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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, all about that base. President Trump campaigning for Republicans.

CROWD:

Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!

CHUCK TODD:

Firing up his most-loyal supporters.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

I had heard that he body slammed the reporter!

CHUCK TODD:

And making his closing argument.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

This will be the election of Kavanaugh, the caravan, law and order, tax cuts, and common sense.

CHUCK TODD:

Republican candidates get the message

REP. MARSHA McSALLY:

We got this frigging caravan.

CHUCK TODD:

While Democrats focus on healthcare.

REP. JACKY ROSEN:

Protections for pre-existing conditions.

SEN. JON TESTER:

Pre-existing conditions.

SEN. CLAIRE McCASKILL:

Pre-existing conditions.

CHUCK TODD:

And portray Republicans as out of the mainstream.

PHIL BREDESEN:

I drew an opponent who was way, way over there.

CHUCK TODD:

Two weeks to go until the midterms. And joining me this morning, Democratic minority whip, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, and the vice-chairman of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee, Thom Tillis of North Carolina. Plus, is the Republican post-Kavanaugh surge real? Or are we just seeing a natural closing of the midterms? We have a brand-new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll out this morning with some unusual results that should make both parties a little nervous. And the man whose expletive-filled interview got him fired from the White House, former communications director Anthony Scaramucci joins me on what it's like to work for President Trump. Joining me for insight and analysis are NBC News correspondent Katy Tur; Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson; Peggy Noonan, columnist for the Wall Street Journal; and David Brody, chief political analyst for CBN News. Welcome to Sunday. It's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

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

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. And welcome to the choose-your-own-adventure midterm elections. Is there a Democratic wave coming? We've got data to support that. Has the surge of post-Kavanaugh enthusiasm for Republicans turned back the Democrats' momentum? There's data to support that. Or could this be a typical midterm, with Democrats making just modest gains? There's data to support that, too. And we have plenty of new data this morning. Here's what our brand-new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll shows with just over two weeks to go until the midterms. Among registered voters, Democrats hold a seven-point lead in the generic ballot, 48%/41%. That's down significantly from the 12-point lead Democrats held just a month ago, pre-Kavanaugh, when it was 52%/40%. But wait, there's more. Among likely voters, the Democrats’ lead grows, not shrinks. It grows to nine, 50% to 41%. Here's why that's interesting. It's the first time ever, in our polling, that our likely voter model shows a better number for the Democrats than the registered voter number. Normally, in midterms, Republicans have the likely voter advantage. So what's different this year? It's the heightened enthusiasm for Democrats among Millennials, Latinos, and younger women, groups that historically have had low turnout rates but are making it into our likely voter model this year. As for President Trump, he has his best numbers yet in our poll. Among registered voters, 47% approve of his performance in office, while 49% disapprove. That's substantially better than his numbers last month in our poll, 44%/52% approve/disapprove. But again, among those likely voters, his numbers did get worse: 45% approve, 52% disapprove. There are a lot of questions leading up to this year's midterms. But here's what we do know. There's a higher interest in this election than any midterm we've ever measured. Turnout's going to be through the roof. And the divide between men and women is growing, with the Democratic strength the result of unprecedented support among women. Now, will it be enough to stop the Republicans' post-Kavanaugh bump? That's going to be the story of the next 16 days.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Democrats produce mobs. Republicans produce jobs.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump's closing argument is all about the base.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Democrats want to throw your borders wide open to deadly drugs and ruthless gangs.

CHUCK TODD:

And republican candidates are sounding more and more like Mr. Trump, repeating dire warnings on immigration.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Remember, it's going to be an election of the caravan.

REP. KEVIN CRAMER:

The caravan is coming from Central America.

JOSH HAWLEY:

This migrant caravan.

REP. MARSHA McSALLY:

We got this frigging caravan.

CHUCK TODD:

At times, using violent language.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Any guy that could do a body slam, he's my kind of--

SCOTT WAGNER:

I'm going to stomp all over your face with golf spikes, because I’m going to win this.

CHUCK TODD:

Candidates are even recycling Mr. Trump's insults.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

He's a low-energy person.

REP. MARSHA McSALLY:

Kyrsten, do you need a cup of coffee? You know, you need a little bit more energy there. I think your teleprompter's going a little too slow.

CHUCK TODD:

With the fight for control of the Senate playing out largely in states the president won, this base-first strategy banks on Mr. Trump's ability to bring out voters in more-rural areas, where he is popular. But the president's rhetoric is unlikely to help Republicans in the suburban House districts, where they are already at a demographic disadvantage. And for the first time ever, in two straight NBC News-Wall Street Journal polls, women favored Democratic control of Congress by a whopping 25 points.

PHOENIX FEMALE VOTER:

I think, now, we're going to hell in a handbasket. I-- I just can't believe some of the antics that go on with the President of the United States.

CHUCK TODD:

70 of the 75 House seats the Cook Political Report rates as competitive are held by Republicans, including 25 that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Democrats need to flip just 23 of those 75 to win back the House. But the Democratic enthusiasm advantage has narrowed after the Kavanaugh fight. And the question is whether those fundamentals will be enough to produce not just a takeover but a wave.

NARRATOR:

Pre-existing conditions.

CHUCK TODD:

Meanwhile, Democrats are avoiding a broad, national message, remaining laser focused on a single issue.

