Road to the Oval Office Podcast: The Race Tightens

Mark Alderman, Howard Schweitzer and Blake Rutherford discussed the current status of both campaigns and previewed the first presidential debate.

Blake: Thank you very much and welcome everyone to Road to the Oval Office. We are forty-seven days away from the presidential election. There are moments that I think we are one day away and there are moments where it feels like we are six months away. Grateful to have everyone with us. My name is Blake Rutherford, I am joined, as always, by Mark Alderman, the CEO of Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies and Howard Schweitzer, the Managing Partner of Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies. Howard, Mark, great to be with you guys.

Mark: Thanks Blake.

Blake: Here we are. Forty-seven days and, as we say every time we get together, just never a dull moment in this presidential race. I will go ahead and take a moderator's privilege and say, Mark, I'm a little bit exhausted by this race.

Mark: It seems like it's been going on for years, Blake.

Blake: I want to start, guys, with just a state of play. Where you think this race really is. We've got a lot of data to talk about. I want to get into the electoral map a little bit. Certainly, we've got early voting has actually begun. I want to get to all of that but before we do, Mark, I want to begin with you. What's happening out there? Tell me what's going on. How do I make sense of what is going on with these two campaigns?

Mark: What's going on is that, if the election were held tomorrow, which, regrettably, it's not, she would win the popular vote by a point, maybe two. She would win the Electoral College by 10, maybe 20 votes. But she would be the next president in a very close election. That's what's going on. This thing has gotten very close and it's going to stay very close because, most fundamentally, a majority of the people who say they're going to show up to vote on November 8 are voting against somebody, not for somebody. That's the dynamic.

Howard: It's always been close. I think, of course, we've had an ebb and a flow but it's always been close.

Mark: It's always been close and it was always going to be close because the nation is divided.

Blake: To that regard, campaigns, and you guys have seen a lot of them, campaigns always say, "This is going to be a close election. This is going to be a close election." But, I hearken back to the evolution of this race and, at one point, this didn't appear like it was going to be a close election. It did not appear that Donald Trump would perform well outside of traditionally red states. Yet, Howard, we now have a lot of states in play. States that are now polling within the margin of error, that are trending toward Trump. What do you make of all that? How do we attach a cause to that effect?

Howard: The electorate is divided but I think divided in a different way. That's, I think, the fundamental point here.

Blake: Okay.

Howard: Obviously, it's not traditional Republicans against traditional Democrats. You may have the traditional Democrat piece of the equation but this isn't your grandfather's Republican party, it's not even George H.W. Bush's Republican party since he said he's voting for Hillary Clinton. This is not ours versus these. This has been set up by Trump, love him or hate him, as the haves versus have nots. I don't think that the media, or the pundits, or the pollsters, or anybody really knows how to size up the electorate from that perspective. That's why, yeah, it was always going to be close, Mark, but in a very different way than we've seen recently. Ever.

Blake: Mark, I want to sort of build upon that because one of the things that we've talked about is where this race is really going to be decided, from the context of the voter. We're now hearing more and more that, "Be careful." Our friend, Nate Silver, at 538 saying, "Watch out. This really could be our Brexit." Reflecting on what Howard just said, who's the undecided voter? That's what I'm the most curious about.

Mark: Two things, Blake. I think that there are still, actually, some undecided voters out there. I think if you drill down in the numbers, it's maybe 10%, maybe not even because you have a double digit third party vote. It shows up again and again in all of these polls. When you get done giving him his 40, 42%, you get done giving her 42, 44%. You give Johnson 8-10% and Jill Stein a couple of points, you've got under 10% undecided. I would submit, just as Howard said, we're divided but in a different way. I think it's a different undecided than it has been in the past.

Four years ago, there were people who, up until election day, were deciding between Governor Romney and President Obama. There are not people deciding between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They are deciding whether to vote at all.

Howard: Exactly.

Mark: If so, whether to vote for her or Gary Johnson, or vote for him or Gary Johnson.

