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Trump vows to stay in race amid calls to step down; Co-chairmen of debate commission talk town hall format

This is a rush transcript from "Sunday Morning Futures," October 9, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Good Sunday morning, everybody. Thanks so much for joining us. I'm Maria Bartiromo. What a Sunday it is.
Welcome to "Sunday Morning Futures".

Zero chance. Donald Trump says he has zero chance to quit. He says he's not going anywhere in the race for the White House. This come in the wake of a video showing him making lewd comments about women. We will speak to the Trump campaign. Senator Jeff Sessions ahead.

Then, WikiLeaks releasing explosive e-mails from the Clinton campaign. Some of those include excerpts from Clinton's paid speeches behind closed doors. Just how damaging are those.

And all eyes on the St. Louis tonight debate for the second presidential.
What will candidates say?

As we look ahead right now on "Sunday Morning Futures".

(MUSIC)

BARTIROMO: What, we're about 30 days away from the second from second -- from the presidential election and just a few hours away from the second presidential debate. It is all about the debate today. Both sides of this race are preparing this morning.

And we are getting ready to speak with one of the leaders of the Trump campaign, and that is Senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama. We will get Sessions commentary on that video and why Trump seems to be digging in and staying in this race regardless of calls for him to step aside. In fact, some of those calls are looking at Governor Mike Pence, should he be at the top of the ticket right now?

Clinton and her team are on the attack and they are ready for battle tonight.

Joining me right now to preview what we might see is Ed Rollins, who we're going to see later on in the program once again.

And, Ed, good to see you.

ED ROLLINS, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you.

BARTIROMO: You've been around this time umpteen times. What's your take on this, Ed?

ROLLINS: I've never seen one like this. This is -- this is, you know, this is a campaign that's get a month ago four weeks to go, it's almost dead even raised before this tape came out, and Trump's had a bad 10 days, there's no question about that ever since the debate. But if he gets it back on issues and he gets it back on the difference between him and Hillary on the substance, the economy, his tax plan, you know, he may get back to this race.

If it's gonna be a mud fight, you know -- if you get in a mud fight, the only one that gets satisfied is the pig, every else gets dirty. And my sense is they're expert in doing this and it would be foolish battle for him. He doesn't have the team or doesn't have the organization.

His biggest problem is if for some reason, the RNC decides to pull out, which is indications that it might be, then it's very hard for him to get to this race.

BARTIROMO: You know what strikes me, Ed -- I mean, Donald Trump has said so many things over the last year, and in any other world, this race would have been over a long time ago. Donald Trump would have-- would have lost a long time ago.

What he said about John McCain, what he said about so many other things, and yet, it's still at 50/50, Ed Rollins. And what strikes me is how unlikable she really is that people are reluctantly or saying, okay, I'm not surprised at what he said and staying with Trump, staying with change.

ROLLINS: Well, the bottom line is they're not sure what kind of President Trump will be. They think he obviously has been a successful businessman, but he'll be better than what's there, and they know that she won't be I think to the certain extent, her policies are more taxes, more basically entitlement programs, and what have you. And I think people just don't want to go back to that.

But I tell you this, the warning sign right now is he that there is a slight erosion and he's got to have women, he's going to have older women, he's got to basically have a suburban women, he's basically have young women, and he's got to have the Evangelicals to be supporters. And if any group starts to move away, it's this one, and so, he's got to really do a lot of mea culpa, I'm sorry, that it was me 10 years ago, it's not who I am today.

BARTIROMO: Yes.

ROLLINS: And move forward on that front.

BARTIROMO: All right, Ed. I'm going to talk more to you coming up in the program.

I want to bring in Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions right now, a Trump campaign adviser.

Senator, thanks very much for joining us.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, R-ALA.,: Thank you, Maria.

BARTIROMO: How does he dig in and say, I'm not quitting when you've got the likes of Condoleezza Rice saying, please step down, you've got people within his party, Kelly Ayotte saying, "There's no way, I can endorse him", Jason Chaffetz? How does he believe he can move forward at this point?

SESSIONS: Maria, this is the movement. It's not led from the top. It's led from the bottom. He did all the endorsements went to other people in the primary and he crushed them. He'd beat 16 people. He had the largest number of votes any Republican primary candidate has ever gotten.

So, what he needs to do is return to his people and make sure that they understand who he is, what his vision for America is, and how what he's doing is authentic, it's truthful, he's going to help them with their daily lives. And what she is, is the typical politician he's been running against, and that is somebody who says one thing on Election Day and does another thing when she gets elected and takes office.

And that's what those WikiLeaks show. She admitted openly that she has a secret plan contrary to what she publicly states.

BARTIROMO: Look, authenticity is one word to put it, that's for sure, with regards to Trumpet.