REP. JACKY ROSEN:

Protections for pre-existing conditions.

REP. BETO O’ROURKE:

Protections for pre-existing conditions.

SEN. CLAIRE McCASKILL:

For pre-existing conditions.

SEN. HEIDI HEITKAMP:

Pre-existing conditions.

REP. KYRSTEN SINEMA:

Pre-existing health conditions.

CHUCK TODD:

And with President Obama largely absent from the campaign trail and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi unpopular with independents, Democrats running in states Trump won are running away from the national party.

OFF-CAM REPORTER:

Are you a Democrat?

REP. KYRSTEN SINEMA:

I am.

OFF-CAM REPORTER:

Proud Democrat?

REP. KYRSTEN SINEMA:

Gosh, it's hard to say, "proud." I don’t know that -- I'm not sure that people are even proud of parties anymore.

CHUCK TODD:

And even running away from Democratic leaders.

PHIL BREDESEN:

Changing the players makes some sense. I think we ought to change the players.

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now from Chicago is the Senate Democratic Whip, Dick Durbin. Senator Durbin, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

Good to be with you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

I know you couldn't see that package, but you could hear it. That last voice in there was the former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, who is running for that U.S. Senate seat in Tennessee, calling for a, quote, “change of players,” when it comes to the Democratic leadership. You're a member of this Democratic leadership. When you hear that, is there going to be a change of players, between yourself, Senator Schumer, Nancy Pelosi? Or make your case for why it isn't necessary.

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

Chuck, that's tomorrow's newspaper. Today's newspaper is about an election on November 6th. And let me tell you what we're doing. We're focusing on the issues that make a difference. I know that you probably had the pre-existing condition phrase in there a dozen times in that lead-in. That's because the American people put that as the highest priority. They want protection for their families. They know the Republicans have voted consistently to take away that protection and filed lawsuits to end it. That's why it's such an important issue, over and over again, on a local basis.

CHUCK TODD:

But let me go back to this leadership issue. You heard -- the other voice in there was Kyrsten Sinema, the Democratic nominee in Arizona, saying, “People don't like parties anymore.” And obviously, both parties are unpopular in our poll right now. Is that a problem for you, that there are voters out there that you need to win over, who don't like the Democratic Party, but you're having to basically make the case, "Hey, you may not like us. But don't you like the other side worse -- less?"

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

Well, it gets down to this, Chuck. There are more and more independent voters. And I think Kyrsten's correct in making that assertion. But the bottom line is, we are doing well with those independent voters. Take a look at what Mitch McConnell gave us this last week: an insight into where the Republicans are going if they continue to control Congress. In order to deal with the deficits they've created with the tax bill for the wealthy people and special interests, they are going to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Those are fightin’ words for a lot of people, not just Democrats, but independents, as well. Pre-existing conditions, making sure that Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid are strong for years to come, that's a good basis to get a lot of people elected to Congress.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to play for you an ad that Jacky Rosen, she's the Democratic nominee running in Nevada, it's interesting, in the message she's trying to send to Nevada voters, which may surprise some viewers. Take a listen.

[BEGIN TAPE]

VETERAN 1:

Jacky Rosen wrote legislation to improve veterans' healthcare. And President Trump signed it into law.

VETERAN 2:

Jacky stood up to Nancy Pelosi to reform the VA.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

So here's a Democratic Senate candidate in Nevada talking about legislation that she got signed by President Trump and, essentially, trying to distance herself from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. What does that say about the power of the anti-Trump message these days?

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

I can tell you, Jacky Rosen, obviously, knows the pulse of Nevada. And she has come forward with a message that plays across the United States: agree with the president when he's right, be prepared to fight him, if necessary, when he's wrong. I'm working with the administration to disclose the cost of prescription drugs on the ads they put on television. Secretary Azar of the Trump administration, whom I did not vote for in the cabinet, is working with me. I'd be glad to tell the people of Illinois and anywhere that that's an important issue we can work on together. But there are many differences. And they get down to pre-existing conditions, these basic entitlement programs, and making sure that this president has someone in Congress who's going to keep an eye on him when he goes to an extreme position.

CHUCK TODD:

One of the other messages in that ad, obviously, was Jacky Rosen trying to distance herself from the Nancy Pelosi attacks. I'm curious, because I hear this from people who defend Pelosi to me and say, "You know what? If Democrats ran the amount of ads that Republicans ran against Pelosi, if they ran those same number of ads against Mitch McConnell, he'd be a pariah, too." Why don't you go after Republican leaders, the way Republicans go after Democratic leaders?

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

I don't think it's a message that really carries the day. Voters are listening for both political parties to say something other than a political squabble is underway in Washington. They're looking for us to address the issues that affect them and their future: the cost of prescription drugs, whether they've saved enough money for retirement, making sure that health insurance is available and affordable. These are things that drive the message home. The Republicans can't win on those issues. So they get personal.

CHUCK TODD:

I've talked to a lot of Democratic activists this week in Nevada and Arizona, a lot of Democratic strategists. And a lot of them complained, off the record, about how Senate Democrats handled the Kavanaugh situation. And they're upset, because it impacted those races. Both races have changed post-Kavanaugh. What would you have done differently, if you could do it again?

