Guest Host: Lisa Desjardins

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during a campaign rally at the Indiana State Fairgrounds on May 2 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during a campaign rally at the Indiana State Fairgrounds on May 2 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Senator Ted Cruz is no longer in the race to be a presidential nominee. After losing to Donald Trump in yesterday’s Indiana primary, Cruz suspended his campaign. Donald Trump is now the de facto nominee. Despite calls for party unity, Republicans remain divided over supporting Trump. On the Democratic side, Senator Bernie Sanders scored an upset victory in Indiana over Hillary Clinton. But Clinton still holds what her campaign argues is an irreversible lead in total delegates. Guest host Lisa Desjardins and a panel of guests discuss what yesterday’s results mean for the campaigns and whether either party has any chance of unifying before the July conventions.


  • Ron Elving Senior Washington editor, NPR News
  • Norman Ornstein Resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute; co-author of "It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism"
  • Margaret Talev Senior White House and politics correspondent, Bloomberg


  • 10:06:53

    MS. LISA DESJARDINSThanks for joining us. I'm Lisa DesJardins with the PBS NewsHour sitting in for Diane Rehm. What a night. The Republican primary brought another surprise yesterday as Senator Ted Cruz dropped out of the presidential race and Donald Trump became the Grand Old Party's presumptive nominee. But Trump faces a party deeply divided over this candidacy and meanwhile, who would've thought the Democratic race would be unresolved longer than the Republican one. Bernie Sanders says he is not done yet.

  • 10:07:25

    MS. LISA DESJARDINSWith me in studio to talk about all of this are Ron Elving with NPR News and Margaret Talev with Bloomberg. Joining us from a studio at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar. Thank you all for joining us.

  • 10:07:38

    MS. MARGARET TALEVThank you.

  • 10:07:38

    MR. RON ELVINGGreat to be with you.

  • 10:07:38

    MR. NORMAN ORNSTEINGreat to be with you, Lisa.

  • 10:07:40

    DESJARDINSNow, one goal we have this hour, everyone, is to sort of get past what we're seeing that cable news is doing a fine job of, the horserace analysis sort of bit by bit, speculation, maybe add more to the conversation. But we do have to set the narrative for what happened last night. And with that, I want to go to you, Ron. Tell us exactly what happened in Indiana, why it happened, in your opinion.

  • 10:08:05

    ELVINGIndiana made a judgment and in that judgment, it was time for Ted Cruz to leave. It was Donald Trump to be anointed the presumptive nominee, as he's been self-anointed for some while, and it was also time for Bernie Sanders to get a little boost so that he could continue the race, extend the question and continue to give Hillary Clinton a reason to move in his direction, ideologically, structurally and so on, give him a little bit more rationale to go onto California and to go on to the convention.

  • 10:08:36

    ELVINGBut to put a bottom line on it all, it may not be over in the sense of the technicalities of nominating the nominees in Cleveland and Philadelphia on the final night of the convention, but it's over. I mean, the Republicans have reached the point where only Donald Trump has a chance to be nominated, unless something should, you know, come from the skies and strike him like a lightning bolt. And on the Democratic side, mathematically, the only path for Bernie Sanders would be to win all the primaries and win basically all the votes, not just a majority, not just a super majority, but all the votes.

  • 10:09:11

    DESJARDINSAnd change a few minds among the super delegates, potentially.

  • 10:09:14

    ELVINGHe still would have to do that. I suppose if he won every single vote from now on, it would probably dent some of those consciousnesses, but basically that's what it would take. And the super delegates have shown no signs, no signs whatsoever, of defecting from Hillary Clinton. They've made their judgment as to which candidate would be the better one in the fall and that's why super delegates exist, to make that judgment.

  • 10:09:36

    DESJARDINSListeners, we want to hear from you. Do you think these nominating contests are over? Do you hope that they're over or do you think there needs to be more time for debate within the party faithful? We're gonna take your comments and questions throughout this hour. Please call us at 1-800-433-8850 or send us email at Or you can join us on Facebook or Twitter. I am particularly eager to hear your thoughts today.

  • 10:10:00

    DESJARDINSMargaret Talev, I want to go to you. So what now? Does the general election start now?

  • 10:10:06

    TALEVYeah. And the general election has probably been underway, to some degree, since, you know, Super Tuesday, certainly since last week's mid-Atlantic primaries where both Clinton and Trump, you know, made clear, beyond very little reasonable doubt the path where things were heading. The trick for both of them now, the key for both of them now is to unite their respective parties. And while it certainly seems, on the face of it, that Trump has the bigger challenge right now, as of this moment, you know, they both have real challenges.

  • 10:10:37

    TALEVWhen you looked at the exit polling from last night in Indiana, it gives us a sense of the notion that even though many Democrats still prefer Bernie Sanders, they are more ready to get behind Hillary Clinton once they have to, right? Whereas within the Republican party, there is just a whole lot more dissent. People feel like this has been divisive, many are not happy with Donald Trump. However, right, they both have crossover appeal.

  • 10:11:06

    TALEVDonald Trump is going to go after the working class white voters, the rust belt voters, the male voters inside the Democratic party, the non-minority voters, right? Hillary Clinton is going to go after anything that might qualify as a moderate Republican, female, married Republicans, foreign policy Republicans, maybe investor Republicans who want to minimize their risk. The difference, tactically, right now is that Donald Trump can just plow straight ahead and focus on the general election.

  • 10:11:30

    TALEVShe still needs to thread the needle, to not just roll over Bernie Sanders, to show him respect, to keep campaigning over the next month or so, you know. And that puts her, tactically, in a different position, even though they both, at this point, are the presumptive nominee.

