A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, August 16, 2020 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" starts right now.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: Historic ticket.
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SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): I'm so proud to stand with you. And I do so mindful of all the heroic and ambitious women before me.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: Biden chooses Kamala Harris.
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JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Her story is America's story.
HARRIS: My mother and father, they came from opposite sides of the world to arrive in America.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: Once rivals, now running mates.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought she was the meanest, the most horrible, most disrespectful of anybody in the U.S. Senate.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: And on the eve of the Democratic Convention, the battle lines are drawn.
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BIDEN: The choice we make this November is going to decide the future of America.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: As Trump targets mail-in vote.
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TRUMP: You are going to have a catastrophic situation with universal mail-in votes.
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ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."
Here now, chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."
Four years ago, on the eve of the Democratic convention, we were in Philadelphia as the delegates gathered, all set to broadcast from the convention hall, as all networks have done since the dawn of the TV era. Not this year.
The pandemic that has upended so much of our lives has essentially canceled the convention. The delegates will not be gathering in Milwaukee. The speakers will taking a virtual stage, beaming in from all over the country, in an epic display of social distancing.
One thing that will not change from four years ago, the kickoff speaker in prime time will be the runner-up for the Democratic nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders.
He joins us now from his home in Burlington, Vermont.
Senator, thank you for joining us this morning.
You're in the same position you were in four years ago, runner-up to the candidate who wanted reform not revolution. But the party has been moving your way on many of the big issues. So will you declare victory tomorrow night?
SANDERS: Well, one of the points that I will make is that the progressive movement has been making enormous progress not only in electing candidates to Congress, not only in electing candidates to state legislatures but also electing candidates who are running for district attorney, who are transforming criminal justice in America.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not quite all the issues, though -- not Medicare for all, and several of your supporters aren't happy about that. Congresswoman Ro Khanna has complained that it doesn't explicitly endorse Medicare for all. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib put out a tweet last night saying she's voting against the platform for that reason and actually nominating you for president.
What's your message to them?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Kamala Harris endorsed Medicare for all during the primaries. Do you believe she's an ally in this fight for Medicare for all?
SANDERS: Well, I believe that Kamala is somebody who is -- known for a number of years -- incredibly smart, incredibly tough. And I would not like to be Vice President Pence in a debate with her. I think she's an asset for the Biden campaign, and I think she's going to do great on the campaign trail.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not all of your supporters agree, including your former press secretary, Briahna Joy Gray. She put out a tweet saying, "We are in the midst of the largest protest movement in American history, the subject of which is excessive policing, and the Democratic Party chose a 'top cop" and the author of the Joe Biden crime bill to save us from Trump."
She was your press secretary. She says "The contempt for the base here is, wow."
SANDERS: Well, I would say that the overwhelming majority of progressives understand that it is absolutely imperative that Donald Trump be defeated, that we have a president who is trying to undermine American democracy, a president who has turned his back on the working families of this country, a president who has done a horrible job in terms of the pandemic, does not believe in science, is not dealing with the existential threat of climate change.
So obviously there may be disagreements. A lot of my supporters are not enthusiastic about Joe Biden, you know why? I ran against Joe Biden. But I think there is overwhelming understanding that Donald Trump must be defeated, Biden must be elected, and that the day after he is elected we're going to do everything we can to create a government that works for all of us and not just the 1 percent and wealthy campaign contributors.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Last night you called on the postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, to resign. But at his press conference yesterday, the president defended DeJoy and said he pinned the blame for the postal problems, the funding problems on Democrats. Take a look.
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TRUMP: The Democrats aren't willing to provide other things and therefore they're not going to get the funding for that. But you are going to have a catastrophic situation with universal mail-in vote. And on top of it, the Democrats aren't willing to give the people the money and the Post Office the money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your response?
SANDERS: Look, you've got a pathological liar in the White House, which is one of many reasons why he has to be defeated. Three months ago the Democratic House of Representatives passed a HEROES bill which would fund the Post Office, make sure that workers in this country continued to get $600 supplement to their unemployment insurance, if they're unemployed get at least $1,200, and provide massive help to cities and states.
To say that the Democrats are not working on behalf of working people or not funding the Post Office is another lie from Donald Trump.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But there is a stalemate now in the talks. So what do the Democrats do about this at this point?
SANDERS: There's not a stalemate. Democrats sat down, Mitch McConnell did not participate in the negotiations. You had Donald Trump, any day could invite Democrats and Republicans to the White House, he didn't. Their job was to stymie and make sure there were no agreements because half of the Republicans in the United States Senate do not want to contribute another nickel to American workers' health during this crisis. That's the reality.
SANDERS: Democrats are trying...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Whose ever to blame, it's still a stalemate. So my question is, what do the Democrats do at this point? Do you have to come back, cancel the recess right now, and put more pressure on this issue, on the president and his team?
SANDERS: Well, number one, I am deeply, deeply concerned about Trump's effort to undermine American democracy by defunding the Postal Service. Now that's not me talking, that's what Donald Trump said himself a few days ago. He said, look, I don't want people -- millions of people to be casting mail-in ballots.
