SPECIAL REPORT

Did the final debate performances change the dynamic?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," October 20, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election if I win.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Of course, I would accept a clear election result. But I would also reserve my right to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result.

HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: You know, it was horrifying what he said. We have had hot, contested elections going back to the very beginning. But one of our hallmarks has always been that we accept the outcomes of our elections.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: That was live from the debate that got the most attention, the most coverage definitely, and today's reaction from Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Let's bring in our panel here in New York: Daniel Halper of The New York Post; Lisa Boothe, columnist with The Washington Examiner; Caitlin Huey- Burns, national political reporter for Real Clear Politics, and William McGurn, main street columnist for the Wall Street Journal. OK, Bill, your thoughts first on the statement but then the reaction to it? It was almost --

WILLIAM MCGURN, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Look, it didn't help him by making this because we all knew that they were going to jump on it. It was similar to his comment to you about the Republican primary.

But we have an editorial tonight about the reaction here, the smelling salts that people are calling for. It has become an article of faith in the Democratic Party since 2000 that Bush stole the 2000 election and the 2004 election. So there's a lot of sort of faux outrage about this.

BAIER: Lisa, Hillary Clinton herself had different fundraisers after 2000 and questioned the results of the election. Obviously, it's a different scenario that they're talking about, but it was interesting to see the reaction today.

LISA BOOTHE, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: There's hypocrisy there. But I actually think Donald Trump is missing the opportunity because the system is rigged but not exactly the way that he is describing it.

All he needs to do is point to the fact that we have a State Department official allegedly suggesting a quid pro quo with the FBI, the fact that we have got the Department of Justice colluding with the Clinton campaign, giving them inside information, the fact that we have the attorney general, the nation's top law enforcement, meeting with Bill Clinton during an ongoing investigation.

But the biggest problem for Donald Trump with all of this is the fact that this represents his biggest obstacle this election cycle. It's the fact that he derived the wrong lessons from the primary, because he got $2 billion of free earned media from the primary. And now he has gotten away because he never built an organized campaign infrastructure to get his message out. Clinton is beating him two times the amount of money on radio, TV, and cable. And her allies are beating him three times as much. He doesn't have an infrastructure to be able to get his message out. And he has not able to break through the mainstream media and break through the noise.

BAIER: Caitlin, that is the question. Could he have debate performance that changed the dynamic? And I think the consensus is that while he performed pretty well as far as all the debates, minus the one sentence that got a lot of attention, he likely didn't change the dynamic?

CAITLIN HUGH-BURNS, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: I don't think he changed the dynamic. And I actually think he has the potential to hurt some of these down ballot candidates now. I think the path for Donald Trump to the presidency is so narrow that Republicans are hoping that at least he can close the gap a little bit, not necessarily win, but close it enough to kind of help lift some of these candidates down ballot.

And what he said at the debate on the debate stage is really the campaign in a nutshell. He is presented time after time with dozens of opportunities to go after Hillary Clinton to make his case to the American people, and it's always one line, but a very significant line that Democrats I think rightfully are going on this.

BAIER: Daniel, a lot of things happened in that debate. It was substantive for a lot of it. One of them was an answer by Hillary Clinton about the Clinton Foundation, a question and answer about that. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Everything I did as secretary of state was in furtherance of our country's interests and our values. The State Department has said that. I think that's been proven. But I am happy, in fact, I'm thrilled to talk about the Clinton Foundation, because it is a world renounced charity. And I am so proud of the work that it does.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Secretary Clinton, respectfully, this is an open discussion.

CLINTON: It is an open discussion.

WALLACE: I understand. The specific question went to pay for play. Do you want to talk --

CLINTON: But there is no evidence -- there is a lot of evidence about the very good work --

TRUMP: And it's a criminal enterprise --

WALLACE: Please let Mr. Trump speak.

TRUMP: It's a criminal enterprise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: OK, there you go. But today WikiLeaks in these e-mails suggests there's much more to this and to the money. Ed Henry's report tonight about what's inside the e-mails.

DANIEL HALPER, NEW YORK POST: Yes. There's tons more. And obviously there's a big relationship between these people who got special treatment at the State Department and have donated to the Clinton Foundation or paid for speeches to Bill Clinton.

I think going back to Donald Trump and this whole statement about -- I think the problem is he is coming across as a victim. And I think playing the victim card just isn't good enough. He needs to be a strong leader. He needs to be somebody who shows aspiration and that people can follow and say this is the kind of life that I want to lead and he can lead you there. Playing the victim card for Donald Trump is exactly not the message he shouldn't put forward. I think that's really hurting him there.

BAIER: To Caitlin's point, Bill, is the down ballot really now the concern for Republicans?

MCGURN: I think it's been a concern from the start. I would say, look, Donald Trump, I agree with Caitlin, missed a lot of opportunities. The one that just screamed out to me is when Mrs. Clinton was talking about Vladimir Putin. Who put all these secrets right out on the table like putting a steak out there for a hungry dog for the Russians to hack into? And he could have gong at that.

That said, the press hasn't been that interested in Mrs. Clinton's e-mails at all. So I'm not sure even if he didn't make this comment about that that they wouldn't have latched on to something else, maybe one much his comments about the women. No one seems to be interested in Mrs. Clinton's e-mails. It's sort of as though people have accepted what difference at this point does it make.

HUGH-BURNS: I think it's more so that this is very uncharted territory, the fact that we have hacked e-mails that the U.S. intelligence officials have said have been hacked by Russians. I think if the headline wasn't the idea that Donald Trump thinks the election is rigged, I think the other headline would have been that Donald Trump is dismissing the intelligence community and information coming from that. And I think that's where she made the strategic case of getting the attention away from her and the controversies involved in those emails.

BAIER: Obviously the substance inside is a different thing than what -- you know, I was expecting him actually when she said 17 intelligence agencies around the world say that the Russians are behind him for him to say 17 intelligence agencies said there were Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and you voted for that war. But he didn't say that.

BOOTHE: No. But to Caitlin's point, that's the problem, and also to Bill's point as well. The media hasn't been interested in any of the information surrounding Hillary Clinton.

BAIER: Some media.

BOOTHE: Some of it. If you look at the Media Research Center, you have NBC, CBS, and ABC I think as of a couple days ago had spent seven hours and 30 minutes dedicated to the women coming forward and the various allegations regarding Donald Trump and women and only an hour plus to the WikiLeaks information. So I think no matter what Donald Trump said yesterday -- and yes, he didn't take advantage of all the opportunities he should have. No matter what the headlines would be negative for him.

Back to my original point, the problem for him is he never built the nuts and bolts of an actual presidential operation. He can't cut through --

BAIER: So you are saying it's over? He can't turn it around?

BOOTHE: I don't know if it's over, but I don't know how he gets his message out without having the money, without having the infrastructure built to break through this noise, to break through the mainstream media and get his message out.

BAIER: So these polls, do you think they're pretty accurate where they are?

HALPER: All of the data definitely points to her leading and pretty significantly. He needs to change the momentum. He needs to change the race. He hasn't done that.

And look, I think when you talk to people who work for Trump, you get a sense that they're not so enthusiastic, not enthusiastic about Trump, they certainly are about that, but that they themselves aren't convinced that he is going to win in November. And I think people catch on to that. And these statements by Donald Trump about discrediting election results already play to that point. This is not a man who believes he is going to win.

BAIER: We will see.

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