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SMERCONISH

What Will Trump's Debate Strategy Be?; Was Hillary's Gender Q&A Scripted? Aired 9-10a ET

Aired October 8, 2016 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:00:21] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Michael Smerconish coming to you live from the Keystone State of Pennsylvania in any other cycle you'd say "Surely this is the end." Will women forgive Donald Trump for appalling 2005 video that shows him embracing sexual assault? Now that he has issued a rare and qualified apology.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've said some foolish things, but there's a big difference between the word and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims.

SMERCONISH: And even before this revelation earlier in the week a Pennsylvania teen asked Hillary Clinton a pointed question about Trump's treatment of women. But because her dad is a Democratic state senator, she was accused of being a paid actress. What's the real story? Father and daughter are here in their first interview to discuss.

And the polls were already trending Hillary's way could she clinch it all tomorrow night at the next huge debate. I'll talk to two debate pros. Or might Trump's rescue come in the form of WikiLeaks having finally released the transcripts of Hillary's paid speeches to Wall Street banks. How damaging might they be?

But first I stayed up late last night wanting to see and hear the reaction from both side to Trump's P gate. I took note of the few, man of them self described defenders of family values who seek to dismiss what Donald Trump said on tape as, quote, locker room talk, overlooking that he was not 18 and in high school but 59 with a new wife, pregnant at the time. But even Trump's critics are failing to note what to me as a lawyer is the real significants that what he said would be admissible evidence in a variety of legal contexts of his state of mind as evidence of his past behavior and of his character.

What makes this stand out from all of his prior profanity, inanity, insanity, malignancy and repugnancy is that this time he actually admits sexual predatory conduct with -- which if it had come out of the mouth of say Bill Cosby, would be used in the criminal trial against him.

Here is what happened. "The Washington post" released an 11-year old video tape, out takes from the show "Access Hollywood" from a September 2005 visit that Trump made to the set of a soap opera. He's wearing a mic. He is aboard the "Access Hollywood" bus, chatting with then co-host and George W. Bush cousin, Billy Bush. We will go to the videotape. But here's the warning, the contents are offensive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But she's still very great. She's still very beautiful.

TRUMP: I moved on her actually. You know, she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her and I failed. I'll admit it. I did try and (inaudible) her. She was married.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's huge news.

TRUMP: No, no, Nancy. No, this was ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.

TRUMP: And I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. As she wanted to get some furniture, I said, "I'll show you where they have some nice furniture." I took her out furniture. I moved on her like a (inaudible) but I couldn't get there and she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her. She's now got the big phony (inaudible) and everything. She's totally changed her look.

BILLY BUSH, "ACCEES HOLLYWOOD" HOST: Sheesh, your girl's hot (inaudible) in the purple.

TRUMP: Whoa.

BUSH: Yes.

TRUMP: Whoa.

BUSH: Yes. The Donald has scored. Whoa, my man.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Look at you. You are a (inaudible). Maybe it's a different one.

BUSH: It better not be the publicist. No, it's her. It's ...

TRUMP: Yeah, that's her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I'm automatically attracted to beautiful. I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

BUSH: Whatever you want.

TRUMP: Grab them by the (inaudible).

(END OF VIDEO CLIP) SMERCONISH: The fallout was unprecedented in that Trump did something that he has never done in this campaign, he issued a written apology. But one that true to form makes excuses and casts aspersions on Bill Clinton. It read "This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course, not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended.

And then late last night, Trump issued a 90 second video apology where he seems to suggest he will turn the tables against Bill Clinton in tomorrow night's debate.

What's been the reaction of Trump's famous band of supporters and the GOP? Mostly duck and cover but no less than the head of the RNC. Reince Priebus issued the following statement he said "No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner, ever.

[09:05:04] Ironically, "the Washington Post" reporter who broke this story David Fahrenthold spent months publishing excellent, thorough reporting about Trump's foundation and his taxes and yet this is the story that might cut the deepest

David Fahrenthold joins me now. David, when you first watched, when you first heard that tape because you were the first. What most stunned you?

DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: I think -- well both, first the language. We're familiar with his voice. We're familiar with the way he acted on television. We'll never heard him use this kind of language. And also, the fact that he's not describing the woman the attractiveness of the woman, he's not just sort of leering at women. He's actually describing his own behavior. He's saying I did this and I will do this again. This is what I do when I meet beautiful women. That's what surprised me the most.

