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Flooding in North Carolina; Interview With Delaware Senator Chris Coons; Putin Presence; Trump-Ryan Split; Donald Trump Wants Hillary Clinton To Be In Jail; Speaker Ryan Says He Will No Longer Defend Trump; U.S. And Russia's Relationship Firing Up. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired October 10, 2016 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Can his campaign recover?
Friends like these. House Speaker Paul Ryan tells fellow Republicans he will no longer defend Donald Trump. Ryan says he will focus instead on protecting the GOP's congressional majorities, implying Trump appears destined to lose. How did Trump fire back on Twitter?
Clean sweep? Sources tell CNN the Trump slump has Clinton's campaign now thinking about expanding polling and spending in more states. The goal? Help down-ballot candidates, while making Republicans pay a price for standing with Trump. Can Clinton turn some reliably red states blue?
And Putin's presence. Russian President Vladimir Putin looms large over the second presidential debate, the candidates sparring over Russia's involvement in Syria and hacked e-mails. Is Putin pushing for Trump to win the election?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news in this unprecedented White House race, the first poll showing the impact of that shocking recording of Donald Trump bragging about groping women.
An NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll that's just been released shows Trump now trailing Hillary Clinton by 11 points nationally. It was conducted before the candidate's second debate in which Trump and Clinton sparred in brutally personal terms. Despite Trump's improvement from the first debate, our CNN/ORC polls finds 57 percent of debate watchers think Clinton won.
And Trump's troubles are continuing today. In a remarkable move, House Speaker Paul Ryan told fellow lawmakers he will no longer defend Trump or campaign for him between now and Election Day. Ryan stopped short of pulling his endorsement, but said members of Congress facing reelection are free to do what's best for them.
Over the weekend, dozens of GOP senators and House members denounced Trump's remarks about groping women, with many unendorsing the GOP nominee.
We're also following an alarming series of aggressive military actions by Russia. The country has moved nuclear-capable missiles close to the borders of Poland and Lithuania. And now Vladimir Putin is announcing plans to build a permanent naval base in Syria, where it's already deployed an advanced anti-aircraft missile system.
We're covering all of that, much more, with our guests, including Democratic Senator Chris Coons. He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. And our correspondents and expert analysts, they are also standing by.
Let's begin with the Trump campaign.
CNN political reporter Sara Murray has the very latest.
Sara, Donald Trump had a stronger performance in the second debate, but that didn't end by any means his campaign crisis.
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. You could tell by the way Donald Trump came out swinging as he was campaigning here in Pennsylvania just outside of Pittsburgh, relitigating a number of those attacks he went over against Hillary Clinton yesterday on the debate stage, and all of this is happening as the RNC held a conference call with Chairman Reince Priebus and their members, essentially trying to reassure everybody that this is still a united team, that the RNC and the Trump campaign are still working hand in hand to try to ensure victory in November.
MURRAY (voice-over): Tonight, Donald Trump continuing his no-holds- barred attacks on Hillary Clinton.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If they want to release more tapes saying inappropriate things, we will continue to talk about Bill and Hillary Clinton doing inappropriate things.
MURRAY: On the campaign trail and debate stage, Trump's trying to pull his campaign out of a tailspin, urging voters to hold Clinton accountable for allegations of sexual assault and rape against her husband.
TRUMP: But Bill Clinton was abusive to women. Hillary Clinton attacked those same women and attacked them viciously, four of them here tonight.
Hello. How are you? Hi.
MURRAY: As the GOP nominee aims to take the focus off the videotape where he spoke approvingly of sexual assault.
TRUMP: I apologize to my family. I apologize to the American people. Certainly, I'm not proud of it. But this is locker room talk.
MURRAY: But Trump's high-risk approach wasn't enough to pacify House Speaker Paul Ryan, who told members of Congress he would no longer defend Trump, and instead focus on preserving Republican control of the House.
That prompted Trump to swipe back on Twitter, saying: "Paul Ryan should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs, and illegal immigration, and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee," all as a new "Wall Street Journal"/NBC News poll conducted after the crass comments were revealed, but before the debate, shows Clinton leading by 11 points, with 46 percent of the vote compared to Trump's 35 percent.
Today, Trump's keeping up his attacks on Clinton.
TRUMP: Special prosecutor, here we come, right?
