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Hey, everyone, John Heilemann here and welcome to Hell on High Water, my new podcast from the recount with big ups to the one and only rizza for our dope theme music. After a week long absence from the electoral fray due to covid-19, Donald Trump is back on the road and back to his rallies. So we thought we'd sit down with my old friend James Carville, a man who knows as much as anyone on the planet about the campaign trail.
It's white knuckle twists and hairpin turns, its frequent detours and occasional dead ends, and whose views about where that trail is headed in 2020 are adamant and definitive.
The Democrats are poised to have a huge win. I say this based on prior elections. I say this based on current polling, and I say this based on the way that Trump is behaving himself.
James Carville is without a doubt the most famous political strategist of our time and maybe the all time known around the world is the raging Cajun. And to his wife, Mary Matalin, as old serpent head, Carville came to national attention in 1992 as the presiding guru behind the campaign of Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, a classic late bloomer, Carville didn't run a winning campaign until he was in his 40s. But starting in the mid 1980s, he and his partner, Paul Begala, ran up a string of victories.
Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey, Georgia Gov. Zell Miller and Pennsylvania Senator Harris Wofford that helped them land the gig with Clinton, Carville's hot temper, Southern fried charisma and theatrical squalls of fury at the media, some of it real, some of it feigned, turned him into a cable news celebrity. And after Clinton's victory, his star turn in the Oscar nominated documentary The War Room turned him into a legend not only for his role in putting Clinton in the White House, but for coining the phrase, It's the economy, stupid.
In the years since then, Carville has worked on countless campaigns in America and abroad, advised Hillary Clinton in both her 2008 and 2016 campaigns, written books, giving speeches and held forth about every political topic under the sun, including, of course, Donald Trump. In January of this year, he endorsed the doomed campaign of Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, worried loudly that the Democratic Party might be too woak for its own good and was skeptical of Joe Biden's prospects.
But with the passage of time and the onset of the pandemic, Carville has shifted from bearish to bullish about the likelihood of beating Trump in the process, berating Democrats for being unable to get past their PTSD from 2016 and see what to him seemed like the obvious realities unfolding before our eyes. All of which brings us to one of many questions I was eager to put to James today. In the wake of what may be the worst two week stretch any incumbent president has ever experienced in October of an election year.
Is it possible that maybe, just maybe, we are headed for a Biden landslide for the answer to that and a ton of other pressing questions? Take a listen to James Carville as he joins us on hell and high water.
James, it's great to have you here and there is so much to discuss. John didn't want to go back for a long time and so would have a good telescope.
You've seen more politics than I have, but I've seen a fair amount and I've never seen anything quite like the last 10 days or so. And I'm going to read you something right now that just struck me. I was reading Andrew Sullivan and he wrote this thing. This is just a good way to sort of tee up where we're at right here. So says this as so often these days, it's the onion for the win quote, Trump attempts to pivot narrative away from coronavirus controversy by molesting a child of a fallen soldier.
It's an Onion headline. And yet that headline barely exaggerates how wildly the Trump train has gone off the rails in these last weeks of his this campaign. We've been watching in real time as a seriously sick and unstable president has ambushed and wrecked the first debate, presided over a super spreader of viral event at the White House itself, ranted on Twitter in all caps while hopped up on steroids, called on his attorney general to arrest his political opponents, announced a cure.
Why the fuck not walked away from a desperately needed stimulus, canceled the next debate and encouraged the country to let the coronavirus rip some more. The Mussolini photo op, like a bad reality show finale, revealed a figure like Krusty the Clown finished but still performing, gasping under inches of makeup, dead inside, apart from regular swoons of rage and resentment saluting the air. That pretty much sums it up, right, James, that's where we are, is that really where we are when he gives the recap without truth?
Like the first thing is he is trying to loot. He's not trying to win. Like, he's just not trying to win. He's just he's doubling down on his base is raging arrest Obama, of course. I don't think Jamie Jamie Harrison needs a geo TV program if they're talking about arresting Obama. I think he's going to do I think. I think we're going to have enhanced Democratic base turnout in South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, you name it.
He is trying to drill down and get his base so agitated that the country will say just let him go in peace. He is negotiating a pardon from Andrew Cuomo right now. That's what he's doing, exactly what he's doing. I got one pill you can take in this or I'll be over. I got another. You can take and we'll have the militia and everything activate, yeah. And just tell people it's not worth it. All I want to do is go to my Largo and start truck TV.
That's his best hope now that he's not going to win this election. I've been saying this from day one and I forget one more time I get one more email from Daniel Schwartz, Esquire, about how nervous I'll make his mother and her friends when I'm talking about.