But, Senator let me ask you this -- put aside the vulgarity of what he said, that's bad enough. Let's put that aside for a moment and look at judgment. Even supporters this morning are saying, wow, bad judgment to speak this way. So, how are supporters supposed to get over that?

I'm not surprised that Donald Trump has said lewd things in private. I don't think many people are surprised. Donald Trump has said whatever he wants to say for the last year.

But when you consider the fact that judgment is so critical to be the person in that Oval Office, how do people get beyond that?

SESSIONS: Well, because it was 11 years ago when he was in -- I thought he was in a private conversation. But it it's a kind of language that he does need to apologize for and he needs to apologize because it basically means women and is not respectful, and I think that's the fundamental problem there.

It wasn't in the kind of illegal or extreme or malicious or mean-spirited comments, it was just -- it was very demeaning. So, I think it needs to address that. He needs to apologize for it.

But his advocacy and for sound policies, ending this unlawful immigration -- Hillary Clinton said on those sacred speeches that she believes in open borders. Flat-out, she believes in open borders. She won't tell the American people that, but her policies and Barack Obama's policies are open border policies. I've been saying it for years now.

BARTIROMO: Yes.

SESSIONS: So, the American people are sick of this kind of one statement to them and another thing an election day, he's run against that all the way through. That issue has legs that will go to Election Day, in my opinion.

BARTIROMO: Yes. No, I think those emails were damaging, but the -- you know, the spotlight on Donald Trump is bright right now, and here we are all on you yes, go ahead, Senator?

SESSIONS: Well, I was just going to say, yes, it's a pile on, full-fledged attack on him if they can decapitate the leader of this movement, they decapitate the movement.

So, this is a big deal this time in his performance tonight and what happens in the next few weeks is important. And I think I Republican colleagues just need to take a deep breath here and slow down.

We have a man who's bringing in new voters into our party. He's going to get an unprecedented number of union votes. He's getting out good numbers among African-Americans.

So, I think this is the kind of thing that we need to evaluate what's happening out there and on this issue of these tapes, important right now, and it's hurt but it's not the end of the game, I assure you.

Let me ask you about the debate. It's all about the debate now. This is probably the most important debate and most important presidential election in many of our lifetime. So, the last debate, there was a lot of talk that the entire debate, Donald Trump was on defense. He was explaining about how he started his business, explaining how his father may or may not have helped him, explaining his tax returns, explaining Miss Universe comments.

How is he not on defense when he walks in there tonight and how is this going to be a better debate performance than we had in the first debate, knowing that he is one hundred percent on defense because of this tape?

SESSIONS: Maria, it's not going to be easy. There's no doubt about it. It is easy for us to say, you should pivot and to get on the offensive immediately. But for somebody who hasn't spent his life in politics like Hillary Clinton has spent her life in politics, it's not as easy as people say. So, you're right, it's going to be a challenge.

And, certainly, Hillary as an answer for every single thing. She's a smooth talker. She talks.

What Donald Trump is, is a builder, a doer, a man who wants results and we haven't gotten results for the American people and that's what he's selling and that's what he needs to talk about.

BARTIROMO: Yes, and that's what he's preparing for this morning?

SESSIONS: Yes, he's been preparing and, of course, you know, all these recent developments has got to have broken on the plans of -- you had to focus on certain other issues, so it's going to be an interesting evening. He's going to have a very difficult challenge before him.

But the man is talented. He's strong. He's courageous and we may, I think we're going to see the kind of on performance and projection of his values, and his vision for America that people want to hear.

BARTIROMO: Senator, real quick. You just mentioned the open borders. You've done so much good work on immigration, and I know that that was one the reasons that Donald Trump rely on you so much early in this campaign.

Let me ask you about that and how you're going to push your agenda or that agenda of keeping Americans safe and policy around immigration regardless.
I mean, how are going to do that in Congress and the Senate?

SESSIONS: Well, the most dramatic thing is the American people have to know, Congress really can't get this done if the president won't even it carry out the laws of the United States and Hillary Clinton is to the left of Barack Obama. She has said repeatedly -- for example, she wants to bring in 65,000 refugees from Syria, the Obama administration last year was 10,000. This is dramatic on to the left of him on a host of issues.

So, if she's elected president, I'm not sure we can fix it. This may be the last chance for America to reestablish a lawful system of immigration. Remember in that secret speech she gave that was revealed Friday, she said she believed in open borders.

BARTIROMO: Yes.

SESSIONS: Open borders, that is a radical position that cannot get to support of the American people. It will be in the forefront of November when people vote.

BARTIROMO: Is that the most important policy that Donald Trump needs to push or is it his economic policy?

SESSIONS: Well, I think it's a kind of policy that will go to November because she says one thing in public and another in private.