You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
MURRAY: After using the debate to threaten to throw her in jail over her e-mail scandal if he's elected.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.
TRUMP: Because you'd be in jail.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MURRAY: And even referring to her as the devil.
TRUMP: I was so surprised to see him sign on with the devil.
MURRAY: While much of the debate left a sour taste for those already disappointed by the tone of the race, Trump's apology and ability to pivot to red meat for Republicans is already reassuring Trump's running mate, who insists he never considered dropping off the ticket.
GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's absolutely false to suggest that at any point in time we considered dropping off this ticket. It's the greatest honor of my life to have been nominated by my party to be the next vice president of the United States of America.
MURRAY: But last night's vicious battle exposed policy differences within the Trump-Pence ticket. Though Pence advocated for a muscular approach with Russia, if it continues to aid Syria with airstrikes amid a humanitarian crisis, Trump says he will do no such thing.
TRUMP: He and I haven't spoken, and I disagree.
MURRAY: Now, one thing is clear. The turmoil within the GOP is continuing today. There are plenty of candidates, plenty of members of the RNC who are
still deciding whether they can stick it out with Trump from now until Election Day. I spoke with the chairman of the Republican Party in Ohio today, clearly a pivotal battleground state.
When he spoke to Trump today, he told him you have got to stop attacking candidates who are trying to distance themselves from you. These are your words, and you have got to own it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Sara Murray in Pennsylvania for us, thanks very much.
Also breaking right now, we're getting new reaction from the woman Donald Trump says he tried to seduce in that now infamous audio recording.
"Entertainment Tonight" host Nancy O'Dell addresses the lewd comments Trump made about her in the show airing tonight. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY O'DELL, "ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT": Welcome, everybody.
Well, before we get going tonight, I feel that it's very important that I address you all directly. As a journalist for 26 years now, it is my job to bring you news about others, rather than turning the focus on myself.
But, by now, I'm sure that most of you have heard the audiotape which became national news and part of the presidential race. My name was mentioned and unfortunately the release of it has thrown me in the middle of the political arena, of which I didn't ask to be a part.
I released a statement on Saturday. And I truly mean what I said. There is no room for objectification of women or anyone for that matter, not even in the locker room.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: With Hillary Clinton now leading Trump by double digits in the latest national polling, sources tell CNN her campaign is considering expanding operations in some red states, hoping to help Democratic candidates there.
Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is joining us.
Jeff, Trump did better in this debate, but Clinton is widely seen as the winner again. What's the latest?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, certainly among Democrats, she's seen as the winner, and even among a growing set of Republicans.
Moderate Republicans and even independents suddenly are turning to the Clinton campaign. They believe there is an opening here. And that's why they're on the air tonight with more ads featuring all Republicans who say they are voting for the Clinton campaign. Wolf, this race today suddenly felt, at least from Hillary Clinton's
perspective, like she was taking a victory lap, even if it is still a cautious one.
ZELENY (voice-over): Hillary Clinton back on the campaign trail tonight, trying to capitalize on her rising political fortunes.
CLINTON: Did anybody see that debate last night?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CLINTON: Well, you never saw anything like that before.
ZELENY: A bitter and bruising debate with Donald Trump behind her, Clinton is all smiles, riding her new momentum to Michigan and Ohio.
CLINTON: Donald Trump spent his time attacking, when he should have been apologizing.
ZELENY: Even as she fires up Democrats, Clinton is turning her attention to the chaos tearing apart the GOP. In a series of new television ads tonight, she's featuring Republicans standing against Trump, offering a path for other mothers and fathers to join.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been a Republican all my life. But I'm the father of three girls. I can't stand hearing Donald Trump call women pigs, dogs, and bimbos.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My son Max can't live in Trump world. So I'm crossing party lines and voting for Hillary.
ZELENY: Clinton returned to the campaign trail facing a fear brighter landscape. A new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll gives her an 11- point edge nationally over Trump in a four-way race.
For the next 29 days, she's pressing her case, as she did Sunday in Saint Louis, starting with Trump's temperament.
CLINTON: With prior Republican nominees for president, I disagreed with them on politics, policies, principles. But I never questioned their fitness to serve. Donald Trump is different.
ZELENY: A CNN/ORC poll of people who watched the debate found 57 percent say Clinton won; 34 percent say Trump did, but, among women, a wide gap, Clinton with a 34-point advantage over Trump, among men, an 11-point edge. The poll of debate watchers skewed slightly more Democratic.