  • 10:11:47

    DESJARDINSNorm Ornstein, we saw last night and we mentioned as we started this show, some Republicans flat-out, last night, came out saying they're going to vote for Hillary. There are many notable examples, but one is Ben Howe, the do-founder of RedState. He's a contributing editor now. He wrote, point blank, on Twitter, "I am no longer a Republican." It's fascinating how he -- what he gave as his rationale. He said, especially, he doesn't want Trump's finger on the nuclear button.

  • 10:12:11

    DESJARDINSAnd he pointed to a quote from Alexander Hamilton. Obviously, he was getting a lot of pushback from fellow conservatives at the idea that he might support Hillary. He pointed to this quote Alexander Hamilton wrote, "if we must have an enemy at the head of government, let it be one whom we can oppose and for whom we are not responsible, who we will not involve our party in the disgrace of foolish and bad measures."

  • 10:12:33

    DESJARDINSIn other words, there's a Republican saying, I would rather have Hillary Clinton in office and not have Republicans responsible for her than Trump as president and have to take the blame for any problems that come as a result. Norm Ornstein, what do you think about this idea? Is Republican opposition to Donald Trump serious?

  • 10:12:54

    ORNSTEINIt's certainly serious from a group of Republican intellectuals and a number of activists, especially the most conservative ones as they see the whole conservative tenure of the party going away. This is a party that's facing an existential crisis in a lot of ways. You know, going back to where we started and what Ron said, I think what happened for at least what remains of a tattered Republican establishment in the last several days is that they really had two prospects here.

  • 10:13:23

    ORNSTEINOne was that Trump would just simply go forward, even if they united in opposition to him because of this division and win 1237 delegates. And the more he won, the more he would win and then, they'd be stuck with a nominee where they were on the opposite side. Or he would fall just a few delegates short and if they denied him the nomination under those circumstances, Cleveland would make Chicago 1968 look like a picnic by comparison and they would have an even deeper division and Trump would go out there and try and destroy the party at all levels.

  • 10:13:56

    ORNSTEINSo I think this was an Obi-Wan Kenobi moment in a lot of ways and some of what you saw, including John Boehner, you know, calling Cruz Lucifer in the flesh, was aimed at heading off this great division. Now, you're going to see, I think, a concerted effort by Reince Priebus and many others to get people to fall in line, even if they don't like Trump, to say, well, we can't let Hillary Clinton dominate the Supreme Court and so on. It's not going to work entirely and we still don't know if there'll be some kind of rogue independent effort or rump effort out there.

  • 10:14:34

    ORNSTEINYou're gonna see a lot of dollars going to protect the House and Senate, but you have a party that's in more disarray. And even if, on the Democratic side, it looks tougher over the course of the next few weeks, there you don't have the same deeper divisions.

  • 10:14:48

    DESJARDINSYou know, "Star Wars" fans, including many friends and a certain husband of mine will like me to probably point out that today is, in fact, "Star Wars" Day, Norm. It is May the 4th be with you, as compare what's happening with Donald Trump to the idea of sort of a Jedi perhaps mind trick. But I want to sort of pivot back to you, Ron, and historically. I know you are a presidential history buff, an expert. Can you give us some historical context for the unique experience that is Donald Trump?

  • 10:15:18

    DESJARDINSAnd am I correct that we have never had a president who has been elected without prior military or political experience?

  • 10:15:25

    ELVINGDepending on how you want to defend or how you want to define political experience, Donald Trump really is in a category by himself. We have, for example, the 1940 example of Wendell Willkie and I'd be interested in hearing Norm's thoughts on this. He was a utility executive. He had not always been a Republican and he was somebody who kind of came out of nowhere and was not really a career politician and was enormously popular with the people who were at the Republican convention. And we had this phenomenon of people in the balconies chanting, we want Willkie, and overcoming the usual process of the Republican party.

  • 10:16:03

    ELVINGThat is really not meant to compare the two men who are quite radically different from each other, but there was a phenomenon in 1940 that they knew they wanted to get rid of Franklin Roosevelt. They didn't want a third term for Roosevelt and you could, in some measure, compare that to not wanting a third term of Barack Obama, if you will, if we see Hillary Clinton in those terms. So there really is, though, no exact precedent. There is no real comparison of Donald Trump to any former candidate in the Republican or the Democratic party, but especially the Republican.

  • 10:16:32

    DESJARDINSNorm Ornstein, I'm gonna kick that back to you and frame it this way. We talk a lot about whether Donald Trump has shifted politics. Is this a shift in the plates for how a presidential election is conceived and run or is this really a one character driven experience, something like a Teddy Roosevelt or William Jennings Bryan, something that is specific to Donald Trump?

  • 10:16:54

    ORNSTEINWell, it may be both, Lisa. You know, I wrote a piece in the Atlantic in August, last August saying why this time might be different and suggesting that history isn't always a guide. And at that point, the overwhelming conventional wisdom was, oh, we've seen these characters rise and fall. The Herman Cains, the flavor of the week, and this will happen to Trump and to Cruz and to Ben Carson and to Carly Fiorina and we'll end up with Marco Rubio. That's the way it always works.

  • 10:17:24

    ORNSTEINAnd suggested that there were larger forces at work here that would probably make Trump and Cruz emerge in a much stronger way. Some of it is a deep-seated populism, that is a historical phenomenon and that's why Bernie Sanders has gained so much traction. The TARP bailout and the economic crisis really made a difference here. And along with that is the growing antipathy that a lot of Republicans feel towards their own leaders that meant that an outsider challenging those leaders would gain traction.

  • 10:17:57

    ORNSTEINAnd there are a lot of reasons for that we might get into.

