THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
ANNOUNCER (voice-over): Starting right now on ABC, THIS WEEK, slugfest: Donald Trump under fire and firing back. Days before that make-or-break debate.
Plus the results of our brand new poll.
And could a new front-runner emerge? Trump's surprising top challenger, Dr. Ben Carson is here.
Will he or won't he? The gut-wrenching decision, the raw emotion, Vice President Joe Biden's brand new signals about a possible run for the White House.
And refugee controversy: urgent calls for America to help these desperate families. Is it time for the U.S. to do more? Or will it risk our security?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): From ABC News, THIS WEEK with George Stephanopoulos begins now.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC HOST: Good morning. I'm Martha Raddatz. We begin with 2016. It's your voice, your vote.
And some astonishing numbers in our brand new ABC News "Washington Post" poll, revealing just how tight the race is between the front-runners. Take a look: in a Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump matchup, Clinton is in front but statistically they're essentially even, Clinton with 46 percent, Trump with 43 percent. And perhaps just as striking, a stunning gender gap for both candidates, Trump winning men by 15 points, Clinton up by 21 points among women.
Meanwhile, a key question this morning: with a critical GOP debate just three days away, can Donald Trump keep his front-runner status? Or is someone else ready to steal the spotlight?
It won't be Rick Perry, who, Friday, became the first to drop out but it could be Dr. Ben Carson, another outsider, now surging in the polls and taking new shots at Trump.
Dr. Carson will join us shortly. First, the latest from ABC's Jon Karl.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a Reagan conservative.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republicans will no doubt pay tribute to the Gipper when they assemble at the Reagan Library for this week's debate. But these candidates have shredded Reagan's 11th commandment: thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.
Speak ill? What do you call this?
Would anyone vote for that?
And the backlash that provoked.
CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But maybe, just maybe, I'm getting under his skin a little bit because I am climbing in the polls.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This disparaging of women is deeply troubling.
KARL: Bobby Jindal, languishing at the back of the pack, threw the book at Trump, a thesaurus.
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R-LA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Trump is a narcissist and he's an egomaniac, insecure and weak.
KARL: Even the soft-spoken Dr. Ben Carson, who soared in the polls to become a close second to Trump, got into the act, questioning Trump's commitment to God.
DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's a very big part of who I am, humility and fear of the lord. I don't get that impression with him.
KARL: Trump then went nuclear on Carson, calling him boring, heavily involved in abortion, which is not true, and even questioning the renowned brain surgeon's medical record.
TRUMP: He's overrated as a doctor.
KARL: One Republican did try embracing Trump this week. Ted Cruz inviting "The Donald" to the rally against the Iran nuclear deal in DC. But Cruz told us the real reason.
(on camera): Why did you have Donald Trump in this rally?
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, look, it's not complicated.
CRUZ: Number one, I like Donald.
CRUZ: But number two, everywhere Donald goes...
CRUZ: -- he brings 100 television cameras with him.
KARL (voice-over): And on Friday, Trump made his last night debut as the presidential candidate.
TRUMP: It's really going to be a big debate, but I'm always ready. It's not just big, it's yes!
KARL: How huge?
Once again, it will be Donald Trump at center stage.
For THIS WEEK, Jonathan Karl, ABC News, Washington.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
RADDATZ: Now, the man gaining on Donald Trump in the polls, Dr. Ben Carson, joins us from South Carolina.
Good morning, Dr. Carson.
Did you ever expect to be in this position? Bernie Sanders, another outsider, readily admits he's been stunned by his own climb. What do you make of the numbers?
CARSON: Well, you know, I find that people, once they have an actual opportunity to -- to hear what I have to say and get an explanation of it, frequently agree. And, you know, part of the problem is we live in a sound bite society and people will take one phrase or two phrases and then they try to portray the person as that, who has no other ability to think about any other aspects of it. He only thinks about that, which, of course is not true.
But when I get in front of people and they have an opportunity to hear something in-depth, it makes a difference.
RADDATZ: But -- but the polls in Iowa show that people actually like you better, think you're honest and trustworthy, have the right temperament. But Donald Trump is still beating you.
So what are they missing?
CARSON: Time. You know, it's a -- it's a marathon, it's not a sprint. And that's why we have this elongated process. And I think it will serve us well in the end.
RADDATZ: How -- how can you convince a voter who is now supporting Donald Trump, this brash, outspoken, irreverent man, someone who seems to be able to say anything and get away with it, how do you, this soft-spoken and reverent candidate, convince those voters, those Trump supporters, that you are a better candidate?
CARSON: Well, I'm not specifically going after Trump supporters. You know, I'm going after everybody in America, because, you know, we live in very perilous times. Our country is in grave danger. And if we don't begin to change our direction and change our attitude, I think we may not survive into the future.
And we have to look out for the future of our children and our grandchildren and all those coming behind us.
So I'm not specifically targeting my remarks at any one person, but rather at the situation that we find ourselves in.
RADDATZ: Well, Dr. Carson, there were a lot of stories this week about something you said about Donald Trump's faith.
