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SMERCONISH

Race For The White House; Death Penalty, Pot and Condoms; Does 2008 Video Show Philly Voter Intimidation? Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 5, 2016 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So nice to be with you tonight. Let me toss it over now to my friend, Michael Smerconish, live in Washington with "Smerconish"

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, SMERCONISH SHOW: I'm Michael Smerconish. We are live for the special preelection broadcast from our nation's capital which will have a new leader elected in just three days. We welcome our viewers from across America and around the world.

A whopping 40 million early votes already in. They're been long lines at polls and swing states like North Carolina. What can we learn from those who've already voted and on Tuesday night, we'll have a winner and loser. Both caps will have their parties in Midtown Manhattan, only a mile and a half apart. I wound if each is preparing two speeches.

Plus, what else besides the president, Senate and Congress is up for grabs? How about pot, the death penalty, even condoms for porn starts? All will be decided on Tuesday.

And you watched us this together for a dozen or so election lights. We spent two full weeks together for the conventions in Cleveland and in Philadelphia. We covered all four debates together.

Finally now, Nia-Malika Henderson, Gloria Borger and David Axelrod are here with me on my program.

But first, I said something earlier today which provoke a strong reaction my view hasn't changed. In fact, I think it needs to be said again. It used to be that elections were an end point. Someone celebrated another licked their wounds and the nation moved forward. Thinks have changed.

If you know that we lived in polarized times with many causes and well-known milestones, one among them was eight years ago when at the time, President Obama's inauguration was taking place, Senator Mitch McConnell, now the majority leader implored his fellow Republicans that "the single most important thing that want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one term president."

Partisan competition, that's healthy. Democracy depends upon it. But this ushered in an ugly era of vitriol and obstructionism that went from beyond trying to defeat someone at the ballot box. And now, even before this election has ended, there are troubling signs that things are about to get even worse.

Paul Waldman summarized the developments in yesterday's Washington Post including that a difference of opinion within the FBI and Justice Department may have grown so bitter that Federal agents are willing to leak information to the press to try to undermine Clinton's campaigns in the final days.

Also the e-mail case has not been "reopened" by the FBI as mischaracterized by some politicians and media outlets, and yet that's not stopping some Republicans from already calling for her impeachment should she be elected.

We also may have ignoring that a presumed foreign hostile actor has hacked American computer systems in an effort to influence our election just so long as the spoils suit their political objectives. And we haven't had nine Supreme Court justices since the passing of Antonin Scalia nine long months ago but there are GOP leaders now saying they'd rather leave the seat vacant than a seat to a Clinton pick. Each of these goes beyond election hyperbolae. And we need to stop this. The nation cannot afford more disharmony.

So, let's finish it fair and square and then embrace President Trump or President Clinton and move forward in the name of national unity. I've said before that for far too long, the largest number of us have allowed our views to be muted by the loudest voices, it's important we not let them take us down that road for another four years. Hopefully the candidates will provide leadership that heals regardless of which is the victor.

And now, with three days until the election, everyone is growing anxious who will achieve 270. Here's what it looks like in the very latest electoral map. Hillary Clinton has 268 just has shy of the 270 electoral votes needed, Donald Trump at 204 with 66 up for grabs with 40 million people voting early.

As of this most recent tally, what are the early voting numbers telling us about the state of the race? Joining me now is Michael McDonald. He's the founder of the Elections Project and associate professor at the University of Florida. He's an expert in early voting. Forty million sounds huge, how does it compare to where we were at this stage in 2012?

MICHAEL MCDONALD, FOUNDER, ELECTIONS PROJECT: You know, it's even bigger in a lot of states after that have early voting. So, in some states like Nevada and Colorado, we've already seen maybe 75 percent of the vote already been cast in those states. We've seen 26 states across the country break their 2012 records on early voting. People are out there, they're voting and it's going to make a difference, of course, in the election.

[18:05:00] SMERCONISH: Professor, does early voting necessarily mean more voting? When all this said and done because we've opened the poll sooner, do more go and exercise the franchise?

MCDONALD: It's a good question. I think it has a small effect on overall turnout. And if we look at the numbers that we're seeing right now with record numbers in many states, it probably means, yes, there's some people who are going to vote on Election Day, they voted early, but it also probably means that Election Day turned out it's going to be up as well.

SMERCONISH: One more general question then we'll talk specific data. Does one party seem to benefit more than the other from this trend toward early voting?

MCDONALD: It's the campaign that's organized that can take advantage of the extended campaign period, that's the campaign that can take advantage of early voting. And there's clearly one campaign that has a better organization than the other when it comes to mobilizing their voters.

SMERCONISH: Secretary Clinton, I take it.

MCDONALD: Absolutely.

