The Cook Political Report's Amy Walter discusses why President Biden's popular policies haven't translated to popularity among voters.
Guest Host: Indira Lakshmanan
Yesterday’s Super Tuesday primary and caucus voters boosted leads for both Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton. Clinton picked up 61% of the Democratic delegates at stake. Trump claimed 46% on the Republican side. The focus now shifts to the nine state votes scheduled for later this month including critical contests in Florida and Ohio. The next few weeks have been described as a moment of truth for many Republican party leaders who, so far, have been loathe to embrace Trump, and for Bernie Sanders supporters time is running out to overtake Clinton. Join us to discuss the 2016 presidential race ahead.
- E.J. Dionne Jr. Senior fellow, Brookings Institution; columnist, The Washington Post; author, "Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism--From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond"
- David Winston President, Winston Group; Republican strategist; CBS News consultant; adviser to the House and Senate Republican leadership for more than a decade
- Amy Walter National editor, Cook Political Report
MS. INDIRA LAKSHMANANThanks for joining us. I'm Indira Lakshmanan sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's out with the flu. Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton are both ahead in their primaries, presidential nominations with clear wins in a majority of yesterday's Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses. But in both parties, the race is far from over.
MS. INDIRA LAKSHMANANJoining me to talk about yesterday's results and the make or break contests coming up, political commentator E.J. Dionne Jr. of the Brookings Institution and The Washington Post. From a studio at NPR in New York, Republican strategist David Winston and from KERA in Dallas, Amy Walter, national editor of The Cook Political Report. Welcome to all of you.
MR. E.J. DIONNE JR.Good to be with you.
MR. DAVID WINSTONGood morning.
MS. AMY WALTERGood morning.
LAKSHMANANThanks for being here. I'm sure you didn't get much sleep last night.
WINSTONNo, not a whole lot.
LAKSHMANANWe'd also like to -- not a lot because you've been watching what's happening. We would also like to hear from you, our listeners. You can call us anytime throughout the hour on 1-800-433-8850. You can send us an email to email@example.com or you can send us a Facebook message or a tweet. E.J., today's headlines and the (word?) and the cable news are telling us Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both had good nights. How good?
DIONNE JR.They both had very good nights. Hillary, I think, had the better night because it's a two-way race. She won the vast majority of the contests, but Bernie Sanders won enough to hang around for awhile. I think one of the keys on the Democratic side is that Hillary did pick off Massachusetts by a very small margin. Bernie had targeted five states. If he had won all five, it still wouldn't have derailed her because she won overwhelming victories in the southern primaries, but it would've been more problematic.
DIONNE JR.On the Republican side, which is obviously now the far more interesting race, it was a big night for Donald Trump and the fact that Republicans are still so fractured is a problem for stopping him. But what -- I'd like to just begin by, since everybody's talking about the big Trump night, the limits on Trump's night. He only approached or passed 40 percent in four states. In two of those, Georgia and Tennessee, he was at 39 percent. The exit polling suggested that all the late deciders, the vast majority of late deciders voted against Trump.
DIONNE JR.Now, I had a little Twitter exchange with Matt Dowd, the brilliant Republican or, you know, George W. Bush's pollster. I would argue that maybe that showed that Trump had a bad week. He suggested it was non-Trump Republicans deciding late as to who to vote for, it's probably a combination of those two, by that is tricky for him. The other thing that Republicans have to think about is a big gender gap. Women were far less likely to vote for Trump than men and that's -- historically, women have resisted extremist candidates, are more interested in moderate candidates.
DIONNE JR.That's a problem for the fall. Last point, none of these Republicans really wants to cede to the other. The guy whose got the best case for going on is Ted Cruz because he actually won contests in Alaska, Oklahoma and his own Texas. And by the way, so much for Sarah Palin's endorsement of Trump, looking at that Alaska number.
LAKSHMANANIt did not work its magic in Alaska.
DIONNE JR.But Republican leaders still don't want to rally behind Cruz so they're looking now for a favorite son strategy to block Trump from getting a majority at the end, which would create a -- no, no, if it succeeds, it will create a mess inside the party.
LAKSHMANANAll right. Well, we will definitely get to that. Amy, you're, you know, E.J. was talking about Republican women and does Donald Trump have any appeal to women. You're the woman on our panel. I want to know, did Donald Trump prove to his skeptics, both inside and outside of his party last night, that his appeal is not just to the fringe, but it can be broad enough with women and other voters to win the party's nomination?
WALTERI think E.J. hit on it, the issue here when he said that it's the fractured feel is a big part of the problem here. I've been amazed throughout the course of this campaign not at the simply the rise of Donald Trump and the rise of the outsider and the antiestablishment, but the fact that there's been a vacuum on the opposite side for so long. This has been apparent since the very beginning of this race, that there was not one candidate who could coalesce, whether you want to call it the anti-Trump forces, the establishment forces, the traditional Republican forces.
