Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on N.C. special election, Trump’s primary challengers

JUDY WOODRUFF: Labor Day is behind us, schools
have started and the political calendar is ramping up. Lisa Desjardins fills in the picture. LISA DESJARDINS: North Carolina is the first
hot spot, hosting President Trump tonight for a campaign rally tonight ahead of a special
congressional election. And Congress is also back, with Democrats
in the House shedding the spotlight on gun violence and impeachment. That’s plenty for our weekly Politics Monday
roundup with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and host of public radio’s “Politics
With Amy Walter” and Tamara Keith of NPR and co-host of the “NPR Politics Podcast.” Ladies, it’s Election Day tomorrow, just one
special election, the North Carolina Ninth Congressional District. Let’s look at — there’s two candidates running,
Republican Dan Bishop. He’s a state senator, also fiscal conservative,
running against Dan McCready. He’s a Marine veteran and also a former money
manager. He’s running as more of a moderate. Amy, why are people paying such attention
to this race? What does it tell you? AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: And
people, the parties and the outside groups, are also spending a whole lot of money here. It’s over $10 million that outside groups
have spent in this race, you’re right, for one congressional seat. It’s because it’s symbolic. This is a district that the Democrat, Democrat,
Dan McCready, lost very narrowly, but there was vote fraud allegations. The election was thrown out. This is the do-over election with a different
Republican. But, really, it’s about, is Donald Trump still
as strong of a force for Republicans in Republican-leaning districts as he was, let’s say, in 2016? The president there trying to urge Republicans
to turn out in a district that gave him 54 percent. But recent polls from that district show that
the president’s approval rating there is now down to 47 percent. The race is within single digits. If the Democrat were to win here, if Dan McCready
were to win here, it would — it would send a pretty big shockwave, that not only is a
district that the president pretty handily carried in danger, but it would also say to
Democrats, you better put North Carolina in play, and, Trump, you can’t count on winning
North Carolina again. That would be a very big upset. LISA DESJARDINS: And this is a partially suburban
district too around Charlotte. TAMARA KEITH, National Public Radio: Right. It’s partially suburban. It actually — it has — it has a mix of rural
and suburban. And it is a decent test case of a Trump district
and what happens there. In a lot of ways, even though this is the
last vote of 2018, it is the first vote of 2020. And a lot of people are treating it that way,
including the president, who, as you said, is there holding a rally tonight. And although he doesn’t want to put too much
of his political sway on the line, or he doesn’t want to admit that he’s putting a lot into
this, he is putting a lot into this. The most valuable thing that a candidate and
a president have is the president’s time. And he is dedicating his time by going down
there, holding this rally, and hoping that he can declare victory in less than 48 hours. AMY WALTER: The other interesting thing about
this district, if a Democrat should win, it would be one of the most Republican districts
held by Democrats. We know that Democrats won a lot of seats
in 2018. They netted 40 seats, but they were mostly
in districts that Trump narrowly won or narrowly lost. There aren’t many districts that he won by
54 percent or even 53 percent that Democrats hold. So this would be one of the most Republicans. LISA DESJARDINS: To move the line. AMY WALTER: Yes. LISA DESJARDINS: Someone else trying to move
the line, former Congressman and former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who announced
he is also a candidate for president. Let’s take a listen to what he said, why he’s
doing this. MARK SANFORD (R), Presidential Candidate:
Those people were core to the Republican Party and what it used to stand for. They haven’t been talked to here lately. And the president said those concerns you
have with regard to spending, they’re out the window, we’re not going to worry about
them, the economy is great. But I believe that they’re still there. LISA DESJARDINS: He’s talking about Republicans
who are unhappy with the direction of the party, think this is not the party they recognize. He’s a complicated figure. He’s got a complicated party. But, Amy, is there a possibility of Republicans
who don’t like Trump actually breaking from him, going with someone like Mark Sanford? AMY WALTER: It doesn’t look like there’s any
opportunity — or possibility of Trump losing this nomination, or even any of the three
candidates who are running right now getting much of the vote. This is especially true in South Carolina,
where they actually — the Republican Party canceled the primary there. And there are four other states where the
primary has been canceled on the Republican side. LISA DESJARDINS: Just in the past few days. AMY WALTER: Just in the past few days. Now, in 2004, when George W. Bush was running
— running for reelection, about 10 states canceled their Republican primary. So this isn’t all that new. The interesting — really interesting thing,
though, about Sanford is, he’s running on this fiscal conservatism, right? The debt is too big, the deficit is too high. This is something Republicans, right, we heard
them talk about all the time during the Obama administration. And, in fact, if you look at what priority
Republicans put on the issue of debt and deficit, it peaked at 82 percent in the middle of the
Trump — I’m sorry — the Obama administration. (CROSSTALK) AMY WALTER: The Obama administration. And since then, it’s been going back down. So if you look at like the arc of it, of Republicans’
concern, voter concern with debt and deficit, really high when the Democrat is in office,
pretty low when George W. Bush’s in office, pretty low when Donald Trump’s in office. LISA DESJARDINS: Tam? TAMARA KEITH: Yes. And Bill Weld, and Joe Walsh, and Mark Sanford,
they’re all entering this knowing that they basically have no chance of winning the nomination
and even less of a chance of becoming president of the United States. But that’s not their only goal. Sanford is clearly saying, like, I want to
have a conversation. He doesn’t feel like the Republican Party
has really had an internal debate about who they are since President Trump became president. Mark Sanford tried to have that debate when
he was in Congress, and he started criticizing President Trump. President Trump endorsed his primary opponent,
and then that person won, and then went on to lose in the general election to a Democrat,
which was a pretty big surprise in that district. So all of these candidate in part are either
hoping to have a conversation or they are hoping to damage the incumbent. And incumbent presidents who have had primary
challenges in the past, there is a history there of them going on to — and being denied
a second term. But it is hard to say that these three are
at the same level as a Ted Kennedy or a Ronald Reagan or a Pat Buchanan in 1992. AMY WALTER: Yes. LISA DESJARDINS: So Congress is also back. I feel like we need to take a deep breath. I think things are going to start moving very
quickly. It started today, with House Democrats holding
a news conference on guns. This is issue number one for them. And they invited to that news conference the
mayor of Dayton, Nan Whaley. There she is right there at the U.S. Capitol
today. Last week, you all did a great job of helping
us understand we don’t know where the president is on guns. But let’s talk about Congress a little bit. It seems like there are many members on both
sides trying to coalesce around maybe expanding background checks, perhaps helping states
with red flag laws that give law enforcement more power in emergency and crisis situations. Do either of these stand a chance? They’re very popular in polls with the American
people. TAMARA KEITH: Well, they stand a great chance
in the House of Representatives, where Democrats are in power, and, in fact, well, they have
already passed bills that do these things, essentially. But on the Senate side, it’s much more difficult. And Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said
that he is not going to put up something for a vote that the president won’t sign. And they don’t yet know what the president
will sign. LISA DESJARDINS: Briefly, Amy? AMY WALTER: Yes. I mean, this is one of those issues that,
again, if you’re looking at this, if you’re President Trump, you know suburban women are
going to be very important in this election. This would be an issue to take and support
to win those voters back. But this is a president who’s always been
about his base and keeping them happy. LISA DESJARDINS: We still have a lot to watch. AMY WALTER: That’s right. LISA DESJARDINS: Amy Walter, Tamara Keith,
thank you. TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.

Maurice Vega

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