MEET THE PRESS 10/19/14 -- EBOLA FACT VS. FEAR -- FAUCI: WE NEED MORE PRETRAINED HOSPITALS; UN OFFICIAL IN AFRICA: “WE ARE FIGHTING A WAR” - Multichannel

MEET THE PRESS 10/19/14 -- EBOLA FACT VS. FEAR -- FAUCI: WE NEED MORE PRETRAINED HOSPITALS; UN OFFICIAL IN AFRICA: “WE ARE FIGHTING A WAR”

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The Oct. 19 “Meet the Press with Chuck Todd” featured a special summit on Ebola with Dr. Anthony Fauci from the National Institutes of Health; Anthony Banbury, head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response; Dr. Gabe Kelen, professor and chair of Emergency Medicine at Johns Hopkins University; Pulitzer-Prize winning science journalist Laurie Garrett; and Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Bob Casey (D-PA).  This morning’s political panel included Republican strategist Mike Murphy, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, former Obama adviser Stephanie Cutter, and POLITICO’s Manu Raju.  TODAY co-host Willie Geist provided a look at three politicians aiming to make unlikely comebacks, and Chuck previewed the upcoming “Meet the Voters” RV trip through key battleground states.


Below are highlights and a rush transcript of today’s program. Video will be available online at MeetThePressNBC.com.

# # #

Dr. Anthony Fauci: “the president made a good move” naming Ron Klain as Ebola czar

CHUCK TODD: Let's talk about the government response.  The president named Ron Klain unofficially as the "Ebola czar."  How necessary was it that the president named somebody to basically make the bureaucracies speak to each other?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, I think the president made a good move, and I'll tell you why, Chuck, because you have multiple agencies involved -- HHS, DOD, State, et cetera -- and we have had good coordination at the White House level with Lisa Monaco, with Susan Rice.  They have other very important day jobs.  So what we need now is someone who's going to be there to help coordinate whose only job is doing that.  So we welcome that, and I look forward to working with Ron.

CHUCK TODD: Have you spoken with him yet?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: We've exchanged emails, we're going to get set this week to get together.


Fauci: We need more hospitals equipped to treat Ebola

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: We need to have more than just the four [hospitals] in which you have people who are pretrained, so that you don't come in, and then that's the first time you start thinking about it.  It can't just be four.  We may not even need anymore, and we hope we don't.  But in case there are more cases, we want to make sure we have people who are pretrained, predrilled over and over, and have the right protocol going.

Fauci: the NIH “had constraints in its resources for ten years,” but can’t say that we’d have a vaccine today with more funding

CHUCK TODD: One of your colleagues seemed to hint that if you guys had been funded, had more money, you'd have a vaccine today.  Was that hyperbole?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: I don't agree with that.  I have to tell you quite honestly.  I think that the NIH just had constraints in resources for ten years, and all the biomedical research has been less than its robust activity.

CHUCK TODD: But you don't believe we'd have a vaccine?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: You can't say that.  I think you can't say we would or would not have this or that.  Everything is slowed down.  But I wouldn't make that statement.

UN Official: “The world was not prepared for an outbreak of Ebola this major… Now we’re catching up”

ANTHONY BANBURY: The world was not prepared for an outbreak of Ebola this major.  We've never seen it before spreading in wide geographical areas, spreading in urban settings, densely-populated urban settings.  ... The world wasn't prepared.  UN, government, the populations, and now we're catching up.

Banbury: “We’re fighting a war against Ebola” and need healthcare workers as “soldiers”

CHUCK TODD: Is your issue more money from governments, infrastructure, or actual doctors?

ANTHONY BANBURY: The most important priority we need right now are healthcare workers.  People to manage these complex health Ebola treatment units as well as the doctors, nurses, hygienist, to staff them.  We're fighting against a war against Ebola.  We need soldiers on the ground.  But instead of soldiers and camouflage, we need soldiers in lab coats and PPE suits taking care of the victims.

Laurie Garrett: “Americans need to relax. We need to be realistic.”

LAURIE GARRETT: I've been in I don't even know how many epidemics, well over 30 epidemics.  And I've seen the same pattern.  When something is new, it creates a new kind of fearfulness.  The old thing, the flu, it's around all the time, everybody should be afraid of it, but they're not because it's a routine, it's always there. … But Americans need to relax.  We need to be realistic.  Because the real problem is not one, two cases here in the United States.  The real problem is that this epidemic is completely out of control in Africa.  

Sen. Blunt: Ebola concerns caused by a “long list of the government being one step behind”

CHUCK TODD: Senator, any advice to people on the ballot in November on sort of overdoing it here?

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: Oh, I'd be careful about overdoing it.  But I also understand that if this was one incidence where people thought the government wasn't doing what the government was supposed to do, it would be much less of a reaction than we see now, where there's this long list of the government being one step behind, whether it's the border, the IRS, the secret service.  Now this health concern is more real than it would be, if there wasn't a sense that the government is just not being managed in a way that people would want it to be managed.

Sen. Casey: “Washington dysfunction” to blame for not having a surgeon general confirmed

CHUCK TODD: Senator Casey, why don't we have a surgeon general confirmed?  Dr. Vivek Murthy was nominated over a year ago.

SENATOR BOB CASEY:  It's Washington dysfunction, Chuck.  It's as simple as that.  We should have one in place.  And I think that's part of the problem.  

# # #  

Below is a RUSH transcript of the 10AM feed of this morning’s broadcast -- mandatory attribution to NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” A final transcript of the program will be available at www.MeetThePressNBC.com.

“MEET THE PRESS WITH CHUCK TODD”
October 19, 2014

CHUCK TODD:
This morning on Meet the Press, our summit on Ebola.

DR. DANIEL VARGA (ON TAPE):
For the first time in the history of the United States, somebody with Ebola walked in the front door.

CHUCK TODD:
As two nurses come down with the disease, is the wider American public really in danger?  And is the government doing enough to make us safe?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:
We can't give into hysteria or fear.

CHUCK TODD:
We've gathered government officials, medical experts, an official on the ground in Africa, and members of Congress to ask and answer key questions about how serious this danger really is.  Plus, addicted to office.

EDWIN EDWARDS (ON TAPE):
I feel like running for Congress.  

CHUCK TODD:
Three men aiming to make the unlikeliest of comebacks.  Two of them trying to come back from prison.

BUDDY CIANCI (ON TAPE):
You get found guilty, you pay the price.