Howard: More the former.

Mark: More the former. It is a smaller number than ever before and it is more a decision about whether to even show up. Which makes this just a different kind of election than the last couple we've seen.

Blake: How do the campaigns adjust for that? We've talked a lot about the mechanics of this. We hear, Is this going to be the election that demonstrates that you don't need a field operation because you've got a very active Twitter account? Trump is basically spending no money on television, right now. Which is wild if you think about how elections are normally won. Contrast that with Hillary Clinton, coming out last month, raising more than $100 million and spending it. And attempting to raise another $100 million, I think, before election day. Howard, how do the campaigns really deal with this unique undecided pool? What do they do or what do they not do in order to get those people where they need to go?

Howard: I think this is where the analytics people are going to earn their money. Just like Obama, particularly in 2012, but in 2008 also, perfected the art of micro-targeting. That's what Hillary's going to do. That's why she's going to win, at the end of the day. It's messaging. They have got to message to very, very specific demographics. I think the debate, for her, is half about that. It's a platform for messaging out, to pull people out to vote because the polling shows that people that are undecided are more likely to vote for her than they are for him. People that are absolutely going to vote, are more likely to vote for him than they are for her. It is absolutely critical to her campaign to pull those people out and the only way to do it is by knocking on doors, figuratively or literally, and messaging.

Mark: Right. It is two things. It is persuasion and it is turnout. The persuasion piece, I believe, is she needs to give those undecided voters. It's under 10% in under ten states. We've been through that math before.

Howard: Right.

Mark: It's a couple million people. She needs to give them a reason to vote for her. She has spent hundreds of millions of dollars, given everybody in America who was going to pay attention a reason not to vote for Donald Trump but that doesn't get anyone to the polls. She has to give those people who haven't made up their mind whether to vote, a reason to vote for her. Then she has to turn them out.

Blake: Really, you know this good and well. I want to give everybody listening in a real world example of what we mean by that. Let's talk about Philadelphia, which we know is critical to the outcome in Pennsylvania, which we know is critical to both campaigns. Trump has no voter turnout operation that we can see. You know very well. Hillary has an enormous voter turnout operation. What I mean by that is she has field offices, she has staff, she has volunteers, she has all the mechanical things that you need to do what Howard just has said. To literally knock on doors, to drive people to the polls, to turn them out to vote. In Philadelphia, that's essential. I want to get specific here and reflect a little bit on what you saw from Obama's two races versus what you're seeing now. What's your sense of what's going on in Philadelphia, from a turnout perspective?

Mark: I think what's going on in Philadelphia, from a turnout perspective, is actually, exactly what it was four years ago and eight years ago in this respect. It is about Barack and Michelle Obama. The President was in Philadelphia, the First Lady was in Philadelphia, they will both be back and the turnout operation, while it is deeply staffed and deeply organized, is going to be as dependent on the President and the First Lady turning out the vote as anything else. They did it in 2008, they did it in 2012, I think they are going to do it again. But, this time around, as we were saying a minute ago, it isn't persuading anybody, it isn't convincing anybody. Nobody listening to Barack Obama has decided, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, I can't make up my mind. Anybody who is listening is deciding, do I even show up? He is telling them, as he did last week in an address, that it will be a personal insult to him if they don't.

Blake: Howard, what do you make of that? It's very interesting, in politics ... I always have the theory that endorsements rarely, if at all, matter. We can laugh all day about the value of newspaper endorsements anymore. The sort of cache that comes with endorsements, I think, has diminished over time. But the President is an articulate voice, both for Secretary Clinton and for the eight years that he's led the country. In contrast to Mark, what weight do you give the President's involvement here? Is it as significant as Mark thinks it is?