Well, we're in a pandemic now, Mr. President, and people should not have to put their lives on the line and get sick and maybe die in order to cast a vote. Of course we need mail-in ballots. Here in Vermont on Tuesday, we had a primary, record-breaking turnout, most of the people voted by mail-in ballots. It went perfectly well. Other states are doing the same.
But Trump apparently believes that a low turnout will work for him. And he wants to discourage people from voting from mail-in ballots because he thinks it will work to his favor. That is pathetic. That is not what a president of the United States should be doing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So what do you do about it?
SANDERS: Well, I think Nancy Pelosi has a good idea. I think the House should come back and make sure that the U.S. Postal Service is fully funded. I think we've got to do everything we can to get rid of this new postmaster general who is clearly a campaign contributor for Trump trying to undermine the Postal Service. And make it clear to the American people, whether you are a progressive or moderate or a conservative, this goes beyond political ideology.
This goes to the fact of whether or not we are a democracy or we'll continue to have a president who is trying to make it impossible for millions of people to vote. And I hope that in a very resounding way the American people say, sorry, Mr. President, people fought and died for American democracy, you're not going to destroy it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Sanders, thanks for your time this morning.
SANDERS: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s get a response now from the Trump campaign. We’re joined by Senior Adviser Jason Miller.
Jason, thank you for joining us this morning. Before we get into the meat of the interview, let me begin by extending our condolences to President Trump and his family for the death of his younger brother Robert last night.
JASON MILLER, SENIOR ADVISER TRUMP 2020 RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN: Thank you. Appreciate that very much. It’s a very solemn day here at Trump headquarters. I know the president would very much appreciate those words George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And do you have any idea? I know the president was planning on campaigning just about every day this week, including going to Wisconsin tomorrow. Will those plans have to be changed at this point?
MILLER: I haven't spoken with the president yet this morning. So, I don’t know if the things will change for this coming week. But I imagine, we'll probably be putting some more information out there later this afternoon, possibly first thing tomorrow morning. But I don’t have any changes at the moment.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. Let's talk about Bernie Sanders right now. You heard him right there. He said the president was undermining democracy by defunding the Postal Service.
How do you respond?
MILLER: Well, I think, George, you hit the nail on the head when you asked Bernie Sanders what was his plan was to go and fix this, and he punted to Nancy Pelosi, who by the way is on vacation. The entire House has taken an August recess, and they’re not even here dealing with it.
I think it's a little disingenuous for Bernie and the rest of the Democrats to be making so much noise on this, they weren’t trying to do it in February, or March, or April, or May, and this is something that just is popping up now. I think what really is going on here is they're trying to change the rules and try to institute something that normally takes five to ten years to put in place, and rush it through a nearly five to ten weeks.
I mean, the fact of the matter is, we've seen mail -- universal mail-in voting has been a disaster, and to go try to rush this -- everyone remembers --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well --
MILLER: -- the hanging chad in Florida in 2000, imagine that in 10 or 15 states across the country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, in fact, Jason, the Democrats did take action early in the spring. The House passed a $25 billion emergency funding bill for the -- for the Postal Service.
And it’s not just the Democrats who are raising concerns about this right now. It’s Mitt Romney who is the nominee for the Republican Party in 2012 has responded to these claims of possible widespread voter fraud.
Let's take a look.
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SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I don't know of any evidence that voting by mail would increase voter fraud. The good news is, that if there were some allegation of impropriety, you’d be able to get the physical ballots and look at them and see if the signatures matched the people who are supposedly the voters, whether the person was still alive and so forth.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: In fact, that's exactly what's been happening in states where -- where they have had elections.
MILLER: No, not at all. In fact, Mitt Romney is wrong, just like he was wrong in 2012 and blew the election to Barack Obama, a race we should have won, by the way.
Mitt Romney should take a look at Paterson, New Jersey, where upwards of a quarter of all the votes were thrown out. He should take a look at Carolyn Maloney’s race, the primary in New York 12th, which I guess Carolyn Maloney is the winner of that. We’re still not sure.
But even take a look at Nevada --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But let me just stop right there, because when the votes were thrown out, that shows that the system is working. It shows that the votes that could have been fraudulent, and that’s exactly what’s been happening in the Carolyn Maloney race to get taken out, if indeed they don't meet the requirements.
MILLER: But no, but to carry on for six weeks afterwards, and we’re still not sure -- I mean, did Carolyn Maloney really win that race? I mean, her opponent doesn’t think so.
And you take a look at Paterson, New Jersey, which -- I mean, upwards of a quarter of the vote -- I mean, George, when you're marketplace competitor CBS did a test run with mailing out a whole bunch of different cards and to see what the return rate would be and they had a 3 percent error. Imagine in state where you only have 10,000 votes separating the two candidates like we did in Wisconsin last time, now you're going to throw a 3 percent error rate potentially into that.
The fact of the matter is, it takes time. The secretary of state from the state of Washington said it takes upwards of five to ten years to safely and responsibly get this in place. Democrats are now trying to rush this through and have wholesale changes in five to ten weeks.