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

Chuck, that's a good question but a tough one to answer. We were dealt cards, in the Senate Judiciary Committee, we never anticipated. The fact that there'd be a letter coming forward from Dr. Ford, which eventually became public, which led to a hearing, which we had not even planned. All of those things were unforeseen. This was not some strategy that was laid out. It unfolded this way. We did the best we could under the circumstances. I still believe that we did the right thing in voting against Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I want to move to the issue of now confirmed dead journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. The Saudi government, after 17 days, now confirming that, yes, he died at the hands of some Saudi intelligence agents. I've got to put up the changing story from them. It's amazing. It took them -- for ten days, they were saying things like, "We're investigating. They're looking. He left the consulate." That was one of their first explanations, saying, “this idea that Saudi Arabia was responsible, that was baseless and false”. Then last week, they started working on a cover story. President Trump suggested rogue killers were to blame. And then finally, they claim it was, essentially, an accidental death as a result of some sort of brawl. Is there any part of this story that you accept as credible from the Saudi Arabian government?

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

No, and as a matter of fact, the only person on earth outside of the Saudi kingdom who appears to accept it is President Donald Trump. Here’s what we ought to do, and we ought to do it tomorrow morning, we ought to expel -- formerly expel the Saudi Ambassador from the United States until there is a completion of a third party investigation into this kidnap, murder, and god knows what followed that occurred in Istanbul. We should call on our allies to do the same. Unless the Saudi kingdom understands that civilized countries around the world are going to reject this conduct and make sure that they pay a price for it, they’ll continue doing it. They have a fellow named Raif Badawi, a journalist who’s currently in prison for criticizing the Saudi regime. There is another man Waleed al-Khair who is also facing imprisonment and torture, if necessary, by them, unless he changes his criticism of the regime. If we want them to stop this and make it clear we don’t accept it, we need to be decisive. Expel that journalist. Stop our assistance to their war in Yemen. Let them know they are going to pay a price.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you believe the crown price was -- ordered this killing? Senator Corker, this morning, says he believes that the crown prince himself ordered this.

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

I believe it. Five of his top personal bodyguards are those -- among those accused in the eighteen. His personal bodyguards and one of them has said, publicly a year ago, I don’t move without an order from the executive. The crown prince has his fingerprints all over this and the fact that he is heading up the investigation makes it totally incredible.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Senator Dick Durbin, I'm going to leave it there. Senator, I appreciate your time and for coming on and sharing your views. Much appreciated.

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now is the vice-chair of the committee in charge of getting Senate Republicans elected or reelected, it's Thom Tillis of North Carolina. Senator Tillis, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

SEN. THOM TILLIS:

Good morning.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with the Saudi Arabia issue and, and the killing of Mr. Khashoggi. You probably may not have seen, but at least heard, the, the timeline. It took the Saudis 17 days. Same question that I had for Senator Durbin. Is there any part of the Saudi government's explanation that you find credible?

SEN. THOM TILLIS:

No, not at this point. I agree with everything Dick Durbin just said. We've, we’ve got to get to the bottom of it. In Saudi Arabia, you do not do something of this magnitude without having clearance from the top. We need to find out who that is and hold him accountable.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you as convinced as Senators Corker and Durbin are, as I just -- that, that the crown prince himself ordered this killing?

SEN. THOM TILLIS:

Well, it looks like it, based on the people who were involved in the actual act. I think that's why we need the help from the Turkish officials to get as much information as we have, draw a conclusion. And then there has to be a consequence for it.

CHUCK TODD:

What does a consequence look like? Is it -- and what is the goal of the consequence? Is it to get the Saudis -- the king to name a new crown prince? What would be the goal of the punishment?

SEN. THOM TILLIS:

Well, I think it is to hold the people accountable who committed this horrible act. And if it is the crown prince, then I think that that is something that has to be explored. I don't believe that you can have someone who would authorize this sort of an act be in a position of power with a nation that's very important to us. But we have to have limits as to how far we would go to work with them in a very difficult, complex part of the world. And I think that we have to do the investigation with the intelligence community, with the Turkish officials, Saudi officials, outside of the crown prince, to get to the bottom of it.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you at all concerned that the president seems to be maybe more patient than necessary with the Saudi government?

SEN. THOM TILLIS:

Well, I think that all you're seeing is the public response. I know that the State Department, the intelligence community, and a number of other people, are taking this seriously. We've got a lot of resources focused on it. And I think the president will take the appropriate action, when all the facts are in.

CHUCK TODD:

Can you imagine us having a relationship with the Saudi government that's positive, if the crown prince is still there?

SEN. THOM TILLIS:

No, I don't think so. I think, again, if the facts lead to what we all suspect they will, I think it'll be very problematic for our relationship, going forward.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me move to the midterms. The president says, these midterms are about the following: Kavanaugh, the caravan, law and order, and common sense. You're the vice-chair of the NRSC. Is that the best summation that you would advise Republican candidates to give around the country?

SEN. THOM TILLIS:

I think those are factors. But I believe historic job creation, historically low unemployment among Latinos and African Americans, the economic performance, the, the work that we've done to get NATO to contribute to our mutual defense, there are a lot of things that resonate with the voters. And again, I look at the top-line numbers that you gave earlier in a more specific way and how they're playing in states that we're targeting. And we're looking very good in a number of other states. I fully expect we're going to add to our numbers in the Senate for the Republicans.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to show you a column that conservative Ramesh Ponnuru wrote in Bloomberg earlier this week. "At the end of 2017," he was talking about the Republican agenda, "House Speaker Paul Ryan was pushing Republicans to take up welfare reform. The Trump administration talked up an infrastructure bill. The party compromised by not making a concerted effort on either. But Republicans are asking for voters to augment that majority now. And they still have no agenda." What would you say is the case for re-electing a Republican majority in the Senate, going forward, beyond just confirming judges?

