'This Week' Transcript 8-23-20: Mark Meadows, Kate Bedingfield
This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, August 23.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, August 23, 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: Biden's moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: May history be able to say that the end of this chapter of American darkness began here tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: The Democrats make their case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I will draw on the best of us, not the worst.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's fight with conviction. Let's fight with hope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: United by Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Trump golfs.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: This can't be another woulda, coulda, shoulda election.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Donald Trump hasn't grown into the job, because he can't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: All week long, the president counterpunched.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm the only thing standing between the American dream and total anarchy, madness, and chaos.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Now his party takes the stage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're going to hear us talking about the choice the American people face.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: The GOP convention just 24 hours away.
Our special coverage starts this morning with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield, plus insight and analysis from our powerhouse roundtable.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."
Here now, chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."
The Democrats have wrapped up their first virtual convention. And, as we come on the air this morning, our brand-new poll with Ipsos shows it may have done Joe Biden some good. His favorable rating is up eight points from 10 days ago.
The GOP kicks off Monday, with President Trump set to appear all four nights, the first lady and the president's adult children also slated to speak in prime time.
But, as we come on the air this morning, a different Trump family member now in the spotlight. In audiotapes given to "The Washington Post" by the president's niece Mary Trump, you hear the president's sister, retired federal Judge Maryanne Trump, lashing out at her brother, calling him cruel, a man with no principles, delivering harsh judgments on his conduct in office.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MARYANNE TRUMP BARRY, SISTER OF DONALD TRUMP: This goddamn tweet and the lying, oh, my God. I'm talking too freely, but you know. It is the change of stories, the lack of preparation, the lying, the holy (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
(END AUDIO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows joins us now.
Thank you for joining us, Mr. Meadows. Have you spoken to the president about those tapes? What's his response?
MARK MEADOWS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, obviously he has been public with his response, you know, just another day and another attack that we continue to see, George. I can tell you that I've never met the judge. I was at the funeral the other day. I was hoping to meet her there. She didn't show up for her brother's funeral.
And the president that I have the privilege of serving is not the one that's being described on a 15-hour, I guess, is what I'm reading, secret tape. I mean, what family member tapes another family member for 15 hours secretly?
I can tell you this, the president is committed to this country, loves this country. In terms of the one principle that he not only every morning talks to me about is, what can we do to serve the American people better? And he has been very consistent in that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president's sister also claims that he paid someone, a man named Joe Shapiro, to take his entrance exams to the University of Pennsylvania. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARYANNE TRUMP BARRY, DONALD TRUMP'S SISTER: He went to Fordham for one year and then he got into University of Pennsylvania because he had somebody take his—take the exams.
MARY TRUMP, NIECE OF DONALD TRUMP: No way.
BARRY: And he –
TRUMP: He had somebody take his entrance exams?
BARRY: SATs or whatever.
MARY TRUMP: Yeah, oh Jesus Christ!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, the president has denied this, but why would his sister lie about it in what she felt was a private conversation. Does the president have any, any evidence at all to back up his denial?
MEADOWS: Well, he does. I mean, Pam Shriver came out, I guess the person that was accused of taking the test actually was...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Actually that was a different Joe Shapiro.
MEADOWS: Yes, well -- well, when we -- well, it was actually interesting because it was a Joe Shapiro at the same school. So when we start to look at that, listen, we have -- the president of the United States, one of only 45 people that have been elected. I can tell you a number of other things that supposedly have been alleged that the president doesn’t read much. He (ph) may see it when he goes to Marine One. There’s a cardboard box that is brought on Marine One. What’s in there are clippings and clippings, each and everyday, he reads probably more than anybody I know, which causes me to have to read more because every morning he’s giving me a to-do list. Every evening he’s giving me a to-do list.
So, listen, this is politics as usual by a niece that was written out of a will that would apparently -- just has an axe to grind because she wants Joe Biden to be president. I can tell you this, that this president each and everyday is (inaudible) well prepped but does more than any president that I’ve ever been able to have the privilege of researching and reading about in terms of wanting to make sure that we have -- advance critical, critical agendas for the hard working American people on Main Street.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s turn to the COVID crisis. In a tweet yesterday morning --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- the president leveled a pretty serious charge against the FDA. I want to read it. Putting it up on the screen right now. The deep state or whoever over at the FDA is making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics. Obviously they are hoping to delay the answer until after November 3rd. Let’s focus on speed and saving lives.
What evidence does the president have that the FDA is manipulating this process -- this approval process for political reasons?
MEADOWS: Well, I -- your words are manipulating it, George. I don’t think he said they were manipulating. But I can’t --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- the obvious --
MEADOWS: Well, hold on. I can --
MEADOWS: I can help you. I’ve been personally involved in this so I’ll be glad to tell you. Here’s what we continue to look at -- and it’s not just the FDA. It’s NIH and others. As we look at the protocols and Dr. Hahn was very right to say we’re not going to cut any corners because we’re not cutting any corners.
