JOHN DICKERSON: Today on FACE THE NATION, Republicans rejoice after passing their tax bill. The President gets his Christmas wish and signs the bill into law. But will this Republican unity last into the New Year? We'll take a look at the political landscape heading into the 2018 midterms and in our annual CBS Correspondents' panel we'll reflect on this year and look ahead to next.
It's all coming up on FACE THE NATION.
Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. I'm John Dickerson. On this Christmas Eve morning with all the newsmakers out of town we begin with a sixty-seven-year tradition, the annual CBS News Correspondent roundtable. Joining us this year, White House and senior foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Brennan. Ed O'Keefe covers Capitol Hill and politics for the Washington Post and is a CBS News contributor. We've asked him to fill in or congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes, who we hope is enjoying her well-deserved break with her family. Chief White House correspondent Major Garrett. Justice and Homeland Security correspondent Jeff Pegues. And national security correspondent David Martin is also here. We begin with a portion of an interview Margaret did with Vice President Pence late last week on a surprise trip to Afghanistan. She talked to him about the accomplishments of the first year of the Trump administration and what's ahead for 2018.
MIKE PENCE: First and foremost, this President has rolled back federal red tape in record numbers, unleashed American energy, appointed conservative jurists to our courts including Justice Neil Gorsuch. But to arrive at the end of the year, and thanks to President Trump's leadership to see the Congress of the United States come together, pass the largest tax cut in American history was deeply inspiring.
MARGARET BRENNAN (CBS News White House Correspondent/CBS News Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent/@margbrennan): You see a toehold to get more done?
MIKE PENCE: As much as we've accomplished this year, rebuilding our military, unleashing the full potential of the American economy. And passing the largest tax cut in American history and-- and other-- and-- and other initiatives that this President has advanced, it's clear we're just getting started. And next year I think you're going to see this administering move on vigorously to an agenda, which will include infrastructure and welfare reform. The progress that we've made in the war against ISIS, where we've virtually crushed the ISIS, caliphate and taken back its-- its-- the capital of Raqqa, the fight here in Afghanistan, taking the fight directly to the enemy. The investment that we're making in our military, the growth and optimism in the American economy I think-- I think sets the stage for tremendous growth and opportunity in security and prosperity in 2018.
MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you explain to the American people how they should understand what just happened this month with Mike Flynn pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador, which the President said he lied not only to you about but to the FBI and that's why the President fired him.
MIKE PENCE: We'll let the special counsel and-- and others do their job. We're going to cooperate but we're going to stay very focused on the job the American people elected us to do.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Can you just clarify how you understand what happened with Mike Flynn who we'd known had lied to you? Did you know he had lied to the FBI?
MIKE PENCE: Well, I--
MARGARET BRENNAN: The President said that's what made him fire him.
MIKE PENCE: I stand by everything I've said with regard to that individual and every other aspect of this. But--
MARGARET BRENNAN: But when he was fired, did you know he lied to the FBI?
MIKE PENCE: What I can tell you is I knew that he lied to me. And-- and I know the President made the right decision, with regard to him.
JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Margaret, so the Vice President is a fan of the job his boss is doing. Let me ask you about that trip, though. It was supposed to be part of a larger trip that the Vice President was supposed to take. That part was cancelled.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, it was interesting because that-- that trip has been postponed until January. It was supposed to be to Jerusalem and also to Egypt, part of what had initially been planned to sort of a, look, I delivered on this promise to eventually move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and then it became a bit more of a trying to soften the blow that was very much dealt to all of the Arab world and the Palestinians. But as more and more cancelled their planned meetings with the Vice President, that's made that trip tougher, but this-- this bond that was dropped in many ways with this decision on Jerusalem. The administration would say, we didn't see the blowback on the security side, the risks and the threats that some had predicted, but you have to understand that symbolically the decision on Jerusalem will continue to be a sticking point for the Arab world. It may not be the breaking point, because they have broader concerns with Iran right now but it is certainly something that the administration's not going to quickly move beyond.
JOHN DICKERSON: Major, we heard the Vice President's assessment of the year. Give us your assessment?
MAJOR GARRETT (CBS News Chief White House Correspondent/@MajorCBS): I think it was very revealing in the last week of this year effectively in Washington that the person who had the year-end wrap up press conference was not Donald Trump, was not Speaker Paul Ryan, it was Mitch McConnell. And if you're going to look at the person singularly most responsible for accomplishments on the domestic side for the Trump agenda, it's not Donald Trump, it's Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader who held with the exception of one issue--health care--Republicans together on every single aspect of what the President tried to accomplish. Tax cuts were passed because McConnell held his conference together. All of the twelve circuit judges, nominated and confirmed, a record for any first year of any American presidency because Mitch McConnell held his conference together. And he got forty-nine votes on health care, closer than anyone probably could have under those similar circumstances. So Mitch McConnell put the bow on this year and quite properly so. The President signs, but without McConnell who for the very first time this last week the President actually praised on Twitter because it has finally gotten through to him through many people inside and outside the White House, Mister President, forget what Steve Bannon says, you can't get anything without Mitch McConnell.