After WikiLeaks published hacked campaign e-mails, Clinton also confronted with her old words from paid speeches she gave, bluntly saying politicians often have a public and private position on one issue. She mounted the Abe Lincoln defense. CLINTON: As I recall, that was something I said about Abraham Lincoln
after having seen the wonderful Steven Spielberg movie called "Lincoln." It was a master class watching President Lincoln get the Congress to approve the 13th Amendment.
TRUMP: She lied. Now she's blaming the lie on the late great Abraham Lincoln. That's one that I haven't heard.
ZELENY: Their acrimony subsided only once, when one voter asked if they could say anything nice about the other.
CLINTON: I respect his children. His children are incredibly able and devoted. And I think that says a lot about Donald.
TRUMP: I will say this about Hillary. She doesn't quit. She doesn't give up. I respect that.
ZELENY: Now, with the second debate in the books, voting is continuing in many states, including it starts on Wednesday, early voting here in Ohio.
That's why Hillary Clinton is here in the state. Tomorrow is the last day to register people to vote. She was in Michigan earlier today to do the same thing. And, Wolf, we are getting word tonight a federal court in Florida has actually extended that voter registration voter deadline until Wednesday, one extra day, because of Hurricane Matthew.
That is something the Clinton campaign wanted. They are trying to seize on this uptick in popularity and momentum, and capture some of those early votes, hoping this race still will not change.
BLITZER: And the Florida governor, Rick Scott, had resisted that, but he's clearly now been overruled. Jeff, thank you very much.
Let's get some more on all of this.
Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware is joining us. He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, thanks very much for joining us.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Thank you, Wolf. Great to be on again.
BLITZER: A lot of folks think Hillary Clinton missed an opportunity last night to apologize for calling half of Donald Trump's supporters, as you know, deplorables. Does she need to do more to show she respects people who have legitimate concerns about the current political system and her place in it?
COONS: I do think that Secretary Clinton respects those who feel that they're on the outside. And by the outreach that you just mentioned a few minutes ago, new ads featuring Republicans who are planning to vote for Hillary Clinton, I think she's implicitly making just that point.
BLITZER: But how can she try to fix the genuine concerns that Trump voters have when she paints so many of them with the same brush, calling them deplorables, whether racist, xenophobic, all those other words she used?
COONS: Well, I think it is important for all of us, Democrats and Secretary Clinton, to build a positive message about how her policies, if she were elected president, would deal with the very real issues that lead to broad grassroots anger in this country, would address wage growth and job opportunity, deal with a variety of challenges in terms of the lack of confidence about the future for their children, that makes a lot of folks turned off to modern politics and a lot of them concerned about issues that have been raised in this campaign, whether it's trade deals or law and order or racial justice.
I do think Secretary Clinton has spoken to those issues, but, to your point, after her previous comment, perhaps she needs to step that up and be clearer that she welcomes former Trump supporters who have been turned off by his really reprehensible taped comments from 11 years ago.
BLITZER: But you would support a more robust, sincere apology on her part to those Trump supporters whom she branded as deplorable?
COONS: Well, Wolf, as you just reported earlier, the civil war within the Republican Party, which is only continuing to exacerbate, creates tremendous opportunities for those who would like to work across the aisle.
And, Secretary Clinton, when she was a senator, had a strong record of working across the aisle with Republicans. So I do think stepping up that outreach makes a lot of sense.
BLITZER: She sort of punted when she was asked about those leaked comments that politicians have a public and private position on certain issues. You heard in that report from Jeff Zeleny she invoked Abraham Lincoln ending slavery, basically saying the ends justify the means.
Doesn't that exemplify, though, the issue so many voters have as far as her honesty and trustworthiness?
COONS: Well, I think these are two quite different issues.
The very direct challenges that Trump leveled last night in Saint Louis about honesty and trustworthiness, with his threats to jail her, the sort of thing you really only hear a dictator announce in an autocratic country, to questions about how you best achieve political ends.
The reason that she cited "Lincoln," a famous movie, was that in that movie, we see an example of one of our most admired presidents using different arguments with different members of Congress to achieve a positive goal.
I think it is the case that folks in leadership, whether it's in business or in civil society or in politics, make slightly different arguments, nuanced arguments to different audiences when they're pursuing a laudable public goal. But it's important to stick to the same principle, even when making different arguments.
