Guest Host: Frank Sesno

Volunteer Dave Strnisa helps move nets filled with thousands of red, white and blue balloons July 15 before they are lifted into the ceiling of the Quicken Loans Arena, the site of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

Volunteer Dave Strnisa helps move nets filled with thousands of red, white and blue balloons July 15 before they are lifted into the ceiling of the Quicken Loans Arena, the site of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Republican National Convention begins Monday at a moment when the national mood is one of fear and mourning. Sunday brought more police-related violence, with three officers shot dead and several more wounded in Baton Route, Louisiana—the same city where Alton Sterling was killed by police two weeks ago. More and more, the presidential candidates are forced to put issues of gun violence and racial tension front and center. We’ll talk about what we’re likely to see this week from Donald Trump, the delegates and the Republican Party.


  • David Winston President, Winston Group; Republican strategist; CBS News consultant; adviser to the House and Senate Republican leadership for more than a decade
  • Karen Tumulty National political reporter, The Washington Post
  • Bruce Hoffman Director of the Center for Security Studies, Georgetown University; senior fellow, U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center; author of “Inside Terrorism”

Clip: Why One Caller Is So Disappointed This Year


  • 10:20:01

    MR. FRANK SESNOAnd welcome back. I'm Frank Sesno of the George Washington University, sitting in for Diane Rehm today. So now we turn to the Republican national convention, which begins today after another deadly shooting in the United States involving police. Three officers were killed in Baton Rouge yesterday, as you know, three wounded. President Obama responded by calling for an end to divisive rhetoric, which many fear will get worse with this week's Republican nomination.

  • 10:20:23

    MR. FRANK SESNOIn the days ahead, what are we likely to see from Donald Trump, from the delegates and from the Republican Party? Of course this comes against the background of the international events that we were talking about just a few moments ago with Bruce Hoffman. So here in the studio with me is Bruce Hoffman, still, of Georgetown University.

  • 10:20:37

    MR. FRANK SESNONow joining us in the studio, as well, is Republican strategist David Winston, and on the line from the heart of it all in Cleveland, Ohio, Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post. So thanks, all, for being with us.

  • 10:20:49

    MR. DAVID WINSTONGlad to be here.

  • 10:20:49

    MS. KAREN TUMULTYGreat to be with you.

  • 10:20:51

    SESNOKaren, let's start with you, deep in the heart of Cleveland, and I'm glad to see that the Washington Post has gotten its credentials, and it actually can show up to the convention. (laugh) This is a good thing.

  • 10:20:59


  • 10:21:02

    SESNODonald Trump doesn't like you, but the Republican Party apparently does. So tell us what are you seeing in reaction to the Baton Rouge shootings? How are these international events affecting the tone and the expectations of people who are gathering in Cleveland?

  • 10:21:17

    TUMULTYWell, I attended a breakfast this morning that Paul Manafort, the campaign -- the Trump campaign chairman had with a group of reporters, and he was very blunt about the fact that they believe that the unsettling events in the world and in some American cities are going to strengthen his hand in this election. The theme tonight is Make America Safe Again. It's something they planned on a month and a half ago, but it is going to, they believe, have more resonance are.

  • 10:21:50

    TUMULTYAnd they are -- and Manafort also said that the Thursday night acceptance speech that Donald Trump is currently writing, it's now in its third or fourth draft, is actually going to carry echoes of the one that Richard Nixon gave at the Republican convention of 1968. It's going to be a heavily law-and-order-focused speech. They believe that, you know, they don't need to be calling for unity and inclusiveness here, that what people are looking for now is strength and determination.

  • 10:22:23

    SESNOThat's really interesting. Karen, does this suggest that there's a change or an evolution in the fundamental themes of the Trump campaign? I mean, he's run on an economic platform, make America great again in terms of jobs. Clearly he's also talked about making America great again in its statute in the world and all. But the law and order domestic theme has not been one that has been, you know, consistent throughout the length of his campaign.

  • 10:22:48

    TUMULTYRight, and again it was something that they were planning for this evening, but I think they're going to hit a lot harder, and his -- his argument is going to be that what is happening in the city, the lawlessness, the chaos, is a direct result of the leadership of President Obama and would get worse under the policies of Hillary Clinton.

  • 10:23:10

    SESNODavid Winston, this theme that Karen's talking about, today's theme at the convention, Make America Safe Again, this was -- this front-loaded. This was not anticipating these events. And so these events highlight it. What are we likely to hear from the convention floor that is consistent with this theme? How are they doing that?