SMERCONISH: When you contacted Trump or the Trump campaign for comment and shared with them, revealed them what you now had, were they blind sided by it or did you get the impression that they knew this or something like this was coming?

FAHRENTHOLD: Well, what I originally did was send them a transcript. I didn't send them the whole video. We had transcribed sort of the relevant portion of the video the one you just played and sent them a transcript. And at first said what, it didn't sound like Mr. Trump. They wanted to see the video. So we sent them the video and they watched, then pretty quickly afterward they sent us a statement basically conceding that in fact it was him. And with Trump saying it was locker room talk.

SMERCONISH: Do you think this now puts pressure on NBC for the release of whatever out takes might exist relative to the apprentice?

FAHRENTHOLD: It's actually not NBC's to give. I've learned a lot about Hollywood in the last few weeks. And apparently all the footage belongs with the production company, Mark Burnett, the famous producer of the Apprentice. It's his company and his footage. And so, if anyone going to release it, I think it has to be him. NBC I don't think even owns it.

SMERCONISH: Am I right, David, in saying that NBC was aware of what they had on their hands but you out hustled them? You were able to beat them to the punch? Our own Brian Stelter is reporting that they were going to run a story but probably not until Monday and you forced their hand.

FAHRENTHOLD: I read that, I read that in Brian's story. My contact with them yesterday was I called them to sort of let them know I had it, to ask from comments both from Billy Bush and "Access Hollywood" and heard Billy Bush eventually issued a statement but didn't hear anything on the record from NBC until after the story had published.

SMERCONISH: What shocks me most about this revelation is the very end. I want to show the footage of the very end the way that this ends. And what I'm about to point out doesn't involve profanity. Roll the tape so I can show it to David Fahrenthold.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Here he goes. I'm going to leave you here. Give me my microphone.

TRUMP: OK oh, you're finished?

BUSH: You're my man. Yeah.

TRUMP: Oh, good.

BUSH: I'm going to go do our show.

ARIANNE ZUCKER, ACTRESS: Oh, you want to reset, OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Here is my point, David. He knew he was wearing a microphone. Now, presumably he didn't know it was hot, but he knew that he had that microphone on his lapel. What do you make of that?

FAHRENTHOLD: Oh, you know, obviously he did. Obviously they had mic him up before they arrived on that bus. So, you know, maybe he didn't know the microphone was hot. Maybe he thought that no one would care if he said something like this because he was at that point just a famous guy on television and not a presidential candidate. Yeah. I don't think it was in any way a secret to Donald Trump that his words might be recorded.

SMERCONISH: Some are suiting up in their usual partisan jerseys. Bill O'Reilly last night on Fox News tried to take down your reporting and The Washington Post. I want to roll it and give you the chance to respond. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL OREILLY, FOX NEWS ACHOR, THE O'REILLY FACTOR:: It's worth noting that the Washington Post reporter involve with tape, David Fahrenthold wrote this line in his article, "The tape appears at a time when Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, has sought to make a campaign issue of his opponent's marriage. Trump has criticized former President Bill Clinton for his past infidelity and criticized opponent Hillary Clinton as her husband's enabler."

With all the editors at the Washington Post apparently missed is that most of Mr. Trumps comments about the Clintons came after he was branded a woman hater by his opponent. Also trump refrained from mentioning the marriage in the last debate. Now, it seems to me that any fair-minded news operation would have included those two facts in the article.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: So, I can't even ask this with a straight face. So why didn't report that his man -- that his woman hate it comments all came before he was a candidate?

FAHRENTHOLD: Well, I mean I guess I was interested in that in that paragraph and talking about what Trump has been saying lately, since the first presidential debate. It is Bill O'Reilly said, yeah he didn't mentioned anything about Clinton's marriage or didn't mention very much during the debate, but since then he's made a big deal about how he could have and did not and maybe planned to bring it up later.

So the role of Hillary Clinton's marriage in this campaign I think has really been elevated by Donald Trump and especially in the last couple of weeks after the first debate. So to me that seemed the relevant context here.

SMERCONISH: Final question for David Fahrenthold, you have performed all of this laborious investigative reporting pertaining to the taxes and the foundation. I know that it consumes your time and I'm not dismissing the amount of effort in this story, but you sit back and look at the impact of this versus everything that you've written thus far and you think what?