BLITZER: Let's say the context of those comments would clarify things from her perspective. Why doesn't she simply release the full transcripts from those Wall Street speeches?
COONS: That's a fair question. I don't know where these transcripts have been coming from, as I think was mentioned last night in the debate in Saint Louis.
There's real question about the origin of everything that's being leaked at the moment. The leaders of our intelligence community have suggested that the Russians, who have hacked into a variety of different systems, are selectively leaking them in order to influence our own election.
BLITZER: So why doesn't -- so, you agree, go ahead, just release the full transcripts, so that the selective leaks won't necessarily be the final word?
COONS: Well, it would seem to me that it's in everyone's best interests for us to reach across the aisle, to engage those who feel they're on the outside, to build some confidence in, I think, the strongest candidate for president, Secretary Clinton, and to release things that are now only known in portion.
BLITZER: Trump came into last night's debate really reeling from that 2005 tape in which he said all those awful things, with a lot of party leaders abandoning him left and right.
Here's the question. Did Hillary Clinton miss an opportunity last night to land what some people believe could have been the knockout punch?
COONS: Well, I was in Saint Louis for the debate last night. I didn't watch it on television. I was actually in the hall.
And I got to tell you, it was a stunning setting. His hostility, his not contrition, but aggression, and he's accusing her of all sorts of things, threatening all sorts of actions, he struck me as nearly unhinged at a number of points in the debate last night.
I think Secretary Clinton reassured the American people that she's balanced, she's steady. Earlier in the show, you were talking about threatening behavior by both North Korea and Russia. That reinforces for me that, Whether on the debate stage or in the weeks ahead, having the steady hand of somebody with great experience in international affairs like Secretary Clinton is what Americans want and need.
BLITZER: We're going to talk about how these candidates are dealing with Russia right now. Much more with Senator Chris Coons right after this.
BLITZER: The breaking news this hour: Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by 11 points in a new national poll by NBC News and "The Wall Street Journal." It was taken after the recording of Trump bragging about groping women went public, but before the second Trump-Clinton debate.
We're back with Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware.
Senator, the Clinton campaign is now considering expanding efforts in states like Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri to help with so-called down-ballot races. Do you think there's a chance Trump has given Democrats the opportunity to potentially take back control of the Senate and maybe even the House?
COONS: Absolutely, Wolf.
I think we now have a strong chance to not just take back the Senate, but take back the Senate with a several-vote margin. And for those who support Secretary Clinton, it's important to remember that having control of the White House and not having control of the Senate makes it exceptionally hard for any president to advance his or her agenda.
The House is a much bigger margin in terms of Republicans and Democrats right now. But there are more than a dozen seats that are now in play that were not in play even a few weeks ago. So, the revelations about Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault and the division within the Republican Party, the revulsion by many average voters that that has caused certainly has changed the landscape for the election that is just a month away.
BLITZER: On Syria, Senator, Clinton reiterated her stance against U.S. ground troops getting involved. She wants to continue using special forces, says she would consider direct arming of Kurdish fighters.
You're on the Foreign Relations Committee. What do you make of that? How would that impact the U.S. relationship, for example, with Turkey, the overall balance in the region, and would it really make much of a difference?
COONS: Well, we have to have competent ground forces that we can train, that we can work with, that we can equip, and that we can count on in order to take both Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.
If we're serious about defeating ISIS, we need to be serious about training, arming, and equipping credible ground forces. The Kurds, particularly in Northeastern Syria and in Northern Iraq, have been some of the most able fighters on the battlefield. The question you raise, Wolf, about whether it would complicate our relationship with Turkey certainly is an important and pressing concern. [18:25:03]
We have had real tensions with Turkey over their internal affairs, over the attempted coup and the response to it, and it's vital that we also have our NATO ally Turkey fighting alongside regional forces as we begin to move on Raqqa in Syria.
BLITZER: What about Putin? How should she deal with Putin?
COONS: Forcefully and decisively.
And I think the answers that she's given both in interviews and in the debate last night strongly suggest that she's far better prepared to stare down Putin and to deal with his aggressiveness, both in Eastern Europe and Crimea, Ukraine, and in the Middle East, than her opponent, Donald Trump.
