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Face the Nation Transcript October 23, 2016: Priebus, Axelrod

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST: Today on FACE THE NATION: The presidential debates are over, and the sprint to the campaign finish line is on.

With just 16 days until Election Day, Hillary Clinton looks to expand into red states in an effort to run up the score against Donald Trump and elect more Democrats to Congress, While Donald Trump continues to tell his supporters that the election will be stolen from them.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The system is rigged. You know it. I know it. The politicians know it.


DICKERSON: But it is? We will see what the head of the Republican Party, Reince Priebus, thinks about that and get the views of some Nevada voters.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don’t think it’s rigged. I think it can be improved on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You’re going to say it’s rigged? Like, as an American, that’s offensive.


DICKERSON: We will have plenty of analysis and some surprising new Battleground Tracker results from Texas and Florida.

And as Iraqi forces fight to take back the city of Mosul from ISIS, our Holly Williams reports from the from the lines.

It’s all ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning. And welcome to FACE THE NATION. I’m John Dickerson.

With just over two weeks to go until Election Day and early voting already happening in many states, Hillary Clinton leads in the polls, leaving some Republicans to worry about a rout. And possible finger-pointing is already under way inside the GOP.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump continues to say that he will only lose if the election is stolen.

Joining us now is the chairman of the Republican Party, Reince Priebus.

Welcome, Mr. Chairman.


DICKERSON: Is Donald Trump going to win?

PRIEBUS: Yes, I think he is going to win. And I think he’s going to win because I think people in this country have had enough, and he’s the change agent.

When it comes down to risk in this country, Hillary’s been tested and she’s failed. She’s the risky candidate. You look at Russia, the uranium deal, giving them control of 20 percent of the world’s uranium, her pocketing hundreds of thousands in speeches, Russian reset, Libya. You look at Iraq and the mess that she left there.

What I’m saying is, she was tried and tested. She failed. She’s too risky for this country. That’s why she’s going the lose.

DICKERSON: The RNC is 100 percent behind Donald Trump?

PRIEBUS: Well, he’s the nominee of our party. Of course we’re behind Donald Trump. This is ridiculous, as if we wouldn’t be behind the nominee of the party. Of course we are.

DICKERSON: Do you think the election is in danger of being stolen?

PRIEBUS: No, but -- I don’t, but what I think the media is missing here is that to ask a candidate three weeks before the election if they lose, are they going to concede, asking for a concession speech, no one does that.

And I think, if it’s a close election, look, if you lose by 200 votes in Florida, are you going to concede on election night if you’re at 260 electoral votes?

DICKERSON: But that’s not what he’s saying. He’s not saying if it’s a squeaker. He’s saying it’s been stolen at this moment, and the only way I will lose is if it’s stolen. That’s really different.

PRIEBUS: Wait a minute. That’s not quite what he’s saying.

What he’s saying is, he wants to reserve all options, and if there is grounds for a recount, I will exercise my options. I know where his head is at. He is not willing to not concede if he loses and there’s no fraud.


DICKERSON: But his mouth is in a different place than where you think his head is.

He said, if he loses Pennsylvania, a state Republicans haven’t won since ‘88, it will only be because the state was stolen for him.

PRIEBUS: I don’t think that’s where he’s at. That’s not where I’m at.

I think that if -- losing by 100 votes is one thing. Losing by 100,000 is a different thing. I think we can reasonable on this issue.

DICKERSON: Here’s why I ask. It’s not just the media. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley says -- quote -- “This election is not rigged and it’s irresponsible to say that it is.”

So, is Nikki Haley right or is Donald Trump right?

PRIEBUS: I think -- I think they’re two different -- two people saying two different things.

I think if you’re Donald Trump and you see the barrage and the media implosion on every single thing this guy does, no matter what it is, he eats corn flakes in the morning and CNN or another cable show on MSNBC is talking about it 24 hours a day.

If you look at Hillary Clinton, what she’s got away with on this e-mail scandal, when you have General Cartwright going to potentially prison for doing one-tenth of her...

DICKERSON: I understand that.

PRIEBUS: Listen, but I’m trying to put you in the mind of a person who is running for president and sees this unbelievable world around him, and then you do hear about fraud at the ballot box, and you say, you know what, I’m going to reserve all options. That’s what he’s saying.

DICKERSON: Right. But reserving options is different than saying it’s going to be stolen. Let’s just say it. But that’s -- the problem is the difference between what you say and what he says.


PRIEBUS: But I know where he’s at on this. And where he’s at is exactly as I’m explaining to you.

DICKERSON: Would you advise him, as the Republican Party chair, to say, make this distinction clear, because, otherwise, what you’re going to do is incite your followers to think that this election is being stolen from them, and that that’s dangerous, just a moral...


PRIEBUS: And, by the way, he did do that. And he did do that. He did that the next day and the week after.

DICKERSON: He’s still talking about an election being stolen. No, no, no, I don’t mean his response to the debate. I mean just in general when he says the election is rigged. He said it last night.

PRIEBUS: I think he’s trying to also tell his folks to watch out for this fraud that might occur.

But, look, it’s not -- I’m telling you, we know that this is not millions of people. But what we’re talking about are things like, if you look at the Milwaukee police report that came out about six years ago, the Milwaukee Police Department put out a 70-page report on election fraud in Milwaukee. This wasn’t the Republican Party putting it out there.

What I’m telling you is that this is real. So let’s not...

DICKERSON: Absolutely. But...


PRIEBUS: Let’s not go down this road where we’re acting like this is a figment of people’s imagination.

