JOURNAL EDITORIAL REPORT

How vulnerable are Republican majorities on Capitol Hill?

This is a rush transcript from "Journal: Editorial Report," October 15, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It's a rigged election, because they're taking these unsubstantiated, no witnesses, putting them on the front pages of newspapers.  So it's a rigged election.  But we're not going to let it happen.  

(CHEERING)

TRUMP:  We're just getting started.  Americans have had it with the years and decades of Clinton corruption.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL GIGOT, FOX HOST:  Welcome to the "Journal: Editorial Report," as we look ahead to Wednesday night's final presidential debate, hosted by Fox's own Chris Wallace.  

I'm Paul Gigot.

And that was a defiant Donald Trump, lashing out at a rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, as his campaign scrambles to respond to growing accusations of sexual misconduct.  That scandal, of course, causing a rift this week between Trump and some Republican leaders, with the presidential debate -- candidate declaring himself "unshackled" from the party and free to tell it like it is on the campaign trail.  

Joining the panel this week, "Wall Street Journal" columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; columnist and Manhattan Institute senior fellow, Jason Riley; editorial board member, Mary Kissel; and assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman.  

So, Dan, it seems like since the week we were here, we've had about a year's worth of campaign.

(LAUGHTER)

With the Billy Bush tape, the debate, the rift with Republicans, Paul Ryan, and now, these accusations of sexual misconduct and Trump's response.  What do you make of these accusations?  

DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR:  Well, I think what I make of them is that we are in an election that is being driven almost totally at this point by opposition research.  Finding out negative things about your opponent or saying negative things to try to define them.  In the case of Donald Trump, who could be surprised this would come out?  I hope nobody out there in Trump-land is saying, oh, my god, I'm shocked to find all these things out.

(LAUGHTER)

They were coming.  

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  All you had to do is listen to Donald Trump on Howard Stern over the years to know this was the milieu he was in.  

HENNINGER:  Yeah, that's right.  So here it is.  And what -- the successful thing about it, I think, it is pushing Trump off whatever message he was trying to take to the American people.  We just saw that clip of him.  He was in west palm Beach, Florida, and he's talking about these women and talking about his enemies.  He is not talking about primarily what he represents.  And the more they can get him to do that, the less his base out there has any reason to figure out why they should vote for him.  

GIGOT:  Mary, do you find the accusations, I guess, at the base level, credible?  

MARY KISSEL, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER:  Well, as Dan said, I don't think anyone is necessarily surprised by this.  Although I don't listen to the Howard Stern show.  But some of these women allegedly had these interactions with Trump many years ago, and that's kind of suspect.  I think the timing is also suspect.  You had, for instance, the Trump tax revelations before the first debate and now you have these women coming out before the second debate.  What will come out before the third debate?  
Can't wait for that one.  

GIGOT:  Well, but are you suggesting that this is orchestrated in some way, and kind of -- and the press maybe accepting these things that are dribbled out by Trump's opponents.  

KISSEL:  Well, you have to wonder why the press wasn't investigating Trump to this degree six months or a year ago.  He was in the lead in the primaries well before that last summer.  You've also seen press reports in local and national publications.  It isn't just The New York Times breaking this on behalf of the Hillary campaign.  You have publications like my hometown "Palm Beach Post" coming out and they're very similar stories.  So, yes, it looks like --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  But that doesn't mean they're not legitimate.  

KISSEL:  Doesn't mean they're not true.  

GIGOT:  Right.  Right.

Mary asked a good question, James, which is -- I mean, Jason.  What about a year ago, when he was in the Republican primaries, and leading.  Why isn't all of this stuff been vetted a year ago, before he got the nomination?  

JASON RILEY, COLUMNIST & SENIOR FELLOW, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE:  I'm sure he limited the amount of vetting that could be done for him.  I don't think he has cooperated.  

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  How about the press?  How about the press?

RILEY:  Some of these things came from books.  He wrote this himself in some of the books he's written over the years that he engaged in this behavior.  I don't think anyone is surprised at the behavior.  

What's been jaw dropping over the last few days is his response to the accusations.  This is a man who, you know, brought out Bill Clinton's accusers, and then said I'm going make a central plank of my campaign that Hillary Clinton attacked Bill Clinton's accusers.  Then he turns around and attacks his accusers in the same way.  That's what has been jaw dropping, I think, over the past week.  

GIGOT:  James?

JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR:  Well, just to clarify the timeline, he brought out the Clinton accusers in response to the onslaught of the Billy Bush tape.  That's not what he led within the campaign.  

But, look, I think we all knew all along that these are two people, two candidates with serious character flaws.  It's a question of which one you think will be better for the country and which policies.  I think voters have to be a little skeptical and resentful.  Of course, we've known about Donald Trump for a long time.  He has been a public figure.  He has been running for president for a year and a half now.  "The New York Times" as recently several months ago did a piece, big piece on his relations with women and it basically said, well, it's kind of tough to say what happened, but he did promote women in a --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  -- his company, yeah.  