  • 10:23:27

    WINSTONWell, I want to go back to potentially a broader theme here, and that is he keeps emphasizing, if you notice, in terms of each of the four nights, it finishes with the word again.

  • 10:23:35


  • 10:23:35

    WINSTONOkay, and so any time you have events, and people's attitude about the direction of the country, direction of the world, has been particularly negative and volatile. And so anytime you have events that reinforce that sense that things are out of control, that sense that things are moving in the wrong direction, the response of we're going to go back and get back to where we were again, it sort of fits into that discourse. And so I think this is just one of several pieces.

  • 10:23:58

    WINSTONObviously just the nature of what's happened in just, like, pretty overwhelming and obviously is going to have an impact, but having said that, I think what people need to realize is the volatility that exists here tends to be a reflection of the incumbent, all right, in this case Obama and then Clinton, as well, and so what that's saying is people are looking for something else, right, to change that direction. And again, that fits into that theme, again I want to emphasize that last word, again, right, we're going to back to doing something else again.

  • 10:24:28

    SESNOWhat is he doing at this convention this evening, then, that will drive this home through the guest speakers, through the themes? What do you see coming?

  • 10:24:35

    WINSTONWell, I mean, it's starting off with General Flynn, who is one of the leading intelligence person, trying to define what that direction would look like, what sort of concerns exists, why these events happened, why policies that are in current now aren't solving the problem and where they can go. And I think you're going to see that during the course. The challenge to Republicans at this convention is this can't be just simply a referendum. If it is, Mitt Romney showed that that was a losing effort.

  • 10:25:04

    WINSTONUltimately it's got to be here's what's wrong, and here's our solution. That's the opportunity. If it's just simply President Obama's wrong, Hillary Clinton is wrong, that's not going to satisfy the electorate.

  • 10:25:16

    SESNOKaren Tumulty, some of the speakers this evening, Governor Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, Marcus Luttrell, a U.S. Navy SEAL and author, Pat Smith, a mother of one of the Benghazi victims. What is this Make America Safe Again theme looking like and sounding like? What should people be prepared for?

  • 10:25:37

    TUMULTYWell again, it's going to be heavily law-and-order focused, I think much more so than they might have anticipated after Baton Rouge, on what's going on in American cities. The secondary argument that they are going to make, and that is why we're going to see the Benghazi focus, is that Hillary Clinton has sort of held herself out beyond the law, beyond the ordinary legal processes. It will be, you know, heavily, heavily aimed at her, as well.

  • 10:26:11

    TUMULTYI do, however, wonder, and Dave can speak to this better than I can, but whether there is a danger on sort of focusing on the past. Twenty years ago we had Bob Dole get up and give a speech on how he was going to be the bridge to a past, the bridge to an earlier time, when things were better. And that really created an opening for Bill Clinton, saying, you know, I'm your bridge to the 21st century.

  • 10:26:40

    SESNOAnd I wonder, David, as you comment on that, if drawing parallels to 1968 is something a Republican candidate really wants to do.

  • 10:26:47

    WINSTONWell, and going back to Karen's point, actually in that debate that was a devastating moment for Dole because it created the contrast that they exactly did not want, and it was exactly the contrast that Bill Clinton wanted, and it worked well. And to Karen's point, this has got to be a situation where here are these events, but this is where we're going.

  • 10:27:07

    WINSTONAnd one of the challenges here is that unfortunately the way this campaign has sort of evolved, Hillary Clinton's best asset is Donald Trump, and Donald Trump's best asset is Hillary Clinton. And if that's how the election goes, we're going to have a very unhappy electorate, and I think at both these conventions the challenge to the respective candidates is how to make it that. I'm not sure that they know how at this point.

  • 10:27:31

    SESNOAs a Republican strategist, though, should the candidate be making references and being -- drawing parallels to 1968 in your view?

  • 10:27:37

    WINSTONIf you can make reasonable connections. But the problem -- but the problem still exists, and this is what Karen was alluding to, okay, you made an analogy with the past, but how does that apply to the future, and what Bill Clinton, again going back to her point in terms of the '96 debate, what Bill Clinton effectively did was basically tie Bob Dole to the past and not begin forward-looking.