WALTERWhere Donald Trump has succeeded is not that he is doing very well among one group of voters. He's doing well enough among all kinds of voters. That's what makes him very difficult to stop. If this were like the "olden days" where he was a candidate who just had one lane to himself, he was the evangelical candidate, he was the establishment country club candidate, then it would be pretty easy to figure out how you trip him up as you move through the process.
WALTERThe problem now is that he's winning college-educated voters, non college-educated voters, non-college by a bigger percentage, but still enough of college-educated voters. He's not doing great among women, but he's not losing women by 60 percent. And where he is dominating is on the question of who do you think represents change and which candidate do you think can shake up the system? And he's winning that by 60, 65 percent.
WALTERI'm very skeptical that, at this point, a stop Trump movement is going to get any traction, in part, because there is not one alternative. And the other part is that the stop Trump may be a nice hashtag or never Trump, I think, is the hashtag, but there's not an alternative hashtag, which is why me. And what Rubio and Cruz and Kasich have failed to do, they failed to capture the imagination of voters who might not want to vote for Trump, but they can't quite figure out why anyone of those other three candidates would be the best alternative.
LAKSHMANANHmm. Well, you know, Amy, I saw that you tweeted out that Trump has succeeded in convincing part of the base that he's a hardliner and the other part that he's a negotiator. I mean, that's a really tough balancing act. But David, Amy made reference here to the talk yesterday about establishment Republicans mounting some sort of anyone but Trump campaign and Amy doesn't buy it. How realistic do you think it is, at this point?
WINSTONWell, actually, I agree with Amy. I think the challenge to these candidates coming up at this point, in terms of looking forward to March 8 and 15, is they've got to define themselves. E.J. made some points here in terms of the door was clearly left open by Trump last night. The fact that in many of these states he was below 35 percent, one of the trends that emerged going from New Hampshire to South Carolina was that actually Trump got a lower percentage of the vote in South Carolina than he had in New Hampshire.
WINSTONSo one of the things people were looking at is so is he actually beginning to move and develop a majority coalition within the Republican party or does he have this ceiling? And I think last night was sort of unclear in terms of giving you that answer. And E.J. pointed out the idea that, in fact, you saw those people who decided in the last week were, in fact, much less receptive to Trump than those people deciding before that.
WINSTONJust to give you an example, and I'll just pick one state, in Virginia, of those people who voted in the -- who decided in the last week, Trump got 18 percent of them. Of those people who had decided prior to that, he got 42 percent. Now, Matthew Dowd, that E.J. quoted, presents the theory that, well, that may have been the way it was set up and so those people who weren't voting for Trump or it could be the other theory. And I think one of the things that, in fact, that's the way people decided, we're going to see that in terms of March 15.
WINSTONBut I think the challenge here, overall, is that Trump clearly left the door open, but again, I'm gonna agree with Amy here. It's challenge to these other campaigns to show why me, not just simply why not Trump.
LAKSHMANANAll right. Well, David, you are a Republican strategist yourself, a long-time advisor on the congressional side. And I'm wondering to what extent is the Republican establishment even settled on who the non Trump candidate would be?
WINSTONWell, and that's the other thing that both folks just brought up as well and that is, I think there was some hope that there would be some sorting here in terms of getting down to just a couple of, you know, one or two people against Trump as opposed still have this field of four others. It is clearly dissipating the vote. The theory here is that in a one to one matchup, that Trump would have difficulties. Having said that, I think what last night did set up is how important two states are in terms of, if you're gonna follow two states, March 15 in terms of Ohio and Florida, basically being the home states to Kasich and Rubio.
WINSTONThese have now just turned into simply must wins. There's no equivocation here. They are going to have to win those two states if, in fact, things are going to be competitive moving forward.
DIONNE JR.I totally agree with that, but I think that what you're seeing is a real crisis for we'll call them the establishment, even though I don't much like that term, of the Republican party, which is if Trump or a normal candidate, and a number of people have observed this, then the party would be saying, okay, it's time to rally around Trump. He has clearly established his dominance. He's obviously not, in any sense that we're accustomed to the word, a normal candidate. The party leadership really fears his nomination.
DIONNE JR.If Ted Cruz were more loved in the party, then the party would say, well, look, Ted Cruz is the one guy who's shown -- he's beaten Trump. He had a pretty good night last night not only winning three, but running Trump fairly close -- quite close in Arkansas, running second in most places. They'd rally to him. But the establishment really doesn't like Ted Cruz so they settle on Marco. By the way, if they want a person who could win in the fall, they'd say Kasich is the guy, but he has not established himself enough for them.
DIONNE JR.He almost won Vermont, but couldn't win Vermont. So that's left with Rubio. The problem with Rubio is almost precisely because he's been sort of quite ambivalent in the way he presents himself, sometimes conservative, sometimes moderate. He's only won one contest, that caucus last night in Minnesota. Now, he's probably thanking God for that because now, no one can say anymore, Rubio hasn't won anything. But this is sort of structurally a problem because the Republican leadership doesn't like either Trump or Cruz.
LAKSHMANANAll right. Well, we are gonna take a short break, but when we come back, we're gonna be taking your comments and your questions. You can call us on 1-800-433-8850. You can send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with us on Facebook or send us a tweet. But stay with us. We'll be right back.