But this is what he's doing right here. He is hardened and calcified in his support to where he'll say it was stolen. He's not going anywhere and he'll try to cut a deal. Now, you have the story in one story about the twenty one million dollars in Las Vegas. And then there's another story about. Twenty, not twenty one million dollars somewhere upstate New York and Las Vegas, I can't keep my mind around all of these other indictable offenses.
Right. And this is what this is exactly what's going on here, negotiate apart. So there's a lot to unpack there. And we're going to do it over the course of the next hour or so. But let's just step back in here. Look at the state of the race. We have had a race that has been stable for months with Joe Biden, with a substantial national lead and a smaller but stable lead in pretty much every battleground state.
And in the course of the last 10 days or so, when a lot of that stuff that Sullivan recounted happened, you know, starting with the performance in the first debate and everything that's happened since then, including, of course, most notably the president contracting covid-19, the situation in the polling has just gotten worse for Trump. The national lead. Now you're seeing polls that have him. The CNN poll has him up by, what, 14, 15 points nationally.
And, you know, the Pennsylvania polls have him have Biden at 50 and and up by double digits. He's got giant leads in Wisconsin and Michigan, tighter, a little bit in the southwest. And you're a great consumer of polling information over over the years. I've known you a do you believe it? Do you trust the polls? I know you said you don't think he can win, but as you look at these polls, do you look at them and say, yeah, that's just about right.
That's what I think the race is right now. Well, of course, I trust polls and probably a polling average in 2016 today for an election with three point four. It ended up two point one and there was a late surge was in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, no doubt about that. But they were not manifestly off right in the idea that you have that many interviews and everybody's so paranoid about paranoid about how many noncollege. Right. You have in your sample.
I mean, they have every kind of check that you can imagine. So in 2016, Trump won the Electoral College. You got forty six point one. He had KOMY. There was the whole stupid email story. There were many things where five things had to go Trump's way for him to win and all five did. You know since then, in 90 percent of the off year elections, the Republicans have grotesquely underperformed. I mean, like eight or nine points, not just underperforming, I mean, massive ground.
Then you have 2018. 2019 was the highest turnout we've had since women were grabbed right to vote and the biggest margin and it was not produced by one party being more excited. Another there was enormous Republican turnout. Right. It wasn't like a 2014. Right. If you look at the NBC Wall Street Journal poll from July of 19, January 20, 20 in today. There's some improvement, but not massive. He never was going to be re-elected ever.
And, of course, that this is just made it even worse for him. Yeah, I've never bought into this. He has no hidden strength, there's no thing out there, there's no army in waiting, is waiting to be activated to throw a switch. Everybody goes batshit because they run the registration battle in Florida. So the guy says it's fifty eight thousand new Republican registrants. Forty three thousand Democrats, 10 million people can vote for. I'm sorry, I just can't get gassed up.
Fifty thousand new registered tonight. Are they going to vote? Yeah.
You know, you've been pointing this out for a long time, but it's certainly the case that if you look back over the course of the last three and a half years, that in every opportunity where voters have had a chance to vote on Trump by proxy, the country has sent a pretty clear, loud message that they are trying to vote Donald Trump out of office, whether that's in midterm elections, off year elections by elections, state legislative races, county court and things like you, bigger race.
Republicans should be getting their asses kicked up and down the ballot for now for three and a half years. And that's I agree with you about that. A hundred percent. That's the first thing. The other thing is you look at these these polls and forget about the toplines. You look at what's happening at the demographic level.
Every major cohort, you look at seniors, you look at women, you look at suburban voters, every one of them is collapsing around him except for his core irreducible base. And I now hear people inside the White House who are like the biggest Trump denials, you know, up until two weeks ago even they now are saying inside the White House, we can't see the bottom. We could end up in the low 30s before this thing. If we keep on this trajectory, we could be in the low 30s.
I think it's like there's almost no one. If you gave them sodium pentothal right now, including even the nuts on the right, who would claim that this thing is not falling apart for Trump right now in vivid, dramatic, probably irretrievable way. So now, like a couple of points here, first of all, there was one time of peril for a Democrat, and that was in the lead up to the Iowa caucus through South Carolina. There was some chance that the party could have fractured or just gone over to the left side.
And when they were having a discussion about whether that got killed, all the people at the Boston Marathon should be voting from the jail cell. That was scary. Once we sounded the alarm and brother climb and drop the hammer. That was the end of it. Yeah, there was some peril for the Democrats, but from, say, 10 days before Iowa. Through South Carolina, you're getting ahead of where I was, but I'm going to play it here.
There was a viral Carvell moment in January, maybe early February, where you were on with Brian Williams on MSNBC.