Howard: I think it's significant, but in very specific places. I think people overstate ... I mean, Pennsylvania, which obviously, we're very familiar with, is one thing. Florida is another. Where you have many voters that are residents of Florida now that weren't when he was president. When Bill Clinton was president and I don't think are going to be compelled to vote because Barack Obama says, "Go vote." You've got to get the vote out. You've got to get the vote out. Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, they are powerful surrogates for this candidate. At the end of the day though, Mark, she has to do what you said, which is, she has to have a message. She has to compel people to vote.

Mark: She has to give people a reason to vote for her. But, the President's endorsement is a different kind of endorsement, I believe, in this sense. It's a difference that makes a difference. It's not George Clooney endorsing Hillary Clinton, the President's endorsement is asking for a third term. She is running for a third Obama administration and the President is uniquely positioned to ask people for that third term. That's why I think he, even more so than an Elizabeth Warren, who has been a fierce advocate for Secretary Clinton, he and the First Lady, and Joe Biden are, I think, uniquely positioned to make her case for her. But. But, she's got to make it too. They can't drag her over the line. They got to all walk together over that line.

Blake: Mark, in terms of message, what closes the sale, for her, in terms of messaging? Certainly, she was in Philadelphia, talking about college and trying to speak to Millennials. We've seen speeches on substantive policy matters. I think one thing that she has been criticized for, rightly or not, I want you both to reflect on this, is the lack of a theme. What is a Clinton presidency really about? We can talk substance all day long. You can go to her website and read, really, policy proposal after policy proposal. You know where she stands on things, you know what she would try to achieve. There seems to be, her critics would say, a lack of that thematic, which is so important in presidential races. What are your thoughts about that?

Mark: I think she doesn't have a slogan like Trump does. It's unfortunate but that matters and that moves the needle. He has a slogan that's on the stupid hats that he wears. She isn't going to put a slogan on a hat and get this done. I think what she needs to do, because it is actually true, Blake. You know her, I know her, we know this to be true, she needs to tell people that she actually cares about them. That she actually cares about doing something for them. That she is running for president not to be famous, and not to be rich, and not to put it on her resume and write a book. She is running for president because she cares and she wants to help. That is her challenge. It is, in fact, true of this woman. But wow, is she having a hard time saying that.

Howard: Because every day she takes out a gun and shoots herself in the damn foot. I mean, come on, Mark. Nobody trusts her. No one should have a reason to trust her. She's put herself in the position she's in. It's not that she's a bad candidate, it's that she has not projected trust. She has not engendered trust.

Mark: That's what I just said.

Howard: I think one of the things she has to do is talk about trusting her to the electorate as a whole. Then, I think the President and Michelle Obama have to drive the African American turnout. I think Trump, himself, will drive the Hispanic turnout. She is going to be, if she's elected, the first woman president of the United States. She has to go back to that and she has to focus on that and speak to suburban woman who, I think most people feel, at the end of the day, are going to decide this election. She has to talk about things like choice. By the way, what's happened to the Supreme Court nominee? No one says anything about that. That's coming back. Abortion, issues that women care about. She is running to be President of the United States, but she is very much running to be the first woman to be the President of the United States. That is what she has to emphasize.

Mark: Talking about issues that women, and men, care about, like reproductive rights, like the Supreme Court, I completely agree is what she needs to do. She has to give people a reason to vote for her. Talking about becoming the first woman president is a bad idea. I don't think you were suggesting-

Howard: No, I wasn't.

Mark: She has to do that in code.

Howard: Totally, totally. Not, elect me because I'm a woman.

Mark: Right.

Howard: Show that she cares about things that women and, obviously, other people like us care about. Speak to them from more of a policy perspective.

Blake: For anybody listening in, certainly comments, questions, presidential analysis at, would love to hear from you. I want to talk about the map because, as we are looking at this. Mark, as you say, this is about certain states and the map is the friend to the Democrats. Today, that would be right. I want to get a little wonky because this is going to set us up to talk about the ramifications of the debate on Monday. I think these numbers are so close that we are coming up on a moment. That has been my prediction.

Let's set the stage, let's look at the map. Right now, we've got it where, I think, Hillary Clinton's going to capture the blue states, Donald Trump's going to capture the red states. That puts her at a starting point of about 200 electoral votes, if my math is right.