FREEMAN:  -- construction industry when other people wouldn't.  So now, I think for voters -- and they have a he seen this before -- I think there can be resentment that new allegations are dropped right before they are expected to vote.  These are things that probably could have been vetted. And on some of the specific issues, I think he does have decent rebuttal. The former "Apprentice" contestant, we see her cousin saying that's not the story she said before.  

GIGOT:  But is that the debate, James?  And you make excellent points.  But is that really where he wants to be fighting here in the last three weeks of the campaign?  

FREEMAN:  No, and --

(CROSSTALK)

FREEMAN:  I want him talking about the economy.  I want him talking about stopping terrorism.  But if he sounded like he was talking about a conspiracy theory in that West Palm Beach speech, when you read the WikiLeaks e-mails -- I know we're going to talk about them later -- that tie between the press and the Clinton campaign is pretty tight.  

GIGOT:  Then there's the rift with the Republican Party, where, you know, you had Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, say that he wasn't going to withdraw his endorsement, but he was not going to defend Donald Trump or for that matter talk about him anymore or campaign with him.  Trump responded to that by saying maybe there is some sinister deal between Paul Ryan and Hillary Clinton, for which there is no evidence.  And it is frankly preposterous.  But it's that -- the rift within the party that doesn't help Republicans.

HENNINGER:  Well, the campaign is split into basically three elections, the presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and the Republican election, which is now split into one between Donald Trump, the nominee, and separately the Republican Party.  And I think what Paul Ryan has decided was it was becoming impossible for his candidates to just lash themselves to the Trump mast on the idea that it was going to work out. Trump's campaign has been too chaotic and too variable for any normal Republican candidate to run alongside.  

GIGOT:  James, do you think Paul Ryan did the right thing?  

FREEMAN:  Well, this is a tough call.  I don't think it was the right move Monday, because I think Trump had a good debate performance Sunday night. I think it kind of killed the momentum there.  I don't think it really had to be said.  I think that members of the Republican caucus, they know what kind of guy Paul Ryan is.  They know they can run their own race without some great vengeance from the speaker's office.  So I thought it was unnecessary, and more downside than upside.  

GIGOT:  I'll disagree a little, James.  He needed to give them some public running room, especially in swing districts.  But you make an excellent point. Still ahead, the Clinton campaign scrambling to contain the fallout from unwelcome news of its own.  What we learned this week from the on-going WikiLeaks dump, when we come back.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT:  The Clinton campaign dealing with embarrassing revelations of its own, with WikiLeaks releasing another batch of e-mails this weekend, allegedly from the hacked account of her campaign chairman, John Podesta. With more than 10,000 e-mails now made public, which ones are most likely to create trouble for Clinton in the campaign's final weeks?  

So we want to talk about that, Jason.  But let's deal with this issue of WikiLeaks.  This is an invasion of privacy.  Let's face it.

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  These are e-mails that weren't supposed to become public.  The U.S. government has said they were almost certainly hacked by the Russians then dispatched through WikiLeaks.  What do you think about the fairness of reporting on this?  

RILEY:  We're journalists, and we report the news.  We report leaks all the time, Paul.  What makes it a little disturbing this time is, as you just said, U.S. officials say this is certainly Russia trying to influence a U.S. election.  I don't think that makes any American feel good.  The Clinton campaign has jumped on that and said this should be covered as a national security breach story, and you folks in the press seemed to be focused on the inner workings of my campaign.  

GIGOT:  There's no question, had the other side --

(CROSSTALK)

RILEY:  Exactly.

GIGOT:  -- they would have used them, too.  

And it is not as if the press has ignored them in the past.  They wrote about WikiLeaks when there were disclosures about U.S. diplomacy and the handling of the war in Afghanistan, which did harm on the ground, much less than this does.  

I guess my question would be, if it's in the public domain, we have to cover it.  

RILEY:  Exactly.  I agree.  I agreed.  We have to, and that's what we're doing.  

GIGOT:  OK.

Mary, what's the most significant thing you learned?  

KISSEL:  The big picture here is it confirms what everybody thought, the Clinton camp has a great disdain for the average American.  They are willing to corrupt public institutions, like the Supreme Court, or influence them if it serves their political purposes.  They're out for power and money.  We saw --

GIGOT:  What specifically --

(CROSSTALK)  

KISSEL:  Sure, I'll give you a couple of examples.  Donna Brazile feeding questions to the Clinton campaign before a CNN interview.  

