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Interview with Mike McCurry; Interview with Maureen Dowd; Interview with Dan Abrams; Should Live Voting Results Leaked on Election Day? Aired 9-10a ET
Aired September 17, 2016 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:38] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Michael Smerconish, live from Philadelphia, with the election just 51 days away and the latest polls show a dead heat.
Donald Trump has been embracing his negatives as he turned his birther retraction into a PR circus and then last night he entered a Florida rally under the banner of "Le Deplorables."
Sorry, Gary Johnson, the first crucial debate, nine days away, will only include Clinton and Trump, and Trump claiming the moderators will be biased, suggests eliminating them all together. I'll ask the co- chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, Mike McCurry, what he thinks.
Plus a revolutionary plan to report election day voter turnout live as it's happening. Instead of waiting for the polls to close. Is this good or bad for democracy? Jeff Greenfield will weigh in.
And nobody knows both these candidates better or has been more critical of each than Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Maureen Dowd. She is here, too.
Yes, Colin Powell's hacked e-mails expose some salacious gossip about the candidates but lost in the coverage was the bigger picture -- partisanship now trumps patriotism. Dan Abrams is here and I'll explain.
But first, I want the final word on Trump and birtherism. Yes, Donald Trump finally relented and stated the obvious yesterday that President Barack Obama was born here but only after claiming that Hillary Clinton had started the rumor and she didn't.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: His handling of the so-called birther issue illustrates his lack of accountability. The statement that his campaign released the night before his acknowledgment of Obama's birthplace is my exhibit A.
Will you put that up on the screen, please?
Take a look at the first paragraph and leave it up. It begins, "Hillary Clinton's campaign first raised this issue to smear then candidate Barack Obama." Smear. Why was it smear? Well, obviously because it was not true. So why was it a smear when raised by Clinton's campaign, which by the way it wasn't, according to fact checkers, but not a smear when raised so often by Mr. Trump?
Nasty is another word used. So too vicious and conniving. Why this characterization of the Clinton campaign arguably because it was relying on smears.
Again, see, Trump is alleging that Clinton engaged in the behavior we all know he employed and he's admitting that such tactics are both a smear and nasty, not to mention vicious and conniving. But there's more. He calls her weak for not getting an answer.
Well, an answer to what exactly, Mr. Trump? A nasty smear? Who should have been demanding answers about a nasty smear? If it's bogus, nobody.
Put up the next paragraph. So here's how this begins. In 2011, Mr. Trump was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion. Whoa. Stop the clock. What ugly incident? Well, the ugly incident of Trump asserting a nasty smear against the nation's first African- American president so as to delegitimize him.
Let's keep reading. "Mr. Trump did a great service to the president and the country by bringing closure to the issue that Hillary Clinton and her team first raised." I mean, this is now cough kaesque. He is claiming that where he spread a nasty smear about the president, something he now characterizes as vicious and conniving, and then for five years refuses to retract it, he has somehow done the president and the nation a service because in his words he's a closer. He was only the closer of a nasty smear that he himself initiated which he admits was vicious and conniving.
There was more, but you get it. Let me tell you why this needs to be addressed. Because the polls are neck and neck and nothing is more important than the debates. Trump has been using this kind of circuitous logic and outright fabrication for a year. So what should a moderator do? If he or Hillary Clinton makes assertions that are obviously baseless?
[09:05:08] Joining me now is a man with all the answers, Mike McCurry. He is the co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates. You remember him as Bill Clinton's White House press secretary. He rarely comes out to ay. He hasn't been on CNN in 12 years.
Mike, thank you so much for being here. What is the job description of a moderator?
MIKE MCCURRY, CO-CHAIR, COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES: I think the job description is to get out of the way of the candidates. The candidates are the ones that have to fact check each other and moderators that have strong opinions, like you just expressed, you know, that's probably not the role that we expect for the people who are going to put the ball in play and let the candidates then have their discussion as they see fit.
Now, you know, I think there are some questions about how do you best challenge someone who is actually saying something that's just outright wrong in the context of a debate like this. And there are right ways to do that. I think we've picked moderators who are going to be very effective at that.
