Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham on the evolution of Abraham Lincoln's moral principles and political leadership -- and what the era of Lincoln can teach us about the state of our democracy today.
Guest Host: Lisa Desjardins
We are amid pivotal days for Republicans, following several raucous state conventions this weekend. In delegate-rich California, all three GOP presidential candidates spoke…Protesters demonstrated as frontrunner Donald Trump appeared. In Arizona and Virginia, where Trump had won primaries, Senator Ted Cruz dominated the delegate slates chosen by party activists. And tomorrow voters decide in Indiana, where some say a Trump win would seal his nomination…Guest host Lisa Desjardins and guests discuss the Republican conventions, a preview of tomorrow’s Indiana primary and what’s ahead for the remainder of the GOP nomination race.
- Byron York Chief political correspondent, The Washington Examiner
- Matthew Schlapp Principal and founder, Cove Strategies; chairman, The American Conservative Union
- Leslie Sanchez Republican strategist, former White House Director of Hispanic education under President George W. Bush; author of "Los Republicanos: Why Hispanics and Republicans Need Each Other”
MS. LISA DESJARDINSThanks for joining us. I'm Lisa Desjardins of the PBS NewsHour sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's recovering from a voice treatment. Republicans met in California, Delaware, Arizona and Virginia over the weekend for state conventions. Donald Trump remains the frontrunner and polls show he is ahead in Indiana, which holds its winner-take-all primary tomorrow.
MS. LISA DESJARDINSJoining me in the studio to discuss what happened over the weekend, what might happen in Indiana and implications for the remainder of this wild presidential nominating race is Matt Schlapp, GOP strategist from Cove Strategies and the American Conservative Union, and joining us by phone from Indianapolis, Indiana, Byron York of The Washington Examiner.
MS. LISA DESJARDINSAlso by phone, but from Los Angeles, California, Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez. Thank you all for joining us.
MR. MATTHEW SCHLAPPGreat to be here.
MR. BYRON YORKThank you.
MS. LESLIE SANCHEZThank you.
DESJARDINSLeslie Sanchez, I want to start with California and you're in Los Angeles now. It really is the big Kahuna, to use a Hawaii phrase. Tell us about what happened there over the weekend. We saw some vandalism, some violence. Did the protests that we saw Friday as Donald Trump spoke continue? Why were people so angry and what does all this mean for the state of your party's nomination fight?
SANCHEZSure. It's certainly a mixed bag. On one hand, California is so excited to be relevant again in a Republican primary. It's been, you know, over generation since that happened. But what we're seeing here is a very youthful Latino Rights movement that was several hundred people. They've been organizing on social media and they have a very different type of attitude than a decade ago of the former immigrant rights activists who also kind of organized anti-immigrant -- the criminalization of, you know, providing food and services for undocumented immigrants.
SANCHEZThat's what we know of in California. That's kind of the history going back two decades to the movements and the activists protests surrounding certainly Mexican Americans and the Latino community. This is different because it's a younger group of organizers. They're very passionate. They're unfurling their Mexican American flags to show their heritage. They're not listening kind of to their elders who were saying that really doesn't help in your movement because they're so frustrated and upset.
SANCHEZIf you talk to these young individuals, and some of these are high schoolers, and it's something that I saw in focus groups going back several months ago. It's very personal. They feel that their families are under attack because of the past rhetoric of Mr. Trump and that's going to be some work that needs to be done, by far. They really are very passionate and they're going to continue to remain passionate in organizing against Mr. Trump.
DESJARDINSThere, of course, is a tremendous amount of passion on all sides of this issue and even by, I suspect, some of our listeners who just wish this race would end. I want to tell our listeners that we will be taking your comments and questions throughout the hour. Please call us. You are a part of this conversation. That number is 1-800-433-8850. Or you can send us your email at email@example.com or you can join us on Facebook or Twitter.
DESJARDINSMatt Schlapp, I want to go to you with this idea of anger. Leslie Sanchez is portraying one type of anger that we saw in California around the Republican nominating contest, but that anger also seems to be helping Donald Trump. Let's talk about his speech in California. What is he doing right now to try and seal the nomination and how important is California to him?
SCHLAPPCalifornia is huge because there is just so many delegates at play and people are talking about that Indiana is the make or break. You notice we've said that about almost every Tuesday that this is the make or break and the fact is, you know, Indiana is awfully important to Ted Cruz to hang in the game and if he doesn't have a good performance on Tuesday, you know, it's that much harder for him. I mean, this is how it works in a presidential campaign.
SCHLAPPYou're getting your donors on the phone and you're saying, okay, hang in there with me. I need a little bit more, you know. We're doing pretty well. Hang in with me another week. You're doing that with your volunteers. What's happening in our party is that there is, like, sands through the hourglass. There is a drift towards Trump because he seems inevitable. So what's happening is even people like Mike Pence, who endorsed Cruz, you know, he's...
DESJARDINSGovernor of Indiana.
