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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Interview with Mike Pence; Moments Away from Clinton-Trump Debate on CNN; Clinton and Trump to Face Off in Third and Final Presidential Debate. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired October 19, 2016 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- to see the tremendous clear choice between Donald Trump who wants to bring -- rebuild our military, cut taxes, repeal Obamacare, end the war on coal, expand access to American energy, make conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, and Hillary Clinton who literally wants to continue the same failed policies who have weakened America's places in the world, stifle our economy and continue to take our court farther and farther of the left.

[20:00:25] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Governor, your campaign CEO Steve Bannon told CNN's Brooke Baldwin today that Trump, and I'm quoting him now, "is master of the head fake" and is planning, in his words, "to bring guests to the debate today who expose Bill and Hillary Clinton's sordid past" -- Bannon's words.

Are you comfortable with that plan?

PENCE: Well, look, I'd let Mr. Bannon speak for himself. I think -- we're honored to have all the guests that we have coming tonight. I'm particularly moved that Pat Smith will be with us, the mother of one of the fallen in Benghazi.

I mean, Hillary Clinton runs for president eight years ago and talked about getting the call in the middle of the night, being able to have someone in a leadership position to take that. Well, the call from Benghazi didn't come in the middle at night. It was late afternoon and for 13 hours, literally, the State Department failed to send help. Four Americans fell. She ended up telling Pat Smith and other family members that it was because of a filmmaker in Florida. And when she was confronted on that, when the evidence and e-mails showed she knew it was a terrorist attack, she told the Senate, what difference at this point does it make?

I mean, I truly believe the fact she said that. The fact she did that. Her leadership failed in that moment of crisis in Benghazi should be front and center with the American people and we're honored to have her with us tonight.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Governor, your running mate, Mr. Trump, is saying over and over again that he believes the system is rigged. I know that you and Mr. Trump are talking a lot about the media. But I want to put that aside right now and talk specifically about the electoral system and voting. Do you believe that the system is rigged and that there is widespread fraud?

PENCE: Well, I wouldn't separate them, Dana. Donald Trump has made it very clear. I think a polls show today, 55 percent of the America public thinks the media has been biased against Donald Trump.

BASH: But that is different from voter fraud.

PENCE: It is. That's a very fair point.

But the overwhelming negative bias chasing after unsubstantiated allegations while ignoring a mountain range of documented evidence about Hillary Clinton's years of secretary of state and the Clinton Foundation I think is a frustration of millions of Americans.

But on the subject of voter fraud, look, the point Donald Trump has made, the point I made traveling around the country is voter fraud is real. And it happens and has happened throughout the country in specific places, various --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: -- has shown it's not meant the difference between winning or losing. It is real, perhaps, but not widespread.

PENCE: But you think of the price that has been paid for the right to vote? You know, why is it a numerical issue? Republicans, Democrats, independents ought to stand for the integrity of the vote. This is a very bedrock of our democracy.

And Donald Trump and I are simply calling on our supporters to come to rallies like in Durango, Colorado, today for me and saying to them, be involved in the electoral process. Be there on Election Day. Respectfully provide the kind of accountability that will ensure the integrity of the vote.

BASH: The other thing that is bedrock --

PENCE: But voter fraud, Dana, is real. We're dealing with it in the state of Indiana right now. We have literally thousands of instances of fraudulent voter registration. We're working to run all of that to ground right now. We just need to be vigilant, Republicans, Democrats --

BASH: The other thing bedrock of democracy is a smooth transition. And so given that, do you believe that you and Mr. Trump will accept the results of this election no matter what?

PENCE: I've said before, we'll certainly accept the outcome of this election.

BASH: Do you want Mr. Trump to make that clear.

PENCE: But in the twenty days --

TAPPER: He has said --

PENCE: Well, he said it in the first debate.

TAPPER: And then he took it back.

PENCE: Well, he said it in the first debate, folks.

BASH: Do you want him to make it clear, since then he's been talking about rigged elections.

PENCE: Donald Trump is going to win this election. I know that now you mention polls and where the polls are. "Investors Business Daily" just came out, Jake, and we're ahead by a percentage point national. I think this is real --

TAPPER: So, we should listen to that poll but not the other thirty.

PENCE: Well, no, I think the poll that matters is the one we finish on November 8th. But I have to tell you, there is something happening in the country. The American people are tired of a weak and apologetic foreign policy. The American people are tired of an economy that only produces 1 percent growth. The American people are tired of being told by liberal elites from Washington D.C. to New York City about how we ought to think and how we ought to view our constitutional liberties and rights. And I think Donald Trump has tapped into that.

And my confident hope tonight is the American people are going to see Donald Trump lay out that choice before the American people and then it is going to be head down, kick to the finish.

[20:05:06] You know, Dana, we were out at that Ronald Reagan Library not too long ago. Ronald Reagan at this point in the election in 1980 was down eight points in the national polls, came back to deliver a great victory and America had a great, great comeback under Ronald Reagan. I think that's -- I think we're headed for the same thing on election day and the same thing as we bring America back, as we make America great again.

BLITZER: Governor Pence, thanks for joining us.

PENCE: Thank you, Wolf.

TAPPER: Good luck. Have a good debate.

PENCE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Anderson, over to you.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thanks very much.

You are watching AC360, a special edition on this debate night in America. We're about an hour away from the final presidential debate of 2016 here at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Right now, surrogates for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are out in force in the debate spin room making their case for their candidates.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is there with prominent Republican supporter of Hillary Clinton -- Jeff.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESONDENT: Anderson, thank you very much.

I'm here with Meg Whitman, chairman of the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and 2010 Republican candidate for governor of California.