And even worse, George, you take a look at Nevada, a bill they passed in the dead of night where they're trying to allow ballot harvesting, they’re trying to allow people to send in applications after the election date, everyone should have one vote. They should be -- safe and secure and how that's done. But you can't have non-postmarked ballots coming in or ballots with the postmark coming in up to a week later, or somewhere further down the road.
This is like Tip O’Neill back in the day holding open the vote until it gets enough votes to actually go and win. That's the goal here for the Democrats.
STEPHANOPOULOS: In Pennsylvania, your campaign has sued the state over plans for mail-in ballots, and judge hearing that case ordered you to produce evidence that mail-in voting leads to widespread voter fraud by last Friday.
Did you turn that evidence in and what was it?
MILLER: Yes. And so, for the public examples that have been out there, we saw earlier this year, it went to the mail-in voting, universal mail-in in Philadelphia, you still had a number of people, large number of people who went and voted in person in addition to doing the mail-in. We also had the example of the Philadelphia elections judge who was indicted and sentenced earlier this year, someone who’d been scamming the polls for a number of years and making money off of it. There are additional --
STEPHANOPOULOS: What does that have to do with mail-in voting?
MILLER: But -- there were additional aspects of fraud that were presented in that case, so I can’t discuss that right now, it’s still not public yet.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president, the vice president, many of his top advisers voted by mail all the time. And your campaign is also encouraging voters in states like North Carolina to vote by mail, doesn't that undercut the president's case?
MILLER: No, not at all. What the president is talking about is universal vote by mail. And just to be clear on this, because some folks might not be following the inside baseball, might -- despite the avalanche of news coverage, this is where we literally have tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of live ballots being sent out. And then when -- to people. And, look it could be going to someone who no longer lives at that location, be going to dead people. I mean it could be going to -- we've seen where dogs and even cats have received official communications from registrars, from secretary of states. It takes a long time for states to be able to put this together safely and securely. And to go and to rush this through, it's a disaster waiting to happen, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: They could -- they could be doing it better if -- if you didn't have problems at the Postal Service and if the president would agree to new funding.
MILLER: Well, but -- but, George, the president's already said that he's willing to give more funding. Why aren't the Democrats back in Washington trying to come up with a solution then? This is all about politics.
And, George, here's the thing. I think that, respectively speaking, I think that the media is being taken for a ride by the Democratic Party. They don't want to talk about Joe Biden heading into the Democratic Convention. The fact that Joe Biden doesn't have anyone on the Sunday shows even today talking about his candidacy is because it's a complete disaster.
Thirty years ago, George, you had a great slogan, it's the economy, stupid. That was one of the greatest in all-time history. Now what Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris are trying to say is, hey, stupid, I want to raise your taxes. That's the wrong message to be sending as we're coming out of this COVID recovery. And I wish the media would catch on to the fact that Democrats are just playing a shell game here.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, right now -- you said there, they're limping into the convention, but the national polling average, it has him up about eight points over President Trump right now.
MILLER: We're actually in a better place than we were four years ago, so I like it.
But, look, going into, all the trend lines are looking very positive, particularly in the battlegrounds where they're leading or within the margin of error of ever state that we need to get to 270. So we've seen a lot of progress.
In particular, I like where we are in Minnesota. I like where we are in Michigan. Things are definitely moving in the right direction.
But I'd also point out that Joe Biden knows that he has real problems with his own base, that he has problems with his candidacy. That's why he's running advertisements reaching out to African-Americans in the general election. Not something you normally see from Democrats in a general election. But he knows his base is weak. That's why he had to pick a radical progressive like Kamala Harris to come on as VP because he knows his numbers are very soft with his progressive base. So we feel good about where things are going.
Now, the Democrats will get a bump this week in the polls for sure. I mean this is something historically Democrats get a nice bump from the convention. I wouldn't be surprised if it's upwards even of eight to ten points. I do think it will be a pretty sizable bump.
But, look, this convention might play well in Brooklyn, New York, not so much in Brooklyn, Iowa. This will have all the --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, what -- what are you -- what are you saying --
MILLER: The glitz and the trimmings --
STEPHANOPOULOS: What are you seeing that we're not seeing? You talk about the battleground states. The polling averages have -- have Joe Biden up about 5 or 6 points in Florida. He's up a couple of points in North Carolina. He's up in Michigan. He's up in Pennsylvania. He's up in Wisconsin. He's up in Minnesota, where you just talked about as well.
MILLER: By two points. By two points in Minnesota. That's part of the reason why we'll be back in Minnesota tomorrow with the president. We think this is a state that we can flip. We only lost by about 45,000, 50,000 votes last go-round. We think this is right in our cross-hairs where we can get it. The state is shifting quite a bit, and especially with the terrible leadership coming from Governor Walz that we've seen in the state.
But one of the things is the -- George, the media pollsters have not corrected their models since 2016. And the same way that they undercounted Trump voters and they missed so much, nothing fundamentally has changed. I mean even take a look at -- go to the most recent "Washington Post"/ABC poll where you undercounted Republicans by 27 percent. I mean the exit polls from CNN and other folks had it at 36 Democrat, 33 Republican in 2016 and the most recent national survey that we saw from ABC and the "Washington Post" only had a 24 percent Republican sampling. There is no scenario where 27 percent of Republicans have all just magically gone pouf and disappeared in the last four years. So what we're looking at are models that were correct in 2016. We believe it will be correct in 2020. We feel good about where we are.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, before we go, the president was asked yesterday whether he thinks that Kamala Harris, for the second time, is eligible for run for president. Here's what he said.
