come with me. Vote with Stacey Abrams." But do you think that sends a negative message to Democrats --

STACEY ABRAMS:Not at --

CHUCK TODD:

-- at all as you're trying to fire Democrats up to get them, to get them to support your campaign?

STACEY ABRAMS:

I believe Oprah's presence fires people up because she has been fiercely independent her entire life. And I think what she's saying is, "This is an election about the issues. Listen to the conversations happening between the candidates. Look at who's showing up, who's talking about issues, who has comprehensive plans for your life. And make a decision not based simply on party but on record and on intention." And I'm the only candidate who shows up every time, who has detailed, comprehensive plans for Georgia, but most importantly who keeps her promises and honors her commitments. And I think what she is signaling to independents and everyone else is that this is the time to make a choice based on who's best for Georgia. And she believes that I am it, as do I.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, one of the things it seems to me, this has been a very bitter campaign. You've called your opponent a liar. He's used some harsh language. If you win, you're going to have a very large Republican majority in the Georgia legislature. Yes, maybe Democrats make a few gains there. But you're going to be dealing with a Republican legislature. You have to work across the aisle if you're going to accomplish anything. How do you repair this divide? It’s, let's be honest. You know it's, it feels worse than ever. How are you going to try to do this?

STACEY ABRAMS:

Number one, I've run this campaign going to every single part of the state. I have not ignored a single community or county because I believe that my job is to speak to every single voter. Number two, if you look at the issues I talk about, education, high-class education for everyone, access to health care in every community, and making sure that we have good-paying jobs, this cuts across partisanship. But most importantly, I can stand on my record. I was the leader of Democrats in a majority-Republican legislature. And I was able to work across the aisle and get good done. We can disagree on principles, but we have a common responsibility to Georgians. And I've always said, "People don't care about your party. They care about their lives." And as the next governor, my goal is going to be to bring everyone together to solve the problems we can solve together. Certainly leading with my values: faith, and family, and service. But recognizing that everyone comes to the table as a Georgian and we have to work together.

CHUCK TODD:

Is there an idea your opponent Brian Kemp has put forward that you would, that if you won, you would actually also put forward?

STACEY ABRAMS:

Absolutely. I, we completely agree on the need to increase teacher pay. We agree on the need for public safety. We just have a different idea about how we get there and whose responsibility is it is. Unfortunately, he has some good slogans, but he has no comprehensive plans for what he wants to accomplish. We have not only slogans but detailed plans that tell you where we're going to go and how we're going to pay for it. You don't have to raise taxes in Georgia to raise expectations and raise outcomes.

CHUCK TODD:

If you're running for reelection four years from now, what's the one accomplishment you have to have in order for you to feel as if you deserve a chance at reelection?

STACEY ABRAMS:

The expansion of Medicaid in the state of Georgia, providing access to health care coverage to half a million Georgians, creating thousands of jobs, and making certain that we repair our broken mental health system so that every single person in Georgia who faces trouble, faces challenges does not feel the stigma of mental health and instead knows that they have access to substance abuse treatment and to mental health care treatment. If we--

CHUCK TODD:

This--

STACEY ABRAMS:

-- can get that done, that's the baseline for a lot of work.

CHUCK TODD:

This legislature rejected it before. What makes you think your election is going to make them not reject expanding Medicaid?

STACEY ABRAMS:

Because we have seen an evolution in this state as more and more states have expanded Medicaid. In fact, 17 states led by Republicans have done so. Fifteen led by Democrats. And the states that have expanded Medicaid, they've seen their costs go down, they've seen their outcomes improve, and they've seen increases in their bottom line. And I think that legislators on both sides of the aisle, especially Republicans who represent these rural hospitals on the brink of closure, are going to be willing to do what it takes to save the lives of their constituents.

CHUCK TODD:

Stacey Abrams, I’ve gotta leave it there. The Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia. And because of an arcane runoff rule that you guys have there, there's a chance you get to keep campaigning through December. So I guess rest up and stay safe on the trail. Thanks for coming on.

