During Monday’s Morning Joe, the panel discussed a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll and Republican strategist Kristen Soltis Anderson brought up how Republicans have a commanding lead among the 38 percent of voters who list the economy as their most important issue. Anderson noted that the good economy makes voters more accepting of President Trump despite the fact that he sometimes behaves like a “jerk.”
That shocked panelist Mike Barnicle, who suggested that “the acceptance of a deeply, deeply, deeply dishonest President....is the single most important issue of our day.”
Co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski switched topics to the possibility that Republicans will maintain control of the House as Brzezinski took it upon herself to warn: “If America’s reaction to nearly two years of Donald Trump as President is to reward him with continued Republican control of the Senate and House, that would be disastrous on so many levels.”
Brzezinski continued, focusing on President Trump’s approval rating, which has risen to the mid 40s: “Think about that. Nearly half of the people in this country approve of the job this man is doing, even after Charlottesville, porn stars, his humiliation in Helsinki, bowing to Kim Jong-un, ripping babies from their mothers, calling Hispanics breeders, destroying America’s most critical alliances and bankrupting our country.”
Perhaps Brzezinski would understand why “nearly half of the people in this country” approve of President Trump if she listened to former President Bill Clinton, who coined the phrase “it’s the economy, stupid.”
Brzezinski also warned fellow Democrats that they should not count their chickens before they hatch when it comes to their performance in the midterm elections: “With just over two weeks to go, are Democrats still lulling themselves into believing that they will win simply because Trump is abhorrent and history is on their side? That was not enough in 2016…And it won’t be enough now.”
While asking historian Jon Meacham for his take, Scarborough recycled Brzezinski’s talking points about what an awful person President Trump is, wondering: “Donald Trump saying he was in love with Kim Jong-un, embarrassing himself there, after destroying our alliances and after putting America on the path to bankruptcy, highest national debt ever, massive deficit, 45 percent of Americans still say, yeah, I approve of his job as President.”
Meacham attempted to fulfill Scarborough’s request to “put things into perspective,” adding that “Trump is not a wholly new force in American politics, but he is the most vivid manifestation of many of our worst characteristics” and opining how “Donald Trump hasn’t hijacked the country, he has just magnified our darker elements.”
A transcript of the relevant portion from Monday’s edition of Morning Joe is below. Click “expand” to read more.
06:12 a.m. Eastern
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON: And so when you look at the top issues in that NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, the top issue is the economy, 38 percent of voters said that’s their top issue and Republicans in this poll are winning on that issue by the largest margin, I think it said, in the history of the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. So it’s a tradeoff that voters are making in their mind where they’re like, yeah, he’s kind of a jerk but he’s our jerk and maybe the economy is going well. I think that’s the way a lot of voters are thinking about this. There’s one other issue that stuck out to me in this poll that I think is why we have such a sense of this election being up in the air and that’s the question of change. Now, normally in these midterm elections when you’ve got a new President in power, the party out of power is challenging, it’s really we need change, we need something different and sure enough when I go into focus groups and ask people what are they thinking they say, I feel like we can’t keep going on like this, but in this NBC/ Wall Street Journal poll, Republicans win among those on the question of who is going to bring about change to Washington, which is a very strange dynamic for a midterm election like this.