  • 10:27:56

    SESNOBruce Hoffman, I want to come to you. Forget the past, forget the future for a minute. How about the present? And one of the big issues with the present, big concerns, is security. And with Ohio being an open carry state, there are fears about guns coming to protest the governor, who was petitioned by the police, said sorry, I can't do anything about this, and constitutionally I can't just ban it. What do you see happening?

  • 10:28:22

    MR. BRUCE HOFFMANWell hopefully people keeping their weapons holstered, and we don't have a situation as we saw in Dallas, when the police were confronted with a crisis and then had great problems determining who was actually an adversary and who wasn't because there were many people, because Texas is also an open carry state, who had showed up for the Black Lives Matter protest who were also armed. So this creates enormous problems for policing that we actually haven't seen before.

  • 10:28:46

    SESNOAnd in terms of how that casts the broader security issues that you were discussing earlier?

  • 10:28:53

    HOFFMANWell, it puts an edge on them, and it's perhaps a compelling visual image, but in actual substance, I mean, does it make matters better or worse? I mean, I think gosh, it's not the America I know when you see people parading outside political conventions armed to the teeth.

  • 10:29:08

    SESNODavid, as a Republican strategist, images, pictures of these demonstrations colliding with what's happening inside, does that help, that hurt?

  • 10:29:17

    WINSTONWell if you're -- I think it was announced late yesterday there was a group that was, in fact, going to be there open carrying, and they decided to pull back as a result of what happened yesterday, which I think is a good decision. The problem that you have with that, when you get into those sort of -- and this is on both sides, you create a very provocative environment that is intended to be one to create those sort of comments.

  • 10:29:43

    WINSTONWhen you're trying to be -- when you're trying to become president of the United States, what you're trying to reflect is some attitude of this is how we move forward, not how do we create conflict, and I think ultimately the challenge here and the challenge that you're going to see at both conventions is how do you take this particular dynamic and actually move the country forward together, as opposed to letting individual sides sort of make their points and contrast to other people creating that divisiveness. That's going to be a challenge for both parties. Go ahead, Karen.

  • 10:30:14

    TUMULTYIt's interesting, too, because Manafort this morning was asked about, you know, whether -- what are you going to do if there's chaos in the streets here. And he made the argument that this could actually help Donald Trump, that he said it would, and I'm quoting him here, show, quote, a lawlessness and lack of respect for political discourse. He said it won't disrupt our message inside the hall, and if it gets a lot of coverage, it probably helps.

  • 10:30:38

    SESNODavid Winston, does this probably help Donald Trump?

  • 10:30:40

    WINSTONI don't know. I guess my immediate...

  • 10:30:41

    SESNODo you agree with Paul Manafort?

  • 10:30:43

    WINSTONWell, let me give you a contrast. I don't remember it helping the Democrats in Chicago in 1968 particularly well.

  • 10:30:52

    SESNODo you might suggest that Paul Manafort reconsider his words?

  • 10:30:54

    WINSTONI just think anytime you've got violence around a convention, it is not a good things.

  • 10:31:00

    SESNOKaren, prior to these shootings, you wrote that Republicans had two major goals with this convention. What are they or were they?

  • 10:31:07

    TUMULTYThe two major goals, I think number one, are to make Donald Trump both a more likeable figure and someone that people -- who people can actually imagine in the Oval Office. On that first score, we're going to see a lot of his family, a lot of his family at this convention, talking about him and people who have done business deals with him. There are going to be people getting up and talking about generous charitable acts that he has done on their behalf.

  • 10:31:33

    TUMULTYThe second big goal is to unify the Republican Party, to sort of put all these divisions behind them and move forward because they really need to be unified if they are going to be able to mount any kind of organization and any kind of, you know, fundraising opportunities to counter what is going to be probably a billion-dollar Clinton machine.

  • 10:31:58

    SESNOI'm Frank Sesno, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. And if you'd like to call us, please do at 1-800-433-8850 to bring your questions to the conversation. Or send us an email at You can find us on Facebook or send us a tweet. But however you'd like the join the conversation, please do.

  • 10:32:18

    SESNOWe're talking with Bruce Hoffman. He's director of the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University, and David Winston, Republican strategist, president of the Winston Group, CBS News consultant, and Karen Tumulty, who is national political correspondent for The Washington Post. She's in Cleveland.

  • 10:32:29

    SESNOKaren, back to you. You talked about these two goals that the campaign has, one to make Donald Trump someone the country could actually imagine in the Oval Office and two to heal some of the leftover wounds from this primary season. But there are wounds that are leftover that are going to be very difficult to heal because so many people are staying away. How does Paul Manafort and Donald Trump suggest they're going to get past that?