But what we have is we have a China virus that came here. We’ve got to deliver answers and the president each and everyday is saying why don’t we have an answer today, why don’t we have an answer tomorrow. And so what happens is is that we continue to look at some of the trials and what’s happening and we want to wear a belt and suspenders the way that some of these bureaucrats want to look at it.
They want to do things the way they’ve always done it. This president is about cutting red tape. That’s what the tweet was all about. And I think you’re going to hear an announcement later today which really -- he had to make sure that they felt the heat. If they don’t see the light, they need to feel the heat because the American people are suffering. This president knows it and he’s going to put it on wherever (ph) it is -- the FDA or at NIH or anybody else to make sure that we deliver on behalf of the American people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: His exact words obviously they’re --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- hoping to delay the answer until after November 3rd. If he believes that the FDA is doing that, again, for political reasons until after the election, why wouldn’t he fire the FDA Commissioner?
MEADOWS: Well, I can tell you that we’ve looked at a number of people that are not being as diligent as they should be in terms of getting to the bottom of it. We’ve actually had people that have been relocated. You’ve covered that on your show.
When we -- when we -- look, it’s almost impossible to fire a federal employee regardless of what they do wrong. You -- we need real civil service reform. But this president wants to make sure that we hold them accountable. And I can tell you that Secretary Azar was on the phone with the president and me yesterday as we were working through this.
But it’s not just on the announcement that’s coming today. It’s more announcements that are coming this week and the week to follow. But we really need to make sure that we have good science and the proper protocol. But we also can’t wait around and assume that this virus is going to go away. This president wants real results and that’s why he took to Twitter. But it wasn’t just Twitter.
I’ve answered a number of phone calls from the president and had a number of meetings this last week to sure that we move it forward.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So he does believe there are those in the FDA who are trying to delay approvals for political purposes, until after the elections.
MEADOWS: Well, I believe there are a number of people that do not see the same sense of urgency as he sees. And that as we start to look at it, they know that some kind of result today is good for the American people. And he just wants to make sure that they feel the same urgency.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about the Post Office. The House passed legislation yesterday that would reverse some of the cutbacks at the Post Office and authorize $25 billion in emergency funding. The president calls this a hoax, saying that the Post Office doesn't need any additional funds. But the Post Office has had a request for these funds into Congress since the spring. And you've offered $10 billion in these negotiations with the Congress.
MEADOWS: Yes, we've offered $10 billion plus some additional reforms that would handle some of the pre-funding issues. Listen, the Postal system is not sustainable the way it is now. The president knows that. I know that. And as we've offered this money, this money is actually designed to hopefully prop it up while we reform the Postal Service and allow the hardworking men and women of the Postal Service to continue to do what they do and deliver mail on time.
I will say this though. When you look at the bill that was passed yesterday, that bill was not a serious bill. It's $25 billion. It doesn't do anything to sustain the Postal system long term. It's going nowhere. And my conversations with a lot of the Democrats on Capitol Hill yesterday is, if you want to be serious about it, this president is willing to put forth money and reforms.
But let's attach it to something else since we've got so many hurting. Why did they come back on a Saturday and only deal with Postal? Why did they not deal with enhanced unemployment? Why did they not extend the PPP program that actually helps small businesses?
This president is committed to doing that. I believe the Republicans in the Senate will take this bill and actually make it something that perhaps can be signed into law.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you stopped by Speaker Pelosi's office yesterday to try to get that started as well. Did you get a response?
MEADOWS: I haven't heard from the speaker yet. I'm going to make a phone call to her today. I did meet with a number of Democrats yesterday on Capitol Hill as they were there. I had some very constructive conversations. Listen, there are a number of things that we agree on.
And what -- my challenge to the speaker this morning would be this. If we agree on five or six things, let's go ahead and pass those. Why did you not do it yesterday? But let's go ahead and pass it. I spoke to the president early this morning. He's willing to sign that, including Postal Service reform and making sure that the money is there to make sure that deliveries of first call mail are handled quickly, efficiently, and on time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president also put out a tweet this morning talking about those mail drop-boxes suggesting they're not secure, even saying, quote: “They are not COVID sanitized.” Does he really believe those drop-boxes could spread COVID?
MEADOWS: Well, I mean, we know that COVID actually lives on hard surfaces. So whether it's there or not, when we look at a particular situation, we want to make sure that the ballot is sacred. And I think that's what he was speaking to, George. When we look at casting a ballot, it should be able to go from your hand to the ballot box with no one else interfering.
And even when we use the Postal Service to do that, we have to have those verifications to make sure that it would be a George Stephanopoulos actually sending in his ballot so that we know that someone else is not casting it for you.
I can tell you, I've worked in the precincts, and when we put ballots in the ballot box, we actually put a lock on it and make sure that no one can tamper with it. And so it is sacred. We need to make sure that everybody's vote is cast. But we also need to make sure that no one else disenfranchises those by creating a fraud on the voting system.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I got to talk about QAnon. Earlier this week the president had some supportive words for QAnon but the FBI says that group poses a domestic terror threat. Top Republicans like Senator Sasse and Congresswoman Liz Cheney call it nuts, dangerous, lunacy. This should have no place in American politics.
Why won’t the president condemn this group and disavow their support?