I don't doubt that Donald Trump is trying to work the ref a little bit right now in some of the things that he's been saying, but that happens every four years when we do these debates. I think these moderators are going to actually present the candidates with opportunities to challenge each other, to fact-check each other and that's exactly the role they should play.
SMERCONISH: OK. So in my example that I've just offered, my cross- examination of his campaign statement on birtherism, that would be Hillary Clinton's responsibility, not the responsibility of, say, Lester Holt?
MCCURRY: That's correct. I mean, I think if you had -- you know, if you were moderating that debate and it opened, as you just opened this program, I think people would howl and properly so because you're putting yourself in the role of trying to, you know, do what the candidates themselves need to do. And that's not what we expect of these moderators. We expect them to basically get out of the way of the candidates so it's the candidate's debates.
You know, Bob Schieffer, who was the long-time CBS veteran correspondent and moderated many debates, said the first thing you should do as a moderator before the debate is go look in the mirror and say it's not about me.
SMERCONISH: I noticed that Bob Schieffer and Jim Lair, and between the two of them 15 presidential debates they both adopt what Mike McCurry has said which is that the role is not to intrude and to get out of the way. I think I heard Mike McCurry say in your opening comment -- your opening answer that you think Donald Trump is probably trying to work the refs a little bit. What do you mean by that?
MCCURRY: Well, I think, you know, sometimes you sort of say, if I say that I expect to get howled at by our first moderator who happens to be Lester Holt from NBC, that maybe that will tone him down a little bit. And, you know, who knows. I don't want to try to get into Donald Trump's head. I think that would probably not be a useful exercise. But, you know, the candidates do this. We've seen this every four years and their comments back and forth about the moderators.
But the important thing I think is both, you know, Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump who were invited, by the way, yesterday by the Commission on Presidential Debates to participate in the first debate on September 26th. They have both indicated that they plan to be there and they both have accepted the moderators that we have picked. So I think that's the important thing. The debates are going to move forward and we think we picked excellent moderators to help guide that discussion.
SMERCONISH: Am I right in saying that your job as the commission on presidential debates is to make a very studied determination as to who should moderate and then you step out of the way and that man or that woman has total discretion as to what will be asked?
MCCURRY: That's absolutely correct. We don't stipulate as to content, questions. That's really up to the moderators we pick. They have to use their editorial and journalistic judgment and ask the questions that most Americans would expect the candidates to be asked. And then the candidates have to respond to each other. I mean, they have got to challenge each other and they have to engage in the debate. That's what we want to see. We want to see a good discussion about the future of our country in a dignified setting.
By the way, Michael, one of the other things we insist on is we don't have audience reaction in these debates. They are -- you know, they are there to watch a moment of history, but it's really about the candidates themselves challenging each other, talking to each other about the future of the country and then, you know, probably making some arguments that, you know, will -- in one way or another impact the way in which one of them will govern if they're elected president.
SMERCONISH: Donald Trump is talking a little Lincoln-Douglas action. He proposes no moderator. What do you think of that idea?
MCCURRY: Well, I mean, I -- I have some fondness for that idea. I think it's great when we have got candidates who will stand with each other and actually do that kind of debate, but the moderator can put things in play. Now by the way, on our format, one of the things we've done is to get away from these highly structured one-minute here or 30 seconds there back and forth. We have divided the debate 90 minutes into 15-minute chunks of time so that the candidates actually will have to have lengthier presentations and longer discussions and more reasonable and substantive answers about some of the issues of the day.
[09:10:09] So we will approximate that kind of Lincoln-Douglas format. But we will have a moderator there to make sure things stay in control.
SMERCONISH: Were the candidates either -- were either of them able to exercise a veto over your selections?