CHUCK TODD:
And the midterms.  Are we beginning to see the signs of a small wave?  I'm Chuck Todd, and joining me to provide insight and analysis are Republican strategist Mike Murphy, NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, former advisor to President Obama, Stephanie Cutter, and Politico's Manu Raju.  Welcome to Sunday.  It's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:
From NBC News in Washington, this is Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:
And good morning.  For better or worse, one story has dominated conversation across the country this week:  Ebola.  It's the front page of this morning's Washington Post.  Contagion of fear.  We've convened our own Ebola summit to try to separate fact from fear and myth from reality with key voices from the medical and political world including Dr. Anthony Fauci from the National Institutes of Health, Anthony Banbury, head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, he'll be coming to us from Africa.

Dr. Gabe Kelen, professor and chair of Emergency Medicine at Johns Hopkins University, Pulitzer-Prize winning science journalist Laurie Garrett, and Senators Roy Blunt of Missouri and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.  By the time we're done, we hope to answer these questions:  how big a threat is Ebola to Americans?  Can our healthcare system handle an outbreak?  What will it take to eradicate Ebola in Africa?  Should there be a travel ban from affected countries?  And are Americans worried unnecessarily?

Let's start by looking at America's growing fears in a week that began with an unnerving announcement.  

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:
Sunday, a nurse who cared for Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Presbyterian Hospital is diagnosed with Ebola herself.  Nina Pham becomes the first American to contract the disease on U.S. soil.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:
I don't know how it happened.  The CDC's investigating it, but that's very likely what happened, an inadvertent breach.

CHUCK TODD:
Monday, Nina Pham's dog is moved to a decommissioned naval base to be monitored.  Tuesday, the CDC says they're looking at every aspect of the procedures at Texas Presbyterian Hospital.

DR. TOM FRIEDEN:
We know that a single breach can cause an infection.

CHUCK TODD:
Wednesday, Amber Vincent, another nurse in Dallas, becomes the second American to contract Ebola in the United States.  And then we learn she visited her family and Cleveland.  And schools there are ordered closed, and parts of the Cleveland airport sanitized.  Thursday, Nina Pham is moved to an NIH isolation unit in Maryland.  Congress questions federal and Texas health officials.

REP. FRED UPTON:
It's not a drill.  People's lives are at stake.  And the response so far has been unacceptable.

CHUCK TODD:
And Friday, the White House appoints Ron Klain as the "Ebola tsar" to manage the government's response to the disease.  But still more fear.  In Warrensville Heights, Ohio, the mayor closes City Hall because an employee's husband works with someone who shared a flight with Amber Vincent.

And at the Pentagon, a bus is quarantined when a woman falls ill and vomits in the parking lot.  And just this morning, the cruise ship carrying a Texas Presbyterian Hospital lab worker who had to self-quarantine on the ship.  Docs in Galveston, the worker walks off the ship, and is driven away by law enforcement.  

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:
And we're joined by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease at the NIH.  Dr. Fauci, welcome back to Meet the Press.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:
Good to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:
You are treating one of the nurses that contracted Ebola down in Dallas, Nina Pham.  Tell us about her condition.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:
Yeah.  She's doing well.  Her condition is fair, she's stable, and she's comfortable.  I had a long conversation with her late last night.  And as you might expect, she has a serious disease and I think she's doing well.  My full intention is to sometime in the hopefully reasonable future to walk out of the hospital with her.  But we can't predict, but she's doing well.

CHUCK TODD:
We are getting very close to that magic 21-day figure for anybody that was working and treating the late Mr. Duncan.  So when we get there, does that mean everybody connected in Dallas is out of the woods?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:
Well, no.  You have to look at it, Chuck, in different stages.  For example, when Mr. Duncan first came to the emergency room, when we didn't know he had Ebola, there was a group in that cadre that saw him.  We are today, later today, at the 21-day period for that group.  Then he goes in the hospital with the event in which two nurses got infected.

There's another group there that's further out that we'll have to follow.  And then there are different groups that as further you go out, then you can say they're free.  But the ones now today that are going to be quote, "off the hook," are the ones that saw him initially in the emergency room.

CHUCK TODD:
Let's talk about the government response.  The president named Ron Klain unofficially as the "Ebola czar."  How necessary was it that the president named somebody to basically make the bureaucracies speak to each other?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:
Well, I think the president made a good move, and I'll tell you why, Chuck, because you have multiple agencies involved -- HHS, DOD, State, et cetera -- and we have had good coordination at the White House level with Lisa Monaco, with Susan Rice.  They have other very important day jobs.  So what we need now is someone who's going to be there to help coordinate whose only job is doing that.  So we welcome that, and I look forward to working with Ron.

CHUCK TODD:
Have you spoken with him yet?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:
We've exchanged emails, we're going to get set this week to get together.

CHUCK TODD:
The role of a surgeon general, would it be more helpful to have the surgeon general be the public medical spokesperson right now for the government?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:
Well, I mean, it's always nice to have a surgeon general.  You need to get information out to the public.  I believe information is getting out well.  I'm spending a lot of time trying to get good information out.  Tom Frieden is also doing that.  I believe we'll have others doing that.  As long as you have someone to get good, honest, clear information out, that's good.  If that's the surgeon general, that's good.

CHUCK TODD:
Would you say this has been a dress rehearsal to see how the government would respond to an actual outbreak?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:
Well, I'm not so sure I would call it a dress rehearsal.  This is serious stuff right now.  I mean, we're taking this extremely seriously.  But when you talk about getting the initial experience, that certainly is always important to how you fine-tune.  And I think people need to understand that although there seems to have been some missteps in the beginning, those things are experiences that put on your radar screen and make you improve.

We think about it every single day, "How can we do better?  What's the best way to do it?  What's the best way to do this and do that?"  And right now, actually things are running quite smoothly.  But the big issue right now is the contact tracing and make sure we get those people in those brackets and make sure that we follow them.

CHUCK TODD:
So now we're going to stick to these four hospitals.  Any diagnosed Ebola patient is going to get transferred to one of these four locations, either yours, here, or in Emory, or where else.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:
So we also need to shore up.  We need to have more than just the four in which you have people who are pre-trained, so that you don't come in, and then that's the first time you start thinking about it.  It can't just be four.  We may not even need anymore, and we hope we don't.  But in case there are more cases, we want to make sure we have people who are pretrained, pre-drilled over and over, and have the right protocol going.

CHUCK TODD:
Well, I guess I go back to the protocol.  How did we not have the right protocol in the first place?  And it seems like we're learning our protocol as we go.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:
Well, that's a very good question.  Here is the answer.  The original protocol that was on the CDC website was a protocol that was adopted from WHO in which they handled the epidemic under much different conditions than at a tertiary care hospital.  They did it in the bush.  It wasn't when you were giving people intensive care.  And it became very clear right away that we needed to modify that protocol to be much, much more strict, in which no part of a body is exposed.  And that's where we are now. But that initial protocol --

CHUCK TODD:
Quickly, vaccines.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:
Yes.