MIKE BARNICLE: Joe, I would submit that the acceptance of a deeply, deeply, deeply dishonest President, the acceptance of that among people is the single most important issue of our day.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Well, it is, and you have to ask, what’s the alternative to Donald Trump? I think one of the most fascinating and disturbing polls that we saw week in and week out during 2016 was honest and trustworthy numbers. Donald Trump was in the mid 30s, at times Hillary Clinton was lower than that, but when people went to the voting booth, actually Hillary Clinton had lower honest and trustworthy numbers than Donald Trump. Right now, there is no national Democrat to balance that against. Right now those national Democrats, if you ask people, they’d say it is Nancy Pelosi, it is Elizabeth Warren, it is Dianne Feinstein, it is perhaps Chuck Schumer, but, you know, Mika, it is an absolute mess and Dianne Feinstein, of course, her name got thrown out there because of the Kavanaugh hearings. And the numbers I looked at, you look at voter intensity, I always say in these midterms it’s not the generic ballot test that matters, it’s voter intensity. Democrats had double digit leads, Mika, before the Kavanaugh hearings, they disappeared in a big way after the Kavanaugh hearings.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Well, that’s news that no Democrat wants to hear, that perhaps the Kavanaugh hearings were misplayed. Look, last week I expressed concern that Democrats were blowing the midterm elections despite the fact that it should not be close. This did not get a good reaction all day on Friday. After looking at the latest polling, though, and reporting out there, that concern has become a grim acceptance that my party is potentially falling short again. If America’s reaction to nearly two years of Donald Trump as President is to reward him with continued Republican control of the Senate and the House, that would be disastrous on so many levels to mention, but that possibility is rising by the day. Look at the numbers. Unless Americans do something about it over the next two weeks. The new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Republicans’ interest in the elections is up, thanks in part to the Kavanaugh hearings, and President Trump’s approval ratings are in the mid 40s. Think about that, nearly half of the people in this country approve of the job this man is doing, even after Charlottesville, porn stars, his humiliation in Helsinki, bowing to Kim Jong-un, ripping babies from their mothers, calling Hispanics breeders, destroying America’s most critical alliances and bankrupting our country and we could go on. With just over two weeks to go, are Democrats still lulling themselves into believing that they will win simply because Trump is abhorrent and history is on their side? That was not enough in 2016.
SCARBOROUGH: No, it wasn’t.
BRZEZINSKI: And it won’t be enough now. This is hard to say. People don’t want to hear it, but the party badly misplayed the Kavanaugh hearings. Like Hillary, they lack a message and their leaders lack heart and unless trends change over the next 15 days, Democrats are going to wake up to the same kind of political reckoning they did two years ago. And at least I believe that will prove a disaster for the Democratic Party, the tradition of divided government and the dream of American democracy. That’s where it’s all on the line right now.
SCARBOROUGH: Well and so much, Jon Meacham, is on the line over the next couple of weeks, and Mika spelled it out. There are a lot of people, a lot of, not just Democrats, there are a lot of Republicans and independents that are going, wait a second, after Charlottesville, after a policy that intentionally puts children in cages, rips babies from their mothers’ arms, intentionally, after porn stars, after the humiliation at Helsinki, after…we could go down the list, Donald Trump saying he was in love with Kim Jong-un, embarrassing himself there, after destroying our alliances and after putting America on the path to bankruptcy, highest national debt ever, massive deficit, 45 percent of Americans still say, yeah, I approve of his job as President. That is very vexing for the 55 percent of us who don’t approve of the way he’s handling himself in the White House. How do we, how do we put that into perspective, Jon?
JON MEACHAM: I think 55/45 is a pretty good way of thinking about it. Trump is not a wholly new force in American politics, he is the…but he is the most vivid manifestation of many of our worst characteristics. And we have to be honest about that. Harry Truman once said that we get the government we deserve. Politicians are far more often mirrors of who we are than they are molders. We like the idea that people…like in Shakespeare’s history plays, you know, Henry V shapes who we are, far more often they reflect who we are. And, you know, the Constitution was written for moments like this. It assumed that we were sinful and driven by ambition and appetite and greed. That’s why they made it so hard for us to get anything done. They basically bet that we would get things wrong more often than we’d get them right and we have proven them correct with astonishing regularity. This is…this is an extreme moment, but it’s not a wholly separate moment and I think that until we genuinely grapple with the fact that Donald Trump hasn’t hijacked the country, he’s just magnified our darker elements, we probably can’t really come to the kind of resolution we need to come to.