Let me play what you said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARSON: By humility and the fear of the lord are riches and honor and life. And that's a very big part of who I am, humility and the fear of the lord. I don't get impression with him. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't get that impression.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Donald Trump said that was an attack. Your reaction?
CARSON: It wasn't meant as an attack and it was certainly spun that way by the media, because they enjoy creating a fight. They love to have a gladiator scene. And, you know, it wasn't my intention and I'm certainly not going to allow it to become my intention subsequently, regardless of how anybody reacts to it.
RADDATZ: But -- but listen to what Trump said about you just yesterday in Iowa.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think Ben has the energy. Ben is a nice man, but when you're negotiating against China, we need people that are really smart, that have tremendous deal-making skills and that have great, great energy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: That doesn't bother you at all?
CARSON: No, it doesn't bother me, because I recognize that I have plenty of energy. You know, operating on people for 10, 12, sometimes for greater than 20 hours at a time, making critical decisions after many hours of intense work, having...
RADDATZ: But Dr. Carson, you...
CARSON: -- unexpected situations come up.
RADDATZ: -- you -- you actually apologized...
CARSON: You don't have to be loud to be energetic.
RADDATZ: You actually apologized to Mr. Trump about your comments about his faith. Part of being president is to use the bully pulpit to lobby Congress, challenge opponents.
Can you do that?
CARSON: I don't think I'd have any trouble at all doing that. But when you do something that's inappropriate, I think it's appropriate to apologize for it.
RADDATZ: Why do you believe you, a neurosurgeon -- and you certainly are a talented neurosurgeon -- are the one who should be president of the most powerful country on earth and the commander-in-chief?
CARSON: Well, neurosurgeon is not the only thing that I am, although I will tell you that it requires quite a lot of knowledge to become a neurosurgeon and you're not going to have very many dumb people become neurosurgeons. I will tell you that.
But I have also spent decades in the business world and corporate world.
RADDATZ: Dr. Carson, let me ask you this, then, just quickly, if you will.
How would you handle the refugee crisis right now?
CARSON: I would recognize that bringing in people from the Middle East right now carries extra danger. And we have to be extra cautious. You know, we need to tighten it up and be very careful, because we cannot put our people at risk because we're trying to be politically correct.
RADDATZ: Thanks very much, Dr. Carson.
Let's turn now to the Democrats. That race tightening. Hillary Clinton down to 37 percent. Bernie Sanders now at 27 and Joe Biden at 20, even though he's not a candidate. But he's now offering his most personal reflections yet on his emotional struggle over whether to run.
Here's ABC's Cecilia Vega.
CECILIA VEGA, ABC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Will he or won't he?
This morning, it is the question every Democrat is asking, but even Joe Biden may not have the answer.
The vice president sure looked like a candidate in the running this week, hugging babies, kissing seniors. But then came his appearance on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert."
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My son was better than me.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
VEGA: Biden became emotional talking about his son Beau, who died of brain cancer in May.
BIDEN: I don't know what it was about him. He had this enormous sense of empathy. And I'm not making this up. I know I maybe sound like a father. I hope I -- anyway. But -- but it's real.
STEPHEN COLBERT, CBS HOST, “THE LATE SHOW”: It sounds like -- it sounds like you loved him, sir.
BIDEN: Oh, geez. I mean I...
VEGA: And that grief could be the very thing that keeps him from entering the race.
BIDEN: I don't think any man or woman should run for president unless they can look at the folks out there and say, I promise you you have my whole heart, my whole soul, my energy. I'd be lying if I said that I knew I was there.
VEGA: The woman who is running for president sliding in the polls. Now she's trying a different tactic -- is this the new spontaneous Hillary Clinton?
From dancing on "Ellen."..
VEGA: -- to this -- the apology for using that private email address and home server.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That was a mistake. I'm sorry about that.
VEGA: It came during an interview with ABC's David Muir a day after she said she had nothing to apologize for.
CLINTON: I'm sorry that it has, you know, raised all of these questions. I don't take responsibility for having made what is clearly not the best decision.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
RADDATZ: And Cecilia and Jon Karl are here now.
Welcome to the both of you.
Jon, I want to go back to Joe Biden.
I -- I don't think we we've ever seen an interview so emotional, so raw from someone contemplating a run for president.
What does that tell you, when you look at that interview?
KARL: Well, what it tells you is that nobody knows what Joe Biden is going to do, not even Joe Biden. But those closest to Biden tell me it would be a mistake to watch that interview, with all the anguish you saw, and to think that is going to mean he's not going to run.
Biden and his closest advisers see a clear path to running. They think he can win. They are seriously looking at this.
He has not made his mind up. He is anguishing through this decision in a very public way.
RADDATZ: And Cecilia, this -- you've been on the campaign trail, of course, with Hillary Clinton. And this interview comes the same week as you say that Hillary Clinton is trying to be more authentic, trying to be softer. We saw that all in the interview with David Muir. It also comes as some Democrats are looking for a Plan B.