SCHLAPP...that's right. He's still kind of, of course, saying, but I'll, of course, be for the nominee and he's kind of genuflecting to the fact that it's most likely going to be for Donald Trump. So what's Donald Trump trying to do? Donald Trump is trying to, what he does very well, is exude confidence in the fact that he's going to get this nomination, in the fact that his delegate situation is in a strong position and I actually think it is in a pretty strong position despite some of these interesting stories over the weekend.
SCHLAPPAnd I think in California, he wants to be able to spike the ball after the California primary and...
DESJARDINSIs spiking the ball getting those 1237 delegates that I'm sure our listeners are tired of hearing the number? But that's the number that will decide if he's the nominee or not.
SCHLAPPWell, he -- well, Lisa, what I would just say to that is in the zone of 1237, which is 50 percent plus one, which is pretty important in a democracy to have to get, but there's about five weeks or so that separate California from the convention, which isn't normal. So we have this big gap and I think that's gonna be a very interesting time, if he's in the zone, where there's gonna be an aggressive -- there's already started, but even a more aggressive and intensive courting of delegates.
SCHLAPPAnd I think if he's very close, you really have to give him a high degree of likelihood that he'll be able to close that gap and get it on the first vote. That's the key for him, get it on the first vote.
DESJARDINSOkay. Byron York, in Indianapolis, I want to go to you with The Washington Examiner. I know you've been writing a lot about the Indiana race. And it seems what we have here is a tale of two measures of this Republican contest right now. California, perhaps, potentially deciding it all, potentially giving Donald Trump that 1237 he needs. But, you know, Ted Cruz sent out an email on Friday saying, it's all coming down to Indiana. What's your view, Byron York, of whether or not Indiana is essentially the deciding contest here?
DESJARDINSIs it really what's going to decide the trajectory going forward?
YORKWell, I think Matt was right in saying that a number of Republican big wigs are kind of making their piece with the idea of Trump winning the nomination. They may not like it, but they see it coming, especially after that five for five win in the northeast states last week. And if you notice, when Ted Cruz was losing those five contests in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, et cetera, he wasn't in any of those states. He was in Indiana saying, hey, look over here. This is my big chance.
YORKAnd I do think that if Cruz loses Indiana -- and we just had, over the weekend, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll that had Donald Trump ahead by 15 points here in Indiana. If Cruz loses, I think it's harder for people to take him seriously. It's harder for him to argue that he's seriously. I think the race kind of past a point last week with the five for five in which Cruz became mathematically eliminated from winning enough delegates to win the nomination before the convention.
YORKHis only hope, in other words, is a contested convention. And I think that changed the race. And you've heard Donald Trump say more and more, look, this is over. Let's put an end to this. They have no chance. Let's unite behind me.
DESJARDINSYou know, it's interesting in that same Wall Street Journal/NBC poll that showed that large lead for Donald Trump over the weekend, I also noticed that it showed that the second choice for likely Republicans in that state is not Ted Cruz, but is actually Kasich despite this deal that Ted Cruz and John Kasich made. Kasich still seems to be having -- getting some support there. Byron York, can you bring us up to date on the numbers here? Where is Donald Trump in terms of delegates at this moment? How much does he need and can he do that any time before California, realistically?
YORKNo. He cannot hit it before California. He can't hit the magic number before California, but he is getting closer and closer. (word?) Politics has him with 996 delegates. I've seen a couple that have him a few more, maybe 1,002 or something like that. So basically, 235 delegates short of the number. Here in Indiana, there are 57 delegates at stake. Some of those are awarded for the statewide winner take all victory.
YORKAnd others are awarded winner take all in each congressional district so we'll see how Trump does there. If you talk to Cruz, looking forward, they're hopeful in Nebraska, they're gonna win. Nebraska has 36 delegates. They're hopeful in South Dakota and in Montana, a lot of these western states are doing well. But you could have a situation in which Trump actually does hit the number with California, which has a 172 delegates.
YORKPolls right now show him ahead, but that's really a long way away and I haven't paid much attention to polls when we're several weeks away from a contest.
DESJARDINSLeslie Sanchez, in Los Angeles, quickly, what do you see as a possible path for Ted Cruz? How strongly do you think he has a real path right now to the nomination?
SANCHEZI think it's dwindling by the minute. I think this weekend, you saw a lot of delegates who are now starting to show some reluctance in standing by Senator Cruz. You know, and there's this overwhelming feeling they -- among the Republicans that we're talking to, that they do not want a contested convention. While that looks like a really strategic and important option in the first quarter of this year in terms of the Never Trump Movement and everybody coalescing, the establishment organization against that, that's starting to wane.
SANCHEZAnd I think a lot of that is because you're seeing this idea of a contested convention, no one is moving toward the idea of kind of cheating the will of the people to embrace the idea of another approved establishment candidate. There is no will or appetite within the Republican party for that so it's almost a concession they would rather coalesce around a candidate and go toward the general election and start thinking about these outside influences, for example, California and these protests, so that the party can unite and really figure this out.
SANCHEZBut they can't take on two battles at once, externally and internally.
DESJARDINSAnd when we come back, I want to talk about this idea of whether the process is being cheated, particularly some wild state conventions in Virginia and Arizona over the weekend. Please call us at 1-800-433-8850. We'll take a short break and we'll be right back.