  • 10:32:54

    TUMULTYAnd we might notice -- I mean note that some of the people who are staying away are, you know, just about anyone who's last name is Bush and the governor of the state in which we are now sitting. John Kasich has indicated that he does not intend to set foot in the convention hall.

  • 10:33:14

    SESNOWhich is an extraordinary thing. It is an extraordinary thing.

  • 10:33:16

    TUMULTYRight, absolutely. He is here in the city because he has to be because of the security issues, but, you know, Manafort says if they're there, fine, if not we're going to move on without them. He said we're an anti-establishment candidate, and not having the Bushes reinforces that. He basically says we'd rather have them with us, but if we don't, we're moving on anyway.

  • 10:33:41

    SESNODavid, Jeb Bush wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post the other day, headline, Jeb Bush, Trump does not represent the future of the country or the GOP. A few weeks ago Henry Paulson, the former Treasury secretary to President Bush, wrote a brutal op-ed piece, when it comes to Trump, a Republican Treasury secretary says choose country over party, was the headline. He said, I'm not the first person -- I'm not the first Republican to say Trump is a phony and should not be president. He said Trump excels at, quote, scorched-earth tactics in negotiations during bankruptcy proceedings, referring to his own business bankruptcy proceedings.

  • 10:34:17

    SESNOHow does the Trump campaign and the Republican Party in Cleveland get past some of his? Or is it so discounted by the electorate that it's background noise and doesn't really matter?

  • 10:34:29

    WINSTONNo, this is not background noise, and let's start off with the biggest challenge the Trump campaign faces, and that is they've got unfavorable of over 60 percent. I mean, like, the only fortunate thing that they have is Hillary Clinton's is in the mid-50s, right. And so part of what they have to deal with is the fact that somehow, how do they get a better view of this candidate, as Karen was identifying before.

  • 10:34:48

    WINSTONAnd one of the elements, and this is why I think you see Jeb Bush, and it's hard to disagree -- I mean, the name-calling that Donald Trump did set a tone for the discourse for the Republican nomination that was just universally disliked by the electorate as a whole, and obviously certain components within the Republican Party and obviously the Bushes for clear reasons.

  • 10:35:10

    WINSTONHaving said that, the challenge here is how does he unify the party. I mean, I think the choice of Mike Pence was a good first step in terms of picking somebody that everybody was very comfortable with, who thought was a good, solid choice to bring the party together, particularly conservatives. But the other challenge that he's got to do is he's got to do this translation of this sort of -- this insulting nature in terms of how he approached debates and other -- an opponents and turned it into why him. And what I think that they want to lay out over the next four days is that transition. That's going to be a complex transition when you're saying at 60 percent unfavorables.

  • 10:35:43

    SESNOAnd Karen, as you have talked to Paul Manafort and heard him and others in the campaign and thinking about what David was just speaking about and thinking about where some of Donald Trump's biggest challenges are, among minorities, among women, among some of the key demographics that he's got to win some more of if he's going to be competitive in battleground states and beyond, how are you hearing that they're going to try to do this over these next four days, or are they?

  • 10:36:08

    TUMULTYI don't think that is going to be a major focus of the next four days. I think that is going to be something they think -- that they think come later in the season. And I honestly don't know precisely how they plan to do that. They do insist that they think the battleground is bigger than you might have thought a few months ago. It's not 12 states. They say it's closer to 20. They are arguing, and, you know, take -- believe this or not, that places like Connecticut are now in play.

  • 10:36:38

    TUMULTYThey talk about Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico. But especially, you know, Nevada and New Mexico, they've got a big problem with Hispanics.

  • 10:36:49

    SESNODavid, did I just see you shaking your head no as Karen...

  • 10:36:51

    WINSTONYeah, I mean, and some of those states that you -- Connecticut I would have a very difficult time understanding. I do think the playing field...

  • 10:36:59

    SESNOUnderstanding that Trump could put it in play?

  • 10:36:59

    WINSTONYeah, I mean, Connecticut is a pretty solidly Democratic state. But here's the other element that's occurring here, and that is when you have the level of undecided that exists, that naturally sort of expands the playing field.

  • 10:37:12

    SESNOI'm Frank Sesno. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We'll have more on this remarkable convention at this disturbing time after a short break.