LAKSHMANANWelcome back. I'm Indira Lakshmanan, sitting in for Diane Rehm. We are post-Tuesday morning quarterbacking here. We are talking about the results of the big race that we political junkies love to watch, Super Tuesday, with E.J. Dionne Jr., senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, columnist for The Washington Post and author of "Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism--From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond." Also joining us, David Winston, Republican strategist and president of The Winston Group. He's a CBS News consultant and adviser to the House and Senate Republican leadership for more than a decade. And of course out in the field, in Dallas, Texas, Amy Walter, the very busy national editor of the Cook Political Report.
LAKSHMANANAmy, I want to start back up with you. You say that the biggest loser last night, I think I saw this on your Twitter feed or somewhere, was Marco Rubio. Why?
WALTERYeah, no, I think that, you know, we had been watching Marco Rubio over the last week seem to get his sea legs. This was a candidate who was now focused and determined to become the Trump alternative. He was pointing or addressing in a very pointed way Trump's weaknesses, doing it on the stump. His super-PAC was running ads attacking Trump. He was getting the backing of the establishment, establishment donors pointing to him as the only candidate that could stop Trump.
WALTERAnd yet in state after state not only did he come up short, but in many states he didn't even hit the threshold required to get delegates. Here in Texas he may get a couple delegates out of this big, big, big state, the slate of delegates, because he was unable to hit the 20 percent threshold here, might have hit it in one congressional district.
WALTERSo the idea that Rubio is the one to rally around, I think that dream that many Republicans had hoped for, I think that dream died last night, and I think if Republicans who don't like Trump are serious about stopping him, they've either got to hope that all three of these candidates, Cruz, Kasich, Rubio, stay in the race, do well enough, keep the pressure on Trump strong enough, that we end up with three four-way ties and that Trump is unable to hit the delegate threshold needed to become the nominee before we hit the convention, and we go to contested convention.
WALTERBut really that is the only option here for Republicans is a contested convention, which for us political junkies, Indira, and political reporters, fascinating. It's like nothing we've ever seen before. It's something we've all dreamed about covering. But for Republicans it's an absolute nightmare.
LAKSHMANANAll right, well David, this is your party, the Republican Party. Amy is now getting deep into the weeds of electoral math and contested convention.
LAKSHMANANBut I mean, you tell me, Marco Rubio picked up his first win last night in Minnesota. Ted Cruz won three states, including, of course, the must-win home state of Texas, which had he not it would've been pretty darn embarrassing. But it looks like this contest is not ending any time soon. But I want to know, mathematically is Trump's lead just surmountable for any one of his opponents at this point?
WINSTONOh no, I think it is again, the challenge here is what's going to happen March 15 with both the Ohio and Florida primaries. But I want to go back to -- I think yesterday, the fundamental fight that was occurring or conflict here, this was the sort of SEC primary, and that was basically Ted Cruz against Donald Trump, and what you saw happen here was Trump did very well, but Cruz had his moments. But this was -- Rubio and Kasich are sort of looking to other states in terms of where they're going to engage, and that's again where March 15 kicks in.
WINSTONI think the one state that Rubio probably was disappointed in, where it was relatively close, but he nonetheless didn't pull it off, was Virginia, where he trailed by a couple of points, although when you look at the delegate count at least at this point, there's only a one-delegate difference. But there are still some more to be allocated. But I think moving forward, the thing that is sort of helping Trump is in fact this larger field, and I think the winnowing-down process, and I think that's what you will potentially see on March 15, there's also another primary coming up where Kasich is going to have a big decision moment.
WINSTONHe's going to engage in Michigan, which is in about a week. The question is does he do well enough to carry him into Ohio, or does that become sort of a decisive moment where he's not sure what he can do. So there's still some -- a little bit of wildcards. But going back to Amy's broader point, clearly one of the major scenarios, if it's not going to be Trump, is a contested convention.
LAKSHMANANAll right, well E.J., you have written about this in your book, about sort of the discourse on the Republican Party. And commentators and a lot of elected officials, including some Republicans, have said that it is impossible to overstate how much Donald Trump has changed or lowered the bar on political discourse in this country. You've written about it in terms of the Tea Party, but that was before Trump entered this.
DIONNE JR.Well, I also write about Trump in the book.
LAKSHMANANExactly. Yeah, well, tell us. I mean, is this like an all-time low bar?
DIONNE JR.Well, here's -- two of the core arguments of the book are that -- the first sentence is the history of contemporary American conservatism is a story of disappointment and betrayal. And there are plenty of Republicans who feel betrayed because the party has made a series of promises to its base that it hasn't been able to keep, and that goes all the way back to Goldwater. A second core point is that Republicans have relied on millions and millions of votes from white, working-class voters and haven't delivered anything to them, and that's not just a liberal like me saying that, it's people like Ross Douthat, the columnist for the New York Times, Riyan Salam (PH) and others.