SEN. THOM TILLIS:

I think you go back to the age-old question in elections. Do you feel better about your economic circumstances today than you did two years ago? And I think the answer to that question is, absolutely yes. I think that most voters vote their pocketbook. I do believe the Kavanaugh matter ended up increasing intensity on our side, but only slightly. We typically have greater intensity going into the off-year elections. But I think this is about economic security, economic growth. Those are promises that we've made, and we've fulfilled. It's difficult to get some of the things done. We want to continue to work on infrastructure. But an FAA bill, the jobs, the economy, those, those sorts of things matter to the voters. And I think they're going to put us in a great position in the Senate.

CHUCK TODD:

One issue you didn't mention that Senator Durbin mentioned nonstop was healthcare and the issue of pre-existing conditions. In 2014, you ran, I remember covering your race down there. It's when we first met. You ran as a repeal-and-replace-Obamacare Republican. Why aren't we hearing that this time around? We don't really hear Republicans talking about repeal and replace. Is it because of the popularity of the pre-existing condition clause?

SEN. THOM TILLIS:

No. For one thing, it's a false narrative to say that we want to remove pre-existing conditions. I filed a bill and got several cosponsors to try, in the event that a lawsuit throws out the Affordable Care Act, we have to have a place for people with pre-existing conditions to land. We also have to allow young adults under the age of 26 to be on their parents' healthcare plan. It is a false narrative to say that Republicans want to kill that. It's simply not true --

CHUCK TODD:

But in fairness you’ve had --

SEN. THOM TILLIS:

--There's not enough votes to do it.

CHUCK TODD:

But in fairness, you've had four years in the majority in the Senate to come up with an alternative and two years with full Republican control of Washington.

SEN. THOM TILLIS:

Yeah, and I know you know how D.C. works probably better than I do. You've got to get 60 votes to make that happen. We did, through reconciliation, get rid of the individual mandate and take some of the underpinnings of the Affordable Care Act out. We've got to replace it in the same way that we've got to make sure that Social, Social Security and Medicare can be paid for and Medicaid, over time. What, what the Democrats are not mentioning are widely publicized reports that say, if we stay on the current trajectory, we're going to have a crisis in funding in those programs. No one wants to take away Medicare or Social Security or Medicaid from people who need it. But we have to have a sustainable solution. And we need 60 votes to get that done.

CHUCK TODD:

Math is a funny thing here in Washington. Nobody seems to want to ever cite it. But we have a record-breaking deficit, a record-breaking debt every day, when you watch the debt clock, but a record-breaking deficit this year that may surpass $1 trillion. You now, annually, never mind, obviously, the multiples of that, in the debt. The president yesterday was talking about a new tax cut. You're talking about reforming Social Security and Medicare. What--where are you--how are you going to pay for this tax cut that the president is, apparently, proposing?

SEN. THOM TILLIS:

Well, we've got to make sure that it's at least supported by facts around dynamic growth. It has to pay for itself. We can't go further in debt. I voted against the spending bill, the most recent one, because it was just too much money being spent. And so we've got to, we’ve got to get the American people to recognize that we have a powder keg of dynamite in a debt that's continuing to grow. We're reaching a point where the service -- our debt service could exceed our contribution --

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SEN. THOM TILLIS:

-- or our investment in the military. We've got to make sure that the American people understand, we've got to balance our books. We've got to be on a budget, just like the American people are.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, you just said you wanted any new tax cut to pay for itself. This current tax cut's clearly not paying for itself. The debt's increasing, not decreasing. And there's no sign that it's going to decrease.

SEN. THOM TILLIS:

Well, if you take a look at the scoring for economic growth over time, we can -- I think that there is a way to rationalize that this tax cut will pay for itself through sustained economic growth. If we don't make the numbers, it won't. But if we do, and we're already seeing it early into this cycle, then I do believe that we create the net incremental revenue. It's not going to be enough to come anywhere close to retiring our $21 trillion in debt. That's where we're going to have to look at tough choices --

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

SEN. THOM TILLIS:

-- so that we can balance our books.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Thom Tillis, Republican from North Carolina, I'm going to leave it there. Thanks for coming on and sharing your views. Much appreciated.

SEN. THOM TILLIS:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, more on those midterm elections. Which is stronger: the Republicans post-Kavanaugh bounce or the sustained Democratic anger at President Trump? Panel is next. And as we go to break, some of what I heard this week from voters on my trip out west to Arizona and Nevada.