  • 10:40:01

    SESNOWelcome back to "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm Frank Sesno sitting in for Diane today. And we are talking with three remarkably insightful people on the state of the world and the convention that we're about to confront, and the experience in Cleveland and then next week's in Philadelphia with the Democrats. David Winston, he's a Republican strategist, president of the Winston Group and CBS News consultant and advisor to the House and Senate Republican leadership.

  • 10:40:24

    SESNOBruce Hoffman, he's director of The Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University, and a senior fellow for the U.S. Military Academy's Combatting Terrorism Center. He's author of the book, "Inside Terrorism." And Karen Tumulty is the renowned national political correspondent for The Washington Post. And Karen joins us from Cleveland.

  • 10:40:40

    SESNOI want to ask both David and Karen a sort of combined question here, with an observation combined -- married to a question. Observation, NBC poll yesterday showed 13 percent of the Republicans gathered think their Party is unified. We talk about convention bounces and progress that candidates make in pulling people together and kind of driving their message. And we have the undecideds and what is a fairly close contest from what we now see.

  • 10:41:09


  • 10:41:09

    SESNOWhat are you expectations? What has to happen?

  • 10:41:11

    WINSTONWell, let me start with the undecided. One of the things that's been interesting about this race -- and I think this is a reflection of the high negatives of both candidates -- is the high level of undecided. If you take a look at -- sort of average The Washington Post, NBC and CBS poll, you have about 15 percent of the electorate being undecided. That's actually pretty significantly large at this point.

  • 10:41:28

    WINSTONAnd I think it's reflective of the volatile nature. Which is why, potentially, I'm not so sure states -- you've got groups in play in a different way that we haven't seen before. Having said that, yes, the conventions matter. And I'll go back to the last three Republican -- give you a sense of bounce or no bounce. Clearly, Mitt Romney had no bounce. Part of that is because he decided to make it a referendum.

  • 10:41:48

    WINSTONHe said, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" And four years prior to that, actually, we were losing 600,000 to 700,000 jobs a month. So they may just frame it in the one way that would actually help President Obama. 2008 was a just difficult situation 'cause of the financial crisis. But you go back to W. Bush in 2004, he had a terrific bounce. You were watching Kerry begin to gain some ground.

  • 10:42:09

    WINSTONYou had the Chechnya school, by the way. An example of an external crisis that sort of reframed for soccer moms, that they were in fact security moms. And that created a dynamic that sort of allowed people to look at W. again. And he ended up doing quite well. So in that particular case there was a very significant bounce that came out of that in 2004.

  • 10:42:28

    SESNOKaren, are they looking for the bounce?

  • 10:42:29

    TUMULTYThey are predicting they are going to get one. You know, again, these things don't tend to last very long. And we're gonna be moving directly into the Democratic convention from here. In fact, we're all expecting Hillary Clinton to announce her running mate probably Friday or Saturday.

  • 10:42:47

    SESNOLet me bring a tweet from Lisa into the conversation, Karen. And pose this question that Lisa asks. Some GOPers, some Republicans say they're looking for loopholes to prevent Trump's nomination. What might work?" Lisa asks.

  • 10:43:01

    TUMULTYOh, man. I think at this point that ship has long sailed.

  • 10:43:06

    SESNOIn other words, the answer to her question is not much.

  • 10:43:09


  • 10:43:09

    SESNODonald Trump will be the nominee. There's not any credible opposition or credible path for the opposition to do anything meaningful at the convention, correct?

  • 10:43:17

    TUMULTYNo. And even last week when they were having all their deep-in-the-weeds internal fights over the rules, basically the Party and the Trump campaign just rolled over the dissidents.

  • 10:43:28

    SESNOWell, I'm taking some of these email questions and others. This one's for you, Bruce Hoffman. "Since terrorism," -- Jaz asks, "Since terrorism is such a large issue in this election, for the individual voter what's the feeling about the actual level of threat and how much might that factor in for voters in November?"

  • 10:43:46

    HOFFMANWell, the level of threat is certainly heightened. And we can see just over the past eight months Paris, San Bernardino, Brussels, Istanbul, Orlando, Nice. I mean, we've been inundated, I think, in a shorter period of time with more significant terrorist incidents than we've seen at one, you know, in many years. I mean, this is exactly what the terrorists have tried to do. I mean, they try to sort of steal the limelight for themselves.

  • 10:44:09

    HOFFMANThey try to sort of piggy-back onto contentious issues and make themselves heard and become an issue. And, onus to say, they've succeeded in doing so. The last two presidential elections terrorism as an issue hardly figured at all.