Trade is also, Maria. These trade agreements have not worked. I've studied them. I voted for them in the past, but they're not working for the American people, they know it, and she says on that -- in that speech to the big bankers are giving her money, she said in that speech that she wants a free trade zone like the European Union for the Americas, the Western Hemisphere.

We're not ready for that.

BARTIROMO: Yes.

SESSIONS: This vast gulf between our economies, the British are pulling out of the EU. We absolute don't need to be going down that path by having a president with that as a secret agenda for our country.

BARTIROMO: But real quick, Senator, is a 45 percent tariffs on China goods better?

SESSIONS: Well, he never really said he wanted to do that.

BARTIROMO: OK.

SESSIONS: He said you can put that kind of tariffs up. He did say that because some have estimated and we're being cheated by that much. He just said you have to stand up for America and replace it. But he believes in trade, he absolutely does, he does not want to end trade. He just is going to use the powers that we have, the market power we have, the access they want in our market to push back against unfair trading practices and defend American manufacturing and American workers.

I really believe Donald Trump he's got it right on trade and he's a good negotiator, and he'll push back and we'll get some of improvement in our relationships without trading partners.

BARTIROMO: Senator, we will be watching tonight. Thanks so much for joining us this morning.

SESSIONS: Thank you, Maria.

BARTIROMO: We will see you soon. Senator Sessions there.

Hillary Clinton meanwhile facing a new email problem now. Let's go to the other side. WikiLeaks are releasing thousands of hacked messages from her campaign chief, apparently show excerpts from her paid Wall Street speeches. What is this latest document dump mean for tonight's debate and beyond?

Follow me on Twitter @MariaBartiromo, @SundayFutures. What do you want to hear from Gene Sperling? He's up next and we're live.

Stay with us. We're looking ahead on "Sunday Morning Futures" right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARTIROMO: Welcome back.

Hillary Clinton potentially facing some big problems of her own this weekend, heading into tonight's Town Hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis after WikiLeaks released a trove of emails apparently hacked from her campaign Chairman's account, containing thousands of messages revealing for the first time alleged excerpts of her paid speeches to Wall Street firms.

Let's talk about it right now with Gene Sperling, he is a Clinton campaign senior economic advisor and he is the former director of the National Economic Council for both Presidents Clinton and Obama.

Gene, it's good to see you. Thank you so much for joining us.

GENE SPERLING, CLINTON CAMPAIGN SENIOR ECONOMIC ADVISOR: Well, thanks, Maria. It's good to be here.

BARTIROMO: All right. Let's kick it off with these emails, Gene, and I think one of the most damaging out there is apparently from April 2013. And here's the quote, "If everybody's watching, you know, all of the backroom discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position."

She's talking about trade here and how she was brought up in a modest household, but now, she enjoys a luxurious and rich life with her husband Bill Clinton. So, maybe she doesn't relate to those people who are struggling, so much maybe she needs a private position on trade, as well as a public position on trade. It's almost like, Gene, are you lying now or are you lying later.

So, what should we believe?

SPERLING: So, Maria, first thing is like let's just like recognize what we're talking about. I mean, it's hard to respond in the following way, Maria, which is that, normally, I would not respond to anything I didn't know was verified and said. This is -- let's remember how extraordinary this is. This is the Russian government hacking a senior official of a Democratic Party for the purpose of trying to help the Republican candidate, and this is the U.S. intelligence sources agreeing and verifying that you have report -- you have Russian officials, the Russian government hacking, trying to hack to affect our campaign.

I don't know exactly what's in there, what's right, what's not right. This is -- let's remember what this is. This is their version of what they said was a memo to John Podesta describing -- somebody describing some excerpts. So, you, know I mean for me, Maria, I feel like you want to ask me about what are her positions are, I have known her for 24 years. I have worked with her on these positions on Wall Street.

I was there in 2007 and 2008, when she, long before -- much before the worst of the crisis, called for a freeze on foreclosures, called for a freeze on adjustable-rate mortgages going up, call for a homeowner's one, called for regulating derivatives.

BARTIROMO: Right.

SPERLING: I was there with her with Gary Gensler and others early in the campaign when we talked about her talking about having a plan that was going to take on too big to fail and too big to jail.

And if you look at Hilary Clinton, she was the one who was talking very strongly about increasing clawbacks from executive compensation, et cetera, long before the Wells Fargo happen.

So, you know, I don't know what experts came out of a line here or a line there, but let's look at her record. Let's look at what she has done and what she's put forward in this campaign. She's opposed TPP. She was against NAFTA trade agreement.

BARTIROMO: Well, she was for TPP, Gene. To be fair, first, she was for TPP, and then she just turned against it.

And a lot of people basically feel like she should not have turned against TPP, by the way, a lot of people in her camp. They feel that we should have free trade.