MCCURRY: No. We suspended that kind of practice a long time ago. We have to use our best judgment picking moderators. We have not heard from the campaigns that they have objections to the moderators that we picked. We picked some distinguished journalists, as you know, including your own colleague Anderson Cooper from CNN. And you know, I think the fact that there hasn't been any kind of real protest about the moderators indicates that people expect them to do the job that they've been assigned to do. And there's been I think a very large favorable reaction to those that we did pick. SMERCONISH: Gary Johnson and Bill Weld took out a full page ad in
"The New York Times" this week, drew attention to the fact that they were at 13 percent in the Quinnipiac survey which they argue put them within the margin of error to the requisite 15 percent. What of the idea that where you have two two-term governors united, they're on all 50 ballots. They're doing well, perhaps better than we've seen in the last 25 years by a third party candidate. Why shouldn't they be on that debate stage?
MCCURRY: Well, we have by law and by legal precedent, we have got to establish criteria well in advance, let that be known publicly and it has to be objected. We did that last fall. So almost for a year now the campaigns have known that they have to reach that 15 percent threshold. Some members of our commission thought that was too low. Some thought it was too high. We had a long debate about it. And said that there was historical precedent, 15 percent goes back to the time in which the League of Women Voters actually sponsored the presidential debates.
So we felt there was good historic precedent for that number. And you know, it's not -- out of the realm of possibility that both Governor Johnson and Mr. Weld and maybe even Jill Stein, the candidate for the Green Party, if they work hard and build support during the course of the fall, they might well be invited to be in the second and third debates. We will apply the criteria that we used before each of the presidential debates.
And so there's, you know, some possibility we might see Gary Johnson on that stage in one of the subsequent debates. But he did not make that threshold for the debate that will happen September 26th.
SMERCONISH: Final question, you stood before the nation defending President Clinton's White House on matters like White Water, the outset of the Lewinsky scandal, now you're teaching, you know, a group of 12 at some days at the Wesley Theological Seminary.
Which is more nerve wracking for Mike McCurry?
MCCURRY: Being in front of a group of seminarians and trying to guide them through that topic. I guess given my checkered past in politics, we'd call this the doctrine of atonement, but I enjoy my teaching that I'm doing now.
SMERCONISH: Hey, this is going to be Super Bowl-like. I mean, you know, I cannot wait. The nation cannot wait.
Thank you. I salute the work of the Commission on Presidential Debates.
MCCURRY: Thanks, Michael.
SMERCONISH: That's Mike McCurry.
So what do you think? Tweet me @smerconish and I will read some later in the program.
Still to come, no newspaper columnists knows the Clintons or Donald Trump better or is more critical of them. I'm going to talk to Pulitzer Prize-winner Maureen Dowd.
And Colin Powell's e-mail hack exposed the general's disdain for both candidates. But it also revealed a problem, I think, with partisan politics. And Dan Abrams will be here to explain.
[09:17:43] SMERCONISH: She's covered the Clintons and Trumps since the '90s and she's been critical of both. She won the Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of the Monica Lewinsky scandal for "The New York Times." Maureen Dowd has covered nine presidential campaigns but she says she's never seen anything like this year's race and she's chronicled her amazement in her new book, "The Year of Voting Dangerously: The Derangement of American Politics."
Maureen Dowd, it's great to have you. Thoroughly enjoyed the book. And it makes a point. It is filled with columns and work of yours only about these two. That's how much you've written about Clinton, the Clintons, and Donald Trump.
MAUREEN DOWD, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: Yes. But it also has a long essay about the Bush family, whom I've covered for 30 years. And also I started covering on the national stage Obama and Biden, so all of the cast of characters at this crazy dinner party I started with.
SMERCONISH: I've gotten so many things wrong as Donald Trump likes to remind people about this cycle. What have you gotten wrong that stands out?
DOWD: Oh, wow. I don't know. You tell me. I don't know.
SMERCONISH: Maybe it's all subjective. Donald Trump listens to you. You know, when you've -- and you point this out in so many columns that when you raise with him concerns or questions, it seems like he's interested to know what Maureen Dowd is thinking.