MEADOWS: Listen, you -- I had to Google it to figure out what it is. You’ve talked about it more, George, than anybody in the White House has talked about it. You know when we look at that -- there are a number of conspiracies that we ought to be talking about.
We ought to be talking about the fact that we continue to look at why the FBI spied on the Trump campaign and what happened there. That was a conspiracy that was real and one we started to look at.
If you look at the top 20 priority, QAnon’s not on it. It’s probably not on the top 50. It’s time that we get serious about questions and move on. I don’t see that this is a central debate that anybody’s going to decide who the next President of the United States might be or where we need to deploy the FBI.
Where we need to deploy the FBI is to Portland and other areas like that where we see in real-time what is happening, not something that may be an Internet conspiracy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Meadows, thank you for joining us. Good luck this week.
MEADOWS: Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we're joined now by the deputy campaign manager for the Biden campaign, Kate Bedingfield.
Kate, thank you for joining us this morning.
I want to start out with that tweet from the president where he suggested that there are those in the FDA trying to hold up the approval process until after November 3rd. You just heard Mr. Meadows say there, there are a number of people at the FDA who do not share the same sense of urgency as the president.
KATE BEDINGFIELD, BIDEN DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Look, the American people need to be confident that the process of getting to vaccine is not being politically manipulated. And, right now, we’re not getting a whole lot of reason to believe that.
You know, unfortunately, this is consistent with the way the president has approached this crisis from the beginning. He, you know, started out saying the virus will magically disappear. He has made the response to a -- an almost unprecedented public health crisis in this country political. He has used every opportunity to undermine faith in the public health officials who should be driving his response to this crisis. And he's, you know, he’s used the opportunity to go on TV, turn it into a press conference to, you know, to tout his own political success.
And so, I think Americans are obviously eagerly awaiting a vaccine, they need to feel confident that the process is not being politically manipulated and they also need to feel confident that the president is going to be able to -- and that this administration is going to be able to get a vaccine equitably and quickly to people all across the country. That is a massive, logistical undertaking. It requires planning. It requires organization. It requires execution. And I don't think anybody has seen any evidence from this president or this government that they are going to be able to handle that kind of operation.
So, the American people need to have faith in their government that they're going to be able to handle this and -- and right now we're not getting a whole lot of it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask a separate question on COVID. On July 28th, Joe Biden said he hadn't been tested for the coronavirus. But this week your campaign refused to -- on two occasions to answer the question of whether or not he had been tested.
So, can you clarify, has Joe Biden been tested for COVID? Has he had the virus?
BEDINGFIELD: He has not had the virus. We have put in place really strict protocols, as I think all of your journalists who attended our convention in Delaware this week saw. We put in place incredibly strict protocols to ensure that everybody involved who is around Vice President Biden, whose around Senator Harris, is undergoing the appropriate testing. The vice president has not had the virus and --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Has he been tested?
BEDINGFIELD: He has not -- he has not been tested. However, we have put the strictest protocols in place and -- and moving forward should he need to be tested, he certainly would be. But he has not been tested yet.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. On -- on the Post Office. We just heard Mr. Meadows say that he's willing to negotiate with Speaker Pelosi on more of a targeted bill that -- where they can sign something where they can all agree on. A lot of House Democrats agree with that. They -- they want more money for small business. They would like to expand some of the unemployment funding as well.
Is that something Vice President Biden would support?
BEDINGFIELD: He would. He believes that we need to get resources to the post office to insure that they can do their job. Obviously, you know, delivering ballots is one important piece of their work, but it is not all of their work. It's a fundamental service that gets medicine and checks to people who need them all across the country. It's a vital service.
He also believes that we need to get money to people who are hurting now. You know, he is somebody who, as president, would be able to bring people together, would be able to get to -- to get to consensus when people are hurting and need action. That's something he's done his entire life. He has a career of having been able to bring people to the table to get things done. That's what people are looking for in a leader. They're not looking for somebody to stonewall, to sow division, which is what we see from Donald Trump in his approach to, frankly, almost everything.
So, you know, as president, Joe Biden is somebody who would be able to bring people to the table, to get meaningful change done and to get relief to people who need it, to the small businesses who are hurting, to the working families who are hurting. You know, he very much views this crisis through the lens of how it is hurting real people every day. And, as president, that would be the first thing at the front of his mind every morning when he woke up.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We -- we showed at the top of the program that our latest poll shows the vice president got a bounce in favorability coming out of the convention, but President Trump still holds, in most polls, an advantage on the economy. How do you respond to the criticism that the Democrats did not do enough at their convention to focus on the meat and potatoes working class economics?
BEDINGFIELD: I think we did. I think you saw I think a real distinction between what you saw at our convention this past week and what I imagine you're going to see at the Republican Convention next week, especially given the fact that we now know that almost half the speakers who are speaking have the last name Trump at the convention next week is, you saw real people talking about their experiences, talking about how Donald Trump's leadership has impacted their lives and why they believe that Joe Biden should be president.