SPERLING: Well, you know what, Maria, a lot of people get very excited about buying a house or buying a car and then they kicked the tires, they look in, and then they make a decision whether they're going to, you know, go for it, or whether it's not a good enough deal to go to accept it.

And in her case, she was working for president who with the best intentions wanted to put together a trade deal that was going to isolate China, that was going to be much better than the deals we've had before. She was part of that team. She looked at. She worked on it.

BARTIROMO: Right.

SPERLING: And then she left and had to look two years later how it turned out. He had to take the tires.

BARTIROMO: Yes.

SPERLING: She thought it was not strong enough on currency manipulation, on rule of the origin.

BARTIROMO: Gene, stay right there. Stay right there, Gene, I want to keep this going, but we've got to take a quick break. We'll be right back with more Gene Sperling.

SPERLING: Sure thing.

BARTIROMO: Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARTIROMO: Welcome back.

I am joined right now by Clinton campaign senior economic adviser, Gene Sperling.

We're in the middle of a conversation. He's also the former director of the National Economic Council for both Presidents Clinton and Obama.

And, Gene, before we went to the break, you basically said, look, Clinton looked at this, she kicked the tires on TPP after first she was for it, she decided, you know what, this is not good and I'm going to be against it.

Why is she against it? I mean, there's a lot of people out there, and you know, I'm speaking to CEOs of global businesses all the time and they say we want TPP. So, what what's the problem?

SPERLING: Look, I think Hillary Clinton feels the central issue in our campaign and in the country right now is a middle-class security, whether we have a broad, inclusive middle class and whether or not we're reducing economic inequality. These are the central issues and what she is focused on is whether we're having job creation that encourages location, value added jobs in the United States. And I think you know she's not somebody who's always been for trade agreements.

You know, the main multilateral trade agreement that took place when she was in the Senate was CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and she was against that. She has been case-by-case on trade and she looks at what is the impact it's going to have on workers, on manufacturing and again, I think we should look at things like rule of origin, a currency manipulation, other measures like that.

She did not feel that this met her test for the type of job creation and that she wanted the type of job creation if she wanted and that she wants to put her focus on a plan that's going to focus on manufacturing, on small business, on infrastructure, things that will tighten the labor market further lead to higher wages and then things that will affect family security like family medical leave, pay family medical leave and childcare.

This is the heart and soul of her agenda and I just think that for her, TPP didn't meet the test and that, you know, she's as made clear that she is against it now, and it will be against it during the lame duck and after the campaign. But she is going to be fighting for a stronger economy that's going to work for middle-class families and for poor families to move up. That's the focus.

And, you know, we understand people disagree. Look, President Obama who her and I both work for who we think is honorable -- you know, not just honorable man, but a champion the middle class disagrees.

But this is where she is and she did it by looking closely at the final deal and I think that's what people would want of their president.

BARTIROMO: That's really what she's got to focus on tonight right for the debate. By the way, everything you just said, it sounds like she agrees with Donald Trump, on TPP.

But let me ask you about the debate, and about economic policy because you're so good on policy and you're there in St. Louis for the debate tonight. How is she going to walk this balance tonight, Gene, by talking about creating jobs, when in fact we have an economy that is crawling along?

You know we just got the jobs numbers out on Friday, Gene. It was a hundred fifty six thousand jobs for the month of September, below expectations, a lot of people are upset. They haven't seen their wages moved in so long.

How is she going to say, I'm going to create jobs when in fact she's raising taxes on the highest earners and, Gene, you and I know that's gonna hit small business. Small business is the biggest creator of jobs, why are you raising taxes on small business, Gene?

SPERLING: Boy, you said a lot of things there. You know, I'm a Michigan football fan. We're fourth in the country now. We were eight and eight just couple of years ago. So you know what we think? We think we've gotten way, way better, not quite good enough yet, we'd like to get to number one and beat Ohio State.

Look at the U.S. economy. Barack Obama inherited it when we were on the verge of depression. If you look at job creation, Maria, you had 15 million private sector jobs over the last five, six years. That's the best since when, since the Clinton administration, better than any of the previous Republican administrations.

And on wages, even on wages and income, you know the census report to show the largest one time increase in household income, 2,805 percent and that wages are up to 2.8 percent.

BARTIROMO: I know. But they're still below the `90s, Gene. They're still lower than when they were in the `90s.

SPERLING: Yes, absolutely. And so, what it shows is that the kind of economic plan that focuses on the middle class has led to a lot of enormous improvement, a lot of reason things haven't been better is more that Republicans block things that Barack Obama was trying to do on infrastructure, on modernizing schools, on strengthening manufacturing.

So, I think what she's going to be saying is exactly that.

