Meet the Press - October 25, 2020

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday: The closing arguments.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

This election is a choice between a Trump super recovery or a Biden steep depression.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump attacking Joe Biden with false claims.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Joe Biden has always and has been a corrupt politician. And as far as I'm concerned, the Biden family is a criminal enterprise.

CHUCK TODD:

Biden strikes back --

JOE BIDEN:

It's a last-ditch effort in this desperate campaign to smear me and my family.

CHUCK TODD:

-- with a little help from his friends.

BARACK OBAMA:

This president wants full credit for the economy he inherited and zero blame for the pandemic he ignored.

CHUCK TODD:

The final debate, including climate change --

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Would you close down the oil industry?

JOE BIDEN:

I would transition from the oil industry, yes.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Oh, that's a big statement.

JOE BIDEN:

I would transition. That is a big statement.

CHUCK TODD:

-- and Covid --

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

We're learning to live with it. We have no choice.

JOE BIDEN:

He says we’re, you know, we're learning to live with it. People are learning to die with it.

CHUCK TODD:

-- giving both candidates some late ammunition. How safe is Biden's polling lead? Can Mr. Trump repeat his 2016 Election Night shocker? And who will control the Senate? My guests this morning: Kate Bedingfield from the Biden campaign, Corey Lewandowski from the Trump campaign, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman of Virginia. Plus, several members of Vice President Pence's staff test positive for Covid, as daily US cases hit an all-time high.

NURSE:

It’s real, it’s very real. There's probably not a day I don't cry.

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me for insight and analysis are: Amy Walter, national editor for the Cook Political Report, Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour, NBC News senior political editor Mark Murray, and Anna Palmer, senior Washington correspondent for Politico. 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. Nine days. Nine days before Americans finally decide who will take the oath of office on January 20th. Nine days before control of the United States Senate could be determined. And nine days before we have a sense of whether the country says, yes, we want four more years of President Trump or whether voters say they've had enough and they choose Joe Biden. Thursday's debate probably changed little, which may be a good thing if you're ahead nationally by roughly nine points, as Biden is right now. But where does the race stand? Here's an easy way to look at it. Let's start with the 2016 election map that President Trump rode to victory. Now let's assume right now, as the campaigns are assuming, that Joe Biden takes two Trump states where he's been consistently ahead all year, Wisconsin and Michigan, throw in Nebraska's second Congressional district, as Nebraska splits their electoral votes, where he's also leading. If that happens, it leaves President Trump with this path. He could not afford to lose any of the following states: Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida or Arizona and right now he is trailing in all four right now. But they are close. But again, if he loses any one of those, it’s game over. Remember, this also assumes Mr. Trump hangs on to Ohio and to Iowa and to Georgia and to Texas, all of which, right now, neck and neck. And if Mr. Trump was searching for an October surprise he did get it, but it may not the one he was looking for. We are now well into a frightening record third surge of Covid cases that has just hit Vice President Pence's staff very hard, just as Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden are making their closing arguments.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

The people of Wisconsin must stop these anti-American radicals by giving Joe Biden a thundering defeat.

JOE BIDEN:

Everybody knows who Donald Trump is. We've got to show them who we are.

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

With Joe Biden you've got 47 years of all talk, no action.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS:

Oh we're turning the corner on this, he just said that this week. The nerve.

BARACK OBAMA:

If he can't answer a tough question like what would you like to do in your second term, then it's our job to make sure he doesn’t get a second term.

CHUCK TODD:

With nine days to go and 60 million votes already cast, Donald Trump and Joe Biden are making their closing arguments. Trailing in the polls, President Trump is still searching for a message that will stick.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Joe Biden admitted that he wants to abolish the oil industry. That wasn't too good. Texas. Are you watching? Right, Pennsylvania?

CHUCK TODD:

Hoping to capitalize on this debate exchange.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Would you close down the oil industry?

JOE BIDEN:

I would transition from the oil industry. Yes --

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Oh, that's a big statement --

JOE BIDEN:

I will transition -- that is a big statement --

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

That's a big statement --

JOE BIDEN:

Because I would stop --

KRISTEN WELKER:

Why would you do that?

JOE BIDEN:

Because the oil industry pollutes significantly. I'm not banning fracking in Pennsylvania or anywhere else.

CHUCK TODD:

It's the latest Trump message, after weeks of struggling to land on one.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Last night, Biden refused to rule out court packing. In other words, they may take 16, 17, 18 people. You can't let Biden be president because he's not at the top of his game mentally. Remember we said that. Where's Hunter? Then we made the T-shirt. It was the number one selling t-shirt.

CHUCK TODD:

But the president's attempt to replicate his 2016 victory with an October surprise is falling flat in the midst of a crisis where he is losing the public's trust.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

That's all I hear about now. That's all I hear -- turn on television. Covid, Covid. Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid. A plane goes down, 500 people dead, they don't talk about it. By the way, on November 4th you won't hear about it anymore.

CHUCK TODD:

Friday marked the highest daily number of cases since the pandemic began, with hospitals in the West and Midwest overwhelmed and death counts rising.

DR. PAUL CASEY:

In my 34 years as a physician, I have never seen so much suffering from a single disease over such a short period of time.

DR. NGOZI EZIKE:

We are reporting 3,874 new cases for a total of 364,033 confirmed cases since the start of this pandemic. Excuse me, please.