CHUCK TODD:
One of your colleagues seemed to hint that if you guys had been funded, had more money, you'd have a vaccine today.  Was that hyperbole?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:
I don't agree with that.  I have to tell you quite honestly.  I think that the NIH just had constraints in resources for ten years, and all the biomedical research has been less than its robust activity.

CHUCK TODD:
But you don't believe we'd have a vaccine?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:
You can't say that.  I think you can't say we would or would not have this or that.  Everything is slowed down.  But I wouldn't make that statement.

CHUCK TODD:
Dr. Anthony Fauci, good luck with this.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:
Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:
Everybody's counting on it.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:
Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:
I'm joined via Skype from Accra, Ghana, by Anthony Banbury, head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response.  Mr. Banbury, welcome to Meet the Press.  Was the WHO unprepared?  I mean, I know the WHO was doing sort of a looking back and going to look to see what happened, what did they miss, you know, what part of this could they have dealt with earlier.  And I know there'll be after-action reports.  But what part of this were you unprepared for?

ANTHONY BANBURY:
The world was not prepared for an outbreak of Ebola this major.  We've never seen it before spreading in wide geographical areas, spreading in urban settings, densely-populated urban settings.  In addition, the social patterns and travel movements in West Africa are very different than in East and Central Africa.  So the previous outbreaks had all been small and localized.  Here, it spread real fast.  The world wasn't prepared.  UN, government, the populations, and now we're catching up.

CHUCK TODD:
You have a goal of 70% of burials must be safe, 70% of cases isolated locally or in a clinic within 60 days.  That was a goal you set, I believe, about 30 days ago.  Are you going to hit it?

ANTHONY BANBURY:
The goal was set on October 1st.  We have to meet those targets by December 1st.  It's about 42 days left.  And those targets, the reason they're important is because that's how we start to bend the curve.  How we start to decrease transmissions rather than continuously increasing ones.

We just spent four days with about a hundred top experts from around the world, including top officials from UN agencies here in Accra, figuring out how we're going to hit in.  Now it's about consulting with the governments and implementation, getting this done.

CHUCK TODD:
Is your issue more money from governments  infrastructure, or actual doctors?

ANTHONY BANBURY:
The most important priority we need right now are healthcare workers.  People to manage these complex health Ebola treatment units as well as the doctors, nurses, hygienist, to staff them.  We're fighting against a war against Ebola.  We need soldiers on the ground.  But instead of soldiers and camouflage, we need soldiers in lab coats and PPE suits taking care of the victims.

CHUCK TODD:
Anthony Banbury in Ghana.  Joining us this morning from the UN mission there.  Good luck.  A lot of people are counting on you guys.

ANTHONY BANBURY:
Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:
You got it.  And now to our outside experts joining me now, Dr. Gabe Kelen, professor and chair of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University and Pulitzer-prize winning science journal Laurie Garrett, who was a senior fellow at the Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations.  Hello to both of you.  Laurie, let me start with you.  You've got an op-ed this morning, Five Ebola Myths in the Washington Post.

"Ebola won't spread in rich countries, post-9/11 emergency preparedness, is the U.S. ready to fight Ebola, it could go airborne.  Myth four, travel bans would keep Ebola from spreading in the U.S., and myth five, a vaccine is around the corner."  Let me start with number two, post-9/11 emergency preparedness, is U.S. ready to fight Ebola.  Obviously, that was not the case.

LAURIE GARRETT:
No.

CHUCK TODD:
Do you think that that's true?

LAURIE GARRETT:
We've spent billions of dollars on project bioshields to try to come up with miraculous vaccines, drugs, treatments for special pathogens which always included Ebola.  And we also spend billions getting every single health department in the entire United States to go through drill after drill after drill.  Get the cops, get the firefighters, all the public health people put on HazMat suits, boom.  The problem is that it was always envisioned in the context of WMD, weapons of mass destruction.

CHUCK TODD:
So it's going to be a bioterrorist attack?

LAURIE GARRETT:
A bioterrorist attack.

CHUCK TODD:
Not something like this?

LAURIE GARRETT:
And somebody's got a box of something dangerous right here.  And boom, you swoop in, you stop it.  But we weren't drilling.  And what hospitals like Johns Hopkins may have been the exception.  But the majority of hospitals in America never really imagined, "Okay, they have a contagion, it's ongoing, it's in the community, and my physicians are 24/7 reexposed, reexposed, reexposed."  That we did not drill.

CHUCK TODD:
Dr. Kelen, you're in charge of emergency preparedness for Johns Hopkins.  When you look at what happened at Texas Presbyterian, what lessons have you taken from it and do you think you guys would've been better prepared?

DR. GABE KELEN:
We've been preparing for this going all the way back to the late '90s when bioterrorism was a big deal.  But because of the type of the organization and institution we have, we did to some extent perceive that the bigger danger was actually from natural hazards.  And so we have been preparing all along.  With very dealt with anthrax and SARs and avian flu, H1N1, and MERS-CoV recently.

And so the kind of program that you'd put in upfront to screen for patients, we have been drilling and have experienced already over the last decade.  And so all we did was modify to have it specific for Ebola, the kind of screening that goes in.  And we put it right into our electronic medical record.  And you come through that front door, everybody is asked some key questions.

CHUCK TODD:
Do you think every single hospital in the country needs to start putting protocols like this in?  Or is that too much?

DR. GABE KELEN:
It's not too much.  As we found out, I think the issue in Dallas is that the rest of us are saying, "Thank God it wasn't us."  This was a needle in the haystack.  It could've been any hospital anywhere.  And so all of our hospitals and I think there's, like, four or five acute-care hospitals in the nation, need to do this upfront screening.

CHUCK TODD:
A little reality check here.  I want to put the graphic of U.S. deaths in 2011 when it comes to diseases and other things.  Flu and pneumonia killed over 53,000 people.  Motor vehicle accidents killed over 35,000.  Accidental falls, 27,000.  Tuberculosis 539 victims, lightning strikes, 26.  Ebola, this year, one.  So that's a little bit of a reality check there.

LAURIE GARRETT:
But Chuck, I've been in I don't even know how many epidemics, well over 30 epidemics.  And I've seen the same pattern.  When something is new, it creates a new kind of fearfulness.  The old thing, the flu, it's around all the time, everybody should be afraid of it, but they're not because it's a routine, it's always there.

Ebola is new.  And I also will say, having been in the Ebola epidemic in '95 in Kikwit, Zaire, it is after frightening disease.  And when the virus, in particular, begins to wreak havoc with the central nervous system, people become deranged, they can become violent.  So that's dangerous for the health worker.  And the sorrow of it is very extreme.