Throughout the campaign, Donald Trump has really struggled to explain his public expressions of admiration for Putin, Putin, who is an autocratic thug, frankly, and who has invaded a neighboring country, who has led by killing in many cases dissidents and reporters, and whose behavior in Western Europe has led him to be sanctioned by most of our critical allies.
To expression admiration for this man and to say publicly that he admires him more than our own President Barack Obama strikes me as yet another point of proof that Donald Trump just isn't ready to lead this country.
BLITZER: Mr. Trump says he's a stronger leader than President Obama.
Senator Coons, thanks very much for joining us.
COONS: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead: more debate fallout. Did Donald Trump's performance stop his campaign's bleeding?
Plus, deadly flooding and dramatic rescues in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. The crisis continues tonight in North Carolina.
BLITZER: More now on the breaking news: The extraordinary announcement by the House speaker, Paul Ryan about his support, or lack thereof, of Donald Trump.
[18:31:31] Gloria Borger and the rest of our political panel is here. Paul Ryan said today he's not going to defend Donald Trump anymore. He told House Republicans on this conference call: Do what's best for you in your district. The implication being, if it's too late to salvage Donald Trump's presidential campaign, why not specifically, you know, revoke his endorsement, if you will?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: The new word, the new verb unendorse that we're all talking about, I'm sure Paul Ryan gave that an awful lot of consideration. Remember, he was late to the endorsement to begin with. It's clear there's no love lost between these two.
But what he's trying to do is give his flock places to go. They're all trying to navigate this difficult terrain, which is they don't want to alienate the Republican base, which is Donald Trump right now, and they want to attract the extra voters they need: those suburban women, those college educated white voters they need to win in either their Senate races or their House races.
And, you know, there are lots of Republicans on that call who are upset with Paul Ryan, because they believe he should be more firmly planted in the Trump camp. But I think he just isn't personally. And what he did, as if they needed it, was give them permission to go their own way.
BLITZER: And typical Donald Trump, you slap him, he slaps you right back. Listen to the tweet that he posted right after Paul Ryan issued a statement: "Paul Ryan should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs, and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee."
I guess he's not going to revoke his endorsement, Paul Ryan, but Donald Trump seems to be interpreting it in that way right now. And there clearly is a feud between these guys.
DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Clearly, Donald Trump has advertised themself as a counterpuncher.
You know, on one level, though, I almost want to say, for Donald Trump, compared to other tweets he's made at other times about people in his own party and people in other parties, this was more tame then we've seen.
BLITZER: He didn't call him a loser.
SWERDLICK: He didn't call him a loser. He didn't say anything obnoxious. He simply said, you know, "Get back to doing what you do. I'm the nominee. Let's go forward."
BLITZER: Abby, this new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll, take a look at it. Trump -- Hillary Clinton 46 percent, Trump 35 percent. Only 35 percent, 11-point advantage. It's a beginning, some observers are suggesting, of a complete Trump collapse.
ABBY PHILLIP, "WASHINGTON POST": It could very well be. I mean, given where we are in the cycle, there are only a few more weeks left. There's not a whole lot of time for there to be, like, dramatic movement in his direction. For the Clinton folks, they're looking at these numbers and looking for validation on the state level, which is a little bit of a lagging indicator.
So if they could have a little bit more license to say, "Hey, we have some cushion here. We can move on to other places" or "We can actually expend some of our energy and our money helping these down- ballot candidates, who have been clamoring for more help." BLITZER: Ron Brownstein, I want to dig a little bit deeper into this
NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll. They found that voters right now prefer the Democrats take control of Congress by a seven-point margin, 49 percent to 42 percent. That's the biggest advantage since October of 2013. So are we seeing this Trump effect having a negative effect on Republicans, for example, seeking re-election in Congress?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. You know, for the Republicans to avoid a Trump effect would require voters to reverse what has been a four-decade pattern toward less split-ticket voting. Voters are much more likely today than decades ago to vote the same way for president and for Congress.
And the ability to hold onto Senate seats in the seven states in particular that Republicans are defending, that voted twice for President Obama, has relied on their ability to convince more voters than have done that in recent years to split their tickets.
And you know, you look at the polling in the last few weeks, they've been having some success. But the ability, the hole cannot get too big. Right?
So even if you can run ahead of Donald Trump, there's only so far ahead of him you can run. And the key voters of this, Wolf, as Gloria was suggesting, are those college-educated white voters.