JOE BIDEN:

We're learning to live with it. As I told him we're not learning to live with it, we're learning to die with it. Because he's doing nothing.

CHUCK TODD:

As the pandemic surges, President Trump appears focused on personal grievance, rather than on governing.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Nobody's ever gone through what I've gone through. Nobody -- no president's ever gone through this. No President, anybody else would have gone to a corner, sat down in the corner of a room, put their thumb in their mouth and say mommy, mommy take me home please.

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now is Trump campaign senior advisor Corey Lewandowski. Corey, welcome back to Meet the Press.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

Good morning, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with what's happening with the vice president. There are now reports that there is a third staffer of his that has tested positive. We know his chief of staff tested positive, one of his senior political aids. Let me ask you this, Corey. Is the vice president going to self-quarantine? I know that the -- as head of the task force, the guidelines that are issued like this indicate you need to self-quarantine. Is the vice president going to self-quarantine because of the amount of interaction that he's had, particularly with his chief of staff, Marc Short?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

You know, I haven't spoken to the vice president or his team in the last 24 hours, Chuck, so I couldn't answer that. But I am sure that the vice president's going to take all the precautions necessary. Very similar --

CHUCK TODD:

All right. We have lost Corey Lewandowski's audio, so we are actually going to -- I'm going to turn to the Biden campaign. We're going to see if we can get that audio back, but I'm going to bring in deputy campaign manager and communications director Kate Bedingfield. Kate, my apologies there. Welcome to --

KATE BEDINGFIELD:

It’s quite alright.

CHUCK TODD:

-- Meet the Press. You know, in this day and age --

KATE BEDINGFIELD:

Live television.

CHUCK TODD:

-- live television --

KATE BEDINGFIELD:

What can you do?

CHUCK TODD:

-- and the technologies that we're all using these days. So, look, let me start with where you guys are headed in this final stretch. I saw a report on Tuesday -- that this week the vice president's going to go to Georgia. Is Georgia that critical to 270 that he should spend the last week of the campaign in Georgia and not in Pennsylvania, Michigan or Wisconsin? I ask you because you remember four years ago, some criticism of the Clinton campaign for focusing too much on Georgia and Arizona in the final week.

KATE BEDINGFIELD:

Well, look. We're focused on maintaining as many paths to 270 electoral votes as we possibly can. We believe that we're seeing energy all across the country for Joe Biden and against Donald Trump. You know, the VP is going to be, or I should say VP Biden, is going to be in Georgia on Tuesday, that's right. He's going to actually be making a significant message speech there. He's going to be delivering a closing argument set of remarks at Warm Springs, Georgia, which obviously has historical significance in this country. And he's going to be making the case that, you know, we can unify this country, that we can come together to overcome these crises, that there's no challenge too great for Americans to meet, but the first thing they have to do in order to do that is vote. So, he's going to be making that closing argument. You know, you've heard him making this argument directly to the American people throughout this campaign. You heard him make it at Gettysburg a couple of weeks ago. It is a core, foundational belief of his that we can overcome this hyper-partisan moment that we're in, and that we can unify the country. So you're going to hear him make that case in Warm Springs, Georgia, on Tuesday.

CHUCK TODD:

And, of course, Warm Springs, Georgia made famous by FDR when he would --

KATE BEDINGFIELD:

Yes, exactly.

CHUCK TODD:

-- when he would go down there to recuperate. Let me ask, I'm going to put up a little statistic here. This is just since September 1. The final four states as we've outlined them: Arizona, North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania -- four pretty crucial states. In all but Pennsylvania, President Trump has personally been to those states -- campaigned in those states -- he's been to North Carolina more than Joe Biden, to Arizona more than Joe Biden, to Florida more than Joe Biden. Only in Pennsylvania has Joe Biden been there more. Are you concerned that your strategy for having a light physical footprint with the two nominees, with your two nominees -- are you at all concerned that this may, that you may regret the lack of physical presence on the ground?

KATE BEDINGFIELD:

No, look, we are campaigning incredibly hard. Vice President Biden has visited all of these battleground states multiple times. He was in Pennsylvania yesterday, doing two events; one in Luzerne County, one in Bucks County, along with Dr. Biden. So no, we have been very aggressively campaigning but here's, here's the difference between what we're doing and what Donald Trump is doing. We're doing it safely. We're taking into account the safety of these communities that we're visiting. You know, I saw a USA Today story, I think a couple days ago, that shows that Covid spikes are following in the wake of these Trump campaign events where they're going and doing these, you know, these super spreader rallies that are putting people in jeopardy. And we're never going to do that. That is, that is -- you know, first and foremost, we are going to be looking out for public safety. We've done that from the outset of the pandemic. I think we have campaigned aggressively and creatively and safely, and you know, frankly, I think that's what Americans are looking for. They're, they're doing that in their own lives all across the country, figuring out how to adjust and live safely because Donald Trump hasn't been able to get this virus under control. So, in the final nine days of the campaign, we're going to campaign hard. We're going to campaign safely.

CHUCK TODD:

Ok. I want to ask you about the remark late in the debate about the oil industry where the former vice president said he wants to transition away from the oil industry. And, look, some of these remarks that he said, he has said them before. But let me ask the question to you this way, Kate. If you work in the oil industry, if you believe that fracking has been good for the economy, and you heard the statements from Joe Biden – long-term, Joe Biden doesn't sound like a supporter of those industries, so why shouldn't those folks think, “You know what? Donald Trump's going to be more supportive, not Joe Biden”? Are you comfortable with that?