Meg, you were one of the first Republicans out of the box to support Hillary Clinton. How did that feel as a Republican and have more joined you since then?

MEG WHITMAN, HEWLETT PACKARD ENTERPRISE CHAIRMAN: So, many more have joined me. There is a umbrella organization called "Together for America." And I was one of the first, you are right. And it took some courage.

As a lifelong Republican voting for president was very easy thing do. But this time, I decided I had to put country before party, and I got a lot of support and a lot of people who said, what are you doing? But over the last four or five months more and more people are coming across.

ZELENY: You have compared Donald Trump to Hitler, and Mussolini. That said, how can 40 percent of the electorate still support him, do you think?

WHITMAN: Well, I call him a dishonest demagogue who really played to our worst fears around racism and xenophobia and what scares people. And I think that's not the right way to win an election. We need to bring this together.

And then what I really liked about Hillary Clinton was actually her economic policy, which might surprise you as a Republican. But if the president could work on only one thing, for me it would be the economy. Obviously, the president has to work on many things but we have to put average people back to work in America. And I'd very much like her economic plan around infrastructure, her innovations agenda and the skills retraining.

ZELENY: You spent time on the road campaigning with Secretary Clinton and for Secretary Clinton. What's surprised you about getting to know her?

WHITMAN: Yes. So, I didn't really know her very well at all. And I very much liked her. She's thoughtful. She's got a lot of experience that she brings to bear. She's very calm under pressure and I think she's got the temperament to lead this country in what is going to be a very difficult -- if she wins, trying to bring this country together is going to be very difficult. And I think she's got the character and the temperament to do that.

ZELENY: Meg, thank you very much for joining us.

WHITMAN: Thank you very much.

ZELENY: Anderson, back to you. COOPER: Jeff, thanks very much.

We're back with our panel.

Just in terms of strategy for each candidate moving forward to tonight -- I mean, what -- for Hillary Clinton, does she just try to kind of run out the clock essentially and not make mistakes?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, yes. But she also has to talk to those people who are worried about her and don't like her and appear as somebody they can accept as president, talk about their lives, to make it a little bit more personal about how she will effect their lives. And I think she tries to take the high road.

I think for Donald Trump, he's got to appear as a plausible commander- in-chief, somebody who has the temperament to be president. I keep going back to this FOX poll that came out yesterday. Thirty-five percent of likely voters believe he has the temperament, 37 percent believe he has the judgment, and 32 percent say they would trust him with nuclear weapons.

This is a big problem for him. So, he has to not take Hillary Clinton's bait. He has to try and talk about these serious issues and present himself as someone they can see in the Oval Office. It is going to be very difficult.

COOPER: Van?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that that's true. But I just want to point out something we just saw which I thought was remarkable.

You know, the thing that president has to do is to unite his country. This guy cannot unite his party.

BORGER: Right.

JONES: He can't unite his campaign. Kellyanne Conway threw him under the bus today. And he can't unite his ticket. Pence sounds like a completely different party, planet, universe than Donald Trump.

And so, part of what you have here is a massive failure of leadership. He gets compared to Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan did something extraordinary. He led an insurgency inside his party and actually captured that party and used it to take over the country. He's still not got captured (ph) his own ticket.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There is a reason for that. Look, Donald Trump is outsider. He's challenging the status quo not only the Democrats but the Republicans as well. He's making an anti-politician argument, an anti-Washington argument.

He's trying to make a broad case for corruption that we've seen on the mass scale from the DOJ, where Bill Clinton meets with the attorney general on a plane and days later, Hillary Clinton, no prosecution recommended by the FBI. [20:10:10] From the IRS holding average citizen, Tea Party groups --

(CROSSTALK)

MCENANY: -- and they lied. They have to spent wide spread corruption. We've seen that in government and a big distrust of institution. (INAUDIBLE) can't believe the economy is rigged against them. This the anti-politician --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: One at a time. Van?

JONES: Didn't mean to interrupt. But honest question, seriously, and maybe, Jeffrey, you want to get in here. If all the stuff you are saying sounds great on the face. He can't get his own party to be on -- he can't get his own running mate on the same page with him for more than three seconds. That is a failure of leadership.

COOPER: Jeffrey?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENATOR: Look, there are two people here at these debates. One for Donald Trump and one for Hillary Clinton that are perfectly representative of what the problem is. Hillary Clinton chose Meg Whitman who is an elitist extraordinaire who's talking about temperament and going out there and accusing Donald Trump of being Hitler and Mussolini. What kind of temperament is that? What kind of judgment is that?

And he chose Pat Smith, who's son is dead today because of the Hillary Clinton's judgment. And right there is the argument.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Can I say something about this climate of inviting individuals to come in and watch these debates? Because I think it's become such a clown show. This is not the first lady's box at the State of the Union Address. And I think it demeans from the process.

I frankly think the country would be better served if there were no audience inside for any of the debates. The ratings might not be so strong. I don't like to watch ball games and turn it on and see no crowd there. But I think it would be a step in the right direction if we stopped this process.

I don't know how he helps himself by bringing Barack Obama's half brother. I don't know how any of these individuals are going to cause someone to say, well, now, I'm for him.

BORGER: TV show, it's psy-ops, right? It's kind of psyche out the other side. Actualy, there are only going to be two people on that stage.

LORD: Which begun with Mark Cuban, right?