DICKERSON: But I think the Milwaukee police report makes just precisely the point. They found fraud, but not enough to steal the election. It wasn’t even close. So, that’s the point.

PRIEBUS: But if you lose by 100 votes, it might be.




DICKERSON: But, anyway, let’s move on, Mr. Chairman, because I want to ask you about, last time you were here, you said Republicans who didn’t support Donald Trump who wanted to run for president in the future might face sanction, some punishment from the party. Is that still the case?

PRIEBUS: Look, I think these are things that we’re going to look at after the election. But we expect to win.

And I think that unifying the party is something that’s always the job of a chairman of party and all the people that are involved in our party. And that’s what we expect to do. And so we’re going to leave that for another time.

DICKERSON: But they’re not under -- they shouldn’t worry that?

PRIEBUS: Listen, the point is, I think, given the choice between someone who has been tried and tested and fail and someone that can’t be trusted like Hillary Clinton, and someone that wants to change up the system, I think all Republicans should support the nominee of our party.

DICKERSON: What if they don’t? How should Republicans think about somebody like Paul Ryan? Is Paul Ryan a good Republican?

PRIEBUS: Of course. He’s a great Republican. He’s one of the brightest stars in our party. And he’s a great friend, smart, one of the most pure-hearted people I have ever known in politics.

So, yes, he’s a great Republican. I think all of -- when you have two parties -- this isn’t Italy. We don’t have 12 different parties, where everyone can fit neatly into a box. And so we have to understand that. Our job is to bring as many people into the room as possible and make the case. And so that’s what we’re doing every day.

DICKERSON: I want to ask you about bringing people into the room. That was the point of the autopsy that you had written after the 2012 election.

And it said -- that look at the 2012 race, it said -- quote -- “The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people.”

A lot of people would say that describes exactly the kind of race Donald Trump is running, totally opposite of what was argued the Republican Party should do in that autopsy. What do you say to that?

PRIEBUS: I say then you’re not giving him any credit for going into Cleveland and Detroit countless times, talking about school choice, meeting with black and Hispanic pastors, talking about the fact that the Democrats take advantage of these communities every four years, tell them what they want to hear, don’t follow up with SBA loans for small business owners who happen to be black or Hispanic.

They don’t follow up on education reform. There’s no follow-up on any of these promises. And so if you look at what the Republican Party has done as well, we have put our money where our mouth is. We have put money in black and Hispanic and Asian engagement for four straight years, like no party in modern history has ever done.

But that’s what -- but, listen, let me tell you something about the Growth and Opportunity Report. The Growth and Opportunity Report isn’t just a diagnosis of the Republican National Committee. The Growth and Opportunity Report is a message to the entire party as a whole. And I stand behind it 100 percent.

DICKERSON: Even though Donald Trump’s numbers with African- Americans, Latinos and women are so bad?

PRIEBUS: It doesn’t -- little, it’s not because of the effort that not been put in.

I mean, first of all, I contend that he’s going to do better in black communities than we have done four and eight years ago. But what this prescription is, is a prescription for the long term, not the short term, and being active 24/7 in black and Hispanic communities, talking about the issues that matter in those communities is what our party is all about.

We are the party of Lincoln. We are the party of equality, freedom and opportunity, and that’s what we will always be.

DICKERSON: All right, Chairman Reince Priebus, thanks.

PRIEBUS: You bet.

DICKERSON: The morning after the last presidential debate, we sat down with some voters in the battleground state of Nevada in a Las Vegas restaurant to get the views of some of the people who will actually shape this election.


JOHN DICKERSON: Donald Trump was asked in the debate if he would abide by the outcome of the election...was anybody struck by his reaction and what he said?  

KIMBERLY:  Not as much as they made--  

ED: I expected him to say that.


KIMBERLY: -a big deal-- not as much as they made a big deal out of it. You know, if-- if I was in his position and there was any-- any question about the validity of the votes I believe the voting system is corrupt, I believe the politicians are corrupt, I believe the Congress is corrupt.  

JOHN DICKERSON: Ed, quickly, you said that you expected Trump to say that.  

ED:  I thought he’d be not evasive, but being cute on it a little bit, he will accept it. Mr. Trump is a very successful businessman. He--  

JOHN DICKERSON:  How do you know that--  

ED:  --knows how to operate.  

JOHN DICKERSON:  --how do you know he’ll accept it?  

ED:  Just by the way he handles things. He wanted to leave it open a little bit. He wanted to create a little bit of discussion on it...  

KIMBERLY:  I don’t think he’s interested in winning. I really don’t. I--  

JOHN DICKERSON:  What’s he interested in?  

KORIE: Right?  

KIMBERLY: - he’s gonna start a media empire after this with all the people he’s met and surrounded himself with.  

JOHN:  Yeah.  

JOHN DICKERSON:  You believe that too, John?  

JOHN:  Yeah.  

JOHN DICKERSON: You think that? Who here thinks Donald Trump is not on the level, that he’s in it for some other thing, not to actually win the presidency.  

FEMALE VOICE: Oh I don’t agree.  

KORIE: I think he’s in to win.  

JOHN: He’s not gonna quit. I think he’s gonna fight ‘till the end. But he’s already planning next phase which is Trump TV at some point.  

JOHN DICKERSON: How many of the others-- of you here feel like the election system-- is rigged?

ED: I don’t think it’s rigged. I think it can be improved on.  

KORIE: As far as Donald Trump saying that it’s rigged, how are you running for a country but don’t have faith in it? You know, how are you gonna call the system rigged, the system that you’re running for, that you want to, you know, be in command of? And you’re gonna say it’s rigged? Like, as American that’s offensive, you know?  