KATE BEDINGFIELD:

Let's be really clear about something, Chuck. There is only one person in this country who Joe Biden thinks should lose his job, and it's Donald Trump. Donald Trump is trying to distort Joe Biden’s position on this because he's desperate to be running against anybody but Joe Biden. That's been true from the start of this primary. Look, as, as, as Joe Biden said on the debate stage, he is not going to end the fossil fuel industry, he's going to end subsidies for the oil industry. He believes that your taxpayer dollars should go to education. Donald Trump believes they should go to Exxon. That’s a, that is a contrast and a conversation that we're willing to have any day. But look, if you take a step back, Joe Biden has put forward an aggressive climate change plan that has been endorsed by climate groups, but it's also been endorsed by labor because it is also a jobs plan. It’s a, it is a plan that will make significant investment in carbon capture and sequestration, in infrastructure. It's a jobs plan. And so, you know, he believes that we are not only going to create new jobs, we are going to maintain jobs. People are not going to lose jobs under a Biden administration.

CHUCK TODD:

Before I let you go, one state on election night that you want to, that you care about the most on election night that's going to tell you where this race is headed.

KATE BEDINGFIELD:

Not going to do that. I think there are a lot of states that are going to be critically important. What I would say to everybody watching is if you are somebody who has been hurt by Donald Trump's presidency, if you've been frustrated by it, if you've been embarrassed by it, go out and vote. Nine days. You can vote early, you can vote in person, you can vote on Election Day. Vote in whatever way --

CHUCK TODD:

So, there's no one state?

KATE BEDINGFIELD:

-- makes the most sense for you. But across the country, no. Everybody, turn out and vote, and let's make change in this country.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager with the Biden campaign. Kate, thanks very much. And we do --

KATE BEDINGFIELD:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

-- now have the audio fixed with Corey Lewandowski so Corey is back. All right, let me stick with that first question there. And you'd started to answer. You said you don't know the details of how many more staffers. Do you think it would be appropriate for him to campaign in the next 24 hours? Or do you think he should quarantine? I mean, if you came into contact with Marc Short as closely as he did, would you be quarantining?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

Well, look, I would make sure that the vice president is taking all the precautions necessary, as he always has done. I am sure he is tested regularly and he is in the best care of the best physicians in the world at the White House. So I'm sure he'll do what is necessary and what is appropriate. And, look, we've also seen Kamala Harris's team, members of her team, come down with Covid. And she took the necessary precautions. So let's see where this goes. But I have not spoken to the team directly on that, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

You heard in our introduction piece there the president almost complaining about how much focus there's been on Covid, Covid, Covid, as he sort of said it. Do you think that's the right message to be sending right now? We just had the two highest days yet of new cases in this country, back to back, Friday and Saturday. And the president seemed to be lamenting the coverage of that. Is that the right message you want to send with nine days to go?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

Well, I think the president's message should be, and continues to be, the promises he's made and the promises that he's kept. Whether you care about Middle East peace, which he's been able to do, rebuilding our military, or building the strongest economy with the lowest unemployment rates for African Americans, Asian Americans or Hispanic Americans the world’s -- our country's ever seen, I think that's the closing message. And the closing message is we have an opportunity to set our country forth in the next four years for a path that we've been on for the last four years. And that includes economic prosperity for everybody, including making sure that our immigration system is one that benefits this country, not other countries. You know, that's what's really important. And the safety and security for people at their homes, their businesses, their places of worship and standing with the men and women of law enforcement is the message that resonates with everybody across every socioeconomic status in this country.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to ask you about some comments that got leaked out to The Washington Post last week that the president made at a fundraiser, where he basically wrote off Republican chances, apparently, in the Senate. And he even added he doesn't even want to help some of these senators. "There are a couple of senators I can't really get involved in. I just can't do it. You lose your soul if you do. I can't help some of them. I don't want to help some of them." Does the president really think that Republicans have a better chance at winning the House than they do at holding the Senate?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

You know, I don't think so. Look, this president's been out, aggressively campaigning for members of the U.S. Senate. He's asked his surrogates, including me, to go out and help. I was in Arizona on Thursday, helping raise money for Martha McSally, one of our battleground states. And so this president's been very forward in helping U.S. Senate candidates around the country be successful. He's helped raise money. He's got a great partnership with Senate Leader Mitch McConnell. They've raised money together. And we feel very, very strongly that we're going to retain our majority in the U.S. Senate.

CHUCK TODD:

He -- he said he didn't want to help some of these senators. He took a shot at Susan Collins about ten days ago. Is that the senator he's referring to?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

You know, I don't know, Chuck, but I can tell you this. President Trump is going to be in Maine this afternoon. I'll be joining him up there. He's going to be campaigning in the Maine Second Congressional District, a district that he won four years ago, and could be pivotal in this election cycle. And obviously, this president wants to make sure that, in addition to his re-election, we're retaining the majority in the U.S. Senate and we're taking back the House of Representatives.

