Donald Trump’s teflon presents head-scratching challenge for Democrats
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we break down the math and the movement for the Democrats and for Republicans facing the reality of Donald Trump at the top of their ticket with our Politics Monday team, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.
And welcome back to both of you. It is Monday.
So, Amy Walter, you just heard from Senator Merkley. You heard from Congressman Yarmuth.
What is the state of this Democratic contest right now?
AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Well, I think they summed it up pretty well, which is, there have been skirmishes in this race, but there is not a big, gaping wound here that Democrats or the Democratic nominee, specifically Hillary Clinton, is going to have to heal.
And we have talked about this before, but the real challenge for the Democrats going forward — and I think you have pointed this out, too — is more generational than it is anything else, but that Donald Trump helps to generate enthusiasm where Hillary Clinton cannot.
And so where she may have trouble getting those young voters who have been turning out for Bernie Sanders, it is very hard to believe that those voters are going to go to Donald Trump. And, in fact, what may be getting them out to vote is going to be Donald Trump, enthusiastically voting against him.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Tamara, you have been talking, I think, to the Clinton people today. Do they think it is going to be relatively easy to come together with Senator Sanders when all this is over?
TAMARA KEITH, NPR: They are not entirely clear on that. Senator Sanders is, you know, doing the process that Senator Sanders needs to do to get to where he is comfortable and where he can get his voters to come along.
I think that, if Bernie Sanders, the day after voting in Washington, D.C., flipped a switch and said, I endorse Hillary Clinton, I don't know his supporters would buy it. So I think that Bernie Sanders is in a process and the Clinton people are — in some ways are just watching it of figuring out how he does move forward. And Senator Merkley talked about some of that.
AMY WALTER: And I think they have surrogates that can help to do that, too.
I totally agree with Tamara that Bernie Sanders going out and saying to supporters, OK, it's time to go and support Hillary Clinton, I don't know if they would actually believe that.
But, right now, you're already starting to see two of the most important people on the Democratic side, President Obama and Senator Elizabeth Warren, both taking aim at Donald Trump, basically saying to Democrats, even though they haven't formally endorsed Hillary Clinton, you guys, it's time to get serious about the general election. We know who we're up against. It's Donald Trump. Let's focus our attention on him, get away from the fighting.
And I think you will also see President Obama playing a very big role in the November campaign.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of Donald Trump, Tamara, today and over the weekend, there was a lot of reaction to several news stories about the presumptive Republican nominee, the one that we just heard in John Yang's report about his encounters with a number of different women over the years, over the past few decades.
Some of them, he dated. Some of them worked for him. Some of them, he knew in beauty contests. As we also saw, one of the women who was described as being critical of him in that New York Times story is now saying she was taken out of context.
Where does this all come down? Is he affected by this in a serious way?
TAMARA KEITH: And I will say that, in the time that you have been on the air, Donald Trump has been on yet another tweet storm about this story.
And on Twitter, he just tweeted that The New York Times interviewed 50 women, and they only used six of them, and those six were the ones that didn't fit their narrative. So, Donald Trump is on a rail about this, which is interesting.
This article is not necessarily his biggest problem when it comes to female voters. He has a challenge with female voters as it is. There is a treasure trove for opposition researchers of interviews that he has done over the years with Donald Stern, for instance — or with Howard Stern, where he said some pretty crude things over the years, because that's the format of that show.
So this is probably not the last time we are going to hear these kinds of things.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Is it a problem, Amy, for him?
AMY WALTER: You know, I think the challenge right now for Democrats and for anybody else who doesn't want to see Donald Trump elected is that voters are willing to forgive a certain amount about Donald Trump, especially the Donald Trump of the '80s and '90s, who was an entertainer, who wasn't running for president.
And I think the challenge will be for them to focus on what his policies and positions mean for people as president, rather than what he's done in his time in the '80s and '90s. I don't think it helps Democrats to focus on that, just as I don't think it helps Republicans to rehash the '90s and Bill Clinton and his problems with women.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But we know that — Amy and Tam, we know that a number of news media organizations, certainly The Washington Post, has said that they are assigning a large number of reporters to look into Donald Trump's history. They said they're doing the same thing about Hillary Clinton.
And yet we're already seeing the difficulty in this, I guess you would call it a relationship between the news media and Donald Trump's candidacy. It's already incredibly prickly.
TAMARA KEITH: Well, and it's a real challenge for the news media, a challenge that we in the media haven't always met particularly well.
Donald Trump, if you just want to focus on policy, he, at times, seems to be saying different things on the same policy in the same interview, and it presents a real challenge.
But, for him, that's totally — that's part of his brand. Donald Trump's brand has been that he shoots from the hip, that he's the guy who says it like it is. And all of that fits for him.
So, I think that the Clinton campaign and Democrats are going to have this challenge of how they figure out — you know, calling him a flip-flopper isn't going to really be a problem for Donald Trump.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It is a challenge.
AMY WALTER: That is the biggest challenge.
And I think those of us in the media and those of us inside Washington, we hear somebody that talks about being flexible on issues, and we say, as Tam pointed out, they're a flip-flopper or they don't have an ideological core.
And a lot of voters look at that and go, well, of course he should be flexible. If you're going to get real stuff done, if you're going to compromise, if you're going to make deals, you have got to be flexible around the edges.
And so, you know, going in and talking about Donald Trump's positions specifically are going to be difficult, which I think is why you're going to hear a lot about his judgment. Is this the kind of person who has the judgment and the temperament to do the job as president?
And, look, they are going to talk about his relationships with women and what it would mean in terms of his judgment and his temperament going forward.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it's pretty clear that the Trump campaign trying to change the subject.
I'm just being told by our producer that the Trump campaign has just announced that he is going to be meeting with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger…
AMY WALTER: Of course.
JUDY WOODRUFF: … later — later this week.
Much more to talk about. Hoping to get to what is happening to this effort to find an alternative in the Republican Party to Donald Trump.
Does either one of you want to say that that is going to go anywhere right now?
TAMARA KEITH: I would like to say that it is probably not going anywhere. It's late in the game, very late in the game.
And experts who have looked at this thing — the person looking who was at it for Michael Bloomberg to see if it would be possible for him to jump in, they felt like they were late, and that was months ago.
AMY WALTER: Concur. It should have — if they wanted to have an alternative, it should have happened about six to eight months ago.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you.
TAMARA KEITH: You're welcome.
AMY WALTER: You're welcome.