DOWD: Well, listens to me I think is a bit strong. You know, I picture Kellyanne Conway like a lion tamer trying to keep Donald Trump on his stool. But no. I have confronted him with many different things that seemed wrong to me. For instance, I asked him -- I told him that it was wrong that there was violence being incited at his rallies and that reporters were getting roughed up. And he paused -- you're right he did listen but then he disagreed and said he thought the violence added excitement.
And you know, I said how can you criticize Bill Clinton for infidelities, you're making that part of the campaign and maybe in the upcoming debates when you had one of the most famous infidelity scandals in New York history, the "Marla Maples best sex I've ever had" "New York Post headline, and he said, well, I wasn't the president. So he always has some glib answer. [09:20:09] He did -- not listen to me but listen to my sister who has
an essay in the book. She is like you, sometimes she's a Republican and sometimes she's not. But I told him -- he said, is your sister still voting for me, and I said no, because you re-tweeted this unflattering picture of Heidi Cruz and that was really wrong and he tried to say it wasn't that unflattering. And I said, yes, it was, why don't you just apologize?
And he thought about it for a minute and he apologized. So once in a while but not really much does he listen to me. And I'm not advising him.
SMERCONISH: You talk about --
DOWD: I'm just stating what is unacceptable behavior.
SMERCONISH: You talk about your sister. You also talk and he writes your brother Kevin. And something the two of us have in common is that we are both a butter knife away at the Thanksgiving Day table from Trump supporters. So how's Trump doing -- how's Trump doing among your kin?
DOWD: Well, you know, it's funny because I have my own little basket of deplorables. And I read all these other columnists who have to go on these anthropological Margaret Meade road trips to hunt down the exotic Trump voter and see what they're thinking, what could they possibly be thinking, and one of the columnists wrote an open letter and said he would like to actually meet a Trump voter and reason with them.
And I just have to go home, you know. I hear it all. I hear all the conspiracy theories, all the Hillary Clinton complaints, and I'm sure it's the same with you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Let me -- let me address Hillary because one of the Maureen Dowd columns that stands out the most for me is one that you wrote about her. Put that up on the screen while I read. "All these woebegone Republicans whining that they can't rally behind their flawed candidate is crazy. The GOP angst, the gnashing and wailing and searching for last-minute substitutes and exit strategies is getting old. They already have a 1 percenter who will be totally fine in the Oval Office, someone they can trust to help Wall Street, boost the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, secure the trade deals, beloved by corporate America, seek guidance from Henry Kissinger, and hawk it up unleashing hell on Syria, and heaven knows where else. The Republicans have their candidate. It's Hillary."
DOWD: Well, she's a former Goldwater girl, you know, who then became much more liberal but Donald Trump's ideology is his ego so the Republicans are twisting and turning to try and fit in with a platform that is basically about his ego so when he cozies up to the evil empire, which is not at all in the tradition of Republican policy, they have to try and go along with that, which is crazy to watch. And that's just like a grade school thing, Putin complimented him so he likes Putin, but according to Steven Lee Meyers, our reporter, you know, who has a biography of Putin, the word was mistranslated.
He didn't call Trump brilliant. He called him flashy. So this whole crazy bromance with Putin may be based on a mistranslation. But -- so he doesn't -- he was a New York Democrat, so we have these kinds of two New York Democrats running against each other, but in many ways Hillary is, you know -- she is into muscular intervention, she is a hog, she loves Kissinger, she cozies up to Goldman Sachs and the hedge fund people and they are her supporters, the 1 percent money people are supporting Hillary.
SMERCONISH: Final subject. The other column that really jumped out of the book that I remember was the Joe Biden-Beau Biden column that you wrote. And this was -- it was not a deathbed scenario. I think it was a kitchen table, but the point you drove home was that Beau wanted his dad to run.
Can I put that quickly up on the screen and remind people of what Maureen Dowd wrote? Beau was losing his nouns and the right side of his face was partially paralyzed, but he had a mission. He tried to make his father promise to run arguing," continues on. "That the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values."
Here's the question for Maureen Dowd. Do you think Joe regrets not having gotten into this race?