Can she compete in authenticity against what we saw with Joe Biden?
VEGA: Well, she is certainly trying, but perhaps her biggest threat to this may be Hillary Clinton herself, right. We are seeing this shift in Hillary Clinton right now. You're seeing -- you saw her dancing on "Ellen." You're seeing someone who's trying to be more spontaneous. We heard her talking about her mother more. We saw her cry during -- I mean tear up during that interview with David Muir here in Charlotte, words all the time.
The reality is, though, you go back to that poll that came out recently that said the first words that come to mind for many voters when they hear the word Hillary Clinton, liar, dishonest, untrustworthy. She has a real problem on this front.
RADDATZ: And -- and that email problem is not going away, either.
Jon, so I just want to go back to Vice President Biden again. You talk about he hasn't made a decision, but if he makes a decision to run, how does he make that transition to say, OK, I'm grieving, but now I'm ready?
KARL: Well, I think you've seen flashes of this. I mean look -- look in Cecilia's story. You saw him at that Labor Day parade running down the street, you know, hugging babies, kissing grandmothers. I mean he has it -- this is his best chance in his life to be elected president. He can pull this off, you know, but I've got to tell you, when he was up in New York for 9/11, he went to Rescue 1 Firehouse in Manhattan. Somebody mentioned Beau and he said, it's been 103 days since he died.
He is literally counting the days since his son died.
RADDATZ: Remarkable. And -- and Cecilia, I just want to ask you quickly, if he gets in, what is the -- what does Hillary Clinton's campaign do?
VEGA: Well, you know, they say that they've been expecting this. The reality is, you're seeing this shift now, so they are very clearly nervous.
He -- Biden, if he does run, has a huge road ahead of him, right? Hillary Clinton already has 78 people in Iowa alone. Biden -- the draft Biden people have have just two in South Carolina. If he gets in tomorrow, it's going to be a tough race. He's -- let alone October 15th, before the -- the Democrat -- or October 13th, before the Democratic debates.
So, you know, a lot of people are wondering whether he could actually pull this off if he does decide to jump in.
RADDATZ: Thanks to you both and great to see you both here.
Coming up, much more on all the 2016 drama. Plus new warnings over that refugee exodus.
Could ISIS operatives sneak into the U.S.?
And on the NFL's opening weekend, the big changes that could be coming to football to make the sport safer.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Next, our exclusive interview with the man leading the charge in America's war against ISIS.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Back now with that refugee exodus with so many still pouring in, Germany saying this morning it's nearing its limit. What that new controversy could ISIS infiltrate the refugees entering the West? We'll take that question on after the latest from ABC's Terry Moran.
TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The gate to Europe is about to close. And the tensions are rising. Hungary has announced it will seal its border this coming Tuesday: no more crawling under that razor wire. No more walking down those tracks across the border.
Refugees caught in Hungary will be arrested and prosecuted, men, women and children. And so the rush north accelerates towards Germany and a very different atmosphere, an amazing scene Saturday, a soccer match in Munich, players walking out hand in hand with both a German child and a refugee child and 75,000 fans cheered.
One Syrian family made it to Munich Saturday and we know them well. Mohammed Hillel (ph) and his wife, Patul (ph), and their four children, including little Fahad (ph), 10 months old, they made it.
"We just got Munich and we're very happy," he says.
We met them in Turkey three weeks ago, sleeping in a park in Ismir (ph), preparing for their dangerous journey. Then their harrowing crossing to Greece in an overcrowded dinghy, the children's faces etched with fear.
Day after day, by bus, by foot, by train, they headed toward the hope of a new life. But Hungary was bad, very bad. They were herded into a camp for a week.
MORAN: They put you in prison?
MORAN (voice-over): "Yes," he says.
Their food ration: one roll of bread per day.
Here, their own images of the filthy conditions, the cold, dark cell.
But we walked with them into Austria and now they have reached their Promised Land.
MORAN: There are thousands of families just like Mohammed's (ph) on the move. But the countries of Europe can't agree among themselves on how or even if to take them in. There's talk of quotas, maybe a lottery. But while the politicians bicker, the people keep coming -- Martha.
RADDATZ: Thanks, Terry.
That refugee crisis sparked in part by a civil war in Syria and the terror group, ISIS. The coalition effort against ISIS is now a year old.
So is the U.S. winning the war?
We took that question to retired general John Allen, the president's special envoy for the coalition fighting ISIS. But I started off asking him what responsibility the U.S. bears to help those refugees.
GEN. JOHN ALLEN, U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY: Our prayers are with all of them flying security and safe haven, wherever their travels will take them. But I also, by virtue of the job that I have today, recognize that we have a responsibility that we have shouldered to deal with the root causes of much of this humanitarian crisis, which is the crisis in the Middle East, whether it's the Syrian civil war or the emergence of this organization that we call ISIL or daish.
RADDATZ: I know you have said it's not going to be easy; it's not going to be fast.
But are we today at a place where you thought we would be?