  • 10:17:58

    DESJARDINSA combination of history and one extraordinary political character. Call us at 1-800-433-8850 or send us email at Of course, join us on Facebook or Twitter. We're gonna take a short break, but we'll be right back.

  • 10:20:00

    DESJARDINSAnd welcome back. I'm Lisa Desjardins, sitting in for Diane Rehm. We're having quite a conversation about quite a night last night. We have a new presumptive Republican nominee, someone that few people might have bet on two years ago, Donald Trump. And of course we still have a contested race among Democrats. And that is what we are getting the most response from our listeners.

  • 10:20:21

    DESJARDINSMy guests in studio are Ron Elving with NPR, Margaret Talev from Bloomberg, and Norm Ornstein is joining us via Skype and ISDN because he's so cool and tech like that. But this is what we're hearing from our listeners. I'm going to read a tweet from Joe. Can you please talk about a contested Democratic convention? It seems like no one in the media wants to even mention it. And then of course here's an email from Ryan in Alexandria, Virginia. "Please in the course of your discussions do not use language that infers or outright states that Hillary Clinton will be the nominee."

  • 10:20:52

    DESJARDINSAnd then we're going to go to Gainesville, Florida, and Russell, who has a similar thought. Russell, you're on the air.

  • 10:20:58

    RUSSELLHey, you guys, thanks for taking my call. Can you hear me okay?

  • 10:21:01

    DESJARDINSYes, go ahead.

  • 10:21:02

    RUSSELLSo definitely agree with those two statements you just read. I'm glad those guys said that. But, you know, I'll try to make it short. It's so hard to summarize in a nutshell. But, you know, one thing I'd like to add to the conversation is just how Bernie is -- you know, his position against Hillary I think is so much more honorable. You know, Joe Biden even agrees. You see someone who is you can say the Reagan of the Democrats, right. I mean, he's taken the Democratic Party and saying look, this is the direction I think it should go, this is the future that we can accomplish, and this is the avenue we can take.

  • 10:21:34

    RUSSELLA lot of people are coming to the Democratic Party to support that, a lot of independents are trying to register as Democrats to vote, and I think that's really the, you know, the opportunity that we have here. So for -- you know, I'm younger, 27.

  • 10:21:48

    DESJARDINSHow -- Russell, yeah, how old are you?

  • 10:21:48

    RUSSELLYeah, I'm 27, and this is -- you know, I've been following ever since the last, you know, the 2012 election. I made -- I didn't vote then. I made a commitment, all right, let me study for four years and make a good vote. I think that's really, you know, where me and a lot of others have landed. You know, we see someone who we trust. He has -- I mean, the track record is something that is -- has lost value in politics, and it's such a shame because Bernie has something that's so powerful. And, you know, you just...

  • 10:22:17

    DESJARDINSRussell, thank you for that call. Obviously he's touching on a theme here that many Bernie Sanders supporters feel very strongly. Margaret Talev, first talk about where is Bernie Sanders strong, what type of voter is he strong with. I think this is something a lot of people know about. But how does he turn that into somehow getting to the nomination? And if he doesn't get to the nomination, then what?

  • 10:22:37

    TALEVRight, I mean, he has -- he has historically -- historically, he has throughout this race had consistently several kind of core pockets of support, younger voters, first-time voters.

  • 10:22:48

    DESJARDINSWho we just heard from.

  • 10:22:49

    TALEVRight, and not just, like, 17 to 24, like all the way up to 40. Forty is -- roughly 40 is the breaking point, right, liberal voters. And age goes out the window when you're talking about the liberal base. Liberal Democratic voters gravitate toward Bernie Sanders, independent voters who lean Democrat, as opposed to independent voters who lean Republican, men, and in some cases he does really well with women, also. His real buckets of weakness are minority voters, voters especially over 50 but over 40, as well, and minority women, many women in general, married women more likely to go to Hillary Clinton, single women more likely to be open to Bernie Sanders, as well.

  • 10:23:37

    TALEVSo these are the general breaking points. You know, part of the challenge for him has been that minority voters and women voters and minority women voters are so important now in the Democratic Party. And they're important in big states that move delegate numbers and then move the math. In caucus states, in smaller states he's done better. In states with primaries, which have larger bases, where you have to really organize a ground game and that have larger minority populations, Hillary Clinton has done well.

  • 10:24:06

    TALEVSo the challenge for him, essentially the challenge for him going forward is that she would essentially have to implode in order for him to be able to come from way behind now in the delegate count. And because that could -- obviously anything could happen between now and the conventions, and so he's preserving his ability to remain in there. But most likely he's preserving his ability to shape the platform going through the convention.

  • 10:24:31

    DESJARDINSOne other factor, his fundraising continues.

  • 10:24:35

    TALEVYeah, it does.

  • 10:24:35

    DESJARDINSHe does not have to leave at this point for financial reasons, although he has implied that he's going to be cutting back his staff somewhat. But he does not have to leave for financial reasons.

  • 10:24:44

    TALEVRight, and if he -- if he felt like -- if he feels that he's been treated with respect, if she reaches that number, and he feels like, okay, fair is fair, and she's won, and if he decides to rally his support and his supporters' support behind her, he will be tremendously valuable to her in the general election. If he continues the fight at the velocity with which it's going out, all the way into and through the convention, and decides in the end that he just can't -- he can only go so far in, you know, saying nice things about her. It really could be a different ballgame.

  • 10:25:16

    TALEVAnd so that's part of why it's so important for her to look not only to him but beyond him and to his supporters, to try to talk about the things that they care about and try to harness that support.