GIGOT:  Head of the Democratic National Committee now, acting head of the committee.  So --

(CROSSTALK)  

KISSEL:  That's right.  You have aides discussing how to withhold e-mails from the Benghazi Committee in Congress after they had been subpoenaed. You had Bill Clinton wanting to go out and give a Morgan Stanley speech for money, and aides in the campaign had to dissuade him from doing that.  They said, hey, that wouldn't look very good after Hillary Clinton announces her candidacy, you going out and taking money from Wall Street.  That didn't seem to occur to him.  Some really remarkable things here.  

HENNINGER:  Well, yeah.  I mean, what it does -- this is the Clinton machine, right?

KISSEL:  Right.

HENNINGER:  You read through the e-mails and you see how completely and totally politicized the operation is.  It makes the campaign look almost completely fraudulent.  They were simply trying to manipulate whatever she would say in public, in a way that would look good for her campaign.  

GIGOT:  But again --

HENNINGER:  Whether it was true or false.  

GIGOT:  This isn't surprising at all, James.  This is what political operatives do, no?  I mean, they basically say, how --

(CROSSTALK)

FREEMAN:  There is not a smidgen of principle in there.  

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  Like I said.  Like I said.

(CROSSTALK)

FREEMAN:  -- what you might believe about the Clintons.  But I think among the significant findings is the evidence that the State Department under Hillary Clinton was helping Clinton Foundation donors --  

GIGOT:  How so?  

FREEMAN:  -- friends of Bill.  After a natural disaster in Haiti, obviously a lot of money in aid goes in there.  Also, close behind, a large group of people wanting to get some of that money to perform various possibly mutual functions for Haitians responding --

GIGOT:  That came from the Freedom of Information Act request, not from --

(CROSSTALK)

FREEMAN:  Right.  So we can't blame Julian Assange for this one.  

GIGOT:  No.

FREEMAN:  But I think it basically puts the lie to this long-time claim that there was this separation between the foundation, the Clinton Foundation and the State Department under Hillary Clinton.  They've said for a long time it didn't influence.  What you see in these e-mails is people, who gave money to Bill Clinton, getting special treatment, versus the average person who, when identified as not a donor, not a friend of Bill, is going off and sent to the normal website to get information, like any other citizen.  

GIGOT:  And just to be specific about it, if you were labeled a friend of Bill, or a VIP for WJC, William Jefferson Clinton, you got put into one camp where you were -- one list where you were available essentially for contracts for Haiti.  If you didn't, you went to the average-Joe's website to fend for yourself.  

RILEY:  But there is a big problem here, Paul.  A lot of Trump supporters are saying, why hasn't this gotten more attention?  All we're talking about is Donald Trump and the women.  And that's the problem here.  Nothing in these WikiLeaks is going to interfere with coverage of Donald Trump saying these --

GIGOT:  Why not?  

RILEY:  -- women were too sexually unattractive to me to sexually harass.  

GIGOT:  Why not?  Doesn't sex sell?  

RILEY:  Sex sells.  It does.  

But nothing will compete with the Republican nominee responding to these accusations.  And we've seen this before from Trump, the self-destructive behavior, whether it's picking a fight with a Gold Star family or going after Miss Universe for days on end --

(CROSSTALK)

RILEY:  Hillary Clinton had the bad news cycle she deserves.  

GIGOT:  Mary?

KISSEL:  Yeah.  I'm sorry, but a lot of the media has abandoned any pretension of any impartially here.  You even had a front-page story on The New York Times, saying that they weren't going to cover Donald Trump fairly, and almost being proud of it.  

Just before we go, we have to mention how the Clinton camp how to influence the Supreme Court.  I think it is the most important part of this WikiLeaks leak, in that they said we managed to cow the court into submission on the first Obamacare case.  Let's do it again.  

GIGOT:  That's Neera Tanden, who was running the Center for American Progress, writing an e-mail to John Podesta and some people on the Clinton campaign and suggesting, it worked once, let's try it again.  

OK, when we come back, Donald Trump taking a hit in some national polls this week.  So what does it mean for Republicans in down-ballot races? We'll look at the battle for control of the House and Senate, next.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WIS., SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  If we lose the Senate, do you know who becomes the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee?  A guy named Bernie Sanders.  You ever heard of him?  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT:  With just over three weeks to go now until Election Day, a new Fox New poll shows Hillary Clinton's lead over Donald Trump growing to 7 points nationally, up from just two points a week ago.  That trend is fueling Republican concerns about down-ballot races and GOP chances of holding its majorities in the House and Senate.  

Republican pollster, Glen Bolger, is co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies.  He joins me now from Washington.

Welcome to the show.  Thanks for coming in today.  

GLEN BOLGER, REPUBLIC POLLSTER & FOUNDER, PUBLIC OPINION STRATEGIES:  Thank you for having me.  

GIGOT:  So, the seven point lead in Fox, does that sound -- you poll around the country in races.  Does that sound about right to you?  