So when it hits a community, as I saw in Kikwit, it is indeed terrifying.  But Americans need to relax.  We need to be realistic.  Because the real problem is not one, two cases here in the United States.  The real problem is that this epidemic is completely out of control in Africa.  And it is only--

CHUCK TODD:
We think it's out of control, but--

LAURIE GARRETT:
It's only--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:
That December 1st deadline not going to happen?

(OVERTALK)

LAURIE GARRETT:
Never going to happen.

CHUCK TODD:
Never going to happen?

LAURIE GARRETT:
You just do the math right now.

CHUCK TODD:
Yeah.

LAURIE GARRETT:
Okay?  We know we're off by a factor of 2.5, meaning that most of the people are never getting reported in the system because they never come to a health facility and health facilities are all full.  So CDC estimates that for every one you know about, there's 2.5 you don't know about.  So if you take the raw numbers of what's been officially reported, close to 9,000 cases, cumulatively, you do that by 2.5, you're way over the 20,000 point that was projected for November.

It's doubling every two weeks.  We're going to be looking at 100,000 cases by the time we sit down for Thanksgiving.  We're going to be looking at 200,000, 300,000 cases by Christmas.  We're looking at an exploding epidemic.  And it's out of control because it's in the general population.

CHUCK TODD:
Dr. Kelen--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:
Yes, okay, if that's the case, it's inevitable we're going to have more cases here in the United States simply because maybe people will come here looking for treatment.

DR. GABE KELEN:
I just want to put one thing you said in context.  The American people do not need to worry that there's going to be somebody with Ebola deranged in their shopping mall going rank nuts.  You are so sick at that point, you are not going to be out in public.  So I just want to make sure that people understand they're not going to come into contact with somebody who is that sick out in public.

CHUCK TODD:
Very quickly, I wanted to ask you this, and we're going to ask you more questions after.  The issue of getting rid of waste, what do you do?  How are you guys going to get rid of waste if you have an Ebola patient?

DR. GABE KELEN:
So a really high-level topic, but a really dull answer.

CHUCK TODD:
Yeah?

DR. GABE KELEN:
There are protocols for how you handle waste, what drum you put it in, how you clean it, how you auto-close it.  There are all sorts of regulations the Department of Transport, on where you can transport it, how it gets transported.  Those are nicely delineated.  The CDC has that on their website for guidance.  I think just about any hospital today, if they haven't worked that out, trying working that out in a very exact way.

CHUCK TODD:
All right, Dr. Kelen, Laurie Garrett, stick with us for our Ebola summit.  It will continue when we come back.  We'll be joined by two senators, one of them says we need a travel ban to the United States.

***Commercial Break***

CHUCK TODD:
And welcome back, as I told you, Dr. Gabe Kelen and Laurie Garrett are still with us, as we continue our Ebola summit.  I'm now joined by Senators Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri,  and Democrat Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.  Welcome to both of you.  Senator Blunt, I want to begin with you.  You're calling for a travel ban.

There's a lot of, it sounds like the White House in theory would be supportive of it, but they don't know how to implement it in a way that would prevent healthcare workers from getting to the hot zone.  What do you say to that?

SENATOR ROY BLUNT:
Well, first of all, we don't have flights directly in and out of any of these countries.  So all of our people go through some other country to get there anyway.  The question is, do you let people come here from this area that is clearly stressed.  And one way to prevent that is just not to issue them a visa.

Everybody that would travel here from those countries, no matter where they get to first, before they get off the plane here, they have to have a visa that allows them to stay here.  I'd suspend those visas until we have this under better control and have a sense of the carriers they are using are monitoring this in a better way than they have been up till now.

CHUCK TODD:
Senator Casey, where are you on this?

SENATOR BOB CASEY:
Chuck I don't think there's a medical consensus yet.  And I think we've got to do everything that we can to ask the medical experts and develop that expertise.

CHUCK TODD:
Sometimes the fine line here, right, is that you think sometimes you could do things because it makes the public feel better, even if it's not necessary.

SENATOR BOB CASEY:
There's no question that there's a great fervor for this, and makes sense logically, when you think about how to stop something.  But what we've got to focus I think on the source of this.  You heard in your last segment how severe this is at the source.  We've got to stop it at the source.

I think with our local hospitals, not just with the medical centers, but every hospital has to try to achieve a measure of almost absolute preparedness.  That's why a lot of them are changing, I was at a hospital in Pittsburgh the other day, changing and moving quickly to implement better protective protocols.

CHUCK TODD:
You know, you both of toured hospitals in your home states in this last week.  CDC protocols are voluntary.  They're not mandatory.  Do you think we should make them mandatory for a temporary basis?  And basically usurp the states on this?

SENATOR ROY BLUNT:
Well, I'm not sure that if you made them mandatory, you'd have a way to enforce that mandatory determination.  The hospitals need to be concerned about this.  Obviously the containment hospitals that we've talked about are the place you'd want to have people if you can get them there.  But that doesn't stop somebody from walking into a hospital somewhere else.

And you know, we're just frankly not as safe as we were a month ago before we had multiple cases develop in the cases.  And by the way, Chuck, people didn't get upset about this as long as hospitals were dealing with it in the right way.  You had two missionaries come to Emory, they were there, they were cured.  I didn't see a single comment by any Americans saying, "We're concerned that this isn't being handled correctly."  It's only where it's not handled correctly that people get concerned that it's not being handled correctly.

CHUCK TODD:
Senator Casey, why don't we have a surgeon general confirmed?  Dr. Vivek Murthy was nominated over a year ago.

SENATOR BOB CASEY:
It's Washington dysfunction, Chuck.  It's as simple as that.  We should have one in place.  And I think that's part of the problem.  But absent that, I believe that we've got to focus on two places.  Stopping this at the source, and making sure that hospitals are doing a lot more drilling.

This basic task of taking protective equipment on, both taking it off and putting it on, has to be the subject of constant drilling.  In our state, for example, the State Health Department only requires two of those a year, two drills a year.  And that's not nearly enough.

CHUCK TODD:
Senator, I'm going to go back to the surgeon general issue here.  This seems to be politics.  The NRA said they were going to score the vote, and suddenly everybody’s frozen.  That seems a little petty in hindsight, does it not?

SENATOR ROY BLUNT:
Well, you know, if the president really ought to nominate people that can be confirmed to these jobs, and frankly, then we should confirm them.  There's no question about that.  But just a normal worker of conscious--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:
But should the NRA have a say?  I mean, they can have an opinion.  But should the NRA have that much influence over a surgeon general nominee?  He's not going to make gun policy.

SENATOR ROY BLUNT:
Well, I'm not sure that's why, you'd have to ask Senator Reid why he hasn't moved that to the top of his list to be confirmed.  This goes on all the time.