Mark: Can I just interrupt you for one second, if I may, to say, yes this is an election like nothing we've ever seen. However. However, forty of the states, or more, are going to go the same way they've been going. Not the stand and everything will be in, unlike anything ever before. 80% of the country is locked down.

Blake: Right. So you look-

Mark: You've got ten states.

Blake: Right, so you've got ... the states we care a lot about right now, in terms of people ... I get this question all the time. "What should I really be paying attention to?" We care about Ohio, we care about Florida, we care about-

Howard: Pennsylvania.

Blake: Colorado, and Iowa, and Nevada. Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Virginia.

Mark: She's got more ways to win it than he does. She's going to win Pennsylvania, she is going to win Virginia, and then she has to pick off two of four states. New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, and Colorado. She's going to win Colorado and when she wins New Hampshire, she'll be the president. Trump has to do all kinds of gymnastics to get to the same place. But, it's close and it is a discussion we weren't having four years ago, for example. That New Hampshire's going to decide the presidency.

Blake: That's right, that's where I'm going. If we sort of separate all this out and you look at ... Let's assume, for the purposes of argument, that Trump takes Ohio. He certainly can't win without Ohio, she can. He can't win without Florida, she can.

Mark: If I may, just back up a state. First, he has to take North Carolina.

Blake: Right. That's where I was going.

Mark: That's the Romney map.

Blake: Right, that's exactly right. He's got to take North Carolina, he's got to take Ohio, he's got to take Florida. This gets really interesting because her path can then run through, as you said, so many states. She's ahead in Michigan, she's ahead in Wisconsin, she's ahead in Pennsylvania. But, if some things break his way, if he takes Nevada, if he takes North Carolina, if he picks up one electoral vote in Maine. Which is an interesting opportunity. And he does take Florida, he could find his way to 266 electoral votes. Setting the stage for the all important four votes in New Hampshire.

Mark: It all began in New Hampshire.

Blake: It all began in New Hampshire. You and I trudging through the snow.

Mark: We're going to be back in that car, [crosstalk 00:22:34] the beer that we had, it was a local beer. New Hampshire could very well pick the president.

Howard: Why wasn't I invited?

Mark: You were working. Blake and I were pursuing our hobby.

Blake: It's really funny because, looking at these numbers, if she takes Colorado, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Virginia, that still only gets her to 268. Again, setting the stage for New Hampshire being the race. I did an interview and we were talking about this for the Boston Globe. I said, "Pennsylvania really seems to be her firewall but I wonder if all of our attention eventually, if Trump is able to slide North Carolina over to his column. The trend's looking better for him there. Whether we will focus on where it all began and we'll be talking about New Hampshire."

Howard, these numbers are so close and there's so much ebb and flow that I tend to think, you can tell me if you agree, I tend to think that this debate on Monday has the potential to really shake this race up. If there is a moment in the debate that allows for that to happen. We have been talking about this debate, in some form or fashion, for many, many weeks now. Let's just start with expectations. What do you expect to see at this debate?

Howard: Can I first go back and say, I'm just not into the electoral college math, at this point. I get that it's a game that everybody plays. I get that it's the way that this election is going to be decided. I get that things have to be looked at from that perspective, you've got to pick off states and ultimately it comes down to that. I think, to the question about the debate, we're still forty-seven days away. I think national momentum matters much more, at this point, than anything else.

Blake: Okay, that's interesting. Mark, I want to bring you in on this. I want to come back to the debate but let's talk about this issue of momentum because we look at national polls and people say they're meaningless. It seems to me they are relevant in that context. I want to get your thoughts.

Mark: Well, yes and no. Momentum, of course, matters. The momentum has been everywhere in this cycle. Up, down, and sideways for both of them. The reason, just to defend Blake's obsession and mine, with the electoral college is forget for a moment that that's how the president actually gets elected. Decisions are being made every hour that deploy resources, where to send the candidates, where to send money. Those decisions are being driven by the data in the electoral college states. They are relevant to the campaigning much more than they are, at this point, to some ultimate analysis of the outcome.

