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Meet the Press Transcript - November 2, 2014

Meet the Press Transcript -- November 2, 2014

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday with just 48 hours to go until election day, it's our midterm special. Are we looking at a Republican Senate wave or can the Democrats hang on? We're live from key battleground states. And we've got some new polls that may tell us where this race is headed on Tuesday. Plus, meeting the voters. They had one very clear message for Washington.

MALE VOTER (TAPE):

We’re supposed to be united. Stop the bickering.

CHUCK TODD:

And meeting the candidates who seem to be getting that message.

THOM TILLIS (TAPE):

We've got produce results.

CHUCK TODD:

My final report from a battleground road trip. Also, 2016 candidates, start your engines. All week, the likely contenders from both parties have been making themselves a presence.

CHRIS CHRISTIE (TAPE):

Sit down and shut up.

CHUCK TODD:

I'll be joined by Republican presidential hopefuls Rand Paul. And we have Ebola in America. After winning her quarantine showdown. Nurse Kaci Hickox joins me exclusively.

KACI HICKOX (TAPE):

This battle isn't over.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm Chuck Todd. And joining me to provide insight and analysis are former chair of the Republican Party, Michael Steele; NBC's own Andrea Mitchell; President Obama's first White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs; and NBC's senior political analyst, Joe Scarborough. Welcome to Sunday. It's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News election headquarters in New York, this is Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

And good morning from said election headquarters, right here at 30 Rock. We are ready for election night on Tuesday after my road trip across key battleground states. We've got lots on that later in the show. But I want to get right to our latest NBC News Marist polls from three more states in three more key senate races.

And right now, they bring some welcome news for Republicans, particularly in states where they were playing some defense. In Kentucky, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has a nine-point lead. He's sitting at 50%, 41% there for Alison Grimes among likely voters. Grimes, of course, the Democratic nominee. In Georgia, Republican candidate David Perdue is clinging to a four-point lead over Democrat Michelle Nunn, 48%, 44%. If neither candidate gets 50%, we are headed for a January runoff in Georgia.

In Louisiana, incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu has an eight-point edge right now in the so-called jungle primary. She leads Republican Bill Cassidy 44% to 46%. Republican conservative Tea Party challenger Rob Maness sits at 15%. Of course, if no one gets a majority in Louisiana, that does trigger a runoff in December. And right there, Cassidy has the edge over Landrieu 50% to 45%.

So, this morning, things looking good for Republican hopes of winning the Senate. They couldn't afford to lose either Kentucky or George. But the voters I met on my road trip across the South made it very clear they're not happy with either party right now.

(BEGIN TAPE)

LOUISIANA VOTER #1:

One of the biggest problems in Washington is that there are career politicians. And from the day they get elected, the next day their job is to get reelected.

LOUISIANA VOTER #2:

I would clean house on both parties.

LOUISIANA VOTER #3:

We’re supposed to be united. Stop the bickering.

NORTH CAROLINA VOTER #1:

I would love for there to be an independent president that would do a really great job and take people into consideration instead of the party.

NORTH CAROLINA VOTER #2:

Really care about the people that you're representing.

NORTH CAROLINA #3:

What about moderates? Does that exist? Because it has become so extreme.

GEORGIA VOTER:

We don't trust anybody anymore to look out for the working person.

ARKANSAS VOTER #1:

I'm not a party line person. I'm a candidate person. And there's a lot of folks in Arkansas that are that way.

ARKANSAS VOTER #2:

I would like some crossing over the aisle.

ARKANSAS VOTER #1:

A lot of these guys that are making the rules and the laws are so out of touch. They have no idea what they're even making the laws over.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Those are your undecided voters, folks. That's why this election is still on a knife's edge. By the way, the New York Times reports this morning, ready for this, the National Republican Senatorial Committee already has chartered a jet waiting to fly lawyers in wherever there may be a disputed election. Things are that close, particularly in places, perhaps, like Colorado or, who knows, Alaska.

Now, let's check on some of the key races. We've got the bases covered with correspondents joining us from five states across the country. We're going to start in Georgia where, as we just saw, Democrat Michelle Nunn is trailing slightly in her Senate battle with David Perdue. MSNBC's Kasie Hunt is on the ground in Atlanta for us. And Kasie, this is clearly about a turnout game and right now the Democrats' goal is to get this to a runoff.

KASIE HUNT:

Hey, Chuck. Yes, at this point, it's all about whether or not Democrats can remake the electorate. And so far, they seem to be doing a fairly good job. Early vote totals show about 33% of the electorate is African American so far. Both sides say that number's going to drop.

But that's where they need to be if they're going to push their candidates Jason Carter for governor and Michelle Nunn for Senate over the finish line. Now, both Republicans and Democrats agree that Nunn is probably the strongest candidate the Democrats have fielded on the Senate map this year, bar none. But whether it's going to be enough is still a pretty open question. And as you said, both sides are preparing for a runoff.