You've seen over the course of the summer, you've seen Joe Biden roll out a really comprehensive, really ambitious economic plan, his agenda to build back better, including things like bringing supply chains back to America so that we're making things here in America, including tax credits for -- for child care, for caregivers, moves to shore-up the caregiving economy and making sure that people who are working in these essential jobs have the support that they need and that families are able to -- to afford things like childcare that are -- are critical, are foundational to them being able to live theirs lives. So I think you've --
STEPHANOPOULOS: You talk --
BEDINGFIELD: I think you've heard a lot from Joe Biden about exactly what he will do as president to build this country back better.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But the -- when you talk about those programs, Vice President Biden's longtime adviser, Ted Kaufman, suggested this week that a president Biden might not be able to make good on many of those campaign promises during a first term. Here's what he told "The Wall Street Journal."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TED KAUFMAN: I don't think it will be a big increase in federal spending because I think basically the -- when we get in, that the -- the pantry's going to be bare. I mean this is going to be very difficult. This is going to be very difficult administration. And one of things there are we're -- we're going to have limited funds to do what we're going to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: That drew a very sharp response from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Here’s her tweet. She says: This is extremely concerning. The pantry is absolutely not bare. We need massive investment in our country or it will fall apart.
So, is the president -- is Vice President Biden, does he agree with Mr. Kaufman there that he’s not going to be able to make good in many of those promises because the pantry is bare?
BEDINGFIELD: Well, the proof is in his proposals. I mean, he's put forward -- again -- incredibly ambitious economic proposals to get people back to work, to ensure that American families have the resources that they need to live their lives. So, I think --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But we just heard Mr. Kaufman say he's not going to be able to make good on them.
BEDINGFIELD: He’s always -- he's always believed in responsible governing. He’s always believed in the importance of paying for what you -- for what you spend. But he also -- I think you’ve heard him say throughout the course of this entire -- this entire summer, we are in a crisis moment in this country, this is a time to meet that moment, to put forward big ideas, to put forward ideas that are going to ensure that when we come out of this crisis, we're not just going back to the old normal.
But we’re going -- we are moving forward to a better, more equitable economy, where working people are dealt into the deal and where everybody has an opportunity to be at the table.
He's put forward really concrete specific plans, which I would encourage anybody watching to go to JoeBiden.com and take a look at them because I think they speak for themselves, and I think that if he’s president --
STEPHANOPOULOS: So he's not going to scale them back as president?
BEDINGFIELD: If he -- he is not. If he is the president, he's going to work to bring along support to get those plans done and move our country forward because he believes that's the right way -- the right way to Build Back Better.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Kate Bedingfield, thanks for your time this morning.
BEDINGFIELD: Thanks for having me.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The roundtable is coming up.
And when the GOP convention is set to open in North Carolina, Martha Raddatz brings us a closer look at that battleground state.
Stay with us.
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump heads to North Carolina tomorrow for the kickoff of the Republican Convention in a state he carried by three-and-a-half points in 2016.
It's one of the six battleground states the campaigns are concentrating on. And polls show the race is neck and neck there right now.
Martha Raddatz traveled there for our special series "Six for the Win."
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR (voice-over): On an afternoon thick with Southern heat, Susan Ford expertly moves huge boxes of tobacco on her family's 2,000 acre farm, leaving little time to pay attention to this week's Democratic Convention, not that she wanted to.
SUSAN FORD, FARMER: To me, it looks like he's -- they're really and the Democrats are really trying to push socialism in America. I'm not a big fan of that.
RADDATZ: Religion, her children's future, and farming are at the heart of Ford's solid support for Donald Trump.
FORD: I think he's really done a lot for ag and agriculture in America.
RADDATZ: There is only one thing that gives her, well, pause about Trump.
(on camera): Do his tweets, some of the things he said, does any of that bother you?
FORD: To an extent, it does, I'll have to say. But he really doesn't have much support up there in Washington to back him up.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Rural voters like Ford helped Trump carry this state in 2016.
MICHAEL BITZER, CATAWBACOLLEGE: North Carolina very much reflects the urban/rural divide that is playing out in the country as a whole.
RADDATZ: Catawba College politics professor Michael Bitzer says what should concern Trump now is those suburban areas.
BITZER: He won the surrounding suburban areas very handily, over 60 percent. But if there's any slippage in his margins, and those urban suburbs move even more Democratic, I think that's going to make things even more competitive in North Carolina.
RADDATZ: Cassandra Brooks, a day care center owner south of Raleigh, is part of that slippage.
(on camera): You voted for Donald Trump in 2016.
CASSANDRA BROOKS, DAY CARE OWNER: I did. I voted for Donald Trump in 2016 because I felt like he was a business owner.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Since COVID-19 hit in March, nearly 1.25 million have filed for unemployment in North Carolina and more than 150,000 residents have tested positive.
BROOKS: We lost lots of income. We did lose some staff, because they were afraid to work in these conditions.
RADDATZ (on camera): If the economy improved in the next couple of months, and you heard some things from Donald Trump that sounded hopeful or on the job front or on helping people out on unemployment, and COVID's numbers started going down, would you then consider voting for Donald Trump again?
BROOKS: I would never vote for Donald Trump again ever in my life. If my life depended on it, I wouldn't it.