The momentum, who has the momentum? Clearly, she had August. She won August. If we could have held the damn election before August was over, we wouldn't be doing this call. We'd be doing a different call. Clearly, she had the worst post-Labor day week of any presidential candidate in either party in history. At least in recorded history. Trump had all the momentum. Where is it today? I think it has stabilized with her a little bit ahead. I couldn't agree more, Howard, Monday night is going to move it again.

Howard: Here's the debate, from my point of view. Trump's entire campaign premise is that the system is rigged. By the way-

Blake: Are you going to tell us the system is rigged?

Howard: That's his premise and it sells. It's selling, it's attracting votes, it's attracting votes from places that a "Republican" wouldn't ordinarily attract votes. I think, as I said earlier, the establishment Republicans coming out and saying they're going to vote for her, only helps him because it perpetuates the narrative that the system is rigged. Whether you have a Republican or Democrat in the White House. What I expect from him in the first debate is it's all about the system being rigged. He's going to come at her from the left on the banks and on war, from the perspective of Iraq. He is going to try to further the narrative that the system is rigged.

I think from her point of view, she has to try to do two things. Number one, she has to try to speak to suburban women. Period. And African Americans. Forget about Trump, pretend he's not even there. Speak to those demographics. She has got to get under his skin. You can be sure that they have an army of psychologists that have been working day and night to figure out ... It's obviously doable but to figure out how to expose him. I think the way to do it, the way she's going to try to do it, his Achilles' heel is his success. She's going to try to undercut the notion that he is a success. To me, it's those four points. For him, it's the system is rigged. Coming at her from the left. For her, speaking, irrespective of him, to some specific demographics and undercutting his success.

Blake: Mark, what are your thoughts about tactics for the debate?

Mark: I think that Trump has the better path through this debate. We talked about an electoral college path. He has the better path through this debate. The expectations for him are simply lower. They are higher for her, lower for him. Double standard, yes. Gender, I doubt it. He has to do less than she does and that's an advantage. The way this thing has worked, this thing being this election, whoever is in the news loses points. When he's in the news, he loses points. When she's in the news, she loses points. There's three people that can be in the news the next day, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Lester Holt. If Lester Holt is in the news the next day, Trump won the debate. If Hillary Clinton's in the news the next day, Trump won the debate. If Trump's in the news the next day, then she did. It is unfortunate, but that's this election. You want to stay out of the news because nothing good happens when you're in it.

Blake: I've heard you say many times, "Hillary Clinton should just go on an extended vacation. She's better off."

Mark: Let Trump debate Lester Holt. But don't underestimate the moderator.

Blake: That's what I wanted to talk a little bit about that because this has been a cycle where the moderator has mattered. We have seen Megyn Kelly enter the news after moderating a debate. We saw what happened with Matt Lauer and the challenges of the town hall that wasn't a debate but both candidates did appear on the same place, on the same night, but not together. This is an interesting moment for Lester Holt because he is first. He's the first guy to step in and moderate between these two candidates. It's just going to be two of them, no one else is going to be on the stage. Gary Johnson just didn't get there. He didn't make the cut. He's going to have some choices to make. One of the criticisms of Matt Lauer's performance was that he didn't hold Trump accountable when he made clear misrepresentations of fact and he didn't press him on issues. I want to just follow up a little bit on the point of the moderator and what you expect to see there, Mark.

Mark: It's a question of whether he is going to call him a liar or not. Take Howard's point, which I think is right, that Trump is going to talk about being against the Iraq War and the disaster that Hillary Clinton created by voting for it. Is Lester Holt going to say, "That's not true. That's not true. You weren't against the Iraq War, you were for it before you were against it. That's not true."? There has been a reluctance to call him a liar because the media has feared that that was an opinion, not reporting. I couldn't disagree more. When someone says something that's not true, it is journalism and reporting to say, "I'm sorry, that's not true."