CHUCK TODD:

Kasie Hunt in Atlanta. By the way, Georgia, the worst economy in the nation. That's the real backdrop now. Now to Kansas, where things are extremely tight between the Independent candidate Greg Orman and the incumbent Republican Pat Roberts.

Our own Capitol Hill correspondent Kelly O'Donnell is making Kansas her home for the next three days. Shawnee Mission is where she is this morning. And Kelly, this has been about Republicans trying to get the base out versus Greg Orman trying to find those angry voters in the middle that I talked to.

KELLY O'DONNELL:

And Chuck, this battleground thing, it's new for Kansas, right. Republicans here tell me they are having trust issues. All the anger at Washington, they say that three-term incumbent Pat Roberts, he has been part of the problem, spending too much time there, not enough time here.

That really made that lane for Greg Orman, who is a self-made businessman. But voters say because he won't say which party he would align with, told me he might even switch back and forth, they don't know what kind of senator he would be. That makes it tough. So, all the Republicans are flooding the zone. Bob Dole, the Kansas icon, will be here today. Greg Orman looks at that and says that's a Washington establishment clown car, all that outside help. Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Kelly O'Donnell, enjoy Kansas. That's for sure. Now, let's go to Florida. This is the big gubernatorial prize in the country here. All eyes, Democratic Charlie Crist, the incumbent Republican there. Rick Scott, most expensive race in the country.

Let's check in in my hometown of Miami. Marc Caputo there the beat reporter there at the Miami Herald. And Marc, what are you watching? This early vote, is it really an advantage for Crist? Does this feel like Democrats are slightly ahead of where they were in 2010, which was a very close race?

MARC CAPUTO:

Democrats are ahead of where they were in 2010. They're way behind where they were in 2012. Right now, Republicans probably have about a 130,000 vote margin, maybe a little less, over Democrats in early and absentee ballots cast. That could become significant.

The polls are showing right now that it depends on the poll who's winning. Quinnipiac University has Crist up three percentage points. That's inside the error margin. And SEA Polling and Design has Rick Scott up three percentage points.

That's also inside the error margin. It's essentially a tie race. The dumbest and smartest thing said in politics is that it's all about turnout. And it's gonna be all about turnout. This election will actually probably be won or lost on election day. The question is, by whom?

CHUCK TODD:

That's for sure. And the wild card, that third candidate, how high is his number and who does he poll from? Marc Caputo, great work this year covering that race. Thank you, sir. The other big governor's race that's on the national race is, of course, in Wisconsin. Democrat Mary Burke is hoping to unseat Republican Governor Scott Walker in his third campaign for governor in four years. Charles Benson from our affiliate at WTMJ in Milwaukee for us. And Charles, the Walker people saw that last poll from Marquette University, they were up seven. It shocked a lot of people. Does anybody believe that somehow, Walker has expanded his lead like that?

CHARLES BENSON:

I don't think either side believes the margin is that big. But as you point out, the poll had Walker up by seven where, just two weeks ago, it was dead even. Chuck, you know this state is pretty interesting. It's not a red state or a blue state. Democrats have won the last seven straight presidential races. But Republican governors have won six out of the last eight in that timeframe. And, as you point out, Governor Walker now in his third election in four years.

Go back to 2012, when he wins the recall election, become the first governor in history to win a recall. He wins with 2.5 million voters going out to the polls. Five months later, President Obama wins this state by about the same margin. So, both sides indicate it's all about getting out the vote. And they'll see how that works out on Tuesday.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you, Charles. And as you told me, that 2.5 million figure a key figure. If the turnout is higher than that, that's probably good news for Mary Burke. Charles, thanks very much. And finally, to Iowa, where Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst are purportedly in a neck-and-neck race for the open Senate seat there.

I say purportedly because there's a brand-new Des Moines Register poll out this morning that indicates Ernst has a seven-point lead. Our own congressional correspondent Luke Russert is standing by in Des Moines. And Luke, that had to be a stomach punch to Democrats last night when the final Des Moines Register poll came out with that margin.

LUKE RUSSERT:

Yes. You're completely right, Chuck. This poll is considered the gold standard, especially ahead of elections here in Iowa. Some real worrisome news for Bruce Braley. Two things that stood out to me in that poll. Number one, he's losing his own congressional district by three points. He's going to have to go campaign there over the next two days to try and turn out the vote there if he has any chance.

The other thing within that poll, Chuck, Joni Ernst, who he's campaigning against, the Republican, actually polling better on the issue of, "Who cares more about people like me?" That is something that Democrats ordinarily do better on than Republicans. In this case, Ernst is really doing a good job on it.