(CROSSTALK)

BARTIROMO: Wow. He has both houses on his team in the first four years, Gene, and he still didn't make--

SPERLING: No, he had both houses on his team for the first two years, and what did he do? He helped take us from a near depression to out of recession in just six months, and we -- you know, Maria, here's a trivia question, what was Mitt Romney's number one goal when he ran in 2012? It was to reduce the unemployment rate to six percent by the end of 2016.

So, we're sitting here now --

BARTIROMO: Wow.

SPERLING: -- with unemployment at five percent. It's been even lower. Fifteen million private sector jobs, a very strong job creation element.

So, I think, you know, I think she can say exactly that because of Barack Obama and because of that kind of focus, things have gotten stronger. But she can come in now, not having to spend her first years focusing on financial crisis. She can zero right in on middle-class security, middle- class wages and, Maria, we are going to help the small businesses.

She has a new small business tax cut, including a new standard deduction for small business simplification, better tax cuts for small businesses providing health care for expensing.

But here's what she's not going to do -- she's not going to use the pretext of small business to say that investment bankers, hedge fund managers, corporate tax lawyers, get a 15 percent rate which is what Donald Trump had. At the same time, under Donald Trump's plan --

BARTIROMO: So, you don't think lowering corporate takes --

SPERLING: -- a worker making $40,000 would get a -- would get a -- would pay a 25 percent rate. By his own plan, somebody making $40,000 pays a higher marginal rate that a person with business or partnership income making four million dollars. Yes, she's going to oppose that.

BARTIROMO: But where have the highest corporate taxes in the industrialized world gone us, Gene -- 156,000 jobs for the month. I mean, come on, the last eight years, we have been seeing these high taxes for corporates, they're not spending money, Gene. They're not investing in people. They're not investing R&D.

SPERLING: Maria, you keep saying something that's just not correct, which is that the number of jobs being created over last few years has not been strong. It's been so much stronger than any Republican administration we've seen in 20 years, and unemployment has come down to five percent. Much --

(CROSSTALK)

BARTIROMO: Welcome back.

I want to apologize for that rough out of our interview with Gene Sperling. My thanks to Gene Sperling and my apologies that we had to get out of that interview with a hard break. Apologies, everybody. We will have Gene Sperling back very soon on the Fox Business Network, as well as on this program.

Meanwhile, it is round two for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump tonight. The pressure is on for the Republican nominee in tonight's debate certainly. Trump comes into the matchup with eroding support from his own party, following his latest controversy. The turmoil possibly adding to the unpredictable nature that already surrounds a town-hall style format of tonight's face-off.

Joining me right now are the two chairmen of the debate commission, Mike McCurry and Frank Fahrenkopf, co-chairmen for the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

FRANK FAHRENKOPF, CO-CHAIRMAN, COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES: Glad to be here, Maria.

MIKE MCCURRY, CO-CHAIRMAN, COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES: Nice to be with you.

BARTIROMO: We should point out that Mr. McCurry is also, the former secretary to President Clinton.

Gentlemen, it is good to have you and obviously, the interest in tonight's debate could not be higher than it is right now.

Let me ask you about the town hall format and why this format was chosen. Frank, kick us off here -- in terms of town hall versus one-on-one or one- on-two moderator style.

FAHRENKOPF: Well, it's also a change from town hall in the past Maria because previously we have normally about a hundred people from the statistical marketing area, in the St. Louis area, that would be in bleachers. We felt that that was getting a little stale, and so, what we've done this time is we sort of cut it in half.

So we're going to have about 40 people on stage who will have the ability to ask questions. We have to moderators as you know, Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz, and they were half of the debate going to balance it will also be asking questions that have come in through social media where they themselves have selected questions.

And it's to see the candidates in another environment rather than just standing behind podiums. We've had a town hall meeting since '92, that's when it was first put in place, and we've kept it every cycle since.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCURRY: Maria, let me let me make one point on this format, too. You know, we do in the off years when there are no presidential debates here, our staff goes around the world to help consult with other countries. And one thing that they say over and over again is they think it's remarkable that in the American democratic system, we have average citizens standing up and questioning our leaders. That doesn't happen in a lot of countries and so, that's another important aspect of this town hall format.

BARTIROMO: How do you make sure that the debate doesn't get dominated by sort of the news of the day? I mean, obviously, tonight, and I know you gentlemen are not going to weigh in on this latest controversy around Donald Trump or around Hillary Clinton. But how do you ensure that in fact the questions that the American people want answered are looked at? For example, immigration -- you know, vetting at our borders, jobs, and the economy and economic growth. How does it not get dominated by what Donald Trump said on a tape 11 years ago?

MCCURRY: Well, I'd I'll take a crack at that. You know, it's our two moderators Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz that they control the questions and they get to decide who gets -- who gets to ask what. Now, the other point is that we've got real American citizens that are there on the stage asking questions.

