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Amy Walter and Eliana Johnson on Trump’s midterm influence, Kavanaugh’s confirmation campaign

Amy Walter from The Cook Political Report and Eliana Johnson from Politico join Judy Woodruff to discuss President Trump’s impact on Republican midterm campaigns and how Democrats are responding, plus conservatives outspending liberals in promoting the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let's take a broader look now at the midterms, as the president is on the campaign trail to support Republicans and ads in support of his Supreme Court pick are hitting the airwaves, a perfect time for Politics Monday.

    We're joined by Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Eliana Johnson of Politico.

    And welcome to both of you. Politics Monday.

    So we just heard that report from Yamiche in Nevada.

    Amy, first of all, what does Nevada look like, and how is immigration playing as an issue this fall?

  • Amy Walter:

    There is no doubt that that Nevada race is a great place to go, because it's a very, very competitive race, also one of the few opportunities that Democrats have to play offense.

    They are mostly playing defense in the Senate this year, defending 26 seats. There are only nine Republicans up. Immigration, though, it's really interesting to see how this plays.

    We know how Republicans are going to play it. We have heard it on the campaign trail in 2017 and 2018 in some of these special elections. Democrats are for open borders. Democrats aren't doing enough to keep bad people like MS-13 out.

    The president himself talked a lot about that today when he had a ceremony at the White House with ICE agents, saying that people who are saying things like abolish ICE or making criticisms of ICE, for people to demean you, they have no idea what strength is, it is really sad, right, these people have loudmouths or something like that.

    So they are going to make that an issue.

    I don't know what Democrats are going to do on immigration. I looked through — at The Cook Political Report, we looked through all the ads that have been run from January until the end of July. Democrat in these primaries talked overwhelmingly about health care, very little about immigration. Republicans talked a lot about immigration, very little about health care.

    So I don't know that they are going to make the separation issue an issue, whether they — I don't know if they want to go and make that a priority as much as they want to make health care a priority in their advertising.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Eliana, how do you see immigration now playing out?

    This as the president — we have heard so much about it in the past several months.

  • Eliana Johnson:

    You know, when the tax cut bill passed several months ago, the idea was that Republicans were going to campaign on this bill from coast to coast.

    And I have really been surprised, surveying Republican ads, how few Republicans have been campaigning on this tax cut bill, and how many have been campaigning on the issue of immigration.

    I think what Republicans saw was Donald Trump seize on this issue so successfully in 2016. And Republicans are trying to do the same thing in 2018.

    The open question for me is whether Republicans, writ large, will be able to take an issue that worked so well for Donald Trump and translate it into an issue that works for the party.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, and that — and that's the question, on immigration, on the tax cuts, Amy.

    And another point that's been raised is, here's the president. Last year, he spent a lot of time criticizing Republicans and Democrats in Congress, but his own party, he said, they're do-nothings, they're not supporting my agenda.

    Now he's going out…

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … every week saying to the voters, vote for this person.

  • Amy Walter:

    Vote for this person.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And vote for this good Republican.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right, even though I have told you over and over again that Washington's broken, Congress is a disaster. I have said…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A swamp.

  • Amy Walter:

    A swamp. I have said terrible things about many of these people that I'm going in campaigning for, but do it because it's important to me, not just because of who — because you like me personally, he's saying to voters, but because, if you put Democrats in charge, they're going to impeach me, right? We know what their goal ultimately is. So, if you don't want them to impeach me, you got to support Republican, even though, let's face it, they're not very good.

    But what is also interesting, when I look at what the president has done thus far — like, we looked at the special election in Ohio — and the president came and campaigned there, the vice president came and campaigned there, but when you look at what turnout was like in the parts of that district that were heavily Trump, that went heavily Trump in 2016, they turned out about 10 points lower than the parts of the district that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

    So even when you have the president there, right — and he can't go to 435 districts — he can't go to every single race in this country. But even when he does, the motivating factor getting those folks out is not as intense as the people who dislike him, who are going to turn out no matter what.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Motivation is a big part of this, isn't it?

  • Eliana Johnson:

    Absolutely.

    And I think Republicans are suffering right now from what helped them so much in the midterms, when President Obama was president. Republicans took back the upper and lower chamber in 2014 and 2010, the midterms under Obama, because their opposition to Obama motivated them to get out to the polls. I think that helped in 2016, the loathing of Hillary Clinton.

    Now Democrats feel the same way about President Trump as Republicans felt about Obama and Clinton. And there's sort of a cliched slogan that you have to have more than no or opposition to a candidate as a platform.

    I actually think that's wrong.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Eliana Johnson:

    I think Democrats can run on a pure anti-Trump platform. And we're seeing that that's plenty motivating for base voters in the party.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's that anti, anti that turns voters out every time.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right. That's right.

    Remember, Obama tried to do the same thing in his midterm elections to say, this is a referendum on me. If you came and voted for me and you loved me so much, come and vote in the midterms for these candidates.

    And they didn't.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, one other thing I want to ask you both about is, all the while they're getting ready for the midterms, the president has nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, a reliable conservative.

    Both sides are now out with — spending a lot of money on TV spots, otherwise trying to either support this nomination or knock it down. A

    Now, we have got two quick examples, one — and, by the way, the opponents are being outspent 7-1, but here are two quick examples of what both sides are saying about Brett Kavanaugh.

  • Narrator:

    The Senate is about to consider Brett Kavanaugh to be the next Supreme Court justice. Kavanaugh refused to uphold key patient protections in the past. And if he joins the court, he could vote to end these protections for good.

    Tell Senator Manchin to keep fighting for people with preexisting conditions. Vote no on Brett Kavanaugh.

  • Narrator:

    Won't Joe Donnelly commit to supporting Kavanaugh? Is he more interested in siding with Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren than Hoosiers? Has he forgotten who he represents?

    Tell Joe Donnelly his vote on Kavanaugh is something you won't forget.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Eliana, the supporters of Mr. Kavanaugh, Judge Kavanaugh, are saying, especially to these Democrats in red states, you have got to do this.

  • Eliana Johnson:

    Speaking of an issue Republicans and conservatives are not lackadaisical about, putting judges on the bench. They are outspending Kavanaugh's opponents 7-1.

    And the timing of this could not have been more favorable to Donald Trump, coming right before a midterm, where the geography is throwing tremendous hurdles up for Democrats.

    Several red state Democrats on the ballot, and that 7-1 spending is conservatives running ads putting a tremendous amount of pressure for conservative Democrats to vote in Kavanaugh's favor right before the midterm elections.

  • Amy Walter:

    I think that's exactly right.

    And I think the other challenge for Democrats right now is, there's one person who's giving them an outrage a day, something for them to get really excited and energized about. That's the president.

    Kavanaugh does not excite them in the same way, in part because nobody knows who he is. I think the hearings that start on September 4 will give us some indication about whether there is something in there, whether it's in his record or the way he answers some of the questions, that will give liberals more of an opportunity to derail this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Two weeks from today.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Politics Monday.

    Amy Walter, Eliana Johnson, thank you both.

  • Eliana Johnson:

    Thank you.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

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