CARRIE WOLFEAB (PHOENIX VOTER):

I look at the people who are, you know, doing these negative ads. And then I almost, to a point, want to not vote for those people, because of the tactics that they're using.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. The panel is here. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson; Peggy Noonan, columnist for the Wall Street Journal; NBC News correspondent and host of MSNBC Live, my friend, Katy Tur; and David Brody, chief political analyst for CBN News. Welcome, all. So, trying to figure out what this poll is showing us today in our new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll. And let's put this sort of- put it a little bit into historical context here. Presidential job approval connected to seats lost in the first midterm. We go back. Here's President Trump sitting at 47 percent. That seems to be an improvement for him. But what would 47 percent job rating mean in the past, when it comes to a midterm result? Well, President Obama had exactly that, a 47 percent job approval rating in 2010. His party lost 63 seats. Bill Clinton, in 1994, in this same period of time, in October, had a 48 percent approval rating and lost 54 seats. So Peggy Noonan, should Republicans feel better or worse this morning, when they look at the NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll?

PEGGY NOONAN:

I think they should feel as confused as everybody else. The good news, for Republicans, is, only six months ago, I think, we were all talking about a blue wave that we knew was coming and was going to be very significant. We're not quite talking that way anymore. It looks kind of more interesting and complicated and state by state. The continuing mystery that is not a mystery is how a president and an administration can have what is, essentially, peace and prosperity, or economic growth, and no new wars, and still be struggling to get to 50 percent which- in the approval polls, which, if you can't, is a drag on all of your people. It just is the central fact, I think, of the coming election.

KATY TUR:

That's if you accept standard political gravity. And I don't think you can do that with Donald Trump. And I do think that there is an argument to be made for people telling pollsters one thing but believing another thing. And I think that people should be wary of this, going forward. I mean, it just feels a lot, and I hate to be Debbie Downer for Democrats or for Republicans or for anyone or for the standard messaging, I should say. But this feels a lot like 2016. It feels a lot like how everyone was talking in 2016. "The Democrats are going to win. It's going to be a landslide. Donald Trump's going to pull down all Republicans. There's no way they're ever going to win." And when you go out, and you talk to people on the road, they talk about healthcare a lot. But they're also not necessarily talking about, when you talk to a variety of people, how much they hate Donald Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, you know, it's funny you bring that. Let me bring up Amy Walter. Because you sort of channeled her column that I wanted to use to get you guys talking. She noted the difference between or the similarities to 2016. And she writes, "The Clinton Campaign led with a message that emphasized her stability and his," meaning Trump's, "lack of judgement and decency. That didn't work out so well. So this year, they are leading with bread-and-butter issues and leaving the debate over Trump's tweets to the cable-TV panel." And Gene, let me put up these issue numbers. These are the gaps on the generic ballot. Among those who say, the economy is number one, Republicans have a 28-point advantage in the generic ballot. Among those that say immigration is their top issue, they have a 19 percent advantage. Those on the Republican side. But look at this advantage for Democrats among those who care about healthcare, which is, with the economy, one of the top-two issues. And it's a 47 percent advantage.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

And that's what, that’s why Democrats are going to keep talking about healthcare and pre-existing conditions. You're going to hear that phrase until it's ringing in your ears. You know, there still could be a blue wave, or there might not be any wave at all. The only thing that feels like 2016 to me is the squishiness. And the big uncertainty is, for Democrats to do really, really well, Democratic voters have to do something that they don't really do, which is vote in midterms. And so people who don't usually vote in midterms have to come out. For Republicans to hold on, they actually have to do the same thing. Even though Republicans do vote in midterms, the Trump base is not made of the hardcore base. It's not the regular voters. He brought out people who don't often or usually vote, regularly vote. And they have to come out in the midterms.

DAVID BRODY:

That Trump base has been fired up, obviously, since the Brett bounce, as we've been talking about. There's no doubt about it. Anecdotally, my sources on the ground telling me all the time. For example, North Carolina, a state that doesn't have a statewide election, 80 folks, after those Kavanaugh hearings, 80 folks that were not registered voters at all, independents, went ahead and registered with Republican Party. It's anecdotal. The point is that that is a kind of an interesting story to kind of get you a sense of that Brett bounce. Now, I'll say this. I think you put up the economy, immigration, all this. Anger is the number-one issue on both sides. And with Donald Trump, and I will say this, that the Democrats have the anti-Trump venom going for them. They have the Super Soaker, if you will. The problem is, now, Republicans, the problem for Democrats, is that Republicans now have their own Super Soaker in Brett Kavanaugh. And I will just say, you mentioned 2010 or 1994. What was motivating in those elections? The Tea Party in 2010, the Contract with America in 1994, and both Democrats suffered under it. This time around, you don't have that full-on hate. Because you have it on both sides. And I think that's a big difference.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Well, one specific group to watch, if you remember the special election in Alabama, black women voted in huge numbers. And we- just people I know down there, before that election, I just heard stuff I hadn't heard before, in terms of organizing, activity, enthusiasm for elections. I would watch that, particularly throughout the South, in a state like North Carolina, South Carolina, in Georgia, especially, where there's a great- a big governor's election. I would watch that group.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Peggy, I want to point out one other thing. One of the missing pieces of analysis in 2016 that we didn't surface in time, that I think would've helped us understand the election better, which was where people were leaning that didn't like both Clinton and Trump. And he won those voters two to one. Well, I wanted to put this graphic up. These are people that don't like either political party right now. In September, the split between, who did they want to be in control of Congress, among people that were negative of both parties, was advantage Democrats, but narrowly, 43/38. Look at this number here in October. Among those that are negative on both, it is suddenly an open break here, towards the Democrats, 59/17. That's what we saw with Donald Trump, Peggy. It was narrow in September. October came, and the ones that were negative on both broke heavily towards Donald Trump. What does that tell you?