BORGER: Well, there's that. I'm not going to disagree with you on that. I think whole notion of, I agree with Michael totally is sort of ridiculous. And it is a little bit of the reality TV getting into --

MCENANY: Because for a Republican candidate, you struggle to get coverage of opposition stories against the Democratic candidate. Look at the recent Media Research Center poll that came out that showed ABC, NBC, CBS spent 7 hours and 30 minutes on Donald Trump's kissing allegations, spent one hour and ten minutes on WikiLeaks. The only way you can get coverage of James O'Keefe, the only way you can get coverage of Pat Smith and Benghazi is to make a show of it because we actually get to talk about Benghazi now. We actually get to talk about the voter fraud --

(CROSSTALK)

MCENANY: -- as caught on video.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: But it's also true that Donald Trump himself likely spent more time on that issue of women than he did on WikiLeaks.

COOPER: We should also point out, during his own convention, Donald Trump called into FOX News while the widow was actually speaking. So, if he wanted her message heard, he would not have called into FOX News to blow out her own message.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Not to mention there's never been a greater beneficiary of media coverage in the history of American politics than Donald Trump.

But, Kayleigh, here's the thing, I listened to what you said earlier and I appreciate your very disciplined and your presentation. Here's the issue and I'm just looking at this as a clinical matter. Donald Trump has been on a rampage for the last few weeks trying to rally the base. You guys said, well, he's not the typical candidate. He's an outsider. He's rallying his base and he's losing ground every day to the point where he is behind by such a margin now that it would be historic if he were able to catch up.

So, it's fine if you feel that do. But it isn't really producing the results that would lead to him being elected. May produce the results of him being able to lead a TV network or lead a movement. But it's not going to pay off in the presidency.

COOPER: All right. We're less than an hour away from the start of the debate. We'll soon see if there is a Clinton/Trump handshake or not.

More of the special edition of AC360, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:18:05] COOPER: We're live in Las Vegas, less than an hour to go before the final presidential debate. This night and this state will influence the outcome on November 8th. There's no doubt about that.

We are learning that Donald Trump and his team took a different approach to tonight's debate. Let's bring in CNN's Jim Acosta.

So, what was the preparation, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, we have some new details on how Donald Trump prepared for tonight's final face off with Hillary Clinton. In previous debate prep sessions, Trump opted for a looser format where he jousted back and forth with advisors.

But check this out, for tonight, Trump went with a more traditional mock debate approach. We were told by a source close to the process that RNC chair Reince Priebus asked questions in prep sessions as he sort of mock moderator. And New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, get this, stood in for Clinton to provide the pushback.

Also joining Trump in the room were campaign chairman and Breitbart boss, Steve Bannon, and his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway.

Look for Donald Trump tonight to continue to his attacks on Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Washington establishment, with his called to, quote, "drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C. We saw Trump previewing a line of attack earlier this week. It was generating a lot of enthusiasm out on the campaign trail, Anderson, from all appearances today. Donald Trump is coming tonight ready to rumble -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Jim Acosta. Jim, thanks.

Now, let's go to CNN's Brianna Keilar with new details of Hillary Clinton's debate prep -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Hillary Clinton has been largely out of sight here for days now. She spent five days preparing, including today here in Las Vegas, with her top aides. It is time I'm told they believe is well spent, because they attribute her recent rise in the polls in part to her debate performances.

And so, tonight, we'll see Hillary Clinton back behind a lectern that is how she has been practicing, playing Donald Trump long time and controversially sharp tongue adviser, Philippe Reines, a top Clinton aide said that Clinton is well-prepared to address Donald Trump's claim that the election is rigged. That is a claim, of course, that is not based in fact.

[20:20:00] And her debate advisors who have been with her day in and day out include Karen Dunn and Ron Klain, in addition to her top aide Jake Sullivan and her campaign chairman John Podesta.

On of the big unknowns here tonight is going to be Podesta's hacked e- mails. Some newly released ones from WikiLeaks where he refers to Bernie Sanders as doofus and were confidants, a long time confidants of Hillary Clinton sort of talk about her, I guess you could say, weaknesses in very unflattering turns. Hillary Clinton is going to try to pivot this back to Russia being behind the hack, that's what the U.S. believes and also questioning Donald Trump's business ties to Russia. But she may also have to defend some of the content.

COOPER: Brianna, thanks very much.

We just saw Donald Trump, Melania Trump arriving, as well as some of Donald Trump's children. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton face somewhat different expectations tonight than they did in the first time they debated.

John King has been comparing the first and last debates in other presidential races -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, when you look at the change of the state of the race from the first debate to now the quite striking. Let's go back.

Remember that first debate, it was at Hofstra University on Long Island. Donald Trump came into the debate with chance to seize control of the race. He was down two points in the national polls. He has closed in or taken the lead in several key battleground states.

On that day, our conversation was, can Donald Trump seize control of the presidential race? That was then. A two-point race momentum all on Donald Trump's side.

Let's look now. As Donald Trump walks into the hall tonight, Hillary Clinton will be there be an eight-point lead nationally. An eight- point lead. That's unheard of in recent years in the polarized politics of the United States.

He needs a home run. She needs to protect what she has. A very different dynamic, not only on the national stage, but when you look at the map.

When you break this up, this is our current CNN electoral map projection: 307 for Democrat Hillary Clinton, 179 for the Republican Donald Trump. More than enough for Hillary Clinton to get across to 270.

And, Anderson, as we've changed this map today, here's what's most surprising. Out in the west, Utah, Arizona, Mitt Romney won Utah with 72 percent. Mitt Romney won Arizona by ten points just four years ago. These are ruby red reliable Republican states. Toss ups because of Trump's troubles. Hillary Clinton actually ahead in the most recent poll in Arizona.

Those are the most surprising, but this is the most significant -- Donald Trump can't get to 270, cannot get there, without the 29 electoral votes from the state of Florida. He calls it his second home. He's promised he would win it. We moved it to lean Democratic today because of the recent polls.