  • 10:44:20

    SESNOAnd as David points out, though, this -- we have had external events change the dynamic at these events in the past. So it's possible.

  • 10:44:28

    HOFFMANWell, absolutely. And from the terrorists' point of view, driving profound fissures in polities, undermining confidence in elected leaders, turning publics xenophobic, paranoid and fearful. I mean, this is exactly their stock and trade. And that plays into -- unfortunately, as we've seen, it played into the primary cycle and will likely play into the presidential election cycle.

  • 10:44:47

    SESNOA reminder, if you'd like to join the conversation you can call us at 1-800-433-8850. I'm going to go to the phone lines now and bring Jody into the conversation. Jody, you're calling from Michigan. Thanks so much for calling in.

  • 10:44:58

    JODYHappy to. I'm just wanted to say, as a lifelong Republican, I've raised money for the Party, I was a Goldwater girl at Ohio State, I've never been more furious in my life that the Bushes would snub anyone. I don't know who they think they are. And Kasich, shame on him. I am so furious. This is going to put Hillary Clinton in office.

  • 10:45:25

    SESNOAll right. Well, let me take that and turn that into a question to David. You're -- you know the Party well. You know the players, the incumbents and the upstarts. What do you make of this? And how many Republicans feel as Jody did, furious that the Party is split like this?

  • 10:45:41

    WINSTONNo. And she represents a good chunk of the -- a lot of people in the Party, in the sense of just being very frustrated, with a sense of okay, here is the conclusion. You may have lost the primary, but does that give you the ability to say, no, I'm not gonna support that candidate? The other side of this is, again, the nature of the campaign that Donald Trump ran was very personal, had -- included a lot of insults.

  • 10:46:07

    WINSTONAnd I think the challenge here is still with Donald Trump. He has got to figure out a way to pull this Party together. I think the Bushes, that's another dynamic, but he's got to pull that Party together. Which is why I think the selection of Mike Pence was a very good first step in terms of doing that. But the onus is on him. He's the leader. He's the one who's got to make it happen.

  • 10:46:26

    SESNOKaren, let me turn to you on the Mike Pence selection. We've seen -- we saw the "60 Minutes," a very interesting "60 Minutes" appearance by the two of them last night. And when Leslie Stall, who was doing the interview, was trying to pound away at Pence's vote for the Iraq War, Donald said, well, you know, he made a mistake. It's okay, you know. And she said, well, you don't feel that way towards Hillary Clinton. But how is the Mike Pence nomination playing out?

  • 10:46:51

    TUMULTYAmong the people here in Cleveland, it's being very well received. It was seen as -- Donald Trump himself said, as a, you know, a hand extended toward Party unity. Mike Pence is someone who the Republican establishment feels pretty comfortable with. Interestingly enough, too, one job that really needs to get done that Donald Trump just hates is fundraising.

  • 10:47:18

    TUMULTYAnd Mike Pence is apparently not only good at it, he enjoys it. So we're gonna see a lot of that as well. Manafort this morning was joking that he, too, is -- he's friends with a lot people who are the stalwarts of this never Trump movement. And so he's gonna be spending a lot of time with his good friend, for instance, Jeff Flake, the senator from Arizona.

  • 10:47:40

    SESNOAll right. Let's go back to the phones. And Jeff calls us from Brighton, Mich. Hi, Jeff.

  • 10:47:45

    JEFFHi. How are you?

  • 10:47:46

    SESNOGreat. Go ahead with your question.

  • 10:47:48

    JEFFI'm a little curious about the accuracy of polling right now. Because we hear over and over again that traditionally polls are conducted on people who have landlines. And that is less and less representative of how people are actually communicating now. So I was wondering if any of the panelists could speak toward the accuracy of any of the present polls, if there are certain ones that seem better to follow, etcetera.

  • 10:48:12

    SESNOSure. Great question. David?

  • 10:48:14

    WINSTONWell, first off, anybody who does just purely 100 percent landlines at this point is not doing a service to their research. Most polls at this point range somewhere between 30 to 50 percent of the calls being done on cell. You've got some entities who do a lot of online surveys, as well. You have what is known as where you -- you have a preselected sample that you actually interact with and then you go wait. That's another methodology.

  • 10:48:42

    WINSTONWhat you're watching is there are a whole slew of methodologies that exist, but going to the caller's point, there's nobody who relies on 100 percent landline at this point.