DIONNE JR.And Trump is exploiting both of those quite brilliantly. He is -- Amy is right, there is an across-the-board character to Trump's vote to some degree, but he is really leaning heavily on the Republican working class, and he's their revenge against the party. And I think its problem in going after Trump is they were perfectly happy to play ball with Trump when he was attacking Barack Obama, when he was stirring up this very constituency that he's now exploited.
DIONNE JR.Mitt Romney, who's now a leading Trump antagonist, courted his endorsement, and when Romney got his endorsement in 2012, he was almost slavish toward what a brilliant guy Trump is, and now he's got...
LAKSHMANANAlthough at the time, Donald Trump wasn't saying the incendiary things that he's been saying.
DIONNE JR.Well, he was saying -- he said Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States.
LAKSHMANANThat's -- absolutely, yes.
DIONNE JR.This was -- he was a pretty incendiary guy. By the way, that's one other thing I think we all missed about Trump, which is he had been courting the right-wing grass roots, including a lot of talk show hosts and others, for years. So he didn't -- it looks like he magically appeared on the scene, but he had done a lot of spade work during the Obama years to create this base. And so now the Republicans face this real problem, which is the line that's occurred to me over and over during this campaign is John Kennedy's line, he who foolishly rides to power on the back of the tiger ends up inside. And the Republican establishment right now is in danger of ending up inside.
LAKSHMANANWell, you're right of course that Trump has spent years cultivating this base, and actually McKay Coppins, the political correspondent, has written about this in his book.
LAKSHMANANAbout how Donald Trump has spent years, as you say, trying to become part of the establishment in one way or another, even though of course he's speaking against it. David, again I go back to you because this is your party. Will the kind of incendiary language that we're talking about, Trump's kind of discourse, which I might add Marco Rubio has lowered himself to, I mean, he has also become very insulting back towards Trump, is this kind of discourse now going to be the standard, at least for the Republican Party, from here on forward?
WINSTONOh, I certainly hope not. I mean, this has not been a good exchange for Republicans. But I think part of the challenge that you're watching is the overall political discourse on both sides getting to this point. Understand that content is not the judgment by which I would argue that the media puts things into the news. It's how well does a candidate get attention. And candidates get attention by saying truly outrageous things. And that's the way you get the discourse in the media.
WINSTONAnd at this point, and you've watched Trump do this consistently, any time he was about to lose momentum in terms of having the narrative within the media, he would come up with something truly outrageous to make sure that he could grab that back, starting back when he decided to call John McCain not a hero, and everybody assumed that would be -- once he realized that in fact he could sequence these things, and it's sort of the old Oscar Wilde line about the only thing worse than being talked about poorly is not being talked about at all, I mean, I think to some degree the media at this point is proving that correct, and I think that's a challenge to the party.
WINSTONHow do we elevate this discourse? Because I have to say from my perspective, watching these two last week was not a good representation of who I think the part is.
DIONNE JR.Could I just say I agree with David on the media, my good friend David, and that's actually true in this case, unlike the usual Washington thing, but when he says political discourse on both sides, it's not happening on the Democratic side. I mean, the -- you can argue -- you can say whatever you want about Hillary and Bernie, but that is a deeply substantive debate, and I am really wondering whether it was a good move by Marco Rubio last week to begin playing in the Trump schoolyard of seventh-grade taunts. You know, Rubio...
LAKSHMANANIt's a bit worse than my seventh grade. I don't know where you went to middle school.
DIONNE JR.Yeah, right, I think most seventh graders are more civilized than some of that, and, you know, maybe it helped bring Trump down a little bit, but that's not the kind of Rubio -- candidate Rubio promised to be, and it's going to be very interesting in the coming weeks whether Rubio stays at that level or tries to figure out some other way to do it because it clearly -- it may have brought down Trump, but it clearly didn't do a whole lot for Rubio on Tuesday.
LAKSHMANANFor Rubio either, that's right. All right, well Amy, you know, we're talking about, about sort of mean words and poor discourse for a political campaign, but in Trump's speech last night, which was almost like a press conference than a victory party, he seemed uncharacteristically toned down, and we also learned this week that the New York Times may have had an off-the-record conversation in which he disavowed his anti-immigrant stance to them.
LAKSHMANANSo I'm wondering, could there be two Donald Trumps here, one that's appealing to an angry base and a different one who's going to try to emerge as a uniter?
WALTERHe's absolutely trying to do that, and the question is can he be successful. It is a very difficult balancing act that he's under. As I said earlier, you know, he has convinced a good chunk of Republican voters, many of whom have never turned out to vote, maybe never voted for a Republican before, because of his hard-line stances, especially on immigration and some of these other issues, and they like his punch-it-right-in-your-face style.
WALTERWhere do they go if he suddenly says, actually I was just kind of kidding about all this, I wasn't serious, we're not going to do all of that, I'm going to work with these other groups, I'm going to be more balanced? I don't know that they're going to be particularly happy about that. I've also heard from the sort of more establishment-type Republicans, who are sort of resigned to the Trump candidacy. The rationalization of it is that, you know, look, the guy's a good negotiator, this is what you do, you put out outrageous -- an outrageous price and then get to the price you want. You don't start at a low one, you start high.