CHUCK TODD:

You were very careful there. Does he want to see Susan Collins re-elected?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

Well, I think the president wants to see every Republican re-elected, regardless of who they are and if they break with the president on some of the issues. And the reason is the alternative is much worse. Look, if Chuck Schumer becomes the Senate majority leader, we're going to have a very different path forward. And we would see less Supreme Court justices nominated, we'd see less federal bench members nominated. So, look, we want a Republican majority to be crystal clear.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm going to ask you the same question. What's the one state on election night that's going to tell you more about what's happening in this campaign than any other?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

Well, Chuck, I know the last person wouldn't answer the question, but I think Florida is the battleground state. It always has been, always will be. We feel very strongly about where we're positioned right now in Florida. It's an east coast state. I know they've got some part of their voting in the next time zone. But I'll tell you what, when Donald Trump wins Florida big on election night, it's going to set the path for the rest of the night.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, Florida will be one of the early states we're all able to follow on election night. Corey Lewandowski, senior advisor to the Trump campaign, thanks for coming on and sharing your perspective with us, sir.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, President Trump and Republicans are losing suburban voters. Joe Biden and Democrats are struggling with working class whites. I'll talk to two electives on the frontlines of this battle of shifting coalitions.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. The changing political landscape is posing challenges for members of both parties. Democrat Sherrod Brown has won three Senate elections in Ohio, surviving in a state that took a sharp turn to the right in 2016. In VA, Republican Denver Riggleman overcame the challenges of an increasingly blue district and won a seat in Congress in 2018. But he lost his primary this year to Bob Good, who describes himself as a Biblical conservative, in part because of Riggleman's support for same sex marriage. And both Senator Brown and Congressman Riggleman join us this morning. And I want to start with Senator Brown. Senator, we did a deep dive on our undecided voters in the NBC / Wall Street Journal poll. For the last nine months, we combined everybody that's told us undecided on the presidential race. So we were able to find out who are these folks, and a third of them are members of union households. And it just sort of -- it was one of those that confirmed, sort of, the anecdote that says, "Hey, a union member maybe culturally feels the pull of the Republicans. Maybe on policy, feels the pull of the Democrats." How do you talk to that voter that's undecided still?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

Well, Joe Biden is the most pro-worker candidate nominated by either party in the last 30 years. And he -- for Joe, it's all about the dignity of working. You contrast Joe Biden, who is running his campaign through the eyes of workers, will govern through the eyes of workers. And the reason he's leading from Scranton, to Cleveland, to Toledo, to Detroit, to Milwaukee, is because he is, he is the dignity of work candidate contrasted with Trump's daily, weekly betrayal of workers in everything he does, and that contrast is so clear. Ultimately, politics, as you know, Chuck, is whose side are you on. And Joe Biden clearly is on the side of working class America.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you at all concerned, though, about the fracking comments, the perception on the oil and gas industry? And the reason I ask about it, it's not on the specifics here. I think Biden's position is clear that he's against subsidies for the oil industry. But it is more of the perception that he's somehow anti-worker. There's a lot of good jobs that come to the fracking industry. So, are you concerned that that person looks at it and says, "Look, maybe Joe Biden's okay with my job for now, but he's going to eliminate these jobs as soon as he can"?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

I mean, look at, look at the other side of the ledger. Donald Trump has refused to raise the minimum wage, has taken away overtime, which Joe Biden and I worked on and others, from 100,000 Ohio workers and a similar number in Pennsylvania. Trump has put on the Supreme Court and federal judgeships and at the secretary -- there’s a secretary of labor, anti-union judges, anti, corporate lawyer -- say it this way. When there's a fork in the road and you either side with corporate interests or you side with workers, every single time Donald Trump is siding with corporate interests. And again, contrast that with Joe Biden as the dignity of work candidate that will always put workers first.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, but I think about your own Congressional district that you used to represent that, that, you know, you're telling me that those voters, are they going to be okay with what Joe Biden has said about fracking and the oil industry? They're not going to get cold feet and think, "Hm, he's going to get rid of those jobs"?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

No, no, I mean, Joe Biden --Trump won Ohio by eight points. It's an uphill fight, but we're going to win it and we are winning it because Biden is the dignity of work candidate. I won it by seven. And I, I won it because of the same formula Joe Biden is following. You talk to workers directly. You have good African American turnout. And the suburban voters, just off the charts -- in places like Columbus, in Dayton and Toledo and Akron and Cincinnati are just overwhelming breaking to Biden. That's why he's going to win. He is the dignity of work candidate. People in the suburbs understand that, too. And that contrast is so very, increasingly, very, very clear as Trump is so -- just look at this one thing. 600,000 workers in Ohio were getting $600 a week unemployment. Trump and McConnell just took it away and said, "Sorry, you're on your own." That's way more important than any one comment that Joe Biden or Donald Trump made. It’s, you know, see what I do. Watch what I do. Don't just listen to what I say.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, if Joe Biden wins, there’s going to be a lot of people who are going to want to say, "Hey, your mandate is to do X. No, your mandate is to do Y." So I'm going to ask you. What do you believe the American electorate would be sending as a message, as a mandate, if Joe Biden is elected president?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

