'This Week' Transcript 9-27-20: Sen. Mike Lee, Sen. Dick Durbin

This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, September 27.

ByABC News
September 27, 2020, 9:58 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, September 27, 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: The president's pick.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She's a woman of unparalleled achievement, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

AMY CONEY BARRETT, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: I'm truly humbled by the prospect of serving on the Supreme Court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: A pivotal choice in a polarized time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They will set policy for 50 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Republicans on track to confirm Barrett before the election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): We will start the hearings on October the 12th.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Sparking fierce pushback from Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump have stolen two judges from the American people.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): The expectation is, she's going to strike down the Affordable Care Act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: The debate ahead with two senators set to question Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Republican Mike Lee, Democrat Dick Durbin.

And President Trump's unprecedented refusal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Will you commit to making sure that there's a peaceful transferal of power after the election?

TRUMP: Well, we're going to have to see what happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Two days before the first debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He's got 47 years. I have got three-and-a-half years. So, we'll see.

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm prepared to go out and make my case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Our powerhouse roundtable takes on all the week's politics, plus Nate Silver and a closer look at battleground Michigan.

ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."

Here now, chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."

Eight days after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, two days before the first debate, just 37 days now from the final votes, another unprecedented twist in this unpredictable campaign.

No Supreme Court justice has ever been confirmed as close to an election, but Republicans are already closing ranks behind Judge Amy Coney Barrett, hoping to jolt the election and cement a conservative majority on the Supreme Court for decades.

Democrats are defiant, calling the process a sham, warning that a Justice Barrett could be a mortal threat to American health care, hoping to spark their own backlash at the polls.

And, as we come on the air this morning, our brand-new poll with "The Washington Post" shows a majority of Americans believe the president elected on November 3 should fill the Supreme Court vacancy.

It's against the backdrop of a presidential race that's been stable for months, with Joe Biden now holding a steady 10-point lead over President Trump.

Jon Karl is at the White House this morning.

And, Jon, this is President Trump's third nomination to the Supreme Court. And these court departments are the glue that binds President Trump to Senate Republicans.

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: George, these judicial appointments have kept Republicans in lockstep with Donald Trump, even Republicans who have deep misgivings about his personal behavior or other issues.

But almost across the board, Republicans are enthusiastic about Amy Coney Barrett. Above all, they're ecstatic to have something else to talk about besides Donald Trump and his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In fact, George, I would expect Republican, Senate Republicans especially, to try to make Amy Coney Barrett the face of the Republican Party, effectively, over the next five weeks, rather than Donald Trump, because they know that Donald Trump has been a drag on Senate candidates in state after state.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The goal is to get this done before Election Day.

Any way Democrats can get it beyond November 3?

KARL: Well, I just spoke to a top Democratic strategist, who told me flatly that there is no procedural silver bullet. The Democrats, on their own, have no ability to delay this vote until after the election.

The timing is in Mitch McConnell's hands. Now, the Republicans have outlined a series of events which would lead to a final vote the week before the election. So, there's very little room for error here.

But it would have to be a Republican decision. The Republicans would have to decide it is in their interest to delay.

And, George, as you saw, as you mentioned at the top of the show, the decision to go forward with a vote on the next Supreme Court justice before the election is a deeply unpopular one. Democrats will hit that hard over and over again between now and the election.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Jon Karl, thanks very much.

Let's bring in our Supreme Court analyst, Kate Shaw, now.

Welcome this morning.

Judge Barrett clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia, and she made it very clear yesterday that she shares his judicial philosophy. What does that mean for the court if she's confirmed?

KATE SHAW, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: You know, it is harder to imagine a starker contrast with Ruth Bader Ginsburg than Amy Coney Barrett.

So, concretely, I think she would vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade, not just to chip away at it. I think she would vote to strike down gun regulations. And I think she could well side with the Trump administration in its efforts to have the Affordable Care Act struck down in its entirety, including the protections for preexisting conditions.

So, I think, more broadly, she would cement a rock-solid conservative majority on the Supreme Court for, say, the next 30 years.

STEPHANOPOULOS: By all accounts, she's a brilliant lawyer.

What are likely to be the flash points at the confirmation hearings?

SHAW: You know, I think it's right she's very well-regarded, well-liked. I don't think anyone's going to be able to raise issues about her qualifications, her character, her judicial temperament.

But, on the merits, on the substance, I think Roe v. Wade and the future of legal abortion in this country will be a significant issue.

I presume she will be noncommittal but if you look at what things -- the things that people like Senator Josh Hawley have been saying, there should be a litmus test, the litmus test should be would you have overturned Roe, and if she passes the litmus test it is clear where members of the Republican Party believe she stands on Roe, the future of the Affordable Care Act in the moment of this pandemic, and actually I think the election itself could be a flashpoint.