JOHN DICKERSON: Ed, staying with Congress, you heard Mike Pence talk about him-- about infrastructure, you heard him talk about welfare reform, given what Major has laid out, but also the fact that you got a Democratic Party that doesn't want to help out this President, what-- what do you think Congress is going to look like?
ED O'KEEFE (CBS News Contributor/Washington Post/@edatpost): More likely of those two is infrastructure for sure. It was quite revealing how very quickly this week Paul Ryan tried to pivot to entitlement reform and very quickly Mitch McConnell and Republican Senators said, no, no way. Because remember the math. Fifty-one to forty-nine is new math starting January 3rd. Doug Jones comes to the Senate as a Democrat from Alabama--
MAJOR GARRETT: Courtesy of Steve Bannon.
ED O'KEEFE: Courtesy of Steve Bannon exactly, and cooperation is required. And the only thing that most Senators rights now believe could start the year off in a-- in a good way is working on some kind of plan to fund big construction projects basically in this country. The question of course as it always is seems to be, how will you pay for? And that given that you've just slashed tax cuts, Republicans will probably turn around and suggest that entitlement reform is the way to do that in some respects but a lot of those Republican Senators and a fair number of congressional House members who are from suburban swing districts were going after Medicare, Medicaid, social security, is an unpopular thing to do in an election year are-- are going to resist it.
JOHN DICKERSON: David, the vice president said ISIS is decimated. The caliphate is gone. Is that accurate? And if so, why has it been-- why has this come to pass?
DAVID MARTIN (CBS News National Security Correspondent): I think it's accurate to say that the caliphate as it existed in Iraq and Syria is crushed. They used to control all of northern Syria, northern Iraq, western Iraq, they're now down to a few pieces of territory along the u-- Euphrates River in-- in Syria. And I think the trump administration deserves some credit for that. The weight of American airstrikes and the capabilities of American Special Operations Forces would sooner or later crush the ISIS caliphate no matter who was in the White House. But the way that General Mattis, the Secretary of Defense went about it, was to give his commanders more authorities to make decisions in the field. So when they saw a target of opportunity, they didn't have to come all the way back through the chain of command to the White House to get approval. They just did it. And now, the ISIS that once existed is almost dead. But as Secretary Mattis says over and over, they're not-- they're not defeated. ISIS, the caliphate is going to become ISIS the movement. And its followers, we-- we already see them in-- in Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, name almost any country in-- in North Africa. These aren't fighters who for the most part escaped from Iraq and Syria, these are just angry young men looking for a cause to serve.
JOHN DICKERSON: Jeff, the vice president talked about Michael Flynn. Michael Flynn is at the heart of both the relationship with the Russians among Trump advisors but then also the obstruction question about whether the President told the FBI director to go easy on the Flynn investigation. Where are we at the end of the year with this cluster of investigations?
JEFF PEGUES (CBS News Justice & Homeland Security Correspondent/@jeffpeguesCBS): Well, they're-- they're ongoing. And the questions I know the White House is interested in this went will it all wrap up and it-- it doesn't seem like there is an end in sight right now. I mean you have Mike Flynn who was given this plea deal. He is a figure that straddles, you know, the transition, the campaign and the first few weeks of the White House. So if he's cooperating with the investigators, you get a clearer sense of what the investigators may be looking at. At least according to some of the people that I know who have worked with Mueller in the past, they know how he builds his cases. He tries to get some cooperating witnesses which he-- he has now with Flynn and Papadopoulos, the foreign policy advisor who also took a plea deal. So, you wrap up these witnesses, but you don't tip your hand according to these people who work with Mueller to what the main charges are going to be at the end. So that's the question--when will this end and what are investigators trying to get out of Mike Flynn?
JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Well we're going to take a short break now, but we'll be back in a minute with more from our panel.
JOHN DICKERSON: And we're back with our panel. Major, I want to start with you. There have been a lot of management changes at the White House.
MAJOR GARRETT: Yeah.
JOHN DICKERSON: Where are we at the end of the year on that?
MAJOR GARRETT: John Kelly has brought order and discipline and functionality to not only the way decisions are brought to the President but who is allowed to bring them to the President. And they go through John Kelly. But that doesn't change the fundamental truth about the Trump approach to the presidency. And I've been trying to think of a metaphor. So you go to a rock concert to-- it's Make America Great, again rock concert. There are two songs Forgotten Americans and America First and fifteen solos. Fifteen solos by the same soloist on different instruments. That soloist is Donald Trump, okay. When he says in interviews, I'm the only one that matters, he fundamentally means that. And everything about this administration pivots off of that truth. He is the central actor, the central soloist in everything. And imagine yourself at this rock concert and you hear fifteen solos. You're probably going to be a little tired by the end of the show, because you get the soloist and very little else. If you talk to cabinet secretaries, which I have the luxury of doing it sometime, they're like we're doing all this things but it's hard to sort of get people aware of it because the soloist is on the flute then he's on the drums then he's on the electric guitar then he's on every other instrument and that is both the kind of reality draw of the Trump presidency, the management reality and the exhausting reality.
