Guest Host: Susan Page

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks to voters during a campaign event February 15 in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks to voters during a campaign event February 15 in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

Donald Trump wins — again. In the South Carolina Republican primary Saturday, the billionaire businessman defeated his rivals by double digits — as he had in New Hampshire the previous week. And the contender with the famous political name and the most campaign cash, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, suspended his candidacy after another disappointing finish.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton regains her footing after being trounced in New Hampshire by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. In the Nevada caucuses Saturday, she finished first.

Guest host Susan Page and a panel of journalists discuss what the weekend’s results tell us about the mood of the voters and the course of this campaign and what’s ahead.


  • Stuart Rothenberg Founding editor of the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report; and contributor to Roll Call
  • Lisa Desjardins Political director, PBS NewsHour
  • Jonathan Allen Head of Community and Content, Sidewire; adjunct professor, political science, Northwestern University


  • 10:06:54

    MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's on a book tour. Republican primary voters gave former reality TV star, Donald Trump, a resounding victory in South Carolina Saturday. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz nearly tied for second. In the Nevada Democratic caucuses, Hillary Clinton defeated Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

  • 10:07:19

    MS. SUSAN PAGEJoining me in the studio to discuss the results in these two states and what happens next, Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg and Gonzales Political Report and Roll Call. Welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 10:07:29

    MR. STUART ROTHENBERGHey, thanks, Susan.

  • 10:07:30

    PAGEJonathan Allen of Sidewire and Northwestern University, thanks for joining us.

  • 10:07:34

    MR. JONATHAN ALLENThank you.

  • 10:07:35

    PAGEAnd on "The Diane Rehm Show" for the very time, Lisa Desjardins of the PBS NewsHour. Thanks for being with us.

  • 10:07:42

    MS. LISA DESJARDINSSo happy to be here. Thank you.

  • 10:07:43

    PAGEWe invite our listeners to join us, too. You can call our toll-free number, 1-800-433-8850. Send us an email to or find us on Facebook or Twitter. Well, Stu Rothenberg, let's start with you and let's start with South Carolina. Ted Cruz hoped to do well because of all the Evangelical Christians in South Carolina. Jeb Bush hoped to do well because the Bushs have historically done well in South Carolina. But it was Donald Trump who won and won big. How did he do it?

  • 10:08:14

    ROTHENBERGWell, I think, Susan, that he put together the usual Trump coalition which tends to be more downscale, angry white voters who are frustrated, disappointed and are looking for a strong leader. He did win a number of categories across the board so it is, I think, a mistake to define him solely as one corner of the party and yet, there is something that ties together all his supporters.

  • 10:08:40

    ROTHENBERGAnd it was -- that is a sense of frustration and a desire for dramatic change against the establishment. He continues to get those kinds of voters and the question now is -- I think that's a legitimate question, although most people have seemed to have made up their minds already. To me, the question is, as the field shrinks, does Trump expand his support, get the support of people who were for Ted Cruz, as Ted Cruz starts of fail, Ben Carson and people like that, or do we really have a two-person race with a party that is essentially divided between the establishment wing and the anti-establishment insurgent/conservative wing?

  • 10:09:24

    PAGESo Lisa, I know that you were in South Carolina this weekend. You know, one of the amazing things about Trump's victory is that he won among Evangelical Christians over Ted Cruz. That's been Ted Cruz's base, in a way. How did that happen?

  • 10:09:40

    DESJARDINSI think when you talk to Evangelical voters in South Carolina, the ones who voted for Trump were making a trade-off. They are uncomfortable with some things that Trump says. They're uncomfortable with some of his methods, but they have a larger priority and that is bringing big change, not just to the U.S. government, but also to their party. They feel that Republicans have not pushed hard enough to make big changes, things like immigration.

  • 10:10:06

    DESJARDINSAnd what I think is remarkable, on the other hand, is that Marco Rubio did so well despite the fact that Republicans question his former stance on immigration. And when you talk about the Trump voters and Evangelicals, those are ones who decided to make the trade-off. I will say in the past week, I think there was a shift there. There are Evangelicals I know very well in South Carolina who said on their Facebook feed for the first time, they were seeing pastors and others start to just personally question, has Donald Trump gone too far? And I think that's where we see a softening for him.

  • 10:10:36

    ALLENI mean, I think that at some level, we, in the media, have ignored a storyline in Donald Trump's success in South Carolina, which is the two people that he was competing most tightly against are Latino, are Hispanic or Cuban Americans, and while South Carolina has changed a lot over the years, I don't know that it's changed completely from the days of Strom Thurmond and I wouldn't be shocked to find out that some of the Evangelicals who are white who voted for Donald Trump would have a hard time voting for a Cuban American candidate or in the case of Ted Cruz, I guess, a Canadian American, Cuban Canadian American candidate.

  • 10:11:12

    PAGESo then...

  • 10:11:12

    ROTHENBERGHere's a shock. I agree with Lisa completely and with Jon, but here's a shock. Not all Evangelicals are identical. And so I think even though Trump did get a chunk -- a plurality of the Evangelical vote, it is these Evangelicals who are angry, frustrated, willing to overthrow the establishment and so in a sense, you could say, well, he carried Evangelicals. Yes, but they fit the same profile of the Trump supporters in other demographic categories.

  • 10:11:43

    PAGEBut you know why it's so significant is because we now go into Super Tuesday states, a bunch of them across the south, with just these kind of voters, where conservative southerners who identify themselves as Christian Evangelicals will be really powerful on March 1.

  • 10:11:56

    DESJARDINSI think that's right and I think that's why I was paying very close attention to the voters who decided in, say, the last week. Those voters were going more for Rubio and Cruz. Trump did not win with voters who decided in the last week. And that sort of spoke to this idea that I saw from that Evangelical core where they had been deciding on other issues, perhaps, other than a sense of is this a godly man. And I think in the last week, that was starting to shift.

  • 10:12:19

    DESJARDINSWill that shift in other states? That's what we have to wait and see.