ALLEN: Where we were a year ago today, I wasn't sure how it was going to unfold. It was not clear to me even that Iraq would survive this.
In the intervening months, we've seen remarkable progress in many respects. We've seen the emergence of a capable leader and a partner in Baghdad in the form of Haider al-Abady. Without a political resolution of this conflict, no matter what we do militarily, will not solve this crisis overall.
We've seen a coalition come into existence in the intervening months between those days and today, a coalition that has worked very hard to stem the flow of foreign fighters, to impede the finances of Daesh as they've attempted to support their operations in Iraq and Syria.
RADDATZ: And yet Mosul is still controlled by ISIS, Fallujah is still controlled by ISIS>
ALLEN: You're exactly correct. And we're not done. There's much work to be done.
But we've had some real successes. You know, Tikrit was taken back by Iraqi security forces, Tikritis are returning home now.
And in Syria, in that place called Kobani where we thought we would see another horrendous massacre occur, brave defenders supported by the coalition ultimately held the city. They pushed Daesh well off that border and closed the principle crossing point from Turkey into Syria.
RADDATZ: Let's talk about Kobani. Kobani remains desolate, dangerous, 70 percent of the city destroyed before the U.S. airstrikes. And many of those refugees, including that 3-year-old boy, his brother and mother were from Kobani. They can't go back.
ALLEN: Well, the intent, of course, is to create the humanitarian conditions where they can go back, to rebuild the city. And that process is underway.
And Syria is never going to be solved militarily. Syria has got to have a political transition away from Bashar al-Assad. He can't be part of the solution.
RADDATZ: 2011 is when President Obama said he had to go. He has not gone. There has not been a political solution. And it's getting worse for the people who live there. It's getting worse for the refugees.
ALLEN: And we'll work very hard to have that political solution.
RADDATZ: In the meantime, the White House is announcing that the U.S. will take in 10,000 Syria refugees, but the chairman of the Homeland security committee says ISIS could embed with those refugees, creating a jihadi pipeline.
They call it a national security threat. Do you agree?
ALLEN: I think we should watch it. We should be conscious of the potential that Daesh may attempt to embed agents within that population. But I also have to tell you, I have tremendous confidence in the work that has been, and is being done, by Director Comey with the FBI and with Secretary Johnson at the Secretary of Homeland Security, the attorney general and the Department of Justice, they've done tremendous work of protecting us domestically.
And as I have watched their efforts unfold, and as we would see the potential for infiltrators to be in these refugee columns (ph), I have confidence that they will work very, very hard to prevent them from getting into the country.
RADDATZ: But is it a potential national security threat?
ALLEN: I think it's a threat. We need to understand the totality of it I think before we could brand it a national security threat. But it's clearly something we should be thinking about.
RADDATZ: Our thanks to General Allen.
So, let's bring in Congressman Michael McCaul, the chairman of the homeland security committee. Good morning, Chairman McCaul.
I want to ask you right away, you have talked about the national security threat. How do you balance these urgent humanitarian needs with national security?
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL, (R) TEXAS: Well, it's tragic. It's a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. I believe the result of a failed foreign policy in Syria with the inability to remove Assad from power and also the rise of ISIS. That's why these refugees are fleeing.
And until we address the root cause of the problem there, we are going to continue to have a refugee crisis globally. And I think as General Allen talked about, we need to deal with that problem first and foremost to resolve this issue.
From a national security standpoint, I take ISIS at its word when they said in their own words that we'll use and exploit the refugee crisis to infiltrate the west. That concerns me.
RADDATZ: Well, let's talk about what we do. I know the Department of Homeland Security in the past few years has worked with the intelligence community to improve vetting using classified material. But do we have enough people to do that? Do we have enough in place and do we even have the intelligence on Syrians?
MCCAUL: We don't. And that's a problem.
You know, look, if I could be assured these people could be vetted properly I would be supportive.
The problem is the FBI testified before my committee, I've had Homeland Security officials and the intelligence community who all say to me that we don't have the systems in place on the ground in Syria to properly vet these individuals. We don't know who they are. I visited one of these camps in Jordan. The minister of security told me he doesn't know who these people are.
But when you have the DNI, Mr. Clapper, express concerns and the FBI and Homeland privately as well saying that we don't have the intelligence on the ground to vet these persons properly -- that to me, my first and foremost job is to protect the American people.
We are a compassionate nation. We have to deal with this crisis.
But, you know, this is -- could be a very reckless and dangerous policy.
RADDATZ: And Chairman McCaul, if you would quickly, we of course have the pope coming soon. There's always concern about lone wolf attacks. I think someone was arrested this week in Florida, a suspect, sympathizer with ISIS. Do you feel secure about the pope coming in to America?
MCCAUL: I'm concerned. I was briefed by the Secret Service in a classified setting.
The pope is a very -- I'm Catholic, by the way -- he is a very passionate man. He likes to get out with the people. And with that comes a large security risk.
We are monitoring very closely threats against the pope as he comes in to the United States. We have disrupted one particular case in particular.