[09:10:12] FAHRENTHOLD: Well, it actually one builds on the other, you know. I spend a lot of time writing about Trump's charitable giving or lack thereof and his foundation that brought more attention to me and more attention to the post and the great thing about that is the more visibility that I have the more, people come to me with things.

And so, you know, one story builds on the other. I don't think you could have had the story I had yesterday without all the stories that had come before.

SMERCONISH: Thank you so much for being here. I appreciate your time.

FAHRENTHOLD: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: When Trump's P gate hit the fan, polls were already heading south for him both nationally and in most of the swing state. Now his got to deal with this and a do or die debate tomorrow night at Washington University. How will this latest scandal affect him among some critical constituencies and is there anything that he can do to shift the momentum?

Joining me now is Kristen Soltis Anderson a Republican pollster and columnist for the Washington examiner. Kristen, let's talk about some of the fundamentals, constituencies he needs, Republican. That may sound odd, but as you've documented, he runs poorly among Republicans as compared to Hillary among Democrats. What's the impact of this among Republicans?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: One of the big challenges he's going to face is as prominent Republican leaders begin to distance themselves from him further, can he hang on to the 90 percent of Republicans that he needs to go up against the Democrat who's winning 90 percent of her own party?

I suspect there are a lot of folks within the Republican base who will probably stick with Trump no matter what when he said I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and people would still vote for me, we really maybe testing that theory. But not all Republicans feel that way. There a lot who feel that Trump is maybe been legitimized over the last few weeks because since the convention more and more Republican leaders have said look I'm voting for him.

If that tide begins turn and you start so have more and more folks saying, look, I know his in my party but I just can't go there. Do you see more and more of those Republicans staying home or deciding? Look, maybe I actually do have to vote to Hillary Clinton.

SMERCONISH: Well, by way of this illustration Evangelical Christians, you wonder whether they're coming out. They may be for Trump less so now. But I look at the guy Mike Pence and tweeted last night and I was serious. Does he really continue to stand on this ticket? What happens among Evangelical Christians?

ANDERSON: And this I think will depend a lot on whether -- not just what evangelical leaders themselves do already last night a handful of them came out and said, look we this is just the locker room talk as you mentioned, but there are a lot of voters that Trump needs to win beyond just evangelicals on the right.

I mean, there are sort of moderate Republicans that were actually a big part of his base during the primary. They're not as conservative. Ted Cruz wasn't really their flavor. They were open and available to Trump. These are the very sorts of folks that are at the risk peeling off to go to Hillary Clinton. They're reliable voters. They're unlikely to stay home but they could fall on the Clinton's camp would make them as even harder for him.

SMERCONISH: My hunch and I lack your expertise as a pollster and an analyst. But my hunch is that he doesn't get harmed within his real core constituency, white males who lack a college degree, but among women, how in the world do you now grow the tent if you're Donald Trump? ANDERSON: Well so, white voters for Donald Trump, has always been sort of a strong suit for him, but Republicans tend to win white voters regardless of gender and regardless of education level. Donald Trump has really started to run up the score among white men without a college degree. But it's white women with a college degree where for he's loosing.

This is a group that Mitt Romney actually won and Donald Trump is losing by double digits. And so, this is only I think going to further cement his inability to make gains with those groups. And as long as he continues to struggle among white voters overall, brought down by that college educated women group, it's going to be really hard for him to win because of how much he struggles with the Latino and Africans-American communities in his key swing states.

SMERCONISH: The Washington Post printing on a day to day basis and on their website exactly where their race stands in terms of electoral votes. Can we quickly put that up on the screen 323 for her, 215 for him, obviously Kristen that polling does not in compass the 24 hours but give me 30 seconds on the big picture state of the race.

ANDERSON: I think the big picture state of the race right now is that Donald Trump needs to flip, 64 electoral votes that Mitt Romney lost. He needs to pick up a state like Florida 29, which is sort of on the bubble right now. He needs to pick up a state like Ohio which seems somewhat in his camp but of course could fade away, but he would need to really run the table, Ohio, Florida, hang on to North Carolina, pick up a state like Nevada, pick up a state like Iowa and then pick up a state like New Hampshire.