JOHN DICKERSON: Right. By the time he gets to the glockenspiel, it's really-- Margaret, I want to just pivot right from that to the question of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Give us the sense of that powerful job, is Rex Tillerson going to stay in and what's his legacy?
MARGARET BRENNAN: Major is right, there's only one star in this show and everyone in that administration is keenly aware of it. In the past few weeks in particular you've seen Secretary Tillerson be a bit more assertive, particularly you see this in this newly assertive position perhaps in Ukraine, to open up this idea that we could express more support and actually provide lethal weaponry to the Ukrainians, which is a shot across the bow at Russia which you've heard Tillerson say, time and again this is the one issue of Ukraine where we can't get past this to broker that broader deal with Russia. So I think you will continue to see him quietly move on that front along with more sanctions on Russia, along with more assertive position and also be more outspoken in the New Year, but he clearly doesn't want to try to compete with the star in this show on the main stage.
JOHN DICKERSON: All right. We're going to see how long we can extend this metaphor. David, let me ask you about North Korea. Where does that stand at the end of this year?
DAVID MARTIN: Three hundred and sixty-five days further down the road of a collision course. The U.S. is making a demand of North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program, the North Korea is not going to accept. North Korea is developing a weapon, an intercontinental ballistic missile as the Trump administration says it cannot accept. Something's got to give and it's probably going to take some major decisions by somebody in the year 2018 to get us off this-- this collision course.
JOHN DICKERSON: Jeff, what's the state of Homeland Security at the end of this year?
JEFF PEGUES: Well, the-- the main focus, John, right now is on these lone wolf actors. You know, law enforcement doesn't like to call them lone wolves because they feel it glorifies the act. But these are people that are harder to spot because they are sitting in a basement somewhere being radicalized online, and with the array of information available online they can be radicalized within weeks and then carry out an attack. The FBI does about a thousand investigations, ISIS related in the U.S. and really that's been the consistent number over the last couple of years. But spotting these people is so difficult because they blend in, you-- you don't really have a history of law enforcement with them. And so trying to wrap them up and get them arrested is a problem for law enforcement. And it's something that will continue into 2018.
JOHN DICKERSON: Ed, I want to end this round by talking about Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, their relationship with the President now. It was a rocky year. Is everybody on the same team now or are things coming in 2018 that you think will create more potential conflict?
ED O'KEEFE: Well, this is by far their-- their best week. And I think you saw that in-- in their public praise of each other, the body language, and fact that they all understood this was a significant win not only for them but for the Republican Party and its existence. But I think you're going to see some more disagreements about what to do next year, both officially and politically. There are competing priorities obviously in the House and the Senate. McConnell doesn't really want to rock the boat. I think Ryan is eager to-- to try to take another step in terms of looking at sort of domestic policy and-- and what could possibly be reshaped in a more conservative image. Both of them struggle every day with the fact that the President does not grasp, care about or really, you know, talk to anyone about details of this stuff.
JOHN DICKERSON: Major, I want to ask you about the underreported story from the year. What would you put in that category?
MAJOR GARRETT: I'd say one overseas and one at home. Overseas, it's this relationship with Saudi Arabia. When I covered the Trump campaign, I did not imagine the very first stop he would make overseas would be Riyadh, considering his orientation to the Muslim world in general and the possible restoration in the words of the Saudi kingdom about Islam and taking on terrorism in a way that it didn't before could be a potential far-reaching story. At home, I would say its energy. This administration has a twentieth century point of view on energy, extraction, and exploitation. It does not have an embracive renewable or twenty-first century energy concepts the Obama administration does that will radically change where we drill, where we don't drill, and the environmental implications of that.
JOHN DICKERSON: Margaret, what's your-- your candidate for under covered story?
MARGARET BRENNAN: One thing I would highlight is what we're seeing in terms of the lost generation, this refugee crisis that was so focused on Syria has now continued, worsened, become a health epidemic whether you're talking about conflict in Yemen, outbreak of cholera, hitting thousands, whether you're looking at the Democratic Republic of the Congo where UNICEF is predicting four hundred thousand children under the age of five could die because of these health risks, because of refugee crisis issues of displacement and starvation. So, whether its Syria, Africa, you know, throughout the Middle East, these issues, the United States isn't talking about as much, isn't leading on, and is really only articulating in purely a homeland security point of view. But these things have consequences in years to come in terms of radicalization, in terms of risks, and in terms of simply health risk.
JOHN DICKERSON: David, what's been under covered story?