Here's James kind of flipping out a little bit about the state of the Democratic Party is only one moral imperative in this country right now, and that is to beat Donald Trump. That's the only moral and it's the only thing I want to hear in until we understand that we win every argument broadly. One argument on anything. We don't win elections because we talk about stuff that is not relevant. We had a great experience in 2018 and the day after we started all this goofy stuff.
So hopefully we've got time to jerk this thing back and be about health care and prescription drug prices and education and infrastructure and climate diplomacy and rejuvenating whatever it is. But this is not happening so far. OK, so, James, that was you flipping out about the state Democratic Party, basically saying, like, you know, we got to get our shit together here. And your concerns at the time were that the party could be used to use the word cult.
And you were saying to me a lot, you know, you got to win. Winning is the only thing that matters. This party seems to have forgotten that you were worried about the party getting too left and too woak. So what pulled it back? You were very concerned. I was about to careen off the rails and then it didn't. So what happened was I was in Miami and my office called and said, NBC wants to know if you want to go in.
And I said, well, what's the address? And it was like three blocks from where I was. I said, OK, I'll go home. And you asked me, OK, you invited me to the party and I just seen what happened to the British Labour Party that, you know, remember the night Michael Foot, the longest suicide note in history and like, no, no, I'm. And after Nevada, I said, look, Bernie Sanders is now the front runner.
Get over it. He has the most money. He's carried Nevada. He's got the most energy. And so we got to act like he's the front runner.
And then, you know, South Carolina came along and you pointed out, I think, you know, that that moment was the moment where for a lot of Democrats, where there was clarity. It was like Bernie is going to be the nominee unless someone stops Bernie. Right. And for the large part of the Democratic Party, which is moderate and not progressive and importantly, most importantly, I think this your point about Biden is he understood all along that one of the great lessons of Democratic Party politics over the last half century is that the Democratic candidate who has the black base of the party is is going to be the nominee.
And Biden said he had it and it turned out to be as right. He was right. He had the support of those people. And and when he got those people, plus all these other white moderates in the party who were scared off by Sanders, that's a coalition that made him formidable in the end. Right. It's really a weird combination that the most to most loyal voting blocs are African-Americans and college women who really are and they're going to vote as opposed to something they might vote 70 percent by.
I mean, maybe you can say Jews, but there are a hell of a lot more college educated white women and they are Jews to vote, you know, but they both come to clocking in at like 70, 70 percent or so. So it is it's an amazing transformation of the party.
Let me come back to Trump real quick here and just just ask you this. I mean, you know, if you think back to the again, our lives in politics, right. You know, Reagan gets shot and comes out the other side of that with enormous political capital, much more popular, much more powerful than he was before he got shot. Bill Clinton after Oklahoma City gets a huge boost. Generally, you know, a president who's beset in some way by some tragedy or some challenger, some crisis, they get a benefit out of it if they handle it marginally well.
And Donald Trump just got covid, you know, and under any normal set of rules and I know the normal set of rules don't apply to Donald Trump, that's the whole point.
But you might have thought that Trump would come out of this in a better place, that you could have gotten some sympathy, people would have seen him in a more empathetic light or whatever. But instead he's like, come through this thing and he's in a worse place today, I would say politically than he was before he got covid. What do you attribute that to? Is his performance the way he's behaved, the videos he's put out? What's he doing that's causing people to be alienated by that rather than rally around him?
Or a couple of things, no one is wearing a mask and exercising caution is not a 50 50 issue. All right. It's a seventy five twenty five issue. So people see him, he's infected, he's cavalier about like Secret Service agent supporters, you name it, generally what happens when somebody goes through something like this, they try to tell. It was a lesson I learned here. You know, you have an experience like this. It causes you to grow.
It makes you refocus. You got none of that from him. And all you got was doubling down. Then on top of that, you had Amy covid barrat event, of which people saw you understand people are kind of nervous, you know, not just Democrats.
Not that's not a good thing to have. Should I be proud of it if I go to Wal-Mart six feet away? I mean, people just live that way. In everyday life, I mean, maybe not to Michigan militia, but but most people do, and they didn't see any growth in him and he is mortally afraid to show any doubt, any weakness, you know, that helped him with a thirty five, but just really turns him off at 65 and he needs a thirty five to stay out of jail.
Let's take a quick break here and go pay some bills.
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We are back with the one and only raging Cajun still raging, even though you're an old man now and you're still raging. How do you keep how do you keep raising at this age? Dude, I don't know, man. I just I just I think it's lucky I run every day.
You're almost the kind of definition of piss and vinegar, I would say, with some hot sauce in there with some some Cajun Petrify.