DESJARDINSWelcome back. I'm Lisa Desjardins with the PBS News Hour, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Joining me in-studio to discuss the raucous Republican race in these last weeks of the campaign are Matt Schlapp, principal and founder, Cove Strategies and Republican strategist, and also by phone from Indianapolis, Byron York, he's the chief political correspondent at The Washington Examiner, and speaking to us from Los Angeles, Leslie Sanchez, a Republican strategist who worked in the Bush White House.
DESJARDINSI want to go to you, Byron York, and talk a little bit about a very popular topic, I think, with regular Americans, which is this increasing knowledge of how the difficult-to-understand convention and delegate process works for Republicans. Over the weekend in Virginia and Arizona, two states which Donald Trump won handily, sometimes by twice as much as Ted Cruz in the primaries, both of those states' Republican conventions gave the delegates that they were able to hand out largely to Ted Cruz, who did not win with primary voters. Byron York, can you explain how this process works and a little bit of why the Republican Party set this up this way?
YORKWell first of all, it does seem a little crazy, and it actually is a little crazy, but I think we should say, about this Arizona convention and the other conventions, Arizona was a big state, 58 delegates, winner take all, which Trump won handily. And those delegates are bound to vote for Trump on the first ballot at the convention. So all of this -- all of this...
YORKAll of this Ted Cruz delegate recruitment, or if you're a Trump person, delegate poaching, all of that is -- only comes into play if Cruz is successful at keeping Trump below the magic number, and they go to a second or third ballot, in which the delegates would no longer be required to vote for Trump, and they could theoretically then vote for Ted Cruz.
DESJARDINSBut isn't it still an exclamation point on the process that even though these delegates are bound by the state winner on the first ballot that ultimately they do not have to support that winner and that the primaries, if they went to a second ballot, might not matter?
YORKWell, I think the one thing that Trump has done and probably deserves credit for is to shine a light on this disconnect between voters and delegates in the whole process. And we've heard people, often Trump supporters, say hey, the voters should really matter here, they're the ones, you know, Trump has an enormous voter edge in total popular vote over anybody else. He has over 10 million, about a three million popular vote lead. And the voters should matter the most.
YORKAnd then you've heard others say no, the Republican Party is a private matter, and delegates decides, and delegates have to decide on their own conscience. This is a debate that Trump has kind of brutally opened and will continue long after this primary season and over, and that's actually probably a healthy thing.
DESJARDINSMatt Schlapp, Republican strategist, tell me, what do you think this does for the Republican brand? And does this help Donald Trump in the end, the idea that perhaps the Republican establishment is trying to undermine him in their state conventions? And what does it do for how people look at the party itself?
SCHLAPPAll right, so, you know, it's hard because I've been involved in -- I'm 48 years old, I've been involved in politics for more than 20 years, and we all kind of learned a certain handbook, and one of those handbooks was if you're going to be a Republican -- I'm a conservative first and Republican second, but I'm a partisan Republican, and, you know, you get this handbook of what the rules are, not literally but figuratively, and -- but in this case it is literally.
SCHLAPPAnd there are these rules, and everyone just always assumes the Democrats get to make their rules, and the Republicans get to make their rules. And sometimes my wife and I at the end of the day will say, well, what's Trump complaining about. And then all of a sudden a light bulb goes off, and we realize most Americans are looking at this process and saying isn't this absurd, the people of a state voted for one person, and then they get this little small group together in a convention, and they come out seemingly with a different result.
SCHLAPPSo what has to happen in 21st-century America and the way the press and media move is you -- it's got to be able to withstand the light of day. And so I think parties are going through this interesting process where, you know, poor Reince Priebus is trying to explain why it's okay to have, like an extension...
YORKYeah, an extended convention in Colorado and all these Byzantine ways in which states do things, which is the way we've always done them for hundreds of years. And now with the light on it, and Donald Trump saying, well, I don't think that makes sense, I don't think this makes sense, actually to the American people Donald Trump's making a lot of sense, and I think he's going to change -- win or lose, he's changing presidential politics forever.
DESJARDINSLeslie Sanchez, the word Byzantine is having a fantastic month for sure.
SCHLAPPSorry about that.
DESJARDINSNo, it is.
SANCHEZYeah, no, it's good. Matt's a smart man. So he's exactly right.
DESJARDINSWe just heard Matt Schlapp sort of extol what he sees as Donald Trump doing for the system, but I want to ask you. In the end, is there something to be said for the Republican Party wanting to have a stake in who the nominee is, and perhaps those who have been working in the party and been making the phone calls for years, being able to have input and in this case a lot of input for who their nominee is?
SANCHEZSure, and, you know, those are almost the guardrails that the party leadership sets up so that they -- so that you don't have an outside candidate, right, that came in and kind of took over the whole process like they had anticipated in two previous presidential cycles. The challenge is, and really kind of the humbling part for the party folks, and Matt and I grew up on the same playbook, right, is that there is this massive realignment that a lot of folks missed, whether they were political analysts or strategist or in the media, and we've all been talking about that, everybody scratching their heads.