WALTERAnd they think he's going to be -- actually could get stuff done because he knows how to negotiate. So I don't know how he balances that going forward. The other thing to remember, we haven't talked about this yet, Republicans have been fighting amongst themselves, pointing fingers, going into the schoolyard taunts. Not one outside group that is run by Democrats or progressive liberal groups or whatever has started the onslaught on Donald Trump, and it is going to be one million times more brutal than anything that Republicans have brought up because it's going to go to the heart of Donald Trump's weaknesses, the stuff that E.J. brought up.
WALTERBut on race, on the bigotry, on the nativism, this stuff is going to be toxic in a general election, and it has not been talked about as explicitly because it's been right now just a fight among Republicans. In a broader electorate, remember this is -- Donald Trump's approval rating now, according to the Washington Post, among Hispanics is negative 80. I didn't think it was possible to get to that level, but he's...
LAKSHMANANNegative 80 approval, okay.
WALTERRight? Good job.
LAKSHMANANI don't quite know how that -- how the math works on that. But I'm Indira Lakshmanan, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. All right, E.J., let's turn to the Democratic side. Hillary Clinton made substantial gains last night, but does she now have a commanding lead?
DIONNE JR.She has something very close to a commanding lead. I mean, it's very hard to see how Bernie Sanders can catch up, especially since, unlike the Republicans, the Democrats don't have winner-take-all primaries. So if you had some winner-take-all primaries down the road in big states that Bernie could win, then he could catch up on the delegates. But right now he can't really do that. There's no promise of that.
DIONNE JR.And she built up a pretty big lead last night. Having said that, I'm not sure Bernie has any reason to drop out. He's got an endless supply of money from his supporters, who are giving in small donations. That means none of -- you know, very few of them have hit their limit, they can keep sending $10, $20, $30 to Bernie and building up his war chest. He wants to make his point about the future of the party.
DIONNE JR.I think the question is where -- when does the Democratic race pivot, where Bernie Sanders implies publicly, if not stating it outright, that he knows Hillary is the nominee. He's fighting to make a point. And Hillary Clinton last night, I thought, was very careful in the way she spoke about Sanders. She didn't criticize him. She -- her one line about him was very warm because ultimately she's going to need Bernie Sanders in the fall to try to turn out those voters that he turned out in these primaries, particularly among the young.
DIONNE JR.And if I can speak to one warning sign for the Democrats, it's that 2008 rough numbers, at this -- on Super Tuesday, I think it was eight million Democrats that people voted in the Democratic primaries, five million in the Republican primaries, or maybe it's up to this point. This year, those numbers are reversed. Now you can take those with a grain of salt. They may be voters, as Chuck Todd pointed out, who would vote in the general election, just happen to be coming in to the primary because it's interesting. There are both streams of pro-Trump and anti-Trump voters going in.
DIONNE JR.Nonetheless, Democrats have to think a lot about mobilization because they depend on younger voters, who historically are harder to turn out. So Hillary Clinton's going to have to be very kind to Bernie Sanders as this goes forward. I don't see Bernie even thinking about dropping out until Wisconsin in April, and I'm not even sure he's going to do it then.
LAKSHMANANAll right, well you -- you know, you're taking us forward to the general, but we're not quite there yet. Amy, Bernie Sanders is not dropping out. I want to know what is behind his win in Oklahoma. That was kind of interesting. And, you know, do you see a path for him to the nomination? Quickly before we go to our break.
WALTERYeah, the one thing that Oklahoma has in common with other states he's done well in is that it has a low proportion of minorities, so bigger white electorate, and he does very well not just with white voters but especially white men, and I would expect that's what you can look to for why Oklahoma went to him.
LAKSHMANANI think also Oklahoma has some history of being one of the socialist strongest states in the U.S.
DIONNE JR.One of the strongest, three strongest socialists states in the Union back at the turn of the century. The socialists were very well-organized there. I don't think that has anything to do with Bernie Sanders' victory. But it's a wonderful fact.
LAKSHMANANI thought it was an interesting bit of history.
DIONNE JR.I love that fact, I agree with you.
LAKSHMANANYeah, all right, but he seems to have diminishing space for staging a comeback, right, Amy?
WALTERThat's right. Yeah, no, I mean look, where Bernie Sanders is -- at the very beginning of this contest, the question was, is Bernie Sanders going to be -- go the way of Howard Dean and Bill Bradley, or is he going to be a Barack Obama. And I think we've found the answer to that question, which is he's in the former category, not the latter. Where Barack Obama succeeded was he started with the same base of support that Bernie Sanders started with, young people, liberals, independents, but expanded it and specifically expanded it to minorities and -- specifically, excuse me, African-Americans. He -- Bernie Sanders has not been able to do that.
LAKSHMANANAll right, well we will be talking more about that, the chances for Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and all the rest of them, when we come back. We're going to take a short break. And when we do come back, more of your comments and your questions. We'll be taking them, so stay tuned.