DOWD: Yes. He is -- well, he has said himself, you know, he thinks about it every day and if I were Joe Biden I would be really angry because he would be walking straight into the White House and that usually the vice president has the right of first refusal, you know. But they thought that he would shoot off his mouth and have a lot of gasps, but in the era of Trump, you know, that -- his gaffes would seem like nothing.
And there was some Democrats the other day when Hillary had her health scare who we're saying, you know, maybe she -- if it got worse, maybe she would have to step aside for Biden which would be ironic since they pushed Biden out for Hillary.
[09:25:15] SMERCONISH: "The Year of Voting Dangerously," as I like to say, Maureen, I've never seen anything like it in my life and I hope I never do again. Thank you so much for being here.
DOWD: I agree with you, Michael. Thanks.
SMERCONISH: Tweet me your thoughts @smerconish.
Still to come, Colin Powell's private e-mails expressing his opinions of Trump and Clinton were hacked and widely published. But one editor, Dan Abrams, later apologized. Why? I'm going to speak to him.
Also, election day turnout is never revealed until the polls close. But a new organization plans to change all that. Is that good or bad for democracy? Multi-Emmy Award winner and veteran journalists Jeff Greenfield will weigh in. Here's another tweet, this one about my opening commentary. Let's
"He didn't initiate it, sir. He did close the deal. You are a Clinton surrogate."
No, I'm not part of any crooked media. I'm calling out facts and not enough others have done so in this cycle. Thank you.
[09:30:00] SMERCONISH: Partisanship, so bad in this country that it now exceeds patriotism. That's my take away from the Colin Powell e- mail hack. Surely you saw the huge headlines this week when the hack exposed the former secretary of state's scorn for Donald Trump and difficulties with Hillary Clinton in unvarnished language that the general clearly thought would remain private.
After every news organization, including ours, enjoyed the juicy details, well, suddenly came the morning after. As "The New York Times" put it concern over Colin Powell's hacked e-mails becomes a fear of being next. Are any of us safe?
We're also caught up in the salacious gossip of the partisan politics that we're missing the bigger picture. Where's our patriotism? This guy is an American hero. He's been hacked by no friend of the United States.
Enter Dan Abrams, the publisher of two highly trafficked Web sites. He issued a public apology to Colin Powell for printing the e-mails and it reads in part, "Rather than focusing on the fact that Powell is the victim of a crime potentially at the hands of the Russian government, and that his privacy has been shamefully compromised, we in the media have generally just exacerbated the violation by amplifying and spreading the news with little to no guilt."
Dan Abrams joins me now. Dan, it's Mediate and Law Newz, with the Z at the end. Those are your two Web sites and as you point out, you enjoyed feasting on every morsel. What brought you to the change?
DAN ABRAMS, FOUNDER, MEDIATE: I needed to expose my own hypocrisy on this, right? Which was to say that my Web sites are publishing all the details of this and I feel horrible about it. And I guess the point of this was at least let's admit that this is terrible. I mean, it seemed to me like no one was even talking about the fact that it may have been the Russian government that had hacked Colin Powell's e- mails.
I mean, think about it this way, what if someone a la Watergate has literally gone into Colin Powell's house and stolen his diaries, right? And then it had come out and published them. Wouldn't there be at least outrage, at least hand ringing, at least thinking out loud, should we be publishing this?
In this case, there was none of that. And my only point was at least let's incorporate that into our thinking and I laid out in that piece why I came to the conclusion that while I was incredibly sorry about this, in the end I had to go ahead and publish them because they were news.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Dan, I have an older brother. Growing up like brothers we would fight. But if you came along and you wanted to fight my brother, believe me we were both against Dan Abrams. Why hasn't that kicked in in this scenario? Like, OK, we got Hillary, we got Trump and it's partisan. But we're talking about the Russians here. Why aren't we united against a common enemy?
ABRAMS: Well, I think two reasons. First of all, you know, there's not 100 percent certainty it's the Russians and most importantly I think the gossip is just too juicy that we just can't resist it. That, oh my goodness, Colin Powell, the ceremonious Powell who sort of rarely gives his unvarnished opinions about politics, giving -- you know, offering up juicy gossip and analysis of this political campaign. I think it was just too much.