SANCHEZBut I think it's exactly right, and it's an important process, and it should be very transparent because these calls, you're hearing this kind of prickling about, you know, cheating the system and establishment kind of strong-arming their candidate that they choose is really more damaging to the long-term effect and could have tremendous implications for future elections. So I think that the party is definitely listening and realigning to that.
SANCHEZAnd if you look at Trump's strategy, you know, the fact that last week he unleashed a robo call to voters registered without a preference in California to go and register before the May 23 deadline so they could vote in the primary, he doesn't want to make the mistakes he made before, but again it's about the popular vote, and only -- it's a closed primary in California.
SANCHEZSo I think that's a key part. He learned that lesson in terms of get the popular -- you know, his supporters out there, not looking so much at the delegate aspect, though he's paying more attention. And the second part is that I think many of us are -- have to be cautious about misreading the Trump effect down-ballot. There was a special election in April in Los Angeles, you know, and some of the candidates tried to do this kind of anti-Trump effort, and it backfired.
SANCHEZI think that there's a lot of movement in terms of how people are looking at a media candidate like Trump, and it's not politics as usual.
DESJARDINSI want to quickly take a phone call, go to Casey in San Antonio, Texas. Casey, you're on the air.
CASEYThanks for taking my call, appreciate it.
DESJARDINSSure thing. What's your question.
CASEYSo my question is, well, I am -- why is race such a big issue in this -- in this thing with the delegates and everything all combined, which I don't understand why (unintelligible) white man, I'm married to an Hispanic lady, and we've been together five years. One thing I don't see is our country is getting divided now because everyone's hating on Trump, or everyone's hating on this. Why can't the people just rally up and do things the right way instead of bringing all this hate into all of it?
CASEYMy wife is actually voting for Trump. Myself, I'm voting for Bernie Sanders, if he gets elected. But one thing is -- we don't understand is the delegates. How is that -- how is that -- how does that work? Is it counted by the million? Is it counted by all this stuff? And does it even matter? Because Al Gore won back in, you know, 2000, 2001, whatever it was in, and yet still Bush got in office. So does our vote even really matter?
DESJARDINSCasey, thank you for your question. I'm going to go to Byron York. This touches on what you were saying just a few minutes ago, Byron. Do you think primary votes matter? How do they matter?
YORKWell, they do matter. First of all, just to make a distinction between the Republican Party system and the electoral college, the electoral college is in the Constitution. The Republican Party system could be changed tomorrow if the RNC wanted to do it. So it doesn't have the sort of status of scripture. But, you know, the reason we're seeing, and we began with this, the reason we're seeing this move in some Republican insiders, elites, this move toward Trump, is because of all those popular votes.
YORKHe has, like I said, over 10 million. Cruz has 6.8 million. Voters move things. And after Trump won so big in New York, of course that's his home state, but followed it up with five for five in Northeastern states, that got people's attention. And it is the voters. And you can have all of these stories you want about some fight for -- some fight for delegates on the second ballot in this or that state, but Trump right now is trying to just win with more voters. So in a gross way, there is a very strong relationship between the voters' will and what you're going to see in the Republican Party.
SCHLAPPLisa? Just real quickly...
SCHLAPPJust to say it's so interesting that the caller is voting for Bernie Sanders, and his wife, a Hispanic, is voting for Donald Trump.
SCHLAPPWhich is a theme that I see when I travel and talk to folks just on the street and Uber drivers and everyone else, is a lot of times they'll say, well, I'm going back and forth between Trump and Sanders. And I think there is some kind of message here for both sides of the political spectrum. Leslie used the word realignment, which is absolutely happening on the conservative and Republican side, those issues that matter.
SCHLAPPAnd second of all this concept of race, which I think all of us cringe at the idea of race being such a central role in our politics, I will admit at least I do because we've had such an ugly past in our history. But let's face it, you know, the one hope a lot of us Republicans had is that maybe with electing the first black American president we would get beyond, get post-racial. Well, it hasn't happened, and if anything the way Obama has handled these sets of issues and so many sets of issues, we're not getting to synthesis, we're actually getting to chaos, kind of like a rawness in the political conversation.
DESJARDINSWell this certainly raises a -- that's a very large conversation about the president and the politics of race, which we're certainly in a cauldron of right now, both parties feeling that, both parties having very different opinions on that. But I think you're right, the caller's making an interesting point here, that we see many families who are split in ways that the smartest pundits, the most highly paid consultants, could not have predicted. I think just...
YORKThey didn't -- and didn't predict, let's be clear.
SANCHEZThere's a lot of eating crow in Washington. Let's just put that there. If I could jump in just kind of on the race aspect.
DESJARDINSPlease, Leslie Sanchez.
SANCHEZWhat is fascinating about this race is the split. We've been arguing, folks that follow Latino politics and kind of the rise of the powerful Latino vote, that it was not going to be voting in ethnic solidarity. It is -- you know, there's a jump ball of Latino -- you know, there's about 25 percent of the Hispanic vote that's a jump ball, it could go either way. What we didn't anticipate was this massive Latino millennial movement that you saw in Nevada, for example, that really coalesced around Bernie Sanders and the kind of passion that you're seeing, certainly, that took place over the weekend.