JOHN DICKERSON: Kaitlin, let me ask you-- you’re undecided. When do you think you’ll make up your mind? But what’s your process gonna be?  

KAITLIN: What I’m gonna have to tell myself is who is going to be the steward of the millennials? Because I’m going to be living here in America for hopefully another 50, 60 years. And I want a president who’s going to put, you know, my generation at the forefront and maximize our success here in this country. And so I think ultimately we’re looking at these two candidates and their integrity.  

JOHN DICKERSON:  John, what do you think about that question of integrity?  

JOHN:  They both have-- pretty serious issues. And so at some point you have to say, you know, you have to understand Donald Trump’s got a history of integrity issues, so does Hillary Clinton. And so the next question I ask as an economist, okay, who’s gonna do the best for the economy?Okay, assuming that they’re both got their challenges, who’s gonna screw up the economy less? Maybe not-- (LAUGHTER) all right, or not do anything to harm the recovery. I think what’s happened, John, is-- and you see this in Las Vegas, we’re one of the poster children of the Great Recession. We really are.  

KIMBERLY: Absolutely.  

JOHN: We had to come to believe in Southern Nevada we were immune to the laws of economics and gravity. And we acted that way for many, many years. And then we got hit really hard because we didn’t have a diverse economy. And so now that the-- the whole-- the whole world I guess went through this global recession, we’re recovering out of it. It’s slow.  

JOHN DICKERSON: Korie, let me just ask you on this question of character and integrity. You’re a supporter of-- of Hillary Clinton’s. How do you think through some of the challenges and-- and some of the views people have about Hillary Clinton and her lack of trustworthiness? How do you make sense of all that?  

KORIE: if I were a patient going into have life changing surgery do I want the doctor who is well-seasoned and has done this surgery many, many times before? Or do I wanna take my chance on the rookie who’s just comin’ out of, you know, school and doesn’t have the-- the knowledge or-- or the experience, you know, in doing something like that.  


KORIE:  And, I mean, you know, the whole email thing, until she’s proven guilty, she’s innocent. I mean, that’s what our country operates off of.  

JOHN DICKERSON: But what she has admitted is she did have her own private server.  

KORIE:  Right.  

JOHN DICKERSON:  And-- and for you is that something that, you know, she kinda-- it was kinda, like, a white lie, like, a small thing or--  

KORIE:  Um I think that she by not coming up front, you know, it did put some uneasiness in individuals. But I think there’re far more greater things to worry about in the world than somebody’s Yahoo account.  

JOHN DICKERSON:  Let me ask you this question-- Barbara. Korie made the case that if you’re gonna get surgery, good to have a doctor who knows-- knows the-- you know, the ins and outs of-- of surgery. Not somebody who’s new to the-- new to the task. Well, that obviously is-- that’s a way of looking at the presidency that makes it pretty good for Hillary Clinton.  

BARBARA: Also you--  

JOHN DICKERSON: So how do you see--  

BARBARA:  --have your new doctor that’s just got the new training. And--  

KIMBERLY:  Is willing to try--  

BARBARA: --you know, they--  

KIMBERLY: --something different and something ground breaking and revolutionary. My-- that happened to my husband. He had an ankle replacement. We saw nine doctors before we could find one. And many of ‘em were experienced doctors...They flat-out refused to do it. And we found a doctor who tried something new and tried something different. And my husband’s walking. He has a limp but he’s walking.  

KORIE: That’s amazing.  

ED:  But let me-- let me jump in and I think to tie into it, if you don’t mind, John.  

JOHN DICKERSON: Sure, and then--  

ED: With the doctor analogy. The problem with Donald Trump is-- the way he answers questions like this, it appears he graduated from the Trump medical school. (OVERTALK) Okay, ‘cause he’s gonna do the best surgery. It’s gonna be great. It’s gonna be the greatest surgery ever done. But there’s no details. You know, it-- it’s always these bombastic statements of great and wonderful. We’re gonna get tired of winning we’re gonna win so much it’s just gonna be unbelievable. And that says nothing. That just tells you nothing  

JOHN DICKERSON: Barbara, what about you? What’s your-- what’s a big issue for you?  

BARBARA: Morality and values based on what the country was based on. I think that the laws that Obama has passed, the way the country has-- I call it down turning. Some of the other people are proud of it and happy for it. I personally am against it. The homosexuals, the abortions, all this stuff I am against...  

JOHN DICKERSON: When Donald Trump says, “Make America great again,” is that what you hear? That it’s gonna go back to the-- before the time that you’re now describing?  

BARBARA: That’s part of it.  

JOHN DICKERSON: Kimberly, it’s-- the day after the election. Hillary Clinton is president. What’s your quick reaction?  

KIMBERLY:  Not surprised. (LAUGHTER) I have hope.  


KAITLIN:  I pray that her policy translates to keep American values at the forefront.  


ED: I respect the office. I do not respect her.  

BARBARA:  Oh no. (LAUGHTER) She needs prayer. The country always needs prayer.  

KORIE: I say bless her and all that she does.  

JOHN: I think she’ll be able to negotiate with the Congress to get things done with Ryan and-- and McConnell.  

JOHN DICKERSON:  It’s now the day after the election, Ed, Donald Trump has won. What’s your reaction?  

ED:  I’ll be pleased. I wish him well. Keep a cool hand and do your best.  


KIMBERLY:  I hope he finds really good people to surround himself with and keep himself in check. And I-- I have hope.  


JOHN: Pray that Jon Stewart comes back to Comedy Central (LAUGHTER) and-- America will be great again when he comes back.  

JOHN DICKERSON: Great. Korie, what’s your feeling?  