The president has repeatedly suggested that getting her confirmed is important because there will be inevitable election disputes. He is broadcasting the idea that she would potentially weigh in and potentially weigh in on his side in such a dispute and I think that does raise questions about independence and the legitimacy of the timeline that the Republicans have laid out. None of that is Judge Barrett's fault. But it’s the sort of thing that is going to have to be addressed in the confirmation process.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Kate. Let’s take those questions down to two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

We're going to start with the number two Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin. He’s a senior member of the Judiciary Committee.

And Sen. Durbin I want to begin where Jon -- what Jon Karl was talking about. He said he’s spoken with Democrats trying to say you all have no procedural silver bullet to take this beyond the election. Is that true?

SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D-IL): That's true. And there have been two Republicans who have spoken out already, Senators Murkowski and Collins, that said they won't support this procedure before the election. If two others decide during the course of the debate to stand up and take the same position, then we could have a different timing, perhaps a different outcome.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But what I -- I read a piece by Adam Jentleson, who’s a top staffer for Harry Reid, earlier this week. He suggested Democrats could gum up works in the Senate. They could systematically deny unanimous consent to meet. They could have a series of quorum calls. That’s not good enough?

DURBIN: I know, Adam. I like Adam and respect him, but he's wrong. We can slow it down perhaps a matter of hours, maybe days at the most, but we can't stop the outcome.

What we should do is to address this now respectfully. But understand the context, George, Senator Mitch McConnell, who could find no time to attend the negotiating on the coronavirus relief package that we need to put together for the pandemic facing our country, for the unemployed people, for the businesses.

Senator McConnell refused to attend those meetings, didn’t have time to do it. And yet when this vacancy occurred, he dropped everything. Now we're going hell-bent on getting this done before the election.

And a second thing, of course, he had to reverse the position he took four years ago saying that we should wait for the next president to fill the vacancy and then watch as his caucus marched in one after the other, looked down at their shoes and said we’ve changed our mind, too. We now agree with Senator McConnell.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Some are calling on Democrats to boycott the committee proceedings. Several of your colleagues on the Judiciary Committee have said they won’t meet with Judge Barrett.

Will you meet with her? Will you participate in the hearings?

DURBIN: I’ve met with every Supreme Court nominee since I’ve been in the Senate. I will extend that courtesy, if she requests it, for at least a socially distanced, safe meeting, perhaps over the phone.

I want to be respectful. We disagree on some things. And in terms of participating in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, I’ll be there to do my job. Because I want to ask her point-blank, as I’m sure others will, whether or not her position is that we should end the Affordable Care Act providing health insurance for 20 million Americans and protections for Americans from one coast to the other from pre-existing conditions being used against them when they buy health insurance.

These are fundamental questions. No more important now and (ph) any time in the past, important at this moment because of the pandemic that we face. There are many other questions but let's start with that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So many believe this is an illegitimate sham process, that’s what several of your colleagues have said. If it’s an illegitimated process, why legitimate it with your participation?

DURBIN: I have a job to do, George. It is likely that this nominee -- the Republicans have promised, even before her name was announced, that they were going to vote for the president's choice.

We’re talking about someone who will be on the highest court in the land for the remainder of her life, and I take that seriously. I think questions that I’ve mentioned earlier about the future of healthcare in the midst of a pandemic and what this would mean to families. She's been pretty explicit in criticizing Justice Roberts when it came to the opinion he wrote in NFIB versus Sebelius.

But now we have a new question brought to us by the president and that is the legitimacy of the election and whether this president, the first in history, the first in the history of this country, who would not declare that he would accept the verdict of the American people on the future leadership in the White House.

He said he wants that court to be full. He wants nine members there, and obviously the inference is he’s going to need some supporters if there’s an election contest.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Here's what the president said on that subject.

(BEGIN CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's better if you go before the election because I think this scam that the Democrats are pulling -- it’s a scam, the scam will be before the United States Supreme Court, and I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Given those repeated comment by the president, will you and other Democrats request that Judge Barrett recuse herself from any consideration of the election?

DURBIN: I certainly wish she would, it would -- it help matters. And it would evidence the fact that she wants to be fair in addressing this.

Why? Because this president has been outspoken and outrageous, to think that he would not verdict of the election and that he would make it clear that he's filling this vacancy on the Supreme Court to make sure it tips his way if there’s any election contest, that is an outrage. No president has ever said that in our nation's history.

He said it twice. He said it four years ago and now he's saying the Supreme Court is part of his plan this time. I think that she should step forward and say that she would recuse herself from any election contest involving this president.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And if she doesn't?

DURBIN: Well, I -- the votes will cast ultimately on her nomination. Each senator will have to make that decision after they hear her testimony.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned the president's refusal to accept a peaceful transition of power, say that he would abide by a peaceful transition of power.

Last week, Senator Ted Cruz was on this program and he and others have drawn a moral equivalence between what the president is saying and these comments from Hillary Clinton.

Let’s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstances, because I think this is going to drag out, and eventually, I do believe he will win if we don't given an inch, and if we are as focused and relentless as the other side is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you agree with those comments?

DURBIN: No, I don't. I disagree with Hillary Clinton. I respect her, I like her, but I think she's just flat-out wrong.