SMERCONISH: OK. Read the tea leaves, give me specifics, talk about the battleground states, and tell me what you see.

MCDONALD: We'll start with that CNN map.

SMERCONISH: OK.

MCDONALD: You had Nevada shaded as a yellow state, the toss-up state. That's not what it's looking like from the early voting. Again, 75 percent of the votes already in, the Democrats have a lead of about 6 percentage points in party registration in that early vote. That's about the same that Obama had in 2012 when he won the state by almost 7 percentage points. So, most likely then, as we look at those numbers, it seems like Clinton is very well positioned to take Nevada.

Another very good state for Clinton as well at this point in time at the moment, Colorado. Over one and a half million votes in. Again, that's close to 75 percent of the votes, are going to be cast in the state and we see the Democrats with a 1 percentage point advantage.

Now, in Colorado they changed their law, so we don't have a good baseline from previous elections. We have to look back to 2014. 2014 was the first election they held under this system. The Republicans had a 7-point advantage in party registration and they split the governor and Senate race in the election by narrow margins. So I think the Republicans need about 7 percentage points.

SMERCONISH: OK. So far it sounds like it's going well for Secretary Clinton. If I'm Donald Trump, what can I look at that map and be optimistic about?

MCDONALD: Right. I mean, we started with the states that are good for Clinton.

SMERCONISH: Right.

MCDONALD: Now let's talk about some states that are good for Donald Trump. There's been persistent weakness in the Midwest and the polling numbers for Clinton that's showing also up in the early votes. So in places like Iowa and Ohio where we have good baseline data to look back in time, we can see this weakness explains I think in part why we're seeing these very tight poll numbers in Iowa and Ohio.

I think Iowa is probably the best blue state that Trump has to flip to the Republican column in this election. Two other states it's going to be real close in North Carolina and Florida, lot of things have changed there. And the laws have changed and the way in which people are voting are changed. And just looking at some of the data, I just think that those states are going to come down the wire.

SMERCONISH: OK. So you're not able looking at North Carolina or Florida because Florida in particular we keep reporting has had this huge turnout, but your low (ph) that your home state to draw any significant finding from either of those?

MCDONALD: It just looks very close. And the Democrats have a slight advantage in early vote in 2012. That's going to be narrower this time around. But we've also probably at the end of the day we're going to have 2.5 million more people vote early in Florida that's a lot to do with some changes of the laws and so we've converted some election day votes to early voters, election days where Republicans do well, so some of those voters are not voting early, that's why the Democratic margin is narrower.

SMERCONISH: One other aspect to this, it's a very unusual cycle. Talk about strange bed fellows, we're seeing that play itself out each and every day of the campaign. So you're able to tell us how many Republicans have voted thus far, how many Democrats have come thus far and voted thus far? But we should not fall into the trap of believing and therefore they're voting for her and this group is voting for him.

MCDONALD: Absolutely. We're looking at the polls. We know that a registered Democrat is very likely to vote for Clinton, a registered Republican is very likely to vote for Trump. We have some idea about the unaffiliated. In the past they've broken towards the Democrats. That may be different this time around but the polling and other data that we can look at demographics of those people, we suspect that they're going to break towards the Democrats. So, I mean, we're not going to know until the election officials open up those envelopes and start counting those votes how the election is actually going to play out.

SMERCONISH: OK. Having said that and with all the caveats, it's now the Saturday night before the Tuesday election finale. Professor Michael McDonald, if you had to be one of them, electorally speaking based on this information, which would you rather be?

MCDONALD: Much rather be Clinton because Clinton's -- if we put Nevada and Colorado and I think also, you know, state like Virginia which is on your map as well, then Donald Trump's got to run every battleground state and he's going to pick a blue state, learning state, in order to win the electoral college. That's a very difficult task. He's got a poll that inside strait in order to win the election. SMERCONISH: Thank you for being here. This is your niche. You can have -- You've owned this for this election cycle, so I'm thrilled to have you here tonight.

MCDONALD: My pleasure.

[18:10:03] SMERCONISH: Professor Michael McDonald. Now, to discuss this and more, I invited my CNN compatriots throughout this grueling campaign, we share the table of primaries and caucuses and conventions and debates. And finally, they are in the -- it took a lot to get the three of you here --

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Let me say on behalf of my colleagues, we are so gratified that you finally got to invite us here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To invite us on. Yes.

AXELROD: We've been talking about this. We didn't know why --

(CROSSTALK)

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: We're talking about you not inviting us.

SMERCONISH: -- social calendar.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: That's totally. But you know you're on my turf here. And this is the view I have.

AXELROD: That's Gloria's backyard.

SMERCONISH: David, it used to be yours.

AXELROD: Yes.

SMERCONISH: It's more complicated, right, than just bringing out ours and bringing out (INAUDIBLE).