But even beyond that, think about it, this isn't the first time, right? You know, the Sony hack that occurred in 2014, there was very little sense of, boy, this is wrong. It was all about what did these Sony executives say that was bad and wrong, and there were heads that were going to fly, et cetera. Instead of saying, wait a sec, why aren't we making any judgments at all about the hack, in particular in this case, where you're potentially talking about not just the Russians hacking, but potentially the Russians hacking too try to influence the election? I mean, why -- where is the outrage on that?
SMERCONISH: You previously broke down for us a legal analysis of Hillary Clinton's actions relative to her private e-mail and private e-mail servers. It was a great sober analysis. I want to ask you a street smart question. If, in fact, may be the Russians, we don't know, you're right, but somebody hacked Colin Powell, a former secretary of state, doesn't that increase in your mind the likelihood that Hillary operating multiple devices, her own domain, and private servers, probably was the victim of such a hack as well and maybe we're going to find out in the next 55 days?
ABRAMS: I don't know about probably. I certainly think it makes it clear that it could have happened, right?
[09:35:07] I'm not going to sit here and say, oh, well, this means therefore Hillary was hacked. It certainly means that Hillary could have been hacked. And I think that that's been agreed to and I don't think that -- you know, as you and I have talked about, that that relates to the legal analysis on the Hillary Clinton case. But there is real concern, I think, on everyone's part now that we all can be hacked. And as a result, you know, you see people now encrypting their e-mails and making greater efforts.
That's fine. But again it seems to me to shift the issue away from pointing the finger of blame at who did this and then having a little soul searching on our part. In particular on the media's part to say, huh, shouldn't we be thinking a little bit about why we're publishing this? Are there certain aspects of the Powell e-mails maybe we shouldn't have published? Maybe we should have just published the ones that related to specific thoughts on the election and not some of the more salacious ones.
Should we in the media have offered him any privacy knowing what the source of this information was? It's a tough question. I think the answer is that the vast majority of what was in there can be considered news and that's the reason I didn't ban it and I admit it. You know, I'm sort of laying all of it out there for the public to judge me by saying look, I didn't have the fortitude to do it. I'm competing with my Web sites against, you know, the "Politicos" and "Daily Beasts" of the world that do double my traffic and as a result I'm admitting that's coming into my thinking.
You can argue that's horrible, Dan Abrams, that that's the way you're making the decision, and I'm just laying it out there for the readers and viewers to decide that at least I'm admitting it, at least I'm thinking about, and at least I'm talking about it.
SMERCONISH: I think it's a healthy conversation. Thanks for being here to explain, Dan. I appreciate it.
ABRAMS: All right, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, news organizations have always been careful not to call elections until voting was completely done, but there's a new plan for this year to reveal what's happening in real time. Is that a good idea?
Here is an example from the 2000 election of how calling an election doesn't always work out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Excuse me, Senator. We have a projection. NBC News is coming on the air right now and we are projecting that when all the votes are counted the state of Florida will go tonight to the vice president. Mr. Gore will take the state of Florida.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand by. Stand by. CNN right now is moving our earlier declaration of Florida back to the too close to call column.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[09:41:55] SMERCONISH: At precisely 11:12 p.m., election night 2012 NBC was the first to declare that Barack Obama had been re-elected president. Until then, everyone had followed journalistic protocol waiting until the last polls had closed but the result was surely not news to either the Obama or Romney campaigns, which operated sophisticated war rooms in which they track voter turnout.
So here is the question, why did the public watching TV all day long hear reports about the weather or turnout in a very general sense but nothing more definitive? If the campaigns know that they're doing well in real time, why can't that information be made available to the public? My next guest wants to give Americans insight into who is winning the
election as the vote is taking place. Would that be good for democracy or will this technology suppress or otherwise impact the vote?
Joining me now to discuss both points of view, Ken Smukler is the founder of VoteCaster, that's a project to broadcast vote turnout as it happens. And of course Jeff Greenfield is the veteran Emmy Award- winning journalist who has worked with CNN, ABC, CBS.