The election itself is going to be announced, the winner will be announced at some point. It will take longer with all the paper ballots that are being cast.

But at some point, I hope my choice, Joe Biden, is elected president. But if we are going to maintain a democracy, peaceful transition through an election is the only way to do it. Just look at the streets of Belarus today, if you want to see the alternative. We don't need that in America.

Whoever the winner is, if it's clear and legal, that should be announced, and the other party should concede.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you convinced it's going to be a fair election?

DURBIN: I hope so, George, but we have so much meddling going on here. We have the Russians still at work, the Chinese, perhaps the Iranians and others. We certainly have conspiracy theorists in this country.

We have what I consider to be corruption of the media. To think that we're broadcasting through social media things which are truly false is really misleading the American people. We need -- we need and should have a much better approach to this than we currently do, and I worry about the outcome.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, if Democrats are successful in November, and you increase your numbers in the Senate, your colleague Ed Markey has suggested that if Republicans confirm Judge Barrett, you should end the filibuster and expand the Supreme Court. Is that on the table?

DURBIN: Well, I can tell you, the conversation about future of the Senate rules is on the table and I’m part of it. And the reason is this, we have seen under Mitch McConnell the destruction, denigration of the United States Senate.

George, last year in the Senate, 2019, we had 22 amendments voted on in entire year in the United States Senate. Mitch McConnell has taken the Senate and turned it into something that is not even close to a deliberative and legislative body.

We need to make sure that whatever the procedure is in the future, that we get down to business, roll up our sleeves, and address the issues that affect this country.

Senator McConnell's approach I think has been failure.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Durbin, thanks very much for your time this morning.

Let’s get a Republican perspective now from Senator Mike Lee. He’s out with a new book, “Our Lost Declaration”.

Senator Lee, thank you for joining us this morning.

Let’s pick up where Senator Durbin left off right there.

If the Democrats are successful in November, they may move to end the filibuster, possibly expand the court.

Your response?

SEN. MIKE LEE (R-UT): I think that would be an unfortunate step. I think the filibuster is there for a good reason. And the nine-member Supreme Court, while statutory rather than constitutional, has been something we’ve had in place for a very long time, and something that we’ve relied on.

That said, this is promise they've made. This is an expectation they've created with their own voters. If they choose to take that step, it will have been with the consent of voters who have elected them. It’s one of the reasons why I hope Democrats don’t take the majority.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I -- but, you know, you talk about the filibusters right there. One of the reasons you may be able to get Judge Barrett through is because there’s no filibuster now in court nominations.

LEE : Yes, you know, that's right. On November 23, 2013, the Democrats voted to vitiate the filibuster on the executive calendar, referring to presidential appointments. That was an unfortunate step then. It had its natural consequences. I hope we can contain the damage so that it doesn't go under the legislative calendar where it would also affect changes to law.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say you hope that you're successful on November 3rd. As you know, we just played -- showed that poll showing this morning that most Americans believe that the -- whoever wins on November 3rd should select the next Supreme Court justice. Worried at all that if you continue to push this through there might be a backlash at the election?

LEE: Not on that point. Look, President Donald Trump campaigned in 2016, and he's campaigning again this time, promising to appoint judges to federal courts and justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who are textualists and who are originalists, who interpret the law based on what it says rather than on the basis of what they might wish that it said. This is exactly what he promised to do and he's fulfilling that promise. I think the American people respect somebody who's willing to stand behind his campaign promises, which is what he's doing with Judge Barrett.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What does the appointment -- confirmation of Judge Barrett, as Justice Barrett, if it indeed happens, means for Roe v. Wade?

LEE: You know, only time can tell what will happen to any one precedent. Although I -- I would point out here, George, that any time someone is looking at overruling a precedent, I mean it's a lot more complicated than people might think. And, in any event, you can't look at the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice and boil down that jurist's contribution to the law, past and future, to what they might do with a single case. This -- this judge has an incredible background. This is a judge who will bring her expertise to the table. And it will be brought to bear on a whole wide variety of scenarios, just as Ruth Bader Ginsburg's expertise was brought to bear in her cases.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Including health care. You heard Senator Durbin right there, he says he and all Democrats are united now, concerned that if Judge Barrett is confirmed, the Affordable Care Act and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions will go down as well.

Are they of valid concern?

LEE: Look, the patient protection and Affordable Care Act was, I believe, unconstitutional when it was enacted. It was unconstitutional when it was litigated in 2012. It was unconstitutional when Chief Justice Roberts, writing for a narrow five member majority, re-wrote the Affordable Care Act in two critical ways in order to render an otherwise inevitably unconstitutional law constitutional. And so the fact that Congress chose to enact an unconstitutional law shouldn't tarnish Judge Barrett in this. Her job is to figure out whether it's unconstitutional or not. I don't believe it is. John Roberts' re-wrote it twice in order to make it appear constitutional, which it is not.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You've got a very forthright opinion there on the Affordable Care Act. A lot of your colleagues are concerned that that forthright opinion is going to cost you on November 3rd?