A whole lot of things have to go very right for Donald Trump in order for him to pull this off. Meanwhile, for Hillary Clinton, if she'd so much as wins, Pennsylvania and Nevada, it's kind of lights out for Trump.

SMERCONISH: Do you think -- final question, do you think Trump can establish some level of parody between the P gate as I called and the WikiLeaks release of information the worst of what seems to be her endorsing open borders in some scenario in the future?

[09:15:13] ANDERSON: So as we saw in the debate earlier last week, I think that debate showed they are who we thought they were and these revelations sort of take that to the next level. If you already thought Donald Trump was a jerk, this new revelation make you think that even more. If you already thought that Hillary Clinton was corrupt saying things behind closed doors she doesn't mean, wants open borders.

Gosh, this just put right there in black and white. The stories aren't equivalent in my mind and certainly I think more attention is going to paid to Donald Trump. It's just a better headline. But I'm sure that the Trump campaign ...

SMERCONISH: Me, too.

ANDERSON: ... would be eager to push things over to say, look, we've always said Democrats want open borders and now we've got one saying it.

SMERCONISH: Yeah, I think you're right I think that the Trumpites are going to cry media bias, but I spend the later part of the evening last night looking at those revelations about the WikiLeaks and I don't see the whole record yet but parody no, not between that and what we're talking about. Kristen Soltis Anderson, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: So what do you think? Tweet me @smerconish. I read later in the program still to come. So, how do you defend this? Several Republicans may be contacting the witness protection program, but we found a pair of Trump supporters willing to offer him a defense.

And, there's a debate tomorrow night. How does he prepare? How does he get ready in light of all of this?

Plus, the 15-year-old girl asked the perfect softball question for Hillary Clinton. Was she a plant? Lots of people said so without asking her or her state senator father, but they are first here for their initial interview.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:20:49] SMERCONISH: Hey, I said I thought Donald Trump was toast back in July of 2015 when he disparaged war hero John McCain and so did many others but until yesterday, Donald Trump's candidacy, it was Teflon. No outrageous act or statement ever under cut his support. If you recall he bragged about this in January in typically shocking fashion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The people, my people are so smart and you know what else they say about my people, the polls, they say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters. OK? It's like incredible.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Well, now he is putting that theory to the test. The release of the video exposing his lewd sexually aggressive remarks about hitting married women and groping women because he's famous came out when his polls were already dropping. He already been in trouble with women because of comments about a former miss universe and he's supposed to propping for tomorrow night's debate.

For the defense, joining me now, CNN Political commentator and Political editor of Rightalerts.com and Trump supporter, Scottie Nell Hughes and Crystal Wright, editor and blogger of conservativeblackchick.com.

Scottie, why put your credibility on the line right now in this scenario? Why not draw a line in the sand and say, you know, he's not what I thought he was what I hoped he would be. I'm really unsettled about Hillary as a president but I can't go any further, I can't come on a show like this and defend him?

SCOTTIE NELL HUGHES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, because Donald Trump 11 years ago might have said some very vocal words that I do not approve of and when then no way defend. But Hillary Clinton is a two faced liar and time and time again her actions have shown me that I do not think she's the person that needs to be at the top of that, you know, in White House right now making decisions, controlling the finances of our country and more importantly will be able to protect our family as we continue to go in this very advanced society that we live in.

SMERCONISH: OK, Crystal, then what I'm hearing is here is what she's saying and what I think a lot of Trump supporters are saying. It doesn't matter what he does. It doesn't matter what he says. The thought of Hillary being president is so abhorrent I am hitching myself to his wagon regardless. Is that it?

CRYSTAL WRIGHT, BLOGGER, CONSERVATIVEBLACKCHICK.COM.: No, I don't think that's exactly it. I don't think it's that black and white. I think it does matter what, Donald Trump said and as I tweeted yesterday, I think this is the death nail in his campaign. It's coming at a very bad time. I am not going to vote for Hillary Clinton because I do not think her policies are going to advance America in the right direction nor do I think she's a champion of women because of her relationship with her husband. That is separate and apart from Donald Trump.

The problem with Donald Trump, the reason why this comment is a punctuation mark on the narrative that he hates women is because isolated incident after isolated incident we find Donald Trump saying awful things about women.

Now, I'm able to look at those events and not say that that's the totality of the man. But as you pointed out, Michael, it comes off the heels where he wanted to get down in the mud at the debate with Hillary Clinton and defend well, he didn't defend it until afterwards but defend comments he made about a miss universe being fat.