But as that date approaches, I think we're all very -- be very vigilant to protect him as he comes into the United States.
RADDATZ: Thank you so much for joining us this morning, Mr. Chairman.
Coming up, is he in or out? A key supporter and friend of Joe Biden weighs in.
RADDATZ (voice-over): There's Joe Biden at a 9/11 anniversary event this week, Biden publicly agonizing over whether to run for president and supporters are gearing up in case he says yes.
We're joined now by Dick Harpootlian and a Biden friend and former chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party.
Good morning, Dick. And I want to ask you right away, "The New York Times" says Vice President Biden looks like a man running for president, and he was out there with firefighters and the crowds this week. But he does not sound like it.
So do you think he will run?
DICK HARPOOTLIAN, FORMER CHAIR, SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Well, I think it's difficult to tell, Martha. I do know this: I know this country needs Joe Biden. I know -- I've gotten dozens of calls since his appearance on Colbert the other night, with folks saying if I communicate with him, let him know that it's not just about winning the nomination for our party; it's about moving this country in the positive direction, that Hillary Clinton can't do, that none of the Republicans can do.
So this is a time -- and I think -- my belief is he will run because he understands that he can put his personal great aside and try to deal with the problems confronting every man and woman in this country and your report just a moment ago about refugees, let's think about this.
Joe Biden, over a decade ago, proposed dividing Iraq into Sunni, Shia and Kurd provinces --
RADDATZ: I know --
HARPOOTLIAN: -- his advice…
RADDATZ: Go ahead, go ahead, finish that thought.
HARPOOTLIAN: -- there would be no ISIS today.
RADDATZ: I want to -- I want to turn back to the race. Biden has run twice before and he really got nowhere. Why would it be different this time? And how does he do it this late in the game?
HARPOOTLIAN: Well, I think doing it this late in the game is the easiest question to answer. There are literally hundreds of folks here in South Carolina, the third primary, by the way, just this week, over a dozen former legislators, current legislators, Joe Riley, the mayor of Charleston, has all urged him to get into the race and support him.
We could put together an army of Biden supporters here in a very short period of time. I hear the same thing from Iowa; I hear the same thing from New Hampshire. There's no excitement about the Clinton campaign. There is huge excitement about Joe Biden's campaign.
RADDATZ: So do you see the support that Biden is already getting there more about him or about Hillary Clinton's vulnerabilities?
HARPOOTLIAN: About him; but, I must say, there are a -- I'm getting calls from folks here in South Carolina who have publicly said they're for Hillary Clinton, they have grave doubts about her ability to win in November of '16, who indicated to me if Joe Biden gets into the race, they're coming to his side.
RADDATZ: OK, thanks very much for joining us, Mr. Harpootlian.
Let's bring in the roundtable, Republican pollster, author of "The Selfie Vote," Kristen Soltis Anderson; Democratic strategist Maria Cardona; Robert Costa from "The Washington Post" and Steve Inskeep, host of NPR's "Morning Edition."
And I want to start with you, Steve, and go around the table quickly, do you think he's going to get in?
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST, NPR'S "MORNING EDITION": I think he would have to come up with a rationale, a basic narrative for a candidacy. Let's think this through. "I'm mourning my son" is a very powerful emotional message but not actually something you would use to run for president.
"I'm worried about Hillary Clinton's chances," also not exactly a positive rationale for a candidacy.
"I'm Joe Biden. I want to carry on the Obama legacy," that's something but it's also tricky. It's problematic. Al Gore tried to run on that and actually ended up sort of running away from it in 2000.
So the question has to be asked, if Joe Biden is going to be successful all the way through, what's his narrative? What's the reason that he's the guy?
RADDATZ: Does he have a narrative?
ROBERT COSTA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": He does have a narrative. But when I'm on the trail in Iowa and South Carolina and New Hampshire, I get the sense that there's a deep well of empathy for the vice president, respect for the bright -- vice president.
But does that automatically translate into a political base?
Biden's people know it does not necessarily do that.
RADDATZ: So do you think he gets in?
SOLIS ANDERSON: I don't think he gets in. I think he's sending signals that he wants to, but he doesn't know if it's actually the right time.
MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don't think he gets in at the end of the day, because I agree, there is, right now, no clear path for him. And because it was his beloved son's last dying wish I don't think is enough. I agree with Bob that you don't really see an outcry for Joe Biden to run. He is absolutely beloved by the party, and, frankly, I think, both parties. He's got a lot of respect.
But guess what, he's also, right now, has the halo effect, because he hasn't jumped in.
What happens when he jumps in?
A completely different ball game -- or if he jumps in?
RADDATZ: Kristen, does he get in?
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: The challenges that Hillary Clinton is having in these Democratic primary polls are not even about Hillary Clinton. They're about people really liking Bernie Sanders.
The Democratic Party, at this moment, is not distrusting of Hillary Clinton in the way that general election voters are. So while Joe Biden may be actually doing pretty well in some of these general election polls, I think he would struggle to take the nomination from Hillary Clinton, barring some kind of really catastrophic disaster on her part.