KORIE: I’m moving off the grid. No. (LAUGHTER)  

KIMBERLY:  Good luck with that.  

KORIE:  I’m-- I’m open to change and we’ll see what happens.


DICKERSON: And we will be back with a minute from some surprising results from our CBS News Battleground Tracker, including whether Florida GOP voters who picked Donald Trump in the primary have any regrets. Stay with us.


DICKERSON: And we’re back with our Battleground Tracker poll.

In Florida, the race is still very tight. Hillary Clinton is up three points over Donald Trump. That’s 46 percent to 43 percent. And, in Texas, those numbers are reversed. Trump is up 46 percent and Clinton is at 43 percent.

CBS News election director Anthony Salvanto joins us now.

All right, Anthony, we’re going to get to Florida, but why were you in Texas this week?

ANTHONY SALVANTO, CBS NEWS ELECTIONS DIRECTOR: Well, it’s one of the most Republican states in the country, but it tells a broader story, and this is that Donald Trump is underperforming with a lot of key groups Republicans usually do well with, white men, white women, white college-educated women.

I would caution, I don’t think that Hillary Clinton is in a position to outright win Texas at this point, but it does tell that story of why things are generally closer overall.

DICKERSON: And she’s up with Hispanics there, too, which helps.

Florida, now, what’s the situation on the ground there?

SALVANTO: Well, Hillary Clinton is up. She’s up three. She’s still low on a number of key measures, like can you fix the economy, do you understand regular people, but she does have one thing Donald Trump does not, and that is near complete support from her own party.

She’s got nine in 10 Democrats. Trump has eight in 10 Republicans. That’s something that’s plagued him all along through this campaign, and it’s just enough to cost him.

DICKERSON: Debates are about ginning up support in your own group, and Hillary Clinton seems to have done that coming out of her three debates.

Is there anything Donald Trump can do in the last 18 days in Florida to help himself?

SALVANTO: Well, voters say they think Donald Trump is talking about the things that he, Donald Trump, cares about, and not the things that they want to hear.

And one of those things they say is change, change Washington, shake up the political system. So that’s one rhetorical place that he can go.

DICKERSON: One of the other things you did, Anthony, in Florida is you went back to those Republican primary voters who picked Trump big over Marco Rubio, the sitting senator in the state. Is there any remorse among those voters in -- Republicans in Florida?

SALVANTO: No, not really. In fact, if they had a time machine and could go back to the Republican primary in the spring, they would still vote for Donald Trump.

And what I think that tells you is, even though they say he has got some flaws as a candidate at this point, the Republican base is still closer to and Donald Trump is still closer to the Republican base than anything that their leadership has to offer.

DICKERSON: And that’s why he’s been trying to talk about draining the swamp in Washington. But he’s really been talking about fraud. What are Republican voters in Florida saying about fraud?

SALVANTO: Well, Republicans overwhelmingly think that it exists, that it is widespread. But here’s the kicker, John. They think that Donald Trump would actually win the presidency were it not for fraud.

And that’s a broader loss of faith in institutions and, somewhat uniquely, exceptionally American institutions that we see coming out right now.

DICKERSON: Right. So, they think it’s not just that fraud happens, but that the election will be stolen. Now, you on election night look all over the whole country, and you have for various cycles. What’s your feeling about just this idea of an election being stolen?

SALVANTO: Well, think about how decentralized this whole election system is.

What I see on election night is 3,000 counties, hundreds of thousands of precincts. And they’re all coming in from all across the country. They’re counted locally. They’re counted by your friends, by your neighbors, by your county officials. So, you can imagine something on that side and that scope.

Shenanigans here and there? Well, anything is possible, but that is a big and really uniquely American system.

DICKERSON: You also in your polling went looking for Trump voters who might not be in traditional polls for one reason or another. This is an argument the Trump people have been making, that their supporters are just not being captured in these polls to show Hillary Clinton ahead. What did you find?

SALVANTO: A couple things.

One is, when you look at the early vote coming in already -- and there’s already, say, a million ballots coming in from Florida -- you see that people who are voting have already voted before. That’s evidence right now against the idea that there’s new folks coming into the system.

And also the Trump voters in our poll say that the people around them also are talking about voting for Donald Trump. So, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of hesitancy to talk about the fact that you’re for Donald Trump.

DICKERSON: Because the theory is that people don’t want to tell pollsters that they’re voting for Donald Trump, but your argument is, if they’re telling their friends they’re voting for Donald Trump, if they’re proud about it in their communities, they are not going to be shy about it on a phone with a pollster.

SALVANTO: And we have got the primaries for the most part, right, where people said they were going to vote for him, and they did. So, there’s been that consistent finding.

DICKERSON: All right, Anthony Salvanto, thanks so much for being with us.

SALVANTO: Thank you.

DICKERSON: And we will be back in a moment.


DICKERSON: And we turn now to Republican consultant and CBS News contributor Frank Luntz, who is coming to us from Chicago this morning.

Frank, I want to start on this question of voter fraud. Donald Trump has been talking about it. There was also a video released this week from Project Veritas that showed a Democratic strategist talking about busing people. Is that why -- with that kind of video footage, is that why Republicans come out in such big numbers thinking the election is going to be stolen?

FRANK LUNTZ, CBS NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Republicans have felt this ever since Rudy Giuliani’s campaign in 1989 and again in 1993.

There’s always been the concern that, particularly in urban America, people who shouldn’t be voting are or people are voting more than once.

But the problem, John, is, is that it’s a poison. It’s toxic. And this feeling that the electoral system is rigged, the more that that grows, the more impossible it will be after this election to govern.