  • 10:25:25

    DESJARDINSMargaret Talev from Bloomberg. Velocity is such a great word to describe this election. I feel like the velocity just does not stop. Norm Ornstein, I want to go to you now. When Margaret was describing some of the features of a Bernie Sanders Democratic voter, it reminded me of some of the features of a Donald Trump voter, white, male generally, except Donald Trump has done well generally across ages, which is a little bit different than Bernie Sanders.

  • 10:25:49

    DESJARDINSWe hear a lot in the media about Donald Trump and his low approval rating with women in a national race. How much of a factor do you think that really is, or is the question more, as Margaret is talking about, minority voters? You know, I was looking back at the 2012 race, and the truth is that Mitt Romney won with white women. There's sort of this narrative that Barack Obama won the female vote, but he really won the female vote because he had such an outsized win with minority women. How important is the female vote this year? How important is the minority vote for a Donald Trump versus Democratic matchup?

  • 10:26:24

    ORNSTEINAll good questions, Lisa. I would make one other distinction that Martha didn't make quite as much, which is -- or Margaret didn't make quite as much, which is Democrats versus independents. Hillary has done extraordinarily well with Democrats, and even in contests that she lost, she split the Democratic vote. That's why Bernie wants to have every contest opened up. With that, we know we have a number of gaps. We have a gender gap going back way before Donald Trump. Women have supported Democrats more than men.

  • 10:26:58

    ORNSTEINWe have a marriage gap. Unmarried, untethered people support Democrats more than those who are married. And one of the things that's happened in the country is we have more and more people who are unmarried, and that's given a Democratic advantage. I do think that Trump's misogynistic comments will create a bigger problem for him among women and may even enlarge that gap to some degree.

  • 10:27:24

    ORNSTEINLet me make just a point about the Bernie voters and Bernie support. There's going to be a lot of resistance to the notion that Clinton has an unsurmountable lead. But as Margaret said, basically Hillary would have to implode. And what I find so striking is that Sanders and his manager Jeff Weaver have basically said that the super-delegates who are in states that he won have a moral obligation to support him. But the super-delegates in states that Hillary won ought to come to him because they have no moral obligation to support her.

  • 10:27:57

    ORNSTEINAnd that shows a candidacy that understands that they basically -- the numbers don't work for him. And then it becomes a question of how both sides, including Sanders as a candidate, navigates through to the point where you get to the convention. The caller mentioned Reagan and Sanders as the modern Reagan. Remember in 1976, Reagan effectively kept the Republicans from winning the White House.

  • 10:28:21

    DESJARDINSNorm Ornstein, thank you. I want to take another phone call now. This is from a Democrat in Flint, Michigan, but he has a question about the Republican Party. Bryce, you're on the air.

  • 10:28:29

    BRYCEGood morning, hello to your panel and to yourself.

  • 10:28:32

    DESJARDINSGood morning. What's your thought?

  • 10:28:36

    BRYCEWell I just -- you know, I've followed politics since I first started voting in the late '70s, and I have never seen the kind of rancor and vitriol that you have -- that we've had within the Republican primary. And I'm just wondering what is the language that the Republican leadership can use beyond we need to unite to fight Hillary Clinton to say that oh yes, the guy, that second runner up, was saying -- was a pathological liar, you know, a couple weeks ago is the guy that we should be standing behind.

  • 10:29:14

    DESJARDINSThank you for that call. Ron Elving from NPR, how does the Republican Party get past pathological liars? Even we saw sort of a bizarre turn with the JFK assassination, Trump accusing Ted Cruz' family of being involved. How do they get past all of this?

  • 10:29:28

    ORNSTEINWith difficulty. There has not really been a precedent in recent times to this kind of language within the Republican Party, people saying this kind of thing about each other at the level of the candidate. Now you've always heard people who were on the fringes of any campaign speaking in intemperate terms. You have always heard people in the media using intemperate terms (unintelligible)

  • 10:29:51

    DESJARDINSPerhaps increasingly, even, right?

  • 10:29:51

    ELVINGYes, well, and certainly that is true, as well. But it is a longstanding part of our process that people use intemperate language in talking about the candidates for president. That is part of egalitarian tradition. We do talk trash about our presidential champions. But the candidates themselves by and large have maintained a little bit more elevation, a little bit more dignity, and here you have people saying things that really do seem, as Donald Trump said of Ted Cruz, unhinged. And you do have things that do seem narcissistic, that do seem pathological.

  • 10:30:25

    ELVINGAnd the candidates are saying it themselves, and that may stick a little bit more than it has in the past. But on the other hand, we also live in an age of such extraordinary volubility, such technological volubility, that we're all awash in trash-talking, people throwing shade in all directions in ways that we have never had before. And so I think a lot of it we've become impervious to, and so we let it go. And when Reince Priebus says oh, that was just primary talk, candidates trying to get elected, he'll try to put that out of people's minds and focus on the candidate ahead in November.

  • 10:31:00

    DESJARDINSMargaret Talev, how much do you think all of this kind of incendiary talk has helped Trump, and how much can he now pivot to his presidential voice, as we heard last night in a very short, 20-minute speech?

  • 10:31:11

    TALEVHe's -- he's obviously really good on his feet, and he's a real estate developer, right? I mean, you -- you're selling always. You're selling. You're doing whatever it takes to sell. This is, like...

  • 10:31:23

    DESJARDINSHe is his largest project, product.

  • 10:31:26

    TALEVProject, too. But if you can -- look, if the sales approach that works is to just light the thing on fire, you do that. If the sales approach that works is to cajole, you just do that, and if you have to pretend like you never said the thing you said last week in order to sell the people on what you're selling this week, you do it that way. I think he's much more adept on his feet than Hillary Clinton has proven to be in terms of just kind of, like, turning on a dime.