Right. Well, for sure. Tell me about what you think you know, as you as you look back like you got your fame obviously owes directly to the 92 race and Bill Clinton and you were talking a minute ago about the way the party has been transformed. And I'm curious about, you know, having been integral to helping Bill Clinton win, having been involved in Hillary Clinton's world in a more informal way over the years. You know, you you came late to success in political consulting, famously in the war room.
You talk about how you wouldn't want to race into your 40s, right?
Correct. But so in this late life period where you've had one of the most important presidential election victories and then have been able to observe at close range the way this party has changed sometimes to helping it win, Barack Obama sometimes causing it to lose in the two Bush terms. What can you tell me about where we stand here in twenty twenty? Is this a majority and party? Is this a party that can be but is built to be a dominant national party going forward because of the way it's changed?
Right. Well, first of all, I'll talk about today just a little bit. The Democratic coalition that exists for Biden is not going to go. You're not going to have four star generals. And Barney, I mean, it's just not going to go all right. And that's OK. And the Democrats have always been a party of coalitions. You mean like the Republican support for Biden like that?
That's unusual. The degree to which Biden is supported by worry of what he's going to get retired admirals and, you know, 20 or so urban females. And I mean, this is not going to hold, nor should it. Of course, I don't know where they go. I mean, the big thing is the Democrats. It always had a lot of racial issues, you know, Jesse Helms and it was a lot of you would hear that you wanted that job and you don't even hear about affirmative action anymore, just doesn't exist.
And there actually has gotten better.
You're not supposed to say that. But it just it I mean, Jamie Harrison is tied in South Carolina is significant, I'm sorry, I cannot say that Barack Obama got elected. I don't know. It doesn't mean that they have terrible problems with police and anything else. All right.
Jamie Harrison, the black Democratic candidate for Senate, running against Lindsey Graham. We'll talk a little bit more about that race in a minute. But, yeah, very incredible thing in South Carolina to have a black Senate candidate. And, of course, you know, Tim Scott, the current Republican senator from South Carolina, also African-American.
It's really pretty simple, John. The Republicans became addicted to whites without a college degree. And they kind of abandoned the playing field everywhere, and honestly, that's just a shrinking demographic, what is growing in America? Married people and unmarried people, people who go to church don't go to church. I want people that are white, of people that are not white, literally every long range that they made. Was it a bad bet right now, it had like anything else, we missed it, it had one giant final moment and that was 2016.
Yeah, and that was just that that furious, that bright sun set. That's what that was. And you're going to see the autopsy in 2012 is going to be particularly valuable in the stories that are going to come out as to how the Republican Party doubled down on a shrinking demographic and got himself caught in a vice that it can't get out of. Right. So those who don't know about this or for forget after the 2012 election, Barack Obama's re-election, Reince Priebus, then the Republican Party chair, commissioned an autopsy like a what the fuck was going on?
Why did Barack Obama win two races in a row? And they looked and said essentially the parties to all the parties to white, we got to get straight with non-white voters, younger voters, all the people that James just mentioned. And that was like there was a moment where they said, hey, this is what we got to do going forward. And instead of doing that, they went exactly the opposite direction and nominated Donald Trump and still managed to pull off that victory.
So let me ask you this question. Is one true north for James Carville? It's always been like if you don't win, there's no fucking point. You know, if you get trapped in purity tests, if you get trapped in cultish behavior, purity test is the best way I can phrase it. You have these things you want to do as a political party. You assemble a coalition, you have objectives. You have things you want to do to change the country, make people's lives better.
Republicans and Democrats have different ideas about what those are. But in the end, if you don't win, you're fucked. And so the majoritarian impulse is essential if you're going to win this election and particularly you're going to assemble a governing coalition that's going to last for some period of time. We can take on big problems. I would say Bill Clinton's election was a moment when, after losing three national elections in a row where the party looked up and said, yeah, that's we got to do that.
And I guess the question is right now, is Biden an illustration of the fact that right now Democrats finally got that message in twenty twenty? Do you think you've made your point and that the party now gets that in order to get shit done and more importantly, in the context of Trump to stop it from happening, that you got to win? You know, it was the one thing that I used to hate to the campaign manager, James, to activist community wants to meet with you.
Oh, shit. Somebody just sluffed your ass off. This is going to go nowhere because they're really good people. They have an agenda. They want historical tax credit. So they want, you know, other things and it's all good. I probably agree, but 90 percent of what the liberal activist community want, I'm just not going to make my campaign about it. Right. All right. So I just drop them off and I on any of them.