DAVID MARTIN: Well, you heard the Vice President Pence say we are rebuilding our military. Not so much. There's a big new defense spending bill, but it's just a wish list until you get a-- a deal in Congress. And so the fact is that the Pentagon along with the rest of the governors is going to continue to operate on these continuing resolutions, which keeps you going along the same path. And the-- the heads of all of the services just say that their readiness is-- is falling apart. And when you listen to the-- the details of what an aircraft carrier has to go through these days to get underway, when we saw those three carriers operating off the Korean Peninsula awhile back, the machination that it took to get one of those carriers, the Teddy Roosevelt underway, I mean, they were stealing planes from all over the United States stealing parts just so that they have air wing to go on there. The secretary of the Air Force says that when she saw on her first briefing on the new readiness rates when she came into office, she said, "There must be some mistake. This has got to be wrong." And, of course, it wasn't wrong. And nobody should conclude from that that we're about to be inferior to anybody. We're still number one. But as secretary of the Air Force said these decreased readiness rates don't mean we're not going, but it does mean fewer are going to come back.
JOHN DICKERSON: Ed, your candidate for this.
ED O'KEEFE: Two quick ones. First off, let's remember, there was an assassination attempt on a top House Republican this year. And this was the most threatening year for lawmakers in history. There were at least one thousand six hundred fifty threats against lawmakers as of late July. I couldn't get updated stats in time for this, but it's safe to surmise it was at least doubled last year. The other, there's an internal displacement crisis in this country. At least two hundred thirty thousand people have left Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria. They are in Florida, Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, New York. They're going to reshape the politics of those states. But there's an island that needs to be rebuilt and the United States didn't do it this year.
JEFF PEGUES: I would agree. I think, you know, Puerto Rico is just-- what has-- what has happened there and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the lack of focus on those issues there is big. That's not exactly my beat, but it's-- it's something that I'm interested in. But also if you look at overseas, European officials were saying that they're not getting the outflow of ISIS fighters back in Europe that they were anticipating. I talked to top counterterrorism officials here in the U.S. who agreed with that.
JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Prediction time. Jeff, I'm going to start with you. What are you going to predict in 2018?
JEFF PEGUES: Well, you might recall that last year I predicted that James Comey was going to stick around. Maybe--
JOHN DICKERSON: You're a humble and honest man.
JEFF PEGUES: Maybe you can give me a break on that one. Well, I mean, who knew what would happen? So this year, I won't be as bold, but I will say that I think the Mueller investigation is going to, one way or another, give members of Congress a big decision in 2018. I think it's going to-- it-- it will end up in their lap.
JOHN DICKERSON: David, what's your prediction?
DAVID MARTIN: Well, as long as we're confessing. Last year, I predicted that President Trump and Kim Jong-un would have a face-to-face meeting. I was brilliant, but dead wrong. So, I'm not going to touch North Korea. I'm going to predict that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS will meet his end in 2018.
JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Ed.
ED O'KEEFE: One of the big four congressional leaders, Nancy Pelosi, Paul Ryan, Chuck Schumer, and Mitch McConnell will either be gone or on their way out of their position by this time next year.
JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Major.
MAJOR GARRETT: The President is going to have to come to terms with what the resistance means. You talk to Ed Gillespie, who ran in Virginia, got more votes than any-- anyone ever run for governor in Virginia, but lost by nine points.
JOHN DICKERSON: Mm-Hm.
MAJOR GARRETT: So the victor got even more, says "I met the resistance and it's real." In the mid-term elections, everything that's on the agenda will have to require democratic votes. And that's going to mean larger compromises than this President has shown any inclination to achieve. So, 2018 for this White House and this President if it has any accomplishments at all will have to be through and over or around the resistance. And that will be a fascinating story.
JOHN DICKERSON: Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson does not resign in January as had been predicted and asked many, many times. He'll stick around. I think he will be engaging more and more assertive, as I said. But I think one of the areas that is going to really take up a lot of his time is trying to save whatever chance of diplomacy there maybe with North Korea, but we may see also more immediate crisis with Iran.
JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Thank you, Margaret.
And I want to thank everybody on our panel today for today, but also for all the work you do for CBS and for FACE THE NATION--your reporting, your insights, and your curiosity about the news and what's going on in Washington and around the world, help us inform and make sense of what's been a very unusual year. And we'll be back in a moment.
JOHN DICKERSON: If you can't watch the entire show live, the full hour of FACE THE NATION is rebroadcast every Sunday at 11:00 AM and 6:00 PM Eastern Time on our digital streaming network CBSN. Available through our website, the CBS News app or your favorite TV device.
JOHN DICKERSON: And we'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. Stay with us.
JOHN DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.