Ken, let me begin with you. How would this work?
KEN SMUKLER, FOUNDER, VOTECASTER: Sure. Thanks, Michael. We basically collect four pieces of data, three pieces prior to the election, one piece on Election Day. We take the early vote numbers which allow us to set the table for Election Day. We do our own survey research just like Nate Silver would be doing, but we do large scale surveys immediately prior to the election. Then we do historic turnout tracking models that tell us what to expect at each precinct in a battleground state in terms of total turnout.
On Election Day, we send our field effort into targeted precincts. We capture one piece of information over time on election day which is actual turnout at that precinct. When you have that actual turnout number and you run it against the models that we've set up with the other data you get projected outcome in real time.
SMERCONISH: How far will you go? You're going to do this in seven states. Colorado was a state. Are you going to say at some point during the course in the day while the nation is voting, Donald Trump is winning Colorado, Hillary Clinton is winning Colorado?
SMUKLER: Well, Colorado is a hybrid because Colorado it's entirely vote by mail. So if there's going to be a call on Colorado, that call may in fact come right when the polls open on the East Coast. I would rather focus on the six states where we actually are doing play-by- play on Election Day.
And I want to be clear about this. We are the play-by-play announcers, so that if the Eagles, for example, were crushing the Giants in a football game the play-by-play guy in the third quarter doesn't say, hey, the game is over. We know what the score is. The play-by-play guy keeps playing out the game until the final whistle.
It is for the networks after the election is over to call the election. And whether they succeed --
SMERCONISH: I know --
SMUKLER: -- or fail is on them.
SMERCONISH: I know that a veteran journalist like Jeff Greenfield will immediately be thinking, 1980. Let me show some tape and then I'll turn to Jeff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN CHANCELLOR, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Well, the time has come.
[09:45:03] You've seen the map. We've looked at the figures and NBC News now makes its projection for the presidency. Reagan is our projected winner. Ronald Wilson Reagan of California, a sports announcer, a film actor, a governor of California is our projected winner at 8:15 Eastern Standard Time on this election night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Hey, Jeff, you know that people were upset. They said well, the West Coast was still voting. They're calling the election. What concerns, if any, do you have about Ken's proposal?
JEFF GREENFIELD, FORMER POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN, CBS, ABC: I actually have done a 180. When I first heard about this, I thought, oh, you know, the barbarians at the gate, this is terrible. I have completely change my mind. I'll tell you why.
GREENFIELD: The exit poll particularly back in 1980, don't forget, Carter conceded while the West Coast was open. That concern is largely based on two Democratic members of the House who lost close races on the West Coast. And the evidence is all anecdotal. I've never been able to figure out who stayed home, the people who knew they won or the people who knew that their guy had lost.
But the difference is that in this case, let's say that you're a Clinton voter in a battleground state. And VoteCaster is telling you that the Trump turnout so far at 11:00 in the morning is higher. You have the option to call your friends and to e-mail and to Facebook and say, hey, come on, let's get out there and vote. As opposed to numbers that tell you what has happened, you know, and you can't do anything about it.
So in this sense, I do think it is potentially an empowering mechanism for voters, unlike the motion of leaking exit polls at 1:00 p.m. or 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon which used to happen before they locked all these people in a hermitically sealed room and took their cell phones away. So it may surprise you, but I think this could be good for democracy.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Jeff, then why not the Full Monty, right? I mean, if the ability exists to tally votes in real time, let's put aside VoteCaster and their modeling and their projections, let's just put -- run the tote board all day long.
GREENFIELD: I think that -- I think the -- I'm not sure. But I think one of the -- one of the differences may be that you actually can't do that. I mean, there's a point at which, you know, you can't just keep going into a voting booth every hour and pick up the numbers. The thing that concern me about early leaking of exit polls, I'll make this story very brief. 2004, a bunch of us journalistic-types and political-types are at a steak house, you know. And it's 1:00 p.m. in the afternoon and, oh, let's get the first wave results. And one of our colleagues, in fact was Tom Brokaw, comes back and
says, you know, these numbers are really sketchy. My guys back home tell me don't believe them, but everybody is saying we've got to have the numbers. And they're all for Kerry. You know, he's tied in South Carolina. He is winning every battleground state. Newt Gingrich gets up and goes apoplectic. I knew at that goose hunting trip in Ohio worked. John Kerry is president. And it misinformed.