  • 10:12:22

    PAGESo we pretty clearly have a three-person race on the Republican side. The third contender would be Marco Rubio. You know, he hasn't won in a state yet. But he did manage to come just barely second in South Carolina by just over 1,000 votes. Now, this is even though he had the endorsement of every Republican who matters in South Carolina. So was this a great showing by him, Jon, do you think or was it a disappointing showing? How would you read it?

  • 10:12:47

    ALLENI think it was not disappointing because the expectation that he was going to do worse, but he's got, as Ted Cruz points out, as you just pointed out, as I think anybody would point out, if he wants to win the Republican nomination, he's going to have to start winning states. And particularly as the map moves to winner-take-all states as opposed to proportional awarding of delegates -- obviously, in South Carolina, Trump dominated both of those categories.

  • 10:13:11

    ALLENBut as we go on, I mean, Rubio has not shown that he can take Donald Trump.

  • 10:13:16

    PAGEHe did, though, recover from a pretty catastrophic performance in a debate in New Hampshire.

  • 10:13:22

    ALLENHe did and I thought his debate performance in the following debate, before South Carolina, was probably the best performance I've seen by any candidate. What we've seen from Marco Rubio is that he is coachable. So at first, he was coachable in terms of he could get those lines down and he could repeat them and then he started getting mocked for repeating himself verbatim in a debate and all of a sudden, the next debate, you saw him incorporating the question into his answers, doing some things that showed some spontaneity.

  • 10:13:49

    ALLENI think the ceiling for Marco Rubio as a candidate from a political perspective is through the roof.

  • 10:13:57

    PAGEYou know, we all were writing stories off the South Carolina results. I read your column in Roll Call, Stuart. I wrote an analysis for USA Today. My lead was "History Is On Donald Trump's Side." He has now won both New Hampshire and South Carolina. Since South Carolina moved up in 1980, everyone who has managed to do that has won the nomination of the Republican party and in two of the three times, they won the White House. Is history on his side?

  • 10:14:22

    ROTHENBERGSo I'm supposed to think that because so far, history has been totally unhelpful in understanding the Republican race, that we have a Republican leader who has never held office, who says outrageous, ridiculous, confrontational and bizarre things, I'm supposed to think that, all of a sudden, now history has to hold. Well, Susan, I've been assuming history would hold until now, but it hasn't. So on one hand, history, you're absolutely right. I mean, because up until this point, you had to win early to build momentum.

  • 10:14:56

    ROTHENBERGBut this is such a strange race. It's so crowded. Have we ever had a frontrunner like Donald Trump in any campaign, in any election? Can you think of someone? So I think...

  • 10:15:06

    DESJARDINSNot in this country.

  • 10:15:06

    ROTHENBERG...I think...

  • 10:15:07

    ALLENFor any office.

  • 10:15:08

    DESJARDINSYeah, yeah.

  • 10:15:08

    ROTHENBERGRight. So I think that, you know, if you're asking me does Marco Rubio have to win at some point, to win the nomination, I'd say yes. I think that's self evident. But I think that Rubio is following a certain trajectory and I don't think the race is over. I think most people do think the race is over, but I don't.

  • 10:15:25

    PAGEHere's what I think. I don't think the race is over, but I think if it was anybody, besides Donald Trump, we'd be saying this guy is on a train to victory and it's going to take something...

  • 10:15:36

    ROTHENBERGBut you know I wrote that in my piece and I said, but Donald Trump is not like any other candidate. If this was any other cycle with any other candidate, I would say the race is over, but I think Trump is a wild card.

  • 10:15:47

    PAGEBut do you think, Lisa, that the establishment media, like the Republican establishment continues to underestimate the appeal and the stamina of Donald Trump?

  • 10:15:59

    DESJARDINSI absolutely do. I will agree with you. I agree with a lot of what Stu said, but I think we've always underestimated Trump from the day he announced. A lot of people thought it was a joke. The Huffington Post didn't cover him as a political candidate and I think it would be a mistake to underestimate him now. I think now is the time where it's very important for the media to look at who is in the ring.

  • 10:16:19

    DESJARDINSHe is the biggest force in the ring. And we need to be serious about vetting these candidates, which, honestly, Trump has not got a lot of vetting in the way that a frontrunner of his type would usually get and it's time.

  • 10:16:30

    PAGELet's talk about someone who has now left the stage. Jeb Bush, you know, when he started out, we thought he would be, possibly, a Republican frontrunner. He had more money than anybody. He has one of the most famous names in American politics. What he didn't have, Jonathan, was voters.

  • 10:16:47

    ALLENYeah. It's an amazing storyline. In 2012, right after the presidential election, I think the day after, Politico wrote a headline, "Clinton Versus Bush," projecting what was going to happen in 2016. And I don't think, over the course of the next three years, anybody would've disagreed with that likelihood of Clinton versus Bush. And then, all of a sudden, we see the candidate and I think what I came to understand and I think what other people came to understand is it turns out, George W. Bush was the better Bush brother as a candidate.

  • 10:17:18

    ALLENI mean, you know, he was smoother on the trail. He was a better communicator, despite some of the speaking issues. And I also think the American public doesn't want a third president of -- I just think people are tired of the same names over and over.

  • 10:17:32

    PAGESo maybe it turns out that your mother is right? His mother said from the start, there have been too many Bushs. It's time for somebody else. That certainly turned out to be the case. Well, we're talking with Jonathan Allen, head of community and content at Sidewire and an adjunct professor of political science at Northwestern University. Also with us this hour, Lisa Desjardins. She's political director for the PBS NewsHour.

  • 10:17:53

    PAGEAnd Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg and Gonzales Political Report. He's also a contributor to Roll Call. Our phone lines are open, 1-800-433-8850. Send us an email at We're going to talk next about the Democrats. Stay with us.

  • 10:20:02

    PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. And with me in the studio, Stuart Rothenberg, Jon Allen and Lisa Dangerdan who's joining us to talk about the results from Saturday night's contest. We started by talking about the Republican primary in South Carolina. Now, let's talk about the Democratic caucuses in what I like to call the silver state, Jon. Tell us what happened there.