BOLGER:  Yeah.  Look, you look at, for example, RealClearPolitics and you see that's about Hillary's lead overall when you average all the polls together, so you know, this poll is right there.  The challenge is that Donald Trump is having a hard time breaking 40, 41 percent in any national poll, and Hillary Clinton doesn't get much lower than 45 percent.  So that's pretty problematic for the Trump campaign.  

GIGOT:  Does it mean that he is still within distance of a comeback if he puts together the right message over the next three weeks?  

BOLGER:  He has the right message.  He just doesn't use it.  And the right
--

(LAUGHTER)

GIGOT:  That's the change message?  

BOLGER:  Yeah, it is the change -- if you're happy with the way things are going, vote for Hillary.  But instead, he goes off on these tangents where he goes after people for -- and at attacks them for no apparent reason other than he's unhappy with something they said.  

GIGOT:  So let's talk about the impact on the down-ballot races.  Is there an impact now?  Is there an undertow that in the Senate and House races that you're seeing from the Trump 40 percent polling?  

BOLGER:  Well, at this point, no.  But you do worry about political gravity taking over in these down-ticket races.  

GIGOT:  Right.

BOLGER:  In other words, right now, Republicans are still running -- you know, look, a lot of close Senate races, a lot of close House races, but at this point in time, it looks like Republicans will hold on to control in the Senate and certainly in the House as well.  But you know, with 24 days left, we don't know whether, you know, the Trump problems become like a political black hole that sort of sucks down other Republican candidates.  

GIGOT:  You're even saying that, right now, if the election were held now, Republicans would hold onto the Senate, and that has to be because the Republicans are running five, six, seven, maybe more points ahead of the Trump campaign.  Are you seeing that in a state like Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, or for that matter, Nevada?  

BOLGER:  Yeah, you've got Republicans running their own campaigns.  They're not running along with the Trump message.  They are focusing on the differences between themselves and their Democratic opponents.  The Democrats are focused on tying the Republicans to Trump.

GIGOT:  Right.

BOLGER:  And you know, in the polling and focus groups, a lot of voters, especially swing voters, say, you know, that candidate is not the same as Donald Trump, and they see a difference, and they really don't buy the message.  And you see it consistently.  It is kind of curious as to why Democrats are doing that.  

GIGOT:  Well, that's their strategy, to disqualify Trump as an individual, and that may give House and Senate Republican candidates the chance to develop an individual identity, and maybe skirt the trouble.  

Let's look at the House, Glen.  How many seats do you think are really competitive?  I've been told that Democrats need to pick up 30 to take over.  I'm told there is something like 40 seats in the House that are competitive.  

BOLGER:  Yeah, there are about 40 seats.  And what happens, though, is unusual for all 40 seats to go in one direction.  

GIGOT:  Right.  

BOLGER:  That certainly is more of a concern in the Senate, which in presidential years, seems to break to the side of the winner.  It doesn't always happen.  But that is certainly a concern with the Senate.  

In the House, the Democrats would have to run the table, and you know, and go kind of pitch a perfect game, and that's highly unlikely, hard to do. Especially because, you know, so many of the Republican incumbents have done a good job of fundraising.  The Democrats had a weak recruiting year, both in the House and Senate, so they have weaker candidates as well, which is hurting them.  

GIGOT:  So the generic poll, the generic Democratic versus Republican, which would you prefer to run Congress poll number, is about plus-six for the Democrats in the Fox poll.  That really averages out, if it holds, to about a 15-20 seat gain for Democrats.  If that goes further, you know, eight or 10 points, then you could see the House in jeopardy.  

BOLGER:  Yeah.  No, you're right, if it does get worst.  And that's why, again, you see Republican incumbents and Republican open-seat candidates running their own campaign focused on the differences, the contrasts between themselves and their Democratic opponents, as opposed to focus so much on, you know, the kind of Trump campaign.  

GIGOT:  If it looks like Hillary Clinton is going to win, at what point do the Republicans break out that line from 1996, which said, "Don't give a blank check to Clinton?"  In that case, it was Bill Clinton.  In this case, it will be Hillary Clinton.  Do you see that happening in the next couple of weeks if things -- if Trump doesn't turn it around?  

BOLGER:  Most definitely.  We're including that on almost all of our campaign polls.  And voters, the majority -- you know, we find the majority in all these swing states saying -- and swing seats for the Senate -- saying, yes, don't give -- they agree with the premise, don't give Hillary Clinton a blank check.  

Keep in mind, her negatives are very high.  Donald Trump's are just higher.  

(LAUGHTER)

So it is going to be hard for Trump to come back.  But at the same time, it is not like voters are saying, boy, we love Hillary, we want her to have all the power, we want her to totally control Washington.  

GIGOT:  All right, Glen Bolger, thanks very much for being here. Appreciate it.  