CHUCK TODD:
Will you confirm him?

SENATOR ROY BLUNT:
A number of people have been confirmed.  Until this came up, frankly, I've heard very little discussion about the surgeon general.  You know, I'm hearing now that the attorney general nomination won't happen until after the election.  We keep putting everything off until after the election.  And that's one of the reasons that things don't work.

CHUCK TODD:
I want to talk quickly politics of fear.  Let me play this montage.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SENATOR PAT ROBERTS (R-KANSAS):
Well, again, the Ebola epidemic, along with ISIS, shows you how we should really secure the border.  And not be granting amnesty.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE KELLY (R-PENNSYLVANIA):
Oh, you don't have to worry about this, you don't have to worry about this.  Really?  Well, the government needs to stop acting as if it's absurd for people to fear a virus that liquefies their internal organs.

REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD (R-TEXAS):
Every outbreak novel or zombie movie you see starts with somebody from the government sitting in front of a panel like this saying there's nothing to worry about.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:
Senators, responsible rhetoric?

SENATOR BOB CASEY:
No, not responsible, Chuck.  I think what we need to remember as a Congress is constructive proposals based upon the science and medical expertise, not based upon politics.  I do think in the Senate though, I think we're able to agree.  I think there's a lot of consensus that the public health system hasn't been invested in.  And that we've got to deal with this in a very bipartisan way.

CHUCK TODD:
Senator, any advice to people on the ballot in November on sort of overdoing it here?

SENATOR ROY BLUNT:
Oh, I'd be careful about overdoing it.  But I also understand that if this was one incidence where people thought the government wasn't doing what the government was supposed to do, it would be much less of a reaction than we see now, where there's this long list of the government being one step behind, whether it's the border, the IRS, the secret service.  Now this health concern is more real than it would be, if there wasn't a sense that the government is just not being managed in a way that people would want it to be managed.

CHUCK TODD:
Senators Casey and Blunt, thank you for coming in.  I appreciate it.  I want to bring in the panel.  Mike Murphy, Andrea Mitchell, Stephanie Cutter, and Manu Raju.  Alright Andrea, what we've heard today so far.  Do you think we're in a position where it looks like the government and particularly, the Obama administration's finally reacting with the urgency that I think a lot of people thought was missing?

ANDREA MITCHELL:
Not clear.  It's clear that they've appointed someone, and that's a somewhat controversial appointment, to be in charge and to coordinate.  It's not clear to me yet that hospitals all around the country are getting the message.  But they have to do drills.  Have they done the drills?  Do they have the gear?  Is it even stocked in these places?

Will another emergency room in a regional or a local hospital make the same mistakes that Texas made when Mr. Duncan first came in?  Because that's where a lot of exposure came.  And then, most alarmingly, the fact that the nurses went, by their own account of the records from that hospital, that Nurse Pham, apparently, unless the records are incorrect, went in and out of that isolation area without the proper gear having been given to her.

CHUCK TODD:
Manu, question for our experts over here.

MANU RAJU:
I mean, we're talking about budget cuts and the ability to find a vaccine.  I mean, the bottom line is that the NIH still has about, you know, billions of dollars a year that it spends on finding a vaccine.  I'm wondering, to what extent do you think the government is to blame for not prioritizing efforts to find a vaccine for Ebola?

CHUCK TODD:
Laurie, why don't you take that?

LAURIE GARRETT:
You know, I think that's very grossly unfair.  At least it's targeting the wrong piece of it.  Because yes, Project Bioshield was created, the idea was to get incentives for industry to come up with vaccines and so on for Ebola and other key pathogens.  And the problem was that no one could convince industry that it was in their interest to build up a huge stockpile simply that might never get used, might never get purchased.

When did you imagine you would need an Ebola vaccine?  So in fact, there was a vaccine center at NIH, they did develop a prototype-possible Ebola vaccine, as have other sites in other companies and locations around the world, but there was no incentive to take it through the pipeline for commercialization.

CHUCK TODD:
Mike Murphy, you had a question.

MIKE MURPHY:
Yes.  Describe to me, math is a big element of this.  And the math is in Africa.  We tend to narcissistically focus on here.  But that's where it's out of control.  We're the only superpower.  It is going to land on us.  What needs to be done?  What are the specific resources needed to start bending a curve before it's out of control completely?

LAURIE GARRETT:
I'm so glad you asked that.  All right, look, the harder we make it for volunteers to be assured that they can come home to America after they've been in the epidemic, the harder it is to recruit people to go and be in the epidemic.  And we are understaffed in terms of both our military staffing and healthcare worker staffing grossly.  I mean, order of magnitude.  We're behind the virus.  The virus is up in a marathon, it's up on the 20-mile line.  And the response is still back around five miles.

CHUCK TODD:
Dr. Kelen, how do you incentivize more doctors and healthcare worker from here to go?  Because it seems that this one, there's been some hesitance.

DR. GABE KELEN:
Well, some of these issues that have just come up, people are scared to go into that environment because they have seen all the news that they may actually get infected.  And we have heard earlier from our colleagues who have been there that PPE supply was not assured, that one week they'd have one time of supply, the next week, nothing, the week after that, something else.

And they're not assured that they can come back.  So now that the U.S. government is in there through the military and there are better supply lines, the NGO, to some extent figured out how to have a more assured supply.  And we have a better idea that if you follow this type of protocol, you are not going to get infected.  I think we'll have an easier time.

CHUCK TODD:
Stephanie, very quickly, one.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:
Well, Dr. Fauci did say that even though we can't guarantee that we would've happened an Ebola vaccine at this point, everything has slowed down.  In fact, money towards the Ebola vaccine was basically cut in half to what it was.  What cuts are coming under the Congressional sequester?  Does that concern you?  Should Congress restore those funds, given the level of anxiety across this country?

LAURIE GARRETT:
I for one, obviously, I would support keeping us with a strong, scientific, solid, well-supported research enterprise.

DR. GABE KELEN:
Well, I would echo that.  I mean, here's how it works.  You have a fixed budget.  A crisis comes, you move all your resources into that, and now, the real question is not this, we're concentrating on this.  We've got a wakeup call.  We've done it.  What is it that the resources have been moved away from that two years from now, someone is going to be criticized, “Why didn’t you look at this.  Oh my God, we're not prepared."

CHUCK TODD:
There you go.  I guarantee you're right.  The money will be there in the short term.  The question of course is always long-term.  Thank you, Laurie Garrett, Dr. Gabe Kelen, the senators, everybody who participated in this.  Coming up, we'll move to a little more politics.  One of the most bizarre starts to a political debate in history this week.

DEBATE MODERATOR (ON TAPE):
Ladies and gentlemen, we have an extremely peculiar situation right now.