LEE: OK, well, look, Judge Barrett, we're talking about Judge Barrett here and we're talking about constitutionality. Judge Barrett would look at this, not on the basis of what's politically expedient. She'd look at it on the basis of constitutionality.

Now, I don't purport to speak for what Judge Barrett might say or might think. You asked me for my opinion on the constitutionality on the Affordable Care Act. I don't believe it is. I have no idea how she would rule on this particular case.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We also heard Senator Durbin talk about the process -- whether or not she should sit in judgment of this election. He believes that she should recuse herself from any election-related -- from any election-related cases, if indeed she is confirmed. Should she recuse?

LEE: Judges and Supreme Court justices have a well-defined set of rules that helps guide their determination in making recusal decisions. I'm not going to purport to speak for what she ought to do with regard to her recusal. I have every confidence that she'll make the right decision.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But on its face, the president is talking about the dangers of a 4-4 court from his perspective. He's saying the election is going to be rigged. He's says he needs a Supreme Court justice in there to basically create a majority and by implication support his position. Doesn't that create a series of conflicts on its face?

LEE: George, your use of the word -- that -- the words "by implication" there does more lifting than I think those bear -- words can bear or than logic and reason and the record can bear. It -- it is not an outlandish position to take to say --

STEPHANOPOULOS: He's repeatedly talked about the dangers of a 4-4 court.

LEE: Yes. Yes, the dangers of a 4-4 court are significant. These were dangers that were outlined extensively by Democrats in 2016 when they wanted us to confirm Judge Garland and those dangers exist there.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Republicans like you said it was no problem at all?

LEE: And those dangers exist there -- well, one can get around it. We didn't say it was no problem at all. We said that there are procedures whereby a 4-4 split can result in the affirmance of a lower court decision.

So -- but the dangers themselves, the risks are well-known. It's -- it's not wrong for the president to point out that it might be a good thing to have a court that's fully impaneled. And that's not an unreasonable, untenable position to make.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So -- it -- you have no problem with the idea that a president nominating someone 38 days before an election would then have that person sit in judgment of the very election at -- in play.

LEE: Let me put it this way, George. Judge Barrett, once confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States, will be a Supreme Court justice, no less a Supreme Court justice than Justice Kavanaugh or Justice Gorsuch or Justice Breyer or Justice Kagan or Sotomayor. She will be a justice on full par with them. Whether she recuses in this or any other case is up to her and is up to her in consultation with her colleagues, her staff and the rules at play.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The president has also talked about mail-in voting a lot, saying it increases the chances of a rigged election. He's calling it a sign that the election could be a hoax. But Utah, your state, has had significant -- has had no significant problems with universal mail-in voting.

And here's what the FBI director, Chris Wray, had to say this week on that subject.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FBI DIRECTOR CHRISTOPHER WRAY: We have not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it's by mail or -- or otherwise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Isn't Director Wray right?

LEE: I think it has to be a decision that's made by each state. And we have used it in Utah. To my knowledge, there haven't been significant problems with it in Utah.

But, look, George, the fact that Director Wray says that he hasn't historically seen evidence that it's been manipulated is analytically different from the question of whether these things could be manipulated moving forward. The president's concern is a legitimate one, and I don't think we ought to dismiss it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Based on what evidence?

LEE: Based on the fact that, in any election, you -- you go through a whole lot of procedures, or you should go through a whole lot of routine procedures to make sure that there's not tampering. Human nature is such that people might cheat. And you want to make sure that you've got in place mechanisms designed to deter that, designed to detect that and designed to prevent that.

And insofar as you're changing procedures that have been in place for a long time, you ought to be extra-vigilant. I don't think that's unreasonable of the president to suggest.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, finally, just to be clear, you've had no significant problems in your state with mail-in voting?

LEE: No. No, it's worked fine in Utah. But, again, George, it's important to remember, whether we're talking about mail-in ballots or any other form of potential election fraud, the canard that, well, you can't prove that it's happened on any widespread basis in the past is very different than saying there's no reason to worry about it ever.

These are significant things when you're shifting over, an entire country is moving toward mail-in balloting all at once? There is legitimate reason for concern and we ought not dismiss that cavalierly.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Lee, thanks for your time this morning.

LEE: Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable's coming up, and Nate Silver is up next with his new Senate election forecast.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We can't pick and choose when big decisions are foisted upon us by things that we didn't anticipate.

The election is no reason to dodge our responsibility and not go forward with a well-qualified nominee.

SCHUMER: Our first job is to get the majority back. And everything is on the table.

My Senate Democratic colleagues and candidates know America needs some change. And we're going to figure out the best way to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: The Supreme Court confirmation showdown now the latest twist in the fight for Senate control.

The GOP holds a three-seat margin now, but polls show Democrats threaten to flip several seats. So, which party has the edge with five weeks to go?

Here's Nate Silver with his new forecast.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NATE SILVER, EDITOR IN CHIEF, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT.COM: FiveThirtyEight's Senate model recently launched to address this very question.