DAVID AXELROD: Yes.

SMERCONISH: Because, you know, if you're the Trump campaign, you can easily bringing out some suburban or --

AXELROD: Well, I think this is interesting because the Trump organization has no real get-out-of-the-vote operation. They're depending on the Republican Party. And the Republican Party as we've heard from Sean Spicer has an analytics operation but it's geared toward bringing out Republicans. It's not keyed toward bringing out Trump voters. So there's no way of knowing really -- and the main they'll be pulling out Trump voters but not entirely. And so it's a much more in precise kind of exercise for them.

The Clinton campaign have been ID'ing Clinton voters and profiling voters and developing a model of the Clinton voter for a year and half. And this is -- it's all for this, to try and eke out a point or two difference in some of these close battleground states. SMERCONISH: Nia, I think you'd almost rather know the gender, maybe the ethnicity.

HENDERSON: Yes, yes.

SMERCONISH: And how about this, the education?

HENDERSON: Yes, yes. Because that is all about what the Clinton coalition looks like. I mean, they think the Clinton coalition is basically college-educated whites, particularly college-educated white women, Latinos, millennials and African-Americans. And some of the data, you can see some of the data in terms of African-Americans voting in North Carolina. It seems to be a little softer than it was last go-around. And some of that probably has to do with fewer polling stations that are increasingly coming online. And then in Florida, I talked to some Democrats and they feel really good about the early voting numbers among Latinos.

AXELROD: Yes.

HENDERSON: And this could be a real record year in terms of that turnout among Latinos.

BORGER: Here's the interesting thing for the Republican National Committee. And they've done a fabulous job over the last four years when they got their clock cleaned on the data analytics. And now they're very much up to speed. But they have a Sophie's choice sometimes. Because if you're in the state of Florida, for example, and you want to get out Trump voters, those voters may not necessarily match with Marco Rubio voters.

Marco Rubio voters may decide to split their ticket and they may decide, OK, I'm going to go for Rubio but I'm also going to go for Hillary Clinton or I'm certainly not going to for Donald Trump. So while they are getting out that vote, you haven't seen this unity the way you have on the Democratic side with all the Senate candidates out there. They presume it's just a straight lever and that you go down the line. That is not the case in the Republican Party right now, which makes their get-out-the-vote effort a lot more complicated.

SMERCONISH: David, you remember the autopsy from the last cycle, right?

AXELROD: Yes, I did. Yes.

SMERCONISH: And you wonder how many of those lessons have yet to be grasped.

AXELROD: Well, I think the Republican National Committee leadership grasp those lessons. The question is did the nominee of the party, and the answer is no. I mean, the conclusions of that autopsy of the last campaign where we have to do better with Hispanics, young people, and women, well, how's that project going? It's not --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. AXELROD: You know, it's not good. And that's why you see some of these numbers in Florida, for example, and we've discussed this. There is a -- There has been a real burst of Hispanic registration and voting. A lot of those registrants have no party affiliation and so Democrats are looking at those non-party -- which is up 3% non-party affiliated voters as part of the whole, and they're thinking, that's good news for us because a lot of these are Hispanic voters who are coming -- they're not coming out to vote for Donald Trump.

SMERCONISH: (INAUDIBLE) what?

HENDERSON: I think the other theory of the 2012 campaign was that six million white voters stayed home, right? And that seems to be the play that Donald Trump is making that he can make the electorate look a little different, a little whiter and we'll see what happens.

AXELROD: But there's nothing a registration or --

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: -- that would suggest that there's this big flood.

BORGER: They are banking on the fact that there is this hidden electorate --

HENDERSON: Yes.

BORGER: -- out there that somehow we have not counted --

HENDERSON: Yes.

BORGER: -- or looked at or found before this.

AXELROD: So let me posit something to the group here. Is it possible that we're looking at this the wrong way and that there's actually a hidden Clinton vote?

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: Is it harder that the --

UNDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that's exactly right, yes.

AXELROD: If you think of some of the Republican areas in Pennsylvania and, you know, in the suburbs of Milwaukee and so on, it seems to me it's harder to declare yourself a Hillary Clinton voter in some of those areas than it is to declare yourself a Trump voter.

SMERCONISH: That's why they have curtains on ballot booths, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

SMERCONISH: The three of you are sticking around.

HENDERSON: Yes.

SMERCONISH: I'm not letting you go --

AXELROD: All right.

SMERCONISH: -- because I finally got you here. It's taking so long.

BORGER: The band is back together.

SMERCONISH: David Axelrod, Gloria Borger, Nia-Malika Henderson, thank you. They will be sticking around for this entire special hour.