RADDATZ (voice-over): North of Raleigh is a man caught in between.
(on camera): Have you always voted Republican?
ROSS TURNMIRE, LAND DEVELOPMENT MANAGER: I have, yes.
RADDATZ: And this year undecided?
TURNMIRE: Yes, right now I am. That's right.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Ross Turnmire is the type of suburban voter Trump needs to keep and Biden needs to court.
(on camera): I think a lot of people are looking and go, how can you be undecided at this point? You have got Donald Trump, who has been president for four years.
RADDATZ: You have got Joe Biden, who's been around for a whole lot of time.
TURNMIRE: That's right.
RADDATZ: So, what is it?
TURNMIRE: It ends up being kind of policy vs. person, in my mind.
I have always kind of really more aligned with the Republican Party in terms of their ideas about the platforms that they run the country from. But then you look at President Trump, the way he kind of acts personally, he's very disparaging to people.
But the former vice president projects a sense of leadership that you kind of expect from the role of president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Martha for that. Nate Silver and the Roundtable are coming up. We’ll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable’s coming up. We’ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONNA MCDANIEL, CHAIRWOMAN, RNC: We are seeing the president leading in many of the battleground states. It's interesting that Joe Biden has spent 600 days outside of Wisconsin, a battleground state. I think they've ceded Wisconsin. They don't have a ground game. There's not energy on the ground. And the president absolutely has this swell of energy and we're starting to see this in the national polls finally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: There you see the RNC chairwoman.
Our latest ABC News/"Washington Post" poll shows that while Biden supporters have become more enthusiastic about his candidacy, Trump still holds a sizable lead in that category, 65-48. We asked FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver what he makes of Trump's chances as the GOP convention is set to start.
NATE SILVER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: There are some high-quality polls, like the ABC News/"Washington Post" poll that showed Trump's position slightly improving and others that do not. Here at FiveThirtyEight we're all about the polling average. Let's take a look at what that says.
Our average does have Trump's approval rate just slightly to 42 percent from a low of around 40 percent in mid-July, but it's less clear whether his position against Joe Biden has improved. In our final average before the conventions began, Trump trailed Biden by 8.4 percentage points nationally. That's only a tiny bit better than his all-time low when he trailed Biden by 9.6 points nationally.
So maybe there's the slightest hint of improvement, but let's zoom out and think about the big picture. The three big themes in the country right now, as Democrats tried to stress at their convention last week, are Covid, the economy and the protests. So how is Trump doing on those?
Covid cases have begun to decline a bit, but Americans are still living with a lot of disruption to their everyday lives in everything from going back to school, to college football. Trump can point to some good economic data lately. The S&P 500 just hit an all-time high and employers added 1.8 million jobs last month. And while it's estimated that around 20 million people participated in recent protests, there is some evidence that views on racial issues, like discrimination and policing, have begun to revert back to where they were before the protests began, at least among white Americans.
So I buy that things look a little better on the margin for Trump, but there is one number that should really worry the White House. That number is 51 percent, which was Biden's standing in the polls before the convention began. It's hard to be a challenger whose already at 50. So Trump will either have to take Biden down a peg or hope that polls are wrong.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's what the convention's all about. Thanks to Nate for that.
The roundtable's up next. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: I want to turn to the blistering attacks we’ve seen from President Trump just this week alone on your mental fitness, whether you're up for the job.
MUIR: His campaign has called you diminished, and I’m curious how you respond to that.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Watch me. President Trump, watch me. Look at us both. What we say, what we do, what we control, what we know, what kind of shape we're in. Come on.
This is -- look, I think it's a legitimate question to ask anybody over 70 years old whether or not they're fit and whether they’re ready. But I just -- the only thing I can say to the American people, it's a legitimate question to anybody. Watch me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris talking to David Muir. That interview plus Robin Roberts’ interview with the running mates, part of an ABC News special tonight at 8:00 Eastern, right here on ABC.
We want to talk now more about the conventions come up with our roundtable.
We’re joined by Rahm Emanuel, former chief of staff to Barack Obama, former mayor of Chicago; Barbara Comstock, former Republican member of Congress from Virginia; Leah Wright-Rigueur, professor of politics at Harvard University; and Chris Christie, former governor of New Jersey.
And, Chris, let me begin with you.
How did the Democrats do last week? What do Republicans need to do?
CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think the Democrats did one thing right, one thing wrong. The right thing they did was they put a portrait of Joe Biden forward that shows him to be a kind, compassionate, caring person, which I found him to be over the years that I’ve known him. So, I think they did that very well.
I think where they swung and miss was on the issues. They just didn't talk about them. I think you saw in Martha's piece in North Carolina, that Republican male who said, you know, this is really coming down to me a choice between a policy and persona. He likes Joe Biden better, but he’s concerned about their polices. I think that's why they didn't talk about them.
But the Republicans are now going to force them to start talking about those issues, and when they do, I think that's when this becomes a much, much closer race, and a real binary choice.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Leah, what do you make of that? Because I -- I put that criticism to Kate Bedingfield as well, that the Republicans did a good job -- I mean, Democrats did a good of showcasing Joe Biden. We saw the diversity of the party. A lot of emphasis on issues like racial justice, but not enough on the economy.
LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL PROFESSOR: Yes. So, I think part of what they're going to need to do, part of what Democrats need to do is really emphasize what their agenda's going to be for America, not just for the first hundred days, or not where they’re going to just do, you know, Joe Biden is really good person. Kamala is really exceptional in all kinds of ways. But what is their agenda going to look for the next four years? And how is it going to affect different communities?
So, not only should they be talking about I think the economic issues and they should really be hammering the president on the economic issues right now, they should be talking about the eviction crisis in the United States, the health care crisis in the United States.
And one thing that I will say that they did really, really well at the convention is that it was quite an unconventional convention in its silence and its lack of pomp and circumstance. And I think that really actually emphasized the crisis that America is feeling -- is facing right now, particularly with COVID-19.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Barbara Comstock, do you agree with that?
BARBARA COMSTOCK (D), FORMER VIRGINIA CONGRESSWOMAN: Well, I do think the convention was very focused on personality, not policies. I think that was smart for the Democrats to do that way, because, clearly, you see particularly with women, the women vote, suburban women vote, that tone of the president, that the kind of things that his sister said about him, you hear suburban women saying, you hear -- that's why Joe Biden is doing so much better with suburban women than Hillary did.
So, I think it was smart for them to focus on personality instead of policies. The economic area's still the only area where the president is doing better than Joe Biden, certainly COVID, racial issues he's strongly on disapproval. But that overall disapproval number of the president is largely due to personality. It's not the policies of Republicans that they're necessarily rejecting. It's the president's oppressive personality.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Rahm, that does -- that appear to be the bet that Joe Biden made, particularly with this speech, the only agenda items he talked about were front and center the COVID crisis and the economic fallout from that.
RAHM EMANUEL, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Look, I think he did a good job of introducing himself and inoculating himself. That night was a night of family, faith and flag. His son Beau in the Armed Forces, the shot of him in the movie with his rosary.
I used to joke with him in the White House all the time, the Old Testament was like a two-minute rebuttal to the New Testament here, but he was very comfortable given his Catholicism and social activism, it’s in his DNA.
They also inoculated him very well for what's about to come. You know in the next week, we're going on have a photo of Joe Biden in his camouflage up in the mountains with Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. They're going to try to make him this big lefty.
I don't think it's going to work for who Joe Biden is. And I think they did a great job introducing him, inoculate him.
I would say, to the issue piece, this was more like an Oval address when he spoke. It was not a traditional kind of convention speech. This is now for paid advertising. They have to go now put some muscle on the bone. They have put a bone there.
And I think, when the polling looks at it, while the numbers are there, they're very stable. Stable is good for us. Stable is not good for the Republicans.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Chris Christie, for the time being, at least, that speech seemed to put to rest, for the time being, questions about whether Joe Biden is up to the job.
How do the Republicans this week make that case that Joe Biden is a far leftist, given that he's been around for 30 years and doesn't have that reputation?
CHRISTIE: Well, first off, as I said to you the other night, I don't agree with that issue that it's put to rest that Joe Biden is up for it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No, for now.
CHRISTIE: Because he read a teleprompter. I mean, almost anybody can read a teleprompter. And I don't think that passes the qualification for being ready to be president.
But I think that the way they make the case is to start off with the first Democratic primary debate and that tape when they said, do you agree -- who on the stage agrees with decriminalizing the border? And every person that stage, including Joe Biden, raised his hand and...
STEPHANOPOULOS: He came out against that.
CHRISTIE: But he raised his hand that night, George, when he was on camera and felt pressure from his party around him.
He hesitated a little bit. I remember. He went like, and then went up. And so what argument I would make, if I were the Trump campaign, is, don't just worry about the guy in the middle there. Worry about all the people around him, because that's his Cabinet. That's his Cabinet.
Those are the people who are going to be making policy from day to day. That's the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. And if you support that, great, go and vote for Joe Biden, because that's what he's going to give to you. If you're uneasy about that, you have to look at the alternative.
EMANUEL: Here's the problem is and what the point is. They're trying to tell you about everybody else around Joe Biden. This is going to be a mano to mano race. It's not going to be about the other people in the race.
The second thing I would say on this point, and I think is very, very important for the campaign going forward, is a distinction in this area is Joe Biden, the person. They relied on that as what I believe is inoculation.
And the Trump -- problem for Trump is, he's trying to run in 2020 2016. He has not effectively made this a choice. You can't -- what everybody knows, from morning America -- morning in America to '84, to building a bridge in 1996, when you run a reelect, you can't run the old race. You got to run a new race.
He is trying to run the old race in 2020. And that is a calculated, strategic mistake. And you know that at this point...
EMANUEL: ... because they haven't made it a binary choice. They have made it a -- it's a referendum on Trump vs. Trump. And Trump's losing that race.
CHRISTIE: Rahm, I put that in a memo to him 60 days ago.
CHRISTIE: That if you run '16 in '20...
EMANUEL: ... try English next time.