And the answer is that Democrats are favored to win the Senate, but just barely.

Democrats have been polling quite well in a lot of Senate races, including purple states like Arizona and Colorado, where they are expected to do well, but also in places like South Carolina and even Kansas and Montana and Alaska, which would be bigger upsets.

So, instead of having only a few targets, they have at least 12 legitimate pickup opportunities.

But they also face some fairly difficult conditions. Most of the competitive races are in red states. In fact, there are only two Republican senators up for reelection this year -- those are Colorado's Cory Gardner and Maine's Susan Collins -- in states won by Hillary Clinton.

And after Justice Ginsburg's passing, there will be a lot of scrutiny on everybody's vote to replace her.

So, Democrats need either three or four pickups to claim the Senate, depending on if they win the presidency. But that assumes they hold every seat of their own, which they probably won't.

Democrat Doug Jones is an underdog in Alabama, where he's now facing former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, instead of Roy Moore. So, we're probably talking about four or five pickups instead.

Now, winning four or five out of 12 opportunities is very doable. But few of those races are sure things. In fact, one of the most likely outcomes in our forecast is a 50/50 split. In which case, control of the Senate would come down to whether Kamala Harris or Mike Pence is a vice president in January.

If you prefer to think in terms of probabilities, which, of course, we look at FiveThirtyEight, Democrats have somewhere in the range of a 60 to 70 percent chance of flipping the Senate. That’s not bad, but we do need to see more polling especially in red states where a Supreme Court fight could be helpful to GOP incumbents.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Nate for that.

And now, it’s time for our series “Six for the Win”.

Early voting in Michigan begun this week and more than 2 million voters have already requested absentee ballots, roughly four times the number four years ago.

Trump squeezed out a 10,000-vote win in this critical battleground back in 2016. But this year, Joe Biden has held a small but steady lead for months. So, can Trump come from behind again or are the Democrats poised to put this state away?

Terry Moran travelled to Michigan for some clues.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Michigan, the state that shocked the Democrats in 2016, a prime target for both candidates this time.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It's great to be here in Michigan and the -- and the -- with the United Auto Workers.

MORAN: For decades, the Wolverine State helped propel Democrats into the White House, but Donald Trump cracked this part of the blue wall wide open, and he hopes to take it again.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: November 3rd, Michigan, you'd better for me. I got you so many damn car plants.

MORAN: Before Trump, Ronald Reagan was the last Republican to win here way back in 1984. A key question this year: Will those Trump converts stick with him?

Chris Vitale in Macomb County told us he will.

CHRIS VITALE, TRUMP VOTER: I'm definitely more enthusiastic. Initially, he was still a candidate, he was unproven. This go around, I have at least seen four years of track record of him at least trying to get the job done.

MORAN: Trump is trailing Biden in Michigan; the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett hasn't seemed to change the race much, but many voters, including Chris, don't like the hardball politics of it all.

VITALE: Ideally, it would be best for a confirmation after the election, just so that the -- there isn't any problem with legitimacy.

MORAN: But the president going full steam ahead.

TRUMP: This should be a straightforward and prompt confirmation. It should be very easy.

REVEREND CHARLES WILLIAMS II, DETROIT: I think what we're seeing is the ultimate level of hypocrisy coming from the president.

MORAN: Reverend Charles Williams II in Detroit says the Supreme Court fight and broader issues of racial justice require a much more energized Biden campaign.

WILLIAMS: You need to see a Joe Biden on the front lines of a protest. You need to see a Kamala Harris on the front lines of a protest. You need to see Joe Biden and Kamala Harris passing out masks, serving people food.

This is a urgent time in America right now and merely talking about it is not enough."

MORAN: Half an hour away in Roseville, sisters Leslie Hall and Carmen Dickerson (ph) also believe more action than talking is needed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The same people who are marching and protesting and what ever they're doing, I hope and pray they are using that same amount of energy to get their community, their friends, their family, everybody out to the polls because it's important. That's where the change happens.

MORAN: Almost four years ago, I came to Michigan after that stunning election...

So, we want to find out what the people of Macomb County feel as the inauguration arrives.

You could feel the enthusiasm, the optimism among Trump supporters back then.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we need someone who is going to find that middle ground for people and give us some hope for the next four years.

MORAN: One of them, Kim Neumann Rice (ph).

And you feel the same way now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think his overall leadership has been good. I think that he's put a lot of good policies in place that are in line with my family values

MORAN: But other 2016 Trump voters are switching sides.

MAYOR MICHAEL TAYLOR, STERLING HEIGHTS: It didn't take long for me to really have severe buyer's remorse.

MORAN: Mayor Michael Taylor of Sterling Heights is a Republican, but after backing Trump in 2016 --

Who are you supporting this time around?

TAYLOR: Joe Biden. Joe Biden will be the first Democratic presidential candidate that I voted for in my life.

MORAN: Mayor Taylor says Trump lost his vote on character, more than anything, but he knows his constituents, and why they went with Trump four years ago and may again.