SANCHEZThat's a little bit different in terms of their organizing, but they are using the anti-Trump effort to mobilize registration and get folks to turn out.
SANCHEZAnd you saw high school students who were anti-Trump in Iowa coming out. That is the negative side of that in terms of -- for the Republican Party is how to mitigate that.
DESJARDINSThank you, Leslie Sanchez. I'm Lisa Desjardins with the PBS News Hour. I want to remind listeners, you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Do you have a split household this election? Should we popularly elect our nominees? We don't technically popularly elect our president right now. Give us a call, tell us what you think. That's 1-800-433-8850, or course send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find us on Facebook, or you can also send us a tweet.
DESJARDINSThis gets -- Leslie gets into the question of sort of voter enthusiasm here and who is registering voters, who is not registering voters. I want to go to a tweet from Hillary. She writes, please talk about the turnout for the GOP. Are folks staying home because they can't vote for any of the candidates? Is there an enthusiasm gap? Byron York, what do you think? Do you feel an enthusiasm gap on the ground there in Indiana?
YORKAbsolutely not, just the opposite, as a matter of fact. In Indiana, they're happy that their primary matters this time, that the contest has gone on so long that the Indiana primary really matters. But I think we've seen actually rather large increases in Republican voter turnout in the primaries over previous years. Donald Trump of course with his characteristic modesty say it's all because him. I think some of it is, of course. But I think we're seeing actually many, many more people voting in Republican primaries than voted in years past.
YORKI don't know what that's going to mean for the general election, but it certainly indicates more engagement in the primary process.
DESJARDINSMatt Schlapp, we're seeing these new Republican voters at a time when I think the term civil war within the Republican Party understates what's happening. We saw last week John Boehner openly going on the attack against a fellow member of Congress. We see Ted Cruz versus Donald Trump versus remember the Rand Paul wing of the party. It almost seems like there are at least half a dozen, maybe a dozen, different tribes in the Republican Party.
DESJARDINSCan you speak to what -- what is this sort of civil war, to put it, I guess, in a more sharp way, or this realignment of the Republican Party? And how will these new voters fold in? How does the Republican Party, which may not know its own identity now, keep these voters who are coming for this election?
SCHLAPPAll right, well let's quickly walk through why we're where we are. We have a liberal president who by and large did not work with Republicans in Congress, and it's fair to say they didn't work with him, either, to get consensus policies. What Obama has gotten done, and boy has he gotten done a lot, he did by himself or with Democratic votes. So we haven't created any synthesis.
SCHLAPPRepublicans out in the country, you know who they're mad at? They're not just mad at President Obama, they're mad at their own leaders because they're, like, why didn't you do more to stop it. So what happened now is that you have a -- if it's a civil war, it's between grassroots Republicans, who are looking at big majorities in the Senate and the House and saying you'd promised us you'd stop him, and you didn't stop him. And that now has transferred itself over into this presidential race, where you have this whole idea, I want outsiders, I want to take a two-by-four to Washington, D.C., I want to break it up.
SCHLAPPAnd you know what that is, Lisa? It's not as ideological as it sounds. It's not as how pro-life are you or how pro-Second Amendment are you or how anti-government regulation are you, it's more the ideology of will you go to Washington and bust it up. And that's why Donald Trump is a smart political entrepreneur to see that and to step in and grab that mantle. And by the way, you know who else is smart to do that? Ted Cruz. The two people leading the race are people, although ideologically there's differences, it's basically the core same message, which is I will take that Republican leadership and then will change the way we do things. It'll be a new sheriff.
DESJARDINSThis conversation is not new. You know, I think the Tea Party wrote -- brought a lot of these issues to the forefront of the party and for the nation in general, certainly in the political sector. But how long is this going to go on? Can this election end this conversation for Republicans?
SCHLAPPI will tell you, like I said, Barack Obama -- you cannot talk about what's going in the Republican Party without talking about it within the context of the Obama presidency. And I will say this as a conservative leader. He has been incredibly effective in getting his policies in place despite the Republican Congress. And because of that, and because, you know, I worked for President George W. Bush, any major accomplishment he tried to achieve, he always immediately went and tried to find a couple of Democrats, whether it was Ted Kennedy on education or the prescription drug bill, which had a ton of Democrat support.
SCHLAPPAnd it's true there were areas in which he went alone, but that is the principal way Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, President Reagan dealing with Tip O'Neill, that's the way it's been done in this town forever. Barack...
DESJARDINSBut do you think, to be fair to the president, since we don't have a Democrat on the show right now, I'm sure that a Democrat would say the president did hold many meetings, dinners with Republicans.
DESJARDINSIt's -- you know, he certainly did reach out.
SCHLAPPBut it just didn't happen. For whatever reason, this Kumbaya between the parties on a major issue just never happened, and this is the result.
DESJARDINSBut quickly, are you saying after President Obama leaves, everything's hunky-dory for Republicans, they're unified?