And I got to tell you, I have been studying this now for 25 years, and I have never seen a higher percentage of Americans who are prepared to completely toss out Washington, toss out Wall Street. They have no faith in the media, no faith in the institutions that run us.

And then how do you bring people together to work together when all of these connections have been frayed?

DICKERSON: Let me take the timeline back a little bit, before we think about after the election. What about right now? You talk about this poison.

When voters hear the election is going to be stolen and then if Donald Trump loses, what’s your sense -- having spent so much time talking to voters, what’s your sense of their reaction?

LUNTZ: Well, I have been to 26 states now. I will probably make it to 30 before the election is over. And it means that there is no coming together.

And I think it’s going to be very challenging for the GOP, because you have got some Trump voters who are unwilling to vote for a Republican for Senate or Congress as a way to send a message to the establishment, and you have got some independents who want to vote Republican for the Senate and the House, but won’t because they’re too connected to Donald Trump.

With only 17 days to go, I have not seen an election like this, where there is so much intraparty battles going on at a time when the Republicans should be focused on the Democrats and prosecuting the case against their leadership.

DICKERSON: Just 40 seconds before a break, and then we will have you back. But do you think it’s an attempt, a turnout mechanism to say that voting is rigged, it’s being stolen from you as a way to bring unity in a party that’s having its own little internal bickering?

LUNTZ: The way to bring unity is to talk about change in Washington, is to talk about the economy that isn’t delivering for hardworking taxpayers, to talk about the fact that, for 70 percent of Americans, they aren’t better off, that 53 percent of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, struggling to get by.

That’s more of a unifying message.

DICKERSON: All right, we’re going to get back and talk about that change message when we have you on the other side.

So, everybody, stick with us. And we will be back with a moment.


DICKERSON: Some of our CBS stations are leaving us now, but, for most of you, we will be right back.

And to keep you up to date with campaign developments during the week, you can access our podcast, “FACE THE NATION Diary,” through iTunes or your preferred podcast platform.


DICKERSON: Welcome back the FACE THE NATION. I’m John Dickerson.

We continue with Republican strategist and CBS consultant Frank Luntz.

Frank, you mentioned change, and that was the message that would bring Republicans together. Donald Trump has been talking about his -- what he’ll do in his first 100 days. He’s talking -- been talking about draining the swamp in Washington. Is that what that’s all about?

LUNTZ: Well, it should have happened weeks or even months ago. I don’t understand why he waited this long. And, in fact, when you’ve got 70 million people watching the debates, that’s when he should have released his plan for the first 100 days. What Republicans should look at, because there’s going to be a lot of recrimination when this election is over, is that the focal point was not on those forgotten Americans that Donald Trump talked about a year ago as he began his candidacy, it’s that it’s all focused on him, his battles with the women, his battles with the media, his battles with just about everybody. If he had stayed the voice and the vision for those people who have been left behind, this race would be a lot different than it is right now.

DICKERSON: You say “recriminations.” Do you think it’s over? Do you think he’s going to lose?

LUNTZ: No, I don’t think it’s over, because I -- if you look at the polling numbers across the country and in those key states, there are enough people that are still undecided. Hillary Clinton, in almost, almost every poll is below 50 percent. I don’t think she’s going to get a majority on Election Day. But it requires a level of discipline that the Trump campaign has not had. This is about the voice of the voters, not the voice of Donald Trump.

DICKERSON: You -- is it the campaign or is it the candidate, you think, who -- where the signal is getting lost?

LUNTZ: I think it’s both. And in the testing that we do, Donald Trump scores really well when he talks about changing the budget and holding people accountable. But he scores really badly when he starts attacking Hillary Clinton on personal terms or even goes as far back as Bill Clinton. John, I have never seen a campaign that has less discipline, less focus, less of an effective vision at a time when more Americans are demanding a change in the way their government works. This should have been a slam dunk for the GOP.

DICKERSON: All right, Frank Luntz, thanks so much for being with us. We appreciate it.

LUNTZ: Thank you.

DICKERSON: And we now go to Democratic strategist and CNN senior political consultant David Axelrod, who is also in Chicago.

David, we must congratulate you first for the victory by the Cubs and we wish them well next week in the World Series.


DICKERSON: Yes. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, give us your sense of where this race stands right now.

AXELROD: Look, I don’t know any consultant on either side, any strategist, who privately believes that Donald Trump’s going to win this election. I think Hillary Clinton is in a very strong position now. And you can see it with the fact that she’s pressing into these normally Republican bastions. Your own poll in Texas was kind of shocking. She’s got a lead in the aggregate -- aggregation of polls in Arizona, and she’s doing well in virtually every battleground state, traditional battleground state. So the question now that you hear is, what impact will it have down the ballot? And that’s where I think the focus is going to be for the last couple of weeks.

DICKERSON: In those House and -- and Senate races, before we move on to those for a second, you’ve been in one of these. You know about early voting, the voting that’s taking place right now. How does a campaign, if it’s doing as well as the Clinton campaign appears to be doing, how do they really know it from looking at the early voting and what can they do strategically in the next 16 days that we should be looking for as we watch this campaign?

AXELROD: Well, this is one of the places where they have an advantage because they have invested in the accoutrements of modern politics, in analytics, to really analyze where these votes are coming from, who’s voting early. They’ve assigned scores in these battleground states to these voters to -- to assess the likelihood that they’ll be voting Democrat or Republican. And through those techniques, you can really get a sense of how you are doing. And they know who hasn’t voted, who should be voting for them, and they’ll be pressing those people.