[18:15:11] Coming up next, like Van Halen, like the hula hoop, things that they get in California, they often lead the way for the nation. Will some of their ballot issues do the same? Condom for porn stars, legalized recreational marijuana, banning the death penalty? We'll go there next. Tweet me at @smerconish during the course of the program. I hate you but I love you, mostly love, except for the hating. I think I'll take it. I don't know what to make of that.

AXELROD: That's not your wife, isn't it?

SMERCONISH: No.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Well, we've all been understandably obsessing over the presidential race and the balance of power in Congress and the Supreme Court, several wide-ranging referendums will also confront voters in ballot boxes on Tuesday.

[18:20:00] Topics range from raising ages on judges, pretty timely since our two presidential candidates are 69 and 70 and not a lot of debate about their ages.

Further bans on the death penalty, wider use of medical marijuana and recreational marijuana and from the always forward-thinking state of California requiring porn actors to use condoms. Joining me now, Christina Bellantoni, the L.A. Times assistant managing editor for politics who writes the daily newsletter called "Essential Politics", which by the way is terrific. Christina, 17 different ballot initiatives. It's going to take a while for California voters to just wade through that ballot.

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR FOR POLITICS, LA TIMESMERCONISH: Yes, the voter guide was 227 pages weighed almost a pound.

SMERCONISH: Wow.

BELLANTONI: This is a major ballot. It's based in part because to get a ballot measure on the ballot, you have to collect signatures and the numbers of signatures you have to collect was lower because turnout was so low in the last election statewide.

SMERCONISH: We could be here a while, Tuesday night waiting for California because of the time it'll take folks to vote. So, recreational pot, I think many will be surprised to know that California doesn't yet have this. It seems likely to pass, right?

BELLANTONI: Yes. In fact California has rejected it before. Our poll that we just took this week, we released this week, is showing its overwhelmingly favored to passed 58 percent of voters, likely voters said that they would vote for it. That's led mostly by younger voters but really across all barriers of demographics. And it's also for many people it's not about, oh, now I can go smoke pot. It's an economic argument. They like the idea that California will be able to tax and regulate it. Right now medical marijuana is legal.

SMERCONISH: The revenue, sure.

BELLANTONI: Yes. And so recreational use --

SMERCONISH: The number of states --

BELLANTONI: -- will be legal at midnight.

SMERCONISH: The number of states who look for that party midnight, Tuesday night, the number of states opposing the death penalty could reach 21. California interestingly has one ballot initiative saying let's speed up the appellate process and keep it and another that would get rid of it. How do you think that's going to go?

BELLANTONI: It looks like both will fail. We've done a lot of explorations of the constitutional issues if one passes and one fails and, you know, what happens if they both pass. But it looks like both are going to go down. The first one would effectively replace it with life in prison without parole. More than 700 people in California is on death row. I think it's one of the most costly things in California is keeping people on death row and the system is really flawed but there's just not enough support of it because so many people have deeply held values when it comes to this.

At the same time, the criminal justice system, a lot of people don't have that much faith in it. So the speeding up executions, that has even less support and looks like it will not pass. But it's a complicated question for a lot of people and you've seen a lot being weighed on it.

SMERCONISH: The condom initiative, no pun intended. Is that all about jobs? I understand that the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are united against it?

BELLANTONI: Yes, there's a lot of debate on this one. So Los Angeles County in 2012 made this a requirement that you would have to wear a condom in an adult film and there are some other regulations on it. Proponents say it decreases STDs, it just makes a lot safer of a system. But what we saw happen after 2012, was many, many pornography makers let Los Angeles County. They just went to next door county because for them it was less of an issue and they say that it really inhibits their business.

So the big fear from a lot of businesses and from these parties is that you're going to see the porn industry completely leave California entirely. So it's got a lot of opposition. It is favored to pass but maybe could be close to one that we're going to watching very closely on election night to see what happens. Because the economic arguments, you know, are fairly strong out there. There have been a lot of editorial boards that have come out against it saying it's like pretty infringing on people's free speech effectively. But then at the same time, it seems logical and we preach safe sex in many other circumstances so why not in an industry where sex is the business.

SMERCONISH: Not all the fun is in California. Maine has a ballot question that could bring ranked voting much like they used in the Oscars, the Academy Awards. Say something about that.

BELLANTONI: Yes, this is really interesting. It's effectively like an instant runoff. So when you went to the polls you would -- maybe if you have 10 candidates, you would rank your top five candidates. And the candidate who comes in fifth would drop off and then anyone who had that candidate as their first choice, it would automatically go down to their second choice would then become their first choice.

So, it's this instant runoff system. There's a lot of opposition people saying that it's susceptible to hacking that it's not really fair but in Maine in particular, this is an important issue because you've seen three major candidates on a ballot for two governors races in a row that ended up with Paula Page. Even though he wasn't supported by the majority of voters, he just had the most votes because there was an independent candidate that sort of split the Democratic vote there. So, it will be a really interesting if that one passes it. It could change a lot in many states and California our top two primary system voters approved several years ago. And it has made a really big difference in the way that we conduct elections.