CHUCK TODD:
Peculiar is one way to describe Florida.  And yes, Ebola has managed to infect the campaign.

***Commercial Break***

CHUCK TODD:
So just over two weeks until the midterms.  I'm going to hit the road and meet the voters.  As you can see, I've got a brand new RV.  I'm going to travel through some key battleground states in the Midwest this week.  You can follow my travels on The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, and NBCNews.com.  I'll be back in the studio next week for Meet the Press, a little bit of a report for my trip before heading out again for the final week of campaigning down South.  We'll be back in a moment.

***Commercial Break***

CHUCK TODD:
And welcome back.  With the midterm elections just over two weeks away, the base season has been in full swing.  This past week was the political version of March Madness.  We had confrontations over Ebola, President Obama, even over whether a candidate could bring a fan on stage.  And of course, there was the occasional verbal fistfight.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DOMENIC RECCHIA:
(IN PROGRESS) -- facing a 20-count criminal indictment?

DEBATE MODERATOR:
Gentlemen--

(OVERTALK)

DEBATE MODERATOR:
Gentlemen--

REP. MICHAEL GRIMM (R-NY):
--this is ridiculous.

CHUCK TODD:
In a campaign where ad spending is expected to be over $3 billion, one of the last places to catch candidates unscripted is oddly on stage.

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D-LA):
And I would give President Obama a six to seven.

CHUCK TODD:
With the President's job rating sitting at or below 40% in the Senate battleground states, it's easy to forget he's not on the ballot.

REP. TOM COTTON (R-AR):
Under the Obama-Pryor economy.

ED GILLESPIE:
The Obama-Warner policies.

THOM TILLIS
Senator Hagan's voted with President Obama 96% of the time.

REP. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA):
And 97% of the time.

REP. CORY GARDNER (R-CO):
99% of the time.

CHUCK TODD:
In a delicate task, the Democrats running from the president without alienating his voters.

SEN. KAY HAGAN (D-NC)
I disagree with the president.  I think we need the bill the Keystone Pipeline.

SEN. MARK UDALL (D-CO)
When he continues to give a green light to the National Security Agency to spy on Americans.

DEBATE MODERATOR:
Why are you reluctant to give an answer on whether or not you voted for President Obama?

ALISON LUNDERGAN GRIMES:
Bill, there's no reluctance.  This is a matter of principle.

CHUCK TODD:
And not all Republicans are eager to embrace their party label either.

REP. CORY GARDNER (R-CO):
You know, when it came to the Violence Against Women act, I actually stood against my party.

CHUCK TODD:
Even the Republican party's leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell said this week he wants to repeal healthcare reform, but not Kentucky's popular state-paid health care exchange.  So ObamaCare by another name.

DEBATE MODERATOR:
You would support the continuation of Kynect?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY)
Well, it's a state decision.  Several states have--

DEBATE MODERATOR:
But would you support it?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):
Well, that's fine, yeah, I think it's fine to have a website.  Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:
And as talking point fatigue sets in and voters tune out, campaigns are now trying to get their attention by turning to the politics of fear.

THOM TILLIS:
Ladies and gentlemen, we've got an Ebola outbreak, we have bad actors that can come across the border.

SENATOR PAT ROBERTS (R-KS):
This all goes back to ISIS, Ebola, and the other problems that we see on the border.

CHUCK TODD:
Candidates are sharpening their attacks.

MICHELLE NUNN:
You would be the only senator that from his own words has built a career around outsourcing American jobs.  That's why.

CHUCK TODD:
And they fine-tune the art of the backhanded compliment.

SENATOR MARK PRYOR (D-AK):
You know, he did go to Harvard, and certainly we're proud of that.  I know he probably couldn't get into the University of Arkansas.  We get that.

DEBATE MODERATOR:
I'd like each candidate to say something nice about your opponent.

SENATOR PAT ROBERTS (R-KS):
Very well-dressed opponent.  I admire your accumulation of wealth.

CHUCK TODD:
As campaigns haggle over every detail from the number and format of debates, to that electric fan down in Florida, the unforgettable moment can happen when a candidate just doesn't show up.

DEBATE MODERATOR:
We have been told that Governor Scott will not be participating in this debate.

CHUCK TODD:
Or sometimes when a few too many candidates do show.

CRIS ERICSON:
You are uncivilized.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:
Ah, Vermont.  Alright, guys, Stephanie Cutter, you have been a debate prepper for years.  What have you seen in the debates that makes you either feel better for the Democrats, that you think maybe you guys will survive this?

STEPHANIE CUTTER:
Well, I think that Democrats are holding their own in these debates.  And I think that's because basically Republicans are like one-trick ponies.  It's, you know, insert the name, and then Obama.

CHUCK TODD:
Well, that's like election--

STEPHANIE CUTTER:
Obama.

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:
--2006, it was insert the name.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:
I think what--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:
Insert Bush.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:
But I think what is proving to be true is that this election hasn't been nationalized.  And time and time again, in many of these debates, many of them that you just showed, it's more about local issues.  Look at the back and forth that McConnell got in over the Kentucky healthcare plan.  And he was stumped about it.  Didn't know exactly what to say.  But that's about healthcare in Kentucky.

CHUCK TODD:
Murphy?

MIKE MURPHY:
Well, you can't get Alison Grimes to admit who she voted for with a jaws of life machine. I mean that was a disaster for her and Mitch McConnell's going to win.  The Democrats aren't a problem.  I mean, the president's numbers are down to 40%.  I mean, broccoli’s at 45%.  You're going to have a rejection.

So what they're trying to do, and it's the right strategy for them, but I don't think it's working very well, is that they're trying to make the election locally about some negative wedge issues they're going to hammer the repub. on.  But right now, I believe that the thing’s moving in a good Republican direction towards the national reject the president numbers.

Now we have had a conga line of screw-ups here between the IRS, the Syria red line fiasco, and now we have Ebola.  Which, I think you have to be careful about politicizing it, but it does become a narrative of incompetence.  He's going to get punished.

CHUCK TODD:
So there's going to be a line on Ebola.  Manu, of these debates, it seems as if the most telling moment may end up being that Florida moment.

MANU RAJU:
Yeah, if any debate has an impact on numbers, right now, it appears that's the one.

MANU RAJU:
That's right.  And Charlie Crist was leading in that race before that fan fiasco.

CHUCK TODD:
But not by much.

MANU RAJU:
But not by much.  And this, and you see Republicans now kind of throwing in the towel, knowing that this is something that voters will remember when a peculiar incident like that, a fan, I mean, voters were just tuning into the race, that's one of the things that they'll end up remembering when they go to the voting.