  • 10:20:24

    ALLENI think it's the silver state, even though I think they do a lot of gold mining there. Hillary Clinton won by roughly five percentage points, which was a little bit of a surprise after some polling had them roughly even. So few people vote in those caucuses, it's astounding. I want to say 11,000 people or something along those lines. But I think, from a bigger storyline, what you saw there was the arresting of Bernie Sanders' momentum. Hillary Clinton continuing along the trajectory that I think we've all thought she was on, which is to win the Democratic nomination. A little uglier than anybody would have expected several months ago.

  • 10:21:00

    PAGEWell, do you two agree with that, that she's now on a path to win the Democratic nomination?

  • 10:21:05

    DESJARDINSWell, I think, just as we know, the Republican race has not fit traditional molds, the Democratic race hasn't either. And Bernie Sanders, something happens when he gets to a primary state. Two or three weeks before that vote, he can catch fire. So I'm hesitant to say that this is, you know, at all the end of Bernie Sanders. I think we -- March 1 is going to be a very big test and a difficult test. But I think what stood out more to me in the Nevada caucuses is Hillary Clinton learned the lesson of 2008. It's almost a reverse of what happened. She's winning the caucus states and she didn't win the primary state. So she's sort of figured out, you have to get delegates one by one. And that's what she's doing.

  • 10:21:41

    DESJARDINSShe's just trying to sort of rope-a-dope Bernie Sanders. This was a very good moment for her. It's something he now needs to recover from.

  • 10:21:48

    PAGEYou know, I would -- I think it's -- Hillary Clinton looks like she's in good shape. But the fact is Bernie Sanders has done so much better than any of us would have expected when he announced.

  • 10:21:56


  • 10:21:56

    PAGEBetter than, I think, he would have expected when he announced. So I'm a little reluctant to say the race is all but settled. What about -- what do you think, Stu?

  • 10:22:04

    ROTHENBERGI think it's almost, almost all but settled. But you're absolutely right about Bernie Sanders. I remember writing something early in the process where I said, you know, I think there is room for an alternative to Secretary Clinton. That anytime you have a race, there's -- well, somebody could -- is the alternative. And I thought it would be somebody who is younger and slicker and smoother. And instead, it's a 74-year-old socialist from Vermont who nobody would call slick. But the authenticity worked. I think he's going to run for a while and I think he'll attract some votes. And he is exposing significant weakness in terms of her appeal.

  • 10:22:40

    ROTHENBERGBut, you know, this was all about the minority community and her ability to win them and I think Nevada was an important step for her.

  • 10:22:47

    ALLENAnd let me just clarify. When I say she's on a path or on a trajectory, I'm not suggesting she couldn't be knocked off of that. I just think that, after New Hampshire, she looked like she might have been knocked off of that path and I think she's back on it now. And it's harder to see the math for Bernie Sanders going forward to get to a nomination.

  • 10:23:06

    PAGEFor one thing, you have super delegates, ex-officio delegates in the Democratic Party who aligned up almost 100 percent behind Hillary Clinton. You don't have that on the Republican side. If you had that on the Republican side, they would be all lined up behind anybody except Donald Trump. But that gives her a kind of safety net.

  • 10:23:22

    DESJARDINSOh, absolutely. And, again, she is trying to become the go-to candidate as early as she can. She knew the game coming out of 2008. The super delegates will be important in the end. I think she's got something like 450. But she needs more than 2,000 delegates ultimately, you know.

  • 10:23:38

    ROTHENBERGOf course. If she started to actually lose, then there would be a whole question about the legitimacy of the super delegates. And so that would...

  • 10:23:44


  • 10:23:45

    ROTHENBERG...that would bring in another whole conversation. But I think you're right. I mean, I think she has built up some momentum. And just her appeal to the Democratic Party, looking at the demographics of the Party, she appears to have a considerable advantage, that's right.

  • 10:23:55

    DESJARDINSBut she is using the Obama playbook here. She won 76 percent of African Americans in Nevada. That is an Obama-esque margin. And she lost with other races, if you believe the entrance polls. There's a little conversation about that.

  • 10:24:07

    PAGEThe big dispute about the Hispanic entrance polls. But, yes...

  • 10:24:10

    DESJARDINSThat's right.

  • 10:24:10

    PAGE...a huge victory among African Americans. Although, interestingly, when it comes to African Americans and especially Hispanics, you see a generational divide in the Democratic race, just as you see among white voters, with younger voters preferring Sanders or going to Sanders more than their elders.

  • 10:24:26

    ALLENI think we're seeing that a little more, and we haven't had a lot of states to judge this by, but we're seeing -- we saw that a little more, I think...

  • 10:24:32

    PAGEEspecially not in a lot of states that have significant minorities.

  • 10:24:34

    ALLENYeah. I think we saw that more with Latino voters in Nevada than we saw it with African-American voters. I think we're seeing a lot of anecdotal stories about that among the -- among African-American voters. I noticed one the other day out of Atlanta. There was an event at Morehouse College. And, of course, if you go to a Bernie Sanders rally at Morehouse College, what are you going to find? You're going to find young African Americans who are voting for Bernie Sanders.

  • 10:24:54

    ALLENI do think that, in terms of the delegate map and just to follow on what you're saying and how Clinton learned from 2008, one of the things that I think few people are aware of is the degree to which delegates are skewed toward big cities. To be able -- if you run up the score in a big city in a Democratic primary, you do a lot better on the delegate map than if you run up the score in rural areas. So as a result, if you're winning the African-American community by large numbers, you tend to be doing better with the delegate map. And I think that's what -- one of the things Clinton learned from Obama's victory in 2008 was just how much of a margin he got by running up the score in cities with African-American voters.

  • 10:25:31

    PAGEOne thing that makes Bernie Sanders different from other insurgent challengers in the past is the enormous amount of money he's able to raise with very little effort. He's -- he outraised Hillary Clinton in January. He does it by these small donations online, so it doesn't require him to go to some big fundraiser. And Hillary Clinton is now at a point where it's harder for her to raise money and she has to do it in these big-dollar fundraisers that Bernie Sanders instantly attacks.

