Did the second debate save Trump's campaign?

The 'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," October 10, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The last 72 hours has framed what this election is all about. It's about the American people fighting back against corrupt politicians who don't care about anything except staying in power and keeping their donors happy.


TRUMP: And I will never stop fighting for you against the Washington establishment that has betrayed each and every one of you, betrayed the country. How many have watched the debate last night? How many?


TRUMP: Good. We did good? We did good.

HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: What's exciting to me is that we're getting more and more support, not just from Democrats but from independents and Republicans.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Exciting. Debate fallout, the post-aftermath, both sides, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail. This as House Speaker Paul Ryan came out and told his House colleagues he would not defend or campaign with the party's presidential nominee. While Mr. Ryan, The Wall Street Journal reports, "didn't rescind his endorsement of Mr. Trump, he drew immediate outrage from the nominee and his supporters. Mr. Ryan told House Republicans Monday in a conference call that they should make their own decision about whether to maintain their support for Mr. Trump."

And what Ryan is referencing there is a tweet from Donald Trump midday after all this came out. "Paul Ryan should spent more time on balancing the budget, jobs, and illegal immigration, and not waste his time on fighting the Republican nominee."

Just moments ago, the RNC came out, "Over the last 24 to 48 hours there have been a lot of false rumors that we, the RNC, didn't want to engage in. Reince Priebus told 168 members of the RNC, many of whom have also stood by Trump according to a person on the call. "Nothing has changed in terms of our support for the nominee." Priebus told them that Trump had issued a heartfelt apology and "I think the issue," quote, "was taken care of at the debate."

With that, let's bring in our panel: Charles Hurt, political columnist for The Washington Times; Anne Gearan, political correspondent for The Washington Post, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charlie?

CHARLES HURT, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: Well, I think the Republicans certainly hope that that issue is taken care of in the debate. And who knows? The last poll that we saw from NBC shows Hillary Clinton taking a sizable lead, but that was completed before this vile tape was released.

BAIER: No, no. It actually was after the tape but before the debate. So there was some polling that was after --

HURT: The tail end of it. But I think that -- we have not seen a poll conducted completely after the release of the tape. So we don't know whether that was as big a bombshell among voters as it clearly is among the media and the Republican establishment.

But the Donald Trump that showed up at the debate last night I think was a Donald Trump that could have won the election. It remains to be seen just how much damage was done by this tape. But if he had bottomed -- if he bottomed out, that candidate that we saw last night is -- has best shot at digging himself out of that hole and winning.

BAIER: What about, Anne, this back and forth with Paul Ryan today and what that means potentially?

ANNE GEARAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: It's getting a little hard to follow all the factions and sub-factions here, but basically there's a civil war in the making. And Paul Ryan is giving amnesty to Republicans, elected Republicans up and down the ballot, to do what they see fit. That's a no- harm, no-foul amnesty he is offering which many Republicans are going to take. You've got three dozen and counting Republicans saying that they have either -- they are rescinding support or denouncing Trump, not all of -- certainly not all of those are endorsing Hillary Clinton. But she will take any she can get. And that leaves Trump fighting not only with Ryan but sometimes also with Priebus, and Priebus may be fighting with Ryan.

BAIER: But it is this environment -- we talked about it many times, Charles, of this anti-establishment, anti-elitist, it's not working, kick the table over, try something different. Can he cobble together enough of that reaction with only one more debate to go to change the dynamic in this race?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: That's not clear. What is clear is that he prevented the crash last night. He was headed -- to mix metaphors, over the edge because the party was deserting him, all those defections, the governors, the senators, the members of Congress. Remember, when Nixon resigned, it was not right after the Supreme Court had ordered him to release the tapes. It was when Barry Goldwater and the delegation from the Congress went to Nixon and said its' over, you've got to resign, and next day he announced his resignation.

The loss -- this was a flight to the exits. And it's clear that the debate steadied him in a sense, that that appears to have been stemmed. It looked as if he stopped the bleeding. Now, he lost a lot of time. He is behind. If you lose -- he had to use this -- it's like using a time-out in the NFL. He used a debate that could have used to close the gap to simply hold the campaign together, which he did. What's surprising is having staunched the bleeding, that's the third metaphor --

BAIER: You are on a roll.

KRAUTHAMMER: Ryan comes out and he rips off the bandage by giving -- I'm on a roll here. You are right. He gives permission for others to resume the flight, the exit. And that creates -- I think you are right, this is the civil war. This is the split that we're going to see between now and Election Day. And I think it makes it almost impossible to win if you are a Republican because -- running for president, because either people are going to be angry on the so-called establishment side or on the Trump side. And either way, if you are a senator or congressman, you are caught in the middle. You could lose a substantial amount of Republican support.

BAIER: Think of the delicate balance that people like Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania have been trying to work, tapping into the Trump support but yet also kind of making sure the establishment Republicans come out. If you somehow dampen one side of that equation, Charlie, and you are in a two-point race, it could have control of the Senate easily.

HURT: Sure. There's definitely a lot at stake here. But I do think something like Pat Toomey had done a very, very good job of keeping that balance.

BAIER: Or Richard Burr in North Carolina.

HURT: That's tougher.

BAIER: Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire.

HURT: Yes. But I think that having these sort of -- of course, as a reporter, I like having the disputes among the party. I think it keeps everybody more honest. I like that there's real open disagreements between Paul Ryan and Donald Trump. And I'm not all that certain that Paul Ryan was doing all that much to help him anyway.

But in terms of the debates, when you look at how bad -- I didn't think did that badly in the first debate. But you look at how badly the media declared that he did in the first debate, and they have been at him for two weeks over that, or a week-and-a-half over that, which is why I think we saw poll numbers drop. But you look at how badly he did in the first to debate and how he did last night, we still have another debate. And it's going to be a great debate. And if gets that much better again, it could be -- we could be singing a different tune.

BAIER: And speaking of that disconnect -- so there's a moment where he goes after the e-mails, an exchange with Hillary Clinton on that stage that got a lot of reaction today. It was about essentially going after Hillary Clinton if he is president.


TRUMP: For you to say that there was nothing wrong with you deleting 39,000 e-mails, again, you should be ashamed of yourself.

RADDATZ: You want to give the audience a chance here.

TRUMP: -- let alone after getting a subpoena from the United States Congress.

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, you can --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's chilling that Donald Trump thinks that the presidency is like some banana republic dictatorship where you can lock up your political opponents.


BAIER: And I saw all kinds of Clinton people out saying this banana republic, it's a dictator. They jumped on this.

GEARAN: Sure. But Donald Trump wasn't talking to them or anyone like them last night. That was pure red meat for his core supporters who have been - - who get excited every time he goes right at the heart of what they see as Hillary Clinton --

BAIER: Yes, but even Frank Luntz and his group of independents who hadn't decided, undecided, said that was the moment they dialed up the highest, Charles.

KRAUTHAMMER: I'm sure it appeals. I'm one of those who thinks there was a miscarriage of justice in not indicting her. But the problem here is the pattern from Trump. He has spoken about using the powers of the government to go after other opponents like the publisher of the "Washington Post." He has talked about that. He warned the Ricketts family who had supported one of his opponents that they might have a business that would be investigated. Do we want to invest in him all the powers of the government if he acts in a way where he seems to want to carry out vendettas? And that I think only reinforced that. In her case there was a miscarriage of justice. So that's perhaps in a different category. But it makes you wonder about his authoritarian impulses. And that's what I think is the issue.

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