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QUESTION: Will you say now that Kamala Harris is eligible to run and be vice president or president based on being born in Oakland, California?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, I have nothing to do with that. I read about it.
The lawyer happens to be brilliant lawyer, as you probably know. He wrote an article saying there could be a problem. It's not something that I'm going to be pursuing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: And during the 2016 primaries, the president raised similarities questions about Ted Cruz. You we working for Ted Cruz at the time. You responded to those allegations then forcefully. Even Lindsey Graham says now that Kamala is unequivocally an American citizen eligible to run.
Why can't the president say clearly, unequivocally, she is eligible to run for president?
MILLER: Well, he did. He said last night at his press conference, said it's not something that the campaign is pursuing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But that's not what he said.
MILLER: Not something he's spending any time into.
No, he -- no, I'm telling you exactly what he said. He said, it's not something the campaign is pursuing, not something that we brought up. It's not something that (INAUDIBLE). In fact, the only time --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But he did not say she's eligible to run for president.
MILLER: George, he made very clear, it’s not something that he’s brought up. It’s something that media keeps bringing up, whether to him in his press conferences or even interview formats like this, where it’s being brought up.
It is not something that anyone in our campaign is talking about. The president said that he doesn’t -- it's not something that we’re pursuing, not something that we’re interested in.
And in our opinion, it is case closed. End of story. And the only folks who keep bringing it up are the media.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it's good to hear you say this case closed. In fact, your campaign -- a lawyer on your campaign did retweet the article that raised the questions about whether or not Kamala Harris was eligible.
MILLER: She wasn’t speaking for the campaign. I am.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Jason Miller, thanks very much.
Roundtable is coming up.
And up next, we kick our “Six for the Win” series with a closer look at the battleground state of Wisconsin.
STEPHANOPOULOS: All through this campaign season, we're keeping a close watch on the six battleground states where the Trump and Biden campaigns are spending the most time and buying the most ads, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
These six states, all won by Trump last time, are where this election will be fought and won this time too.
And Mary Bruce kicks off our "Six for the Win" series with a closer look at Wisconsin.
MARY BRUCE, ABC NEWS SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a state Trump won by less than a point in 2016, the range of opinions over brunch at Franks Diner in downtown Kenosha make it clear Wisconsin could again be a battleground that determines the race.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm definitely going to vote for Biden.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm probably going to have to say Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Neither.
BRUCE: Over socially distanced French toast and eggs, voters tell us the issues that matter most to them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unemployment and how that's kind of been handled through the crisis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The national debt.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Race relations.
BRUCE: In 2016, Trump took Kenosha by a mere 238 votes. Swing counties like this propelled him to take Wisconsin by a razor-thin margin.
But not all voters are standing by their previous decision.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The ballot wasn't even cold in the box, and I'd already regretted it.
BRUCE: Lori McCammon (ph) tells us, in 2016, she was drawn to Trump's hard-liner stance on immigration.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel that he is chipping away at our democracy, and he's doing it in plain sight.
BRUCE (on camera): You said that, in hindsight, you wish you had just left your ballot blank four years ago. Is that your intention in November, or will you be voting for Joe Biden?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, no, I'm voting for Joe Biden. I have voted on -- Republican for most of my adult life. I don't know if I will ever vote Republican again.
BRUCE (voice-over): Trump is also having to defend his stronghold with rural voters.
Lynn Hicks (ph) has a small family farm in Gilman, Wisconsin.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a small guy. I'm just a drip in the pail.
BRUCE (on camera): You don't feel like Washington is listening?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not a huge farm. I'm not a huge business. I'm not a huge anything. But yet I'm here day in and day out. And, right now, I don't feel that that's necessarily appreciated.
BRUCE (voice-over): She tells us, come November, she may sit out entirely, though she is a fan of the president's tough talk.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's not going to take any crap. He's going to -- he's going to say, nope, this is the way it is, this is what we need to do.
BRUCE (on camera): Do you think Joe Biden is capable of that same kind of tough talk?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not -- I don't necessarily know.
BRUCE (voice-over): One recent poll shows Biden up in Wisconsin by five points. But experts say the state could go either way.
CHARLIE SYKES, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE BULWARK: My sense is that Wisconsin will continue to be very, very close.
BRUCE: Prominent Wisconsin commentator Charlie Sykes says, this election could largely come down to Democrats' ability to turn out the vote, especially as Trump ramps up his baseless attacks on mail-in voting.
In April's primary, in-person voters were met with long lines like these. Nearly 1.3 million absentee ballots were delivered to voters, nearly 90 percent of them returned and counted.
(on camera): Is there a danger, you think, that the president's concerns about mail-in voting may actually backfire on him?