STACEY ABRAMS:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

We have invited Republican Brian Kemp to appear as we did the last time we had Stacey Abrams on and once again he declined. When we come back: how to watch election night. The clues I’m going to be looking for very early on on Tuesday to see which way the night is going nationally.

[BEGIN TAPE]

BARACK OBAMA:

Republicans can’t hear you boo. But they can hear you vote.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

I need your vote for a Republican House. I need your vote for a Republican Senate so we can continue this incredible movement.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Data download time. We've got races, obviously, in every time zone across the country. Including all the late Alaska time zones this Tuesday night. So it's possible we may not know who controls the House, the Senate, gubernatorial races until the wee hours of the morning, maybe days later, and in one case, months later. But we actually could know how the night is going pretty early on, with a few key races on the East Coast. In fact, here is what I'm looking for. First of all, in the battle for the House, we have 25 Republican-held seats where polls will close before 8 p.m. So you're going to have a pretty good idea as you can see of where the House is headed. But let's look for specific clues. First of all, in the battle for the Senate, Indiana Senate, the earliest poll closing is the state of Indiana. That Senate race, right now, neck and neck. We're going to have a pretty good idea of which direction the Senate's going on the Republican side, I think, with Indiana here. But, that said, if it's really close we could be waiting very, very late for Gary, Indiana. But let's go to some key bellwethers in the House, Lexington, Kentucky, Kentucky's 6th District here. I can tell you this, whenever Democrats control Congress, they control this seat. That's why we're watching that one early on. And then let's go to the state of Virginia. They have four congressional districts, different types of Republican-held districts which will tell us whether we're going to see a wave or not. The easiest district for the Democrats to win is Virginia's 10th. The swingiest seat in Virginia is Virginia Beach there, the 2nd District. The next one on the Democrat target list is Dave Brat, Virginia's 7, Richmond suburb, encroaching into Northern Virginia. And then here's your wave-watch seat in Virginia. It's the Charlottesville district, and then some, goes almost all the way to Roanoke, the 5th District. If Democrats are winning this seat, then it's tsunami-watch time. When we come back, Endgame, and the growing number of Republican House seats now in the battleground. We have hit the century mark.

(COMMERCIAL)

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with endgame. I want to put up a simple chart, guys, which is presidential approval and number of seats lost in a midterm. First midterm. Let me show you. We have Donald Trump's rating: 46 percent. We don't know how many seats his party will lose.

But check out Barack Obama in his first midterm. His approval rating, 47 percent. Sixty-three seats were lost. Bill Clinton, 48 percent, 54 seats. Hugh Hewitt, 46 percent. I have some Republicans going, "Well, hey, you know that's survivable." But if you look historically, and I think one of the things we failed to do in '16 was remember history was actually working against Clinton. Third term.

HUGH HEWITT:

Yep.

CHUCK TODD:

It's very difficult here. History says this could be a drubbing.

HUGH HEWITT:

I thought six months ago it was going to be. But there was a signal event that makes this different. Brett Kavanaugh. Governor Haslam brought it up to you. I think on Wednesday everyone is going to be talking about Brett Kavanaugh and the lingering impact. Deep, decisive, across the United States, in places like Montana, in places like Florida. As Haslam said, in Tennessee.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

HUGH HEWITT:

I think Kavanaugh is going to be the term on Wednesday that's going to be in the word cloud of pundits.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Cornell, if we're missing this election, right, in '16 the miss was missing a Trump surge at the end. If we're missing something today that in two days we'll see, what are we missing?

CORNELL BELCHER:

Oh, I think what we missed in '16 was the protest vote of young people. I think what we're missing is (I hate to say this because I'm a pollster) our polling numbers are not going to be accurate. Because we don't know what the heck the electorate's --

CHUCK TODD:

Because turnouts--

CORNELL BELCHER:

-- going to be.

CHUCK TODD:

-- can be so big, right?