LAKSHMANANWelcome back. I'm Indira Lakshmanan, sitting in for Diane Rehm. This hour, we're talking about the results from last night's Super Tuesday contests. With E.J. Dionne Jr., senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, a long time op-ed columnist for The Washington Post and author of "Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism from Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond." And David Winston, republican strategist and president of the Winston Group. He's also an advisor to the House and Senate Republican Leadership.
LAKSHMANANAnd Amy Walter, the national editor of the Cook Political Report. All right, well, I want to go to the calls because our phone lines are burning up a little bit with people eager to talk about this very unusual and historic campaign. Let's go first to Wynn from Virginia Beach, Virginia. You're on the air, Wynn.
WYNNHi, Indira, can you hear me?
LAKSHMANANYes, very well. Go ahead.
WYNNHi. I just wanted to quickly comment on the Democratic primary last night. I voted here in Virginia. And I was just curious what the conversators had to say about -- I know a lot of Democratic voters, particularly young voters, who may have voted for Bernie Sanders and who absolutely refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton. I'm curious about what does Hillary Clinton's campaign need to do to court people that were attracted to Bernie Sanders because he was non-establishment, because he was a little bit outside. And what that's going to have to look like in order for the Democrats to get a win under their belt in November.
LAKSHMANANSo you're thinking, Wynn, is that some of those Bernie Sanders supporters will just stay home, not that they're going to go vote for Donald Trump or the Republican, but that they won't bother casting a ballot for Hillary. Is that right?
WYNNI mean, personally, I don't know if, in good conscience, I could put Hillary in the White House.
LAKSHMANANWow. Okay. Strong words from Wynn in Virginia Beach. What do you guys think? It sounds like Hillary's campaign has a lot of work that it may have to do courting the Bernie supporters and making sure that they don't just stay home and therefore give sort of absentee by proxy votes to Donald Trump. E.J.
DIONNE JR.Well, the power of negative thinking is always underrated in politics. And I think in the end, you know, especially if the nominee is Donald Trump, or Ted Cruz, a lot of the Bernie supporters are going to say I'm in, who are like the caller, may say I don't like her that much, but I really don't want to risk unified Republican government in Washington. And I think that is likely to happen. There's a lot of polling, by the way, that shows that a lot of Bernie's people are not wild about Clinton, but they're okay with her.
DIONNE JR.So, but elections are won on the margins. And it is going to be important to turn out voters like our caller. And so I think two things are gonna happen. One, you heard it last night, Bernie has said that when I hear Hillary Clinton speak, she sounds like me. And I think she's hitting on Bernie's theme. But I think a lot is going to depend on Bernie Sanders and as a friend of mine who's close to Sanders said, look, no one understands better than Bernie Sanders the threat of unified Republican government.
DIONNE JR.And he'll ultimately be there for Hillary Clinton. And so, he's going to remain an important figure right through the end of this election.
LAKSHMANANIt's very hard to imagine that Bernie would not throw his weight and his endorsement to Hillary. Don't you think, Amy?
WALTERYes, and I have to agree with E.J., but also, I like what the caller -- the issue that the caller is raising and I think that we're going to hear a lot about this going forward. This is something I hear from folks on the Democratic spectrum, this idea that they're just not excited about Hillary Clinton. Whether they stay home, whether they stay home is important. But I think it goes to the heart of the challenge for Hillary Clinton right now. One is she does have major trust problems, not just among independents and Republicans, but among Democrats as well.
WALTERIf you dig through those exit polls, what you find is while Democrats say they like Hillary Clinton, when the question comes to who do you trust and who do you think represents your values, or who do you think understands you, that's where Bernie Sanders wins by big, big, big margins. So, she's electable, they say. They think she's experienced and smart, but they don't know that they can trust her. That is a tremendous problem going forward. The next question really is how does she provide the alternative message?
WALTERDonald Trump makes America great, he says. What is Hillary Clinton going to do to have her own message that addresses that? That really inspires beyond just I'm not Trump. Or, I'm not as bad as the alternative. She's going to have to do both of those things.
LAKSHMANANWell, her message has been, her message has been instead of make America great, America's already great. Make America whole again. I don't know how catchy that is, but that's been her message. Go ahead, E.J.
DIONNE JR.She's been good on that hitting back on Make America Great. But I think we saw the wiliness of Donald Trump last night again. Because when you looked at his victory speech, he actually was talking to those voters who have been hammered by the economy, trying to hang it on Barack Obama rather than other forces that Bernie Sanders would blame, like Wall Street. And it was clearly a general election message aimed at Hillary Clinton. I mean, if Trump has a claim to being able to beat her, it's that he can cut into the Democratic vote in traditional industrial states, such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
DIONNE JR.And he was clearly playing that card last night. And it's something, from all the reports from what they are saying, the Clinton campaign is very aware of that danger.
WINSTONE.J., if I could interject.
LAKSHMANANYes please, David.
WINSTONIf I could interject, one item in terms of the economy, though, that was not just simply for the general electorate, that was actually also for the Republican electorate. One of the things in terms of watching these debates, in last night's election, seven out of the nine states, the economy was the number one issue. Watching the debates, you would never actually know that. Trump is obviously trying to engage that, so I think what you're going to watch, if either Rubio or Kasich can come back, it's going to somehow decisively show themselves being different and having a better and more compelling idea than Trump has at this point.