BOLGER:  Thank you.  

GIGOT:  Still ahead, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump prepare for their final showdown.  But with both campaigns dealing with ongoing troubles, will issues make an appearance -- issues -- that is issues -- who has heard of that -- in Wednesday night's debate.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT:  Welcome back to the "Journal: Editorial Report," as we count down to the third presidential debate Wednesday in Las Vegas, hosted by Fox's own Chris Wallace.  

During their final debate showdown, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are slated to square off on debt, then entitlements, the Supreme Court, foreign hot spots, and fitness to be president.  But as Trump scrambles to respond to growing allegations of sexual misconduct and Clinton deals with the fallout from the latest WikiLeaks disclosures, will the issues break through at all on Wednesday night?  

We're back with Dan Henninger, Jason Riley, Mary Kissel and James Freeman.  

So, Mary, will we look back, if Trump loses, on the last week as the week that did him in?  

KISSEL:  I have to say, voters are frankly appalled by Trump after that second debate.  He lost big time among women.  He is basically even with Hillary when it comes to the Independent vote.  But not appealing to those people in --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  With his message and response?  

KISSEL:  No, absolutely not.  Just the numbers here for you, Paul.  He lost women by 12 points, down 12 points in a week, suburban women down 10.  This is from the Fox News poll.  White college educated women by seven, Republican women down by six in a week.  His favorability ratings went down and she is up by seven points.  Not a good picture.  

GIGOT:  Let's me put a couple of other numbers up.  Honest and trustworthy for both of them, in the Fox poll, Hillary Clinton, 63 percent saying not honest or trustworthy, 64 percent say Trump isn't, James, so that's a wash. But here is the big number, 56 percent of the voters say Donald Trump is not qualified to be president. Only 31 percent say that about Hillary Clinton.  That's a very tough number.  

FREEMAN:  It is a tough number, but I think that's one he can turn around.  

By the way, I think those likability and untrustworthy numbers against her are the reason he is still in this thing.  But I thin, in Vegas, he has an opportunity to keep pounding away at this qualification, because the --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  Who do you mean?  Whose qualification?

FREEMAN:  Hillary.  We see the advantage there, because she has all the lines on the resume, all the offices held.  But as he pointed out, 30 years, where are the results.  And the toughest -- surprisingly, one of the toughest questions for her to answer at the last debate is, what have you done?  What are your achievements?  She couldn't come up with one.  She keeps coming back to this deal that Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch cut in the Senate 20 years ago.  It is bizarre.  After twice elected Senator, secretary of state, there's no "there" there.  

HENNINGER:  Let's try to pull a few of things together because Trump does need a strategy for what remains in the campaign.  And all of the numbers in the FOX poll are going south for him, no matter which category you look--

(CROSSTALK)

HENNINGER:  -- except white men, all right.  

GIGOT:  And on the issues, he is still leading barely in the economy.  

HENNINGER:  Barely in the economy.  

GIGOT:  But that sounds like an opportunity to me, Dan.  

HENNINGER:  I think what's going on, if you look at Trump, he gave this extraordinary speech in West Palm Beach, just rousing the crowds.  I think what Trump is going to do now is run a completely emotional campaign, maxing out his support among white men.  He understands he won't gain marginally among these women, but he'll suppress Hillary Clinton's vote by making her seem absolutely unsupportable --

(CROSSTALK)

HENNINGER:  -- among Bernie Sanders voters.  

GIGOT:  Jason?

RILEY:  I agree, Dan, he'll go emotional.  But I don't think it will help him on the qualification question you were talking about, because the other factor that is problematic for him is his temperament.  He is losing 63 percent to 83 percent on temperament.  People don't think he is qualified because they don't think he is a calm, measured guy --

(CROSSTALK)

RILEY:  -- who will make sober decisions.  

HENNINGER:  They don't believe him.  

RILEY:  And what has been on display this past week?  His temperament.  

KISSEL:  But the issue is, are there enough voters out there, white male voters to put him over the line?  I think the answer to that is no, because he is losing so many college educated white voters.  

HENNINGER:  That's why he is going to try to suppress her vote.  

FREEMAN:  Yeah, but how he can get behind the base Wednesday night is to be tough but professional, talk about the economy, talk about fighting terrorism. And this is one for Independents and women that might be particularly appealing.  Remember, in this Fox poll, the idea of repealing Obamacare is more popular than anyone running for president this year. This is a great issue for him.  Premiums going up.  He has begun to talk about it and he needs to talk about it more.  

