10:15 a.m. E.T.
Lester Holt and I kick around the overall state of the race, “Romnesia,” the foreign policy debate, and more on the fabled NBC News morning program Saturday:
LESTER HOLT: All the buzz phrases from this election — ”binders full of women,” “you didn’t build that, “47 percent,” now “Romnesia” — where do we stand right now?
MARK HALPERIN: Well, look, there are two big things going on in the race. I’ve been travelling quite a bit with both candidates, out talking to voters. There’s a lot of excitement in the country, as Jonathan Martin said in Peter’s piece. This race is up in the air. And we haven’t seen a race like this in a long time where either candidate is really in a position to win. On the other hand, it’s also very tense. You talk to partisans on one side or the other, they’re panicked. They’re desperate about the thought of the other guy winning. So, the country is very engaged but it’s very negative and intense and the President’s ‘Romnesia’ line yesterday, Democrats look at that, including inside the Obama campaign, inside the White House, and say, people, particularly women voters, don’t trust Mitt Romney. They want to sow that. They want to sow the doubts about whether you can trust Mitt Romney on issues that voters care about, particularly women voters. On the other side, the Romney campaign looks at that line and says, “This is small. This is petty. This shows the President’s panicked.”
LESTER HOLT: You know, I’ve been looking at all the data coming in from these swing states. Let me ask you this. Is it conceivable that we could see the winner of the electoral vote not be the winner of the popular vote?
MARK HALPERIN: It’s possible. You know, you’ve got 41 states that are basically being ignored. So, in California and here in New York, you’ll see the President run up big margins. But in a lot of the Southern and Mountain states, you’ll see Governor Romney. If that happens, if we have a situation like we had in 2000, it’s likely the President would win the popular vote but end up losing the Electoral College.
LESTER HOLT: Alright, let’s talk about the foreign policy debate coming up on Monday. They’ve gotten into a little bit certainly on the Benghazi situation. Is that a dead issue now or do you think that’s going to come front and center again?
MARK HALPERIN: You know, it certainly will come up in the debate because it is amongst the most topical things. It’s still not really clear to me that either campaign really wants to go for it. Governor Romney had his chance in the second debate and he kind of whiffed. And I think the press and the public feels that that’s been adjudicated out to some extent. Now, we did have, as Peter’s piece mentioned, some new documents. I think the President still hasn’t adequately explained, in the minds of some, what he knew and how he reacted to all this. There are other big foreign policy issues. It’s unfortunate, as far as I’m concerned, that we’re going to have 90 minutes on foreign policy. Lot of big issues but I think most of them have already been adjudicated out. We still need a big debate on the biggest issue facing whoever wins, which is the Fiscal Cliff, all these issues of taxes and spending. I hope they find a way to work that into the debate as well.
LESTER HOLT: Well, typically the incumbent has the advantage on foreign policy, at least in terms of experience. Is the President vulnerable though on any foreign policy issues?
MARK HALPERIN: He’s been a towering figure on foreign policy and Republicans have wanted to run on the economy. I think there is some vulnerability on this question of Libya, and, in general, around the world. It’s a confusing place right now. The Arab Spring. We still haven’t really resolved our relationship with places like China and Russia. It’s a messy world. The US’s role in the world is confusing. I think there are some points of debate. But, in terms of what voters are actually going to vote on, no, I don’t think he’s particularly vulnerable nor do I think he’s got a particular advantage, despite his areas of strength in foreign policy. The economy, I think, is what most voters are going to look at here.
Watch the video above.