There’s no comparable operation in the Trump campaign. The Republican Party has it, but the Republican Party has to make a decision as to whether they bring out voters for their Senate candidates and congressional candidates, notwithstanding where they think those voters are on Donald Trump.

DICKERSON: Do you think the fact that Hillary Clinton is now talking about she took on Senator Pat Toomey, the Republican in Pennsylvania, and is spending, as you say, more of her attention on trying to help Democrats get elected in Congress, is that something they can do because they’re seeing this early vote come in, or is it just simply they’re looking at the national polls and thinking they have that freedom to move a little bit off of their attack directly at Donald Trump?

AXELROD: Well, I think you can assume that they’ve got pretty sophisticated polling in each of these battleground states. But I think there’s a -- a potential trap for -- for the Democrats and for Hillary Clinton. If she partisanizes her appeal in the -- in the final weeks too sharply because the voters who are drifting from Republicans are Republican, college-educated Republicans, independent voters who might lean Republican. If you partisanize the race too sharply, you may drive some of those voters back. So she has to be careful about how she makes her appeal in the final weeks, trying to get people out, trying to get people to vote, but talking more broadly about how she’s goings to bring the country together rather than turning it into a partisan fight.

DICKERSON: You know, we’ve talked over the course of this election about the message at the center of the Clinton campaign. One of those hacked e-mails that came out this week is a conversation inside the Clinton campaign back in February. Joel Benenson, her pollster, who you know well, writes in one of those e-mails, “do we have any sense from her,” her meaning the candidate, “what she believes or wants her core message to be?” Is that still a challenge for her campaign, what that core message is?

AXELROD: Well, yes, I think it is challenge for them, but it’s completely overridden by the things that Frank Luntz just talked about. Donald Trump has become the issue in this campaign. He has made himself that. He has made himself the center of discussion. And that has overwhelmed every other issue. So even though she’s going into this election with historically high liabilities, in comparison to Donald Trump, she’s doing quite well.

DICKERSON: Oprah Winfrey tried to make the case for Hillary Clinton and said, “you don’t have to like her.” I guess that fits on a bumper sticker. But that’s not -- that’s not a -- I mean what do you make of that?

AXELROD: Well, I think that people -- this is large -- a binary choice. One of these people is going to be president of the United States. What people have concluded, and you see it in every poll, is that Hillary Clinton has the competence and then she has the temperament to be president. They have questions about Donald Trump on both those things and that’s what’s making it impossible for him to make progress.

DICKERSON: All right, David Axelrod from Chicago, thanks so much for being with us.

AXELROD: Great to be with you, John.

DICKERSON: And we’ll be right back with our politics panel.



KATE MCKINNON, ACTRESS, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”: Thank you for bringing up my e-mail, Chris, and I’m -- I’m very happy to clarify what was in some of them. Sorry, what, Carol? What? I’m sorry, I thought I heard my friend Carol. Anyway, back to your question about the way that Donald treats women. And that is how you pivot.


DICKERSON: And that was Kate McKinnon playing Hillary Clinton from last night’s “Saturday Night Live.”

For some analysis on the real-life moments in the debate and more, we’re here with “Wall Street Journal” columnist and CBS News contributor Peggy Noonan, Jamelle Bouie is chief political correspondent for “Slate” magazine and a CBS News political analyst, Jeffrey Goldberg is here, and we congratulate him on his new role at “The Atlantic.” He was just named editor-in-chief of the magazine. And Ed O’Keefe covers politics for “The Washington Post.”

All right, we’re going to kick our conversation right off right out of Kate McKinnon there. We’re going to run a clip of Hillary Clinton actually answering a question or not answering a question in the debate.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Well, everything I did as secretary of state was in furtherance of our country’s interests and our values. The State Department has said that. I think that’s been proven. But I am happy -- in fact, I am thrilled to talk about the Clinton Foundation, because it is a world-renowned charity, and I am so proud of the work that it does.


DICKERSON: That was a question, Peggy, about allegations and proof in e-mails, both hacked and also found through Freedom of Information requests of a closeness between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department. She was asked about that closeness and her pledge to make sure there was no appearance of closeness.


DICKERSON: And she went and just talked about the great things the foundation was doing, didn’t answer the question at all. In politics they say your -- if you’re explaining, you’re losing. She decided just not to explain.

NOONAN: Yes, that’s one way to look at it. You might say that was avowing to the fact that she has no argument to make here that is going the really make you think, oh, there was no pay for play. Any of those allegations are wrong. I did think it -- it took a special maybe gumption is the word to say, and we know I have only done the best work for America, after all, that is what my State Department said. That is like, you tell me you did something wrong and I say, oh, no, I didn’t, and i now I didn’t because me said I didn’t. I mean it was her State Department. So -- so what can she do but pivot away from something that I think is a serious charge that even people in your focus group were talking about. It’s just out there. Everybody knows what they think.

DICKERSON: It’s out there, Jamelle, but she seems to have come through the three debates in a much stronger position, so maybe she doesn’t pay -- people don’t penalize her for not answering a question and Donald Trump helps her by taking the bait and going off and doing his own thing.

JAMELLE BOUIE, SLATE MAGAZINE: Right. I think part of the problem for Donald Trump in trying to capitalize on allegations of pay for play are really any of the scandals and questions around Clinton is that you can find something equivalent with Trump, right? So if you -- Clinton could have pivoted -- pivoted by talking about the Clinton Foundation in a positive way, but she could have just as easily said -- and she did at a certain point -- that Trump also has a foundation, and at least our foundation actually helps people, his seemed to just, you know, purchase portraits for himself. And that dynamic exists for so many of the allegations against Clinton or the scandals against Clinton that she can just avoid the question by turning it back on Trump. And that has given her, I think, a real rhetorical advantage, even as voters still have a lot of questions about her honesty, her trustworthiness, et cetera, et cetera.