WINSTONAnd this goes to what Amy was saying earlier. Ultimately, using the economy as a reason why to vote for me, whoever that candidate is, as opposed to why to oppose Trump.
LAKSHMANANWell, you know, to both the point that our last caller from Virginia, Wynn, made, and also Amy was talking about. We have a stack of emails here, one from Marty who said, didn't Bernie win four states last night? You know, don't say that he has a demise yet and the truth is many Sanders supporters could never support Hillary. And then an email from Dylan saying, speaking as a millennial, if Hillary's the nominee, many of the Bernie voters won't show up in November. She represents too much of what epitomizes our millennials' frustration with the political system.
LAKSHMANANWhile we may not go so far as to vote for Trump, how is she going to get younger, frustrated voters to the polls in November? So, that sounds like it's going to be a big challenge on the Clinton team's side to, you know, make sure they bring in those Bernie voters, right? Amy.
WINSTONAnd there's actual data there, if you actually go back to the caller from Virginia, and taking a look at Virginia, she won the state by about 30 points. 64 to 35. Yet, amongst 17 to 29, she had lost to Sanders by almost 40. Right? And that gives you the scope of challenge that she's facing. Now, I mean, I think she can certainly address that, but it's nonetheless something that's square in front of the campaign that they are going to have to address somehow.
DIONNE JR.I agree. I think that the -- Bernie's vote among young people is extraordinary. I think that shows A, that a very significant number of young people have moved to the left of their elders. They faced a much tougher economy than their elders did. And that's part of it, but it's also that it's odd, but a 74-year-old guy is the newest thing on the scene. And that's why these rallies look like rock star rallies. Whereas, obviously, the Clintons have been around a long time. And so, you know, and her speeches now are full of references to young people, the problem of student debt. So, again, it's a problem that's there, that they're aware of, and they're going to have to deal with.
LAKSHMANANAll right, well, we're getting comments from listeners on the Republican side as well. Matt writes into us, saying that he got a letter from his Congressman, Scott Regal, who's a Democrat -- sorry, who's a Republican -- who is in Virginia and who says that he's a US Representative for Virginia's Second District. He says, supposedly, a vote for Donald Trump is a vote for the end of the Republican Party. Whereas Rob from Ohio emails us to say we are voting for Trump to teach the lifers that they can be kicked out. David, what do you say to that?
WINSTONWell, and I think that what you just laid out is the sort of clear conflict that's occurring at this point. One other thing about Trump, and I think a lot of political folks trying to understand his coalition. His coalition is, in fact, not so clear. Basically, what you have is you have Cruz sort of representing the sort of very conservative. You have Rubio, sort of the somewhat conservative and moderates. And what you're seeing Trump sort of develop is people who are disengaged from both those, so it sort of crosses a lot of entities. And what you're finding is that there's a lot of frustration within that.
WINSTONAnd so, there's this, there's this sense of I want somebody completely different, no matter who it is, verses I'm trying to figure out how to win as the Republican Party. And those two are clearly bumping up against each other in a scale. Having said that, eventually that will resolve, but right now, the discourse, as we discussed earlier, is so poor that it's making it very difficult for whoever emerges to then be able to go up against the likely candidate in terms of Hillary.
LAKSHMANANWell, it's fascinating that, you know, a Republican Congressman, Scott Regal, would be sending out a letter like this. You know, I'm also hearing more and more Republicans on the airwaves who are now speaking out against Trump because they fear that he is coming. All right, let's go to the calls. Philip in St. Louis, Missouri, you're on the line. Go ahead, Phillip.
PHILLIPHi, so, looking forward to the rest of the Republican primaries, doing my quick math, which I could have been missing something, it looks like Trump only has 50 percent of the delegate votes so far, and he's going to need 70 percent to meet that threshold. Otherwise, it's going to go to a convention -- or, the brokered convention. So, how likely is it that he's going to be able to do that and then if he does get the nomination, then how likely is it that a lot of Republicans who are following this, not Trump, anyone but Trump, are going to vote for a Democrat instead?
LAKSHMANANAll right, good question from Phillip. Amy, you've been digging in on the math. Can you start us off on can he get to the 70 percent and is there a chance for a brokered convention?
WALTERThere is absolutely a chance. It's really the only chance right now that you can see for a quote unquote never Trump or stop Trump moment. But, you also have to think about what that would mean if we get to the convention and the candidate who has the most delegates does not come out with the nomination? What that's going to mean for the party. Look, we've -- I try not to get engaged in hyperbole when I cover politics, but this does feel like we are looking at not just an existential crisis for the Republican Party, but we may be looking at the end of the Republican Party as we've known it over the last 40 or 50 years.