[18:25:07] SMERCONISH: Christina, final word. I find it interesting that two states, my own Pennsylvania being one of them, debating the issue how old, if any age, is too old for a judge and yet we really haven't had a conversation about the relative ages of these two candidates. You get the final word on that.

BELLANTONI: Right. Well, they're kind of different. So in Oregon, they're trying to repeal a limit that says you can't be a judge after you're 75. There were actually two candidates who applied and were rejected to run because they were going to be older than 75.

In Pennsylvania, the question is, should they raise age from 70 to 75? So effectively, giving people five more years. So, you know, it's interesting because, you know, certainly if you have a fit mind, maybe you should. The retirement age is in this country is a standard for some medical benefits and Social Security benefits but really people are all over the map and were living much longer these days. I will be curious if either of those passes.

SMERCONISH: Christina Bellantoni from the L.A. Times, thank you so much for being here.

BELLANTONI: Thanks. Good luck on Election Day.

SMERCONISH: You too. OK, they're back. Together we survive primaries and caucuses and two conventions and four debates. As we staggered to the finish line, I want to check back in with my fellow road warrior panelists David Axelrod, Gloria Borger, Nia-Malika Henderson. And here's another tweet. Gang, help me wit these tweets, would you? Some people are nasty. Can you believe that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not on Twitter.

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: Here we go. So upsetting, CNN is trying to help Trump win. I'm going to stop watching. I hope other Dems will stop watching. You know what? DP Consulting sends me this note every week and keeps watching.

HENDERSON: They hate watching you.

SMERCONISH: We'll them any way we can get them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:31:17] SMERCONISH: For about a dozen election nights, two full weeks of convention coverage in Cleveland and in Philadelphia and all four debates, I'm including the VP debate, I've had the privilege of association with three real professionals, Nia-Malika Henderson, Gloria Borger and David Axelrod. And we'll be together with Anderson Cooper tomorrow night through Wednesday night. Frankly, I think beyond Wednesday night.

HENDERSON: Yes, is that what you're hearing?

SMERCONISH: Who knows? Listen, I was --

BORGER: They don't tell me my schedule.

SMERCONISH: I was going to look at David and say, when you write your memoir but he already has.

BORGER: Yes.

SMERCONISH: So Gloria, I look at you, when you write yours --

BORGER: Yes.

SMERCONISH: -- and you think of this cycle. I mean I think of things like that city Vegas Hotel --

HENDERSON: Oh god.

SMERCONISH: -- I think about the UNLV crowd with the guy with the bull horn, the megaphone --

BORGER: Oh, for six hours?

SMERCONISH: I think about Donald Trump never coming on my show but constantly tweeting about my content --

HENDERSON: He's obsessed with --

SMERCONISH: -- proving that he watches, what are you thinking about? What are you looking back and remembering?

BORGER: Well, for the four of us, I'm thinking about all those Twizzlers we hid under the table.

AXELROD: Yes.

BORGER: All the (INAUDIBLE) all the sugar we ate.

HENDERSON: Yes, yes, yes.

AXELROD: I'm lectured about my doctor about that.

BORGER: I know, sorry. To keep ourselves up. And I also think about how wrong we were to be honest.

AXELROD: Yes, absolutely.

BORGER: I think about -- I go back to last July when he said -- when Donald Trump said that John McCain is no war hero. I went, OK, it's over.

SMERCONISH: It's over, right.

BORGER: It's over. It's done. How wrong --

HENDERSON: Yes.

BORGER: -- yes, were we all and we didn't see that something very different was happening. And then, I fast forward to May when Reince Priebus declared the campaign over, Cruz pulled out after Indiana suddenly.

HENDERSON: Yes.

BORGER: We didn't anticipate it, what an evening that was. And then, Reince Priebus said we now have a presumptive nominee in a flash so, what a year.

HENDERSON: Yes. You think about Bernie Sanders, again somebody we were wrong about and completely underestimated him and here he was beginning in that summer, last summer, drawing those huge crowds all over the country. And then giving Hillary Clinton a real battle --

BORGER: Right.

HENDERSON: -- throughout this campaign, the fight over debates. They didn't have enough debates so they put more debates on the calendar.

I also think about just the people we meet along the way, right, at the conventions, at the different rallies we attend. So often, we think about, oh, people don't really like these candidates but there're millions and millions and millions of people who love these candidates and are attached to these campaigns and seen those girls at the convention really look -- you know, see history with Hillary Clinton. And then those folks at the Trump convention who haven't really necessarily been a part of politics and there they were seeing Donald Trump make his own kind of history.