GIGOT:  I'll tell you, we've been saying this for, I don't know, all these years --

(LAUGHTER)

-- all these weeks, that is what he should do.  His own staff, people are saying, they're even shouting in the back of the gallery, "Stick to the issues."  But he cannot do it.  When he plays into this character, makes the contest a referendum on character, he plays exactly into the Clinton strategy.  They want him to talk about that, because it makes him look small, instead of looking and talking about the issues.  So, I mean, he is not listening to me, certainly, but --  

HENNINGER:  The irony, though, Paul, back before the first debate, when he closed the gap between himself and Hillary Clinton, it was after he had given that series of speeches on taxes, regulation, energy and foreign policy.  Substance closed the gap for him.  When he got off that, the gap has widened again.  

GIGOT:  So the latest thing, briefly, he has pulled out of Virginia.  He is going to focus on four states, the reporting is North Carolina, Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania.  

KISSEL:  Yeah, that is true.  And I think the electoral map is shifting. We've seen areas, for example, like Orange County, California, may go for the Democrats for the first time in decades.  Virginia Beach may go to the Democrats.  But Donald Trump is trying to open up new territory that the Democrats held, Iowa, for instance.  He could pick up an electoral seat in Maine.  But again, does he have enough votes to put him over the line?  

GIGOT:  Last word, James, you got one?

FREEMAN:  Orange County isn't what it used to be.  Changing demographics there.  

(LAUGHTER)

But also, he is ahead in Ohio, so this thing is not over.  

GIGOT:  Thank you, James.  

Still ahead, more fallout from this week's WikiLeaks release as advisors close to Hillary Clinton reveal their true feelings about conservative Catholics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The new e-mails also show members of the Clinton team viscously attacking Catholics and evangelicals. It's just the latest evidence of the hatred that the Clinton campaign has for every-day faithful Americans.  If you're a person of faith, I think you're going to vote for Donald Trump.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT:  Donald Trump looking to capitalize on some potentially damaging e- mails from this week's WikiLeaks dump that appear to show advisors close to Hillary Clinton making disparaging comments about Catholics and evangelicals.  

Jennifer Palmieri, now the Clinton campaign's communications director, was involved in a 2011 e-mail exchange with a colleague at the Center for American Progress who speculates that leading conservatives are attracted to Catholics because of its, quote, "systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations."  Ms. Palmieri responds, "I imagine they think it is the most social acceptable politically conservative religion.  Their rich friends wouldn't understand if they became evangelicals."  

I should say, Dan, that was in reference to Rupert Murdoch, our boss, and Robert Thompson, the CEO of News Corps, also our superior --  

HENNINGER:  Yeah.  

GIGOT:  -- who raise their children Catholic and they are criticized in those e-mails, criticized for doing that.  

So, you're Catholic.  I'm a Catholic.  I think most of this panel is.  How do you react to those e-mails?  

HENNINGER:  Well, it is obviously very insulting.  I mean, the Catholics have responded to it.  Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, of Louisville, the head of the U.S. Bishop's Catholic Conference, said, "In our faith and in our church, we expect politicians to respect the norms and rights of people to live their faith without interference from the state.  It goes against the idea of what it means to be an American."  So, obviously, Catholics are affronted by this.  But in the most recent polls, we find that white Catholic support for Trump has fallen from about 64 percent to 42 percent.  
This, I think, could help him.  

GIGOT:  This could help him recover.  

HENNINGER:  Help him recover, because it is just so insulting.  

GIGOT:  Their defense, Mary, is that this is the Russians.  Again, that's their defense.  Does that work as --

(CROSSTALK)  

KISSEL:  No.  No, it doesn't.  And, look, we already knew that the Democrats disdain religion.  Look what the Obama administration did to the Little Sisters of the Poor, for instance --

(CROSSTALK)  

GIGOT:  The Obamacare case over birth control and abortifacients.  

KISSEL:  That's right.  But if you believe in the religion of global warming, that's perfectly OK.  

The remarkable thing to me about the Palmieri statement is that she seems to be incredulous or in disbelief that anybody could be a person of faith, that you have to get something out of it somehow, social climbing or some sort of payoff.  It is insulting, to use Dan's words.  

GIGOT:  Jason?

RILEY:  We've long known this.  I mean, Obama's own remarks, "Clinging to their Bibles and their guns."  The left low view of people who take religion seriously.  There is no real news here.  But it is out in the open, because of WikiLeaks.  

GIGOT:  I want to ask theologian, Freeman, here --

(CROSSTALK)

-- about subsidiarity --

FREEMAN:  Yes.

GIGOT:  -- came in for some mockery in --  

FREEMAN:  Yeah, they kind of --

GIGOT:  The concept of subsidiarity?  You know that very well.  

FREEMAN:  I'm not sure I practice as well as I should.  But --

(CROSSTALK)

FREEMAN:  But it is the idea that problems are best solved locally by the competent, sort of, least, or closest authority to the situation.  So it does argue for direct local charity, for example, over huge national or multi-national organizations or governments.  

GIGOT:  Unfeeling bureaucracies that simply write a check --

FREEMAN:  Right.