RADDATZ: But -- but one of the things you see in this race is it is so unpredictable.
Who would have thought Donald Trump would be where he is now?
Who would have thought Bernie Sanders would be here now?
So do you think, if he gets into the race, there is a chance?
COSTA: There -- there is, of course, a chance. But I have not seen Democratic voters turn on the email issue. Republicans see it as a general election vulnerability for the secretary, but not Democrats. And if they have an ideological difference, Kristen is right, they're turning to Sanders.
RADDATZ: It is -- what about that email issue? You -- you don't think that's going to remain an issue if they keep pouring out more...
COSTA: -- for Democratic primary voters?
COSTA: I haven't seen -- they think she's still...
COSTA: -- a historic candidate and she's a favorite who has roots going back decades. That hasn't changed.
INSKEEP: And she is able to say this is just Republicans generating another controversy. The problem for Hillary Clinton is, she has attempted to answer this several times. And each time she does, it somehow seems more substantive rather than less.
Her most recent apology was the most substantive to date, saying on this network that she was sorry that she had used a private email server, putting out a number of points -- statements of fact.
But you can keep apart each of those statements, the key one being I've turned over all my work-related emails to the State Department except, as my colleague Tamara Keith pointed out the other day, you have to take her word for that, because there's no way to back up which emails she sent and which she did not.
RADDATZ: And there's very careful language that they weren't marked classified...
SOLTIS ANDERSON: Right.
RADDATZ: -- which they wouldn't have been marked at the time because the people who would have marked them probably wouldn't have seen them.
But let -- let's talk about a Plan B.
Whatever you say about Joe Biden -- and most of you don't seem to think he really has much of a chance, given the -- given your remarks.
What about the Plan B for the Democrats?
What if this email thing does get out of control and Democrats start saying, hey, wait a minute, this is the problem?
SOLTIS ANDERSON: Well, in the event that a Plan B is necessary, I think then having Joe Biden jump in to sort of fill the role that a fading Hillary Clinton would -- would have would make more sense.
But at the moment, Democratic primary voters really like Bernie Sanders. I mean we are in this unusual position where electability has been kind of either redefined, reimagined or just doesn't matter to voters anymore and where we now have Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump as having a chance, a real chance of winning their party's nomination, when a few months ago, we would have said well, maybe vote -- maybe they -- they push those emotional buttons and voters really like them, but they'd never have a chance in a general election.
And we, as you mentioned early, at the top of the show, the new ABC News/"Washington Post" Poll showing this really close match-up between the electable and formidable Hillary Clinton and the very, very out there Donald Trump.
RADDATZ: Let's talk about the authenticity thing again and -- and Bernie Sanders and -- and Hillary Clinton. They want her to be more spontaneous. They want her to be more authentic.
In response to that story, David Axelrod, the long-time Obama adviser and campaign director, Tweeted this, "Today's 'New York Times' story on Hillary Rodham Clinton read more like "The Onion." Her detailed plan to show more authenticity and spontaneity. #justdoit."
CARDONA: I completely agree with him. It was an unfortunate story. She wasn't happy with it. Her -- her staff wasn't happy with it. You know, in -- in all honesty, I don't think they knew that it was going in that direction and it would -- and wouldn't have put it out if they did know.
But I think to the point of her authenticity, the interview that she did with David, I think, shows an authentic Hillary Clinton. She talked about her mother and I think her mother is going to be a very important narrative as she moves down this campaign.
RADDATZ: And her granddaughter, clearly.
CARDONA: And her granddaughter, as well. And I think that is going to be something that's very different from the way that she ran in 2008.
And then going back to another issue that we've been talking about here, what -- for Democratic votes, they have incredible enthusiasm for her still. And I think they continue to do that.
When she's on the trail, she doesn't get questions about her email server from the voters.
And right now, that's, frankly, what matters in Democratic circles.
COSTA: I mean we're talking about a Plan B. Where -- when are her rivals going to even go negative?
RADDATZ: Do they need to?
COSTA: Well, you don't see Senator Sanders. You don't see Governor O'Malley...
COSTA: -- and others. They're not going negative on Secretary Clinton...
CARDONA: That's right.
COSTA: -- because they know her strength.
RADDATZ: OK, let's -- let's move on to the GOP, although we've certainly touched on it.
Ben Carson, if you saw the interview with Ben Carson just a short time ago, he does not want to attack Donald Trump, although you can look at that sound bite about his faith and make your own judgments. He is clearly going to remain the low key, soft-spoken guy.
Will this continue to work for him, Steve?
INSKEEP: I wonder if the very demeanor that we saw on this program is part of Carson's strength, because that lack of energy, as he said, I am not a low energy person -- that lack of energy is actually -- I think that there are people -- people of faith who read that I am not worried about these small things, I'm not worried about this campaign. Bigger things are on my mind.
I think to Evangelical voters, that demeanor works. He is considered a likable person, as you pointed out in that interview.
Does that get him all the way?