SMERCONISH: Do they stop and ask what Axelrod is like?

HENDERSON: Everything, you know --

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: I don't think so. Behind the mask, I don't know.

HENDERSON: He's a mystery.

AXELROD: But look, I think both of you are touching on something that we're going to have to spend a lot of time thinking --

BORGER: Yes.

HENDERSON: Yes.

AXELROD: about after this election. The fact is that we are a deeply divided country in our politics. And many people on the media live in one part of America and many people who are voting live in another part of the America.

And the fact is I was as sure as everyone else that Trump would flame out but he was speaking to something out there that was real.

HENDERSON: Yes.

SMERCONISH: And we need to do some soul searching about that.

BORGER: I think so.

SMERCONISH: And how the future campaigns are covered and how we cover the events the next few years.

BORGER: I think so too. And I remember going to Trump rallies and Iowa for example. And talking to people at Trump rallies and these were people I would have seen at any Republican rally. They were just tired of the establishment. They're not any kind of voter you can caricature in one way or another. They just wanted something different, wanted an outsider. And they were -- what I learned is they were as mad at Republicans as they were at Democrats.

[18:35:03] AXELROD: You know, that's an interesting point here. You see two senators, two incumbent senators who are in trouble right now. They may win but Burr in North Carolina, Blunt in Missouri, why is Blunt in trouble in a state where Donald Trump's --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

AXELROD: -- going to win, perhaps, easily? It's because he is so thoroughly identified with his establishment --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

AXELROD: -- his family are lobbyists. Burr identified with his establishment. The same mood that has lifted Donald Trump in this election is menacing them, and by the way, Even Bayh in Indiana.

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: And one thought that I have about as we look forward toward Tuesday is that margin will matter, because the Democratic Party, I doubt is going to have any significant change. But it's going to determine a great -- if Trump wins, it's his GOP.

HENDERSON: Right, right.

SMERCONISH: You know, if he loses by a little, I don't know what the lesson is. If it --

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: Well, so when you talk to Republicans and what they'll tell you is they're of mixed minds. Republicans who don't support Trump were more of the senator, right, more established variety. They say, look, the best thing for the party would be a blowout because it will resolve the issue but then you would lose the senate for sure. And so they're conflicted as to what --

HENDERSON: Yes, and if you look --

AXELROD: -- they're really hoping for.

HENDERSON: Yes. I mean and if you look at his prospects here, I mean he could very well do better than Mitt Romney. I mean certainly it looks he might win Ohio, he might win Iowa, he might win States that Mitt Romney didn't win and do better on the election.

SMERCONISH: And then, where are we?

BORGER: And win or lose, Donald Trump is a huge factor in Republican --

AXELROD: Huge.

BORGER: -- huge --

HENDERSON: Yes.

BORGER: -- factor in the Republican Party but get ready for the Democratic civil war --

HENDERSON: Yes.

BORGER: -- one way or another, right.

AXELROD: Yes, it's going to be interesting. SMERCONISH: Nia, Gloria, David, stick around. Nice to hear -- having you here, I'm not letting you go yet. As a matter of fact, I want you to talk about election day antics because with so many fears of voter's oppression and ballot rigging, I went back to the site of infamy you could say. On election day of 2008, a particular polling location in Philadelphia where members of the New Black Panthers allegedly intimidated voters, what's the truth, my exclusive report is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:41:42] SMERCONISH: Both parties have been complaining that this election will be rigged through voter's oppression, voter intimidation, even down right deception as when some voters were told that they could vote by text message, they can't. People will be watching polling places closely particularly in cities like my hometown of Philadelphia. But some of the rumors of intimidation can be traced back to a viral video of an incident there in 2008 that election day.

It's been widely misrepresented so, I went back to the site and filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SMERCONISH: This is 1221 Fairmount Avenue in the city of Philadelphia. This is a housing development known as Guild House West. And if it looks familiar, no doubt that's because of an incident that took place right here on election day 2008, John McCain against Barack Obama.

STEVEN MORSE, GOP POLL WATCHER: There's got to the Philly club right here.

SMERCONISH: Video recorded here by a poll watcher went viral and has since been associated with voter intimidation, but that's not the full story.

MORSE: And he was not a police officer, he was not proper security. He was a member of the New Black Panther Party.

SMERCONISH: That was November 4, 2008 to be exact. Steven Morse then a University of Pennsylvania was certified was a republican poll watcher and videotaped his peaceful encounter with the New Black Panthers.

MORSE: I know they are radicals of a radical party. They are complete and other outliers and people like that will certainly exist in the United States and else where around the world. But what were they doing there? I have no idea.