Howard: That's Hillary's job. That's Hillary's job.

Blake: All right, Howard, that's-

Mark: No, I disagree with that. It is, of course, her job and she's, of course, going to say it, but it is the job of the moderator, I believe, also. Exactly as Candy Crowley did with Mitt Romney when he kept saying, and the President wouldn't call Benghazi a terrorist attack, and the President said, "Keep going." Candy Crowley said, "Yes, he did." Lester Holt needs a "Yes, he did" moment because that's truth and that's fair. Life isn't fair, the debate's not about truth. I don't hold out a lot of optimism. That's why I say, if Lester Holt is in the news the next day, it was a bad debate for Hillary Clinton.

Howard: Mark, you may remember Candy Crowley calling out Mitt Romney or whatever but the guy in Iowa that's sitting on his couch, the woman in Ohio that's sitting on her couch thinking about whether or not to vote, could care less. They care about what Trump and Clinton have to say to one another. I think Lester Holt should set the stage and disappear, and come back and reset the stage and disappear, and let these two go at it. It's supposed to be a debate.

Mark: I disagree. First of all, the guy in Ohio and the woman in Iowa, or maybe you had it the other way around, are already voting for Trump. They aren't paying any attention-

Howard: You just said those are the people that are going to decide the election.

Mark: Well, no, he's going to win Ohio and Iowa.

Howard: Okay, got it.

Mark: Some people in New Hampshire are going to decide the election. That is not my view of what the moderator of this debate has an obligation to do. The moderator of the debate, why not just-

Howard: They both lie.

Mark: Then he should call out both. The media has had no trouble calling her out on her misrepresentations.

Howard: This isn't about lying or not lying. Everybody knows they're both lying.

Mark: There is no moral equivalence between the lying of Donald Trump and the lying of Hillary Clinton. What has happened, in the coverage of this campaign, is that she's called out on her far too many misrepresentations and he isn't on stuff he makes up. Muslims on rooftops in New Jersey celebrating the collapse of the World Trade Center. Yet, when he says that at the debate, you don't think Lester Holt should say, "But that's not true."?

Howard: Maybe on that.

Mark: How many more examples do you want?

Blake: Look, if this debate turns into who's the bigger dirtbag question, she loses. She loses.

Mark: Well, she loses because she has to give people a reason to vote for her. She's done all the damage.

Howard: She loses because she's the incumbent. She loses because she's been here for thirty years. She loses because she's the embodiment of the system.

Mark: But it doesn't turn into-

Howard: It's the easiest thing in the world for him to sit as Mr. Outsider and throw rocks, and say, "The system is rigged and you're part of the system. I know how to beat the system. You, little guy, should vote for me because I know how to beat the system."

Mark: But a lot of people who are deciding whether to vote or not, who would vote for Hillary if they voted, are sitting there wondering, "Are they really just both the same? Do I even bother getting out of bed that day?" I completely disagree that there is any equivalence between the lying of Trump and the misrepresentations of Clinton. I think it is the obligation of the moderator of this debate to call both of them out. Because he is going to be doing a lot more of it than she is, it could move a vote.

Blake: Let's talk about the ramifications of ... Right, that's where I wanted to go, right? Or not. I have continually said, we'll see if I'm right or not, that the television audience for this debate is going to be unlike anything we've seen for a presidential debate.

Howard: It's the Super Bowl.

Blake: To sort of round it all up-

Mark: Tonight's Patriot's Super Bowl [crosstalk 00:37:13].

Howard: I'm definitely referring to that one.

Blake: Definitely referring to that one?

Howard: Well, not that one, those two.