If you look at the poll that came out in Pennsylvania, for example, on Sunday, the Marist poll, Hillary Clinton was up 26 points among college-educated whites. Katie McGinty, the Senate candidate, was only up 7.
So Republicans are having some success at getting separation with those voters. But again, if the hole gets too big, you're looking at Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Richard Byrd in North Carolina. It gets very, very difficult for them.
BORGER: Wolf, can I just give you another number from this "Wall Street Journal" poll that was stunning to me, which was Donald Trump's approval rating, 29 percent.
BORGER: Twenty-nine percent favorable. How do you win an election with under 30 percent favorable rating. I mean, maybe Ron has the answer to that, but I don't -- I don't know how you can.
BLITZER: What's the -- what's the answer, Ron?
BROWNSTEIN: No, there is none.
BROWNSTEIN: I mean, the story of the fall has been, and really the story all summer. I mean, roughly 60 percent of the country says they do not consider him qualified. Roughly 60 percent consider him biased against women and minorities, and he's polling around 40 percent. It adds up. That was the ceiling.
The more relevant question now for Republicans may be not what is his ceiling but what is his floor?
BROWNSTEIN: Because again, you know, if you -- he was polling at around 40 percent while still holding big leads among not only non- college white men but non-college white women. But that latter group may become more difficult for him to hold on. I'm guessing when we get more detail on that "Wall Street Journal" poll, we will see erosion for him, not only with the white-collar white women, where he's facing historic deficits, but also with some of those blue-collar white women.
And again, for the Republican Senate candidates, the key here is that they need more voters to split their tickets than have been common, and even if they can achieve that, which is possible, because they are separating themselves from Trump pretty aggressively, that only takes you so far. If the hole gets big enough, it's really hard to climb out.
BLITZER: In this new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll, he's only polling at 35 percent, not even polling at 40 percent.
BORGER: Right. Right.
BLITZER: Thirty-five percent nationally.
You believe the Clinton campaign should now rethink the states where it's campaigning, go to states, let's say, like Indiana, Missouri, because they could help down ballot candidates maybe get that majority in the Senate, maybe even the House of Representatives?
PHILLIP: I'm not convinced that they are convinced that the time is yet right. I mean, there's a lot of nervousness in the Clinton camp about the dynamics of this race being so unpredictable for them.
I mean, a couple of weeks ago, we were talking about a tight race. And that's very real for them. They understand that they are dealing with a candidate who has a lot of weaknesses.
I think right now, the priority would be probably in states like Arizona, where they might be able to count on some demographic advantages. They might be able to win on that Senate race, and then they can expand further. I mean, North Carolina becomes a little bit more of a sure thing for them if these dynamics hold.
But I think there's still a lot of nervousness among the Clinton folks, not so much among Democrats at large, who are really, really eager for this not to expand.
BORGER: They can do kind of a head fake. They can say, "We're going to -- we're going to expand to Missouri. We're going to expand to Indiana," where you've got competitive Senate races. Because what they can do is say, "We're going force you to spend some money here," even though they don't really anticipate that they're going to win Indiana, for example.
But they can -- you know, they can certainly help out Evan Bayh to -- to a degree. Or they can say they are, and force the Trump folks to think about spending some more money there. That's -- that's the important sort of psychology of all of this, as you get into the last month.
BROWNSTEIN: You know, Wolf, real quick.
BLITZER: Yes, go ahead.
BROWNSTEIN: I say a Missouri or an Indiana is very tough. Because, I mean, the core of Trump has been his support among working-class, blue-collar white voters. Those are the -- they are more important part of the electorate in Indiana and Missouri than they are in, say, a North Carolina or, you know, some of the other Sun Belt swing states, like Virginia, Colorado.
So I mean, I think, you know, the issue is at what point, if any, do they feel secure enough to make investments that are really targeted toward those Senate races? The paradox here is that Arizona might be the best one on that list for Clinton. But it's probably the toughest Senate race on that list, with John McCain establishing a pretty significant lead. You have Indiana and Missouri where you may have a better chance at the Senate but a tougher road at the presidential level because of the underlying demographics.
BLITZER: Stand by. Everyone, stand by. Just ahead, one of the nastiest moments of the debate, Donald Trump saying Hillary Clinton would be in jail if he were in charge.