And she also adds this sort of novelty of her candidacy. She's a combat veteran. She would be the first woman sent to Washington from Iowa if she were to win. And she's really been able to, through the powerful personality narrative, sort of make Braley very Washington and very unlikable. Something to keep an eye on if she is to win also, Chuck, looking ahead to 2016, she would be the number-one surrogate that any of those Republican presidential candidates would want.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes. That's for sure. She could become a quick star. Anyway, Luke Russert in Iowa. Thank you, sir. This is such a surprisingly unpredictable election when you see the numbers we have nationally. So, we needed two panels to sort it all out.

Joining me now are some of the smartest minds in political analysis. Charlie Cook, editor and publisher of the Cook Political Report; Amy Walter, national editor of the Cook Political Report; and two of our NBC News Wall Street Journal pollsters, Fred Yang, the Democratic pollster from Hart Research Associates; and Bill MacInturff, a Republican pollster with Public Opinion Strategies. And Fred and Bill, you've just given us some brand-new data. I appreciate that. Here's our generic congressional ballot. Nationwide likely voters say they prefer a Republican congress, but it's by the slimmest of margins, 46%, 45%.

Here's another surprising finding. In the ten Senate battleground states, which largely had leaned Republican, so we all thought, the margin is the same, just one point, 47%, 46%. Bill MacInturff, your part thinks it has the wind at its back. I feel like Republicans are trying to will a wave coming on. One piece of good news, then there's a step back. This is a tight election.

BILL MCINTURFF:

It is a tight election. But guess what. These Senate seats are in the South. President Obama's job approval is 23%. The negative on the Democratic Party is 64%. That's a death star number. The Democrats happen to control the Senate in the South. I think it's too far a stretch. I think political gravity kicks in. I think the Senate goes Republican.

CHUCK TODD:

Fred, you look at these numbers, did it make you feel better this morning?

FRED YANG:

Made me feel like the things we need to have happen on election day and in a lot of these close states is maybe coming to fruition. For a while now, there's been a voter interest enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats. Now Democrats are catching up. And the one number from the generic is that with registered voters, which is a broader electorate than likely voters, the Democrats still have a four-point edge, which means, as the reporter from Miami said, it's about turnout.

CHUCK TODD:

It is. It's cliché. It's about turnout. Charlie and Amy, I'm going to put up here our graphic. This is all our polls, basically the best poll we think, most recent best poll in all the Senate battlegrounds. You've seen the Kentucky, that's ours. Iowa, Des Moines Register plus seven. Frankly, neither side believes that number, for what it's worth. But the Des Moines Register, they have a great reputation.

Louisiana, you saw Georgia, four-point lead there. Arkansas, we had it at two. Others have it a little bit bigger there for the Republicans. Colorado, one point. New Hampshire, two points in the Democrats' favor. North Carolina, two points in the Democrats' favor. Kansas, one point. Charlie, you look at this, toss-up races. Do you think they all move in one direction? Is this an '06? Or do you think Democrats have done such a good job that maybe they can split this decision?

CHARLIE COOK:

Well, Jennifer Duffy, our Senate editor, has figured out that if you looked at the last what was it? Like, eight elections that the toss-ups have tended to break by over 2/3, like 68%, one way or the other.

I think Republicans are going to win the lion's share or the really close ones. But keep in mind, these are home games for Republicans. I mean, the first six seats that Romney won by 14 points or more. And those are probably the first Democratic seats to go over the side.

CHUCK TODD:

Amy, is this an anti-Democrat year, an anti-Obama year, or an anti-incumbent year and an anti-Washington year? What is it?

AMY WALTER:

It's an anti-establishment year. And right now, the establishment is the Democratic Party. The president is a Democrat. People are frustrated with the direction that he's taken the country. And Democrats are the incumbent party in most of these Senate seats. So, if you're frustrated, and these guys in their polls found that that's the second-most important issues for voters is breaking the gridlock in Washington. Yes, Republicans get some of the blame. But, again, when you're the party in charge, you get most of that blame.

CHUCK TODD:

Bill, I have to ask you this. If the Republicans come up short, how are they going to second guess themselves?

BILL MCINTURFF:

Well, first, I don't think the Republicans come up short.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that. But what's the one thing bothering you about this?

BILL MCINTURFF:

The one thing that's bothering me is big money, data analytics, and the Obama turnaround operation in the states of North Carolina, Iowa, New Hampshire, and the other places where they're used to running for president. And that's what we don't know. We'll see how political gravity, Republicans, versus that new technology, which wins on Tuesday.

CHUCK TODD:

Fred, what's going to be the second guessing among Democrats if they lose this Senate?

FRED YANG:

I think the second guessing will be bad luck to have a lot of road gains.

CHUCK TODD:

It's a bad map?