And I think it's much more likely that they're going to talk about and ask about the things that are on their mind -- immigration, economic policy, trade, as you were just talking about with Gene, you know issues it really are on the minds of the American people, that, yes, the media's, you know, currently consumed in the frenzy over some of the issues that have erupted in the last couple of days. But, you know, it will be up to these citizens and then the moderators who actually picked the questions and they'll get to a chance to kind of talk to these town hall participants, find out what's on their mind.

BARTIROMO: Right.

MCCURRY: And then they get to select from that, what are we going to really talk about it this debate tonight -- and hopefully, it'll be a lot more than just what the current controversy of the day is.

BARTIROMO: How are the moderators chosen?

FAHRENKOPF: Well, that's what one of the hardest things we have to do, Maria. We watch a great deal of television because we pretty much decided over the years that we've got to go to the electronic media, although we make some changes in the future, for people who are used to working with this in their ear, because the moderators you know, has got connect with the producer offstage, has to keep time.

We also watched this make sure that we're not talking about someone with bias one way or the other. We try to find people who are going to go right down the middle.

It's very, very difficult thing for us to do. We also look for diversity and we’er actually quite proud of the people that we came up with in this series of debates. But it's a very, very hard decision, because normally what happens whoever thinks maybe they lost the debate, they blame it on the moderator.

BARTIROMO: Right.

FAHRENKOPF: So, you got to have a lot of -- a lot of gumption to do this. It's not easy.

BARTIROMO: Did both campaigns have to weigh in and given an OK to each moderator?

MCCURRY: No, no, we are very clear about that, that you do not get a chance to bet the moderators. We use our best judgment and then we basically advise the campaign's that this is who we've selected that we're going with,

(CROSSTALK)

FAHRENKOPF: There used to be -- there used to be a debate over the debate. Remember, Maria, for a long time?

BARTIROMO: Yes.

FAHRENKOPF: We picked the dates. We picked the locations. We picked the format and we pick the moderators, without consultation.

BARTIROMO: Well, the moderators know what the audience wants to ask? In other words, will the moderators see the questions in advance? And, of course, will the candidates the questions in advance?

MCCURRY: Well, they need to and they will have an opportunity to get to know the 40 citizens that will be sitting there on stage today.

BARTIROMO: The moderators?

MCCURRY: They'll have a good idea of the kinds of questions that they want to ask. The moderators, not the candidates.

BARTIROMO: Of course.

MCCURRY: The campaigns, the candidates, and we on the commission will have no idea what's being asked, and then, of course, they will also be screening some of the questions coming in from social media. From Facebook, who is one of our partners in this debate, Twitter or other social media sites. So, they will know what kinds of questions they want to do.

But it's up to the moderators to work that into the program. They've got an extraordinarily difficult to challenge I think, even more so than Lester Holt and then your colleague Chris Wallace who will moderate the third debate. This one is probably technically a lot more challenging.

So, we've given them a very hard assignment.

BARTIROMO: Yes. Well, congratulations to the both of you. It's going to be widely watched. We will be there and talking about it the next stage.

Gentlemen, thank you, very much. We appreciate it.

FAHRENKOPF: Thanks, Maria.

MCCURRY: Thank you.

BARTIROMO: We will see you soon.

Let's take a look at what's coming up on "Media Buzz", Howie Kurtz, in St. Louis today.

Howie, good morning to you.

Doesn't look like Howie has my audio. He's not hearing me.

He's in St. Louis. We're going to take you back to St. Louis shortly.

Howie, how are you there?

HOWARD KURTZ, "MEDIA BUZZ" HOST: Hello, Maria.

BARTIROMO: Hello.

KURTZ: I'm here. Sorry, we have little audio problem.

BARTIROMO: We'll see you in 20 minutes. What's coming up?

KURTZ: There's been one story that has dominated the media for the last 24 hours.

BARTIROMO: Really?

KURTZ: That, of course, the old truck tape and Access Hollywood. We're going to look at what that's over the top with the media trying to push Donald Trump out of this race and we will talk to the reporter who broke the story.

Much more here coming from St. Louis.

BARTIROMO: How long did they sit on that story before releasing the tape, Howie? That's what I was interested in knowing earlier. How long --

KURTZ: At least a year.

(CROSSTALK)

BARTIROMO: How long have they known they had that tape of Donald Trump?

KURTZ: It's amazing that it took this long to come out and now it comes out on the eve of the second debate. Some suspicious questions about the timing here.

BARTIROMO: All right. What a coincidence.

Thank you, Howie. We will see you in 20 minutes. I want to see what you have to say about that.

KURTZ: Thanks.