The big political question for 2018 is whether Republicans will build on their single-party control of Congress or whether Democrats will flip control of the Senate, the House or both. For a look at where things stand as we move into 2018, we turn to Dan Balz who is the chief correspondent at the Washington Post. His colleague, Karen Tumulty, is the national political correspondent. And our own Anthony Salvanto is the CBS News director of elections. All right. First, we're going to get to the House and the Senate and break those down. But I want to just start with the very broad question for all three of you. Dan, I'll start with you. What is the landscape look like here at the end of 2017 for next year's elections?
DAN BALZ (Washington Post/@danbalz): Everything we see at this point, John, is-- is a very, very difficult landscape for the Republicans, almost every measure or every event that has happened so far this year politically has been bad for the Republicans and good for the Democrats. You can look at it in terms of the President's approval rating, which is historically low for a first-term President. You can look at it in the nature of the current preference for how the House should break. The Democrats have a significant advantage on that, at this point. And we know that from the recent elections through the enthusiasm is much greater or appears to be much greater among Democrats than Republicans to turn out and that's often the key indicator in mid-term elections.
JOHN DICKERSON: Karen. Yes.
KAREN TUMULTY (Washington Post/@ktumulty): It's true. Mid-term elections, especially in a president's first term are almost never good news for the President. In fact, only twice since 1934 has the President's party picked up seats in the first mid-term of his first term in office. But it really does seem like the Republicans are, in fact, heading into some-- some really tough weather here. And it's true, the generic ballot, this-- you know, would you rather see a Democrat or a Republican in office. The Democrats are ahead in that by double digits, but I-- I agree. I think this enthusiasm gap is really the biggest thing the Republicans ought to be worried about right now.
JOHN DICKERSON: I want to get at the roots of that enthusiasm where it comes from. But, Anthony, where do you put the needle down on the record here?
ANTHONY SALVANTO (CBS News Elections Director/@SalvantoCBS): Well, let me tamper that a little bit. The math is still a little bit in the advantage of the Republicans, at least on the Senate side. And the reason for that is that the-- the Democrats are defending more seats and any time that happens, you have a harder hill to climb. And, look, on the House side, it's true that we see a national polling that more people are now saying that they'd like to see the Democrats in control. But remember that those polls are talking to people in very heavy democratic districts as well as heavy Republican ones. And so that generic ballot can sort of overstate the case, right? Which you really want to focus on is how many specific House seats could be competitive. And on that side, there may be just enough for the Democrats to put the House in play. The real question going forward is, can they expand that math, can they make more seats than we wouldn't ordinarily think are in play, sort of come into view.
JOHN DICKERSON: On that generic ballot, though, isn't it the case, this-- this question of would you vote for Republican or Democrat even though it's an imprecise number when it's that big, when people are favoring the Democrats that much, isn't that sort of, well, a blunt indicator when the number is that big? It still does tell you something, though, doesn't it?
ANTHONY SALVANTO: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. It gives you a general sense of the direction. And there's no question that that direction is pointing towards Democrats. It-- it's maybe about half as many. So if you see a national ballot, you know, national generic ballot, you say, "Well, they might win maybe half that much in the-- in the actual elections." But there again, the interesting is going to be where they can start to try to persuade people. And as you look around the country, a lot of these suburban districts, a lot of wealthier districts that had gone Republican, Republican on economic issues particularly are places that they're targeting. And if they can start to put those in play, then we start to see a really competitive House-- House election.
KAREN TUMULTY: I think the first place to look will be there are twenty-three House districts and the Democrats have to pick up twenty-four. There are twenty-three House districts where there is a Republican incumbent sitting in a district that was won by Hillary Clinton. And-- and these districts are all over the country. They're in California, Texas, Florida. And they-- there are big range. A lot of them were suburban, but a lot of them are rural and a lot of them have large numbers of Hispanics.
JOHN DICKERSON: Yeah.
DAN BALZ: John, there's one other element in terms of the-- the tempering of where we are. We have a-- we have a odd situation, which is a President with very low approval ratings at a time when you have historically over the last seventeen years, the lowest unemployment rate, a stock market that is the President says constantly is breaking records weekly and steady economic growth. So for the Republicans if they can, in one way or another, force people to think about the state of the economy rather than their view of the President, they-- they could hope to do better than a lot of this polling suggests at this point. History says that-- well, there have been two other times in the last half century, where you've had this anomaly of low presidential approval and low unemployment. In both those cases, the presidential approval turned out to be the more significant and the party in power lost a lot of seats.
ANTHONY SALVANTO: Yeah. In the last three midterms, most people have said that the midterm vote is about the President. So there's no question that he's a factor and there's no question that approval rating looked like it (INDISTINCT).
JOHN DICKERSON: And that's where the enthusiasm you're talking about, Karen, comes from. Explain that for people a little bit about. It's linked to the President, right?
KAREN TUMULTY: And-- and what-- what pollsters ask voters is, you know, how excited are you about this election? How-- they-- they look for other measures of-- of how engaged people are with the fact that there even is an election this year. And just this week, the Wall Street Journal, Peter Hart, their pollster, found a ten-point enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans.