SCHLAPPNo, what I'm saying is that has change the way things will operate.
DESJARDINSI see. Okay, great, thank you. That was Matt Schlapp. Coming up, more of your calls and questions. Please stay tuned to "The Diane Rehm Show."
DESJARDINSWelcome back. I'm Lisa Desjardins with the PBS News Hour, sitting in for Diane Rehm. We are having a fascinating and I would say scintillating conversation about the Republican race for President. We have, over the next six Tuesdays, five final primary votes for Republicans across this country. Byron York, we've been talking to you about Indiana where you are. But what other contests should Americans be watching, potentially, in this Republican race? Is it just Indiana and California, these bookends that matter the most?
YORKWell, I think you need to look and see where it -- does Ted Cruz actually do well in the states that he's predicted that he'll do well? He appears to be headed for a victory in Nebraska, South Dakota, Montana, but does this all really matter? I mean, the thing is is that we do have Indiana coming up tomorrow. Then, Trump is going to do very well in New Jersey, which is coming up on June 7th. That's another one of those June 7th primaries. And, you know, by May 24, which is the last, last primary before California, we've got a two week gap there.
YORKWe'll know pretty much exactly what Donald Trump needs to win on that last day. So, I think, looking ahead, we have after Indiana, we have Nebraska, West Virginia, Oregon and Washington. And you know, can Ted Cruz win any of those and really, at that point, does it matter?
DESJARDINSMatt Schlapp, I want to ask you about the prospect of a contested convention. It seems to be your opinion, and Leslie's as well, that that possibility is waning. But we have an email from Jim in McLean, Virginia. He's curious, in any past contested convention, of any party, has the candidate who obtained the most votes on the first ballot become the convention's nominee? Meaning, going into a convention where we had not a sure gone conclusion, did the first ballot ever seal the deal?
SCHLAPPYes, well basically, we haven't, on the Republican side, we haven't had a contested convention since 1976 and this has been much written about because it's the last time we had something like this. And basically, the first vote did seal the deal and there was all this intrigue about Reagan, who came into the convention about 100 delegates shy or so, about his ability to maybe switch the Mississippi delegation or other. And in the end, you know, the guy in second place wasn't able, as convincing a candidate as Ronald Reagan was.
SCHLAPPHe really wasn't able to shift anything going into that convention, so history, or at least modern history shows us, and if you consider 40 years ago modern, shows us that it's actually very hard for the person that comes in with the second most delegates to change enough people's minds to win on that first ballot. And that first ballot tends to seal the deal.
DESJARDINSLeslie Sanchez, Republican strategist in Los Angeles, also want to mention you're the author of "Los Republicanos: Why Hispanics and Republicans Need Each Other." I want to talk about the possibility of a Trump nomination, whether it's at the convention or before the convention. And Hispanics in your party, going to your book and your theme.
DESJARDINSWhat does the party need to do? What can the party do to win over Hispanics if Donald Trump becomes your nominee?
SANCHEZYou know, what's fascinating about that question, I was just recently in Texas, you know, a very red state. There's a fantastic pollster there, Mike Baselice, who had done a state wide poll and saw that unpredictably, that Donald Trump was actually underperforming with -- well, we know he's underperforming with women and Latino. And that supports that. What was fascinating is when you get out in the field and actually start talking to folks along the US/Mexico border, you'll have a lot of folks, just, this is anecdotally, tell you they say they voted for Ted Cruz.
SANCHEZBut they secretly voted for Donald Trump. There was tremendous support among Texas Hispanics for Donald Trump. And this is among more independent voters and Republicans, and they say, they consider themselves Americans. That's why this is really going to depend on the state. It's a geopolitical fight, but it is not an easy answer. It is -- it's certainly generational, attitudinal, how long they've been in this country. But just assume that with one swipe that Donald Trump could not get the support of Hispanic voters is wrong.
SANCHEZI think there definitely is a way to make an alignment, because they're not associating themselves as Mexicans. As I said, they're Texans. They're Americans. They don't do that identity politics in red states. They don't want to see, though, that any particular group is dehumanized. And this race language does not help, so I think if the Trump leading to the eventual nominee, has to work on that and be more inclusive and take responsibility as a party leader. There's definitely an on-ramp to build alliances with the Hispanic business community.
SANCHEZThere's a lot of closeted Hispanic business owners who like Trump, but they didn't want to publicly come out and say it, because they feared ramifications from their neighbors.
DESJARDINSHispanics for Trump in the closet, says Leslie Sanchez.
SCHLAPPThat's an interesting show.
DESJARDINSThat's a whole different show.
SANCHEZIt's definitely around the country.
DESJARDINSSo, I want to take a call now. Go to Ocala, Florida. And John, John, you're on the air.
JOHNHey Lisa. Thank you for taking my call this morning.
DESJARDINSThank you for calling.
JOHNI think, for the Republican Party, in my opinion, it's ironic that Donald Trump is the candidate in that I see it being traced back to Mitch McConnell and some of the Republican power brokers who vowed to make Obama a one term President. And that alone, with some of the ineptness of the Democrats, has led to a gridlock that's disenfranchised a good segment of America. And along comes the Pied Piper, whether it's Donald Trump or someone else that's saying the things that they want to hear.