BARTIROMO: What can we expect tonight? Our panel is next and it's a good one. Stay with us

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARTIROMO: Welcome back. Take a live look at Washington University in St. Louis. The action has begun. The site of tonight's second presidential debate. It's going to be big, where Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will face off and they had twin controversies this weekend.

I want to bring our panel right now.

Ed Rollins is a former campaign manager for the Reagan-Bush ticket in 1984. He's the chief strategist for a Trump super PAC.

Shelby Holliday, senior media reporter for "The Wall Street Journal" is with us today.

And Tony Sayegh is Republican political strategist, the executive vice president of Jamestown Associates and a FOX News contributor.

Good to see, everybody. Thank you so much for joining us.

ROLLINS: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

BARTIROMO: Ed Rollins, you're still on that super PAC. A lot of your colleagues in the GOP are walking away from Donald Trump.

ROLLINS: I've sort of always operated out of the fact that when you're in one of these battles, is like being in the Alamo. There's no back door.
You stay in this thing, you finish it.

Donald Trump earned the nomination. He now has to try and bring people to the game. Politics is a game of addition and from here on out, he's going to add voters every single day and not lose voters.

BARTIROMO: Can he survive this, Shelby?

SHELBY HOLLIDAY, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Tonight's a huge night for him. I mean, I can't emphasize how much is riding on the debate. He needs to prove that he's the change agent, as well as a changed man, and he needs to take a page out of the Pence playbook, which is deflect and attack Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton's dealing with some of her own fallout and if he cannot emphasize that, it may be over.

BARTIROMO: I think it's a good point that you make in terms of a changed man because, Tony, that's one of the things that he said in that apology -- I've met a lot of people over the last year.

TONY SAYEGH, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Sure.

BARTIROMO: I've heard them. I've changed.

Do we believe it?

SAYEGH: And these comments were made 11 years ago at a very different time in Donald Trump's life, but certainly different priorities. He was much more about entertainment celebrities. So, clearly, every person has a chance to evolve and also be redeemed, and I think that's a point he'll make tonight.

Let's also remember something else. I would suggest taking a page out of the Bill Clinton playbook in 1992 when he was barrage by a lot of scandal related to sexual innuendo and full of -- infidelity and Bill Clinton just charged and plowed on. He did not allow that to stop him. He campaigned for every vote, works really hard, and look what ultimately happened.

BARTIROMO: Yes.

SAYEGH: The American electorate has a very interesting aspect to them -- we are big believers in redemption and contrition. So, tonight, Donald Trump has to be candid and he has to be contrite. If he doesn't do that, it's going to be very hard to pull off this one.

ROLLINS: One very important to that point -- these are cumulative damage. If he hadn't gone after Miss Universe, after the last debate which did severe damage to -- probably more different damage that he did not having a good debate, it just adds up and basically -- and so, from here on out, his whole thing's got to be going to have his wife by his side, his daughter by his side, he's going to be talking about issues that matter to women, because women are the key to this election right now.

BARTIROMO: Yes, but let's not let's not forget, he goes into this debate on defense and that -- and that first debate, that's what the problem was.
As soon as he walked out to the stage, he was on defense. So, once again, he finds himself explaining.

Look, I'm not surprised that Donald Trump might make a lewd comment in private and I think most people will say that. He's shown us who he is.
He says what's on his mind he and maybe he has changed in that regard, by the way. But he's still going to be explaining rather than communicating his message.

ROLLINS: Well, he has to go from -- go from being an entertainer, which is what he's been, he always slides back and forth, to being a real leader who is advocating a change policy in Washington, and that's what he needs to talk.

HOLLIDAY: There's a key bloc of the Republican base that is extremely enthusiastic about voting for Donald Trump. They've stuck by him through comments about Judge Curiel, about Khizr Khan, they will not go anywhere after these comments. But there are these voters who have essentially decided they will hold their nose and vote for Donald Trump.

BARTIROMO: That's right.

HOLLIDAY: Those are the people he needs to speak to tonight and Hillary Clinton on the flip side is -- she -- it's up to her to seal the deal. She's going on an early voting to her after this debate to try to tell people get out there tomorrow and cast your ballot.

BARTIROMO: That's what I feel so extraordinary about it. I mean, it really strikes me that this would have been over if it were any other candidate on the other side -- other side, that Hillary Clinton is that unlike, that disliked that actually it's still 50/50.

SAYEGH: Look, there's a belief that she's fundamentally corrupt and pathologically dishonest and people aren't excited about her as the alternative.

Two important things to remember, Maria. Donald Trump has to turn this conversation into -- I may have said certain things, she has done certain things and point out the foundation, Benghazi, the email scandal. That's the important pivot, number one.