  • 10:25:56

    DESJARDINSYeah. That's where she is today, at a fundraiser in California. But even as though -- even while he's outraised her, he's also outspent her recently. So he has to be very careful about the dollars. Now that he's moving away from a few one-at-a-time contests and moving to a dozen contests on a single day, he's got to make some real strategic decisions. It will be a test for his campaign organization.

  • 10:26:17

    PAGEWe have a tweet from Denise Watches TV. I presume that's not her real name but just her Twitter handle. And she writes, really, Bernie has not lost. Let's be real, 50 to 51 delegates. Feel the Bern. And let's go to a phone call. Let's go to Steve, who's calling us from Westport, Mass. Steve, thanks for calling us. You're on the air.

  • 10:26:35

    STEVEOh, thank you. I think this -- to make a comment about the veterans in the middle of all this. I'm a veteran. I do a program -- also I'm a musician. I put together a program under the Occupational Therapy Department of Music Therapy for the veterans at the Providence VA. You know, I come in contact with the veterans every week. I'm there every week for six years of -- every Monday morning. And when I come in contact with the veterans and I mention things just politically -- I'm there for music -- but when it comes -- just comes up, it's not a debate, it's just in conversation, it's a very peculiar phenomenon. When Donald Trump insults John McCain, his ratings go up.

  • 10:27:19

    STEVEMonths later, he does and, but these veterans will say, they like Donald Trump. Almost all of them like Donald Trump. And then when he does a fundraiser months later, they say, well that's a good thing, too. But then when I point out what President Obama has done -- and he's done a lot, you know, giving money that, you know, has helped the veterans, $25 billion when he first got in, I think another $38 billion during the first part of his second term. And his wife and Jill Biden has done so much to get veteran families housing. And even the veteran homeless, they've gone from 131,000 down to about 56,000.

  • 10:28:03

    PAGESo, Steve, let me ask you, why do you think veterans, despite these -- what you're saying about what President Obama has done for veterans in his administration, why do you think veterans like Trump? What do they like about him?

  • 10:28:13

    STEVEI don't know. I don't get it. They say he's a straight shooter. But I say, well, how come you don't like President Obama? And they say they don't like President Obama, but yet they like Donald Trump.

  • 10:28:23

    PAGEYou know, I think a lot of people have had this same frustration that Steve is talking about, not really understanding what's behind Trump's considerable appeal. Lisa, what do you think?

  • 10:28:31

    DESJARDINSI can tell you, South Carolina is a heavy veteran, military state. As many as one in six Republican voters are either active or former military. And I talked to them about that. And when you talk to veterans about why they're supporting Donald Trump, they say, I want America to be strong again. They feel that America does not have its muscle on the international stage. They also feel that the government's betrayed veterans. They attach that with Barack Obama, fairly or not. But I think it's honestly Donald Trump's kind of -- his attitude toward the world and his saying, I'm going to make America a winner again. These veterans have felt that that hasn't happened for many years. And they don't feel that John McCain would have done that.

  • 10:29:11

    PAGESteve, thanks for your call. And thank you for your service to our country. Let's read -- let me read an email from Ray in Indiana, that tries to also talk about Trump's appeal. He says, I don't think it's about underestimating Trump as much as it's that the media and everyone has underestimated the extent to which people have been crushed by the recession beginning in 2008. Now, Stu, we've been in a recovery for a couple of years since then. Is that still a big factor here?

  • 10:29:37

    ROTHENBERGI think it is. Actually, the survey data show that a plurality of Americans have not said the country is headed in the right direction since a NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll of January of 2004. So we've had over 12 years of a plurality of Americans and mostly a majority of Americans saying the country is headed off on the wrong track. That's not only the economy but the economy is a big chunk of that. And so I think what you're seeing with Trump, I would echo what Lisa says. There -- this is about frustration.

  • 10:30:06

    ROTHENBERGIt's not about, you know, Donald Trump's appeal is not his stand on the issues. Every once in a while he will talk about an issue. And he uses language that's, you know, you can like it or be offended by it. But it's just the persona, the leader who's going to come in and save everything, who's strong enough and talented enough to wave his magic wand or beat up somebody and things will be all right. And I think it's a very emotional appeal and that's the extent of it.

  • 10:30:35

    PAGEOur phone lines are open, 1-800-433-8850. If you're a supporter of Donald Trump and would like to tell us why, we'd love to hear from you. Jon.

  • 10:30:43

    ALLENI think, you know, just following on what Stu said, I think Donald Trump paints in bold, bright colors. And I think voters like that. And even if he says something...

  • 10:30:52

    PAGETo steal a phrase from Ted Cruz, actually, I think that's in his book.

  • 10:30:55

    ALLENOh, did he?

  • 10:30:55

    PAGEYeah, that's interesting, yeah.

  • 10:30:56

    ALLENOh, that's -- I didn't...

  • 10:30:58


  • 10:30:58

    ALLENSorry, I haven't read it.

  • 10:30:59

    PAGEWell, from Ted Cruz...

  • 10:31:00

    ALLENBut I will now.

  • 10:31:01

    PAGETed Cruz is listening, oh, yeah.

  • 10:31:02

    ALLENBut, you know, even if he says something. If Trump says something like he wants to go carpet bomb a country, although that's also a Ted Cruz-ism, I think what he's communicating to people is not that he wants to carpet bomb the other country but that he's going to be tough.

  • 10:31:13


  • 10:31:13

    ALLENAnd people like that about him. I totally agree with Stu on the question of the -- of economics. It is not only hard to get ahead now, it is hard to stay where you were. And I think there's a lot of frustration about that. You know, the sort of big numbers about recovering from the recession do not match the experience of a lot of average Americans.

  • 10:31:35

    PAGEQuickly, on a separate note, Denise Likes TV -- I think that was her handle from Twitter -- she raised a good point, which is, in pledged delegates right now, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are tied. But it's a question of momentum and also Hillary Clinton gaining the super delegates is unquestionably an important factor.