CHRISTIE: ... you cannot -- you cannot win. So -- and I think you're absolutely right about.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The fear for Donald Trump has to be if they -- if the Democrats run '18 in '20, the 2018 midterm campaign.
Barbara Comstock, you're a Republican. You represented a Northern Virginia district, where you did well with women, you did well with suburban women, you did well with independents. Donald Trump is losing with all those groups right now. How does he get them back?
COMSTOCK: Well, the election is all about him. I agree with Rahm and Chris.
And I don't really see that there's a plan to get them back. When they -- when the campaign all gets together, it's, all the white guys sit down and say, hey, we have a woman problem, hey, we have a diversity problem.
Chris and I did very well during the Obama years getting elected in blue areas. And that's because the policies of the Democrats weren't that popular in the suburbs.
But the personality of Donald Trump is very unpopular. I won all my elections until '18 on issues. And it was a constructive issue campaign. I was 12 points ahead of Donald Trump, who ran 41 percent, largely because of those problems with suburban women.
But now they don't have a plan for that. And I think they learned the wrong lesson from '16. They didn't really understand that Hillary Clinton lost just as much as he won.
And white men, suburban women do not have this visceral hate of Joe Biden, the way they did of Hillary Clinton. And I think, actually, there's some misogyny in the Democratic Party, too, that worked against Hillary Clinton that's not going to be a problem for Joe Biden.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, Leah Wright Rigueur, there was some tension at the Democratic Convention this week between -- you saw Joe Biden and the convention organizers inviting Republicans, like John Kasich, Cindy McCain to speak, and a lot of Democrats grumbling about that, thinking that, wait, he's not really going to be with us when they need them.
And the question is going to be, even though Donald Trump is uniting Democrats right now, do they start to divide, if Joe Biden does better, if he becomes president? Can they stay united through the election?
WRIGHT RIGUEUR: So, I think one of the best things that may happen to Democrats is the Republican National Convention next week, particularly if Donald Trump runs a campaign calling Joe Biden, you know, some commie-leftist, you know whatever, because in fact that's one of the -- this is one of the like dividing points amongst Democrats right now, which is, you know, progressives, we saw it play out here a couple of days ago, but we saw it with progressives, we see it with liberals, we see it with people who are center-left or firmly in the center having disagreements.
So, you know, this is actually a uniting force. I think one of the things that we also have to remember, too, is that, you know, this is about vision, and what kind of vision can unite the party. It has to be something beyond Donald Trump, even though this is what he is going to be -- you know, this is what is going -- they're trying to do in terms of uniting people.
But it has to be something that can unite progressives, can unite liberals, can unite centrists, that can propel them onto November 3rd. Because what we're going to see, particularly next week, is that the Republican Party, Donald Trump, is going to go with the depressive model, right?
So trying to encourage Democrats not to come out and vote. To say, stay home, it's not worth it, et cetera, et cetera. So really, they have to -- I think the Biden team really has to come up with something strong and visionary in order to move past this moment. And one of the things that may end up doing it is Donald Trump casting him as some kind of liberal crusader.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Chris Christie, I wonder how much Donald Trump is going to be able to get that message out this week. He's going to speak every night. We know that. We know he's having a press conference tonight as well. Very unusual for a presidential candidate. But it's not just that.
You look at the news every single day, Steve Bannon last week, the Senate Intelligence report on Russia, the Maryanne Trump tapes this morning. It seems like it's going to be difficult for the president to have a clear path going into this convention.
CHRISTIE: Yes, it's tough being an incumbent running for re-election sometimes because you're the one responsible for everything that's going on in your government, whether you are directly involved in it or not. Steve Bannon hasn't been in the White House for nearly three years now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But he was the campaign chair in 2016.
CHRISTIE: Right. But my point is, George, like, that's -- you're saddled with that. And so he's going to wind up getting hooked on that stuff. But in the end, I think people are going to want -- once the conventions are over, they're going to want to focus on, what is the next four years are going to look like? What are they going to look like? What does Joe Biden say they're going to look like?
I think Leah is absolutely right. You can't restrict this to just the first 100 days on either side. The American people now know it's a four-year term, because in February this race looked a heck a lot of different than it looks today in August. And so Trump has got to lay out a four-year vision. Biden has got to lay out a four-year vision. And then people are going to evaluate that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Rahm, I want you to switch hats, as we cover this. I know you're a loyal Democrat, of course, you worked for Barack Obama.
EMANUEL: I know where this is going.
EMANUEL: This is my rabbi and my bar mitzvah.
EMANUEL: Go ahead.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Assume you are Bill Stepien or Mark Meadow right now, what's the biggest vulnerability Joe Biden has? What do the Republicans need to do this week in order to capitalize on it?
EMANUEL: Yes. Well, two things I think that are really I would -- if I were a Republican right now is I would try to put on Biden the words “restore” and “return.” Make him the establishment, because Trump is most comfortable running against the status quo.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not being the incumbent.
EMANUEL: Right. And so he -- not only not the incumbent, anti-establishment, break up the system that has messed you. If I was -- telling both Trump and also the Biden campaign, one thing is what the Bidens did very well, the Democrats, was not use the words “restore,” not use the words “return.” Because if you do that you become establishment and Trump finds his groove again.