FRED YANG:

Yes. You know, the six-year itch is important. The president's numbers are lower. But, look, I think in terms of the broader perspective, we're going to probably see a record-low turnout. So, on your piece, the discussion about anti-establishment, I think voters are already voting. And they're already voting by not voting.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes, that is, and none of the above. Very quickly to both of you, best and worst campaigns of the cycle. Let's give the awards, regardless of what happens on Tuesday night. Amy, I'll start with you.

AMY WALTER:

I'm going to say Cory Gardner in Colorado and Kay Hagan in North Carolina.

CHUCK TODD:

That's two.

AMY WALTER:

Those are the two best races.

CHUCK TODD:

And who ran the worst?

AMY WALTER:

I mean, you have to give it to Pat Roberts.

CHUCK TODD:

That's right, Republican state.

AMY WALTER:

I mean, come on.

CHUCK TODD:

To be where you are.

AMY WALTER:

And where he is is remarkable.

CHUCK TODD:

Fair enough. Charlie?

CHARLIE COOK:

I'd say on the Senate side, Mitch McConnell. I mean, the thing is, there were people that did not want to vote for someone that was one of the most powerful members of Congress. I think he ran a flawless campaign and is pulling away. And on the other side, I think Governor Rick Scott is an extremely polarizing figure, but I think they had an awesome campaign. And is it enough? I'm not sure it's enough. But sometimes, the great campaigns still lose.

CHUCK TODD:

Worst campaign?

CHARLIE COOK:

I think I'm with you.

CHUCK TODD:

It's all Pat Roberts. I have to say. I have to give the award for best to Al Franken. Because guess who we're not talking about today. Closest Senate election six years ago, Al Franken. Recount, all of those things. How did this guy survive? Six years of a well-run campaign. You have to give that to him. I'm going to have to leave it there. Bill and Fred, I'll see you a lot. Charlie and Amy, we're going to see you a lot, Charlie, on Tuesday.

Coming up, besides meeting voters, I met some candidates. Democrats fighting to win in four Southern states. President Obama lost, in some cases, big in 2012. And later, my exclusive interview with Kaci Hickox, the nurse from Maine who fought and won her fight over being quarantined.

***Commercial Break**

CHUCK TODD:

We've got some interesting campaign data for you from Facebook on the states that I visited. It turns out the more times an incumbent gets mentioned within his or her state on Facebook, the worse it might be for them. Why? Because it's a sign, perhaps, that the race is not becoming a choice anymore but a referendum on that said incumbent, just what a sitting member does not want.

For instance, in Louisiana, Mary Landrieu was getting 82% of in-state mentions on Facebook. That's not good. Same thing in Kansas, where Pat Roberts is coming in at 72%. Guess what. Both are struggling. Of the incumbents we tracked, only the North Carolina Senate candidates are close to parity. And guess what. The Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan is the one that's in the best shape. When we come back, what we heard from the candidates while I was on the road meeting the voters.

***Commercial Break**

CHUCK TODD:

And welcome back. President Obama has been a big presence on the midterm campaign trail with many Democrats actively distancing themselves from the White House. Boy, but it's really striking that in the South, he hasn't made a single appearance in this fall campaign. For the lack of my meet-the-voters road trip, I swung through the Southern battleground states for the Senate and met with the candidates that are all fighting for their own political future.

(Begin Tape)

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

Our road trip to meet the candidates stretched 3,100 miles to states that will decide control of the Senate. And it ended in the South, where Democratic dynasties are battling to survive in places the president is deeply unpopular.

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D-LA):

In this polarized environment, there are no more Get Out of Jail Free cards, okay. They have gone.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

From North Carolina to Georgia, Arkansas to Louisiana, while Republicans run against the president, Democrats are running away from him.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

What should President Obama learn from this election seat?

MARK PRYOR:

Well, of course, I wish he was more in touch with rural America.

CHUCK TODD:

You think he doesn't understand rural America?

SEN. MARK PRYOR (D-AR):

Well, just how the whole country works, not just parts of it.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

Senator Mark Pryor is now the last Arkansas Democrat left in Congress. And he's in an uphill battle against Republican Congressman Tom Cotton.

SEN. MARK PRYOR (D-AR):

People here, they're as frustrated with Washington as anybody in the country. They are. But they're not frustrated with me. Because they know I've tried. I've tried to bring people together.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

In Georgia, the highest unemployment rate in the nation, 7.9%, is the backdrop for a tight battle between Michelle Nunn, daughter of longtime Senator Sam Nunn; and former businessman David Perdue.

MICHELLE NUNN (D-GA):

David Perdue, my opponent is against closing tax loopholes that actually incent businesses to take jobs overseas.

DAVID PERDUE (R-GA):

A lot of people are critical about this outsourcing idea. But the issue is at Dollar General, for example, we created almost 20,000 jobs in a very short period of time. And we outsourced all of the products and services that we sold in the stores.