  • 10:31:48

    TALEVThe one thing that I -- that really strikes me is that remember how Obama ran on hope and change, which, you know, it's like hokey and for all of us cynics we were, like, oh, please, like anything's really going to change. But it was kind of the theme, right, in 2008.

  • 10:32:01

    DESJARDINSRight, right.

  • 10:32:01

    TALEVAnd people -- people were moved teary-eyed to convention centers with blacks and whites who came up together in the '60s, finally realizing whatever dream. And, you know, like this election is just not that on either side. Both presumptive nominees at this point are gearing up for an election where they can motivate much better through negativity and fear than they can through inspiration. And Hillary Clinton would like to be able to run on some positive notes, on her own legacy for women and children.

  • 10:32:31

    DESJARDINSAnd she has a litany of proposals that she has put on her website.

  • 10:32:36

    TALEVAnd she would like to be able to run on President Obama's record, also, and the notion of continuing it. But when it comes right down to it, she can read these exit polls as well as anyone else, and she sees that voters don't -- may not like her on the Democratic side, but they like Donald Trump less. Both sides are going to run this way.

  • 10:32:51

    DESJARDINSAnd I'm Lisa Desjardins. You're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Okay, let's go back to the phones. I'm so happy they are, in fact, lighting up. Let's go to Cleveland, Ohio, a city we will be visiting again in a few weeks. I made the joke last night on Twitter, by the way, that I think Gold Leafers in Cleveland are just ecstatic about the prospect of Donald Trump coming to their town. But on a more serious note, let's go to Tom. Tom in Cleveland, you're on the air.

  • 10:33:18

    TOMHi, good morning, thank you for taking my call. I think that possibly what voters are doing and have actually been doing this for several elections is we've become wishful-thinker voters. This -- you can go back as far as George Bush, George W. Bush, compassionate conservative, people were wishful for that. Barack Obama, hope and change, end partisan bickering. We fell for that. Donald Trump, make America great again, we're falling for that. Bernie Sanders, the things he proposed, people are falling for that.

  • 10:33:53

    TOMIn the end, none of those wishful-thinking things actually happened, and in both cases Obama and Bush were actually elected and couldn't bring their wishful thinking to pass. And I think people are just stuck in that mode right now.

  • 10:34:08

    DESJARDINSTom I'm curious, as a voter then who does not espouse wishful thinking, who are leaning towards supporting this time?

  • 10:34:15

    TOMWell, I'm a pragmatist, and I'm also a Democrat, so that gives me Hillary. Now people, you know...

  • 10:34:19

    DESJARDINSOkay, all right, well thank you for your call, Tom, we appreciate it.

  • 10:34:24

    TALEVI love that story idea. I might steal it, if it's okay with Tom, go back and write that.

  • 10:34:25

    DESJARDINSThat's great. That's what we're here for. That's wonderful. But Norm Ornstein, let's talk about this idea of what is motivating voters this year. I think it's something that of course nearly everyone has not really gotten their hands around it this time. What do you think is motivating voters? How much of it is truly wishful thinking? I'm curious also why we just don't seem to be getting a lot of discussion of the candidates' actual plans. I'm so eager to talk about what they are proposing, but it just doesn't seem like that's what we hear from voters, is getting them to the polls, that they're thinking about grander themes and types of leaders. What do you make, Norm?

  • 10:35:05

    ORNSTEINWell, there's certainly been a little bit more of substance on the Democratic side. We've had some specific proposals. Trump is the most substance-free, in many ways issueless, candidate that I think I've ever seen, with almost no knowledge of broad public policy. And it's certainly the case that that hasn't made a difference for him.

  • 10:35:25

    ORNSTEINNow if we look at what's motivating people, the populism is an enormously significant factor. With populism we get always a dose of nativism, that's very strong on the Republican side, it's why Trump emerged using the immigration issue, by getting to the right of everybody else on his team, in his party, which wasn't an easy thing to do. Protectionism and the trade issue has resonated on both sides. It's been one of Sanders' strongest issues, especially in the Midwest.

  • 10:35:55

    ORNSTEINYou get a little isolationism, as well. What we're also seeing with populism is a backlash against the establishment and establishment leaders in both parties. And one of the things that the Republican Party has done that enabled it to win these midterm elections big was to delegitimize government and make it all look really terrible. So a part of the support for Trump is he may not have much to say, but, hey, how could he do worse than these bozos. And that's a problem, I think, for people who want to govern, and it's a problem for Hillary, who is saying I'll have to govern within fairly narrow margins.

  • 10:36:29

    TALEVYeah, I agree.

  • 10:36:29

    DESJARDINSMargaret Talev, last night, quickly, we heard from Trump, I thought a little bit of a preview of what he wants his general election message to be. Of course it is resoundingly anti-Clinton. But he also talked about a few issues, miners in West Virginia.

  • 10:36:44

    TALEVHe's bringing coal back.

  • 10:36:45

    DESJARDINSTrade. How do you -- what do you think his message is going to be, general election?

  • 10:36:48

    TALEVTo tell white, working-class voters in the Rust Belt that he'll do more for them than she will and to try to win it sort of on the margins in four or five states that otherwise he can't win without. I mean, it's tactical. It's just a completely tactical approach at this point.

  • 10:37:09

    DESJARDINSAnd Ron Elving, he's also talking about American corporations. I won't let companies leave this country. Is that going to bring in some votes?

  • 10:37:15

    ELVINGIt does appeal to the exact same voters we've just been talking about, whether it's in the coal industry or whether it's in manufacturing. It was a big help for him in Indiana to talk about bringing Carrier back.