I don't know. But it may get him some distance.
RADDATZ: OK, let's do -- let's turn now to Donald Trump. And he reached yet another new high in national polls this week.
Last week -- the last few polls have shown Trump climb higher and higher and higher. What stops Donald Trump? Is there a ceiling?
SOLTIS ANDERSON: We don't know yet. And I think that's what has been so interesting about this campaign, is that the -- the -- the common sense that we have seen in other campaigns has not been the case this time around.
I think for the -- the rest of the GOP candidates in this upcoming debate, and I think further on, it's how do you differentiate yourself from Donald Trump without playing on Donald Trump's field?
Because you can't out-Donald Trump Donald Trump. You have to focus on policy. And that's going to be a big challenge for them in the two minutes and then 30 second (INAUDIBLE).
RADDATZ: And one of the things I noticed in, in the Jimmy Fallon interview -- and we played a short little clip of a short little funny clip. But I -- I want to show you something else from that Fallon interview.
Trump seemed to be backing off just a little bit.
Let's listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I'm an efficient guy. I -- I built a great company and not to be bragging about the company, but this is the kind of a mind set we need now in this country. We have to become rich again and we're going to become great again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Was that a humble Donald Trump that I saw there at "The Washington Post?" Who is this guy? Could we be seeing Trump 2.0?
INSKEEP: I think (INAUDIBLE)...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a little difference there.
COSTA: I was with Trump this week on Capitol Hill. And I've covered him since January and February. And I have seen up close, as a reporter, the evolution of a candidate, someone who was bombastic and still remains so, but sees the nomination within sight.
And for that reason, without even much consultation from advisers, is becoming more disciplined.
INSKEEP: Robert is right, as he so often is. And you can see little signs of that...
RADDATZ: Such a nice crowd here.
INSKEEP: It's just the truth.
Thank you, thank you very much. It's just the truth. He's made a number of interesting subtle statements like overtly saying I will support my party's nominee. That's becoming a more conventional politician. Declining to say that he would overturn the Iran nuclear deal on day one, giving a more complicated answer to that, that's a suggestion of a guy who may well still be bombastic, but is thinking about maybe he has a shot to win this thing.
CARDONA: But here I think is the factor that we don't know. He's very thin-skinned. And so while he might be saying to himself and his advisers might be saying, look, you need to go a little bit easy here, because, yes, you are ahead now. But you know you are having an issue with these narcissistic, chauvinistic, misogynist comments. So I don't know that what he is saying now is going to hold if in the debate, for example, you have Jeb Bush or Scott Walker or anybody else.
RADDATZ: And I want to talk about the other candidates. And let's start with Carly Fiorina. You heard earlier in Jon Karl's piece and the comments he made about her face.
What does Carly Fiorina do, what do some of the others do -- Rick Perry we lost this week.
SOLTIS ANDERSON: I think Carly Fiorina has been doing a lot of the right things in the last month. And I think the fact that she came out and was a fighter and had so much energy, but didn't sound like a politician in that happy hour debate the first time around is why she's earned the right to be in this primetime debate this time around.
I think she should fight. I think she should maintain the course that she is on and continue to demonstrate not just that she has sort of the fire in the belly that I think a lot of voters don't see in many other candidates, but also that she has very smart answers on things like foreign policy that have caused people to take a second look at her.
I think she should maintain that same kind of strategy when the brighter lights are on her in this primetime debate and when she's up on stage with Donald Trump. I think the contrast will actually work out very well for her.
STEVE: Delightful contrast in a story by Trip Gabriel of the New York Times this weekend. He observed Trump and other candidates, three other candidates not named Trump as he put it, at an event in Iowa, at a ball game in Iowa.
Trump arrives, huge crowd, huge reception, speech of less than a minute, says nothing, says goodbye. Marco Rubio is in the crowd and is forced to answer questions about ethanol subsidies in Iowa and the voters didn't like his answers. And you realize at this moment, Trump has succeeded in being held to a different standard. He hasn't been forced to answer any questions.
RADDATZ: I know there's a lot of stories about people like optimism in this country, and yet Trump is gloomy. In a way, he's sort of doing both. He's saying the country is in terrible shape, but look forward.
SOLTIS ANDERSON: It's a very -- it's a backward looking sort of optimism. Make America great again. While someone like Marco Rubio is -- has a more forward-looking message, a new American century. So they are both optimistic, but Trump's is rooted in a very different place.
RADDATZ: Just very quickly, we've got about 20 seconds here.
CORDONA: And what's interesting, there is only to be at the Reagan library. Who was more optimistic than Ronald Reagan? And I think if the other candidates can make the contrast with Donal Trump's hate speech and you know this sort of country is going to hell and what are we going to do about it, I think they can make a big contrast that would mean something to voters.
RADDTAZ: Thanks to all of you for being here.
Next, the NFL under fire over player safety. The league's new medical adviser responds.
RADDATZ: There's Will Smith in the upcoming movie Concussion based on the true story of a doctor who studied football related brain trauma. Lots of questions about how the NFL will be portrayed in that movie and with the season now starting, the league is under fire to do more for player safety.
