HH: Here to talk about that and much more, host of NBC’s Meet the Press every single Sunday, Chuck Todd. But it’s not Meet the Press Chuck Todd I want to talk to today. It’s Hot Line Chuck Todd. Before he became international star of stage and screen, Chuck Todd toiled in the Hot Line dungeon looking at numbers, looking, it’s why he knows what he’s talking about. Chuck, we are in a flood of numbers this morning. Which ones stand out?
CT: Well, look, I’m going to sit here and say in some ways, it’s, what stands out to me this week, so last week was the story of erosion for Clinton. This week, the story is Trump is actually gaining, right? Before, it was just Clinton vote going away, and it was sprinkling into undecided, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein. To me, the big trend line is look, and you know, some Democrats will nitpick. Oh, the party ID seems off here in this or that. But the trend line’s the same. He is actually now starting to tick up in the polls. This is, look, everything changes after the first debate, perhaps, but wow. This is going to be a rough ten days. Clinton, nobody needs this first debate to come sooner than Hillary Clinton.
HH: I am, was with Republicans on the Hill yesterday in between these various stops. And the Speaker was in and out, and the Leader, and among the groups there, and in an off the record meeting, I will not attribute to anyone, the confident statement was made, and it wasn’t by the Speaker or the Leader, Republican incumbents are ahead in every race in the country. Every single race, they’re ahead. The data does not prove that Hillary Clinton is lifting up Democrats.
HH: It doesn’t prove the…it just proves they’ve separated the presidential race from everything else.
CT: Totally have.
HH: Do you agree with that, Chuck Todd?
CT: No, I think the biggest development, look, Hillary Clinton may still win by six or seven at the end, right? The debates could fall apart, whatever may happen. That’s still possible. And Donald Trump might win. But here’s what I think is a fact. I think now I would rather be the Republicans when it comes to the Senate right now, the Senate battleground, than the Democrats. I think everything that has happened over the last six weeks has helped, you know, I think you’ve seen more and more Republicans have done a good job separating themselves from the presidential race, period. And I think Democrats mistakenly believed that they could just throw up, hey, Senator X is just like Trump, or Congressman Y is just like Trump, and that that would be effective. That was their whole game plan. Well, now that Trump is, you know, basically having some good weeks, that’s not working at the same time there’s demoralization in the Democratic base with Hillary Clinton right now. All of that is combined, I think, to put the Republicans in a much better position to hold, even if Clinton still wins. I think the message has been received by voters to separate the two in these Senate battlegrounds.
HH: Now Chuck, I want to go back to your Meet the Press this past Sunday. I was not on it, so I can do this shamelessly and say what a show. Not only Tom Brokaw reflecting on the 9/11 anniversary, but then you pointing out that 15 years after Pearl Harbor, America had won and was at peace. But 15 years after 9/11, we are divided. And then David Brooks just killing it again and again talking about this is a race to the bottom.
HH: And it was very somber. And after that comes the collapse, and it’s never the crime, it’s the cover-up. It’s never the collapse. It’s the cover-up, so American politics has not exactly distinguished itself these 10 days.
CT: No, it hasn’t. I mean, it’s, you know, we all worried that we are, that this presidential campaign was going to be, feel like a dumpster fire in the fall. And we’ve got it. I mean, we’ve gotten it. I mean, look, there’s nothing about this. You know, the Clinton camp, Hillary Clinton can’t seem to get out of her own way. She’s, as David Axelrod said, she still has this pension for privacy that makes these unnecessary mistakes. But then you still have Donald Trump basically not listening to his advisors, who clearly were begging him not to use Dr. Oz as the backdrop to release his health records. And what did he do? He did it anyway. It’s pretty clear to me the campaign went, I mean, are you kidding me? I mean, I was just doing another show, radio show a little while ago, and they said you know, hey, I hear Maury Povich might be moderating a debate. And you know, I wouldn’t immediately laugh that off. Anything is possible with this quirky race.
HH: I pointed out to my friends on this tour that there are only three people alive who have won two presidential campaigns as a strategist. That’s Carville, that’s Rove and it’s David Axelrod. When David Axelrod tweeted that, I was stunned, for a lot of reasons. What was your reaction, Chuck, just to the fact that he would write that?