This is the biggest change in the map. Surprising out here. Significant right here. We're also now leaning Nevada. Democratic as well.

Anderson, when Donald Trump walks on the stage tonight, he needs to fundamentally change the arc of this race, try to get it back to where it was at the first debate, because if it stays like this, near impossible.

COOPER: All right, John King. John, thanks very much.

We're just minutes way from the third and final presidential debate. We'll be right back after this quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:25:21] COOPER: We're about 35 minutes from the start of this, the final debate.

Let's talk about a little about expectations in what viewers should watch for.

Patty, we haven't heard from you. What do you think viewers should be looking for particularly in the beginning, the opening of the debate?

PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I know everyone is going to look and see if they're going to shake hands but I don't really care about that.

I think Hillary needs do a few things. I think she needs to come prepared to answer some really difficult questions about her speeches to Wall Street, about the e-mails, about the FBI quid pro quo, and she's got to do it without looking defensive, because if she's not going to get it from Donald Trump because he's not disciplined enough to go at her on that, she's definitely going to get it from Chris Wallace.

I think she needs to go high when he goes low, exactly what she did at the last debate. Show a lot of dignity like at the last debate. And I think she needs to -- what's gotten lost here because Donald Trump has taken all the oxygen out of this election is her positive case for her presidency.

You know, she's been in public life 30 years. She's a former U.S. senator, former U.S. secretary of state. She is a former first lady --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I have no doubt we'll hear that she's been in public life for 30 years. I think we're going to hear that from Donald Trump. That's a selling point for Trump supporters.

But this is a podium debate. Not a town hall like the last debate was. More like the first debate was. Chris Wallace is the only person asking the questions.

Does that favor one over the other?

AXELROD: Look, I think Chris Wallace is likely to be hard on both of them. When you look at the topics that were chosen, for example, debt and entitlement programs. He's going come with hard questions about whether their numbers add up. He's going to come up -- neither of them have said they were going to do anything in terms of entitlement programs.

And Hillary has -- this is where -- the one place where I think the WikiLeaks issue hurts her in the sense that she made representations in private about her support for Simpson-Bowles and the deficit reduction program. He's going to, I'm sure, drill on that.

So, I think as I look at the list of questions, he's going to try and balance the questions off. And if there is going to be back and forth, it's likely to be between the candidates.

SMERCONISH: I'm looking forward to a question asked tonight about how -- and maybe it is the environment in which we're seated this evening. How somebody are they going put the pieces back together? There's such a divide, such acrimony in the country.

And maybe it will come in a question about the Supreme Court. As an attorney, I'm so glad that that's one of the pods this evening. I'd be particularly interested in learning whether Hillary Clinton would endorse the idea of being supportive of Merrick Garland, because if she wins this election, there is going to be a lame duck session where perhaps there's going to be great debate about what should happen to his nomination.

I think it would be a healthy step if she resisted pressure from the left who would want her to make a more progressive selection for the Supreme Court of the United States and say something like I'd be just find in the interim with Garland were confirmed for Supreme Court.

COOPER: They've been talking about Hillary Clinton, though. What about for Donald Trump?

LORD: Well, one thing we might even have unanimous agreement on this panel is that this election and Donald Trump had been totally unpredictable throughout all of this. And I would just caution here, whether it is this debate or the remaining time we have in this election, if it's been this unpredictable and he's been this unpredictable and gotten this much support, don't misjudge it. Don't count him out. Don't they this is necessarily a typical debate. It could be a very untypical debate --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I just want to check in with Sara Murray.

Sara, what are you learning?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Anderson, the Republican leaders that I have spoken with have been nearly unanimous in their advice for Donald Trump tonight and that is to make tonight, to make the race about Hillary Clinton, about her foreign policy failures, about WikiLeaks, and they look at the roster of guests Donald Trump has lined up tonight from President Obama's half brother to yet another Clinton accuser. And one Republican actually told me, Trump is losing the debate before

it starts. They believe that this is a misstep to focus on these issues and this is the risk with Donald Trump. They do not know if he actually stay on message for a full ninety minutes and he can just go out there and stick to it Hillary Clinton which is what love to see tonight -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Sara Murray, thanks very much.

Kayleigh, what are you looking to see tonight?

MCENANY: You know, Jeff and I have both said we want to see the case against corruption in Washington laid out, but I think Donald Trump needs do something bigger than that. Every focus group we've heard, we've heard voters say I've not heard from either of these candidates how my life is going to be better after these debates.

[20:30:03] The first 15 minutes of the first debate, Donald Trump won that case when he talked about TPP, when he talked about trade. It was powerful and he won that. And the one indicator where voters do trust Trump more is the economy. Even in some of these recent national polls. And it's the issue most important to voters. He needs to lay out his positive agenda. It's a winning one because voters want to know ultimately how is my vote going to change my life.

BORGER: And he has to stop talking about himself.

JONES: Yes, that'd be nice.

BORGER: And stop taking her bait and stop talking about everything he's been talking about for the last two or three weeks where he's had this incredible decline. And he has to start talking about issues.

JONES: I think --

BORGER: And that's a question -- and I think Chris Wallace is going to drill down on these issues. I mean, this was a clear guide. And so they are going to go toe-to-toe on this stuff and we'll see -- we'll see how each of them comes out.

JONES: I think there are two things that she has to do. I think there's tendency that people want to be above it all. Be so inspiring, talk about her policy stuff. I don't believe that at all. I think she needs to be on the offense on the two areas where I think he is very, very weak. First of all, at some point somebody should challenge Donald Trump to register himself as a foreign agent for the Russian government.