TAYLOR: I don't think that Trump's voters are all racist. I don't think that Trump's voters are all sexist. I don't think Trump's voters are just all uneducated people.

I think there are people who just have had enough of being told that they're not good enough.

MORAN: He says the race is as tight here as in 2016, but Biden has a real shot.

TAYLOR: Joe Biden is a different candidate than Hillary Clinton was, and he doesn't need to peel off a whole lot of voters here. He's been there for working class people for 40 years. And he's not somebody that's going to lie to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Terry Moran, for that.

The roundtable's up next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP: That's what you call a really dishonest, dumb politician...

(APPLAUSE)

... a dumb guy. He's a dumb guy -- always known as a dumb guy. But we look forward to seeing him in the debate. He's got a lot more experience. He's got 47 years; I've got three and a half years.

(APPLAUSE)

So we'll see.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN: My guess is it's going to be just straight attack. And they're going to be mostly personal. That's the only thing he knows how to do. He doesn't know how to debate the facts because he's not that smart.

I'm prepared to go out and make my case as to why I think he's failed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: The first debate is Tuesday. We're going to talk about that and many other things now on our roundtable. We're joined by Rahm Emanuel; Republican strategist Sarah Isgur, veteran of the Trump administration who's now a political analyst for CNN and The Dispatch; Leah Wright Rigueur, professor at Harvard's Kennedy School; and Sara Fagen, who's a Republican strategist as well, veteran of the George W. Bush White House.

Rahm, let's start out with the Supreme Court fight here. There seems to be a big debate going on in Democratic circles over how to handle Amy Coney Barrett.

You heard Senator Durbin right there. He's going to go to the hearings. He's going to meet with her. He's going to talk to her. A lot of Democrats say boycott.

RAHM EMANUEL, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND FORMER CHICAGO MAYOR: No, I -- I think you treat this serious. I think, first of all, there's going to be a lot of collateral damage to the Senate and to the Supreme Court in the way they're handling this. And I think it's a mistake what they're doing, and I think it will be felt for generations.

The Senate was always constructed to be "slow down the House; slow down the emotions." If it's anything else, they've put it into fifth gear, and I think that's going to actually damage the Senate.

That said, you treat it very seriously, respectfully, and do the lines of attack specifically on pre-existing condition, Roe v. Wade and her philosophy as it relates to those issues that matter to the American people.

And I also think this is going to actually not go to the president's benefit because, in fact, all the issues are going to come up in this process, as it relates to COVID, the economy, et cetera. They're hoping this blots out stuff. It will not achieve that.

And you can see that in our own poll here at ABC. The energy's starting to pick up for Democrats. I think this is not going to accrue to the benefits of the Republicans.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Sara Fagen, it seems like a lot of Senate Republicans have made a different calculation. First of all, they want a conservative majority...

SARA FAGEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... on the Supreme Court. But secondly, it appears that, at least right now, they believe it will actually help them more than it will hurt them in November?

FAGEN: Well, you know, if you think about this election for Trump -- and we've criticized him at time for not making the case for the next four years and setting up a choice between Joe Biden -- there is no better choice than the Supreme Court. There's nothing that energizes Republicans more than a Supreme Court fight.

And the base of the Republican Party will not forgive these senators if they are not able to get this pick through and on the court. And there's some -- there's some peril here. There's a very tight timeline. This has to go flawlessly to get her...

STEPHANOPOULOS: This could get voted on November 1st or 2nd.

FAGEN: It's possible. And if it punts; if there's any reason why it needs to punt to post- the election, I think she would still get through in a lame duck. But, you know, there are Senate races in Georgia, Arizona. These are specials. If a Republican weren't to win those races, the Democrat would be seated right away.

So, there isn't really any room for error, and Republicans have to execute this flawlessly.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Leah Wright Rigueur, if the reaction to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death is any indication, this is likely to fuel an awful lot of energy and enthusiasm on the Democratic side as well.

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely.

And so I think we shouldn't be surprised that Republicans in the Senate right now seem overwhelmingly in support of confirming and holding hearings and things like that.

But what we should be watching out for is how Democrats are responding. And the left right now wants its own version of red meat. And so they want Democratic senators to fight. They don't know how they want them to fight. They don't know what the strategy is right now. But they know they just don't want to take it sitting down.

And so what we're going to see is continual kind of pushing on this issue. At the very least, what they want to see is that politicians, right, haven't failed the base of the Democratic Party by actually holding Republicans to task the best way that they absolutely can.

So, it's not -- we may be in an endgame situation in terms of what -- what you can and cannot do, but that doesn't mean that the base wants the party to give up. They want fight, they want meat, and they want a challenge.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How should Republicans handle that? What are the risks here for Republican senators?

SARAH ISGUR, DISPATCH STAFF WRITER: So, Republicans, just like Sara said, have always been far more reliable court voters than Democrats.

And you saw that with perhaps the Kavanaugh effect in 2018, which some people pointed to, but that was a midterm. And this is a very different election, a very different electorate in 2020.