DICKERSON: That’s right. And when she -- another time when -- where she pivoted from a question asked to her about open borders, she then went back and said, you know, these WikiLeaks e-mails are coming from the Russians and the intelligence agencies have said the Russians are responsible for this. And Donald Trump called her out for pivoting and then answered the Russian question.


BOUIE: Right. Right.

DICKERSON: What did you make of -- he sort of had the first half right --

BOUIE: Right.

DICKERSON: But the second half went to embrace Russia. What do you make, Jeffrey, of Donald Trump’s -- the safe space he creates for Russia when he talks about Russia and the fact that, you know, intelligence communities say Russia was involved in this hack, but Donald Trump is -- is kinder to him than others?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG, “THE ATLANTIC”: Speaking of -- speaking of safe space, nothing triggers Donald Trump like a criticism of Vladimir Putin.


GOLDBERG: It’s quite remarkable to watch. We saw it the other night. This is historic and -- and it represents a seismic shift in the way American politicians talk about Russia and large authoritarian countries in general. I -- I mean, it’s -- it’s -- it’s not entirely explicable to me, but generally the pattern in American politics and American life is that we tend to side with small, besieged democracies over authoritarian superpowers. Donald Trump’s sympathies seem to lie in a completely different direction. Sometimes we do that well. Sometimes we do that not well. Sometimes presidents are criticized for not doing enough, Ukraine and Obama is a perfect example. But -- but this is -- this is not entirely explicable yet to me, but it’s revolutionary.

DICKERSON: Ed, where do you -- what do you make of -- we’ve had three debates. After the three of them, what’s the -- what’s the final conclusion about?

ED O’KEEFE, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: His bottom fell out and yet she did nothing to answer those questions about e-mails, about management of the State Department, about transparency, and she seems perfectly fine with that. And I think they have just gambled that they simply are ahead by enough comfortably, that that’s something that can be dealt with perhaps when she’s president or she’s going to have to demonstrate through her actions that she can win back the trust of the American people.

But, look, if she had faced in -- if she faces a stronger Republican candidate four years should she win, it’s going to be very hard for her because I think a lot of the other guys who were running were very well prepared to just prosecute her day after day after day and it would have been a very different race. She got lucky this time, frankly.

DICKERSON: Let’s talk about the homestretch we’re in here, Peggy. The debates are over. The finish line is within sight. In some states they’re already voting. Where do you see the race right now? Is it over as some people -- people are behaving like it’s over. How do you feel?

NOONAN: I feel like surprises can happen, but I think we all agree that the trendlines suggest it will not work for Mr. Trump. You never know. So -- and you’ve got to keep an open mind. And we’ve got two weeks here. But -- but I think it looks rather difficult for him, and I think for the reasons that Frank Luntz really laid out. He has, at the end of the day, done a poor campaign. He has not talked enough about the perceived problems, the problems as they perceive them by the American people. He has talked much more and more obsessively and more engagingly about his own issues with women, with the rigged media, with the rigged this. Do you know what I mean? And it’s -- it -- it doesn’t make a good impression or leave a good taste. It should have been bigger than that.

GOLDBERG: I mean he goes the Gettysburg to deliver a policy speech and the headlines that come out are “complaining about the rigged election,” --


GOLDBERG: Talking about suing women who are accusing him falsely of -- this is the opposite of big and --and people are left with that bad taste. And nothing -- he has not been able ever to stop being Donald Trump in that sense. And that’s the fatal flaw.

BOUIE: And what -- what’s striking about this is, this is clear from the beginning. It was -- I think if you observe Trump closely from 2015 or summer 2015 to the present, you would have predicted this exact -- I don’t know if this exact course of events, but something like it.

GOLDBERG: This is weirder than the exact course of events we would have predicted.

BOUIE: Right, this is a little weirder.


BOUIE: But the -- the general fact that Trump has never been particularly interested in policy, he’s never been particularly interested in talking about anyone other than himself, has always premised his candidacy on the idea that he was a unique force that through -- through himself could make everything better, and were -- the limits of that are -- are maybe much more apparent than we would have thought they were, but that’s always -- that -- that’s always been there in the Trump message, in the Trump appeal.

NOONAN: But he’s had more than a year to learn how to be a passable candidate, not a really great one with a political gift, but an adequate one, and that hasn’t happened, and I wasn’t sure that would be so. I also have to disagree with you a little bit in that I think he has some political talent because he isolated important issues to the Republican base that electrified this political year, and will have to be worked out by the Republican Party in the coming years.

BOUIE: I’m not saying he doesn’t have any political talent. I’m just saying that he doesn’t have any of the discipline that you would need to actually become president of the United States. I mean even your like relatively inexperienced candidates like Eisenhower have 20 years of political experience in one way, shape or another. Trump has none of them.

NOONAN: Got it.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you --

GOLDBERG: Except for writing checks, perhaps.

DICKERSON: In our focus group (ph) there was a lot of talk during the debate when Donald Trump wouldn’t -- wouldn’t immediately embrace the idea of the election outcome.


DICKERSON: In the focus group we talked to people who were not necessarily Trump fans, and they thought, this is why -- this is not a big deal to me.

O’KEEFE: Yes, I -- I picked up on a lot of that, too, walking away. I think everyone there who covers this kind of stuff saw it as a -- as a galling and -- and really historic moment for a candidate to say that. But I am reminded over and over again, in talking to Trump supporters and people that don’t like Trump, that -- that voters across this country, a lot of them don’t take him seriously. They -- they understand that a lot of this is in their view bluster and designed to just catch attention, which this obviously did.