SMERCONISH: Others thought they knew. At 12:41 p.m. Eastern Time that day, the Drudge Report's top linked headline was "Black Panthers Block Access to Voting Station". And Drudge kept posting on the story even adding footage throughout the day. But here's what really happened. The man with the nightstick was asked by police to leave. He did without incident. The other man, well, he was a certified poll watcher, he got to stay. The district attorney's office says, there were no complaints of intimidation. Nevertheless, this incident has been a rallying cry for those who claim elections continue to be stolen in part due to voter intimidation.

Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed the election is rigged particularly in cities like Philadelphia.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I hear these horror shows and we have to make sure that this election is not stolen from us --

SMERCONISH: Morse's video has been viewed about 2 million times on YouTube. It's been called the holy grail of Republican suspicions about voter fraud here.

David Thornburgh is the chief executive of the committee of Seventy, a nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog group for better government. He's the son of a former Republican Governor and U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburg.

What are the numbers? What are the relevant registration numbers for this polling location?

DAVID THORNBURGH, PRESIDENT AND CEO, COMMITTEE OF SEVENTY: I think when you go to the numbers, it demonstrates that they're -- what was reported to be happening here was not in fact happened here. First of all, in this ward of which this is one small piece, Democrats outnumber Republicans 20 to 1.

SMERCONISH: In fact, the 14th Ward Fourth Division did go 596 to 13 for Obama over Senator John McCain.

[18:45:02] It wasn't because Republicans were scared away, most folks in the 4th Division are African-Americans and registered Democrats who outnumbered registered Republicans 5,040 to 276.

Case in point, Al Taubenberger is a Republican city councilman. He didn't get a lot of votes in this area either.

How did you do in this area?

AL TAUBENBERGER, REPUBLICAN PHILADELPHIA CITY COUNCILMAN: Actually, in this very area in this precinct, I got three votes.

SMERCONISH: Three votes out of --

TAUBENBERGER: Three votes.

SMERCONISH: -- how many?

TAUBENBERGER: Out about 500 casts.

SMERCONISH: Morse says that because of that incident on Fairmount Avenue, he's opted out of poll watching. However, he still marvels at the power of the 81 seconds he recorded.

MORSE: This video has become a Republican anthem for the past eight years. Whenever there's a racial problem, the Republican go to this video, they broadcast this video. If I got a dollar for every time they played this video, I'd be a rich man right now --

SMERCONISH: What Morse believes is that the kind of fraud Trump claims will be going on here would be nearly impossible to pull off.

MORSE: In the context of this general election, this was very much a rarity. This is not the kind of thing you see every day. This is not the kind of thing I don't think anyone else has seen in America since then.

SMERCONISH: What happened on November 4, 2008 in Philadelphia was a bizarre incident. But it wasn't a part of any widespread voter intimidation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SMERCONISH: My point is couple of knuckleheads here, one of their 15 minutes of fame and they got it. But if they wanted to intimidate folks to vote for Barack Obama, they would have come out to my neighborhood and not gone to that polling place. And the lesson is be careful of things that go viral on Tuesday.

HENDERSON: Yes.

BORGER: Well, and that's -- you know, we all have to be careful about that because that will occur. I mean we know that. And as sure as we're sitting here, people are on the lookout for this. And by the way, people should be on the lookout for voter intimidation in any kind of voter's oppression at all.

HENDERSON: Yes.

BORGER: But you can't overread things that aren't happening and it's very easy for something to be on Twitter or on, you know, any website. And it can go viral. And it can affect people as they go out.

SMERCONISH: May I say, well, so, words matter Tuesday nights.

BORGER: Yes.

AXELROD: Yes.

SMERCONISH: I mean what they say, it will be here, it will be at 11:00 on Tuesday night in the East or midnight, but, man, what each of them says is going to set the tone for what's about to unfold.

BORGER: Right.

AXELROD: Well, because one of the concerns is that Donald Trump has been pretty overt about saying he's worried about, as he did there, the election being stolen. And he's encouraged essentially, you know, vigilantism among his supporters -- maybe that's a little harsh but to go to polling places and to try and to guarantee his -- you know, that voters can vote and so on.

And if people become self-appointed, if they deputize themselves in that way, it can create really, really unfortunate situations. So, one hopes that cooler heads will prevail here.

HENDERSON: Yes. I mean from what I've heard -- I mean most of the people I've talked to who voted their concern isn't necessarily about intimidation, it's about the long lines, it's about are they going to find parking, are they going to have to stand in line for three hours to cast their ballots.

But I mean I'm really glad you did this report because it really debunks something that I think has -- had a life of its own, this idea of the people show up in different neighborhoods and intimidate voters. It seems like not many people as you said in that one.

SMERCONISH: Well, old school, right?

BORGER: Yes.

HENDERSON: Right, yes, yes.