SYKES: I'm hearing that from Republicans, that they're concerned that Donald Trump's attack on mail-in voting might actually suppress his own base, because Republicans in Wisconsin have been using mail-in voting for many years.
BRUCE (voice-over): One of those Trump supporters who has been voting by mail, Erin Decker, the GOP chair in Kenosha County.
ERIN DECKER, KENOSHA COUNTY, WISCONSIN, REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIR: I actually absentee-vote all the time.
BRUCE (on camera): Are you concerned at all that the way the president is talking about mail-in voting, that it may discourage some people from voting by mail?
DECKER: I know that some people naturally are leery of it. There's just people out there that they want -- they want to stick that ballot in that machine and make sure that they hear it beep.
BRUCE (voice-over): With 79 days left, Democrats are trying to defend Biden's lead without directly connecting with voters on the ground, a challenge now that Democrats' convention in Milwaukee has gone virtual.
LORI HAWKINS, KENOSHA COUNTY, WISCONSIN, DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR: We're disappointed obviously that Joe Biden is not going to be in Milwaukee next week to accept the nomination, but I have heard nobody upset or angry about it.
We have got some time before the election. So, we're hoping that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are going to be able to come to Wisconsin.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Mary for that.
Nate Silver and the roundtable are up next.
We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, 37TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow Americans, I come before you tonight as a candidate for the vice presidency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable’s up next. We’ll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR (November 8, 2016): Nate Silver, you had your forecast coming into the night like so many others. In fact, you were more cautious on Hillary Clinton's victory than many others but you still had it above 70 percent. You've had this dramatic change as the result have come in overnight
NATE SILVER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT (November 8, 2016): Well, we were a lot more cautious because of the scenarios that's unfolding now, which is that if she underperforms in the Midwest, she could lose the Electoral College despite winning the popular vote.
She'll have plenty of votes. She'll get a lot of votes. Maybe more votes than Donald Trump. But that leads to not her winning the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: That was Nate Silver on election night 2016 when the first signs emerged that Donald Trump was about to score an upset win in the Electoral College.
Nate's forecast gave Trump a 29 percent chance of winning heading into election night and now he's out with his first forecast of 2020. With national polling showing the president about eight points behind Joe Biden, what are his odds this year?
NATE SILVER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: FiveThirtyEight came out with our presidential forecast model this week to answer this very question. So, please go check it out.
And I'm going to spoil you by giving you the answer right up front. Yes, Trump definitely still has a shot at re-election. More specifically, he has a 27 percent chance, according to our model, which is actually pretty decent. It's like a poker player making a flush draw. Or to give a more pertinent example, it's very similar to the 29 percent chance that FiveThirtyEight's model gave to Trump on Election Day 2016.
At the time, a lot of people complained that our forecast was too high on Trump. Well, it turned out they were wrong.
At the same time, this is not quite the same situation as 2016 when the polls were actually pretty close.
This year Trump is not very close to Joe Biden. Instead the issue is that he still has a lot of time to catch up. Biden currently leads by 8.5 points, international polling average, and his numbers have been good in swing states like Florida and Wisconsin. But, again, all of that could change. At this point in 2004, John Kerry led in polls over George W. Bush. In 1988, Michael Dukakis held a fairly big lead into early August, though he lost it after the GOP convention and never gained it back.
Our model also thinks that if the election tightens, there's a 10 percent chance of a 2016 repeat where Trump wins the Electoral College but not the popular vote.
That's partly because Democrats have a lot of wasted votes in states like California and New York where Biden is projected to win by 25 or 30 points.
Finally, there are some uncertainties related to Covid-19. We're not sure what the economy will look like by November, for example, and our model tries to account for that uncertainty too.
The bottom line, it's simply too soon for a model or for anybody else to be all that confident about what is going to happen.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Fair caution right there from Nate.
Let's bring in our roundtable now. We're joined by Chris Christie, Yvette Simpson, Sara Fagen and Rahm Emanuel.
Welcome to you all. You're all going to be here for our coverage all week long on the convention.
And, Rahm, let's start off by talking about the convention right now. Joe Biden in the favorite. Heading into the convention, about 8 points up. What does he need to do this week? Can the Democrats do what they need to do in this virtual format?
RAHM EMANUEL, FORMER CHICAGO MAYOR (D) AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, this is the -- we've all said it every time we've all been to a convention, hopefully this will be the last convention. It's hard to have a convention if you don't convene. And so I think -- but to the core question, George, is continue what he's done with the excitement of Kamala Harris and the appointment. She's accomplished some key things. One, makes history. Two, energizes the base. Three, she reassures the moderate swing voters. Four, she riles up Trump. Five, she's drawing Trump's fire away from Biden towards her, and she’s returning the fire.
Donald Trump is not going to win by attacking Kamala Harris. He hasn’t hurt in some way Joe Biden, and he hasn’t accomplished it. She's drawing all his fire.
And in elections, when you run for re-election, he's trying to repeat in 2016, 2020. Successful re-elections run a new campaign.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sara Fagen, you talk about Kamala Harris. We had a new poll out this morning showing wide approval for Kamala Harris, 54 to 29.