CHUCK TODD:
You know, my fear, Andrea, is that because of this debate moments like that becoming potentially game changers, that you're going to have even more candidates refuse debates, or not come.

ANDREA MITCHELL:
And that is the Republican strategy for 2016 in the primaries.  They've already said that they aren't going to be--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:
They're afraid of moments.

ANDREA MITCHELL:
They're afraid of 21--

(OVERTALK)

ANDREA MITCHELL:
--debates.  But the fan moment, I mean, there's going to be another Florida debate on Tuesday night.  And Charlie Crist is going to bring his fan.  He's been bringing that fan for ten years.  The fan has a twitter account.

CHUCK TODD:
The fan already won the debate though.

MALE VOICE:
But yeah--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:
This next debate, not that it won’t happen--.

MIKE MURPHY:
I mean, that's why he’s got the fan.  But I have a reform proposal.  Ban staff from debates.  Because government staff is not served by some idiot staff people who thought to make this --

CHUCK TODD:
You think it might cost him the race?

MIKE MURPHY:
No, I think he has a chance in the next debate to reset it.  But it was a fumble.  And let's get the staff knuckleheads out of this and let him debate.  But honestly, just quickly--

(OVERTALK)

MIKE MURPHY:
--fewer open-mic night debates.

CHUCK TODD:
There you go.

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:
Alright, you guys will get more time.  I promise.  We're coming back a little bit later.  Coming up, addicted to running.  Some candidates out of prison and back on the campaign trail.

WILLIE GEIST (ON TAPE):
The only way I can lose this race is--

EDWIN EDWARDS (ON TAPE):
If I got caught in bed with a dead woman or a live boy.  And you know what?  There was no chance of that happening.

***Commercial Break***

CHUCK TODD:
Politics is a profession very few walk away from willingly.  Sure, there are some senators and congressmen who often move onto lucrative lobbying careers.  But boy, being out of office really stings for these things.  And the ache never goes away.  So it's no wonder that so many make an attempt to make a comeback.  I asked Willie Geist to spend some time with three colorful figures who have a real chance of making it back into office.  Two of them, in fact, spent some time in the big house.

(BEGIN TAPE)

WILLIE GEIST:
This 87-year-old man is working the phones for votes.

EDWIN EDWARDS:
I'm one politician knows how to deliver on his promises.  You would know me, I'm Governor Edwards, that’s right.

WILLIE GEIST:
That's Edwards, as in Edwin Edwards, congressional candidate who spent 16 years as governor of Louisiana, before spending eight and a half years in prison for racketeering.  Edwards is one in a crop of candidates, characters all, seeking political redemption this fall.

MALE VOICE:
I did aerobic exercises.

WILLIE GEIST:
There's 76-year-old Larry Pressler, out for a morning jog, and stunning the political world, as he runs neck and neck in a race to win back the South Dakota Senate seat he lost in 1996.

LARRY PRESSLER:
I have my seniority, I can be a powerful senator for South Dakota.

WILLIE GEIST:
But one person isn't so thrilled about the prospects of a comeback, his wife.

LARRY PRESSLER:
She's really not excited about coming back to Washington.

BUDDY CIANCI:
Hi everybody.

WILLIE GEIST:
And there's the legendary, former six-term Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci, looking to return to City Hall after a prison stint of nearly five years, for conspiracy to commit racketeering.

BUDDY CIANCI:
I did my time in this system that we have in America, you get found guilty, you pay the price.  And I've always proclaimed my innocence, I still do.  And the fact is, I did it, I did it like a man.

WILLIE GEIST:
Released in 2007, from what he calls, “the federal gated community,” the 73-year-old Cianci wants his old job back, holding court on this night at a drag bingo game.

BUDDY CIANCI:
Under the B for Buddy, six.

WILLIE GEIST:
Why dive back in?  

BUDDY CIANCI:
We've had over a decade of decline in the city.  That's number one.  And I looked around to see who was running, and none of them have the vision.  And so I decided that I would run for mayor.

WILLIE GEIST:
Cianci has his share of critics, but the polls show Providence just might give Buddy another try.

EDWIN EDWARDS:
I got you out of a bad time in 1980.  Well, I'm glad you remember it.

WILLIE GEIST:
Even over the phone, everyone knows exactly who Edwin Edwards is.

WILLIE GEIST (TO EDWARDS):
Governor, did that gentleman say you got him out of a bad time in 1980?

EDWIN EDWARDS:
That's what he said.

WILLIE GEIST:
Do you recall getting him--

EDWIN EDWARDS:
Oh, I have no idea what it was.  But he was very--he was very grateful.

WILLIE GEIST:
Edwards spent the evening this way, cold calling, and then catching up with voters who feel like old friends.

VOTER:
Hi.

WILLIE GEIST:
Edwards, who many people in Louisiana still call "The Governor," and who now has a one-year-old son, was first elected to Congress 50 years ago.

EDWIN EDWARDS:
You know, a lady asked me the other day, "You're 87 years old, you're retired, why don't you just do what you feel like doing?"  I said, "Lady, that's what I'm doing.  I feel like running for Congress."

WILLIE GEIST:
And he's not worried about those eight and a half years behind bars.

EDWIN EDWARDS:
I did nothing wrong.  And I want to point something out.  It had nothing to do with my politics.  Nothing to do with my role as a governor.

WILLIE GEIST:
The justice system disagrees.  But as we walked around Baton Rouge, people were overwhelmingly happy to see him.

VOTER:
And I think you would be an excellent congressman.

WILLIE GEIST:
Edwards has provided American politics with some of his most famous quotes, like this one from his 1983 gubernatorial race.

WILLIE GEIST:
Well, that campaign provided another, perhaps your most famous quote, which is, "The only way I can lose this race is?"

EDWIN EDWARDS:
If I got caught in bed with a dead woman or a live boy.  And you know what?  There was no chance of that happening.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:
Willie joins me now.  I know he said he did nothing wrong.  Nobody that ever serves time ever says they were guilty.

WILLIE GEIST:
No, everybody.

CHUCK TODD:
Everybody says that.

WILLIE GEIST:
There seems to be some debate of Edwin Edward's greatest quote, the one that he just said there, or the one he said in the 1991 race against David Duke, who was the grand wizard of the Klan.  He was asked, "Do you have anything in common with David Duke?"  And he said, "The only thing we have in common is that we are both wizards underneath the sheets."

CHUCK TODD:
Buddy Cianci, of the three, Buddy Cianci's the one that's most likely to get back in office, isn't he?

WILLIE GEIST:
Yeah, let's tick through these.  I think if you ask Mike Murphy, he'd tell you Pressler, although running neck and neck is probably still an underdog in South Dakota.  But Buddy Cianci is in the lead.  And when you go back to Providence, people like him.  They feel like he delivered services.  There is a constituency out there who said, "We don't need a 70-something guy out there who's been in jail running our city."  But there's still some affection for him.