Now, beauty pageants are based on looks, right? But he should of -- what Donald Trump cannot do is pivot away from this nonsense and talk about policies. And unfortunately, I think this is coming in the ninth inning. I'm not happy about it. I will not vote for her, but in many ways it looks to me like the race is over. I don't know.

SMERCONISH: I mean, it's not a one-off. If it were a one-off, if it were some ice -- I'm going to show you what happened on this show last Saturday just to prove it's not a one-off because there have been incident after incident over a long period of time that suggests, look, this is the core of the man.

Watch this Jennifer Lin a reporter of three decades for the Philadelphia Inquirer talking about Donald Trump calling her on the phone. Roll it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER LIN, FORMER PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: I was working in the Wall Street office at the Philadelphia Inquirer and I got phone call, the woman said hold for Mr. Trump and then Mr. Trump began to yell at me.

[09:25:02] He told me I had shit for brains. He told me I worked for a shitty newspaper and he said what sort of shit was I writing? Then he added and referred to me as the C word.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: I mean, Scottie, in this case it's not just the words, right? Stick and stones may break my bones. But in this case he's advocating sexual assault in that locker room banter with Billy Bush.

HUGHES: And this all happening 35 days from the election of 33 days (ph). You know, this is horrible. These actions are absolutely horrible and I would no in no way promote them. Or think that there are good things. However, we are 30 days out of an election.

If these were so bad, these women should have come forth over the past year and a half or when the assaults actually happened. But no, they're waiting till now and that's what makes it so convenient. I think for Hillary Clinton camp and why many people are accusing Clinton camp having collaboration with some of the members of the media as WikiLeaks and some of the e-mails have proven. To get these stories out there and it's not fair to the American people because this is distracting from e policies.

Trust me, there's nothing more than -- I think Donald Trump or any person, any surrogate or anyone with this campaign right now would like to be talking about but policies. But we're not because once again, this drama has been unleashed that distracts from the real issues they're facing Americans everyday.

WRIGHT: But Scottie, in all fairness, this is an election for the presidency of the United States of America. Donald Trump should have anticipated this. This shows his weakness that he's had a weakness all along. It's his Achilles heel, it's called discipline. And you know what, I don't feel sorry for our guy right now. He, you know, he has moments where he has shown leadership. He went to church in Detroit. He said, hey, guys, I'm here to listen and learn. I want the black vote.

He went into Philadelphia asking for the black vote. Why can't he stick to issues like you said. But, you know what, no. Yeah, of course its coordination between Hillary and the media like Trump is coordinating with Fox News that media channel. And, you know what it's an election. It's dirty. I don't approve of it but he should anticipate it.

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: And ladies, wait guys, give me the final word. Even if it were a media Kabul (ph), respond, I don't believe that responsible for the attention of this. If my father when he was guidance councilor has sign in his office and it's said kick the person responsible for your problems and you won't sit down for a week.

WRIGHT: Right.

SMERCONISH: It all began with him. If he hadn't said these things we wouldn't be here discussing it. Scottie Nell Hughes and Crystal Wright, thank you.

I wish I had more time, gang. I don't, so many things going on today. How will this play in tomorrow night's debate? Might his strategy be the trying to establish parody between his words and those WikiLeak Hillary speeches?

Here is a tweet from one of you. What is -- let see, Smerconish, as a news person you and CNN have an obligation to discuss Hillary's deleted e-mails newly released by the FBI State Department.

Hey I'm the one who has interviewed Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton and Cash. I've been all over that story. I'm ignoring nothing, but this is the story of the day. That's where we are right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:32:22] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump's videotape apology issued late last night was significant for many reasons, not the least of which was the way that it closed. Here's what Trump said --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've said some foolish things, but there's a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims. We will discuss this more in the coming days. See you at the debate on Sunday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: So that sounds like he intends to defend his own misconduct by discussing Bill. Is that a winning debate strategy or will it back-fire?

Joining me now two stellar debate experts: John Donvan is the debate moderator for Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates. Todd Graham is the director of debate at Southern Illinois University. His teams have won five national championships and advanced to the final four nine consecutive years and he's been recognized three times as the national debate coach of the year.