BORGER: Yes, yes, I am --

AXELROD: Yes, exactly, where would your friends go?

BORGER: Yes. Your point is so important because I do think it's up to the candidates. And concession speeches are difficult. And everybody's got a concession speech in their pocket and a victory.

And I think back to -- and, David, you would remember this better than I but I think back to John McCain conceding to Barack Obama and he talked about the moment in history. And he was incredibly gracious.

HENDERSON: Yes.

AXELROD: Yes, absolutely.

BORGER: And that was a hard-fought contest and it was tough for him but he took that historic moment and he played it forward.

HENDERSON: Yes.

BORGER: And he was so gracious and what a statesman he was --

HENDERSON: Yes, and that's the -- it calls for that, right? And sometimes we haven't seen a lot of that graciousness in this race and we'll see what we see on --

AXELROD: Whoever's at the short end of the stick.

SMERCONISH: Hey guys, stick around. One more quick segment and you can help me bail out on some of these tweets, OK?

AXELROD: OK.

HENDERSON: Yes.

BORGER: All right.

SMERCONISH: David, and Nia and Gloria, it's nice to have you here. More of your tweets in just a moment. Continue them @smerconish -- can we put one up on the screen and see what we've got?

Great in your audition for Trump TV.

I'm a schmuck. Yes, I am schmuck. I absolutely am a schmuck.

AXELROD: Is that a prerequisite for Trump TV?

SMERCONISH: What time slot do you think that Donald would put me in? I'm thinking overnight.

AXELROD: I think 13:00.

HENDERSON: Yes.

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[18:54:10] SMERCONISH: You can follow me on Twitter if you can spell Smerconish. We all tweet as a matter of fact, right? We're all on Twitter. We all have profiles. Let's see what's coming during the course of the broadcast. Put one up.

OK. You had me in your opening remarks until you said that we need to embrace President Trump. Oh my god -- yuck. Well, that was the whole point of my commentary.

HENDERSON: Yes.

AXELROD: Yes.

SMERCONISH: Whoever wins this thing, right? We need to get back together.

AXELROD: So he didn't really have them.

HENDERSON: Yes, yes.

SMERCONISH: Also, thank you for that, David. Show us another. Keep them moving here. Thank you, Paul.

Neighbors to the north watching Smerconish to see if we build a north wall. Nobody ever talks about needing a wall.

HENDERSON: Yes.

BORGER: In Canada.

SMERCONISH: With regard to Canada.

BORGER: Right.

HENDERSON: Yes, yes. So you're big in Canada, apparently.

SMERCONISH: At least tonight.

HENDERSON: This CNN is --

SMERCONISH: Thanks for helping me with the demo. Go ahead, keep them rolling. Let's see what we've got.

I think this election cycle has made your beard whiter like the president's hair.

BORGER: Yes.

AXELROD: Yes, exactly.

BORGER: You can't tell with mine by the way.

HENDERSON: Yes, yes.

[18:55:04] SMERCONISH: I'll change the subject. I prefer this morning's tie.

AXELROD: Did you change your tie?

SMERCONISH: Yes, yes, I went purple.

HENDERSON: You're like a --

AXELROD: We've got some observant viewers there.

HENDERSON: You're changing your --

SMERCONISH: I'm not, my god, if I had 10 more like choir men, I'd be Anderson Copper.

BORGER: Wow.

AXELROD: Yes.

SMERCONISH: You have the man watching CNN from Ireland. Your panel rocks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Ireland.

SMERCONISH: My panel does rock. I'm so enjoyed being with them. Yes?

HENDERSON: That's great.

SMERCONISH: Is that it? Are we done?

BORGER: More.

SMERCONISH: Huh? One more, all right. Is there any word your last name rhymes with? I'm watching you over football right now so keep your -- keep up your great work. All right, we're done.

BORGER: Yes, all right.

HENDERSON: All right.

SMERCONISH: We're done. There's nothing that it rhymes with. We're back tomorrow night with Anderson, right?

HENDERSON: We are? Yes, yes, yes.

SMERCONISH: Tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern and then we're here --

BORGER: Forever.

HENDERSON: Until 3:00 a.m.

AXELROD: Yes.

SMERCONISH: Until Jeff tells us we can go.

HENDERSON: Yes, yes, till they fall asleep.

AXELROD: Yes, it could be a while.

SMERCONISH: All right, I really appreciate it. Thank you so much. Nia, thank you. Gloria. I appreciate all three of you. I really -- come on, we can get this done. Thank you. It's been a lot of fun. And a couple more nights to go.

BORGER: Yes, yes, yes.

AXELROD: I'm looking forward. It's going to be fun.

HENDERSON: We got to figure out how we're going to party.

SMERCONISH: Thank you for watching. We'll all see you tomorrow night, OK? Thank you.

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