  • 10:48:50

    SESNOKaren, what do you want to say about polling, including your own Washington Post polling?

  • 10:48:53

    TUMULTYWell, I am gonna leave room here for the expert and let Dave talk about it. We certainly do use cell phone numbers in our poll. And it's very expensive to do, but it's critical these days.

  • 10:49:09

    SESNOAnd the polls that have been criticized -- there are some -- there are a few polls that have shown Trump up. And those polls have been criticized because they are using either exclusively or disproportionately landline calls, which tend to track older voters, as I understand it. Is that right?

  • 10:49:23

    WINSTONWell, there's also -- there's another element there. What they're doing is it's the automatic computer phone surveys, where you're not talking to a person. You're talking to a computer and you're just keying things in. In theory, those are individual -- because of the way the law is set up, they are supposed to be only calling landlines because you can't call cell phones with a computer-assisted dialing system.

  • 10:49:44

    SESNOSo those would be, as far you're concerned, unreliable polls?

  • 10:49:48

    WINSTONThere is a questionable methodology. It depends how they decided to go weight them. But let me put it to you this way, I would not do a survey without a significant level of cell calls.

  • 10:49:55

    SESNOKaren, before I go back to the calls, one quick question for you on the media coverage. The Washington Post is not, as I made reference to before, not Donald Trump's favorite news organization. But you've got company, Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, others that have been barred by the Trump operation from credentialing, being credentialed at campaign events. How are you doing at the conventions?

  • 10:50:15

    TUMULTYWe're fine. We're -- we've got a nice workspace. We are getting into everything we want. This -- the credentialing at campaign events is, you know, it's an inconvenience more than anything else. And our reporters, what they have done is they have just gotten in line with the general public. So we are still covering those events.

  • 10:50:36

    TUMULTYWe are still writing exactly the same stories we would have been writing before our credentials were denied. And most importantly, we still have access to campaign officials. And so, again, I think this is -- it's outrageous, but it is also something that is not getting in the way of us doing our jobs.

  • 10:50:57

    SESNOBack to the phones. And Ron joins us from Knoxville, Tenn. Hi, Ron.

  • 10:51:00

    RONHi. How are you today?

  • 10:51:01

    SESNOGreat. Thanks for calling.

  • 10:51:02

    RONThank you for having me on. Two points. I am a -- what I used to refer to as a traditional, moderate Republican from the South. I was born and raised in Atlanta. And what I used to refer to as myself really doesn't even exist in the Republican Party anymore. Today's Republican Party doesn't represent me, does not reflect anything -- just about anything that I consider traditional Republican values.

  • 10:51:31

    RONThat's one aspect of the new reality of American politics. The second, and what continues to disturb me is every time I hear a show that discusses Donald Trump and Donald Trump's candidacy by guests and, you know, fellows and reporters, it is -- it sounds regularly like he has no chance of winning. The reality is this is unlike any Republican or any presidential election in history.

  • 10:52:01

    RONThe man will do anything, he will say anything to become president. And right now he wants to be president. The fact that he has claimed and now grabbed onto the mantle of the law and order president is -- and your comments from your guests this morning show that the campaign now realizes that every time there's a shooting, every time there's a terrorist attack in this country, it plays right into the hands of Donald Trump.

  • 10:52:30

    SESNOOkay, Ron. Well, let…

  • 10:52:30

    RONAnd because -- go ahead.

  • 10:52:30

    SESNOYeah, let me -- I get your point. And I want to ask the guests about that. First to Karen Tumulty because you're covering him on a regular basis. This notion that he can't win or is the desperate underdog, as opposed to the fact as Ron raises it or the observation that he is a very credible candidate who very well could win. How do you see that?

  • 10:52:49

    TUMULTYI think that every single prediction that we have made about Donald Trump to date has not proven true. So I am totally out of the prediction game.

  • 10:52:59

    SESNOAs you should be. You should be reporting, not predicting. I'm Frank Sesno and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." David, your take on that?

  • 10:53:05

    WINSTONWell, here's the dynamic. Actually, in terms of the ballot test, it hasn't been like Hillary Clinton has been leading by a huge margin. She's been leading pretty consistently, but by small margins. Just barely outside the margin of error. Having said that, the other element that you've seen is that it's so far -- Donald Trump has had a ceiling.

