MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
If you were to compare these last several months of the presidential campaign to a courtroom drama, you could maybe place the conventions as the place where Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton laid out their opening arguments for the general election. Then, as the summer unfolded, they built their cases, introduced evidence for and against. And now, with three weeks to go, we're hearing closing arguments. For a preview, here's NPR's Mara Liasson. Hi, Mara.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.
KELLY: Good morning. Start with Donald Trump. How would you sum up the closing argument that he's making to the country?
LIASSON: His closing argument is the election is rigged. It's not going to be legitimate if he loses. Either it will be stolen by fraud or the media is so biased against him he can't win. Republicans and Democrats say that is dangerous talk because the peaceful transfer of power is the bedrock of democracy. And he's threatening to undermine that. Yesterday, Paul Ryan was forced to issue a statement saying, he has no doubt the votes will be counted fairly.
Now, Trump hasn't said, exactly, what he wants his supporters to do on November 9 if he loses. But he has told them that, on November 8, they should go to the polling stations in quote, "communities" - presumably minority communities - and see if fraud is being committed. And many Democrats see that as inviting Trump supporters to intimidate minority voters.
KELLY: Well, you mentioned his supporters. Is this closing argument he's making helping him win votes at this stage?
LIASSON: That's an excellent question. It's not clear if he's trying to build a rationale for a loss or trying to win or trying to build Trump TV after he loses. We do know that it looks like he's given up on expanding his base, and he's trying to suppress Clinton's vote. If you are super negative, you tell women about Bill Clinton's sex scandals or minority communities about how bad they have it. Maybe, according to this theory, Hillary Clinton's voters will get disgusted and stay home.
KELLY: Now, where stands his support within his own party? You've just been reporting down in Charlotte. What were you hearing there?
LIASSON: The Republican voters who are very loyal to Trump have been pointing at several villains - the corrupt media for spending less time on Clinton campaign hacked emails and more time on Trump's sex scandals, the corrupt Clinton machine, which they think is behind everything and the disloyal Republican establishment. And I found a couple of people saying they're going to vote for Trump but not for Republicans down ballot.
KELLY: Interesting. It feels - it feels worth pausing to acknowledge this morning, we are devoting a big chunk of time to covering Trump. I mean, this is because he keeps making news.
LIASSON: That's right. One candidate keeps making news. The other one plays it safe. He's not just making news. He's making news that's historically unprecedented. To question the legitimacy of an election in advance, that has never happened before.
KELLY: Well, let's turn to Clinton. She has been busy as we're hearing elsewhere in the show. She's trying to expand her map at this point.
LIASSON: That's right. She looks at polls. She sees the Georgia and Arizona red states are very close. There are some polls in Utah that show it tied. So she's trying to expand the map, help Democrats down ballot.
And you're also hearing a new argument coming from President Obama, which is that the Republicans are responsible for Trump. They didn't stop him. They didn't criticize him. They whipped up the base or looked the other way when he floated debunked conspiracy theories. So he's trying to tar the whole Republican Party with Trump. That's different from what Clinton is saying, which is that Trump is materially different from Mitt Romney or John McCain. It's kind of a good cop, bad cop tag team.
KELLY: Mara, just quickly, in a couple of sentences, circle back with me to this idea of election is a trial. What is Clinton's closing argument?
LIASSON: Well, she's not saying anything different in the closing weeks. Many Democrats think she should, that she should get busy explaining, in simple terms, what she stands for other than not being Donald Trump so she can have a mandate. And that comes from voters knowing what to expect if they elect her. What will she - the two or three things that she will do if she gets into office.
KELLY: That's NPR's Mara Liasson. Thanks, Mara.
LIASSON: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.