I didn't want any activists on my staff at one frickin mission here to win this election. All right, you know, and I don't want somebody coming in and saying, you know, we really got to talk more about this, of that now. It's not a curse. It's not a crusade. It's not a cause. When this is over, I'm leaving. OK, do it. Do what the fuck do you want to do? I'm not sticking around.
All right. I'm going to campaign in Brazil. I'm giving speeches, you know. Shit. I'm going to go do movies. I don't sit in the frickin White House or anything else. So you can do all you want.
All right. That's good. Please take a break. I'm going to take one more break here.
And we're going to come back and actually contemplate with James the scenario that now suddenly people seem to think could be true. We're going to come back and talk about the possibility of a Biden landslide after these messages. I think there is a better chance that Donald Trump does not run for re-election and he's re-elected, there's no chance he's going to be reelected. Somebody is going to have to go tell this guy, look, you just can't risk a humiliating defeat.
It's going to come your way. And Jared sometimes got to sit down, have a real talk, a real man to man, a come to Jesus, as people used to say. I don't know what it is, but this is that which can't continue, will not. And party can't continue this direction.
I got to think something different and we are back. And that was one of many viral Kaval moments, a man who is not actively engaged in this campaign whatsoever.
But every time he goes on television, manages to say something that catches fire, still has the ability in in this social media world, a world he's not really part of. I don't know if you have a Twitter account, James, but I have one. But Bradley does it for me. Yeah, but you still manage that.
He still managed to set the set. The Twitter is on fire every once in a while. And you did that in that case, when you you said that Trump was more likely to drop out than to to win. It brings us back to the top of our conversation, which is like what Trump is doing right now. So I just ask you as a professional, right? This past week, the Commission on Presidential Debates came out and said, you know what?
The next debate, the town hall debate is supposed to happen in Miami this week. We are going to have that debate. We're going to have it virtually. And Donald Trump got on television and said, I'm not doing that. I'm not going to do a virtual debate. And I ask you just here as a as a practitioner, someone who knows something about campaigns, given where Trump is right now in this race, does he not need these debates?
Is that not madness to give up the opportunity to debate with Joe Biden when you're behind in the ways that he's behind in this race?
OK, let's go to the better chance he drops out and wins. Yeah, that was an accurate statement because there's no chance he's going to win. Right. There was some chance in early August that he would drop out. I have a remote is no even the most remote chance. But what I did not. Factor into my calculation and time again, I go back to what I said, all he wants is just to harvest thirty five. He can do and have the country so exhausted with him, they let him retire and teach.
That's what this campaign is about, right, that's all it's about. This is not hyperbolic. This is what you really believe at this point. Trump knows that your view is just to be clear. You think Trump knows he's losing, is now resigned to losing. And that's why I asked the question about the debate, because that would then make sense if he's really trying to lose the race. Well, maybe that makes sense then. He's not trying.
He knows he can't win it. But when you say, you know, if he went to the debate and maybe said I had covid and I really learned something about it and that he is so scared that would affect his thirty five, he doesn't care. He's not going try to get up to forty five his entire calculation. I can't do anything that risked my position with the proud boys of the boogaloo people or whoever. All right. So there's no ongoing debate.
He's not going to say, you know, this has made me a more humble man. He's not going to say anything that you would expect him to do. He can't because he wants the thirty five to be. It's hard for him. And you can see this already in the press. You know, maybe the best thing to do with Trump is let's just get beyond a Trump years, pass the baton, let the guy go, and let's get on and repair our relationships with our allies.
And, you know, let's build the country back together. Let's be less divided. The last thing in the world we need is have a trial with Trump and have, you know. Ten thousand people out, militia men out in front of the courthouse. You know what? And that's an attractive alternative to people, and that's what they bring home, and I can't say it, but you would be stunned how many people that really cover him agree with me.
Right. I mean, I agree I agree with you that he's what he's really trying to do here. Is he out of jail, stay out of jail, hold on to his base and let him go. Right. We've got to do something else right. So, you know, the alternative view is that. He's just getting ready to try to steal it, right, you've said before the only way you can win it is to steal it. And so whether it's voter suppression, which they are actively engaged in, in almost every state, every battleground state in the country already, intimidation, litigation, pollwatchers, trying to build an army of pollwatchers to scare people away, potential for foreign interference.
Again, Russia coming back. That's something thing the FBI director says we've got to watch out for. And then the possibility in the post-election period that he's going to try to like, you know, invalidate a bunch of democratic ballots. This whole thing about mail in ballots, right. Is setting up a fight that says this is all been a rigged system. All that matters is the election day about your view? Is that what that he's given that up or we should still be worried about that?
What I should say on your own is we must win by more than five.
