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Final Presidential Debate Drama Debrief With 'Politico' Correspondent


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump met twice this week, once in debate in Las Vegas. And once, they sat on either side of the cardinal archbishop of New York at the annual Al Smith Dinner.

What shocked people more? That Trump said at the debate he might not accept the results of the election or that Clinton and Trump actually shook hands at the Al Smith Dinner? Glenn Thrush of Politico joins us. Good morning, Glenn. Thanks for being with us.

GLENN THRUSH: Good to be here.

SIMON: I don't want to get dramatic. But what's the possible impact of Donald Trump's statement that he believes the election's rigged and he might not accept the results?

THRUSH: Well, I think, you know, there are a lot of dramatic moments in this campaign. But I haven't really experienced anything like this. You know, when you cover these debates with other reporters, and you're on the scene at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, it's a thousand of us sitting in a room. And when he said that, you could literally hear people gasp. It's just not the kind of thing we've ever heard any presidential candidate say.

SIMON: Well, I mean, is the implication some kind of organized resistance to the result of the election?

THRUSH: I don't know. I mean, we had the sheriff, Sheriff Clarke, his supporter, the sheriff of Milwaukee...

SIMON: Milwaukee County, yeah.

THRUSH: ...Telling people to get the torches and the pitchforks. Look, I don't think that is going to happen. But this kind of precedent is dangerous. And it's really unnerving.

SIMON: Who's alarmed by the - by Donald Trump's statement on this? Is it just - forgive me - the political chattering class, which, I guess - ostensibly of which we are both members...

THRUSH: (Laughter).

SIMON: ...And who he, Mr. Trump, says are helping to rig the election with biased media coverage in any case?

THRUSH: Yeah. Well, yeah. I guess that - I guess we are definitely - us corrupt journalists are definitely the ones who are in the danger zone here. But the real problem here is - let's presume - and all the polls are pointing in this direction - Hillary Clinton wins. You know, we could be having...

SIMON: But - which we don't presume when we cover the news.

THRUSH: We don't presume when we cover the news. But we see estimates. For instance, FiveThirtyEight has her close to a 90-percent favorite in terms of their poll aggregation. If we're just projecting forward - and again, we don't know - this could be a very bitter aftermath.

Forget about honeymoons. You know, I was talking - I convened a roundtable of former campaign chiefs of staff yesterday - Republicans.

And two of them mentioned to me that they thought within the first year of her being in office, Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, would be under great pressure to bring articles of impeachment.

SIMON: During that debate, Hillary Clinton kind of deftly avoided any real response on the Goldman Sachs speeches, on her husband's transgressions, if I might put it delicately, and accusations of pay-to-play relationship between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department. Do you think these are the kind of issues that might persist after November 8, whatever the result?

THRUSH: Absolutely. And, of course, the email issues, as well - we saw this report come out last week of a, quote, unquote, "potential quid pro quo" between the FBI and State Department investigators. This is something that I think Republicans are going to use to unite themselves.

This is a shattered, disunited party. And the one thing that they have in terms of cohesion is what seems to be, for the most part, their mutual collective disdain for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

SIMON: Is there an uprising against Speaker Ryan that's already begun?

THRUSH: I think what's going to happen, if - again, if the polls - and we're projecting forward here - those - he's not likely to lose the speakership. The Republicans are likely to retain control. But a number of, quote, unquote, "moderates" or centrists in his caucus are likely to lose. And that means it's Ryan versus what we call the Freedom Caucus - used to be the old Tea Party caucus. So he could come under significant pressure.

SIMON: Yeah. The numbers aren't necessarily looking his way.


SIMON: Glenn Thrush is the chief political correspondent of Politico. Thanks so much for being back with us.

THRUSH: Great to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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