JOHNThe issue and the concern is that is that, to me, a shallow candidacy who lacks depth and understanding of domestic and foreign affairs. And some of his behavior and his expressions are quite concerning for me. But that's my point of view, going back to Mitch McConnell. Even today, not even giving the courtesy of the Supreme Court nominee to interview him.
DESJARDINSJohn, thank you for the phone call. Byron York, from the Washington Examiner in Indiana, I want to point that question toward you. And we've talked a lot about the Republican Party and frustration within the party with Republican leaders. But are you picking up on any voters who may be leaning or voting for Trump who are voting for him because they see a greater divide between the parties, not just within Republicans, but a real problem with gridlock overall.
YORKNot so much with gridlock overall, but I think what Trump has done is he has shown, again kind of brutally, the disconnect between a lot of Washington based and (word?) corridor based Republicans and a lot of the base out in the country. And I think he's -- Trump has basically blown up Republican orthodoxy in four areas. On trade, immigration, entitlements and foreign affairs. And, I mean, he's just blown up a lot of the things that Republicans have believed and clung to over many decades.
DESJARDINSAnd potentially also on transgender rights. We'll see.
YORKYeah, but that's, I mean, that's not as big as the economy. And I think that -- I think Trump has really shown the party that they have a lot to think about. That their base was not with them on basically a peer sort of Reagan-esque tax cutting, tax cuts are what we need to fix the economy sort of strategy, that the base may not be with them on entitlement reform. That the base may -- is not with them on free trade. So I think that Trump has given Republicans a lot to think about.
YORKPut aside all the craziness and the controversy, but just on these major fundamental policies, Trump has given Republicans a lot to think about about where are our voters?
DESJARDINSMatt Schlapp, we just heard the base was not with the party, that there's a disconnect between the base and the party. But a question for Republicans might be, is the base enough to win a Presidential election? The electoral map does not favor Republicans unless the party expands. We've heard a lot about that, especially from Jeb Bush when he was running, Marco Rubio. Is the base enough in a national Presidential election for Republicans to win back the White House?
SCHLAPPIt's a great question, and it's really what's going on, when you talk to Republicans these days, it's what's going on behind their eyes. They don't want to be -- they don't want to lose, to quote Donald Trump. They don't want to be losers. They want to win, and they know this fight's going on and they know, look, electorally, you're right. The map -- there's like one way for us to get there. We got to win all the tough states like Florida and Ohio and Virginia. We got to win North Carolina and we got to win one other. That's always tough.
SCHLAPPAnd it's been tough the last couple of cycles. And we haven't won a majority of the popular vote in something like five out of the last six elections. So mean, we're in a real -- we have a very narrow path to victory. So, if it's narrow, we've got to expand the number of people that are brought to our cause. Donald Trump is going about this in the way that we were all taught would be a disaster. But it's happening, and we to, you know, embrace reality. And the fact is, this is not just about Donald Trump.
SCHLAPPThere is something going on in the country, that Donald Trump as an entrepreneur, was smart enough to get in front of. And by the way, so was Bernie Sanders. And I think there is something going on in this country that could mean that the Republicans are in the game.
DESJARDINSLeslie Sanchez, I want to ask you, as a strategist, how are you changing the way you consult or advise campaigns because of Donald Trump? Do you know yet? Have people figured out the -- you talked about the playbook that you and Matt have shared in the past. But how are you re-writing the playbook, what are you telling to other Republicans who you advise?
SANCHEZYou know, the biggest issue -- it's a great question, a lot of people talk about the high negatives. I think a really important thing to think about -- you know, the high negatives of Donald Trump as it relates to women and Latino. High negatives of Hillary Clinton, that she has in terms of unfavorable ratings. And they say, what do you do if you have these two candidates, potentially hypothetical matchup, and their personal unfavorables are so extremely high?
SANCHEZAnd a lot of pollsters have been looking at this and saying, you know what, we have to take the last 20 years of traditional polling, how we kind of predict where an election's going to go and push that aside so other variables become important. Leadership style, it creates an opportunity for the Republican nominee. I will tell you, there's so many conservative Democrats, for example, former military veterans who scratch their head and say, you know, I've always voted Democrat, but now I kind of like the no nonsense style of Donald Trump.
SANCHEZAnd they don't consider themselves Republicans. So, I'm advising candidates that we really have to change the way we're adding up our math and our calculus in terms of who is going to win and really take a better look at down ballot. Everybody's been arguing, oh well, there is this sentiment among some conservative leaders that's like, well, you know, it's going to be Donald Trump. Let's just focus on the Senate now. And actually, there may be a bigger movement in terms of who supports this type of candidate than people anticipate. So, we have to look at different metrics and why they would do what they do.
DESJARDINSI'm Lisa Desjardins with the PBS News Hour. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And I want to go to an email we have from Jordan. Jordan is asking, is it feasible for Democrats in Indiana's primary to cross over, as some did in Ohio and I suspect in other states, with open primaries, to vote in the GOP race, against Trump. We hear this over and over, both parties, can you switch in a Machiavellian way to try and block the candidate you don't want or to vote for the candidate you do want to oppose?