PEGGY NOONAN:

And now, it's breaking heavily towards the Democrats, in general, towards that kind of thing? I don't know exactly what it means. My sense, in this campaign, in a way to bop off something, you said, Katy, is that there are a lot of different local issues coming up that have something to do with the overall trend. I'm also wondering if issues like Dick Durbin mentioned, he started saying, "Those Republicans are going to cut your Social Security. They're going to cut your Medicare, cut your Medicaid." That's something that's going to be coming up. And many people who had supported Donald Trump were very, "Don't touch my Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid." So maybe a little bit of that is going on.

CHUCK TODD:

I've had anecdotal evidence from some, from some Republicans who say they're nervous that some Trump voters may vote Democratic, because they trust Donald Trump. That's who they trust. And they want to have a- you know what? Punish the Republicans.

PEGGY NOONAN:

And they don't really like the Republican Party or Republican GOP.

KATY TUR:

But that's why Donald Trump is going out on the campaign trail and making it all about himself, why he's saying, I'm at the top of the ticket, even though I'm not at the top of the ticket. If you don't vote for Republicans, you're not voting for me." He's making it about Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, guys. I have to pause it here, but we'll pick it up. We're going to get into some weeds in some of these races the next time we bring you back. But when we come back, ah, the revolving door in the Trump West Wing keeps revolving. White House counsel Don McGahn became the latest person to go through the door. And one man who walked through that door is here to tell us about what it's like to go through the revolving door and work for President Trump. It's Anthony Scaramucci. He's next. But first, here's more from my visits to Arizona and Nevada.

NEVADA VOTER:

Well, I have my nephew, that he's a Dreamer. He's filled with fear. And I- I told him, "You know, that's what I'm here for. I'm fighting."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. The Trump administration has broken records for turnover among staffers in the West Wing. Just this week, White House counsel Don McGahn left his job after months of speculation and after successfully shepherding Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. Already, the White House is on its second chief of staff, its third national security advisor, and its fifth communications director. The person with me, most noteworthy and shortest stint in the West Wing, is one of those five, Anthony Scaramucci, who led the White House media shop for just 11 days. He's now out with a new book about his time, though, in President Trump's orbit, particularly before he became president, Trump, the Blue-Collar President. And he joins me now. Mr. Scaramucci, welcome to Meet the Press.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI:

Happy Sunday.

CHUCK TODD:

So the timing of your book coming out comes as we got reports of a screaming match between a former boss of yours, John Kelly, current chief of staff, the national security advisor, John Bolton. It was over the issue of immigration. It was clear -- according to our sources, it was over some comments the national security advisor made to the secretary of Homeland Security, a former deputy to the chief of staff. John Kelly apparently walked out furious, there was rumors of potential resignations. How familiar was that scene – how familiar was that scene to you?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI:

Was there any profanity? I mean, there could've been, right? Possibly, right?

CHUCK TODD:

Possibly some profanity.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI:

Look, the scene is really not that familiar to me and you have to remember, my incident was on a phone line with a reporter who I shouldn't have trusted, and so that's my fault and I totally own that. But I think the more relevant thing is, you know, people are playing, it's the NFL of verbal contact, and so people are playing very hard for the president. I don't know what happened in that specific incident, but you know, I, I know that the west wing and the way the president set up the west wing, it's tough in there for people.

CHUCK TODD:

You were pretty tough though, on General Kelly in your book. I'm going to put up an excerpt here. "The general's style would be in direct conflict with the way [Mr. Trump] had always conducted business. President Trump doesn't work in a precise way," you write, "Never has. Never will. It's been over a year since John Kelly became the White House chief of staff, but my scouting report early on proved to be quite accurate. His personal insecurity has proven to be a poor match with the self-confident, gregarious president."

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI:

You know, look, I think that's pretty self-evident. I mean just even this past week, you know, I applaud the general's service to the country, obviously forty years in the U.S. Marine Corps, but this is a very different job. This is a civilian-based job, and I think he's tried to apply military-like management style to a group of civilians and so that doesn't necessarily work. And by the way, you know the president has a free-wheeling style, that's very different from John Kelly's.

CHUCK TODD:

Did you feel personally mistreated by John Kelly? You seem pretty --

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI:

He --

CHUCK TODD:

-- you seem pretty upset at him in this book.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI:

-- he, well, listen – not, you know, he didn't need to fire me the way he fired me. And I had this conversation with the president. You know, I --

CHUCK TODD:

He could've done it in a different manner?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI:

Totally. I mean, come on. I gave a tremendous amount of money to the campaign, raised a tremendous amount of money, did countless hours of media advocacy during the campaign and the transition and even after the president was inaugurated. There was a better way to fire me, but he was trying to make a spectacle out of it and so he got the spectacle that he wanted. And listen, it was, it was upsetting at the time. I write about it in the book, what I thought was an honest assessment of him and I stand by the words of the book.