You have got to at some point ask him some tough questions about why he is so comfortable with the Russians hacking only the Democrats and not the Republicans, and talk about the dangers of this country of having someone in the White House who is an ally of our enemy. That is an important point to raise and it has not been raised enough.

The second thing I think that has to be raised is this idea of nullifying essentially the result of an American election. Donald Trump has a long history of trying to nullify the last election, the birther stuff was nothing but an attempt to disqualify and undermine a sitting president and he's doing it again.

And those are two issues. This appalling lack of patriotism on the part of Donald Trump when it comes to Russia and respecting our institutions, and to prosecute that hard tonight. Hard.

COOPER: Wolf Blitzer, standing by. Wolf, let's go to you.

BLITZER: All right, Anderson, thanks very much. This is the final debate. Less than three weeks to go. Only about 20 days until the election. Donald Trump comes in. He's losing ground in so many of the national polls as well as the key battleground states.

Jake, can tonight really change anything for Trump?

TAPPER: It can. It can. Absolutely. Hillary Clinton certainly has the advantage right now and anybody would want to be her rather than him at this point in the campaign. But we should point out first of all the Clinton campaign is not overconfident. They say that in battleground states they have seen swings of support from her to him and back again. And so really in, what, 20 days anything could happen. No one should think that this thing is over. The Clinton campaign certainly doesn't think that.

Now in terms of what would need to happen tonight for that dynamic to change that we've seen of Republican states shifting away from Donald Trump, she would need to have a really, really bad night, feeding into the concerns that so many Americans have with her trust worthiness and her honesty.

I'm sure Chris Wallace, the moderator, will ask questions about the WikiLeaks and suggests she says things in private among the well-to-do bankers and such that she does not say in public. She takes a different point. And he would need a very strong night, a statesmanlike night. A night where he reassures the significant doubts that the American people have about his temperament which are very, very tough, that's going to be very tough for him to overcome.

I don't know if he's capable of that. We see him bringing guests that come from a far right-wing home page in some cases. Accusers of Bill Clinton. And estranged half brother of President Obama. Does that suggest he's going to be reaching out to the middle? No. But I guess we'll see what he does when he gets on stage, Wolf.

BLITZER: She's kept a pretty low profile, Hillary Clinton, since the last debate. Has that been smart?

BASH: That's an understatement. A very low profile. She has been preparing. She has been fundraising and she has been nowhere to be found when it comes to being out there so the voters can see her. Is it smart? I mean, her -- certainly her campaign aides think it's very smart because she's wanted to stay back not just to prepare but to let Donald Trump, they hope, kind of, you know, dig his own hole, continue to do so. But tonight that's going to end. The question is whether she talks

about the women who have come out to accuse Donald Trump. But more importantly, to your point, Jake, she hasn't been asked about all these WikiLeaks, the new WikiLeaks that have come out, and there are lots of tough questions for her to answer.

But as for Donald Trump, my understanding is that he has been doing a lot more traditional debate prep. Real, sort of trial by fire with the people he's been working with. Reince Priebus, the RNC chair, Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor, and that he has been preparing as much more -- much more of a traditional candidate. The question, though, for people inside Trump world that they don't know the answer to about their own candidate is whether he is going to follow those rules, follow the prep, do what he prepared to do, or whether he's going to go off and follow his gut, which he believes got him to where he is right now.

[20:35:11] And obviously he did in the primary. But we'll see what happens on this debate stage tonight where he thinks that will actually get him beyond the primary voters to those undecided or even those who are not already part of his base.

BLITZER: Jake, this debate, 90 minutes, no commercial interruptions. Six themes that are going to be asked. Each one for 15 minutes. Debt and entitlements. Immigration, economy. Supreme Court, foreign hot spots, the final one, fitness to be president. It sounds like this could be a pretty substantive debate on key national security and domestic economic issues.

TAPPER: Yes. Now obviously the immigration question is one that feeds into his base, and one of the reasons he got the nomination was because of his hard-lined stance. However, that is not a general election message. In fact a recent FOX News poll suggested about 65 percent to 70 percent of voters actually have the Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush position in favor of comprehensive immigration reform and not a hard-lined position.

So it's going to be interesting to watch him try to walk that line, keeping his base there in favor of this hard-lined positions while also reaching out. And this is something we've been talking about for weeks now. We have not seen since the first debate Donald Trump try to expand beyond his base. We have seen him tried to rally his base. We have seen him say things that his base finds titillating and amusing, suggesting that Hillary Clinton was on drugs. Obviously there is no evidence that she was on any sort of performance enhancing drugs during the last debate.

But saying things like that, the crowd cheers, everyone laughs. It turns the moderate voters, the swing voters he needs, Republican women, independent women, turns them off significantly. Does he have what it takes to reach out to those voters, to expand from the 39 percent, 40 percent of the voters who like him right now? I don't know. We'll see.

BLITZER: We'll see how substantive this debate tonight behind us is going to be. Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Yes, we're just minutes away from the start of the debate. No doubt members from the Commission on Presidential Debates, they'll all come out to address the crowd first. Janet Brown, who runs the commission, as well as some of the -- Mike McCurry, as well some of the others. We'll also likely hear then from the moderator Chris Wallace and then of course the debate will actually start. The candidates will come out.

Traditionally does a third debate really matter? Does it have the power to change the narrative?

AXELROD: I mean, generally the audience for these debates decline and the impact of the third debate is generally not particularly great. The first debate is always the most consequential debate. The town hall debate always has interesting wrinkles because of the choreography of them. By the time the third debate -- I mean, look at where we are. Look at these polls. So much is locked in now, Anderson, that it's very hard to see a completely new dynamic at this point in the campaign.