  • 10:31:52

    ROTHENBERGI just want to add one final thing on this question of a mood of the public. Part of the reason I think many of us who are -- handicap races or watch politics or write about politics, didn't quite expect the reaction we're seeing now for Trump and Sanders, is that we've had -- we've seen this mood of dissatisfaction for 12 years. And yet Mitt Romney was still nominated and Barack Obama didn't have a challenge. And this cycle, I -- it seems as though enough people have reached a level of frustration that we haven't seen before that has provoked the responses that we're seeing.

  • 10:32:21

    DESJARDINSAnd you have a transformational candidate, whatever your opinion on it.

  • 10:32:24

    ROTHENBERGThat's true.

  • 10:32:25

    DESJARDINSYou know, on him.

  • 10:32:25

    ROTHENBERGThat's true.

  • 10:32:26

    PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's read an email from Nancy. She writes, the difference in voter turnout between Democrats and Republicans in these primaries is noteworthy -- very low for Democrats and higher than ever for Republicans. Regardless of whether or not Trump is the Republican candidate, should this difference be of concern to Democrats? You know, this is an issue I think that, Jon, you mentioned earlier in this hour.

  • 10:32:50

    ALLENIt should be of concern to Democrats that there's less enthusiasm on their side. It should not be a surprise. You had 17 Republican candidates for a while and still have a lot more sort of viable or interesting Republican candidates than the Democrats have. And I think that brings people out. The reason that that should be of concern to Democrats going forward, of course, is Republicans are out there registering and bringing in new voters who probably, if they take the time to go vote in the primary, will probably take the time to go vote in the general election, particularly if their candidate is still alive in the general election.

  • 10:33:21

    DESJARDINSAnd that's when Republicans might worry, is if Donald Trump does not become the nominee, if something changes here and he runs as an independent, then that -- this is a problem for Republicans.

  • 10:33:31

    PAGENow, he signed that pledge, though. Doesn't that mean he won't run?

  • 10:33:34

    DESJARDINSBut he also said that Republicans broke their pledge to him. And he feels that they have not actually backed him up and that he is now free to break his pledge should he choose.

  • 10:33:44

    PAGEHow long does Donald Trump or Michael Bloomberg or anyone else have to decide if they're going to run as an independent? Because you start to run against -- run up against deadlines to get on ballots and so on. It's a complicated process. How long do they have, Stu?

  • 10:33:58

    ROTHENBERGI don't know exactly. You're right, there are different dates for ballot access for independent candidates than major party candidates. So an independent can decide later. Obviously, Bloomberg said he needed to decide sometime during March and we are almost there. So I don't think the independent has a lot of time. I don't know, a month, six weeks at the most, to put together an organization. That's just a guess though. Anybody else have a guess?

  • 10:34:24

    PAGEAnybody have a sense of...

  • 10:34:25

    DESJARDINSThat feels right, yeah.

  • 10:34:26

    ALLENAs a former employee of Mike Bloomberg's, I'll stay out.

  • 10:34:31

    PAGEIf Donald Trump ran as an independent -- say the Republicans nominate Marco Rubio, Trump runs as an independent -- what does that do?

  • 10:34:41

    DESJARDINSI do think it helps the Democrats at this point. Now he is taking from both Republicans and Democrats. But he ran as a Republican in this situation where he's an independent. And those are the new voters that are registering Republican that Jon is talking about.

  • 10:34:55

    PAGEAnd if Michael Bloomberg runs, Stu, who does that help or hurt -- runs as an independent.

  • 10:34:59


  • 10:34:59

    PAGESay you've got a...

  • 10:34:59

    ROTHENBERG...I mean, it's very clear. That's the easy one. He would certainly help the Republicans. Because Michael Bloomberg, although he was elected to mayor of New York once as a Republican, his appeal is to people who support more gun control, limits on the amounts of size of sodas that people can drink. His appeal is essentially Northeastern liberal Republican seats, if there are any there, or pragmatic Democrats. So he would hurt the Democratic candidate, absolutely, badly.

  • 10:35:32

    PAGEHere's a email from North Carolina. This person writes, recently, NPR mentioned that there is an enormous amount of Republican money waiting for any candidate other than Trump to be nominated. Is that true?

  • 10:35:45

    DESJARDINSI wish we had the reporter here who. I think certainly there are donors who have not maxed out. There are many of them. I think there is also a Bush Super PAC still out there with money in its books. I -- we're early in an election cycle and I think donors who've done this before know it's a long cycle. I'm sure there's many hundreds of millions still out there.

  • 10:36:06

    ALLENThe question is, do Mike Murphy and the Right to Rise Super PAC that were supporting Jeb Bush decide that they want to start nuking Donald Trump or anybody else. I mean, the crazy question about Bush himself, of course, is who would he support? He has a beef with Donald Trump. He has a beef with Ted Cruz. And he's got a beef with Marco Rubio.

  • 10:36:24

    PAGEAnd the natural person for him to endorse would be Marco Rubio. But he has said such harsh things about Marco Rubio, about his lack of leadership, his lack of accomplishment. I just am trying to visualize the news conference where he would announce he had changed his mind.

  • 10:36:38

    DESJARDINSBehind the scenes, there really are raw feelings in the Bush camp about Marco Rubio. And how it got there from the mentor-protégé relationship that they used to have is remarkable. Honestly, though, I think things can change quickly in politics. I think the Bush camp, even more than they have, let's say, sour feelings toward Rubio, they have felt for a long time that this is a race about the future of the Republican Party, that this is for the soul of the Republican Party. And if they felt that backing Marco Rubio is the way to defeat Donald Trump, absolutely, he will jump onboard.

  • 10:37:08

    PAGEWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll talk about how Donald Trump may be redefining what it is the Republican Party stands for. And we'll talk more about the Democratic race as well. We'll take your calls, 1-800-433-8850. Or send us an email to Stay with us.

  • 10:40:02

    PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. We're talking politics this hour. Joining us, Jon Allen from Sidewire, Lisa Desjardins from PBS NewsHour, Stuart Rothenberg from Roll Call. You know, I called on Trump supporters to get in touch with us and tell us why. We've gotten an email from Janie, who says I support Trump because of immigration. Our country needs reform in our legal system besides securing our borders, and secure borders are key to our sovereignty, our safety and our fiscal bottom line.