DESJARDINSI want to go to Byron York from the Washington Examiner. Byron, what is the situation in Indiana? Can a Democrat switch over and try and game the system for their party in the Republican race?
YORKWell, I believe Indiana is an open primary. I don't know the registration deadlines, but it's entirely possible. That sort of strategic voting is -- the cross party strategic voting has not been a huge factor in these primaries. What's much bigger now is sort of intraparty strategic voting where people who, you know, may not have really supported John Kasich voted for him in Ohio or, you know, Kasich and Rubio back in the Ohio and Florida primaries on March 15th, were basically recommending that you vote for the other guy.
YORKIn that state, Mitt Romney has been recommending strategic voting among Republicans. None of it has actually worked and stopped Donald Trump, but I don't think Democrats are going to be the ones who determine, you know, what happens here in Indiana.
DESJARDINSLeslie Sanchez, I want to ask you about something Mike Bloomberg said over the weekend. He said that none of the Presidential candidates are all that appealing. We also heard from some of the well-known Koch brothers, that they're, you know, implying that perhaps they also do not find the remaining candidates ideal. Leslie Sanchez, is there room for a third candidate at this point? Is that likely?
SANCHEZIt's very unlikely, because it's extremely difficult. Constitutionally, we're set up as a two-party system and we make it extremely difficult because of the state level and the procedural applications to have a third party effort. I mean, the first deadline, I believe, and I think Matt would know more about that, is like May 9th in Texas to have enough names on a petition to have another name on the ballot. So, it becomes a very difficult thing to do.
SANCHEZI do find it interesting that Donald Trump is encouraging Bernie Sanders to go that route, to cause the Democratic side to split, a la 1992 again with Ross Perot. But it's not very feasible.
DESJARDINSI want to go to the call, to the phones and to Kris from New York. Kris, what is your question?
KRISWell, I think that we should get rid of delegates. I mean, back when our country was first going, we needed them because of poor communication and poor transportation, but I think every election should be popular vote. I think it's dumb to use the delegates now. And I have one other comment. I think that Donald Trump is rude, crude and socially unacceptable. I will never vote for him, and if he wins, I have serious reservations about even staying in this country.
DESJARDINSThank you, Kris for your phone call. You know, it's interesting, after she made that comment about Donald Trump, I was gonna say, what, are you voting for her? Because I know some of his voters may agree that they don't find his comments appealing, but they're still voting for him.
SCHLAPPYeah. That's right.
DESJARDINSI want to go back to the great subject though, Matt Schlapp. The Electoral College, the caller there is saying let's get rid of that, let's get rid of delegates, let's do everything by popular vote. What do you think of that idea? Is it feasible?
SCHLAPPWell, you know, I'm partisan, obviously. I'm being, you know, candid about that. Republicans said, after FDR, oh, we need to stop these presidents from running for more than two terms and we got to get a Constitutional amendment so we have a Constitutional amendment that bars people to two terms. Most people would argue that's hurt more Republicans than Democrats. Republicans argued after the Florida recount, we got to have that Electoral College, because that's what, you know, kind of won it for George W. Bush in 2000.
SCHLAPPAnd, you know, so we kind of hold on to that. Who knows, you know? When elections are tight, the rules matter, and it doesn't always look like it's fair.
DESJARDINSNow I want to wrap this up, I think, by asking the question most people have, which is when will we have an answer to this Republican contest. I'm going to start with you, Leslie Sanchez. Briefly, if you had, if I had to pin you down to say when will we know who the Republican nominee will be or when will we have a very good idea? Is it this week? Is it later? Leslie, what do you think?
SANCHEZI would tend to agree, and I spoke with Paul Manefort briefly this -- last weekend about that, who is a Trump strategist. They are really optimistic about it being this week. They think everything is going to settle down. They feel very confident going into Indiana. They know it's a tough fight, but I think politically and internally, I think that a lot of Republicans are realizing that this is where the last stand is for Senator Cruz.
DESJARDINSOkay, okay, Byron York, what is your sense of when this will end?
YORKI think if Donald Trump wins here in Indiana, we'll know a lot more tomorrow night. I think fewer and fewer Republicans will take Ted Cruz's case seriously and perhaps at that point, California will not be the, you know, the huge thing that we thought it was. But the race will kind of come to a quiet conclusion. If, if Republican elites view Trump as the winner, after tomorrow night.
SCHLAPPThe key is, just like Ford and Reagan, Reagan endorsed Ford. Cruz has to endorse Trump, that moment has to happen, I think about the week after the California primary.
DESJARDINSOkay, interesting. Matt Schlapp with the American Conservative Union, Byron York who joined us from Indiana, the Chief Political Correspondent at the Washington Examiner. And Leslie Sanchez, Republican Strategist and author of "Los Republicanos: Why Hispanics and Republicans Need Each Other." I'm Lisa Desjardins with the PBS News Hour sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thank you for listening.
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