  • 10:37:25

    DESJARDINSOkay, we'll take another short break here, but meanwhile give us a call. We're at 800-433-8850. Coming back up, we'll talk more about this wild election year.

  • 10:40:04

    DESJARDINSAnd welcome back. I'm Lisa DesJardins sitting in for Diane Rehm. Joining me today is Ron Elving, senior editor and correspondent for NPR News. He's also one of the voices you hear on the great NPR politics podcast. I highly, highly recommend it. Margaret Talev is a senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg. And joining us from a studio here in Washington because he ran out of press briefing to join us is Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

  • 10:40:30

    DESJARDINSContinue sending us your calls, your tweets, your Facebook messages. We have fascinating topic. I know many folks have been weary of the election, but folks, we're at a pivot point. The great state of Indiana, known for its basketball rings, as Ted Cruz called them last week, seems to have created a presumptive nominee in Donald Trump. And I want to go to one of our questions from an email. This is from Jeff in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

  • 10:40:55

    DESJARDINSA very active community this morning. Ron Elving, Jeff writes, "as a resident of Ohio, I can't help but wonder why John Kasich hasn't suspended his campaign. I know we have a lot of problems that need attention and he's just wasting his time and our money at this point." And there are also, of course, fans of John Kasich who want to keep in the race, but tell me about the dynamics for the governor for Ohio.

  • 10:41:17

    ELVINGJohn Kasich is the last person standing between Donald Trump and this nomination. And a sizable fraction, minor fraction, perhaps, but 30, 40 percent perhaps, of the Republican party is kind of terrified of Donald Trump as the nominee. So if anything should happen and if you were looking around for someone to suddenly thrust into the void and if you could make a couple of little rules changes, you could turn to John Kasich and probably he, rather than any of the other candidates who has already dropped out, he would be the person to be the beneficiary of that really unlike, really unlikely moment.

  • 10:41:56

    ELVINGAnd there's one other thing. Donald Trump needs a vice president. Ohio is the ultimate swing state. It's the state Republicans have never won the White House without winning and John Kasich knows that very well. Now, he has said terrible things about Donald Trump, but they've all been eclipsed by the terrible things other people have said about it. It's possible John Kasich could still be Trump's vice president.

  • 10:42:16

    DESJARDINSYou know, in thinking about this show and looking at the questions we would discuss today and what we wanted to talk about, I said, should we talk about who the vice presidential contenders should be? And I have to say I leaned against it. I looked at the past history and really those vice presidential nominees don't come out until a couple week or even five days, in the case of Sarah Palin, before the nomination.

  • 10:42:36

    DESJARDINSSo I think we still have plenty of time for conjecture about that. But you're right. That's a factor for John Kasich potentially.

  • 10:42:41

    ELVINGAnd let's also remember one last thing about John Kasich. He is the only Republican candidate who is beating Hillary Clinton in hypothetical matchups in November. I don't put a lot of stock in those hypothetical matchups, by the way, but still, there it is.

  • 10:42:54

    DESJARDINSI'm gonna go to the phones now and to Bethesda, Maryland. Lisa, you're on the air. What's your question?

  • 10:42:59

    LISAGood morning. Thanks for taking my call and I'll take the answer off the air. Your guest earlier mentioned the point about Hillary imploding and I found that curious because it's often followed by a little bit of a chuckle. And I feel that mainstream media seems to laugh off her situation as -- and any sort of consequence being dealt to her as something of fantastic thinking. And I'm really curious because in my view, the FBI investigation and the Hillary Victory Fund and her racial slurs and the shell corporations in Delaware and her history of flipping on issues and her stance on the climate, you name it, all of these, you know, the misguided role in a host of foreign conflicts all represent really serious points of concern to me.

  • 10:43:49

    DESJARDINSAnd Lisa, before you...

  • 10:43:50

    LISAAnd I don't see that being addressed in the mainstream as even leading to the possibility that before the general -- before the convention that her suitability as our next president would even be called into question.

  • 10:44:04

    DESJARDINSAnd Lisa, I just have to ask you, when you use the term racial slurs, obviously, that's a strong term. Can you explain what you're -- I can assume, but what are you talking about?

  • 10:44:11

    LISAWell, I mean, her recent comments, the joke that she made on, you know, colored people time, the references to going off the reservation. They're casual, but they're still offensive and you really would think that somebody in her situation would be more sensitive to that and more measured in her words.

  • 10:44:38

    DESJARDINSOkay. Lisa, thank you for that call. I appreciate it. Just very important to pin down when people throw around terms like that, what they mean. Margaret Talev, of Bloomberg, let's talk about the Hillary Clinton factor. You know, the narrative, we talk so much about this word narrative, but the narrative now, she's right, in the media is Hillary Clinton, all the polls show her versus Donald Trump, she has a sizable lead at this point. But does that matter? Is she still vulnerable? How do you size up that potential matchup, Clinton versus Trump?

  • 10:45:04

    TALEVI think the caller seemed to be making the case that Clinton is still very vulnerable in the primary. I don't think that's true, although the possibility of some news, you know, hugely news-making conclusion to the FBI controversy is probably the only sort of big thing still hanging out there that has the theoretical potential to change...

  • 10:45:27

    DESJARDINSAnd, of course, that's the investigation into the emails, that she used a private server to send...

  • 10:45:31

    TALEVOn her private server.

  • 10:45:31

    DESJARDINS...while she was secretary of state, yeah.

  • 10:45:33

    TALEVSecretary of state, absolutely. So even then, it's not entirely clear what the implications of that would be and the reason why is because, in the Democratic contest, the use of super delegates as sort of a major component to getting to the threshold that you need to clinch the nomination means that even in an antiestablishment year, if you are the standard bearer of the establishment, you have a built in advantage.