  • 10:40:34

    PAGEAnd we've also gotten an email from Oxcar, who says, why Trump? Because he knows and is willing to acknowledge who the enemy of American security and prosperity is. It is China, Mexico, India and Muslim terrorism. What do you make from these two supporters?

  • 10:40:48

    DESJARDINSWell, I think on immigration, that was something really interesting we saw in South Carolina, that Trump overwhelmingly does well with voters like that, you are very concerned about immigration, especially on the Republican side. But what's interesting, Susan, is that that is not the majority of Republican voters. That's actually the fourth of the top four issues that they have. They care more about the economy, jobs.

  • 10:41:10

    DESJARDINSAt the same time, what surprised me coming out of South Carolina, when Republican voters were asked what should happen to those who are in the country illegally now, 53 percent said they want a legal status. These are Republican voters in South Carolina, a conservative state, a majority saying they favor a legal status. And just shy of that said we'd like to deport them all.

  • 10:41:30

    PAGEAnd yet this -- his stance on immigration, specifically his support for a compromise legislation, bipartisan legislation, has turned out to be a huge weakness for Marco Rubio. Jon, he has to continue to defend and explain what it was he did.

  • 10:41:41

    ALLENIt's a passion issue for those who are angry and believe that immigration is causing problems in the United States, causing economic problems, whereas it's not necessarily a passion issue for those who believe in comprehensive immigration reform. I think it's a problem for Marco Rubio on two counts. One is it puts him apart from a large segment of passionate voters on that issue, and it also portrays him as a flip-flopper because while he has not said he's opposed to comprehensive immigration reform, he has backed away from his vocal support for that bill and being signed on to that bill.

  • 10:42:19

    DESJARDINSI'm going to disagree with my friend over here just a little bit, for the first time ever probably disagreeing with you, Jon. I read South Carolina as possibly a good sign for Rubio on this issue. He was hammered on immigration. Friends were giving me just mailers that were, you know, book-size thick that they got in the mail on this. The ads were tough. And yet nonetheless, he placed second. He was being tagged to that issue, but yet voters still went for him.

  • 10:42:42

    DESJARDINSAnd I think this speaks to the underlying, that number of Republicans who honestly think in the end a legal status is okay, and perhaps we're misreading the Republican electorate, especially in a state like South Carolina, where if most are saying I'm okay with a legal status, maybe we're misunderstanding something.

  • 10:42:59

    PAGEYou know, we know that the Republican Party has trouble appealing to a diverse electorate and an increasingly diverse American electorate. But I wonder Stu, do they deserve some credit? Of the three people who seem to be the finalists for the nomination, two of them are Latino.

  • 10:43:12

    ROTHENBERGYeah, that certainly is interesting. I have -- I have long felt that the kind of demonizing the Republicans as a part of redneck racists is unfair. The profile is absolutely older, white male. That's clear. But, you know, Republicans really want to vote for African-American candidates, Hispanic candidates, women. They just want to vote for conservative African-Americans and conservative Hispanics and conservative women.

  • 10:43:46

    ROTHENBERGAnd I think we've seen where periodically, whether it was Herman Cain or Ben Carson suddenly had spikes of support, I think Republicans really are aching to show that they are not intolerant, that they are not racists. And so in some respects I guess I'm not surprised that somebody like Rubio and/or Cruz has appeal. They have appeal -- it's not just limited to their ethnicity. It goes far beyond that. Either they're good speakers...

  • 10:44:09

    DESJARDINSAnd don't forget, Ben Carson...

  • 10:44:11

    ALLENAnd obviously -- and obviously because there's such a small percentage of the Republican electorate is minority voters. So you see Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio doing well. Obviously they have appeal beyond Latino voters of Cuban-American voters. I think one of the fascinating things I saw this week was in Greenville, South Carolina, Nikki Haley, who is of Indian descent, Tim Scott, who is African-American, and Marco Rubio, Cuban-American descent, standing on stage together, looking like the poster that the Republican Party would want for the future of the Republican Party. And it was, I think, a very powerful moment for the Republican Party to have those three standing together, and I think it will be helpful to Rubio going forward.

  • 10:44:50

    ALLENThat doesn't mean, though, that the party is over that hump of older, white, male voters that Sue is talking about.

  • 10:44:58

    PAGELet's talk for a moment about Ben Carson, who is still in the race, no indications he's going to pull out. There was a time last October when he led the Republican field. Now he's down at the bottom. What's he going to do, and what significance, what impact does he have if he stays in the race, Lisa?

  • 10:45:15

    DESJARDINSHe has said he's here to stay, at least for a little while. We'll see how long. To be honest his numbers now are getting small enough that it's not clear if he has a dramatic impact or not. I'm sure Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz feels they need the Ben Carson votes, especially Ted Cruz, he h s a great Evangelical appeal. Ted Cruz probably feels without Ben Carson he would have a much better shot.

  • 10:45:35

    DESJARDINSBut I think Ben Carson speaks to a very particular and personal type of Republican voter, who just wants someone that they feel is genuine and not a bully.

  • 10:45:45

    PAGEAnd an outside, of course like Donald Trump, has never run or held office before.

  • 10:45:49


  • 10:45:50

    PAGESo if he got out, why wouldn't his votes go to Trump?

  • 10:45:52

    DESJARDINSI think that he speaks to especially the religious right. I think that he really hits a nerve with them that they feel is important. They see him as a godly man and someone trying to do God's work.

  • 10:46:03

    PAGEAnd here's an email from Jonathan, who writes, Kasich, I believe, does the best in a general election, pulls moderate Democrats, but he has very little money left. Is he at all viable? This is of course the Ohio governor, John Kasich, who came in second in New Hampshire but did nothing at all in South Carolina. Is he viable, Stu?

  • 10:46:19

    ROTHENBERGI'm not sure I'm the one to ask on this since I wrote a piece about five weeks ago, calling -- saying that you could stick a fork in John Kasich, his campaign was dead.

  • 10:46:28

    PAGENow do you regret that column?