John Donvan, a preliminary question, this has to be confronted at the start of this debate tomorrow night, wouldn't you agree? They don't have opening statements, but if you were moderating, like you do in Intelligence Squared, wouldn't you deal with it initially?

JOHN DONVAN, DEBATE MODERATOR, INTELLIGENCE SQUARED U.S. DEBATES: I think it's absolutely top of mind. I think, in fact, probably it's possible that more people will watch this debate even in the first one, which would be unprecedented. And there's no way that either Anderson Cooper or Martha Raddatz, whoever goes first, is not going to be able to put that question to Donald Trump. The question is, what's the question to Hillary Clinton?

SMERCONISH: Todd, Donald Trump suggested at the end of that videotaped apology that he's going there. Is that a wise strategy?

TODD GRAHAM, DEBATE DIRECTOR, SOUTH ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY: That's a terrible debate strategy. This is something that could only paint Hillary Clinton in a more positive and empathetic light. Listen, Hillary Clinton doesn't get a lot of empathy from people, but if Donald Trump thinks that his latest troubles should be painted toward Hillary Clinton in some way, then I think that's a horrible mistake. He'll be sealing his own fate.

SMERCONISH: But, John, you know, to his stalwarts, they love the argument that she is an enabler, she was dismissive or worse of the women that Bill had relationships with. I think he's being encouraged to play that card. He's been threatening that for a long time.

DONVAN: Yes, that doesn't take into account what's going to happen on Sunday night. This is the town hall format of debate, which interestingly enough was initiated at the request of Bill Clinton back in 1992.

This is a debate where members of the public, undecided voters are on the stage asking questions of the candidates. They're not really a debate thing. They're interviewing the candidates one after the other and we're going to see their faces, unlike the other debates.

[09:35:02] We're going to see how they react and these regular citizens who are undecided are not there to provoke an argument, a soap opera kind of argument about marital infidelities in one marriage or the other, they're there with really serious concerns we can already see the questions that they're lining up to ask, things like what happens to Social Security.

And if Donald Trump comes out wanting to use the opportunity to soil the conversation with the discussion of marital infidelity, I don't think this will work with this particular $ group of voters and I think $, we'll see it on their faces and it's going to hurt Donald Trump.

SMERCONISH: So, Todd, you think it's a mistake if he is to play, I call it the Bill card. How about the WikiLeaks release? How about relying on the fact that as per the WikiLeaks information she delivered speeches to Wall Street, including her embracing some concept of open borders in the future?

GRAHAM: Sure. But you don't bring them up at the same time, right? Donald Trump has a lot of problem with false equivalency. So, he shouldn't say why don't you ask about this? He needs to -- if the topic of his discussions and what he's talked about in the last day, in that leak comes up, then he just has to apologize and move on. But later in the debate, when other topics come up, yes, he should talk, right? One of his mainstays is to talk about free trade, another mainstay is terrorism and how our borders are too open. All of that is fair game with what just came out in WikiLeaks.

But you have to do it one thing at a time. He can't try to mesh those two ideas together.

SMERCONISH: Hey, John, yours is Oxford style debating and what I love about it is you vote at the outset of the debate and then you vote again when the debate has ended and the key here to declaring victory is who changed the most minds. Here's my question, are any minds up to be changed tomorrow night?

DONVAN: Yes, the minds of the 40 people who are on stage selected by the Gallup organization because they are undecided. Those people are brave to be put into this situation. They are nervous. They are working on their questions. They're wondering if they're going to be called on.

And more importantly, they're coming within the past they've come with questions like, how do I know you'll keep your promises? Or will my Social Security still be there or not?

These people are really looking to -- for help in making up their minds. So, yes, they are there to be persuaded and they'll be listening. And by proxy, perhaps people out there who will be listening I'm sure now by the tens of millions may also be persuaded.

I think tomorrow night may be -- again, I'm not going to call it a debate. It's an interview. I think it's the most important interview in the careers of either of these candidates.

SMERCONISH: Hey, Todd, final question. When you remove that podium, you know, you're exposing the candidates. Speak to the dynamic of not being able to shield yourself.

GRAHAM: Yes. Let me talk about the power of momentum, too. I think John is right, but the people at home, if Hillary Clinton wins this debate, given how momentum is going, because I coach debates all the time and momentum happens in debates, then I think that there can be even more voters swayed because once -- if Donald Trump loses two debates badly, there's no way he's going to be able to get as many independent votes as he needs.