The Ojai's people say we're not going. No, they did. They could count the absentees in Michigan here and that the FDA pre counted in North Carolina, Florida and Georgia. Amobi, be on election night if he carries New Hanover County, North Carolina, he gets 62 percent. In Gwinnett, he gets over 50 and Semino a Duval, it's over. I don't I don't care when you count the votes in Michigan.
But again, just come back to the question I'm trying to ask you is this is do you now think he basically is is resigned to losing and he's just trying to make a quiet exit and stay out of jail on one hand? Or do you think he's going to fight like hell to try to win this thing, but just not win it through Democratic means he's going to try to steal it? Which of those two is the way he's going? There's a point.
But what you cannot see election are even Neil Gorsuch at a point. If it's close, we're going to lose it. Stole the 2000 election that really changed the world because it told them they could steal an election right in front of you. And, of course, all of the press that Al Gore did a noble thing. OK, if you close, they'll steal it from you.
To steal it from me say, I do not think this is going to be close. But if it's within five and if he can just make it where there's any doubt that's going to strengthen his bargaining position to let him go tomorrow, Lago. All right, and stop this, if he gets beat the way that I think he will. In a way that I hope you will it's there's nothing I could do in public if you ever looked at the Republican Senate map in twenty twenty two.
It's really shitty for them, it's as bad a map as I've ever seen. Right. So if Biden carries Florida by six, which you will. And Rhonda Santo's in the Florida legislature says we're just going to instruct the Florida electors to vote for Trump. What do you think Marco's got to say? I just got beat, you just can't do that. And there's a point at which no matter how tough and hard and corrupt and venal and partisan you are, there is a point at which you just cannot steal an election.
So that's the thing. That's the point I really want to get to here is this is this thing, I think, the story of this week.
I said, mention sodium pentothal earlier, I think if you gave sodium pentothal to the 500 most influential people in politics right now, they all would cough up one word. The word would be landslide. And some of them would put a question mark at the end of it. Some of them wouldn't. But right now, everyone's thinking about that. Ted Cruz on CNBC. Last Friday said that that if people are upset and depressed on Election Day, he said, quote, I think we could lose the White House and both houses of Congress.
That could be it could be a bloodbath of Watergate proportions. That's Ted Cruz talking about the state of the race. You hear McConnell McConnell's freaking out about the Lindsey Graham race, which you talked about before a little bit. You know, even inside the White House, as I suggested earlier, people are starting to like, look at this and say, wait, the thing that we thought could never happen in this polarized a country that you would never see an election where a president could again win four hundred electoral votes.
People are now talking about that as a possibility. They're looking at these polls. They're looking at the Senate races, and that is on everyone's mind. Now, Democrats don't want to talk about it because they don't want their people to be complacent. Republicans don't want to talk about it because they don't want to have the people be demoralized. Media is is has PTSD from 2016, doesn't want to be wrong. Again, the cable networks need the drama for ratings.
No one wants to come out and say the word landslide. But it's everybody you and I know is thinking about. Is it possible? Do you see that? Is that what you're as you sit here, you're thinking, yeah, a landslide could happen. That's where we could be headed, according to Nate Silver. I need to make understand his model. OK, but I think he's got some of idea and he says there's a thirty five percent chance he is being.
Unduly cautious. So it was in September, Politico. Had a headline and it says, Trump Narrows Gap in Wisconsin. I said, oh shit, sort of Marquette poll he was may not be exactly right. It was forty nine forty four in the last poll and it was now forty eight. Forty four. Right. All right. But Politico knows if you have anything remotely bad news, every Democrat is going to glom onto it is going to send it to you.
Every Republican is if you say Wisconsin stable. Nobody is going to send it to you, right, OK? I mean, it is like every nervous people always tell me, don't say that, James, don't say that. You just don't know. I do know a shit all my life. I know I'm not scared to say it. And I say, you know what Kingslee like when you go on TV? You say what you think, but I wish you wouldn't say.
You think Biden is going to win? Well, I can't go on TV and say what I think, and I think I'm going to win a contradictory statement. OK.
All right. The following Senate race is a plus or minus two and a half. Texas, two in Georgia, the one in Georgia is a little different. So let's just say one in Georgia, South Carolina, probably North Carolina, Kansas, Montana, Maine, Alaska. All right.
Let's just say that's eight. I don't know. Don't forget Colorado.
Colorado is not a minus two and a half Colorado. Well, OK. Well, you're saying those are that close. That's out of reach, right? I, I Colorado, Arizona are gone for Republicans. So does he have eight states that are plus or minus two and a half right now. That is not going to break for four. That would be the most it will break six to seven months now, it could theoretically break against us. But I think the odds are so good people allocate.