CHUCK TODD:

Should the president even have a chief of staff given the way he likes to work?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI:

Yeah I think he needs a chief of staff but he needs a chief of staff that really likes him and gets his personality --

CHUCK TODD:

You don't think John Kelly likes the president?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI:

Do you? I mean let me ask you --

CHUCK TODD:

I don't know him personally and I don't want to crawl into his head.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI:

Let me tell you, I travel around the country and I ask people that rhetorical question. It doesn't come across like he does, and by the way, the Bob Woodward book, I don't know, he seems like a pretty accurate journalist to me. And so, I don't like John Kelly calling the president the things that he's called him. I think it's, I think it’s wrong, and so for me, I have no problem standing up for myself or telling you what I think about John Kelly or the situation with the president. Having said that, I applaud the guy's service, but it's not just me Chuck. You know, he hurt the morale inside the place, and he's hurt the president, and he has hissy fits. You know, he left last week after the rapport that he had with Ambassador Bolton, that's his personality.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm curious --

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI:

You know the good news is, I'm being vindicated by that because he's demonstrating his personality now the way he really is.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm curious. You've interacted with President Trump. As candidate Trump, you weren't quite onboard at first with the idea of him as president. You had other candidates you were interested in first. I think you were formerly with Scott Walker, the current governor of Wisconsin, toyed with going with Jeb Bush. What finally convinced you that Donald Trump had what it took that Scott Walker didn't?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI:

So I actually relate this in the book. I met with the president the day after the Apprentice finale. We sat in his office. And we were joking about him running for president. I didn't believe him at the time. And I was already hooked in to Scott Walker. But what I like about the president is he's a very loyal guy. When I explained to him that my loyalties were to Scott Walker and Jeb Bush, he then said, "Okay, well, after I clean their clocks, will you come work for me?" And I said, "Absolutely." And so after the South Carolina primary, I went to the president's office with Senator Scott Brown, who is a friend of mine from Tufts. We went up there together. And we had a, you know, great conversation. And we began building the blocks for the financing operation. And then when he brought in Steven, Steve Mnuchin, things really started to kick in.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, watching a bunch of Democrats thinking about trying to run against President Trump in 2020, and we've seen different potential candidates try to go after him in different ways. Michael Avenatti, someone that I think the people have been trying to put the two of you together for some sort of talk show, he's been, he’s tried to go at him directly. Elizabeth Warren responded to some of the criticism, the crazy nickname stuff, more formally. What is the best way to go after President Trump? What advice would you give a Democrat on, how do you go after his insults?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI:

Look, you know, as you know, I really care for the president. And I'm a big supporter. So I don't like giving them advice. But I think the big mistake that they're all making is they go right into the Trump insect Twitter light. And so the minute he shoots at them, they cannot help themselves. And they drive themselves right into that light. And then they get vaporized by him. And so the incident with Senator Warren, she should really read my book, so she can understand how the president, you have to think about the miracle of what he did. He hijacked the Republican Party to get their nomination. And then he hijacked the base of the other party and moved it over to the Republican Party. And I try to write about that in the book. Because I have an experience, as a kid that grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood with a blue-collar family. And I think I've seen the whole bandwidth of this sort of stuff. But my recommendation to people is don't engage him in that area because you're going to lose.

CHUCK TODD:Before I --

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI:

He's just way more talented than you in that area.

CHUCK TODD:

Before I let you go, you said your team, you and your team from SkyBridge Capital, you said this on Twitter this week, you were still going to go to this Saudi Arabia finance conference.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

You still, is that still your final answer? Why?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI:

Yeah. Well, you know, listen. SkyBridge is not a political organization. I, I have --

CHUCK TODD:

Why give any American credibility to them right now?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI:

Well, I'm not really trying to give them credibility. Remember, I have a ton of business in Saudi Arabia, unrelated to the government. I have a Kuwaiti resident that services SkyBridge out of the region. And I'm a pretty big delegator. And I let those guys make the decision on whether or not to go or not. He's visiting with people that are not related to the government. Those meetings were already scheduled. He suggested to me, as the managing partner of SkyBridge, to allow him to go. I'm a big delegator and believe in accountability.

CHUCK TODD:

So you're comfortable with this still?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI:

I am comfortable with him going. I'm not comfortable with what happened or what the Saudi government did to the journalist. I'm not comfortable with that at all.

CHUCK TODD:

Anthony Scaramucci, I've got to leave it there. The book --

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI:Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

-- The Blue-Collar President, congratulations.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI:

I enjoyed writing it.

CHUCK TODD:

Good luck on the tour.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI:Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, who do you hold responsible for dividing America? And what can we do to fix about it?

MALE VOICE (ON VIDEO):

Be bipartisan. Stop being simply an R or a D. And look at the issues. Look at the individual. That's the way I vote. Don't look at just the parties.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Data Download time. There's some good news on our latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll. Americans agree on at least one thing. The bad news, they agree on how divided we are. A whopping 80 percent of respondents think the country is divided.

Somehow, there are 19 percent that claim we're united. And you can see the divisions across all facets of American life: Democrats and Republicans, Clinton voters, Trump voters, folks who live in urban, suburban, and rural areas. In all of these groups, at least 70 percent think the country is mainly or totally divided.

And if we're just talking about political divisions between Democrats and Republicans, 90 percent see this as a serious problem facing this country. Only 10 percent think it is not a serious problem. But where there is disagreement, it's about who's to blame for this division. Among those who strongly approve of President Trump, they place most of the blame for the country's divisions, not surprisingly, on the Democratic Party and liberals. They also lay blame at Barack Obama, godlessness, and even a few people cite President Trump.