GIGOT:  -- and don't care whether you're better or not.  

FREEMAN:  Yeah.  And they're making fun of this concept but I think it actually resonates with a lot of people.  

And I also have to say, I know that the bigoted statements in this e-mail, maybe -- in these e-mails, maybe they're not surprising to people.  You kind of know that the left is hostile to religion and to Christianity in particular.  But what is significant is the other Podesta e-mails, the Clinton campaign chairman, where he is basically saying that he has been working with a front group seeking to essentially infiltrate the Catholic Church and change its views into something that the political left would find more acceptable.  I think this is a different category than rude comments and e-mail.  And it is amazing that -- I guess it's the state of the modern media.  No one, as far as I can tell, has even asked Mrs. Clinton if he ought to be fired.  And she should fire him.  And she owns the issue.  

GIGOT:  Briefly, Dan, Eric Metaxas, the radio show host, evangelical, wrote in our paper this week that he'll support Trump mainly because of the Supreme Court.  And there has been a debate among evangelicals about that issue versus Trump's character.  

HENNINGER:  Yeah.  Once again, the evangelicals are going to become an interesting vote.  We don't know how they're going to go, as they did with Romney in 2012.  Evangelicals are torn.  I mean, evangelicals are saying they feel completely marginalized by the culture and what's going on in this election.  They don't know if they can vote for Donald Trump, but now it's pretty clear to them that they cannot vote for Hillary Clinton, because the Democratic Party is aligned against them.  

GIGOT:  All right.

When we come back, showdown in the Silver State.  It's a critical battleground in the race for president, but is Nevada also the GOP's best hope for a Senate pick-up?  We'll have a report from the ground, next.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT:  Turning now to the showdown in the Silver State.  Nevada, of course, a key battleground in the race for president, and the site of Wednesday's final presidential debate.  The latest "RealClearPolitics" poll average has Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in a dead heat there, with Clinton up by just a point.  

But Nevada also represents the GOP's best opportunity to pick up a Democratic-held Senate seat, with Republican Joe Heck and Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto virtually tied in the race to replace retiring Senator minority leader, Harry Reid.  

Wall street Journal editorial page writer, Kate Bachelder, is in Reno with the latest.  

Welcome, Kate.  

KATE BACHELDER, EDITORIAL PAGE WRITER:  Hi, Paul.  

GIGOT:  So you saw the debate last night.  What argument is Joe Heck making for his case in the Senate?  

Bachelder:  The Joe Heck pitch is basically that he can be trusted on the economy, health care and Obamacare and on national security.  The reason for this is his pitch is that he is a small business owner, a medical doctor, and an Army Reservist.  He has been pounding this pretty hard throughout his campaign.  

GIGOT:  He is a brigadier general, too, in the Reserves, right?

BACHELDER:  Correct.

GIGOT:  So he's not just like a private like me or something like that.  I wish I were a private in the Reserves.  So he's had a real legitimate career.  

What is Cortez Masto saying in response?  

BACHELDER:  Cortez Masto is not running on any particular platform other than Heck is responsible for everything Donald Trump has ever said, and he is a tool of the Koch brothers.  It's a repeat of what we saw in 2014, when the Democrats tried to paint, say, Joni Ernst, a Republican in Iowa, as a Koch brothers' tool.  

GIGOT:  When you say Koch brothers, you mean Charles and David Koch, the businessmen who spend a lot of money in campaigns.  They're Libertarian brothers.  So they're trying to -- she is trying to attach Heck to them, and say you're somehow illegitimate because of that association?  Is that working?  

BACHELDER:  It doesn't seem to be working, because most of Nevada voters don't seem to care who the Koch brothers are.  

GIGOT:  Right.

BACHELDER:  This is a very transparent strategy from Harry Reid, who basically selected Cortez Masto to take his seat.  

GIGOT:  She is a former attorney general for the state of Nevada.  And he took over her campaign or he sent his people in when it looked like she was floundering, and she came in there, and he brought his aide to try to rescue.  And that's when they came up with the Trump -- linking Heck to Trump.  Did she hit the point again and again and again in the debate?  

BACHELDER:  Yes, she did.  So she tried to say that Heck still supports Trump.  And Heck quipped back, "I don't think my opponent has been watching the news the past week."  So basically, she is relying on Harry Reid's staff.  But you'll notice that Harry Reid is not on the stump with her when Cory Booker is with her today, Elizabeth Warren has been through the state, and Hillary Clinton has campaigned with her.  I suspect that's because Harry Reid is not that popular with a lot of Nevada voters, and is under water factorability-wise and is a polarizing figure here.  

GIGOT:  Yeah, he almost lost in his last re-election bid six years ago, so that is not necessarily the best endorsement.  