So, could that result in some big changes in the game?
I spoke to the league's new top medical adviser.
RADDATZ: It's the fourth quarter of the 2015 Super Bowl on football's biggest stage, wide receiver Julian Edelman takes a monstrous hit to the head. Edelman manages to stagger forward, obviously disoriented. He's cleared to keep playing, but the incident erupts into a safety debate.
MICHAEL WILBON, CO-HOST, PARDON THE INTERRUPTION: Did he look to me like a player who should have been on the field? The answer is no.
RADDATZ: For the NFL, the intense debate over concussions and head trauma is nothing new. Just this year, the league agreeing to pay up to $5 million each to retired players without admitting any wrongdoing after thousands sued alleging the NFL played down health risks. For the league, a potential billion dollar payout.
If there were a concussion, they would come in here?
BETSY NABEL, NFL MEDICAL ADVISER: If there were a concussion, they could come in here to be evaluated.
RADDATZ: And now the league has named cardiologist Dr. Elizabeth Nabel as the NFL's first health and medical adviser. Her job requires balancing America's love of the game with the safety of the players.
I'm thinking one thing about football after watching it for years is that what they try to do in the training room is get them back out there.
NABEL: Yes, they do. That's why they have standardized checklist that all 32 teams must comply with.
RADDATZ: That checklist outlines concussion symptoms and asks players to perform simple cognitive tests, just one of the NFL's many new safety measures. But Dr. Nabel says even more research is needed?
NABEL: The NFL can play a leadership role in understanding the scientific basis for acute and a chronic brain injury? Is there a protein that's secreted by the brain into the blood that indicates injury? How are helmets constructed? Can you use materials that will absorb the shock of contact a bit better?
RADDATZ: Changing the face of the game will mean rule changes.
NABEL: There will be rule changes regarding equipment, helmets, tackling.
RADDATZ: I told you my son played high school football, college football, and there were times that I sat there and thought why did I ever let him ever do this?
NABEL: I think these are our struggles that we all go through as a parent. We want our child to have rich life experiences. We want them to engage in activities that have deep values and are character building. And team sports can play that role.
And this is where the NFL can play a leadership role and have a watershed effect on youth sports.
RADDATZ: When you look out 10 years from now, do you think football will be the same as it is today, the same game?
NABEL: In 10 years, the game will be safer. The game is safer now than it's ever been. Adn the league will continue to make steady progress.
RADDATZ: ESPN's Mark Fainaru-Wada spent years investigating the toll concussions take on NFL players. He joins us now.
Mark, I heard the last comment there and I wonder what your reaction is. The game is safer than it's ever been before.
MARK FAINARU-WADA, ESPN: Well, this is certainly the leagues mantra, lately. It's been interesting watch the league evolve in sort of how it presents itself from marketing the violence for years to now marketing itself around safety.
The argument is one that's sort of a loose one to make as, you know, you talk to players around the league and you talk to people intimately involved in football. The argument that we're safer now than we've ever been is a hard sort of pill to swallow, I think, for some players.
We did a story on Chris Borland recently, the 24-year-old former 49ers player who retired prematurely worried about brain damage. You know, and he said look, the idea is the sport is what it is. I want to play good football and good football's dangerous football.
RADDATZ: So what about that balance? America loves football. You heard me say my son was a football player.
What do you think has to be done to balance those two things?
FAINARU-WADA: Well, I think there's two different questions there. The question at the NFL level where -- I mean, I love the sport as well and I think the sport is what it is. And so players now for decades, that the leagues and justice I think was to sort of deny this issue as we lay it out in our book, "League of Denial," this idea that football is connected to brain damage, the league said no for years.
But players now understand that and have to make their decisions about it at the NFL level. At the youth level, that's a different question. And I think this is part of what America is grappling with. Bloomberg had a recent study showing that 50 percent of parents said they don’t want their kids to play football.
So I think this is something we all grapple with, this risk and reward and exactly how much safer can you make a sport where inherently the idea is essentially knocking heads into each other.
RADDATZ: And one of the things that struck me about her comments is she said they go through this list with concussions. You have to pass this test before you go back out.
We don't really know all that much about the brain and how it's affected, do we?
FAINARU-WADA: No. I mean, there's no question that the science is very much in its infancy. And of course, one of the major issues that the league deals with and grapples with -- and this is not necessarily their fault -- is that of course players want to stay on the field. And so there's a tendency of -- and players will tell you this -- to try to figure out ways to beat those tests --
RADDATZ: Mark, and I'm going to have to --
FAINARU-WADA: -- the NFL level, they want to keep playing.
RADDATZ: Mark, I'm going to have to leave it there. But thank you so very much for joining us. We're back after this from our ABC stations.
RADDATZ: Finally this morning, we honor our fellow Americans who serve and sacrifice.
In the month of August, three service members died overseas supporting operations in Afghanistan.
RADDATZ: That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT" and we'll see you back here next week. Have a great day.