CORNELL BELCHER:

Because I just a text from the mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, in Atlanta, and she's saying they've never seen turnout like this. And Stacey is expanding this electorate. Look, Democrats came 200,000 votes short the last time in the governor's race there. She saw that, and she started working to expand the electorate. And we have younger voters turning out at a higher pace. We don't know what the electorate's going to be. I don't trust any of the horserace numbers right now. And I'm a pollster.

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, neither do I, Kasie.

CHUCK TODD:

I know. I know. Shh, don't tell our pollsters. And I love our pollsters.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE:

I know. Hart and McInturff are --

CHUCK TODD:

I know.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE:

-- having tequila right now.

CHUCK TODD:

I have to say, I am a little nervous too, because of this turnout.

KASIE HUNT:

Yeah. Well and, Chuck, you know the one thing I don't think we should lose sight of, and to a certain extent it feels obvious because we've talked about it over and over again, but women, and the way that they have responded to this president. The number of people -- you know I bumped into somebody on the street in Kansas City. We call them man-on-the-street interviews. And she was walking out of Panera Bread with her--

CHUCK TODD:

This was a woman on the street though.

KASIE HUNT:

--breakfast. A woman on the street. And she had hosted a political fundraiser for the Democratic woman running in Kansas City. She'd never done anything like that before in her life. She talked about how just absolutely angry and upset her neighbors are. We're seeing it in the candidates--

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

KASIE HUNT:

-- in these house races. And I just think do not underestimate that.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, you guys, I want you to tackle this question. One of the most important swing voting groups in 2016 were people that didn't like either candidate.

CHUCK TODD:

And they broke for Donald Trump two and sometimes three to one, depending on the state. Right now we have found that if you don't like either party, you're voting nearly three to one Democratic. Savannah?

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE:

Well I think it's a geography is destiny thing. What Hugh just talked about and what Kasie just talked about. Hugh is telling the story in the Senate where the Kavanaugh hearings was a Senate saver for Republicans. We're probably going to ultimately all conclude that.

And in these suburban house districts, it's the fired up females who have had it. They don't like how the president is acting, and it doesn't matter how strong the economy may be. They want to send a protest vote. And I think what's most fascinating is states are little laboratories, like we used to say in law school.

This is an experiment on Tuesday night. Which method's going to work for Democrats? Is it to be a moderate? Somebody who's so moderate they almost seem like a Republican? Like a Joe Donnelly in Indiana? Or is it the Beto O'Rourke and the Stacey Abrams model? The progressive, change the electorate, bring out people? And I think we're going to get an answer to that Tuesday night.

CHUCK TODD:

Tom, put a little cold water on this. Does anything actually change on Wednesday morning? Even if it's a Democratic wave? Democrats win the Senate and the House. What changes in our politics?

TOM BROKAW:

Well one of the things that troubles me a lot is when I think of the projected results of this election, we'll end up again with a pudding without a theme. We're going to have Democrats, probably, on the House on the upside. I think the Senate will probably stay the same. And we're just going to have to muddle through for the next two years.

The country is still going to be deeply, deeply divided. When you're talking about women, for example, I've been listening to women out there as well. Kavanaugh had a big impact on suburban women who have sons. They didn't like what they saw, frankly.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

TOM BROKAW:

And they drifted back across. So we have a real mishmash going on here. May I just say one thing that I think is a failure in this country? We've not talked about Parkland.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

TOM BROKAW:

We've not talked about Las Vegas. We've not talked about what happened in Pittsburgh a week ago.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

TOM BROKAW:

We are a country that are slaughtering our own citizens on a regular basis. Maybe not in those big numbers, but too often.

CHUCK TODD:

Well I'll tell you, gun control messages have apparently been working. We'll see if it happens on Tuesday. Before we go, a quick a programming note. I'm going to be right back here on Tuesday night with my colleagues, Lester Holt, and this person over here, Savannah Guthrie. Thanks for your set, by the way, it looks great. Midterm coverage on NBC begins at 8:00, 7:00 Central. Don't miss it. That's all we've got for today. Thanks for watching. We'll be back next week post-midterms, because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press."