Special: Kids react to Donald Trump: "I'm nervous." Plus, what's the impact of newspaper endorsements?

Oct. 07, 2016 AT 9:53 p.m. EDT

During a trip to an elementary school in Nevada, Republican nominee Donald Trump met a group of first grade students who had very "authentic reactions" to his visit, says Bloomberg's Jennifer Jacobs. Most of the students didn't seem to notice Trump had joined the class, but one student repeatedly said, "I'm nervous." Another student loudly settled a dispute with a classmate: "See, I told you his hair wasn't orange."

Meanwhile, many newspapers that have traditionally supported Republican candidates are making surprising endorsements of Hillary Clinton this election year. But do these endorsements really matter? The Hill's Reid Wilson weighs in. Plus, while President Obama is seeing his approval rating rise in his final months in office, the first lady is hitting the campaign trail on behalf of Clinton.

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Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

GWEN IFILL: I’m Gwen Ifill, and this is the Washington Week Extra , where we pick up online where we left off on air.

Throughout U.S. history, newspapers have endorsed presidential candidates, giving them a so-called stamp of approval. But with just a month until Election Day, not one newspaper editorial board has endorsed Donald Trump. So, Reid, how is it possible? And does it even matter? We saw this week, for instance The Atlantic magazine came out and said for only the third time in history we denounce – they did more that denounced a candidate than endorsed a candidate.

REID WILSON: Yes, and I’m sure in the coffee shop in coal country in eastern Kentucky they are talking about The Atlantic ’s endorsement.

MS. IFILL: Exactly.

MR. WILSON: You asked two very different questions, you know: how can this be, and does it matter. The how can this be, we’ve seen some pretty stinging zingers from editorial boards across the country. There have been a number of papers that have not endorsed a Democratic candidate for 60, 70 years, or their entire history. Hillary Clinton became the first Democrat to win the endorsement of the Arizona Republic . The Dallas Morning News , the Cincinnati Enquirer – and these are pretty conservative editorial boards that are coming out for her. A lot of the editorial boards that you would expect to come out for a Democrat have: The New York Times . You can expect The Washington Post to at some point relatively soon. And there have been a few people who have come off the fence. It’s not only The Atlantic . It’s USA Today has never endorsed a candidate, and here they dis-endorsed Donald Trump, whatever that meant.

MS. IFILL: I have a theory. It’s not about trying to persuade readers or viewers to go one way or another. It’s in order to preserve their sense of self in the history – in the future, the history books.

MR. WILSON: I think there is a part of that, especially for a paper like USA Today , that dis-endorses the candidate that they find so distasteful. Does it actually matter? The guys who endorse the candidate you kind of think they will, like The New York Times endorsing a Democrat, no, that doesn’t matter terribly much. There have been some academic studies, though, that show that there is some influence, at least around the margins, when a conservative paper endorses a liberal candidate, or vice versa. So the Cincinnati Enquirer hasn’t endorsed a Democrat since Franklin Roosevelt. Their backing of Hillary Clinton will probably make its way into a whole bunch of Hillary Clinton advertisements in the southwest Ohio area, and you can imagine that that’ll sway at least a few voters.

MS. IFILL: Well, since we’re talking about history, Michael, I wrote a little blog this week about the history of presidential approval ratings. And one of the things that struck me is that the president’s doing pretty well. I don’t know if it’s nostalgia because now he’s leaving office or whether this happens all the time, that in the second term of a presidency people begin to all of a sudden think more highly of you.

MICHAEL SCHERER: I think – I think there is a tradition of, when you’re going out of office, you getting a bump, George W. Bush being the most recent exception to that. He left office pretty unpopular. I think in this case, though, it becomes really difficult for Donald Trump to make the case that we don’t want more – eight more years of Barack Obama’s administration when both Trump and Clinton are polling at 45 percent and President Obama’s at 55 percent in the CNN poll. This is not just high I think historically, but it’s high compared to where Obama’s been most of his presidency. He’s averaged something around 47 percent. Most of 2012, when he was running for election, he was closer to 45 percent.

MS. IFILL: Is it the economy, like everybody says?

MR. SCHERER: I think the economy’s part of it, but I think it’s what he said at the White House Correspondents Dinner, that it’s the contrast. I mean, I think people are comfortable with him as their president, given the two candidates they are now having to choose from.

MS. IFILL: Don’t say that to Trump voters, because they are distinctly – distinctively not comfortable.

MR. SCHERER: But in the minority on that question.

MS. IFILL: But in the minority, as it turns out, on that question. OK, Jeanne, I want to talk to you about the other secret weapon, which is – it’s not so secret, actually. It seems like every four years we write about Michelle Obama, the secret weapon, and she gives a terrific speech, and we say wow, isn’t she good. Wasn’t she always good? Wasn’t she the closer in 2008?