ANTHONY SALVANTO: You know, that's really important, too. Because remember, in midterms, turnout is lower. And the folks who tend to vote are a little disproportionately older and often disproportionately Republican, at least recently. What the Democrats have taken out of these last couple of elections, Virginia and Alabama, is that they can motivate their base. That people who don't ordinarily come out except for in presidential years have been willing to come out. And if they can do that, then that changes the dynamic because there are folks sitting in these districts who normally sit out midterms, where turnout goes under forty percent a lot of times, they reshape that and the whole electorate changes.
JOHN DICKERSON: Dan, let me ask you about the Senate. Karen sketched out the situation in the House. In the Senate, after Doug Jones of Alabama is seated as the Democrat next year after that exciting race this year, there will be a two-seat majority for Republicans. That means the Democrats need to just pick up two seats to gain control of the Senate. Now ten Democrats are up for re-election in states Donald Trump won. And in recent history, states have tended to vote for senator the way they have for Presidents, so that's one factor there. There's only one Republican running in a state where Hillary Clinton won. That's in Nevada, Dean Heller. And then there are some other interesting states, Nevada-- sorry, Tennessee and then Minnesota are-- are on and those are-- so where do you see the Senate shaking out?
DAN BALZ: Well, I'd-- I'd make two points. First of all, if we were having this conversation a year ago we would be talking about the likelihood of potentially significant losses for the Democrats in the Senate because as you say they're defending so many seats and they're defending them in states that Trump won. Now, of those ten that Trump won, five are truly red, and five are what I would call more swing states.
JOHN DICKERSON: Yeah.
DAN BALZ: But what's happened over the course of the year is because of the turbulence that the Republicans have run into. There is now at least the possibility of Democrats being able to take control of the Senate. I think it's still very, very difficult. But they have three opportunities--Arizona, Nevada and possibly Tennessee because they have a candidate there, the former democratic governor who may be the only Democrat who could win state-wide. But I'm-- I'm not predicting at this point that he will. And-- and many of their incumbents are in reasonably good shape or better shape than you might have thought six or eight or ten months ago. I think it's still a heavy lift for the Democrats to take over, but they at least have an opportunity which they wouldn't have dreamed of at the beginning of the Trump presidency.
JOHN DICKERSON: Karen, when Dan talks about some of those Senate seats being in kind of more swingy areas than-- so you've got the class of seats that are up where Democrats are trying to defend territory in West Virginia where--
KAREN TUMULTY: Right.
JOHN DICKERSON: --I think Trump won by forty-five points. Then others are in Michigan, Wisconsin, which were-- which were closer. So how do you think-- is that the distinction, another one we should be watching for those Rust Belt states that flipped and went for Trump in the-- in the presidential where people were surprised? How do you think that will play out in the Senate elections?
KAREN TUMULTY: Well, as it turns out I spent some time this week in Michigan and actually looking at the governors' race there. What I found is that Democrats act-- sort of activist base, the kind of people who are engaged now, are so traumatized by seeing what they thought were going to be easy wins for Hillary Clinton last time around that-- that also contributes to the-- the enthusiasm factor. They-- they were caught napping in 2016. And there is a determination, I think, not to have that happen again.
JOHN DICKERSON: And, Anthony, we have-- another thing we should talk about with respect to the Senate is there are primaries to come. We saw in Alabama some extraordinary inter-party Republican fighting, comments, people even saying they were no longer Republicans after the Republican National Committee supported Roy Moore. How do you think the primary process plays out in terms of-- well, just how do you think it plays out?
ANTHONY SALVANTO: Yeah, definitely the thing to watch this spring. We could be sitting here a year from now and the landscape will be very different because, look, behind all of this is which direction does each party go, right? And the Republicans are still having that conversation. We talked a lot about the sort of more populist wing of the party, the part that is, you know, voting against anything seen as the establishment, anything seen as the elites versus the more traditional conservative wing. And if you start to see primary challenges to sitting incumbent Republican senators, in otherwise safe states, then you start to get a dynamic like you saw, like many people think you saw in Alabama where the Republicans could potentially nominate someone who can't appeal to a broader electorate. And then you get a potentially safe red seat that becomes in play. Look, it's the same thing on the democratic side. I mean, they're still going to have a conversation about which direction their party goes and so both-- both parties are going to have to set that.
JOHN DICKERSON: Dan, is that democratic conservation delayed, though, by Democrats thinking, "Look, if we just run kind of against the President we take advantage of this enthusiasm from our base, let's postpone the question about what exactly the Democratic Party means because we got a chance to playoff of this." Or is there going to be a real conversation?