CT: Well, look, I kind of, I know a little bit of his backstory. I mean, whatever it is, you know, Axelrod, and look, the camp, some of the Obama ’08 people will never get over running against the Clintons, okay? It just happens. You, Hugh, you know people that haven’t gotten over Ford-Reagan, okay?
HH: You betcha.
CT: Exactly. That still exists. And you know, the animating idea for the Obama strategists in running against Clinton in ’08 was to hit her on things like this, on being overly private or secretive, right? And David Plouffe, I think, that line he used back in ’08, the most secretive politician, you know, or whatever it was, that gets repeated a lot these day. But there is some, I just think there is, he’s always believed this, number one, about the transparency issue. And I’ll tell you the other thing is the message, there’s a whole bunch of Obama people who gave advice to Clinton in ’14 – sever ties with the Foundation immediately, do, I mean, we’re, you know, everything that is happening to her was right now when it comes to the Foundation and some of this other stuff, it was preventable. It was preventable if they had sort of tackled it earlier.
CT: And they just kept putting it off.
HH: In a week of dark news and bad news, I do want to tell you, though, that Jon Voight found his car from Seinfeld. We had a guy who brought the car…
CT: It’s the Jon Voight trek. Man, I’ve been watching it pop up.
HH: It’s the funniest moment I’ve ever been involved in, because it’s, you know, everyone who is my age knows Seinfeld back and forth. But let’s go to something that is not funny. It’s just obscure.
CT: So I’m curious, though. When you’re on the bus, does he sit in the back and lean his head against the window?
HH: Occasionally, but Mickey Donovan does what he wants, Chuck.
CT: Yeah, I hear you. Well, there’s that, too. All right.
HH: He’s a great, he’s such a gracious man.
CT: You know, my wife is such a Ray Donovan, she said, literally, Jon Voight is Ray Donovan. Jon Voight makes Ray Donovan, according to my wife. I haven’t started binging, but she loves the show, loves him.
HH: Young people, young people, it’s so amazing the demographic that love him because of his character in Ray Donovan. So Maine-2, there are a lot of people out there, I’m going to ask you, who you got on Meet the Press this Sunday? And are you ever going to try and explain to people why Maine and Nebraska are different, and why Maine’s 2nd Congressional district, where Donald Trump is ahead by ten points, matters?
CT: Well, it matters, because you need one. I mean, you start putting his map together, I mean, if Virginia and Colorado are too hard, I mean, you know, you’ve got to find any Electoral Vote anywhere you’re going to get it. So that one, you know, that one could matter. I do still believe his path’s more narrow than her path.
CT: I mean, you just have to look at, you have to look at the recent history of the Electoral College. So that’s why everyone matters. In this case, it could matter, or it just, don’t forget the Omaha district is one where it appears she’s slightly ahead in Nebraska.
CT: So they could end up cancelling each other out. But what’s to me, though, Maine-2, it’s a canary in the coalmine for New Hampshire. I think as Maine-2 goes, so goes New Hampshire.
CT: It’s a very similar, so that’s another reason why my gut is if Trump carries New Hampshire, he carries Maine-2, and you know, that I would be surprised if he carried Maine-2 and lost New Hampshire. But the point is it’s a reminder…
HH: And so…
CT: And if you’ve seen the numbers in New Hampshire, they’re neck and neck as well.
HH: I know, and Kelly Ayotte’s again helping him down ticket. Last question, who’s on this weekend? Who are you, I mean, it’s so much news, who are you using to cover this?
CT: Well, I don’t think I’m allowed to say, yet, so I can’t quite say, yet. We’re trying to figure out how to lift an embargo, but it’ll be somebody that’s of, I know of high interest to you in some of your, in some of your home state, in some of your home state needs.
HH: Oh, interesting. Then we will be watching very, very closely on Sunday.
CT: All right, sir.
HH: If it’s Sunday, it’s Meet the Press with Chuck Todd. Thank you, Chuck.
End of interview.