I think Ed, who was part of your focus group said, I think ultimately he’s going to come around and he’s just teasing it out a little bit. You know, that’s what a lot of people I think have thought. I know there are others, like Jeffrey, who -- who think it’s astounding and it’s just -- and it’s horrifying. And I would agree, it’s unprecedented and -- and -- and really irresponsible probably of a presidential nominee to say it. But over and over again I’ve had voters say this --


O’KEEFE: That -- that they just don’t take it seriously.

DICKERSON: Well, I -- one other thing, Jeffrey, before I go to you, is that voters also -- Trump supporters have said, you know, they want to blow up the system.


DICKERSON: They think the system has failed them.

O’KEEFE: Right.

DICKERSON: Some who cares if Donald Trump doesn’t pay attention to the niceties of this system that fails me all the time? So I’m not that -- I’m not that (INAUDIBLE).

GOLDBERG: No, I think -- I mean I think this is an interesting debate about whether 70-year-old people can change anyway and whether this particular 70-year-old person can change. But I thought one of the truest moments of this last phase was -- was with a question -- a very large question about the future of the Supreme Court, and Donald Trump could have gone anywhere with that question. And instead he pivoted to -- to making the assertion that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the justices, was -- was mean to him. It all comes down -- this is the essence of who he is. It’s all about -- there’s nothing else but him in this. He relates to the Supreme Court through the fact that Ruth Bader Ginsburg said something mean. And that was -- that was his answer. And there’s nothing that lifts him beyond his base in that kind of answer.

DICKERSON: Peggy, 70 percent in our poll of Republicans think this elections -- the only way Donald Trump is going to lose is if there’s voter fraud.


DICKERSON: What do you make of that statistic? They think the election’s being stolen.

NOONAN: What I -- I think a most interestingly, they actually do think that if Trump loses, it will only be because of voter fraud.


NOONAN: Look, the integrity of the ballot and of the voting booth, as we used to say, is extremely important. If we ever really lose it as a country, we’ll be losing so much it will be a dreadful trauma. There are certain issues to worry about. Hacking is one of them. Who might be behind a hacking of an American election? It’s actually possible. So -- so that’s a problem.

On top of that, look, America is a very great democracy with a long history of political mischief, so you know people sometimes do things that they shouldn’t be doing. Have elections ever been stolen? My gosh, of course.

But one of the things Republicans should be thinking about is that each state governs its own voting reality. Most of the battleground states are governed by Republican governors. Most polling places are looked over by both Republican and Democratic stewards who are making sure everything’s OK. I think this -- this rigged thing maybe is a larger metaphor in certain areas, I understand it. But if you’re saying this election is going to be stolen, boy, you better put up the evidence and put it up now.

DICKERSON: Right, and there’s no evidence that -- there is evidence of fraud in life, but not that it’s going to swing the entire election.

BOUIE: Right. Right. The -- the most comprehensive study of at least in-person voter found that found that between -- in one billion ballots cost between 2000 and 2014, there were 31 suspected incidents of in-person voter fraud. I think it’s really important to center the fact that so many Republican voters are receptive to the rigged message around the simple fact that for the past 15 years mainstream normal Republican politicians have been arguing in support of very restrictive voter laws in places like North Carolina and Wisconsin, that there is persistent and regular voter fraud that does actually influences election. And when you have Republican elites either argue this or never challenge it, for 15 years, you can’t be shocked when -- when the presidential candidate says things like the election’s rigged, that people begin to believe it.

DICKERSON: All right, Jamelle, you had the last word there. Sorry, Peggy, we’ll -- just hold that, the one you have. Come with us next time.

Thanks to all of you for being here.

And we’ll be back in a moment with a report from Iraq. Stay with us.


DICKERSON: We turn now to the Iraqi effort to retake the city of Mosul from ISIS. The terror group has had control of the city for two years. The Iraqis are being assisted by American troops. There are approximately 5,000 in the region. Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited the area this weekend to get a progress report.

The fight for Mosul is expected to continue for weeks, if not months, and has already spread into neighboring cities. CBS News foreign correspondent Holly Williams is on the front line of the offensive and filed this reporter’s notebook for us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch out, watch out!

HOLLY WILLIAMS, CBS NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Reporting from the frontlines of the fight against ISIS is sometimes chaotic. We carried a Gopro camera with us on Friday as we witnessed a gunfight in the city of Kirkuk between ISIS militants and a local SWAT team. You can see our cameraman, Abdi Kadani (ph), and producer Aaron Lyle (ph) trying to capture the reality of this conflict without getting themselves hurt.

The battle for Mosul pits America and its allies against a sadistic death cult. Airstrikes and helicopter gunships against suicide bombers. On the front line north of Mosul on Thursday, these Kurdish fighters spotted a small drone overhead, causing panic and drawing a hail of bullets. It’s not surprising they’re nervous. An ISIS drone loaded with explosives killed two Kurdish soldiers here earlier this month.

The U.S. military insists that its role here is only to advise and assist the Iraqi, but the line between advising and combat sometimes seems a fine distinction.

WILLIAMS (on camera): Members of the U.S. military are operating in this area, although we’re not allowed to film them. And we’ve also seen troops from the coalition, from a European country, firing on ISIS.

WILLIAMS (voice-over): But even with America’s help, this battle against barbaric extremists will come down to these men fighting for their land and control of their country.


DICKERSON: That was CBS News correspondent Holly Williams.

And we’ll be right back.


DICKERSON: That’s it for us today. Thanks for watching. Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I’m John Dickerson.


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