Number two, this revelation does not change the macro dynamic of this election, which is this is a change election and Donald Trump is the candidate of change. He's strongest when talking about the economy, jobs, trade, immigration. If he can pivot properly --

BARTIROMO: Yeah.

SAYEGH: -- he can certainly win back a lot of that --

BARTIROMO: That's a good point.

SAYEGH: People care about that.

BARTIROMO: I want to talk about that after this short break, because it is very soon now. It's looking like a campaign of what he said versus what she did.

More from the panel right after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARTIROMO: We are just hours away from the second debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The candidates are facing off tonight in St. Louis as new polls find Clinton with an advantage in two key battleground states.

In Pennsylvania, Clinton has a 12-point lead in a four-way race. And in Florida, the race is closer -- Clinton ahead by three points, which is within the margin of error.

We're back with our panel, Ed Rollins, Shelby Holliday and Tony Sayegh this morning.

What do you think about the polls, Ed?

ROLLINS: Pennsylvania was something we were hopeful for, although we've not won since 1998, and the past. But it was a state that was ideally suited for him in the sense of a lot of blue-collar union labors. I think it's gone now and unfortunately, it's gone. I think they run a better campaign there,

Florida is the key here. If we lose Florida, we can't win this presidency.

I think we're in good shape in Ohio, although I'm disappointed that the Senator Portman, who's run a brilliant campaign there, is really the key.
So, you have the senator and the governor still against Trump there.

So, we need Ohio. If we lose Ohio --

BARTIROMO: But some of these guys and gals who are right now in their own reelection campaign, they -- even if they're going to go behind closed doors and vote for Trump, they can't tell the world that they're going to do that because they're in a reelection.

ROLLINS: The problem we face today is where we're going to still be a splintered party when we get this thing done. And what you need is if Trump wins this thing, he has to try and bring the party back together again. If Trump loses, this thing the party's going to have a holy war.

BARTIROMO: So, if Pennsylvania is not there, does he still have a path to win?

SAYEGH: Absolutely.

BARTIROMO: Yes?

HOLLIDAY: I think it's a tough act, because if he can't win Pennsylvania, that makes it -- you know, the numbers look really tough for him in places like New Hampshire, in Michigan and Wisconsin, even Ohio, some of these Rust Belt states he was hoping to win.

And if he loses Pennsylvania, he has to make up for it somewhere else. A lot of these insiders are saying that some of the reasons -- one of the reasons why these GOP officials are abandoning Trump right now is the ship was already sinking, and these polls came out before his tapes were released.

BARTIROMO: Yes.

HOLLIDAY: And in Pennsylvania, the numbers are so bad, he's losing white women, a key bloc of the Republican base. He's losing men and he's losing these white educated voters.

BARTIROMO: He's not losing small business.

SAYEGH: No.

HOLLIDAY: No.

BARTIROMO: They're all Donald Trump, I'll tell you. When I walk around anecdotally, they're desperate for change.

HOLLIDAY: And it doesn't matter what he says, they say they have to vote for him because their livelihoods depend on it.

BARTIROMO: That's right.

SAYEGH: So, look, Pennsylvania was always kind of a silver bullet strategy, had he been able to win Pennsylvania, and I still believe to some degree, everything is still on the table, particularly in the upper Midwest and the Rust Belt. It would have made his map a lot easier. He could probably even have gone to 300 electoral votes. You only need 270.

There are a consortium of smaller states where Trump still is doing extraordinarily well. Iowa with six electoral votes. New Hampshire with four. Maine with four. Maine has not won by a Republican since 1988, mind you.

It's still complicated, Maria. The math is always complicated for Republicans.

BARTIROMO: Yes.

SAYEGH: But Donald Trump has put a lot of big states in play. Another important one aside from Florida and Ohio obviously is North Carolina.
It's going to be difficult to get to those states, unless he wins North Carolina.

BARTIROMO: We said earlier, it's about what he says versus what she's done.

Can the Trump team communicate that? And will that resonate?

SAYEGH: I think Mike Pence to the great job in his debate.

BARTIROMO: Yes.

SAYEGH: I think he laid the template beautifully for Donald Trump to the same in this particular debate. Don't forget October's a long month, with a lot more surprising potentially to come.

ROLLINS: The critical thing for Pence was a style as much a policy, and that's what Trump has to do tonight. He has to have a calm style. He has to basically not be attacking here. And he needs to be pushing the economy, the issues.

BARTIROMO: Great panel. Ed, Shelby, Tony, good to see you. Thank you so much.

And I'll see you tomorrow on "MORNINGS WITH MARIA", 6:00 to 9:00 A.M. Eastern on the Fox Business Network.

We've got the smartest conversation in the morning. Join us tomorrow. We will be analyzing tonight's big debate.

But, first, here's "MEDIA BUZZ" with Howie Kurtz.

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