  • 10:46:28

    ROTHENBERGOh no, no, I still, I think it was right. I think this is a dead -- what we call a dead cat bounce. John Kasich has appeal to the editorial board of the New York Times and Boston Globe, which is why he cannot win the Republican nomination. Look, he's got some assets. He's from Ohio. He's got a working-class background. He talks about his family all the time and the postman stuff. He talks about...

  • 10:46:52

    PAGEHis father was a postal carrier.

  • 10:46:53

    ROTHENBERGHe talks about compassion and the need for the party to talk to people who are often left out of the Republican conversation. These are things all good. But I don't think he has the resources or appeal to win the nomination. That doesn't mean he's irrelevant in the race, absolutely not. Actually, I just wrote that I think he's a huge factor because the longer he stays in, the harder he makes it for Marco Rubio to unite the pragmatists. He is a -- he's a major element in this race.

  • 10:47:19

    DESJARDINSThere was a critical moment in Ohio when the Ohio Republican Party decided to move back its primary. It was originally going to be March 8. Now it's March 15. It's a winner-take-all primary. Kasich needs all of it, but it's a week later, and that's a problem for him. Can he stay in that long?

  • 10:47:39

    ALLENWe're -- and pardon the pun, but we're all ignoring the elephant in the room here that I think all of the candidates are well aware of, particularly the second, third, fourth, fifth candidates, which is there is a possibility that you go to a Republican convention without a nominee, without somebody having a majority of the delegates, and if you're a John Kasich, and you think you can walk in with Ohio's delegates or maybe Ohio's delegates, Michigan's delegates, why wouldn't you do that?

  • 10:48:02

    ALLENIf you're Ted Cruz, you think you can walk in with Texas' delegates, why wouldn't you do that and have some negotiating leverage? So the incentives for teach of the individual campaigns are very different than the incentive for the Republican Party writ large, which is to resolve this as soon as possible, get it to one on one, maybe get rid of Trump. For the individual candidates, it's to show up with some leverage.

  • 10:48:20

    PAGEYou know, I've got say, as a reporter I've been blessed to be able to cover a disputed presidential election in 2000, the impeachment of a president, stories I'd never...

  • 10:48:27

    ALLENThese are blessings?

  • 10:48:28

    PAGEThey're blessings as a journalist because they're such great stories. And I am pulling for a brokered or contested convention because, you know, we don't have them very often. We had one, I guess, in 1976 before I was -- the 1976 Republican convention, but that was before I was covering politics. What are the odds? Give me odds, Stu, on whether we'll go to the Republican convention, and nobody will have cinch, will have a clinch, will have guarantee of being eliminated?

  • 10:48:58

    ROTHENBERGI'm trying to remember when I last did this. I threw out a number probably about a month ago, and I said there was a one in five chance, which to me was shockingly high.

  • 10:49:05


  • 10:49:05

    ROTHENBERGI mean, normally it's a .001 chance. I don't know, there's probably a maybe one in three chance of that happening.

  • 10:49:11

    PAGEYeah, that's what I'd say. What do you think, Lisa? What are the odds?

  • 10:49:13

    DESJARDINSI want to answer this question March 2, but I think -- I feel more one in five. This is how Matt Santos did it on "West Wing," so...

  • 10:49:21

    ALLENI'm going two in five.

  • 10:49:23

    ROTHENBERGAny of the...

  • 10:49:23

    ALLENI'm going 40 percent.

  • 10:49:24

    ROTHENBERGAny of these are huge numbers.

  • 10:49:25

    DESJARDINSHuge numbers.

  • 10:49:26

    PAGEThat's right.

  • 10:49:27

    DESJARDINSThey're kind of mind-blowing, yes.

  • 10:49:27

    PAGEAnd they're only possible because you have -- if you keep a three-way race. You get a head-to-head contest, and you won't have it. One thing that makes it harder to do on the Republican side is when you get to states like Ohio, big winner-take-all states, if you win -- even if you win them with 36 percent of the vote, you get a huge store of delegates.

  • 10:49:44

    DESJARDINSThat's right, and I think -- and also what Ted Cruz is really hoping for, Texas is not technically winner-take-all, but if you get more than 50 percent in a congressional district overall, then it's winner-take-all. That's tough -- going to be tough for him to do, but he's hoping.

  • 10:49:57

    PAGEBut the important thing to look for in Texas, it seems to me, is not only the delegates, but if Donald Trump can beat Ted Cruz in his home state, that's important.

  • 10:50:03


  • 10:50:04

    PAGEIf Donald Trump can beat Marco Rubio in his home state of Florida, that's important. If that happens, can those two rivals continue as credible candidates, Jon?

  • 10:50:15

    ALLENI mean, I think you can lose your home state and continue as a credible candidate, but I think it's a lot harder. And I think what's different between these two is I think in Florida, you'll actually see a consolidation behind Marco Rubio. In Texas, I think there are going to be people who are Texas public officials who are working against Ted Cruz, trying to prevent him from doing what Lisa was just talking about, which is getting over the 50 percent threshold, and they'll be doing it behind the scenes.

  • 10:50:41

    ALLENTed Cruz is a disliked man among the political elite in his own home state.

  • 10:50:44

    PAGEHere's a tweet from Derek, who writes, as far as Donald Trump, I think people are looking for a regular person, not a politician, a businessman. And here's a tweet from someone whose handle is Maryland, MDComplaintDepartment. This person writes, people love The Donald because they think he will be able to lead with impunity and unapologetically. But this person adds, this is not possible.

  • 10:51:05

    PAGELet's go to St. Louis, Missouri, and talk to Jason. Jason, thanks for holding on.

  • 10:51:10

    JASONNo problem. No problem at all.

  • 10:51:14

    PAGESo did you have a comment or a question?

  • 10:51:17

    JASONYes, I just wanted to point out, I think that Trump's appeal is a symptom of a larger problem that we have, and that's politicians who want to get re-elected. And starting with the appeal of the Tea Party, when conservative voices became more and more strident, and politicians responded, I think that the Republicans, and I'm one, I think as a party our leaders began to pain themselves into a corner when they began to comply with these strident voices, and we cease to be able to come to solutions with the Democratic Party, and we began to, you know -- if you want to get re-elected, pretty much you have to obstruct. And...