They allocate like it's all going to go down the middle, and that generally does not happen. I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but it is unlikely anything. I think you've covered politics long enough to say you'd probably agree with me on that.
Oh, I agree with you about that. So you see it. You've used your leg.
You're thinking you're thinking it right now. You're in you're more confident that you're willing to come right out and just say not just that Biden is going to win, but you think high probability, reasonably high probability of a landslide proportion kind of victory. Yeah. And I'll say, what about John Maynard Keynes, one of my heroes? He said, to affect change, I change my mind. What do you do?
You know, the facts as I see them now lead to that. So I'm just saying right now. Every piece of evidence I see. Tells me it's going to be a big year. I mean, we thought we had maxed out on House seats. I mean, you got a guy like Mark Gersh who is like Mark is one of the more internally not particularly optimistic, even David Washerman, you know, who's hardly a Democratic Holmer every time, but every 10 races they move.
They move the Democratic way, right? I mean, Charlie Cook is a fellow Louisiana guy, he's one of my oldest friends. They move things like you move a battleship, they don't just stick. They're not very cavalier about changing a race likely to lead to toss up in everything you see. Goes in one direction, right? And so if that's evidence. And they talk to every pollster, they talk to every body on the ground and they read everything and they got great contacts.
And I just place a lot of. Value and overall, what they're saying, you know, the notion that Biden, given his biography and given his his makeup and his appeal. I think a lot of people thought, you know, that Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania were places where he'd be very competitive and he seemed that seems to be true right now. But if you go to the landslide scenario, what it entails is a big thing happening, which is Democrats suddenly winning a bunch of states in the southwest where you're from, the Sunbelt, which has been the core of Republican dominance for a long time.
So you're now talking about North Carolina and Florida and Arizona in the battleground states, but you now have better work out there saying, hey, you could take Texas, Joe Biden. And they're they're starting to now spend a little money in Texas and, you know, Missouri. Suddenly you look so competitive. Now, I'm not saying those are all going to fall, James. I'm just saying that, like, I guess that's my question. Is it a world where Georgia has been a toss up for Biden for months now?
Do you see that possibility that that Biden could potentially win some of these states in the Southwest that have been out of reach for Democrats for some period of time, some number of cycles where he just didn't ever say, well, you know, Texas, maybe somebody in the future that could happen. But right now that Barry has been a tossup, you know, basically been a tie and every poll but 20, 20.
So a good poll, I will need confirmation because sometimes even the polls can be wrong. Had Biden get thirty one percent of whites in Georgia. All right. States he got 25. Yep. And lost by two and a half. And by the way, just given a demographic changes, you reran Georgia twenty eighteen to twenty 20 states. You might even win. All right, if Biden is truly getting thirty one percent of the rights in Georgia, he's going to win by four or five points to be that close.
And a basic calculation in Georgia is you figure 60 white, 30 black and 10 other. I get whatever it is, the 30, one of 60, you know, two thirds of ten and ninety five or thirty, and you can do the math in the back of your head. If you talk about the Southwest, I think this can be the first time. It should be 76 maybe in my lifetime where you're going to end up with Democratic senators in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada, right at the southern Rocky Mountains.
They are like New England. Yeah. And Texas. So I have to beddows race and everybody said Texas. And yet all of these quants are saying, you know, twenty, twenty six and February the 18th, Texas is going to cross a big blue state because of the number of non-white in all of a sudden you had this big election up in the sky, namecoin.
But I think he's pretty good. He did an analysis. Better didn't do he didn't have me turn out, didn't help him. Hispanics didn't really care about what you expect, African-Americans, about what you expect. You had this massive share of white voters, you know, so no one wants to say. The most important demographic in the country right now are actually white people. OK, it's 70 percent of the country. I mean, if it's not.
Cool. To say this is actually white people who's going to say he's going to win this election, but if you run a campaign, you're not trying to be cool, you're just trying to win the God damn thing. You know, you're not some urban is sitting around in a coffee shop in Manhattan, you know, theorizing about, you know, Noam Chomsky or whatever his name was, whatever.
Norman, Norman Schwarzkopf, stump speech, Chomsky.
But here's my question. So you made the point you're sure about winning elections and you're not a policy guy. You're not really even a governance guy. You want to have your liberal. You bet. Progressive guys, whatever. That's why you're doing this stuff. But. I think about the story of my time covering politics has been the story of polarization, right? It's been the country increasingly ungovernable. Not a lot getting done. Unproductive Congresses, Democrats dominated more and more by their left flank.