Still, that said, if I was Donald Trump, I'd say, this is what they did, this is what he's going to do, he's part of that old mess both of the elite media, the elite financial community, the elite political class that have messed it up. And go heavy on China, heavy on the fact that they have made a mess of your life. And be the anti-establishment candidate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I was surprised the Democrats didn't talk more about China at the convention given what a vulnerability clearly to Republicans and Donald Trump think it is for the Democrats.
And but, Barbara, let me take this to you as well. It's clear that -- as Chris was saying, that -- and Rahm were both saying, Donald Trump loves being the anti-establishment candidate. Loves being the challenger from the outside. He's trying to stay in that position.
On the other hand, how much does it hurt the Republicans that George W. Bush won't be at the convention, Mitt Romney, the 2012 nominee won't be at the convention? Cindy McCain, widow of the 2008 nominee, spoke at the Democratic Convention.
COMSTOCK: That hurts. You know, and the president has made a lot of enemies along the way. You look at the attacks he made about John McCain both before he died and after. The attacks on people like John Dingell and Debbie Dingell in Michigan. The attacks on Dr. Fauci. Attacks on Mattis and John Kelly. These are people who have a lot of friends, and people who have respect, say, in the military or in the health care community.
So it goes beyond that. So his anti-establishment thing doesn't work as well. You know, when you're incumbents you have to run a different race. And I think they've learned the wrong lessons. And I think the campaign just isn't up for it very well.
But one thing I think Joe Biden, if they win, really should want to have is a Republican Senate to keep those excesses at bay. And I think when you look at the North Carolina undecided man, he's going to be voting for Senator Thom Tillis. You're going to have the same thing happening say in Iowa or Susan Collins in Maine because people are going to look and say, I want to have a balance. And they -- and that's actually what happened in '16 when everyone thought Hillary was going to win, it helped those of us who were getting in to be a check and a balance on what they thought was Hillary. So I do think the best thing that could happen to Democrats if -- if they do win is to have that balance because people do like the policies. When you poll the -- a lot of the Republican policies and take off the Trump name all by themselves, they poll much better than why they were attached to his name.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Leah, I'm trying to imagine what we would all be saying and doing if the sibling of another president, a tape like that, came out on the eve of their convention.
LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL PROFESSOR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, you know, that -- that tape was something. I think it was pretty stunning. But it's also not anything that we didn't already know about Donald Trump --
STEPHANOPOULOS: That -- that's --
RIGUEUR: Or that, you know, that -- that -- that accusations had already been made. So this is nothing new. Mary Trump detailed these in her book. It's, I think, akin to something like the "Access Hollywood" tape that we saw in 2016. So it may not do a lot to move the needle, but it says -- it speaks to the president's character again and this idea of the character game.
But one thing that I'll say right now is that --
RIGUEUR: I'm not sure that -- that Donald Trump will care so much. He might care because it's his sister. He might care because of, you know, where it's coming from. But he's worried about turnout and turning out his base. That is what he's focused on right now. And that's really what the name of the game is about. And we see that with Joe Biden, too, they need to be concerned about turnout. So I don't know if it has any kind of juju (ph) in terms of moving the race, but it does matter (INAUDIBLE) content (ph).
STEPHANOPOULOS: Right. But, hold -- I do want to bring this to -- to Chris -- to Chris Christie, who -- I don't know what the president's thinking exactly, but that first statement that came out last night, it seemed like hit this hit him pretty hard.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR (R) AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Listen, I know that he has a real relationship with his sister. I know the judge very well, was U.S. attorney in New Jersey and appeared before her a number of times.
I feel bad for the judge more than anything else.
STEPHANOPOULOS: To be taped like that.
CHRISTIE: To be taped like that. I mean, you know, having to be -- to be having what you believe is a candid conversation with your niece and to have that turnout to be taped and then -- and then worse than just being taped and used as part of the book, but then to turn it over to a news media outlet, I know the judge wouldn't have wanted that to happen. I know her. But I feel badly for her.
As for the president, you know, I can't imagine it's a good day when your older sister says some stuff like that, that becomes public. You can have a lot of arguments, George -- all of us are from big, ruckus families and you can have those family arguments, but you don't want to have that outside the family and I think that's what hurts.
RAHM EMANUEL, FORMER CHICAGO MAYOR (D) AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: See the -- here's one thing. My first reaction was, you know, here's a family member -- this is what Mattis said. This is what Rex Tillerson said. What the Democrat mistake and they have to warn themselves, it's not -- and Leah brought this up, this is like the Hollywood tape. We all thought it was over by that. You got to relate his craziness, his lying to your life and where your position is. If you don't take the character to your life, you're missing the closing ten feet -- ten -- one mile of connecting that Internet connection to people (INAUDIBLE).
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is the last word today. Thank you all very much.
That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. We're going to have full coverage of the Republican Convention starting Monday night at 7:00 Eastern on our streaming channel. And I'll be anchoring on the network at 10:00 p.m. all four nights of the convention.
See you tomorrow on GMA.
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