If I understand what Ken is doing right, the potential for that kind of misinformation is much less.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Ken, you got the final word. What makes you think you can do it accurately?
SMUKLER: Well, we have the best and brightest teams working to execute this plan. Teams that modeled turnout and did the dash board for Obama won, and teams that did it for George W. so I think we have the best and brightest. We have a group out of Palo Alto called At Backer that's designing our mobile app and setting up our platform. And we're working with Slate to make sure there's a robust enough platform so that every eyeball in America that wants to see this data can actually see it in real time on Election Day.
You put the right people in place and execute and you can succeed in this game.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Jeff Greenfield, Slate is his media partner. It would be very interesting to see come Election Day what other media outlets, if any, feel comfortable in running with his data.
GREENFIELD: That's right. And -- the one cautionary note is this may tell us decisively whether or not if this were to be a blowout, whether or not down ballot votes were affected in later states. So there is that question I think we still have to answer, but I just don't think we should run garments and yank our hair out just yet at this. You know, I'm kind of intrigued --
SMERCONISH: I think it's a great conversation. Yes. Yes, Intrigue is a wonderful word.
Jeff Greenfield, thank you so much. Ken Smukler, appreciate you being here. Thank you both.
Still to come, the best and worst tweets. I haven't seen anything. I got no idea. Let's see what goes on here. Katherine, is this about me that he's talking? CNN just -- is it? You know, I wish that he would use my Twitter handle. When he hammers me, can he at least acknowledge who he is hammering?
Thank you, Mr. Trump.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SMERCONISH: Hey, I always like to say you can follow me on Twitter if you can spell Smerconish. I really don't know what's coming. Let's see, put them up on the screen. Some of the best and the worst of this week.
So if the candidate uses the forum of the debates to promote an idea that the moon landing was faked the moderator should let it go. No, Stephen, that's not what I'm saying. I think that Matt Lauer for whom I have the utmost respect, and that was not a debate, that forum of a week or 10 days ago. He should have called out Donald Trump where Donald Trump said something that was contracted by an interview that everybody knows he gave to Howard Stern.
So in that kind of -- here's my standard. In that sort of a scenario, the moderator has to say, well, wait a minute, Mr. Trump, or wait a minute, Mrs. Clinton. But beyond that it's a debate. And in my opinion that job of cross examination and confrontation is left to your opponent. Not to Lester Holt.
[09:55:01] Hit me with another one. "A butter knife away from Trump supporters at Thanksgiving, Smerconish. That is my life. Thankful the holidays are at the election." Yes, I have that in common with Maureen Down and with many of you. What I simply meant to say was, there's a lot of diversity of opinion within my own house. I like the way that Maureen said that other journalists may have to go looking for contrary points of view. I'm surrounded by them, which I think is healthy and frankly like much of the country.
One more if we have time for it. Yes, maybe even two more. Go ahead, put it up there. "I don't even agree with anything about CNN but I am watching for pure entertainment purposes only."
I don't care if you're watching me for entertainment purposes, if you're watching me for factual purposes, for whatever purpose you choose to watch me. I just want you to watch me. And I know that Donald Trump is one of those who watches because he often tweets about the show even though he doesn't acknowledge it by name like he did this morning.
Hit me with another tweet, please. This is fun. I could do this for an hour. So instead of it being 15 percent to make the debates why can't it be being on the ballot in all 50 states. It means all want them.
Bobby, I'm with you. Look, my cards are on the table. I would have liked to have seen Johnson and Weld debating. I think they're two former governors, they're on all 50 state ballots and they ought to be on that debate stage. Maybe in the next ones.
Thank you so much. I'll see you next week.