Blake: There are going to be a lot of eyeballs on television screens. Twitter's streaming this live. ESPN expects a 30% drop in viewership from Monday Night Football because of this debate. Which is significant when you consider the role that football plays in daily life. Of that segment, we certainly anticipate that the undecideds will, presumably, tune in. What do you think the outcome is? Is this debate ... it is significant because all presidential debates are significant. It's significant because there's an opportunity for one candidate to do something either very well or very poorly, right? The risk factor is high. Beyond that, what do you think happens after this first debate? What can we expect to see the next morning and in the days following, after this debate, Howard, do you think?

Howard: I think she's going to build on her messaging to those specific demographics I referenced earlier. She's going to build on her messaging about undercutting his success. He's going to build on his messaging about the system being rigged. I think he's going to win the debate because, at the end of the day, it's going to be a draw and the draw goes to the challenger, in this case.

Blake: Mark, what do you think we see in the twenty-four-

Mark: The bar is so low, I expect Trump to clear it. I think that the race tightens a little bit further. I think she's still ahead, but less ahead than she is going into it. Then, I think the second debate is actually, in a lot of ways, as interesting and maybe more consequential because I believe that the bar goes up for Trump at the second debate. I'm not sure he can get over it the second time. Once he has cleared the very low bar of not falling off the stage, which is pretty much where it's been set so far, I think it gets ratcheted up before the second debate and I think she has a better opportunity at the second debate than the first. Traditionally, and I agree with Howard, she's the incumbent, he's the challenger, the incumbent loses the first debate. Obama did, Bush did, and others have. I don't see the days after the first debate being all that happy for the Clinton campaign.

Howard: She wins if this is actually a debate. But it's not actually going to be a debate.

Mark: A friend of mine told me, "It's not high school."

Howard: Exactly. I set you up for that. Believe me.

Mark: Yeah. Somebody should tell Trump it's not high school. Let's see him bring a college level debate. You think he can do that?

Howard: I don't think so.

Blake: It'll be interesting.

Mark: If it's not high school, it's not college, it's junior high?

Howard: I think it's Kindergarten.

Blake: Here we go. All right, look, for those of us that are political junkies, Monday night will be just about everything.

Mark: Who's in the game? Who's playing Monday Night Football?

Blake: I have no idea.

Howard: Falcons and the Saints.

Blake: Oh, the Falcons and the Saints. All right.

Howard: Nobody's watching.

Blake: No, nobody's watching that game. Moderator's privilege here, what did we not talk about today that we should have talked about, Howard?

Howard: Gosh. I think more about trust and how Hillary recaptures enough trust to carry the day. Look, that's her Achilles' heel. Nobody doubts that she has the experience and competence to be President of the United States. I think Barack Obama means it when he said, "Nobody's been more qualified. Not Bill Clinton, not Barack Obama." But, people don't trust her. I think there are things she can do. She's not going to change, but there are things she can do to convey to the nation that she's going to govern in a way that people can trust her. That people can trust her administration and that, if she convinces people she'll govern that way, people are more likely to vote for her. I just think it's a huge point.

Blake: Yeah. Clearly, polling would indicate that that deficiency is having an effect. Mark, what did we not talk about today that we should have talked about?

Mark: Current events. I think that current events are going to shape this thing for the next forty-seven days. You have bombs going off in New York you think maybe that cuts Trumps way. Although, then Trump handles it as only he can so maybe that swings it back. You have cops killing unarmed black men with their hands up. Where does that go? Things are going to keep happening in the country and the world and they are going to influence this election. They're going to influence those undecided voters in deciding whether to vote and which way. You tell me what's going to be happening in October and I'll have a better idea of whether she can win New Hampshire.

Blake: All roads lead back to New Hampshire. Guys, look, it's been fun, as always. Thanks to everybody who called in and listened in. If comments, criticisms always welcomed. Certainly, you can reach us at presidential analysis at We've got another post-debate call next Tuesday at noon so we'll see if our preview and predictions came true. If not, hopefully nobody remembered them in the first place. Thanks again to everybody. Always great to be with you Mark and Howard. Look forward to talking next week. Thanks everybody.

Mark: Thanks, Blake.


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