JEANNE CUMMINGS: Yeah, she’s always been very good. But she does – she’s done a good job of finish the campaign and go away. So she comes out and she’s refreshing, she is a surprise, and it seems as though they’ve been holding her out as a secret. But she is, I think, better than any of them. And it’s really amazing that she’s the non-elected one. But she has a way of connecting with audiences, particularly young people, that I’d imagine comes from the fact – stems from the fact that she’s been hanging in their world with her children. And so she’s been watching Ellen and hip shows and –

MS. IFILL: Children or teenagers, they don’t hang around with their mother.

MS. CUMMINGS: Oh, well, the little – the one is still young enough that she can still hang with mom.

MS. IFILL: It’s all relative.

MS. CUMMINGS: But she’s in their space and she talks their language. And Millennials aren’t that much older than her children. And some of them are right in the same range as her oldest daughter. And so what we found amazing at UVA, she delivered her remarks, and they were picking up on tiny words that it was just – she was connecting with them because she talked to them the way they talk to each other, and she knows their slang.

MS. IFILL: She also seems a little liberated. She made that little crack about the microphone, she just had to hit it and it took you a minute to realize what she doing, that she was making a little dig at Donald Trump. And I’m not sure that the Michelle Obama of the first term would have felt free enough to do that.

MS. CUMMINGS: Well, and the argument that she makes about turning out to vote is so compelling. Where she – every state she goes into she breaks down the math, and into a way that’s really relatable. So in North Carolina, she mentioned what her husband’s margin of victory was in 2008, and then drilled it down that it was three votes, say, I’m getting this off, but it was definitely single digit number of votes per precinct. So she said, you know, if you and your mom and your sister don’t show up, you could have been those three votes.

MS. IFILL: And it should be said that – I happened to like the ABC program Blackish . That was actually the whole theme of the program this week, people who were saying, we don’t need to go vote, and then Michelle Obama appears on the screen at the end –

MS. CUMMINGS: And makes that argument?

MS. IFILL: – and makes exactly that argument. Very interesting.

MS. CUMMINGS: It’s really compelling.

MS. IFILL: OK. Every now and then here on the webcast we like to go behind the scenes about what reporters are doing with their days every week. And Jennifer, God bless her, has been out there on that Trump campaign, on the Trump train, covering it very interestingly kind of day-to-day, and watching more carefully than the rest of us manage to the differences from day-to-day. I want to play – you posted this week a little piece of video of something that you saw in a classroom in Iowa?

JENNIFER JACOBS: It was in Nevada.

MS. IFILL: In Nevada.

MS. JACOBS: In Las Vegas.

MS. IFILL: Not Nevada. Here we go again. Where he walked into a classroom, Donald Trump, and this ensued.

MR. TRUMP: (From video.) Hi, kids. Are they all great students?

CHILD: I’m nervous. I’m nervous.

MS. : (From video.) Nice to meet you.

MR. : (From video.) She’s the teacher here.

MS. : (From video.) Yes, thank you.

MR. TRUMP: (From video.) Great student.

MS. : (From video.) Yes. We’re working hard.

CHILD: (From video.) See, Anna (sp), I told you his hair wasn’t orange.

MS. IFILL: Now, two things I love, in case you missed it. One is, one kid is saying, I’m nervous, I’m nervous, throughout. Three things. The second is that they seem completely unimpressed by the fact that a presidential nominee is in their classroom. And the third is the kid who seemed to think – and had a bet going – that the presidential nominee’s hair was colored orange.

MS. JACOBS: Right. She says: “See, Anna (sp), I told you his hair wasn’t orange.” And so she was very adamant that she was exactly right about that. It was very cute. So, yeah. So the Trump campaign really tries hard to get cameras into some unusual situations. And in this particular case, they were meeting with a bunch of Hispanic Evangelical leaders. This was a private Christian school. The kids – many of the kids who greeted him in the front hallway, in the front lobby, were very excited. But with these first graders, you get nothing but authentic reaction from them. And after I posted that on Twitter, so many people responded that their – that that little girl saying I’m nervous paralleled their feelings about Donald Trump. That child spoke exactly for what they were thinking about this campaign.

MS. IFILL: I also think – I don’t think most people realize behind the scenes that this is – these are kind of semi-staged events. But even the candidate looked like he was kind of nervous, like he didn’t know the last time he’d been in a room full of first graders. I don’t know the last time I’ve been in a room full of first graders. And maybe that made him nervous too.

MS. JACOBS: He’s definitely more comfortable around adults than children.

MS. IFILL: I think we can kindly leave it at that.

Thank you very much, everybody. We’re out of here, but there’s more online, including this week’s Washington Week-ly News Quiz, which I always fail. You try it. You check it out. See if you can pass. And we’ll see you here next time on the Washington Week Extra .


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