Now, Heck, last week, said that he was no longer endorsing Donald Trump. How is that playing for him?  Because is that creating any rift within the Republican Party out there?  

BACHELDER:  Of course, this will have some consequence, but it's hard to know at this point.  A GOP internal poll this week shows that 14 percent of voters were more likely to vote for Heck, because of his un-endorsement of Trump, and that 14 percent were less likely to vote.  

GIGOT:  So --

(CROSSTALK)

BACHELDER:  So these are the kind of voters, they don't care.  

GIGOT:  So it's just a wash?  

BACHELDER:  It could be a wash.  Democrats are eager to make it seem like Heck will be tanked by walking away from Trump, but that's far from clear.  

GIGOT:  What's the broader political context here in Nevada in this presidential race?  Because it is really surprising to me that this is as close as it is, given that Obama carried the state twice, and it has a huge number of Hispanic voters, as well as Mormons who haven't exactly been warm to Trump.  What's going on?

BACHELDER:  Well, I think there's a lot going on.  One is that Nevada has a large population of voters with high school degrees and some college but not college educated.   It has a large white working class.  We know Trump is very popular among these groups.  It also is a bit of a transient state, especially Las Vegas.  People move for a while, they stay, they leave. This might be helping Trump.  And there's also the fact that Nevada was hit hard by the 2008 recession and has been slower to recover than parts -- other parts of the country.  And voters are not happy with the economic status quo.  

GIGOT:  All right, interesting, Kate.  Thank you very much.  

Jason, one of the things I think that's striking her is just the quality of the candidates.  Heck is a pretty good candidate.  He has a great resume. And Cortez Masto, she has her skills but she's a career politician.  You see that across the whole Senate.  I mean, there's a lot of very strong Republican candidates, just as political talent.  That may be what can help them retain the Senate.  

RILEY:  You're talking about Rubio and Portman and --

GIGOT:  Yes, Portman and --

RILEY:  -- and Johnson and --

GIGOT:  Ayotte and Johnson and Toomey.  

RILEY:  Yeah.  And just as Bolger was saying earlier, the attempts to link everyone to Trump isn't working.  He is seen as this unique figure, and this Democratic strategy to link everyone to him isn't paying off.  It may be one of the reasons why it isn't working in Nevada.  He is doing pretty well in that state.  Hillary is up by less than two points.  You have to question that strategy by the Democrats.  

GIGOT:  All right, thank you, guys.  

We have to make one more break.  When we come back, "Hits and Misses" of the week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT:  Time now for our "Hits and Misses" of the week.  

Mary, start us off.  

KISSEL:  You may remember Democratic attorneys general coming out and issuing overly broad subpoenas to Exxon, lambasting the company for its climate change research for political ends.  Well, a hit to Texas Judge Ed Kinkeade who concluded this week that the Massachusetts attorney general may have acted in bad faith and was allowing Exxon to go in and subpoena the attorney general and see what exactly she was really up to.  So a hit for him.  

GIGOT:  All right.

Jason?  

RILEY:  Paul, this is a miss to the NAACP, which just voted to formalize its opposition to charter schools.  About 700,000 black kids attend charter schools.  You will not find a better model of education that is closing the achievement gap in this country.  I think it is a shame.  The NAACP takes money from teachers unions.  Teachers unions don't like charter schools. And that is the reason or a big part of the reason they're doing this.  But it just shows how out of touch this organization has become from the wants and needs of blacks in America.  

GIGOT:  James?  

FREEMAN:  Paul, it is easy to become pessimistic watching this campaign over the last week or two, but if there is any group that can inspire us with a sense of optimism, it is the fans of the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs.  Cleveland has not won a World Series in more than 50 years. Chicago hasn't won in more than 100 years.  And yet, the dream is alive. They're both cheering on their teams this week as they try to get back to the World Series.  

GIGOT:  If it can happen to the Red Sox, it can happen to anybody.  

(LAUGHTER)

Dan?

HENNINGER:  Including Cleveland, my hometown.  

(LAUGHTER)

But I'm giving a hit to Bob Dylan for his Nobel Prize in literature.  I would not put him in the same class as T.S, Eliot, for those out there who remember "The Wasteland," but he was a provocative writer.  And he wrote something in the '60s that speaks to us today, Paul.  It's the lyric that says, "You know something is happening, but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Gigo (ph)."  

(LAUGHTER)

GIGOT:  The answer to that is no.  

KISSEL: No.

(LAUGHTER)

GIGOT:  The NAACP, Jason, it is just awful.  It is a disgrace.  

RILEY:  It is a shame.  It is a shame.

GIGOT:  All right.  

And remember, if you have your own hit or miss, be sure to tweet it to us at JER on FNC.  

That's it for this week's show.  Thanks to my panel.  Thanks to all of you for watching.  I'm Paul Gigot.  We hope to see you right here next week.  

END

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