It seems like she did what she needed to do, at least on the announcement for the Biden ticket.
SARA FAGEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yeah, look, she’s an incredibly impressive, accomplished person, and it’s a historical moment for the country. And all Americans should take pride in that.
Having said that, she was also painted as a moderate in the rollout, and she's anything but.
And so, there's going to be an opportunity, particularly given Joe Biden's age, Senator Harris, one heart beat away for the presidency, is not the moderate she's been portrayed to be.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yvette Simpson, this is the case you're hearing out from the Trump campaign. He seemed to have settled on this -- that Kamala Harris is not a moderate.
But you, you know, you represent the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. A lot of progressives, at least at first, weren't thrilled by the choice.
YVETTE SIMPSON, DEMOCRACY FOR AMERICA CEO: She was not our first choice. She was not our second choice. But we are excited that this is a historic moment because progressives care about representative democracy.
And so, you know, Joe Biden wasn't our first choice, wasn’t our second choice.
We do know Kamala Harris, though. Democracy for America endorsed her for Senate when she ran and we believe that she is someone we can talk to. She will listen.
And so, of all the likely choices, she was probably the best one we could ask for.
Of course, we would have preferred a Stacey Abrams or maybe even Elizabeth Warren to a Kamala Harris. But we’re excited about her nomination. We love the historic nature of it.
And honestly, as an African-American women leader, I am excited about the fact that Joe Biden made the choice to put an African-American, Indian American woman on his ticket.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie, pick up on this right now and the point that Rahm had earlier, that Trump is training his fire on Kamala Harris, and meanwhile, they haven’t yet landed on the strategy for Joe Biden.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Really, George, I think that’s just a “this week” phenomenon. Obviously, you know, she's the news of the week this week. And so, the president is aiming his fire at the news of the week.
But I think that will change very quickly this week when Joe Biden is really put front and center for the first time. We haven’t seen a lot of him of late. We’ll see him front and center this week, then I think you'll see the campaign and the president and, you know, folks like the vice president training fire on Joe Biden starting this week.
And believe me, Joe Biden will I’m sure look upon this week as the good all old days when he was shooting at Kamala Harris. I don’t think that will continue for a long time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sara Fagen, let's talk a little bit more about this, because we'll see what kind of case is made against Joe Biden this week. But one of the things you’ve seen from the president basically for the last week is just this assault on mail-in voting. Is that a smart strategy?
I mean, it has a potential of making a lot of Republican voters who would otherwise vote by mail stay home.
FAGEN: Well, I think that there's been some real challenge in distinguishing between absentee voting and universal mail in voting and I think the White House and the president has --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, has there been a challenge because the differences that great?
FAGEN: No, the difference is very significant, actually. And so, if you think about states like Oregon or Washington that have been doing this for many, many years, they have dynamic systems in place that if you move, if you -- if you die, you're more likely to get the voter rolls updated quickly.
In a situation where the state is not electronic like that, you know, you're trying to jam this in five weeks. You're just going to be mailing out ballots to people in nursing homes that may have passed away, people who may have moved. I do think that that is imprudent, and the country is not ready for universal mail-in voting, but most states do have absentee voting. And I think Republicans should champion no fault absentee voting, we should champion absentee voting in the era of a pandemic, but universal mail-in voting is an entirely different animal.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yvette Simpson?
SIMPSON: You know, I think all of the comments, I’m still thinking about the president's chief of staff, all deflection, all distraction. The reality is, is that the efforts that the postmaster general are taking right now have to do with sabotaging and stealing the election.
Help me understand how shutting down sorting machines, cutting overtime, taking, you know, actual -- taking mailboxes off the streets, are going to help make this election more fair?
Donald Trump gave his directive. He does not want universal mail-in voting because he believes it will compromise his ability to win, and he has appointed someone who not only wants to undermine the Post Office but wants to help him fulfill that objective.
He's been very direct. It has not been complicated, covert. It has been very clear. And he should be stopped.
I hope that Nancy Pelosi gets -- gets the House together, I hope that the Senate goes back and can get a couple of reasonable Republicans who understand that undermining -- he should be stopped.
And I hope that Nancy Pelosi gets House -- gets the House together. I hope that the Senate goes back and get -- can get a couple reasonable Republicans who understand that undermining the Postal Service does a lot of damage to a lot of Americans and will compromise this election and will call into question Republicans' commitment to our democracy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie, one Republican has come forward. We saw Mitt Romney earlier in the program.
I noticed, in your state, Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell has actually filed a criminal referral against the campaign, saying they're trying to suppress the vote.
CHRISTIE: Yes, well, Bill Pascrell is probably the most partisan Democrat in our congressional delegation. So, that's no great surprise. I have known Bill for a long time.
Listen, here's the difference, George. And I think Sara put it very well. The difference between absentee ballot voting, where you affirmatively ask for a ballot, because you say you want to vote by mail, vs. sending out millions of ballots that have been unsolicited by folks, is a huge difference, not only in terms of processing all that mail, and then the county clerks processing all those votes in a timely fashion.