[18:40:02] Would he make good on that threat to appoint a special prosecutor if he's elected president?
BLITZER: We're following the breaking political news. Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus standing by Donald Trump. Sources telling CNN that, in a conference call with party officials just a little while ago, Priebus said nothing has changed between the GOP and Donald Trump's campaign.
[18:45:00] He also said he believes Trump's apology for the videotape in which he boasted a groping women is quote "heartfelt."
David Swerdlick, let's talk a little bit about it. Another nasty moment in that debate last night. I will play the clip. Listen to this because it really stood up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I didn't think I would say this, but I'm going to say it, and I hate to say it. But if I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation because there has never been so many lies, so much deception. There has never been anything like it. And we are going to have a special prosecutor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He also went on to say that she would be in jail. He were in-charged. He is getting a lot of criticism for that kind of statement including from Republicans. What's your take?
SWERDLICK: Yes, on three things. One, he didn't hate to say it. He couldn't wait to say that. The other thing about it is that, yes, as many people have said today, there are shaves of like an autocratic streak there, saying that he was essentially going to punish someone that he was running against.
But I think this is this tension for Trump, right? On the one hand, going after her is going to probably alienate folks that he needs to get over that 40 percent threshold, the one that I was just talking about. But at the same time, his core supporters love him going after her.
BLITZER: Yes. It stops the bleeding, Ron Brownstein, among that core, that base. But at the same time, does it do anything to bring in some undecided voters that he so desperately needs?
BROWNSTEIN: No. My sense is that, you know, has always been that Donald Trump has to repair the dents in his own fender more than he has to put more dents into Hillary Clinton's tender. And for voters who doubt his temperament, again, nearly 60 percent of Americans is question whether he has a temperament to succeed as president. The idea of the president ordering the appointment of a special prosecutor, a process that he is supposed to go through the attorney general I think is disconcerting. I mean, it kind of leads to this sense that he doesn't have a full respect for the, you know, for the checks and balances. But again, much of what they have been doing through this campaign seems to be operating on the theory that if they energize their base enough, they will change the electorate and win that way, rather than appealing to what has been the tradition electorate, you know, particularly these college educated white voters that usually vote Republicans and then resist in him in historic number. So it kind of fits with that, but it may be more a question of shoring up the floor than trying to expand the ceiling.
BORGER: I think it is shoring up the floor. Look, it is Nixonian for somebody who complains about the imperial Barack Obama presidency who has used to executive actions too much. This is somebody saying I would order my attorney general to do something makes you question who would be his attorney general.
But when this occurred last night, well, I heard from a Republican pollster who has been doing focus groups specifically with undecided voters. And he said to me look, she wins when it is about his treatment of people. But Trump wins when it's about her being dishonest. And that is why this notion of, I'm going to appoint a special prosecutor, put her in jail, you know. I'm going to put you in jail, that's another score with shoring up his base, because that works for him. BLITZER: Abby, if you listened to Trump's speech today, as I did a
couple of hours ago, he did not lay off at all. He doubled down. And he said that if there are any more videotapes about him that come out, he is really going to double down on Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. He also even brought up Ted Kennedy and Chappequitic. He really is doubling down in this area. It seemed to be he expects more tapes to come out because he made that threat.
ABBY PHILLIP, WASHINGTON POST: Well, I mean, I think he does. And this kind of -- it's one of those unusual moments where yes, he is shoring up his base, but he might be like shaking loose the sort of moderate Republicans that he still needs to win. I mean, the Republican base isn't just the sort of hard core Trump people. It is also moderate Republicans who are so weakly committed to Trump that these kinds of things only reinforce this idea that he is out of control, that he doesn't understand rule of law. And I was surprised by how this moment in that debate really broke through to just sort of regular people going about my day. This is what people are talking to me about. And it's being reinforced in what they are reading and what they are hearing, because they are looking at it and they are saying, well, this is what we expect from a dictatorship, not from the United States of America. It makes people very uncomfortable.
BLITZER: Yes. There has never been a case in American history, I don't think, where one party candidate nominee has threatened to put the other one in jail if he elected president.
BORGER: And wouldn't he be on (INAUDIBLE) if he talked about, to your point, if he talked about the Supreme Court. What's at stake in this election, your healthcare, the Supreme Court, your pocketbook, your tax cuts. Because those moderate Republicans or those college educated white voters that he is trying to win over would listen to that argument.