On the other side of this coin, those who strongly disapprove of this president blame none other than the president himself, followed closely by the Republican Party. But even among those with neutral feelings about President Trump's job performance, they still blame him for the country's divisions, followed closely by the Democratic Party and liberals. And they throw us in the media in, as well.

Look, it is not breaking news that the country is divided. But after being out on the road this week, I've felt there is a sense of exhaustion and anxiety over this division. And this poll proves it. And until voters, though, punish politicians for creating these divides, right now, there's no incentive for them to lead by example. When we come back, Endgame and why Democrats hope history repeats itself.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with Endgame and a fitting, I think, coda to the divide segment I just had. One thing we do agree upon on this country is that we are so divided. We've had a couple of mob scenes, where leaders of the Democrats and of the Republicans were both publicly harassed. Here's a scene with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, down in Miami earlier this week.

MALE VOICE (ON VIDEO):

You don't belong here, you (BLEEP) communist! Get the (BLEEP) out of here. Get the (BLEEP) out of here.

MALE VOICE (ON VIDEO):

Hurry up.

CHUCK TODD:

Dade County Republican Party chairman actually apologized for the treatment of that. Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, TMZ posted this video from Friday night in a restaurant in Louisville, where he is getting harassed. Take a listen.

MALE VOICE (ON VIDEO):

Why don't you get out of here? Why (UNINTEL) our country?

MALE VOICE (ON VIDEO):

Leave him alone. Leave him alone.

FEMALE VOICE (ON VIDEO):

Dismissed!

(OVERTALK)

MALE VOICE (ON VIDEO):

You're going to come for (UNINTEL) here? You're going to come for the people (UNINTEL PHRASE).

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Peggy Noonan, each party, and I've watched them, and it really disgusts me, they try to weaponize these incidents on the other side, saying, "Look at what an angry mob," you know, saying, "on the left," or, "These angry people on the right." We have angry people, left and right. This isn't made up. It's ugly. It's bad. And I think leaders of both parties need to accept that.

PEGGY NOONAN:

Somebody's got to calm it down. We've got two weeks to go. People are on edge. They're fighting. The fact that we live in the media world that we live in means everything's taped. So everybody can see it. And everybody can get a little bit madder. But I think somebody has to come forward, maybe a group of people, and say, "You know what I mean, everybody? Calm down. This is a great democracy. We can work this out."

CHUCK TODD:

Normally, that'd be the president of the United States, but he's bragging about body slamming.

PEGGY NOONAN:

But he cannot do that. He's not really in the position to. He could be one of many voices.

DAVID BRODY:

Because the president does it, obviously. And it works with his base. But at the same time, look on the other side, all right, Eric Holder. "Kick them," right, I mean, Nancy Pelosi, "Collateral damage," Hillary Clinton talking about lack of civility.

KATY TUR:

But where did this all start? I think you have to acknowledge that the heating up of the rhetoric and the anger and the, "punch them in the face," and the, "body slam them," that started when Donald Trump started campaigning. And suddenly, he moved the conversation down. He lowered the bar.

DAVID BRODY:

This has been going on for a long time. Just ask Alexander Hamilton.

PEGGY NOONAN:

Conservatives don't experience this.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

We're 16 days away from an election that a lot of people care intensely about. This will calm down. It will calm down after the election.

KATY TUR:

I'm not sure.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

No, it won't stay at a fever pitch.

PEGGY NOONAN:

I'm not sure, either.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

And we're coming up to a really important election. And our constitution guarantees people the right to speak.

CHUCK TODD:

To protest, speak.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

To protest, and to tell our officials what they think.

PEGGY NOONAN:

This radicalism is encouraged, though.

KATY TUR:

It's encouraged in every facet. When you get on social media, all you see is, "This person is evil. That person is the devil. Thank you so much for hitting back at that person." You see this, every aspect of the discussion on social media. Even when we do interviews, and I know you and I have talked about this with either person, either side of the political spectrum, you'll have RawStory coming out and saying, "Oh, Chuck Todd slams down X," or, "Katy Tur rips apart Y." It's the way we talk about things and the way things are described that's dividing the country further.

DAVID BRODY:

I was going to say, the voter is responsible, as well, for this, how they get their information. They go into cocoons on both sides. And so there is a responsibility there, as well.

PEGGY NOONAN:

Can I tell you, also, too many people are living just for politics. They see themselves as political beings. They go forward into the world with political anger. We are narrowing what we are. Americans used to think of themselves as religious beings, people who loved a team, this and that. It's now like, "I'm about politics. And I'm going to get in your face." It's wicked. And it's not going to help us.

DAVID BRODY:

Politicians have failed for so long, for decades and decades. Along comes Donald Trump, the great disrupter. And he has channeled into that. And my point simply is is that, when you go after 30, 40 years of this, look, you're going to have issues of where we are today.

CHUCK TODD:

Final word, Gene.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

16 days. This is a really big election. Everybody who has all this energy, go out and vote. Vote. Vote.

CHUCK TODD:

Don't scream. Vote, right? Don't harass. Vote. That should be our new mantra. Anyway, thank you all, by the way. You guys were disagreeing without being disagreeable. We can set a great example for America. That's all we have for today. Thank you for watching. We'll be back next week. Because if it's Sunday, and it's the week before the election, you know it's Meet the Press.