So, when you think about single-issue voters, pro-life voters tend to be. That number has gone up to 30 points, pro-life voters being single-issue. That's doubled over the last 10 years. That is something Republicans can really count on perhaps.

But, on the other hand, when you talk about enthusiasm, like Leah is saying or like Rahm, absolutely the case. The Trump campaign has said they are counting on using this to demoralize Democrats by losing another Supreme Court seat.

But it could have very much the opposite effect. And so finding a way in those hearings to basically keep the temperature actually down as low as possible, you don't want to give Senator Harris the chance to energize her voters by showing up at that Judiciary Committee hearing and knocking it out of the park.

FAGEN: I think she's got to be really careful, though, she in particular, because she has been very aggressive in previous Supreme Court nominations.

She was...

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's worked for her in the past.

FAGEN: It's worked for her with her base.

I don't know that it works for her with the average -- the few undecided voters that may be still remaining in this election. But I think Democrats, more broadly -- we saw over the weekend, before the actual announcement, people again attacking Amy Coney Barrett's Catholic faith.

This came up at her Seventh Circuit hearing.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Not the senators, though.

FAGEN: The senators -- the senators, I think, downright question whether somebody who is a religious conservative could be an impartial judge.

And that is a line where the base wants them to go. They're smart not to go there, because, when you think about these swing states, high Catholic populations.

EMANUEL: A couple things.

One, I think it'd be a mistake to touch faith, any more than it would be a mistake to question Nancy Pelosi's faith with her as a Catholic. Or, in fact, I grew up in a home where being a Democrat was one of the 10 lost tribes of the Jewish people, OK?

(LAUGHTER)

EMANUEL: So, and the idea tzedakah and sense of justice is what got you into public service. So, I would not go there. I would stay on the issues.

I -- first and foremost, this nomination is going to affect the Senate race more than the presidential. We have gone through epidemiology of 100-year pandemic, an economy 75-year economic depression, a 50-year civil and social unrest. Nothing moves.

The centrifugal force of the presidential election is how you feel about Donald Trump, Joe Biden getting 53 percent. The people say that they will never vote for Joe -- for Donald Trump, 53 percent. Trump is getting 43 percent. That's 43 percent of the people who think he's actually -- job approval.

Nothing will affect this. And, if anything, I think people are actually disquieted and put off by the raw crassness of a power grab here. And that Biden Republican is now going to flip. And they have been moving incrementally.

And I think the actual energy is going to come to the Democratic side, which is the one place that we have been lagging on the presidential.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the thing -- that could lead to a lot more questions that we focused on earlier in the program, Sarah, on whether or not Judge Barrett will be forced to recuse herself from anything having to do with the election.

ISGUR: No, I mean, certainly the legal rules of ethics would have nothing to say about her recusing herself in the case of an election controversy.

But, remember, Bush v. Gore was 5-4 in the remedy for what to do about those ballots. But it was actually 7-2 that there was a problem.

I don't see a world in which Chief Justice Roberts, the chief institutionalist when it comes to the Supreme Court, whether it's an eight-person court or a nine-person court, will let this divide 5-4 or 4-4. He's just not going to let that happen.

And so I don't think her -- I don't think she will recuse. I don't think she's required to recuse, and I don't think it will matter whether she recuses.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to move on to the question of the debate.

And, Leah, Rahm made the point that nothing seems to move this presidential race. You look at the polling averages, it's been a seven-point race all through the summer. The question is, will it change on the debate? And what are the risks for Joe Biden going into the debate?

WRIGHT RIGUEUR: So, I think one of the risks -- so first, let me start out by saying the debate isn't going to change anything. The debate -- by now, the majority of people in this country have made up their mind.

You don’t have very many people, you may have a smattering of people who go in that say, huh, this is really going to make me decide. They’re not -- I mean, that's not happening here.

But one of things that we know -- and Donald Trump has long done this, and he’s actually quite good at doing this, is setting low expectations for himself, because then if he passes the bar, then he looks like a superstar.

And so, one of the things that we saw, and we saw it in that clip earlier in the show where he’s talking about, oh, well, you know, Joe Biden has had 40 years to do it this, 40-plus years to do this, I’m a newbie, I’m not a politician, even though he’s been running the president -- you know, running for president and running the United States for four years. What we're seeing is that he's setting up an arena where he can look like he performs really well.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I think he’s a little late to that strategy. He also called Joe Biden dumb about four times, and this morning, Sara, he’s out there calling again for Joe Biden to take a drug test going into this debate.

So, I think one of the dangers for the president is he’s actually in some ways, he’s coming to this now, but in some ways, he’s done the opposite as well, raising so many questions about Joe Biden's mental capacity, if Joe Biden comes up there and does the debate performance he had against Bernie Sanders back in the spring, it's going to look like a win.

FAGEN: I agree. I think that’s’ been a mistake, because he does set the vice president for a situation where he all has to do is be average, and he will have done very, very well. I mean, the expectation is that he can't articulate a sentence, which he does have trouble with at times, but also has had some very strong debates, he’s had some poor debates.