By the way, Jeffrey, you say Donald Trump surprises us. But as Michael said earlier he really hasn't surprised us.

SMERCONISH: It's been the same Donald Trump.

AXELROD: These debates have been very predictable.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: You disagree with that?

LORD: I think there was one new determinant factor in this debate hall tonight. Chachi has been spotted.

COOPER: Do you think that's going to turn the -- that's the tipping point?

LORD: I think we can go home now.

BORGER: Do you think Chachi is the hail Mary pass that Donald Trump is going to --

LORD: It could be. It could be.

BORGER: He's going to use. He needs to do something to change the trajectory of this race. Make a move that would start a structural change that would be so --

COOPER: The question is, does he believe he needs do something? Does he believe he needs to change the structure of this race?

BORGER: I believe he needs to bring out his voters and that there are hidden ones that we're not polling.

COOPER: Right.

HENDERSON: Yes. I think he looks at those crowds and he thinks that's enough to get him into the White House. He sees that as enthusiasm. He gets 10,000 people or so. But listen, Bernie Sanders got a lot of crowds, too, and he didn't end up winning that Democratic nomination. I think for him just on point stylistically he needs to give a better television performance. He seemed oftentimes a little rattled, a little distracted. He argued with the moderators last time. Kept interrupting.

So he's got to be better on that. He's got to be really conscious that the camera is always on him. I think he's lost that battle and ended up being fodder for "Saturday Night Live."

SMERCONISH: Can I just make this quick point?

AXELROD: Go ahead.

SMERCONISH: OK. We've been together, this crew has been together since the Iowa caucus. About a dozen election nights we were together. Two conventions, four debates. There was a theme that emerged from all those election nights about anger among the electorate. When in fact it was really about 40 percent of Republican voters who were telling exit pollsters their feelings about the federal government were one of anger. And he harnessed that. That is not representative of the entire country. And he's --

MCENANY: But it is.

SMERCONISH: No, it's not. It might be -- it might be typical of what you're hearing tonight but it's not typical of the nation.

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: And Kayleigh, you have to say, Kayleigh, he's never expanded beyond the angriest among us.

[20:40:05] And thank God they don't represent the nation at large.

COOPER: Kayleigh?

MCENANY: Well, I have two words. Bernie Sanders. There is so much anger on the Democratic side. They want an outsider and I firmly believe there is a chance Bernie Sanders would have been the nominee had the DNC not stacked the deck against him. There is so much anger on both sides. In fact 55 percent said they want a leader that's very different than the current on. People feel left behind. Their real family income hasn't gone up in 30 years.

SMERCONISH: I don't agree with that. I think that the angriest --

COOPER: OK --

MCENANY: There's so much frustration.

SMERCONISH: The angriest voices among us have muted those who are in the center.

COOPER: OK. David, you were going to say something.

AXELROD: I was just going to say, his campaign manager is a pollster. OK. If he believes that he's on a trajectory to win this election, then she's not telling him the truth because she can read polls. She can read data. She can look at the trend lines and the fact is that we're talking about now not whether Donald Trump gets 270 electoral votes but whether Hillary Clinton can push into a state like Arizona which Democrats have coveted for a long time but have never been able to win. This is extraordinary development.

BORGER: Donald Trump's running Donald Trump's campaign.

COOPER: Van?

JONES: Somebody mentioned that the left-wing of the Democratic Party. I know some people in that wing of the party. And --

LORD: No way.

JONES: I know it's going to shock you. And, you know, there is anger but there is more heartbreak. I think people are feeling disgusted right now by this entire charade. And what feels like a race to the bottom for two great political parties. And I think that more than anything this mirror being held up to people of the Donald Trump style and anger I think it's actually making people take a bit of a pause.

The Bernie Sanders crowd wants a politics of addition and multiplication. Not a politics of division and subtraction. And what you're seeing with Donald Trump, whatever good intentions he may have, the way he has conducted himself and frankly the way that when challenges came to him he didn't rise to the occasion. Instead he took us lower and lower every time.

I don't think you're going to find the left-wing of this party inspired by Donald Trump. I think you have to find the left-wing of our party disgusted and disappointed with the whole system and willing to give a chance now to Hillary Clinton because she's not followed him all the way down the gutter.

COOPER: Jeffrey?

LORD: I had a chance earlier today to talk with Nigel Farage, the head of the Brexit movement. And he said to me that he was frankly stunned at the similarities between what's going on here and what went on in Great Britain. And one of the things he said to me -- two things I found interesting that the Remain slogan over there was stronger together. Where have we heard that from? Which also happens to be Hillary Clinton's slogan. And his other point was that they had been behind in the polls. I think he said to me they were behind by 10 and they won by four.

In other words there are a lot of people out there that the establishment of Great Britain, both parties, simply didn't --

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: I talked to Nigel, too. And do you know what Nigel told me, which I thought was very fascinating? He gave me the exact same line you just gave. And then I said, but did you have someone like Donald Trump who had done the kinds of things that he had done when you talk about the treatment of women, the tape, and he -- he goes, "nothing like that."

(LAUGHTER)

AXELROD: Of course not because he was the figure head leader of that moment. But the fact is they weren't electing a leader. They were voting on an issue. It's quite different. People are electing a president now.

COOPER: Let's listen to Janet Brown.

JANET BROWN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES: We'd like to welcome to the final debate of 2016 at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. In spite of the commission's long name, our offices could easily fit on to this stage. And I hope during the next few minutes you will take a chance to look at the program that you've been given. It will flop open to the middle part that was the production crew that works together to put these on.