Now, in this debate, you have to practice standing up and moving around just like you would in the real debate. This is almost like a theater in the round. And if you haven't practiced it, you end up looking very awkward. You have moments like Al Gore did when he tried to man up against W. and that didn't work out too good. You have moments like McCain when he wandered around and spun around looking for a missing toddler.

You honesty have to practice this. You can't just expect you'll be good at it. SMERCONISH: Todd Graham, thank you. As you say it yourself, I'm John

Donvan. Hey, John, congrats on your book, by the way, "In A Different Key: The Story of Autism".

DONVAN: Thank you, Mike.

SMERCONISH: I appreciate both of you being here.

So, keep your tweets coming to me @Smerconish.

Up next, she asked a very timely question about Donald Trump's treatment of women, so good that some thought it was a little too timely and wondered if Hillary had set the whole thing up. My exclusive interview with 15-year-old Brennan Leach and her father Dylan, a Democratic state senator from Pennsylvania, is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:43:17] SMERCONISH: Was it an amazing campaign moment or merely planned stage craft?

At a Hillary Clinton event in suburban Philadelphia, a teenage girl in the audience asked the perfect question to highlight Donald Trump's mistreatment of women. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRENNAN LEACH, ASKED HILLARY CLINTON QUESTION DURING PA FAMILY TOWN HALL: Hi, Madam Secretary. I'm Brennan and I'm 15 years old. At my school, body image is a really big issue for girls my age. I see with my own eyes the damage Donald Trump does when he talks about women and how they look. As the first female president, how would you undo some of that damage and help some girls understand that they are so much more than what they look like?

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, thank you. Thank you!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: So, the exchange got picked up everywhere, including the "New York Times", which identified the girl as the daughter of a Democratic Pennsylvania state representative. He's a state senator. And said that he had helped shape the question but didn't name him or see a reason to further connect the dots.

Well, as you can well imagine, plenty of media outlet took that fact and they ran with it. They accused the state senator, Daylin Leach, and his daughter Brennan of being paid plants, something that the Clinton campaign has been accused of in the past.

Matter of fact, here is Megyn Kelly's take.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR, THE KELLY FILE: New questions about whether or not the Clinton campaign may be planting questions at her events.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Little editorializing there with the facial expression. The outrage and backlash overwhelmed the original story, and all but obliterated his actual content, part of the endless inside politics narratives that turned the whole process into a circus, but here is the thing. Everybody did this without ever asking the girl or her father.

So, I'm about to rectify that. Joining me now is Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach and his 15-year-old daughter Brennan.

Brennan, are you an actress?

B. LEACH: Look, if you consider a couple school plays and a video from my friend's mom acting, then, yes, I love theater. I've been passionate about it since a little kid.

But in no way was I approached by Hillary's campaign or asked to ask a question. She did not know I was going to ask a question. She didn't know what I was going to say at all. I mean, it was by chance. Unfortunately, I had never met Elizabeth Banks either. So completely unrelated and I've never been involved in both at the same time.

SMERCONISH: Did dad write it for you? Did he prod you in any way?

B. LEACH: Not at all. I mean, this is an issue that's really important to me. Body image is something that's really relevant to girls my age, and when a public icon like Donald Trump is calling women fat and ugly pigs and, you know, judging them only based off of how they look, it really does affect us.

So, I wanted to write this question. I came up with it. Obviously, if you think you're going to speak in front of the future president, you have your parents look over it and help you edit it. I practiced it a couple times.

And -- I mean, he definitely helped me sort of compose myself and fix my wording but other than that, it was my idea and I came up my own.

SMERCONISH: Daylin, the fact that she was able to ask the first question is causing some people to say, well, the whole thing must have been a setup.

DAYLIN LEACH (D), PENNSYLVANIA STATE SENATOR: Well, what happened is, you this, they open it u for question often people are reluctant to raise their hands.

The first question is sort of awkward. Once a number of people have asked questions, you have 20, 30 people at a time raising hands. She opened it up. Brennan raised her hand a little bit. She was the only one to raise her hand. Actually my wife Jennifer took her elbow and raised it a little higher.

Elizabeth Banks we were sitting in the front row in a special section for elected officials. I wasn't even sitting next to her and Elizabeth Banks called on her simply because she raised her hand. There was no grand conspiracy here.