It's a different way to do it. And I think Sara is right. Washington and Oregon have put systems in place to do this. I can tell you, in New Jersey, we had to wait nearly four weeks to find out who our Republican nominee for the United States Senate was for this election, when, in fact, there was a fraction of the votes cast in that primary that will be cast in the general election in the fall.
And I will also tell you this. The idea of using the pandemic as an excuse for this, in our home, my home state of New Jersey, we still have people waiting in line six, seven, eight hours at motor vehicle to get licenses and registrations and license plates.
Our governor is permitting that, but, somehow, to stand in line to vote is much too dangerous. But standing in line that the motor vehicle is OK? It seems to me we have our priorities backwards in that regard, at least here in New Jersey and in other states that are trying to do the same thing.
EMANUEL: George, I think -- here's what I -- this is all true, but I think the Democrats need to redirect their message.
You haven't gotten your medicine through the mail? Donald Trump, that's the problem. You haven't got your Social Security check, and you're going to miss your mortgage payment, or you're going to miss some benefit for your health care costs? Donald Trump's your problem, and the Republicans are a problem.
Voting is about us and the election. It is about the democracy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's about people's rights.
EMANUEL: No. Exactly.
But if you want to -- right now, this is tied up on the entire package in Congress. You want to put pressure on getting the Republicans to negotiate, which they are refusing to do now until Labor Day? Change the message to something that's relevant to the American people today, not three months.
And so I 100 percent agree with this. I mean, I never knew the post office was going to become a partisan issue, that Democrats are only for checks getting to people or voting ballots getting to people in rural or seniors.
But Joe Biden is now up, the first Democrat in 20 years, among older people. So, let's make this relevant to a very important constituency today. You're not getting your medicines on time on your diabetes, your heart? Donald Trump and the Republicans are stopping you from getting that.
You're not getting your Social Security check? Donald Trump is getting that. You're not getting your updates on Medicare? Donald Trump and the Republicans are doing it.
Then you would make this relevant, and they would get to the negotiating table for the entire package.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is that a danger for Republicans?
FAGEN: Well, look, that's great political messaging, but it's totally false.
EMANUEL: Well, I appreciate the compliment, Sara.
FAGEN: It's -- but it's totally false.
Look, the problems with the post office have been brewing for decades. They have -- they have $77 billion they have lost in the last 12 years. Their unfunded mandates for their health care and pensions are twice their income.
This is a system that has -- brewing and is -- needs to be fixed, needs to be altered. Democrats have fought it. They have fought it tooth and nail for decades, because they cannot stand up to their unions. That is a fact.
And the reality is, I think the timing was bad on this. Louis DeJoy, who I know, who's a good guy, who's a smart businessperson, came in, and he came in guns a blazing to fix a broken system. And the timing was off.
Any -- but he's being charged as political. If he were political, he wouldn't be going and trying to fix the post office now. He would have waited until after election. He's now going to have to wait until after the election to do this because of the politics.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, but, Chris Christie, I want to pick -- to press you on one of the points that Sara just made.
Isn't the point, though, that, even if post office needs reform, that it's difficult to do this in the middle of the pandemic, and you can't be instituting no overtime, a ban on overtime, getting rid of sorting machines, at a time when people need their mail more than ever?
CHRISTIE: Well, listen, George, we can debate back and forth about whether or not this is the right time to fix the post office.
It seems that debate has been going on, as Sara said, for 20 or 30 years. And it never seems to be the right time to do it.
And, listen, people who have been in elective office, like Rahm and myself, know that what's going on here is that this is the fight of the public sector unions against reform that will make a system more efficient, but have less people working for it. That's what it's really all about.
But, listen, the more important issue here, again, is to understand the rationale for this. In states all over the country, state governments are failing to have motor vehicles open, to having other agencies open where people are waiting in line, waiting in line to get their unemployment checks, waiting in line to get their motor vehicles registered or licenses.
They allow that to occur. But somehow waiting in line to exercise the most precious vote you have every four years for president of the United States, somehow it can't be done and we have to try to do a universal mail-in system when the Post Office isn't ready for it? But more importantly, George, the county clerks aren't ready for this across this country to process all of these ballots in a timely fashion. If we do this, we will be waiting weeks to find out who the president of the United States is.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We did see that during the primaries, including in places like Georgia, which were run by -- where the elections were run by Democrats at the county level.
SIMPSON: Which is ridiculous. When you think about the fact that we are a democracy, it is the most fundamental right that we have as Americans, the fact that Republicans are trying to infringe on that, to limit that, to make it more difficult to people to do that. And let's be clear, we know the motivation. Donald Trump said it. He wants to stop universal mail-in voting, so limiting sorting machines, taking mail boxes off the streets, limiting overtime, making sure that we can't use the bulk rate -- states can't use the bulk rate for sending out ballots are all attempts to sabotage and to steal this election.
And no, we should not have people standing in line risking their life for democracy when we can avoid it. We can. We can fund the Post Office and we can make sure that we have someone in there who is not trying to dismantle it, but is trying to improve it.
CHRISTIE: George, you'll notice that Yvette did not answer the question about county clerks. This isn't about the Post Office. I'm assuming that the Post Office will get it to a county clerk on time. In New York, in New Jersey, in Georgia, run by Republicans and Democrats at the county level, they don't have the capacity to do this, the machines to process them fast enough.