The Supreme Court is a very effective argument for him to make but he is not making it. He is talking about future -- the future possibility of sexual indiscretions.
[18:50:18] SWERDLICK: One of the by-products -- one of the by- products of that tape coming out, the "Access Hollywood" tape coming out on Friday night was that, you know, when it looked for a minute there like the bottom was going to come up on Trump, it freed him up to go back to these full-throated attacks that he was maybe leaning back from because it was about shoring up the base, not sort of making the case --
BLITZER: Ron, go ahead.
BROWNSTEIN: To Gloria's point, I mean, I thought the middle 30 minutes of last night's debate was his most effective stretch in either debate. And when he was most -- it was the most conventional Republican he ever was. He reminded Republicans he wants to repeal Obamacare, cut taxes, reverse the EPA regulation on climate, appoints Supreme Court juice. There was nothing flashy about it. It was three yards in the cloud of dust. But it did remind Republicans he is a Republican and it probably helped him to stem the bleeding. And also just kind of reach out to college white men who usually support smaller government.
BLITZER: All right, guys, stay with us. There's more coming up.
Also coming up, more than 1,000 people stranded by flooding in the wake of hurricane Matthew. The disaster is still unfolding in North Carolina right now.
Plus, we have new details of Russia's aggressive new military move. Why is tension between Moscow and Washington soaring?
[18:56:14] BLITZER: Dramatic rescues as a deadly emergency unfolds in North Carolina tonight. The governor says at least 11 people have been killed in flooding triggered by hurricane Matthew, and more than 1,500 people are trapped by high water. The coast guard is helping the National Guard and local first responders to evacuate people including some trapped on their roofs. The U.S. death toll from Matthew now stands at 21. And the storm killed hundreds of people in Haiti. More a million people in the southeast are still without power tonight.
Tension between Russia and the United States is escalating tonight with Moscow making a series of aggressive military moves in Europe and Syria. Our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott is working the story for us.
Elise, this is happening as the U.S. is also blaming Russia for a series of these election hacks.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Wolf. The U.S. hesitated to publicly shame Russia for fear of escalating tensions with its former cold war foe. Now the gloves are off and between nuclear threats and muscle flexing in Syria, Vladimir Putin is openly issuing a challenge to President Obama and, perhaps, to his successor.
LABOTT (voice-over): Vladimir Putin moving nuclear-capable missiles to the border with Poland and Lithuania. Military maneuver that may violate international treaties, but Putin sees it as a show of strength on NATO's doorstep. As Washington and Moscow head toward the brink of a new cold war.
MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: We run the risk of having an as accelerated relationship that's nothing but potentially bad with Russia if we don't very aggressively address this.
LABOTT: Putin's nuclear brinkmanship comes as U.S. intelligence agencies publicly named Russia for launching cyber-attacks on U.S. political groups. Finding quote "based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities." On Monday, Wikileaks which the U.S. has link to Russia, released new
emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign chair, as fears grow of Russia's interference in next month's election. Since the collapse of a U.S. ceasefire deal in Syria and Putin's fresh assault on Aleppo, there are now signs Russia is further ramping up its military operation in Syria to help prop up Syrian President Assad.
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Russia and the regime over world more than an explanation about why they keep hitting hospitals, and medical facilities, and children and women. These are acts that beg for an appropriate investigation of war crimes.
LABOTT: Russia announcing just today their plans for a permanent naval base in Syria, and Moscow's deployed an advanced anti-aircraft missile system to northwest Syria near Turkey. Troubling developments for U.S. pilots flying missions against ISIS. Citing what he called aggressive steps that threaten Russian national security, foreign minister Sergey Lavrov warned those in the U.S. going for more aggressive military action in Syria are playing a quote "very dangerous game."
MARKS: These are not simply academic discussions about posturing and alignments. This is a real capability in a hot war that exists right now in Syria with multiple players. It is an acceleration of a problem and escalation, real damage that could take place.
LABOTT: As tensions with the U.S. over Syria deepen, president Putin was in Turkey today with president Erdogan whose ties with Washington are also strained over U.S. support for the Kurds in Syria, and his crackdown following that July coup attempt. Putin said today he was glad Erdogan was able to remain in control, Wolf.
BLITZER: Elise, thanks very much. Elise Labott reporting.
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