You know, it's not unusual though for an incumbent president to do very poorly in the first debate, we've seen this repeatedly -- certainly, Mitt Romney bested Barack Obama in their first debates, and Democrats were apoplectic after that about the race. And then, of course, the president went on to win.

So, you know, I don't think this debate will have much outcome in any direction, I don't think it will change anything, I think probably Biden has more to gain and more to lose from it.

EMANUEL: Actually, I disagree and this case -- the fact is, you're going into this debate, the first debate in the 45 minutes are crucial. Joe Biden --

STEPHANOPOULOS: It may have a massive audience.

EMANUEL: Right, Joe Biden has to reassure, because he's ahead. He doesn't have to persuade. Donald Trump has to change the election and changing people is a lot harder, steeper hill than reassuring.

Joe Biden's first 45 minutes -- and there's a little history here. If you look at his debate performance one-on-one, he excels. When you had multiple stage, he gets off kilter. He’s got that.

And the best analogy here is the Carter/Reagan debate. Carter made Reagan too extreme, way out there on the far right, he showed up, and it didn't match. And he hit the bar.

They have -- I think Donald Trump has set it up for Joe Biden in a way that Joe Biden couldn't set it up for Joe Biden.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, should he stay away from Donald Trump or views on President Trump baked in?

EMANUEL: My thing -- here's the challenge if there's a challenge for Biden, nobody's replacing Donald Trump's anger and craziness for Joe Biden's anger and craziness.

The best analogy here was when Trump went into Kenosha and looked like the source of the problem. Joe Biden looked like, oh, that’s exactly the type of president we want. What he showed -- leadership, strength is not anger, it's different quality and effort. He has to reassure people that he's ready for this job, et cetera. That is a different bar.

Donald Trump, like everything else, he's thrown anarchist, he’s thrown law and order, Wuhan -- Chinese virus, nothing has stuck, he's stuck at his 43 percent, he has to change people, and that is a steeper climb for the president of the United States who's running at a consistent eight-point deficit.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Sarah, Rahm says that Biden has to reassure people. What can and should the president do?

ISGUR: Rahm is exactly right that the president --

EMANUEL: Let's stop there.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

EMANUEL: I got five people for you to call at my home.

ISGUR: The president has to change voters' minds. He has -- he has the higher uphill climb.

Now, I will disagree, slightly, that I think the narrative that he's stuck on Biden, it’s a risky move because, yes, if Biden comes in and can like, you know, give sort of the minimum debate performance, that's good.

But as we saw in 2012, Barack Obama did such a good job setting the narrative on Mitt Romney so far in advance, if Joe Biden does have a problem, the Trump campaign can feed that to their people with, you know, ton of videos.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What is the narrative they should settle on, Sleepy Joe Biden, or is it socialist Joe Biden?

ISGUR: He makes a mistake, and he loses his train of thought, that he is somewhat unhinged, and that could in a social media election like this, where you’re talking about clipping these things and putting it on Facebook, yes, the debate will have a lot of viewers, those people have all made up their minds if they’re tuning into the debate.

It’s those low likelihood voters who are going to see clips, just a clip on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, TikTok, whatever, that's what the Biden campaign needs to worry about. And it's the opportunity is such for the Trump campaign to get some of those low likelihood voters to turn out.

FAGEN: In my view it's unquestionably socialist Joe Biden. Here is a candidate who has already called for $4 trillion of tax increases. Four trillion. And this is hardly being talked about. I think the president would be wise to go in and hammer, you know, his climate change policy, his view on health care, you know, where he is going to take the country, where -- what kind of Supreme Court judge would he appoint. He won't put a list out. There is so much material here that's not getting much discussion because we are -- we're talking about style and people in the basement and, you know, somebody had a bad moment at a -- at a podium. And so I think on substance this is where the president could win. And he needs to take that opportunity.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I guess the question would be, does the president have the discipline to make this about policy not personality?

WRIGHT RIGUEUR: I mean the president does not have the discipline. But what I think is really important to also keep in mind is that part of this election is also about enthusiasm. It's about generating turnout. And one of the things that I -- you know, I want to point out about this idea of hammering -- trying to hammer Joe Biden on socialism is that his own base doesn't buy this idea that he's a socialist, that he's some kind of like radical Marxist that's, you know, hunting in the dark or what have you, because his policies just really don't match up with that. So it actually could have the opposite effect, which his in unifying the Democratic Party, particularly the left, which has been skeptical of this idea of Joe Biden as some kind of radical reformer and get them on board.

Couple that with what's going on with Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat and kind of the urgency around that, you do have the potential to actually do something around enthusiasm, which has been a place, a central place, where Democrats have struggled to keep up with Republicans.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That is going to have to be the last word today. Thank you all very much.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us.

And tune in Tuesday night for the first presidential debate. I'll be anchoring our special coverage starting at 8:00 Eastern. And I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."

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