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Special Report

Will Trump change strategy at the final presidential debate?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," October 19, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

IVANKA TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S DAUGHTER: I was going crazy around a year ago calling these reporters, trying to get them to at least hear our perspective. And it's just a waste of time. You fall down such a rabbit hole with this and it doesn't yield a result. But to your point, he's either win or he won't win. And I believe he will accept the outcome either way.

TIM KAINE, DEMOCRATIC VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We ought to win big because we know Donald Trump is going to be a big whiner when this thing is over. I mean, this is schoolyard bully stuff. The big bully who is so tough, and then the first time you stand up to him, it's whine, whine, whine, whine, whine.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Tim Kaine and Ivanka Trump talking about the coverage of this race. Let's bring in our panel: Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio; Monica Crowley, editor and columnist for The Washington Times, and Ed O'Keefe, reporter with The Washington Post.

OK, Monica, we look at the average of polls, the recent polls, "Special Report" average. It's at Clinton is at 8.6 as you head into this debate.

MONICA CROWLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: Yes, the polling has been going in one direction. It has all been trending toward Mrs. Clinton over the last several weeks. And, you know, despite what Donald Trump is saying and what his campaign I think maybe believes, all of the polls can't be wrong. So certainly he has taken significant hits over the last couple of weeks.

This is his last chance to reset this campaign and try to regain the momentum. He has to make it tonight not about himself. He should avoid talking about himself at all costs, even when he is asked about himself, and make this about the American people and the future of the country, which was the entire rational for getting into this race to begin with.

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: He knows all that, Steve, right? He is not -- Donald Trump is not a dumb man. And he has been advised that many times by very smart people. But he does what he wants to do. What we have seen on the campaign recently is constantly off message, constantly going after the media, going after Republicans, and not focusing on Hillary.

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Right.

KELLY: So what do you expect he's going to do tonight?

HAYES: Exactly what you just described. I think there's no question having spoken to people who have been advising him, there's no question that's what they are emphasizing. Monica is exactly right. That's what Donald Trump needs to do.

And there's so much to be said right now. There's probably not a better time in recent memory to be making a case on behalf of limited government when you look at what's happened over the past eight years, whether you talk about the failed stimulus and economic stagnation or you're talking about Obamacare or you're talking about the Iran deal. This is a great case to make. He is not making it. He is instead going after Paul Ryan, going after Republicans, talking about himself. And he seems totally incapable of just deflecting a question or an attack and turning it back to Hillary Clinton.

BAIER: Although he was better at the second debate than he was at the first debate doing that.

HAYES: We're grading on a curve.

BAIER: All right, Mara, set the table for us.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Look, I think what we have seen over the last couple weeks is that Donald Trump's ceiling and his floor are starting to converge. He is just bouncing around in the high 30s, low 40s range. And it seems like what he has done in the last couple weeks is just focus on energizing his own base, not doing anything to try to grow his vote.

And there's a reason that when you type the words "is Donald Trump trying" into your Google search bar, it comes up "to lose the election," because the strategy is inexplicable.

And I do think he should get back to that powerful message he had, anti- establishment message on the economy, terrorism, and immigration and trade. He has gotten off of that. He has gotten -- he struck to an anti- establishment message, but it's been all about conspiracy theory.

KELLY: Meantime, Trump has been complaining about the media. If you look at the coverage of his -- the sexual assault allegations against him versus the media coverage of the WikiLeaks revelations, there's no question that it has been three to one at least Donald Trump negative news for him versus what we have seen on WikiLeaks. And you tell me why that is. Is it media bias or is it media laziness that they have to go through 10,000 and 10,000, and 10,000 e-mails?

ED O'KEEFE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thanks, Megyn.

(LAUGHTER)

O'KEEFE: There's video of Trump's problems, and there's thousands of pages of e-mails of hers. And we have been going through them. I spent two days last week reading through them. And we found interesting things. But frankly, all it really does is confirm or validate a lot of the assumptions and things we have known about her campaign and the way it operates. It takes 12 people to write a joke, 11 to write a tweet, or maybe it's the other around. But they're so confusing and it's hard to figure out.

You know, part what have it reveals is the transactional nature of national presidential politics. Part of it reveals that this is someone who requires a lot of thought into what exactly should be done and said by her campaign. But she's not -- but she's not being accused of things that he is being accused of.

KELLY: But Trump's temperament and the way he treats people has become an issue in this campaign. Some of these e-mails we have seen from her, from her team talking about how she treats those around her, Secret Service and others, how diminishing she allegedly is, how she doesn't care about the so-called little people she surrounds herself with. You tell me, if the media wanted to make that a story, they easily could.

O'KEEFE: Those e-mails as I understand it are from former diplomatic security folks talking to FBI agents. They're not in John Podesta's inbox.

KELLY: So what? My point is that it confirms a narrative that has been out there about her, too. But if it doesn't inure to her benefit it doesn't necessarily make the front page, not of the "Washington Post," just --

O'KEEFE: We have had the e-mail stories on our front page and out home page a lot.

BAIER: It's something he is going to hit on again and again probably, Monica. This is an ad that he has out today ahead of this debate, Donald Trump ad. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Tonight's debate is the biggest night of the campaign. I'm going to take the stage to fight for you, the American people. I'm going to hold crooked Hillary accountable and stand up for the forgotten Americans she's left behind for 30 years. She hasn't done the job. She never will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: So "crooked Hillary" is back in this ad. We will see about the dynamics before the debate starts, whether there's a handshake, what happens.

CROWLEY: Yes, well, it's going to be high drama, because, again, this is his last chance to really reset this campaign. But I think he is going to do a couple of things tonight. As I said, he has to make this about the American people and the future of the country. Then he has got to point to the wreckage of the Obama-Clinton economy and foreign policy and simply say, we tried it your way.

He also has to lay out a positive pro-growth economic agenda and a strong national security agenda. And I think he would do well to put her back on her heals and get her on the defensive on the WikiLeaks disclosures because, we just had this conversation, the mainstream media is not doing that job. He should talk about the sordidness and cynicism and corruption that has been exposed by these WikiLeaks. And all he needs is two or three examples about the media collusion or the fact that there was collusion to obstruct justice on the Benghazi e-mails or the fact she knew that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were funding ISIS and yet her foundation, the Clinton Foundation continued to take tens of millions of dollars from those regimes. All he needs is a couple of bullet points to get her on the defensive, and then I think he will find an effective opening.

KELLY: How much room does very to move the numbers, Steve, if he has a stellar performance tonight?

HAYES: I don't think very much. People are going to -- let's say he has the best -- the consensus coming out of this is this is not only his best performance but the best performance we've seen in debates this year. Are people going to make the judgment based on what they have seen in this one performance? He has followed Monica's advice, he's talked about the economy. Or are they going to judge what they have seen him do over the course of the campaign? I think the impressions are pretty deep at this point. It's really hard to change them.

BAIER: All right, more with the panel as we come back to Las Vegas and this final presidential debate. The countdown is on. Chris Wallace is getting ready someplace.

KELLY: It's exciting.

BAIER: Don't you think?

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