Well, address the Covid crisis, the pandemic, the public health disaster that Trump has made worse and worse. I mean, the first thing out of the box -- I mean, the first thing out of the box may be the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, to restore voting rights that the Supreme Court has taken away. But the first really big thing we do is a Covid package with infrastructure. Putting millions of people back to work, helping those who are unemployed. Helping open our schools safely. Providing emergency rental assistance so people can, can, will not be, so we can stop this wave of evictions that’s, that is building. All of those kinds of things. But it's ending this pandemic and getting the economy back on track, which Donald Trump has not only failed -- Donald Trump, as President Obama just said on your, on your preview, Donald Trump doesn't even have a plan for a second term, having no idea what to do about this pandemic. And Joe Biden, chapter and verse, is ready with a big infrastructure package, right there to buttress it.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat from Ohio. Always good to get your perspective on this program. Thanks for coming on sharing your views with us. Appreciate it.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

Of course.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me turn now to Congressman Denver Riggleman, of the -- for those in Virginia, the district he represents is Charlottesville. So it's a little bit of rural Virginia, a little bit of Northern Virginia, a little bit of college town Virginia. Congressman, I'm curious, you're in one of these areas that, while in Virginia, I think we have an idea of where the state's going to go, but it's, it’s districts like yours, where's it headed because where it's headed probably tells us where the country's going. What kind of insight can you provide?

REP. DENVER RIGGLEMAN:

Well, you know, our district's 10,000 square miles, so it's bigger than New Jersey, Chuck. As you know, we talked about that. But if you go from Fauquier County, suburbs of D.C., all the way down to, say, the North Carolina border, Republicans are different from North to South and so are Democrats. And right now when you look at my district, you know, Donald Trump is polling plus three, but the Republican candidate is actually minus three. So you've got a six point split. And that's what it matches with the Fifth District of Virginia. It's so diverse. And if you remember in 2018, I beat the Senate candidate by six points in the district. So, this is a district that is a swing district at R plus six but when you see the explosion of growth, and the, sort of the southern part of the suburbs of D.C., but also in Charlottesville and Alma County, we now have a true swing district in a blue state. And it looks like right now, we'd better start talking to everybody, rather than just a narrow portion of the public.

CHUCK TODD:

What have you learned almost since coming here? Look, you were, you've not been a political guy your whole life.

REP. DENVER RIGGLEMAN:

Obviously

CHUCK TODD:

You got into politics late. You got ousted in a Republican primary. And so you're aware of, sort of, these divides inside the party. Talk about these divides in the party. Is this, sort of, would this be the reason, if Donald Trump loses and Republicans lose control of the Senate, would you say it's these divides in the party that’s the reason?

REP. DENVER RIGGLEMAN:

Yes. I mean, I think it's that simple. I mean, if we're looking at just a cult of personality in the Republican Party, where ideas and policies just sort of go away, you have a real problem. Now, don't get me wrong, I think some of Joe Biden's policies are pretty bad on a policy perspective -- when you talk about court packing, which I think is really, you know, almost like a judicial arms race. You know, a self-licking ice cream cone. You're talking about energy policy or economic policy. But I think what you have with the president right now is that when I'm talking to people, they're not really worried about policy. They're just, like, "What President Trump says, goes." And right now, in this district, that's not working very well. And I think in the state, it's not working very well. But what I've learned, Chuck, right now, is I really thought the battlefield of ideas is where it's at, but it really, you know, gets very, very personal. And I think that's something we've got to worry about.

CHUCK TODD:

You were very aggressive in working with somebody across, on the other side of the aisle, trying to get a bipartisan resolution to condemn this wacky QAnon conspiracy that has led to some violent actions by some of these believers. And, of course, there's Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican candidate for Congress in Georgia that's likely to become a member of Congress. Here, you got a large majority of the House to condemn QAnon and then very quietly this week we saw that the Republican Party has officially endorsed Marjorie Taylor Greene and donated the maximum amount of money that the NRCC can do. What message does that send to the party as a whole that they did that?

REP. DENVER RIGGLEMAN:

So I might as well just piss everybody off, Chuck. So, you know, I think if we're doing this, if we're looking at the spread of misinformation as part of something just to pander to a certain subset of voters, I think we've lost our way, and that's the thing that I've been talking about. Yes, I agree with most of the policies for limited government and growth. A lot of what President Trump has done in this district has been wonderful. But when we start to actually represent as a party that's part of this, you know, antisemitic conspiracy theory that, you know, believes that there's some kind of pedophilia cabal, you know, on the Democratic side of the House, I think we're in for a rough ride. And I just wish we could stick to policy because if we stick to policy, it's almost impossible to vote for Joe Biden, but we're not. And I, I guess I scratch my head as a former intelligence officer, Chuck, as, "What are we doing here?" Like I said before, I mean, these are people that believe Lord of the Rings is a documentary. And the fact that we're trying to appeal to them is just ridiculous to me.

CHUCK TODD:

You still a Republican?

REP. DENVER RIGGLEMAN:

I tell you what, I'm a Republican -- what I thought a Constitutional Republican was. But the way the GOP is going in Virginia, it's very difficult for me to stay with any party. I believe the duopoly is really -- the two party system's really failing the American people right now.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Congressman Denver Riggleman, a Republican from the, as I said, from the Charlottesville area in Virginia. Thanks for coming out and sharing your perspective with us, Sir. I appreciate it.