CHUCK TODD:
There is.  And he still sells his pasta sauce.                

WILLIE GEIST:
This is the updated mayor's own marinara sauce.

CHUCK TODD:
Without the squirrel?

WILLIE GEIST:
Without the squirrel, as he called it, the toupee he famously wore for so long.  That's for you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:
Willie, you had too much fun there.  Thank you, buddy.  When we come back, two weeks ago, are we seeing sign of a small but steadily-building Republican wave?

***Commercial Break***

CHUCK TODD:
And welcome back, the panel is still here.  We've got our new NBC News Wall Street Journal, Annenberg weekly tracking survey, Andrea Mitchell.  Generic ballot among the likely voters, the biggest lead we've reported yet for generically for the Republicans.  In the Annenberg one, 49-44, this is the NBC/Wall Street Journal, earlier in the week among registered voters, it also had 45-43, but among the likely, it went up to five.  Here's what I can tell you.  All Democrats agree, it was a bad week for them.  The question is, is it holding?

ANDREA MITCHELL:
It's a bad week for Democrats.  The White House has been under fire.  At the same time, Neil Newhouse, our Republican former partner in polling has said that it's the Get Out the Vote effort, and that Democrats do a whole lot better at getting out the vote.  And it's going to come down to a ground game.

I think that a ground game, I think that Texas Supreme Court decision on Saturday morning is going to be really telling, if there are more voter restrictions placed in some of those states, it's going to be really hard for Democrats.

CHUCK TODD:
Mike Murphy, your buddy Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist, had this great quote this morning in The Post, "There's a way, but there's a wall.  Government's failing, nothing works.  People are trapped in a room with President Obama and the Democratic Party, and there's a huge demand for change.  They want to get out of that room, but the only door out there leads them to a room full of lepers.  And that's the Republican party.”  Is he right?

MIKE MURPHY:
I'll be sitting there at the Republican dinner this year. (LAUGHS)

CHUCK TODD:
Yeah, good luck with that.

MIKE MURPHY:
No, I fundamentally agree.  The big question is, we’re gonna do well.  We’re gonna do well partially for freedom.  Even though we reject the president, we're going to win Republican states.  The question is, what do we do with it?  Because 2016 is what really counts.  And it's a tougher electorate, bigger turnout, we're going to have the power now to start talking about middle class economics and policy.  If we don't, it'll get to grievance politics.  We're going to blow the Republican opportunity in the long term.

CHUCK TODD:
And the Obama “Get Out the Vote” machine that you helped build, is it going to show up in the midterms?

STEPHANIE CUTTER:
Absolutely.  You know, I think we're at the point where in this race where campaigns really matter.  And--

CHUCK TODD:
I felt this whole year, the campaigns have not--

(OVERTALK)

STEPHANIE CUTTER:
And the Democratic campaigns at least, I can't speak to what's going on inside the Republican campaigns, but the Democrat campaigns have been really working and doing what they need to do.  Look what's happening in Iowa.  You know, with the mail-in ballots.  You know, a high percentage of people in Iowa have already voted.

And two to one of sporadic voters are voting for the Democrat.  Independents by 25% margin are voting for the Democrat.  That's happening in races all over the country.  I do think, you know, that this is going to be a good year for Republicans.  You're obviously going to gain seats.  But I think if there was going to be a tidal wave, you'd see much more of that movement you now.

CHUCK TODD:
I agree, you would've seen it.  Manu, I'm going to get to what Washington knows, what everybody wants to know, but isn't saying.  And in this case, it's about health care.  And the idea, we've seen the biggest, I would argue, false promise of the 24 mid-- midterm campaign has been about the Affordable Care Act.  Listen to Mitch McConnell here.

MITCH MCCONNELL:
I want to pull this law out root and branch.  And if we had the ability to do it, we would.

CHUCK TODD:
He's never going to have the ability to do it.

MANU RAJU:
That's right.  Even if he gets the majority, it's going to be a 51-49 majority.

CHUCK TODD:
Are Republicans are overpromising here?  Because their base is going to expect to see that.  And it isn't going to happen.

MANU RAJU:
It isn't going to happen.  You know, it's really a sign of the challenge that McConnell is going to have if he becomes majority leader.  He's going to have conservatives pushing very hard to do something on ObamaCare.  And then he's going to have a whole bunch of blue-state Republicans who are up for reelection in 2016.

CHUCK TODD:
Who want no part, right?

MANU RAJU:
Who want no part of it.  And then of course you have a Democrat in the White House and a very concerted House Republican confluence.  How he threads that needle is going to be very, very difficult.  I'm not sure you'd even want the majority--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:
Well, I was just going to say, I've heard Andrea Mitchell, a House Republican leader say to me, "If for the first five things we've passed, and one of them is healthcare, we've already failed."

ANDREA MITCHELL:
They don't want to go anywhere near it.  I mean, why we opened that, they just want to figure out, and they haven't figured out yet what they want to throw up there as veto bait to try to put the president on the defensive as quickly as possible.

CHUCK TODD:
Fifteen seconds, Murphy.  Should they have come out with five things that they're going to do with the majority?  Are they going to regret that they didn't do that?

MIKE MURPHY:
No, because they're going to do it the week after the election if they have any sense.  They're going to define that.  If they don't--

ANDREA MITCHELL:
If they have it.

MIKE MURPHY:
If they don't, they're in trouble.

CHUCK TODD:
All right--

STEPHANIE CUTTER:
If they can't agree.

MANU RAJU:
They'd rather make it about Obama.

CHUCK TODD:
Well done.  That's all for today.  Starting on Wednesday, I'll be rolling into Kansas, Iowa, and Wisconsin to meet the voters in that RV you saw earlier.  If I come into your town, come say hi and share some RV sightings with the hashtag, #WhereIsChuck.  We'll be back next week with stories from the road.  By the way, I'm going to give a shout out to my friends at the Arlington Free Clinic, 20 years of serving the under-insured health care people in Arlington, Virginia.  Well done.  If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *

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For more information contact:

Erika Masonhall
NBC News
o: (212) 664-3230
c: (917) 628-8943
e: erika.masonhall@nbcuni.com

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MEET THE PRESS

“Meet the Press” is where newsmakers come to make news—setting the political agenda, and spotlighting the impact Washington decision-making has on people across the country. “Meet the Press” reaches more than 3 million people every Sunday through its broadcasts and millions more through NBCNews.com, the #TweetThePress interview series, Flipboard, and social media platforms.  Chuck Todd is the moderator of "Meet the Press" and John Reiss is the acting executive producer.

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