Hallie Jackson is a political correspondent and anchor for MSNBC. She is currently on the campaign trail covering Donald Trump and hosts the 12 p.m. CST hour of “MSNBC Live.” Jackson will contribute to NBC News’ “Decision Night in America” coverage tonight, beginning at 6 p.m..
The Daily Texan: What do you think is so unusual about this election season?
Hallie Jackson: Well, I think that on either side, no matter who ends up in the White House, it’s going to be historic. You’re either going to have the first woman president or you’re going to have the first president who had really no real background in politics or the military, Donald Trump, a businessman who has been an unconventional candidate from the beginning.
DT: Why do you think the political climate is so negative in America right now?
HJ: Well, I think when you look at where some of the polling is, where the numbers are, what we know for sure is this campaign seems to have taken a toll on Americans … Our latest poll shows some 60 percent of Americans feel less proud of their country because of the exact rhetoric you’re talking about in this campaign. That number is more than five times as much as what we saw in 2008. People are definitely feeling divided, they’re feeling stressed out about this, and I think that the big challenge for the next president, whoever it is, is going to be, “How do you bring the country back together?”
DT: What challenges do you think you face as a female journalist covering politics in the U.S.?
HJ: What I can tell you is that I look at the people who have blazed a trail that’s ahead of me. People that I work with like Andrea Mitchell, people like Kelly O’Donnell, people like Chris Jansing who have been covering politics for a long time, and who have broken new ground, I think, for not just for women journalists, but all journalists in general. I look at what we’ve done this campaign so far with my colleagues, and I feel very lucky to be in a position where I have really strong role models to look up to. Not just the guys, like Chuck Todd, but specifically this powerhouse group of women that has been out there, that has been doing this. They’re amazing mentors.
DT: Where do you think Ted Cruz’s challenge of Donald Trump for the Republican nomination fell short?
HJ: I think overall, Donald Trump, as he likes to talk about, plowed through the primaries and emerged as the clear victor. You have Wisconsin, which gave [Cruz] a win, and that was a huge boost to the Never Trump movement overall, but Ted Cruz struggled by not getting that Never Trump movement to coalesce behind him as an anti-Trump vote, and then he sort of fell victim to the headwinds of Donald Trump’s supporters who were turning out in mass. His struggle, that played out rather publicly, about when and whether to end up endorsing Donald Trump. Ultimately, we know that he has. What I am expecting to watch play out over the next two years before his re-election campaign, is what kind of political fallout, if any, that will have for him. Not just in Texas, but nationally.
DT: Where do you think the Republican Party will be if Trump loses? If he wins?
HJ: We’re going to see how [Trump] and Paul Ryan work together and sort of how the part knits themselves together. Obviously, it’s easier if their nominee ends up in the White House. If Donald Trump loses, the real questions become, what happens to the base’s support he has cultivated with his populist message? How does Paul Ryan take up that mantle of leadership in the GOP? Frankly, Donald Trump’s not going away, no matter what happens. Obviously, if he wins, but if he loses, he’s certainly not going to fade away into the ether.
DT: Do you think the reopening of Hillary Clinton’s email investigation by the FBI during early voting will affect the outcome of the election?
HJ: What has been clear is that polls did start to tighten after that news came out. You saw a little bit of a revival over the last few days, right before the election. Then Sunday’s news, that essentially nothing was found that they believe would affect his initial announcement in July, I think that, for Democrats at least, validated what they had been saying all along. That said, the news allowed Donald Trump to talk about this for nine days as early voting was happening. So, I do think you saw it reflected in a lot of the poll numbers, but we’re going to see how it plays out on Tuesday.
DT: What do you think the greatest challenge is in covering this presidential campaign?
HJ: It’s been a long slog, my friend. For me, it’s been an incredible experience and an amazing opportunity to watch history unfold, and I’m so excited to do that Tuesday night. I’m sitting right now in the middle of our election center on the fourth floor of 30 Rock. We’re turned our newsroom into this unbelievable area … It’s sort of the culmination of everything that we’ve been working towards the last 600 days, since this campaign technically kicked off. So that’s been incredible. The challenge for me, has been just doing all the normal things you do as a reporter and doing them while traveling, while on planes and trains and on moving cars. I can’t tell you how many scripts I’ve written in the passenger seat as my producer, Frank, is chauffeuring us from one random spot in New Hampshire to another, or whatever. So the logistics of it all has been a real challenge, but it’s also been something where you kind of have to kind of figure out how to learn quickly. So, juggling everything has been a challenge, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s been the experience of a lifetime.