Republicans taking over completely by their right flank. Trump. You know, in the closing days of this election is spending his time talking about how you've got to release Hillary's emails, telling Pompeo she got it, you got to do that, telling Bill Barr he's got to put Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden in jail. You know, that's like crazy talk, right? Governor Wittmer, we found out this week had a domestic terror plot that was in motion to try to kidnap and kill her.
That is how poisonous our politics are right now.
And the depth of the division has never been worse and more dispiriting for a lot of people. People look at this and say, man, this fucking places is just fucked. So here's my question. A landslide for Biden. Does that is that part of the way that this starts to change with that open the door to breaking the grip of this polarization? And could it point in a direction where we might be governable again and where some of this toxicity might get leached along with the departure of Trump?
Some of this toxicity might get leached out of the system.
OK, so let's assume for a moment that I'm right and it's a big election night. Biden wins.
But what I have learned over time to assume you're assuming that you're right is not always not 100 percent the right thing to do.
But it's often a smart move, which you're going to have is the following. Two things can happen and they're going to try to pick up my seat. And I'm a liberal. I'm not a leftist, but would say, you're going to get this commentary. The Democrats have a blank slate. The truth of the matter is, is that if what happens, that I think happens happens. The incoming Democratic Senate and House caucus will be less progressive than the current Democratic Senate and House caucus.
And people have not figured this out. Hickenlooper and Kelly and Harrison Grosso are coming to town. All right. Jamie Harrison is decidedly not for the Green New Deal or Medicare for all.
It's not like the squad gains power in that scenario. Not at all. But is also the converse is going to happen is the House Republican and Senate caucus is going to be even more conservative than it is now. And so what we're going to have to do is we're probably going to have to be willing to lose some people in our coalition, maybe like the squad can become an adjunct to the party and use that influence on our own close votes. But understand what's going to be coming to town.
If we have a landslide. We we have every seat we can have in Boston, in Manhattan and Los Angeles, you know, and everything else, and I wonder whether as a as a closing thought here, just finish this thought on the on the Republican side. What happens, in your view to the Republican Party is the Republican Party? Post a Biden landslide, or at least Biden wins this thing in a definitive way where people think, you know, he's got a mandate and then Trump has been dispatched.
Is the party is the Republican Party, does it go back to quote, I'm going to put quotes around this, quote, normal, or is the Republican Party still a Trump party or is it a power struggle? What happens to that party you have spent so much of your life trying to to beat? Is it a rump party that's left, you know, picking up table scraps or is that a party that now begins some kind of process of rebirth and regeneration and and renewal?
And who would have thought that?
You know, Bill Kristol would be like my new best political pal. Not me, not me. We do not know what the effect of this defeat will be on them and understand a lot of the institutional or establishment Republican Party are the home builders. Right? The beer distributors, the realtors association, they're going to be literally wiped out. So what's going to be the effect if they have a terrible defeat and somebody is running on a Trump agenda and as the guy said, you're destined we're going to lose election.
Are you going to do that? You can go ahead and do that. We've taken we've run this horse before, and it's really an egg. And I see a new Republican Party. So you don't know because once people get out of power. They want to be back in power. Yeah, you'd be surprised the number of Republicans that are not at all moderate that will pissed off when Biden pulled his negative spot when Trump got coronaviruses. People texted me, James, what the fuck?
I'll do it. Put them back up and I'm going, I'm talking about hard core. Want to win doctrinaire the the Republicans, Republican, Republicans, pure, not rhinos, not rhinos.
Republicans believe if you go into that caucus, a lot of them are pulling for a landslide. The only way that we don't have to hit bottom until we get better. But once you beat. You look entirely different. Yep. You know, Trump is trying to keep it a cult. Because he think this is way out, cults have never worked in American politics. They've been disruptive. They have cause angst and pain, but they generally do not bring you any power.
Power at his word. It matters, Paula. Listen to me, people power. All right. That is I would say that is probably a very good last word. So thank you for taking the time. And I'm praying for a time when we will get back to I want you to be the right God damn state.
Let's go to my places in New York. That's expensive. And I'll get you to, you know, well, seriously, either you either got to get your ass up here and we got to have dinner or I got to get down there and whatever, like one one, one side or the other. Let's get together. And at some point we'll be able to be in the same place.
A gumbo for lunch. That's good. I man.
Okay. All right, brother. Thank you. Take care. Hell and High Water is a podcast from the recount. Thanks again to James Carville for being here with us. If you like this episode of Hell and High Water, please subscribe to the podcast and leave a nice rating for us on the Apple podcast app that helps people find out what we are doing here. I am your host and the executive editor of the recount, John Heilemann, Lisa Jackson and Scott Carroll engineered this podcast just in turmoil.
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