B. LEACH: Uh-huh.

SMERCONISH: Well, you know that this week, there were revelations that Steve Harvey had shared his questions with her in advance, with Secretary Clinton in advance. So, it perpetuates this whole idea of what we view and think, Daylin, is spontaneous often is not the case. You can see how this story got caught up in this narrative.

D. LEACH: Well, yes. But I mean, I wish people like Megyn Kelly and others, it's mostly been the right wing media would have at least fact checked. Done journalism 101. Called us and asked us about this because there was no planting.

There's all kinds of stuff in crazy media outlets about how, you know, we were paid and all that sort of thing. None of that is remotely true. This was a spontaneous question from a girl who cares deeply about an issue and that's all it was. And, you know, basic journalism would have uncovered that. Snopes, which investigates rumors like this, did investigate this wasn't a plant.

But we have been getting so much sort of outright hate from Trump supporters. I've gotten over 30,000 Twitter messages, all kinds of stuff on Facebook, threats, really horrific suggestions about Brennan -- I mean, you know, at some point human decency should take over.

SMERCONISH: Hey, Brennan, quick final question on a very serious subject, not that this isn't. But I know you lost a friend and that was part of your mindset in fashioning this question. Speak to that.

B. LEACH: Well, you know, it's not my place to sort of talk about that and who that person was. I was not authorized to do that.

But, yes, I mean, it's not just me. It's not just my experience. When I asked that question, I was speaking on behalf of middle and high schoolers all over the country. You know, it really does damage us. It's our most insecure time in life.

And to have someone that we're supposed to look up to be insulting women and as you saw on the tapes today really just brutal harassment, it's horrible and it really -- it does trickle to us.

I don't think a lot of adults realize how much it affects their kids and the younger generation.

So, a lot of the other issues don't affect me, by I know this issue is really important and it's not talked about as much as it should be. So, talking to Hillary was really important to me and I'm really glad I got the opportunity.

SMERCONISH: Brennan and Daylin Leach -- thank you so much for being here.

D. LEACH: Thank you.

B. LEACH: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best and worst tweets.

And one of my own, like this one -- let's take a look here. Hey, it's his private life, remember Bill and Monica? Liberal hypocrisy.

Bill is not on the line this year. Donald Trump is. I mean, Bill's stuff was all relevant at the time. I'll grant you that for sure.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:54:03] SMERCONISH: Hey, please follow me on Twitter @Smerconish. Now, before I get to your tweets. I want to show you mine from yesterday. Right when this news of Trump broke, our biggest concern had been Hurricane Matthew heading to southeast. So, I tweeted, "Breaking, Hurricane Matthew downgraded to category 2. Meanwhile, Hurricane Donald Trump now a hurricane 5."

Well, last night, Bill Maher channeling my thinking. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL MAHER, HBO HOST, REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER: Looks like we dodged a bullet a little bit with that storm. However, with Donald Trump talking about women, it's -- it has been upgraded to a category five (EXPLETIVE DELETED) storm.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: I think I deserve a writer's credit for that, Bill.

Here's what some of you thought of this week's program. Let's check out the tweets. I don't see them in advance.

"Smerconish, bull blank. With you, the story of the day is always trashing Trump, only on the Clinton network."

No, sir. I'm sorry. He's the guy who keeps playing all the hits.

[09:55:01] I mean, if he'd stop generating this kind of material, believe me, I'd be spending more time on the WikiLeaks release.

Show me another one.

"Smerconish, one segment against Trump, one against Clinton. Guess I'm stuck in the middle with you."

It's so funny that you would say that, because people see what they want to see in this program. And I will get tweets at the end of the show, like every other week from people from the left who say, you're in the tank from Trump, and people in the right who will say, you did it again for Hillary. And I just can't win, which is just fine with me.

Time for one more, put it up on the screen. Let's see what it is. I love this part of the show.

"Your dad was a smart man, the phrase not sitting down is going up in my office" -- yes, the phrase, again, by the way, and I have this mental image of it having in my dad's office at a junior high school. Kick the person responsible for your troubles and you won't sit down for a week.

I wonder if he still has it. I'm going to ask him.

I will see you as part of the debate coverage tomorrow night in St. Louis and back here next Saturday. Have a good week.