DAN BALZ: I think there will be partial conversation, but I think at this point for most Democrats the view is the-- the harder they can go after the President and tie their Republican opponent to the President, the better off they're going to do. And they will-- they will defer that conversation about who they are as a party for the 2020 democratic nomination battle. They may-- they may pay some price for that. I'm not-- I'm not understating how significant that challenge will be for them. But I think for the midterm, focusing on the President, I mean, one of the problems that Republican candidates potentially face is how much do they identify with President Trump in order to energize their base and the cost of that in a general election if they become so identified that people think, "Well, it's just another Trumpian."
JOHN DICKERSON: Right, the challenge that Ed Gillespie favor ran into-- in the Virginia gubernatorial, right?
KAREN TUMULTY: And there's also, though, you're finding that a lot of these Republicans who are running for the Senate are not willing, for instance, to commit to voting for Mitch McConnell to continue as their leader as well. I mean, on the on hand, they don't want to be too, too close to-- to, you know, to-- to the establishment. On the other, they-- they don't want to offend the-- the base. So it's really-- it's-- it's really a delicate act for a lot of them.
JOHN DICKERSON: Anthony, how much do you think it's a danger for Democrats to not have something to run or to just focus on-- on the President because obviously they focus on the President that-- that-- that encourages the Republican base to turn out.
ANTHONY SALVANTO: One of the things it was so interesting in 2016 whereas you mentioned the Democrats didn't win as many seats as some thought they might is that voters said Donald Trump was a different kind of Republican. He was kind of a brand unto himself. And they had a hard time tying the Republican Senate candidate to Donald Trump. The question to watch is whether or not they can do that now because so many people have seen the President as sort of different-- different brand all together.
JOHN DICKERSON: And the Washington Post, paper you're familiar with, wrote a piece about how the President's dying to get out there and campaign, but we know all Presidents love to get out back in campaign. It's so much more fun than what they have to do in Washington. But how does that work out, Dan? Is this going to be a situation where people think, go campaign somewhere else, Mister President? Or, you know, he just spends his time in those safe districts and-- how do you think that plays out, his active participation?
DAN BALZ: Well, we know that he loves to get out. And we know that those big rallies energize him and that-- that he loves to do that, and that-- you know, that he-- you know, he creates enthusiasm as well as receives the energy back from it. He's going to want to be out there a fair amount. I think it will be difficult for a lot of these candidates to embrace him too closely in some of these competitive races. And so I think individually all of those candidates are going to have to decide how close do I want the President to be. You know, Ed Gillespie talking about Virginia wanted to keep him somewhat at arm's length. It didn't-- it didn't matter in the end. He still got beat pretty badly.
JOHN DICKERSON: Karen, how do you think the policy landscape is going to show up here? You know, are we going to have a bunch of fights that are going to be all about kind of value issues, cultural issues, the things that get voters excited or is there any way in which some policy might actually be a part of the conversation?
KAREN TUMULTY: Well, the big policy issue right now especially coming on the heels of the tax-- the tax bill is whether they are going to be brave enough to begin the real conversation on entitlements. That is an absolutely treacherous issue to-- to bring up in an election year, and Mitch McConnell in the Senate has already said it ain't happening here unless there's some democratic buy in, which there won't be.
JOHN DICKERSON: Right. All right.
ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well--
JOHN DICKERSON: Go ahead quickly.
ANTHONY SALVANTO: Oh, I was going to say, remember, the Republicans rely on older voters very heavily. And so that does certainly put things into a different context.
JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Thanks all of you. And we'll be right back.
JOHN DICKERSON: It's time now to take a look at perfect timing. We spoke earlier with bestselling author Daniel Pink, his new book is out in early January. It's called "When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing."
You say this is not a how-to book but a when-to book. Tell people what that means.
DANIEL PINK ("When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing"): Well, we tend to think that timing is an art. We make our decisions about when to do things based on gut instincts and intuition. But timing is actually a science. Across multiple disciplines, there's a huge body of research showing us how to make systematically better evidence-based decisions about when to do things. And it turns out they have a material effect on our well being, on our productivity, on our performance, on our creativity, on our health, many, many domains of life.
JOHN DICKERSON: What I love is also the way in which it's not just, you know, are you a morning person or an evening person although you have a great explanation and description and-- and a little test on how you can figure out who you are in that group. But it's also when you choose to do certain kinds of thinking, like creative thinking versus-- explain that for folks.
DANIEL PINK: Absolutely. Well, what a whole range of scientists have found is that the day has a hidden pattern. It's basically a peak, a trough, and a rebound. Now most of us proceed through the day in that order. Peak, trough, rebound. And it turns out we're better off doing analytic work during the peak which for most of us is the morning. The trough is not good for anything. It's actually a danger zone in many ways. We're better off doing our administrative stuff during the trough. But then during the recovery, it turns out we're better at more creative tasks, tasks that require a little bit more looseness rather than that heads down, locked in approach.
JOHN DICKERSON: And is that-- that's when it flashes of insight come.