  • 10:45:57

    TALEVAnd Bernie Sanders has not been a Democrat, nor is he using his bid for the Democratic nomination to really build, you know, the DNC structure, the down ticket races. He is talking about how his candidacy is potentially bringing new people into the Democratic process. I won't say party because he's bringing a lot of independents into this process in states where they can vote. But what's different -- it is a different question in a primary than it is in a general. In a general election, every issue that Bernie Sanders raises against her is a potential issue that Donald Trump could use to campaign against her.

  • 10:46:31

    TALEVAnd Donald Trump is making no secret about the fact that's exactly what he plans to do. Are you listening to the things Bernie Sanders is saying? I'm gonna steal that line from him, blah, blah, blah. So that's exactly what's going on right now is that the issues that may make her vulnerable among more liberal voters could also be used against her in a general election, 100 percent.

  • 10:46:52

    DESJARDINSNorm Ornstein, something that also stand out about this election, which Ron pointed to in his story today on, is that we have two leading candidates, Trump and Clinton with incredibly terrible, I'll say, approval ratings. Both of them have very high negatives. How do you see that as a factor in this matchup? And I'll ask you the same question I asked Margaret. What do you make of this narrative that Donald Trump is a win for the Democrats, which we are hearing from Republicans who are turning against him?

  • 10:47:24

    ORNSTEINWell, on the latter point, you know, Ron is right that matchups at this point don't mean very much, but we do have a CNN poll out this morning that shows a double-digit lead, comfortable one for Clinton. Trump starts with a very serious disadvantage. His negatives are higher than Clintons are and the nature of the electoral which has been becoming, by 2 percent a year, more minority, works against Republicans in general and with the kind of language that Trump has used on immigration and on Muslims and in other ways, you're likely to see a surge in that kind of turnout.

  • 10:48:01

    ORNSTEINBut to suggest that this is over is a mistake, in particular because our politics have become so tribal that my guess is Trump still starts with a floor of around 45 or 46 percent. States are more firmly red and blue. Things can happen, including a terrorist attack in October that could make a very big difference. With that, we're going to have two candidates who start with very high negatives and that plays into this populist narrative as well, the idea that our politics are terrible and our politicians are really bad.

  • 10:48:36

    ORNSTEINThe idea that the mainstream media has been ignoring Hillary Clinton, I think, would come as a great shock to her and I think we also ought to note, for the record, that Hillary Clinton didn't use joke on colored people time. It was Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York, who did. So some of these attacks, I think, are not going to go very far and it's unlikely, I think, that we'll see an indictment or anything that would create that great problem. But you start out with a drawback when you are viewed in a negative way.

  • 10:49:08

    DESJARDINSNorm Ornstein, thank you. And going back to the phones and Dayton, Ohio, Charlie, what is your question?

  • 10:49:14

    CHARLIEWell, surely these two candidates who are going to emerge, Republican and Democrat, have programs and don't they realize that their programs depend upon holding a majority or getting a majority in the House and the Senate? And yet, you hear nothing about the candidates that are emerging for congressional election from the primaries.

  • 10:49:50

    DESJARDINSWonderful, Charlie. Thank you for that question. I'm so glad someone asked this question.

  • 10:49:53

    TALEVRight, finally, eight minutes before the end, we do policy.

  • 10:49:56

    DESJARDINSRight, but still. Ron, what do you make -- and how do the presidential races affect the House and Senate races and could the Senate change hands this election?

  • 10:50:06

    ELVINGPresidential races can dramatically change the congressional races, but they do not always. The winner does not necessarily sweep all before himself or herself in the congressional elections and this could be the case this year. For example, in the House the redistricting condition that we're in until the next census and the next redistricting pretty much guarantees a Republican House. It would have to be an utter disaster for Republicans all over the country for them to lose 30 seats. It just does not seem possible.

  • 10:50:33

    ELVINGThe Senate, on the other hand, is structurally quite the opposite. The Democrats only need to pick up four seats if they hold the White House and that looks quite possible with six or seven tossups around the country, almost all of them in Republican conditions. So the Senate could very well go Democratic and certainly would be more likely to do so if Hillary Clinton were getting elected. That would be a big help for her in terms of confirming people to positions and especially the Supreme Court, which could be perhaps the most critical long term issue of this presidential election and, of course, in terms of getting her program enacted.

  • 10:51:06

    ELVINGBut she will have problems with the House if she is the president and if Donald Trump is the next president, I suspect he will have problems with both chambers.

  • 10:51:14

    ORNSTEINLisa, can I weigh in on this?

  • 10:51:16

    DESJARDINSYes, go right ahead, Norm.

  • 10:51:17

    ORNSTEINJust very quickly. The House, you know, if everything broke badly for the Republicans, they could lose. There are about 58 seats that are handicappers, Charlie Cook and Stu Rothenberg and their colleagues have identified as in play, 45 of them are Republican. But if Democrats won the House by one or two or three seats, 25 of them are going to be in districts that are likely to flip back in the next midterm and they're gonna be scared to death about voting for big programs.

  • 10:51:45

    ORNSTEINSo even having a Democratic House wouldn't help that much. The Senate, I think, is much more likely to flip. But in 2018, there are 24 Democratic seats up, many of them in red states so Democrats would have a very brief window. It's also important to mention that the Republicans are going to have their own headaches, even with a majority in the House. A smaller number, which is very likely, means an even greater role for the Freedom Caucus. And Paul Ryan, the Speaker, is going to have a big migraine headache.

  • 10:52:13

    DESJARDINSIf he doesn't already, as a matter of fact.