In a little more than three weeks this set and this crew have been to four different sites. And prepared them for broadcasts that are seen around the world by tens of millions of people. The production crew comes together only once every four years to work on these events and a number of the leading members of the crew actually have full-time day jobs on other endeavors and yet find the time to do this.

Among others, Kroll and Mooring, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, Explo and Phillips Lighting and Phillips Healthcare provide some of the leading members of our team who somehow juggle their day jobs, along with giving us months of their time to bring this to the American public.

There are a lot of people who have been working for almost two years here in Las Vegas to bring about this event on this campus.

[20:45:01] To start the thanks that are warmly owed. I'd like to introduce the co-chairman of the commission, Frank Fahrenkopf and Mike McCurry.

(APPLAUSE)

FRANK FAHRENKOPF, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES: Thank you, Janet. And good evening, ladies and gentlemen. As a Nevadan I can't tell you how proud I am for us to be at UNLV to host this final debate of 2016. And we want to thank the university. We want to thank the convention authority for working so very, very hard to get the job done. And as you came into this arena tonight, I know you were able to see the great amount of work that goes into this. And not only do we want to thank those individuals but clearly the faculty and students of the university. The commission went into existence in 1987. And since then we've

conducted 21 presidential debates in the general election. We have nothing do with the primaries, please, I hope you understand that. And we have done eight vice presidential debates. So tonight is the 30th debate that the commission will have produced in those period of time.

(APPLAUSE)

FAHRENKOPF: And we couldn't do it without the tremendous support of our board. And we have four members of our board here tonight. I want to introduce them to you. I'm going to ask them, stand and wait until they are all standing to give them the due thanks that they deserve.

First is Charlie Gibson, you all know him as the former anchor on the "ABC Nightly News" and "Good Morning America." Antonio Hernandez who is the head of the California Community Foundation. Dorothy "Dot" Ridings, who's the former chairman of the League of Women Voters, I'm sorry, Dot, for mumbling that. And former congresswoman from California now heads the Woodrow Wilson scholarship organization and that's Jane Harman.

Won't you join me and giving them --

(APPLAUSE)

FAHRENKOPF: Now let me describe briefly what's going to happen this evening. For those of you who watched the debate a few weeks ago at Hofstra, you know what the format is going to be. It's different than it was for many, many years. The 90 minutes is divided into six 15- minute segments. The -- tonight Chris Wallace, who is our moderator, will propose a question in each of those six segments. The six that he has indicated he wants to explore are, number one, the national debt, entitlements, the economy, the Supreme Court, foreign hot spots and fitness to serve as president.

We do not know what order he's going to ask those questions in. We do not know what the questions are. Only Chris knows what will be asked. The candidates clearly do not know. Now what will happen is as he proposes a question in one of those sections, each candidate will have two minutes, uninterrupted, to state their views on that particular issue. And then for the remainder of that segment of time they can have, hopefully, some interchange between the candidates and really a drilling down to see what the positions are of the candidates on those issues.

Now the first debate that was at Hofstra had we believe honestly about hundred million people observe it. When you count people who observed on their computers, streamed on their Websites and of course on their iPads, iPhones, whatever it might be that they use. We had about 85 million from the second. We don't know what is going to happen tonight. But the one thing is clear is that this program is for them. Not for you in this audience.

There are hundreds of millions of people who are going to watch and who are going to take what they hear tonight, take it into consideration in how they are going to cast their ballots. So we ask you please, do not interfere with that by participating, uninvited, in the debate process tonight. So we ask you not to clap, not to make signs, not to get involved. We would appreciate that.

One other thing before I introduce my co-partner, at about 9:00, it is going to be very quiet in here. 9:00 Eastern Time, 6:00 here. Thank you. You Democrats always know the right time.

(LAUGHTER)

FAHRENKOPF: But that will be broken, the silence, because of what's behind you. Those of you know that those are the anchor booths. And right at 9:00 you are going to hear them all go on the air, announcing their program, introducing who's going to be commentating and so forth. It will be two or three minutes later that the debate will start and Chris will begin. So again we ask you to cooperate.

Now, as I said in 1987 we formed the commission.

[20:50:03] I was chairman of the Republican National Committee at that time and Paul Kirk was the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Paul served us on this commission for 24 years until the death of Ted Kennedy when he was asked by the governor of Massachusetts to fulfill Teddy's term until a special election could be held. And he had to step down. But we were most fortunate to have this guy standing next to me, step up and be my co-chairman and partner in this endeavor, Mr. Mike McCurry.

(APPLAUSE)

MIKE MCCURRY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES: Thank you. Frank, it really has been a great partnership and it's a great pleasure to be with all of you tonight. I want to tell you a little bit about the Commission on Presidential Debates. It is a nonpartisan to know it is non-partisan organization, nonprofit. We don't receive any support from the government, from the political parties, or from any public entities. The support for the debates come from people who just care about the fact that we want to have candidates together to engage in productive discussion about the future of the country. So they're corporations, foundations and individuals who help us do that kind of work with their support.

I'd like to mention our 2016 national sponsors. They are the Anheuser-Busch Companies, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the Kovler Fund, the law firm of Crowell & Moring, AARP, and the National Governors Association.

Will you join me in thanking those generous sponsors for what they've done?

(APPLAUSE)

MCCURRY: Now in addition to that the commission participates in a lot of educational work. The primary mission of the commission is to help educate the American people about the choices that we me as citizens when we vote so we have a number of programs that we work, a number of partnerships. In the last two years, we've especially concentrated on social media because of changes in the media itself. The importance of the Internet, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google, other dot com entities.

They are now rich sources of content for the American people and so we built out strong partnerships with them and that is something that we are especially pleased to show case. I want to mention especially Facebook for the extraordinary support and contributions they made in this initiative. I hope that is something that you recognize as one of the ways in which we bring the work of these debate to a much broader audience.

