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Amy Walter and Errin Haines on Trump’s taxes, Amy Coney Barrett

Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and Errin Haines of The 19th join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including how a report on President Trump’s taxes and business dealings could affect the presidential race, implications of the Amy Coney Barrett nomination to the Supreme Court and what to look for in the first debate between Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As Election Day nears, with voting already under way, the political landscape shows no sign of settling down, so the perfect time for Politics Monday.

    That means Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and the host of public radio's "Politics With Amy Walter, and Errin Haines. She is the editor at large of The 19th. It's a nonprofit and nonpartisan newsroom reporting on the intersection of gender and politics. Tamara Keith is away.

    Hello to both you.

    So, Amy, this New York Times story about the president's taxes, reportedly, he paid very little on a lot of — excuse me — on a lot of income. He says it is all fake news.

    And you're telling us that, hey, it is another day of Donald Trump at the center of the news. So, what are you thinking about this?

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, another day of Donald Trump at the center of the news isn't always a very good thing for Donald Trump.

    This is a president who is sitting now somewhere around 42 percent, 43 percent, in terms of his overall job approval rating. And the focus continues to be on either things that aren't really great for him, whether it is his handling of the COVID pandemic, or, in this case, still controversy swirling around his taxes.

    Now, this isn't new information, obviously, Judy. This has been out there for quite some time. Some of the data in here, of course, is definitely new and groundbreaking. But in terms of voters' perception of the president, I don't know that it changes anything.

    But what it does do, as I said, is, it keeps the focus on Donald Trump, instead of on other things Donald Trump would like to be talking about, namely, his opponent and the shortcomings of his opponent.

    And this is — so, clearly, this is a time the president, behind in the polls with low approval ratings, needs to be on offense. He can't afford to be on his back foot right now, and that's where he is.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Errin, how are you looking at this? It is a day of focus on the president. It is not a day we're talking about Joe Biden.

    And it is not particularly great news, even though the president says it is all fake.

  • Errin Haines:

    Yes, you're right.

    And aside from the specific issue of his taxes, right, because the majority of Americans are certainly not tax attorneys, and neither are journalists, but, unlike Russia or the Ukraine, those kinds of conversations, the issue of taxes is something that is literally a kitchen table issue for millions of people in this country who are taxpayers.

    And so kind of the surface level gist of this story is something that they are able to understand, even if they don't have time to kind of digest the very thorough reporting of The New York Times.

    But the other thing, aside from the specific issue of taxes, is that this does kind of hit on a recurring theme that — the idea that the president has misled Americans about who he is. He has portrayed himself to voters as somebody other than who he is, rich, successful, but, most of all, to his supporters, somebody like you, right?

    Well, most Americans are paying way more than $750 in their federal income tax. And so I think that that is kind of disconnected from the narrative that he pushes to people.

    Now, whether or not, for his supporters, that is going to be enough, like, one story, even though The New York Times has said there is going to be more reporting on this issue, whether one story is enough of a counterweight to his years in public life, his many seasons on "The Apprentice," and his four years in office, given them many of the things that they voted for, that is really unclear.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Errin Haines:

    But it is almost certainly going to be among the first questions in this debate.

    And it is something that is going to be in the conversation for voters to at least think about, as they are already voting in states across the country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    For sure. And I do want to ask you about the debate in just a moment.

    But, Amy, I want to come back to something that the president, I'm sure, we're sure, was hoping would be a positive for him, and that's his choice of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court to fill the Ruth Bader Ginsburg seat.

    Is this something that is likely to excite his conservative base, win him some votes of women, where we see the president is trailing Joe Biden? Or could it have the opposite effect and energize more of the Democrats?

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

    I mean, you're right, Judy. This is the day that we were supposed to be talking about a really successful rollout for the president this weekend of his Supreme Court nominee. This would be his third appointee to the Supreme Court, definitely something he wanted to be able to go into the debates talking about. And, of course, that has been drowned out.

    I also do wonder, to your point about, who does it excite, if it doesn't end up being just a wash, that, while it may excite some conservative Republicans, I don't know that — those folks were already on Donald Trump's side. There was — there has definitely been some erosion of support for Donald Trump among some groups of voters that he had won over in 2016.

    But among those sort of evangelical, white voters, that level of support for him, at least that we have seen recently, has been pretty solid and pretty consistent.

    Instead, what we don't really know about is a backlash to this among Democrats.

    And it's pretty clear that Democrats are about as fired up as we have seen them, certainly in recent years. We know we're going to hit historic turnout.

    And so I think, at the end of the day, what we end up finding out is, both sides have incredible turnout. But the problem for the president is, his base is simply smaller than Joe Biden. The other thing — than Joe Biden's base and coalition.

    The other thing we know, Judy, is, every time that — over the course of his entire presidency, every time the president has found an issue that motivates his base, his base sticks together and they're supportive of it, but we find, it doesn't just have an equal reaction among people who don't like him.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Amy Walter:

    It has an equal and even stronger reaction among the other side.

    His strong disapproval rating among Democrats or those who say that they did approve of the job he is doing as president has always been significantly higher than those who say they love him.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Errin, what about that?

    What about the people you talk to in terms of whether this does the president more harm than good?

  • Errin Haines:

    Well, there are certainly Democratic women, Black women who were thrilled at the prospect of a Joe Biden victory equaling a Black woman finally being the next person to be nominated and possibly confirmed to the Supreme Court.

    And so they're very energized. They were already motivated to vote in this election around the issue of systemic racism, the pandemic, and other issues.

    But the Supreme Court is definitely something that I'm hearing is also very much on the ballot for them. Ruth Bader Ginsburg's legacy, her legacy is looming large for Democratic women. I mean, you have seen kind of the public grieving for her, which could translate politically at the polls, as I said, early voting already under way.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Errin Haines:

    And (AUDIO GAP) folks are saying they are going to the polls with Justice Ginsburg on their minds as they do that.

    But there are conservative women who are hailing this choice, maybe not as vocal, maybe not as visible as some of the enthusiasm and energy that we're seeing on the other side. And maybe they are celebrating or approving of this choice, even as it may not be kind of the top priority for them, when you think about issues, like, frankly, the pandemic, issues like child care, issues of the economy, that may be a little higher on the hierarchy of needs in this kind of chaotic election season that really is the intersection of everything.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right.

  • Errin Haines:

    But I do think this has a potential to have an effect on both sides.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, a little less than a minute.

    I want each one of you to tell me what you think each man has to do tomorrow night at the debate tomorrow night.

    Amy?

  • Amy Walter:

    Donald Trump has to come out on the offensive.

    We know that that's where he likes to be anyway. But, again, a sitting president a month out from an election coming from behind, he needs to come in early and often, put Biden where he hasn't been very often in this race, back on his heels.

    For Joe Biden, just be steady and project the sense that he has throughout the campaign of being a unity candidate.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Errin, what does each one have to do for you?

  • Errin Haines:

    Yes, frankly, President Trump is going to have to focus on how he has delivered for his supporters and for the American people.

    And Joe Biden is going to have to focus on how he believes the president has not and how he will do that instead.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, I have written all this down.

    (LAUGHTER)

    We're going to come and we're going to ask you next time what happened.

    Errin Haines, Amy Walter, thank you both.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

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