  • 10:53:23

    WINSTONHe very rarely gets above 40, 41 percent. And so where you see the fluctuations in surveys it tends to be on the percentage that she gets. And so at this point it's certainly close enough that who knows what the outcome is gonna be. But she still does have a small, but clear lead.

  • 10:53:38

    SESNOKaren, Melania Trump is speaking tonight, Donald Trump's wife. What do you expect?

  • 10:53:42

    TUMULTYThe big kind of source of speculation here is on the stage craft. Because Donald Trump has suggested that he himself might appear on stage with her, which would be interesting. Because the tradition here is that you normally don't see the nominee until late in the convention, usually Thursday night when they show up to give their acceptance speech. So this is, you know, yet another sign that this is not gonna be your father's convention.

  • 10:54:10

    SESNOHe promised all kinds of show craft, right? This was gonna be a big show. Are we getting a different show then we've gotten at traditional conventions in past?

  • 10:54:17

    TUMULTYWell, again, we will see. But there's -- certainly the lineup of speakers is very -- to coin a phrase -- unconventional. A lot of people from the sports world and entertainment and so, yeah, this is not gonna look like your typical convention.

  • 10:54:35

    SESNOTime for one last question. We go to Cleveland, Ohio, and Steven. Steven, thank you for your patience in waiting so long. Go ahead with your question quickly please because we're almost out of time.

  • 10:54:41

    STEVENWell, thank you. You know, I believe that the country is in great hands, especially when it comes to terrorism. We haven't experienced anything like 9/11, when it was just an all-out assault on this country from every angle. Now, my question is when Donald Trump says, "I'm gonna keep you safe," no one can do anything about a single individual act of terrorism. If someone is sitting at home and they get radicalized online, it could be the neighbor next door or it could be a deranged -- mentally deranged man from the military who served this country and showed the true act of patriotism.

  • 10:55:13

    SESNOExactly, Steven. I want to put that question right to Bruce Hoffman. I mean, this is about considering risk and trying to weigh something rationally that is not rational.

  • 10:55:24

    HOFFMANWell, which is, of course, what terrorism is all about, is to play on that irrationality. I think, you know, coming out of the convention, what I'm looking for as a terrorism analyst, is something more concrete than…

  • 10:55:34

    SESNOLike what? What do you want to hear?

  • 10:55:35

    HOFFMANSomething beyond banning Muslims from overseas, profiling Muslims domestically.

  • 10:55:38

    SESNOSo what do you want him -- what hasn't been said or tried already? What do you want to hear?

  • 10:55:42

    HOFFMANWell, it's clear that the terrorism threat has crossed a threshold and is very different than it's been. So concrete proposals on how we'll combat it, other than broad slogans or amping up what we're already doing.

  • 10:55:56

    SESNOSome nuance, some context, some complexity to reflect the reality.

  • 10:55:58

    HOFFMANI think a holistic, overall strategy to combating this threat.

  • 10:56:02

    SESNOFinal points, David Winston. Tonight and beyond, what are your expectations? What are you looking for?

  • 10:56:05

    WINSTONNo. I think we get back to this fundamental moment where Donald Trump is gonna have to deal with his unfavorables. How does he define himself in a way that people say, you know, I have some problems with him, but he's going to be the better candidate. And I understand some of these ideas and where he wants to go and I think that's the right choice. That's the challenge in front of him over the next four days.

  • 10:56:24

    SESNOKaren, as a political reporters who's covered many conventions, what are you looking for here and if you had to anticipate some of the surprises because this has been such a surprising year, what might they be?

  • 10:56:35

    TUMULTYI am looking whether people come out of this convention with a different view of Donald Trump, a fuller view of him both as a person, as a leader. I suspect we are not going to get much by way of specifics of policy directions. They are not really feeling that they need to, you know, spell out their 10-point plans here.

  • 10:56:57

    SESNOWell, conventions are traditionally opportunities for candidates to introduce themselves or reintroduce themselves, but Donald Trump has been around so much, Karen, can he do that?

  • 10:57:06

    TUMULTYThey are insisting that the people have not really gotten a full view of the man.

  • 10:57:10

    SESNOSo we will see. Karen Tumulty from Cleveland, Bruce Hoffman here in the studio, David Winston in the studio. Thank you all very much for joining us today.

  • 10:57:18


  • 10:57:18

    TUMULTYThank you.

  • 10:57:19

    SESNOAnd stay with us about this convention and beyond. In our next hour we're gonna look at conventions past and see what we can learn from them. I'm Frank Sesno. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show."

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