And another thing that we do, and I think this is important to note, is we run an international program. It allows us on the commission, those who are in our staff, share ideas, techniques, best practices with others in other countries who also run debates. We learn from them, they learn from us and overall we globally improve democracy.

At this debate, the commission is hosting over 50 representatives from 24 countries in the debates international network and they've received a firsthand look of what goes on behind the scenes of one of these debates. They are here and I would like to ask our friends international colleagues from the Debates International to please stand up and let's give them a round of applause.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCURRY: Finally, there are millions watching and there's one who deserves a special note of thanks. 85-year-old holocaust survivor Fred Kahn who is out there in TV land. He is the one who originally with televised debate.

Fred, look what you've done.

With that we literally would not be able to be here if it weren't for the work of two people I would like to introduce. The president of the UNLV Len Jessup and the head of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Rossi Ralenkotter. Would you please welcome them?

LEN JESSUP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNLV: Well, Frank and Mike, thank you. Hi, I'm Len Jessup, and I'm the president of the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

ROSSI RALENKOTTER, LAS VEGAS CONVENTION AND VISITORS AUTHORITY: And Rossi Ralenkotter. I'm the president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

JESSUP: Welcome to the Thomas and Mack Center. Home of the Running Rebels. If you squint through the lights and you look up into the raptors you can see some of our banners. Many championship banners. One national championship banner.

And here at UNLV, we are a university that is different. We're daring and we're diverse. You know, we're not a very old university. We're about 60 years old, in fact. And we're on the pathway to become a top tier university in research and in education and in community impact. You probably heard about our world class hospitality program. It would be natural that we would have one in that industry.

[20:55:03] Our Harrah Hotel College is highly ranked. But we've got great programs in a number of other areas, nationally recognized throughout the arts and the sciences and in the health sciences, law school, the Boyd School of Law and in many other areas. And we're proud to announce a brand new medical school. And in fact, great timing. Just yesterday we learned that our brand new UNLV School of Medicine was accredited by the LCME and it will begin admitting students in the fall.

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

JESSUP: And just the day before that, on Monday, the governor was on campus, Governor Sandoval, signing into law the new stadium that the university will be able to use and much expanded, renovated convention center for Rossi as well. So it's quite a week for UNLV.

And then tonight the presidential debate. And I'll tell you, the most special for us about the debate is what this does for our students. We've got a few hundred students working here in the debate hall and over in the Cox Pavilion and the media center and in spin alley. And a total of 1,000 students working the debate all week long all across campus.

We've got faculty that created new courses for the debate for this fall. We got a national lecture series that we're running and many other things around the debate that are going. And probably thing we're most proud of is the partnership with the Clark County School District. Our nationally ranked debate team is working with the debate teams throughout all the schools and they've been watching the debates live and analyzing them.

And then in addition we've got all the students throughout the district writing essays in an essay contest about the debate. So it's just -- it's been a thrill to be able to participate. It is a great time for UNLV.

(APPLAUSE)

RALENKOTTER: Thank you, Len. On behalf of our hotel resort partners, I want to thank all of you for being here tonight at this debate. And for those who traveled to Las Vegas, welcome. It sure is a very exciting time.

We're also proud to partner with UNLV to be able to host this debate. It is very important for the university and for our community. I grew up in Las Vegas and I've never seen this much excitement and this much buzz in our community. Both on the resort corridors as well as in our community itself. So thank you for all of that.

Las Vegas is the only city that evolved to host people. We've been doing that for many, many years and we continue to refine what we do and go to the next level. Last year we attracted more than 42 million visitors who generated $50 billion of economic impact for Las Vegas and created 336,000 jobs. So that's very important for the health of our city, the state and also the country.

And the special events, we are the special events capital of the world. And we have had all types of events here. NASCAR races, championship races, championship fights. We've had the NBA All-Star Game here. But nothing matches what this debate is all about. This special event and the importance of this because we're here today and here tonight to select the leader of the free world, the next president of the United States.

So we're very happy to be part of that. People say you can't get business done in Las Vegas. I disagree with them. This shows that serious business gets done in Las Vegas so I invite you to come back again as a visitor. Have a great time. Have a great debate night and thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

BROWN: The commission is very grateful to have Chris Wallace, anchor of "FOX NEWS Sunday," as the moderator of this evening's debate.

CHRIS WALLACE, DEBATE MODERATOR: Good evening. Let me be the last person to welcome you to tonight's debate and also the last person to lecture you on why it is so important to be quiet.

Let me -- as a show of hands, how many of you have been to a general election debate between the two presidential nominees? Raise your hands. Wow. OK. So you know the drill. And those of you who don't, I'm going to repeat the drill. It's really important. I know in some of the primary debates and I participated in some of them. People would hoot and holler and that wasn't necessarily bad. But this is different.

One of these two people three weeks from yesterday is going to be the next president of the United States. It's very important for them to be able to make their case. It's very important for the millions of people who are going to be watching out there to be able to listen to them make their case.

I'm sure in the course of the evening you're going to hear your candidate say something absolutely wonderful and you're going to want to cheer. Don't. I'm sure in the course of the next hour and a half, you're going to hear the other person, the other candidate, say something that you don't like. You want to make some noise. Don't. Just remember you're not a participant here. You're a guest.

So I'm going to sit here and get ready at 3:00 sharp. We're going to see -- you're going to hear in the back, all the platforms, all the networks beginning to do their coverage. 30 seconds before, I'll give you notice that we're going to start. We'll introduce the candidates, applause them, at the end of the debate you can applaud all you want but in the meantime silence. Please.