  • 10:52:14


  • 10:52:15

    DESJARDINSSo it's interesting, in a way, we have four elections this cycle, president, House, Senate and Supreme Court. Margaret Talev, you know, I do want to talk about policy, if at all possible. And here's my policy question that ties into all of this. These candidates do have significant proposals, some much more detailed than others. We don't have a sense of the true cost of Donald Trump's plans or how he would pay for them, but are his ideas or are any of these candidates ideas feasible in what we seem likely to have somewhat of divided Congress, if still all Republican, very unlikely, won't have 60 seats in the Senate?

  • 10:52:52

    DESJARDINSCould there be a massive change in immigration? Could there be a huge infrastructure bill like Hillary Clinton wants?

  • 10:52:59

    TALEVRight. No, of course not, and that is what, you know, that's why the only major domestic initiative that, besides the stimulus that President Obama was able to kind of get through and preside over was Obamacare, and it's also why Hillary Clinton has campaigned much less dramatically than Bernie Sanders in terms of what she thinks could be done on healthcare and Medicare, et cetera.

  • 10:53:20

    DESJARDINSAnd I'm Lisa DesJardins. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Ron, to you. You mentioned that you see the Supreme Court as what might be the most profound effect of this election. What else, do you think, could be affected and change the lives of Americans? What's really on the table here? We have so many issues that raise passions, but what will change lives?

  • 10:53:43

    ELVINGAmong other things, healthcare because Obamacare, while it's in place and going forward, is going to be shaky for a number of years to come, if it does not get repealed. If it were to be repealed, that would certainly create a situation of great uncertainty in the healthcare industry and that may be one of the first domestic crises of the Trump presidency should there be Trump presidency and the Republican party has said it wants to repeal Obamacare.

  • 10:54:09

    ELVINGBut the replacement program for Obamacare is still a work in progress. We don't know what that would be. Perhaps Donald Trump has some ideas in that area. We would also expect this to be a dramatic election with regard to the direction of our immigration policy. There would be a tremendous difference there, depending on the Congress and depending on the president. Of course, foreign policy is always an issue and if we take Donald Trump at his word, the rather dramatic changes that he would like to make to our alliances, to our trade arrangements around the world would be if, again, he really means he wants to go forward on these things and he could get some cooperation from Congress, if he could, then you would have perhaps a global transformation of the role of the United States in the world that we've grown used to since World War II.

  • 10:54:48


  • 10:54:49

    TALEVAnd actually, on foreign policy, that is something where the president does have a little bit more jurisdiction to act without Congress. Not when there is dollar amounts attached, as we've seen with Guantanamo, but when it comes to diplomacy, when it comes to, you know, budgetary decisions that are within the rubric of the money that's already appropriated and when it comes to executive orders as, again, we've seen with President Obama. And I suspect that both Clinton and Trump are already thinking were they to become the next president, about what they could do through executive action under the assumption that we all hold, at this point, that Congress is not in a position to kind of like, oh, never mind we're gonna return to some magical era of cooperation and bipartisan compromise.

  • 10:55:28

    DESJARDINSWrapping up this episode of this very ongoing conversation, I want to ask all of you, what are the things you are watching for in the next month, that you think will determine the fate this election and the fate of our government? Norm Ornstein, briefly.

  • 10:55:42

    ORNSTEINWell, certainly on the Democratic side, I'm watching when Bernie Sanders pivots to a different tone. Will he listen to Jeff Weaver and basically do a scorched earth, def-con one all the way to and through the convention? Will he listen to Ted Devine, his other advisor, and begin to tone it down to create some level of unity? I'm also looking to see what the Koch brothers and their allies, who have an $900 million war chest do with and my guess is a whole lot of it goes into House and Senate races.

  • 10:56:10

    DESJARDINSAnd Ron Elving.

  • 10:56:11

    ELVINGLet's look at the Trump side and there we also have a similar situation where he has one advisor on one shoulder saying, let's let Donald be The Donald. That's Cory Lewandowski who's been with him longer. And then, he has his new guru, Paul Manafort, saying, no, it's time to elevate and be more presidential. I think we're all quite curious to know which way he'll go.

  • 10:56:30

    DESJARDINSMargaret Talev.

  • 10:56:31

    TALEVWhen does Hillary Clinton hit the magic number? Is it California? Is it before? If it's not California, she actually does have a problem. And how aggressively will Clinton and Trump go after one another now on personal attacks on their personal lives?

  • 10:56:46

    DESJARDINSDo you expect direct ads from the campaigns now against each other?

  • 10:56:49

    TALEVDoesn't matter, as long as Citizens United exists. I mean, we're talking about, you know, somewhere in the realm of $10 billion is the number that's been talked about in terms of the money that could be out this year.

  • 10:56:57

    DESJARDINSLet's just pause there. $10 billion.

  • 10:56:58


  • 10:56:59

    DESJARDINSIn campaign spending this cycle.

  • 10:57:01

    TALEVAnd that's before -- these were estimations from months ago, before it was clear what the contours of this campaign were going to be. So we know there will be a tremendous amount of nasty personal attacks. How soon does it start and where do they go?

  • 10:57:15

    DESJARDINSThank you all so much for listening to this. I was hoping to end on a more positive note, than nasty...

  • 10:57:19


  • 10:57:20


  • 10:57:20

    ORNSTEINCan't do it this year.

  • 10:57:21

    DESJARDINSBut we are an honest show and we care about the truth. Ron Elving from NPR, Margaret Talev of Bloomberg and Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. It has been wonderful having you on this broadcast. I'm Lisa DesJardins of the PBS NewsHour. Thank you for joining us.

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