REP. DENVER RIGGLEMAN:

Chuck, I appreciate you. Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

You got it. Up next, will Democrats take the Senate? What's the path for Republicans to hold on? Will we even know before January? Panel is next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Here's where I'm going to be living for the next nine days. The other big focus in nine days will be on control of the Senate. And of course, right now, it is 53/47 in favor of the Republicans here, meaning Democrats need a net gain of four seats if President Trump is re-elected or three seats if Joe Biden wins. The vice president breaks the tie. Earlier in the cycle, we had identified six Republican senators in jeopardy: Steve Daines in Montana, Cory Gardner in Colorado, Martha McSally in Arizona, Joni Ernst in Iowa, Thom Tillis in North Carolina, and Susan Collins in Maine, plus one Democratic incumbent, Doug Jones in Alabama. This is the Senate map we assumed we were going to be dealing with with the last nine days. But look at how this map has expanded. It has added quite a few competitive races. As of right now, you've got Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, both Republican senators in Georgia are vulnerable, David Perdue, Kelly Loeffler. Dan Sullivan, in Alaska, is in a tight race. And the open Republican seat in Kansas, yes, Kansas. All of them are in some measure of peril. And then I would add Democrat incumbent Gary Peters in Michigan. He still finds himself in a tougher than expected race despite Joe Biden's strength in Michigan. Finally, on the outsides here, yes, there are more competitive Senate races. John Cornyn in Texas, Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, look, they're both favored but they haven't put their opponents away. The same is true for Democrat Tina Smith in Minnesota. So to be sure, Democrats are not going to win all of these races, but it's worth keeping in mind that in a wave year, which this could be for Democrats, close races tend to go all in the same direction. And boy, do we have a panel of political experts to chew over this. Amy Walter, national editor for The Cook Political Report; Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for the PBS News Hour; NBC senior political editor Mark Murray; and Anna Palmer, the senior Washington correspondent for Politico. All right, we're diving deep into the Senate. Amy Walter, this is what you do all the time. You worry about this six years in advance. Here we are, nine days to go, what's your Senate race obsession?

AMY WALTER:

Oh, I'm obsessed with North Carolina because, to me, no Senate race kind of sums up where we are in 2020 than this one. A late-breaking sex scandal involving the Democratic candidate. Now, normally, that would put a race that Democrats were ahead in maybe behind, right? This could impact this race negative for the Democratic candidate. Instead, he's still running ahead. That's Democrat Cal Cunningham. And the reason he's still running ahead is because Donald Trump is running behind in North Carolina. Look, the race for the Senate is like the race for the White House. It is an existential question about Donald Trump and nothing else. Politics is not local; it's national. And that's a big problem for Republicans in a state like North Carolina. Finally, Chuck, the other reason I'm obsessed with it, polls close at 7:30 in North Carolina. The AP called the race at 11:00 p.m. in 2016.

CHUCK TODD:

Wow, no, we are excited about North Carolina here at NBC for those very reasons as well. Mark Murray, get in on this. What is your Senate race obsession that you think will help tell the story?

MARK MURRAY:

Yeah, Chuck, I'm obsessed with Iowa. And if Democrats end up falling short in North Carolina, Iowa is probably their next best opportunity to get that majority. And we're seeing Iowa in play because Democrats are performing, on average, about six to ten points better in congressional districts in state, and across the country, than they were four years ago. Iowa epitomizes that. Donald Trump ended up winning Iowa by nine percentage points in 2016. It is now an even-steven race in the presidential as well as the Senate contest between Joni Ernst, the Republican incumbent, and Theresa Greenfield, the challenger. We're also seeing the senior vote play an important role. Democrats are over-performing with seniors and we know that Iowa has one of the oldest voting populations in the country. And now we're seeing Republicans fighting back on issues like immigration, on policing, as well as saying, "Hey, here's what a Democratic Senate majority would end up doing." And so those are all the forces at play at the Hawkeye state, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, and North Carolina and Iowa both feel like places that as the presidential goes, so goes the Senate, or vice versa. Yamiche Alcindor, what is your Senate race obsession for these last nine days?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

South Carolina. I'm looking at the race between Jaime Harrison and Senator Lindsey Graham. This is a race that was solidly looked at as a Republican seat. It was then moved over by the Cook Political Report as a toss up. It's really fascinating because Jaime Harrison has essentially been able to raise boat loads of money and put Lindsey Graham on the defense. This is a state that President Trump won in 2016 by 14 points. They've not sent a Democrat to the Senate in two decades. So if Jaime Harrison is able to pull this off, it's going to be a major blow to Republicans. It's also interesting, of course, because Lindsey Graham has really emerged as one of the closest allies to President Trump. And that's what makes this race a really interesting one to watch.

CHUCK TODD:

And Yamiche, let me add something here. I want to play a piece of this TV ad that Jaime Harrison is running because he's decided to add a third candidate to this race. Take a look at this ad.

[BEGIN TAPE]

VOICEOVER:

Bledsoe was pro-Trump from day one. Opposes all abortions. And Bledsoe is against all gun control. Lindsey's changed and Bledso's too conservative for South Carolina.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Now, Yamiche, this Bill Bledsoe, he's actually technically dropped out and endorsed Lindsey Graham, but his name's on the ballot. What does that tell you? Does that tell you that Jamie Harrison doesn't think he can get 50%? That if he wins, he needs some help?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

That's what it seems like. It seems as though he was answering questions about this. And that third party candidate name, first, is going to be at the top of the ballot, which is very interesting, because of the way that they do it in that state. He says, "Hey, I want to be able to explain to people that there are all these people on the ballot." The interesting thing that's happening here is that watchers of this election say that maybe Jaime Harrison can't pull out 51%, but if he pulls out 47 and is able to win, this could still mean that he could take that seat. So, in some ways, it shows that Jaime Harrison is thinking about this race and saying, "I need to look at other candidates as well and remind people about that."

