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Politics In The News: Election Day Countdown

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Well, there are 15 days to go until Election Day. Both candidates are hitting the campaign trail. In swing states this week, Donald Trump will be in Florida, Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire today. In a speech Saturday in Gettysburg, Pa., Trump gave what his campaign aides were billing as his closing arguments for the presidency.

But before he got to his vision for his administration, he went after the women who have come forward to accuse him of sexual harassment and assault.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign - total fabrication.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: The events never happened, never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.

(CHEERING)

GREENE: Hillary Clinton for her part was speaking to reporters on her plane on Saturday in between campaign stops, and she said she was not focused on the attacks from her competitor.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HILLARY CLINTON: He can say whatever he wants to. He can run his campaign however he wants to. He can go off on tangents. He can go to Gettysburg and say he's going to sue women who've made accusations against him. I'm going to keep talking about what we want to do, what we think the country deserves from the next president and vice president. And actually when it comes right down to it, I think that's what people end up voting on.

GREENE: OK. Joining me now is NPR commentator and columnist Cokie Roberts who's on the line. Cokie, good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: And here in the studio with me, Jonah Goldberg who is senior editor at The National Review and a columnist for The LA Times. Jonah, welcome back.

JONAH GOLDBERG: Great to be here.

GREENE: Jonah, let me start with you. What'd you think of Trump's Gettysburg Address if we can call it that?

GOLDBERG: (Laughter) Well, I thought there was a lot of substantive policy stuff in it - some good, some bad or some debatable. But the fact is no one's going to talk about it because he opened his speech, I guess, following in the tradition of Lincoln by calling all the women liars who said that he groped them. I mean, it was...

GREENE: What do you mean by that? Just so people understand.

GOLDBERG: I'm being sarcastic.

GREENE: OK (laughter).

GOLDBERG: Because - and in fact, Abraham Lincoln at his Gettysburg Address did not say all the women accusing him of sexual assault were liars.

GREENE: Yes.

GOLDBERG: He saved that for the Cooper Union speech which is a completely different thing.

ROBERTS: (Laughter).

GREENE: Cokie, was there some substance there that you caught? I mean, this was supposed to be Trump's vision.

ROBERTS: Look, he keeps doing this to himself. He keeps getting in the way of his own message. And basically, the defense his son said yesterday - well, my dad's a fighter, and he just wants to fight. And he tried to make it a positive saying he'll fight for the American people. But, look, it's obviously a problem, David. The fact that Democrats are putting Trump in every ad for a member of the Senate or Congress tells you that they've seen him as a drag on the congressional campaigns.

GREENE: Well, let me ask you about some ads that we're about to see. Jonah, that there's a Republican super PAC that is launching new ads urging Republicans telling them to limit Clinton's power by supporting down-ballot Republicans. Is that somehow an acknowledgment by this PAC that, I mean, the writing is on the wall when it comes to the presidential campaign, they're looking to do whatever they can with the congressional races?

GOLDBERG: Sure. Absolutely. There are a lot of people, including around the Trump campaign, but certainly there are lots of people in the Republican Party and the conservative movement who just understand going by just the math that it's going to be very difficult for Donald Trump to win. And so they are trying to lessen the potential damage of Hillary Clinton getting in and having complete control of Congress. Most of - by conservative standards - most of the problems of the Obama administration were done in his first two years when he had control of Congress. They see this as a replay of 1996 in a lot of ways where Bob Dole was going to lose to Bill Clinton, so people said don't give Bill Clinton a blank check.

The problem is that Bob Dole cooperated with that strategy in 1996 and rallied and helped limit the damage. Donald Trump doesn't seem much interested in doing that. I think in part because he may in fact think he can win. And maybe, you know, look - it's possible, I guess, but...

GREENE: He's also angry at people in his own party, right?

GOLDBERG: And he hates the Republican Party, and he's most comfortable fighting other Republicans.

ROBERTS: But, you know, Republicans can take some comfort. There was a recent NBC poll that showed that 52 percent said that they - that we should elect a Republican Congress to take a - to be a check on Clinton. But Democrats are hoping that recent trends of straight party line voting hold. In 2014, David and Jonah, only five seats in congressional districts that voted for Romney went Democratic. In 2012, only 26 seats voted for one party for president and one party for Congress. That was the lowest in 92 years.

In 1972, when there was a Nixon landslide for president. Forty-four percent of the House seats went Democratic, so we've seen a dramatic change. In fact, the last time I ever saw my own father who was majority leader of the House in 1972, he and Hubert Humphrey were out campaigning to save the Congress because they knew George McGovern was going to go down to a significant loss. That is where the Republicans are now.

GREENE: Jonah, let me ask you about the polls. I mean, there's one from ABC that suggests that Clinton is up by 12 percentage points now. I mean, October we have seen the ABC Washington Post poll show big numbers like that, and the outcome has actually been narrower. But is there anything Republicans and Trump supporters can look to to give them any hope whatsoever right now?

GOLDBERG: There are a couple polls - IBD, Investor's Business Daily. I think there's a Reuters that they point to and say this is a much tighter race. But if you just go by the state by state battleground polls, it is a very tough proposition right now.

ROBERTS: But it's been a year of surprises.

GOLDBERG: Sure.

ROBERTS: Look at Brexit and look at what happened in Colombia where more than 60 - in the polls - 60 percent were saying that it would be a yes vote on that peace agreement, and then it went down. So who knows?

GOLDBERG: But Brexit was close going in.

ROBERTS: Right. It was close.

GOLDBERG: And this is a different thing.

TRUMP: Cokie, the phrase nasty woman from the debate that Trump used has really taken on a life of its own in many ways. Has that changed things, I mean, even more so with Trump and his hope to get some women onboard?

ROBERTS: I think so. It's so interesting because Hillary Clinton has had so much trouble finding a way to give voice to the fact that this is an historic election, having a woman for the first time as a major party nominee. And there was a brief moment at the Democratic convention where people kind of woke up to that fact. But Donald Trump has now given her the voice she needed.

This slogan has really become something that's caught on. If you go online and put in nasty woman, up come T-shirts and mugs and tote bags. It looks like an NPR fundraiser. And in the last ABC poll, she was up 20 points among women, 32 points among college-educated white women who normally go Republican.

GREENE: OK. We'll be talking much more in the final days of this campaign. Jonah Goldberg is senior editor at The National Review and commentator and columnist Cokie Roberts. Hope you both have a good week.

ROBERTS: OK.

GOLDBERG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.