DANIEL PINK: Often. Because when we're at our peak, we're very vigilant. All right. We're-- we're able to keep up distraction, that's a feature when you're doing the analytic work. But when you're doing creative work, you actually want a little bit more looseness, you want let a few distractions in so to-- to mix up the soup a little bit. And so during the recovery period, which again for most of us is the late afternoon, early evening, we do better on what are called insight tasks.
JOHN DICKERSON: Has human history fouled us up by which is to say, do we-- you know, we needed to create time.
DANIEL PINK: Yeah.
JOHN DICKERSON: And watches and hours so we--
DANIEL PINK: Yeah.
JOHN DICKERSON: --know when the bus arrives.
DANIEL PINK: Yeah.
JOHN DICKERSON: But did we figure out a system that's basically always fighting with our own natural rhythm?
DANIEL PINK: It's a really, really interesting question because, I mean, one of the things that-- what I discovered researching time itself is that a lot of things we think of as natural are completely human inventions designed to corral time. So an hour has no natural substance to it. A minute doesn't have any natural substance to it. Certainly a year does because the planet goes around, a day does because the planet spins on its axis. But beyond that we're always trying to corral time and it's very hard to do and time is a very illusive subject. And one of the thing that's happened is that, I think as a consequence, when we think about our own performance. We focus on what we're going to do. We focus on often how we're going to do it. We're focus on who we're going to do it with. But we put when questions over there at the kids' table saying that it's not that important. And the science is telling us that it's actually demonstrably important.
JOHN DICKERSON: Right. So the thing you should put at the front. One of the things I love about the book is there's a lot of practical--
DANIEL PINK: Yeah.
JOHN DICKERSON: --news you can use.
DANIEL PINK: Absolutely.
JOHN DICKERSON: So give people a little sense of that, both in your-- in your day-to-day, but also, you know, you talk for example about mid life and the guidance that-- that-- so give us a sense of those how to--
DANIEL PINK: There-- there are all kinds of things. Number one is that, think about the science of breaks. Not too many years ago people who stayed up all night were kind of heroes in the workplace because they were tougher than the rest of us. Then the science of sleep began emerging, we said no, those-- those people are fools. I think the science of breaks is where the science of-- of sleep was a decade ago about to breaks through the surface is a really, really instructive about how we can work better. So, we need to take more breaks, period. And one of the best things that I've done myself is that every day I have a break list. I write down two breaks I'm going to take during the day. We also know from the science that breaks are better taken with other people rather than solo even for introverts like me. They're better taken fully detached, rather than semi detached that is, don't bring your phone. We're better off moving during our breaks than being stationary. We're also better off being near nature. And so what the science is telling us is that if we take these regular breaks, ten, fifteen minutes, we're going to feel better, we're going to perform higher. So make a break list, that's one of my favorite tips.
JOHN DICKERSON: And go outside while you're--
DANIEL PINK: If you can, if you can. But there's even evidence that-- that just looking at a window and seeing a tree is better than being in a windowless room.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me also ask you about teams because you--
DANIEL PINK: Yeah.
JOHN DICKERSON: How timing works when you're working with lots of other people as well.
DANIEL PINK: Yeah. Well, there's some really, really interesting research on how teams synchronize things like choirs, rowing teams, delivery services. And one of the things that is so interesting about our nature is that it seems that coordinating with other people, being in sync and in time with other people is something fundamentally human about that. And-- and we have a propensity for it. And one of the things that's so interesting about that, if you look at, let's take exercise as an example. Exercise is absolutely good for you, right? It makes you-- it boosts your mood, it's a prophylactic against depression, it reduces-- it helps controls your weight, it's all good. Well, there's kind of new exercise out there and it's choral singing of all things. Choral singing has benefits that are just extraordinary at the physiological level and the psychological level. It is useful for cancer patients, it improves your immune response, it boosts your mood, so there's something about synchronizing with other people that makes us feel good. It also helps-- when kids do synchronous activities, they actually afterwards are a little bit more, what social psychologists call pro-social, that is they will-- will play with kids who aren't like them, they're more likely to cooperate, they're more likely to help.
JOHN DICKERSON: So we all should join roving bands of walking singers?
DANIEL PINK: Well-- (INDISTINCT).
JOHN DICKERSON: Yeah. Right. Exactly.
DANIEL PINK: Well, I mean, I think there's-- I think there's some good evidence for-- like-- like in schools, that choir-- choir choral groups, not only as kind of an ancillary activity but as something that actually boosts the moods of kids, improves their social and emotional learning and could conceivably make them better citizens of the school.
JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Daniel Pink, thanks so much for being with us.
DANIEL PINK: Thanks, John.
JOHN DICKERSON: Daniel Pink's book is "When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing." We'll be back in a moment.
JOHN DICKERSON: That's it for us today. Thanks for watching. We here at FACE THE NATION want to wish everyone watching a Merry Christmas, visions of sugar plums and a very happy holiday season. I'm John Dickerson.