In Oregon and Washington they do because they've taken years to put a universal mail-in system in place. This is not the right thing to do for our democracy and if Yvette is really concerned about our democracy, if she's an acolyte of the Al Gore years where every vote must be counted, well then, we shouldn't do this on the fly. We need to do this in a smart way.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What's wrong with every vote being counted?
CHRISTIE: In New Jersey, people are standing six and -- every vote should be counted, George, but it won't be counted, at least not counted until December or January if we go to universal mail-in voting because the county clerks in all the counties across this country do not have the equipment to be able to get this done. And they can't get that equipment between now and November 3rd. It's impossible.
EMANUEL: Here's the one thing that I find interesting...
EMANUEL: ... Sara's right about the institutional problems. But they only became attention for Donald Trump six months ago. That was the first time he has actually mentioned. So if this was a crisis, he would have put something together much earlier. The only reason he's doing this is, one, to throw a wet blanket on the legitimacy of this election and to gum up the works.
I would think everybody, regardless of party or partisanship, would understand the essentialness of the credibility of an election. We've gone through two elections, both in 2000 and in 2016 about real doubts about the legitimacy of the election. The only reason Donald Trump is doing this today and the only reason for the (INAUDIBLE) and trying to hold hostage the resources for the Post Office, is to throw a wet blanket on the legitimacy and the function of this election.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sara, and then Yvette.
FAGEN: Yes, so two points here. First of all, you know, the first guest, Bernie Sanders, said that the -- that we were trying to, Republicans, defund the Post Office. The Post Office hasn't been defunded. It's that Democrats want to send more money to it, which is something that has been a pattern in Congress for decades. They can't meet their obligations. You send more money. They don't fix themselves? You send more money.
The second thing that I think is worth pointing out. Somehow in the narrative around this election it's becoming written and described as if people can't vote without universal mail-in voting. There are lots of ways to vote in this country. Poll workers are going to show up and people who feel comfortable can go stand in line.
Most states have an absentee ballot program. People can vote by mail with an absentee ballot and a few states who have been implementing universal voting, like Utah and Oregon and Washington, they will do that. There are many systems in place. Anybody who wants to vote is going to be able to vote.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yvette, one easy solution is to make sure everybody votes early, vote on the first day that you become eligible for voting.
SIMPSON: Well, let's remember that this absentee process that they are encouraging requires two transactions with the Postal Service. You many times have to send in something to say you want to vote and then something has to come back to you. That was the challenge we had in Ohio, 14,000 people in my county sent their requests on time, did not get their ballots back in time because that is a lot of transactions between a person and the Post Office. Asking people to vote early, yes, we are going to do that. we're going to encourage people to vote as early as they can.
But we have to understand that there are a lot of people who have challenges. We know that asking someone to put a stamp on something, send it in the mail, put a stamp on something else, send it back is equivalent to a poll tax. I don't understand, in an industrialized country like America, where democracy is our fundamental principle, we can't make it easier for people to vote.
We don't want poll workers to get sick or exposed.
CHRISTIE: Well, I don't --
SIMPSON: We don't want individuals who are high risk to get exposed. So the ability for us to be able to send them -- send a ballot out to someone who has said they want to vote. I say I want to vote because I'm registered. And then those who are able to vote will return those ballots. And there are people who are equipped and ready to check every single one of those ballots.
The Republicans continue to try to come up with excuses.
CHRISTIE: Well, I don't know --
SIMPSON: Now they're undermining the Postal Service in a year where vote by mail in the way that most people are going to vote. And Trump has been very clear that this is his objective.
Meanwhile, to Rahm's point, people are not going to get their checks in the mail.
CHRISTIE: Oh, George --
SIMPSON: People are not going to get their prescriptions.
And to Sara's point, the -- the -- the government -- Republicans can find money for the military when they need it and when it doesn't need it. They can find money in the PPP for major businesses who don't need it. They can find money to give back to millionaires and billionaires, but we cannot fund the most fundamental office that serves every single American --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris --
SIMPSON: Whether you're in the urban corps or you're in the rural America.
CHRISTIE: George --
SIMPSON: We can't find the funding for that --
CHRISTIE: George --
SIMPSON: In a year where the mail-in --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris, you get the last word.
SIMPSON: Is the most important in saving people's lives.
CHRISTIE: George -- George, Yvette should run with the United States Senate with that filibuster.
First of all, I don't know what they're doing in Ohio, but in New Jersey you don't have to put a stamp on -- you don't have to put a stamp on anything, it's pre-paid postage.
And, George, with all due respect, the reason why your point is wrong is, you can vote on the first day, but the law says you can't start to count those votes until Election Day. And so it doesn't matter what day you vote by mail, you get -- you can't get counted until the day. You don't --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, I mean, I -- I -- I wish I had -- I wish I had time to answer that. That's about the counting, not whether it's going to be eligible or not, but we are completely out of time. Thank you all for a great conversation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Tune in all week long for our gavel to gavel coverage of the Democratic Convention and I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."