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, what's interesting is the Democratic strategy in Kansas and Alaska is also counting on third party candidates essentially making 47% or 48% a winning number. Anna Palmer, last but not least here, what's your obsession?

ANNA PALMER:

I'm really focused on Maine. I think we always knew it was going to be a tight race with Susan Collins. She's the only Republican in the Senate from the New England area. But the real question to me and why it poses a much bigger issue for Republicans is she's running as a bipartisan moderate who, if she wins, would be chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. And is that a message that can win in 2020 or have Republicans completely become the party of Trump, where it is tribalism that wins the day, less about bipartisanship and trying to get deals done. She's a 24-year veteran of the Senate, and has been wildly out-raised by Sara Gideon. So these next nine days are going to be critical for her.

CHUCK TODD:

What do you make of Lisa Murkowski's decision to confirm Amy Coney Barrett? She had been sort of with Susan Collins in this idea that they weren't going to vote for anybody before the election. Does this add pressure to Susan Collins, Anna?

ANNA PALMER:

Yeah, I think the decision by Murkowski to say, "I'm for the procedural vote," she's not going to be for, actually, the vote that will confirm Amy Coney Barrett, but she's going to support it. I do think that that puts pressure on Susan Collins, but I will say she's the only Republican who has not endorsed Trump this cycle. And she is going to need those more suburban, moderate Republicans to stay with her and not vote for Sara Gideon. So she has a very fine balancing act here in the closing days of this election.

CHUCK TODD:

Amy Walter, if the Georgia Senate race run-offs are what decides the Senate majority, does that mean it was a bad night for Democrats on election night?

AMY WALTER:

Yeah, it would be -- that's probably a good way to think about that, Chuck. I mean, I think Democrats have at least five seats right now where they're currently ahead. And so, if we go nine days from now, it meant that they only won three of those, and it would probably be the North Carolina and Iowa. And yes, determining control of the Senate in Georgia in January -- wow.

CHUCK TODD:

Like I said --

AMY WALTER:

Unbelievable.

CHUCK TODD:

-- I have talked to Democrats that said if Senate control is on the line in January, that's not a campaign they necessarily --

AMY WALTER:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

-- look forward to running. Let me pause it here. When we come back, we're going to look at two counties that may go a long way towards deciding who will take the oath of office in January. Stick with us.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Data download time. And a final look at the five counties and the five swing states representing different critical voter groups that we've been tracking all campaign season long. This week, we're checking on two make-or-break states for President Trump: Pennsylvania and Florida. First, to Beaver County in western Pennsylvania. Mr. Trump won the county by 19 points, thanks largely to white voters without college degrees. According to analysis by Pew, he won that voting group, nationally, by 44 points, but in our most recent NBC News / Wall Street Journal poll, President Trump's advantage with that group is down to just 21 points. And Beaver is where we find my colleague, Maura Barrett. So, Maura, is Beaver still Trump country?

MAURA BARRETT:

Well, Chuck, Beaver used to be a Democratic stronghold, but those non-college-educated white voters are also blue-collar, union-working voters who used to work in the steel industry and now they're hoping that natural gas could be a boost for their local economy. So when we hear President Trump talk about fracking, he's speaking to the voters right here in Beaver County. And when we look at the campaign schedules in these final days leading up to the election, President Trump is focusing on areas like western and central Pennsylvania where he's got strong holds. Meanwhile, we see Biden yesterday going to counties where the race is tighter because he's hoping to shrink those margins that Trump has here in the state. Remember, Pennsylvania went for Trump by just 44,000 votes in 2016, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Maura, thank you. Now, let's go south to Miami-Dade in Florida, where we're looking at Hispanic voters specifically, including Cuban and Venezuelan Americans who are leaning Republican this year. Hillary Clinton won Miami-Dade in 2016 by 29 points and she won Hispanic voters nationally by an even bigger margin. Now, Biden is still polling ahead of President Trump with the group nationally, but by a smaller margin than how Hillary Clinton did. My colleague, Ellison Barber, has been talking to voters in Miami-Dade. So, Ellison, is Biden going to do better than Hillary Clinton did?

ELLISON BARBER:

Hey, Chuck. Yeah, the Trump campaign has spent a lot of time trying to tie former Vice President Joe Biden to far-left socialist policies, even suggesting that if he were to win, the U.S. could become the next Venezuela. Biden is not a socialist, but that message has resonated with many in Miami-Dade's Venezuelan and Cuban communities. In recent weeks, Biden has pushed back more forcefully on that narrative, but some of Biden's Latino supporters here in Miami have told us they're worried he waited too long to aggressively push back. Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Ellison Barber in Miami, Maura Barrett in Beaver, Pennsylvania for us. Thank you, both. When we come back, Russia is at it again. Iran is, too. How safe is your vote? NBC News vote watch is next.