  • 10:51:59

    PAGESo Jason, who -- you say you're a Republican. Who do you like in the race? Do you have a candidate you're supporting?

  • 10:52:04

    JASONI don't. To tell you the truth, I'm more shocked and appalled that Trump has the appeal that he does in my party, and I'm disillusioned by the fact that so many Republicans would consider a Trump presidency as a reality. I mean, all the signs point to, you know, the lack of experience to me only indicates that he's going to be a fish out of water if he gets elected, and I worry about how the international community will view our country if we put him in office because he's already offended Mexico.

  • 10:52:41

    PAGEYeah, all right.

  • 10:52:43

    JASONAnd to lead with impunity, it's just another indication of the Republican Party's willingness to sacrifice, you know, the political work of getting things done in favor of, I don't know, making a statement.

  • 10:52:59

    PAGEJason, thanks so much for your call. I'm Susan Page, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Let's take another caller quickly, Rick calling us from Boston, Massachusetts. Rick, you're on the air.

  • 10:53:10

    RICKHi, good morning.

  • 10:53:11

    PAGEGood morning.

  • 10:53:13

    RICKI just want to make a comment. I'm a moderate Republican. You know, this whole race has been fascinating in many aspects, but what I find most intriguing is you have a businessman who's been extremely successful in his career, and a lot of people are overlooking the fact that the U.S. economy is the largest business on this planet. What I don't like about Cruz and Rubio is they're pontificating about their religious values.

  • 10:53:38

    RICKThis country has got to get off that track. It's got nothing to do with religion anymore, and the makeup of this country is, as another caller mentioned earlier, you know, between the Hispanics and the African-Americans and, you know, everybody else, that is low, low on the list right now. What it's all about is getting this economy -- yes, making America stronger as a world presence. You know, honestly I think Donald Trump is getting it.

  • 10:54:00

    RICKHe has the ability to do it, and...

  • 10:54:02

    PAGESo you'll have a primary there in Massachusetts. Rick, are you going to vote for Trump?

  • 10:54:06

    RICKI'm on the fence, I'll be honest with you about this one, on the fence between Trump and Hillary Clinton. Who I will not vote for is Bernie Sanders, I'll tell you right now. I think he's just an unmitigated disaster waiting to happen, being -- people should look at his financial track record and, you know, how is he going to pay for all these programs. But yes, I'm leaning towards Donald Trump. That is...

  • 10:54:24

    PAGEYou know what's interesting is here's a supporter who's -- a voter who's divided between Trump and Clinton. That is a limited universe, I think, in American politics. It's so interesting.

  • 10:54:32

    DESJARDINSMaybe not...

  • 10:54:32

    ALLENIt's a centrist voter.

  • 10:54:34

    DESJARDINSYeah, yeah.

  • 10:54:36

    ALLENThat is -- I mean, look, Donald Trump...

  • 10:54:36

    DESJARDINSAnd unhappy, unsatisfied centrist voter.

  • 10:54:38

    ALLENExcept the wall, Donald Trump is essentially a Democrat. I mean, if you look at his positions over time, before he got into the Republican primary...

  • 10:54:47

    DESJARDINSAnd now abortion, yes.

  • 10:54:47

    ALLENRight, you could see a pretty socially liberal Democrat and a moderate on economic issues. So he's kind of a hawk, and he wants to build a wall. Hillary Clinton is a moderate Democrat. She's kind of a hawk. She gets along with Wall Street and is otherwise, you know, socially liberal and whatnot. They're not that far apart on a lot of issues, and so it's not surprising to me to say they have trouble with the two of them.

  • 10:55:09

    PAGESo interesting, yeah. Rick, thanks so much for your call. So I want to -- you're all political experts here. I want you to tell me, looking ahead, what are you looking ahead at? What's the state that we should all be watching next up or up in the next couple weeks that you think is going to be really important to pay attention to? We're going to start with you, Stu.

  • 10:55:26

    ROTHENBERGThe next couple weeks, we'll have to see what that entails. Well, so that's mostly Super Tuesday and maybe we can include Michigan after. For Super Tuesday, I'd look at a couple states like -- well obviously Texas is important to see if Trump can actually beat Cruz there. You know, if I think -- if trump finishes first in Texas and first in Ohio, the race is over.

  • 10:55:48


  • 10:55:49

    DESJARDINSI like watching Georgia and Virginia, and I also want to say I think in kind of summing all this up, I think this race is more about margins, not wins. We're used to looking at how many states have you won. Now it's kind of about the margins, and the ones behind have to get bigger margins and closer margins than we've seen before.

  • 10:56:05

    PAGEJon, what are you going to look for?

  • 10:56:05

    ALLENI'm kind of interested in Tennessee, actually, and -- because it's on the cusp of the Deep South but has some big cities in it. I think it'll be interesting to watch the data coming out of there for the Republican candidates.

  • 10:56:16

    PAGEAnd we're almost out of time, but I want you to tell me what month the Democratic race will be decided, when one candidate or another will be guaranteed of a nomination. We'll go the opposite way around the table. Jon, what month, Democrats done?

  • 10:56:27


  • 10:56:29


  • 10:56:30

    DESJARDINSEarly May.

  • 10:56:30

    PAGEEarly May.

  • 10:56:31


  • 10:56:32

    PAGEYeah, so a race that goes into the spring.

  • 10:56:32


  • 10:56:33

    PAGEI want to thank our panel for being with us this hour to talk about what happened in South Carolina and Nevada on Saturday night and what's ahead on these -- this very interesting 2016 campaign. Lisa Desjardins, political director for the PBS NewsHour, Jonathan Allen, head of community and content at Sidewire, Stuart Rothenberg from Roll Call and the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report. Thanks so much for being with us this hour.

  • 10:56:59

    ROTHENBERGThanks for having us.

  • 10:56:59

    DESJARDINSYou're welcome, thank you.

  • 10:57:01

    PAGEI'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's on a book tour. Thanks so much for listening.

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