WALTERThat we are looking at the transformation of a party. It's going to be very different at the end of 2016 into 2017 than it looks today. Clearly, the so-called Party, the establishment, whatever we want to call them, traditional Republicans, do not have the ability to coalesce around their candidate, and that has allowed Donald Trump to pick up all different pieces of this factionalized Party. And look, it's not Donald Trump who created these factions. These factions have been real and significant for years and I think the challenge for Republicans has long been that the only thing that's united the various factions in the Republican Party is one thing, and that's dislike of Obama.
WALTERBut there was never a message of -- that united them, that was a message that brought them together besides that. There's not a policy, there's not a perspective that unites the Party as much as the dislike. So, they know what they're against. But Republicans haven't been able to figure out what they're for. And this, and Trump was the catalyst to really make that disconnect clear. And I think going forward...
DIONNE JR.Very quick point, if I...
LAKSHMANANI'm Indira Lakshmanan, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Yes, E.J.
DIONNE JR.The danger of Trump is that he could split the Party two ways. You have Congress -- people like Congressman Scott Regal and Christie Todd Whitman in the more centrist or moderate wing of the Party who are worried about Trump's effect on the remaining moderate conservatives in the Party. They split off one way. But there are plenty of conservatives, you know, Bill Crystal, Senator Ben Sass of Nebraska, who are splitting off on the right. And Ted Cruz made this argument last night, that Trump actually isn't a real conservative.
DIONNE JR.So, the danger for the Republicans and a Trump candidacy is you lose voters, potentially on two sides. And the question is, where does Trump make them up? Is this working class appeal enough to make up for those potential losses?
LAKSHMANANWell Dave, can...
WINSTONNow, if I may go back to what Amy said, because Amy made a very important point in terms of the direction and what the Republican Party sounds like. And the idea that we've been against what Obama's done for seven years as opposed to what are we for, and I think what you've seen, specifically with Speaker Ryan, who's trying to develop alternatives specifically to address that, that there's a real concern within the Republican Party that we've got to define ourselves by what we're for. The other element too, again, last night, there were some other interesting results that perhaps sort of belie what happened with Trump and that everything has to be outsider.
WINSTONThere were a couple very important Congressional elections that went sort of the way of the establishment. Kevin Brady, who was the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee survived a very tough primary and ended up doing fine. Pete Session, who's Chair of the Rules Committee, which basically drives how the House runs, also won his primary. And Senator Shelby in Alabama, who was challenged very vigorously by Tea Party types, actually survived and he's going to be returning as well. So, there were some examples in terms of maybe, in terms of presidential effort, there was a different dynamic. But you saw some key wins in terms of Congressional races.
LAKSHMANANWell, can any of the three of you tell us the answer to the caller's specific question, which is, does Donald Trump have the ability to actually get the number of delegates if we look at the votes that are coming up. Can he get the number of delegates he needs and if not, what would a brokered convention actually look like?
WALTERHe can definitely get what he needs. I'll answer that.
LAKSHMANANAll right. Go ahead.
DIONNE JR.If he wins a couple of the winner take all primaries, that's the key. Now the process changes, because if you win a state, even by one vote, even with 35 percent of the vote, there are certain states where you take the whole thing. That's what he's got to do if he's going to avoid a brokered convention.
LAKSHMANANAnd if he doesn't, then what will a brokered convention look like?
DIONNE JR.Well, only God knows. We haven't seen one in a very, very long time, but it's a real risk for the Party because on the one hand, defenders of nominating someone other than Trump will say, look, this guy never got a majority of Republicans. Most Republicans voted against him, so this is a very legitimate process. But if Trump comes out with the most votes, his supporters are going to say what's going on with this party? We got the most votes, and yet they are sort of pushing it in our faces and trying to get us to accept someone else. That's the real big danger to the Republicans.
LAKSHMANANAll right, Amy, take us out. With the short time we have left, you have written that the Clinton team should not be overconfident about facing Trump this fall. You know, we've heard people say, Trump's never going to be the nominee. And then once it was looking like he will be, people are saying, well, he's never going to be President because of course, Hillary will defeat him. Is that true? Can she defeat him definitely or, you know, what do you mean that they're being overconfident?
WALTERYeah, look, if you just look at the basic numbers and the demographics in this country, and all the other factors about Trump's unpopularity, it's hard to believe that she would not win. I mean, she is viewed very negatively, but he is viewed even more negatively. But the issue, we've brought this up a couple of times, E.J. really honed in on it, it's a question of addressing the real anxiety and anxiousness and frustration that voters have about big government, about the state of politics and about the state of the economy. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are talking about it in different ways.
WALTERBut they are both addressing it head on. Hillary Clinton has not had the same intensity to her message and focus on her message as those two have. So, when Donald Trump last night made, I can't remember the exact quote, but he said, you know what, she keeps talking about she's going to make America whole. She's going to make the middle class great. Well, guess what? She's been there forever and she hasn't fixed it. Why is she going to fix it now? That is an essential question that any Republican should ask of Hillary Clinton. It's going to be a question she's going to need to answer.
LAKSHMANANWell, that -- we will be watching it with you. Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report. David Winston of the Winston Group. E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post and Brookings. Thank you all so much and thank you to our listeners for staying with us for the last hour. I'm Indira Lakshmanan, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.
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