[BEGIN TAPE]

CHRISTOPHER WRAY:

We are not going to tolerate foreign interference in our elections or any criminal activity that threatens the sanctity of your vote or undermines public confidence in the outcome of the election.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

That was Christopher Wray, the FBI director, and he, of course, was joined by the DNI, Director John Ratcliffe, too, when they announced what was a confirmation of both Iran and Russia doing this. Yamiche Alcindor, you know -- the decision, the decision to make this announcement public, it was a bit of a scramble, what more do we know as to what motivated them to go public with this? The need, they thought they had to go public, warning again about these outside agitators?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

It's a great question, and from what we understand, their main motivation continues to be that they want to warn the American people that there is election interference and that there are foreign adversaries that are trying to attack and meddle in the 2020 election. But there are critics of this that say this is also, in some ways, a political move. You heard Director Ratcliffe say that this was intended to harm President Trump, but there are election officials and election experts who say this is really about sowing discord and that Russia continues to be a much bigger player and a much bigger threat than Iran. So there is this idea that this was, in some ways, also tainted by the politics at play with President Trump often saying that he's a victim of this and foreign adversaries wanting to hurt his campaign, when in fact, it's really about the entire, the entire idea of perception hacking -- perception hacking being that you give the idea that there is foreign interference in the election and it scares people and makes people not want to trust the systems.

CHUCK TODD:

No, I know that perception hacking is something. Anna Palmer, I know you deal with a lot of these members of Congress who actually are quietly more concerned about this sometimes than we hear from the president, but I'm curious how concerned they are about the Russia angle. Peter Strzok, the former FBI agent who became -- obviously, the president decided to make a symbol of the investigation. In his book, he really sort of rattled me and others when he talked about all of the things Russia could have done in '16 and didn't. Here's what he told me in my podcast. He said -- let me -- take a listen.

[BEGIN TAPE]

PETER STRZOK:

There were things they could have done that they didn't and that I fear that it's coming. They've improved those and perfected them and that they're going to use them this time around.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Anna Palmer, do you get the sense we're ready for whatever it is that Russia thought about doing four years ago and didn't?

ANNA PALMER:

Look, I think both Senate Republicans and Democrats, and even in the House, have done a lot of digging in terms of election security. I think they are aware that countries, particularly Russia, are working against American interests here on this. But I also think there's a concern about what the president is doing to sow discord and kind of the American’s confidence, actually, in the voting system. And that's something else that you also see privately a lot of members of Congress concerned about, that the president is actually doing just as much to, to dissuade people from feeling like their vote is actually going to be counted.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, this brings us to the other part of, sort of, this, I don't know what to call it, sort of election shenanigans, right. One is the outside influence. The other is lawsuits. And it does look like, Mark Murray, that the state of Pennsylvania is going to be the center of the legal fight perhaps. I just want to throw up a bunch of headlines here. The Philadelphia Enquirer, "Overall, one out of every five requests for a mail-in ballot are being rejected in Pennsylvania." Here's the Center for Public Integrity, "What happened to those so-called ‘naked ballots’ accidentally sent without that inner envelope? Naked ballots won't count. One local election commissioner said that could swing the election." Spotlight Pennsylvania, "If the validity of the ballots cast on November 3rd is called into question, the Pennsylvania legislature could decide to offer its own slate of electors by invoking Article II of the U.S. Constitution." It does seem as if Pennsylvania's going to be ground zero for disputes over an election if this is close.

MARK MURRAY:

Yeah, Chuck, and you know, Pennsylvania is really shaping up to be the tipping point state -- the 270th electoral vote or more for either Joe Biden or President Trump. And you know, as we've seen this race over the last year, it has been incredibly stable. But what you just mentioned, all the uncertainties with how the vote is counted on Election Day, about signature matching, about these kind of naked ballots, on whether people put the ballot in an actual envelope or they don't. And of course, if Joe Biden ends up winning Pennsylvania by several percentage points, as the polling indicates right now, I don't think any of this is going to be a problem. But all of a sudden, if this is like a one or two-point race, all of those things come into play, which is why there have been so many legal challenges. And again, I think on Election Day, and maybe in election week, all the uncertainties about how the vote is counted is going to be the biggest story we're all going to be following.

CHUCK TODD:

Amy Walter, is this the, is this the unknown? You know, the numbers are the numbers, but have I said -- one of the things I've been saying is the unknown is how we're going to administer this election. Is this ultimately the thing that, that we don't know until we see it done?

AMY WALTER:

Well, one of the good things about this cycle and the fact that this pandemic did hit in April instead of, say October, is that election officials are actually prepared for this. Usually the unknowns, Chuck, are when something happens in an election nobody was prepared for.

So while I think most election officials would have liked to have a bigger window, like two years to prepare for this rather than just six months, I think that they know what to look out for and they are preparing for this. But I agree that the bigger challenge right now is where the president is in terms of his rhetoric, both on Election Day and after. And that to me, is more than anything. And finally, the fact that so many people are voting right now suggests that the dissuasion campaign isn't working.

CHUCK TODD:

No, I think that's for sure. All right, guys, I've got to leave it there. As we go, I want to let you know about Nightly News Across America this week. My pal, Lester Holt, hits the road in Nevada, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. He'll be talking to voters about their top concerns as America votes. That's all for today. Thank you for watching. We'll be back next week from election headquarters in New York City, two days before the biggest day of this year because, if it's Sunday, it's Meet The Press.