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Amy Walter and Stu Rothenberg on Trump separating families, Supreme Court on gerrymandering

Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and Stu Rothenberg of Inside Elections join Judy Woodruff to discuss the human and political consequences of the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children and parents at the U.S. border, plus a Supreme Court decision to punt definitive rulings on gerrymandering.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Back to politics now. A lot to talk about this Monday.

    And for that, we are joined by Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Stu Rothenberg of Inside Elections.

    Politics Monday. Welcome to both of you.

    The border story, separating families, parents from children.

    Amy, first and foremost, this is a human story. It's about human beings and what is happening in people's lives.

    But let's talk about the political consequences of the administration, President Trump doing this, and the Democratic response. Right now, what effect do you see this having?

  • Amy Walter:

    Judy, I'm glad that you opened it like that, because it is actually a political and a human story weaved together. And that's what makes it even more challenging.

    Politically, for Republicans, who are out there — obviously, they're on the ballot in 2018. The president is not. He made immigration enforcement the centerpiece of his election in 2016. A lot of Republicans didn't.

    And what we're seeing, as I'm watching this unfold throughout the day, the number of Republicans in Congress who are coming out and saying this isn't OK, we have to stop this policy of separating children from their parents continues to grow, especially from members who are in swing districts, who again have a — might have a tough reelection in 2018.

    The head of the National Republican Campaign Committee, Steve Stivers, that tells you something when he comes out and tells in a tweet, says, I don't like this policy.

    So, it seems to me this is an unsustainable situation that Republicans find themselves in. The president, if he continues to defend this, Republicans legislatively are not going to back him up, and politically they are going to distance themselves from this policy, or at least try to.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How do you see the Republican…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    Well, I understand why the White House might feel that it is obligated to push this immigration agenda, that they're playing to the base, that they promised us this is what they're going to deliver.

    What I don't understand is how audio and video of children crying, screaming, photographs of mothers who have — children are being taken away, I don't understand how that is going to play to the Republicans' benefit.

    It seems to me, just politically, like a disaster, I was going to say waiting to happen, but a political disaster and a human disaster, but happening right now.

    I mean, it puts Republicans in the awful position of having to defend these acts that look unfeeling.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But do you have the base of the Republican Party — I listened to Steve Bannon yesterday on one of the Sunday shows talking about how the president is simply fulfilling what he said he was going to do. He is upholding the law.

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, it's interesting.

    If you look at the polls that are coming out right now, yes, a majority of the Republicans say that they support it, but only like 55 percent of Republicans. This is not a 90 percent Republican issue.

    And I think Stu is exactly right. This idea, I think, that the White House and those around the president have had for a long time is, if we make the story about all these criminal elements at the border, we make it about drugs, we make it about MS-13 gangs, then we win, because we make Democrats have to defend the indefensible.

    But the image of children and the audio of children is going to beat all of those other images nine times out of 10. And just listening to that audio, to Stu's point, earlier in the show, you could see this coming up in every campaign ad that goes out in 2018.

    It's a situation that I think Republicans are going to have to get…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    Judy, I have two thoughts.

    One is, the Republicans are still worried about the base. That tells you something, because the Democrats are working on swing voters and independents…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes.

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    … and the people who will decide some of these elections.

    And, second of all, when you looked at this Quinnipiac poll in terms of separating children and parents, it's not only 66 percent of all voters oppose that, but it is 68 percent of independents, 68 percent of whites with a college degree.

    And, as Amy points out, one in three Republicans disagree with what the president and their party are doing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, Amy, this thinking on the part of the White House that they still need to focus on the base…

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … is that smart?

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Is that going to take them all the way to victory in November?

  • Amy Walter:

    Exactly.

    This is what 2018 is going to show us, Judy. This is a president who has done everything just for the benefit of the base, and it worked for him in 2016, when everybody told him it couldn't, because he had to expand the universe, he was leaving out too many swing voters.

    Now he says, well, it worked for me then, it is going to work in 2018.

    But when you see where these numbers are not, just on this issue, but — Stu and I have been talking about this a lot, just where the swing voters are in this election. White women who have a college degree.

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    In the suburbs.

  • Amy Walter:

    Just imagine how this issue is going to play with these voters. If you are trying to lose those voters, you couldn't do worse than this.

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    Here's a prediction. Donald Trump will do really well with Trump voters in the midterms.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    But that's not enough.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, that's my question. Is it enough in enough districts?

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    Oh, certainly not. It might be enough to hold the Senate. It might be enough to hold North Dakota and West Virginia and Indiana.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That's the question.

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    But it's not going to be enough to hold the House.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Different story.

    Supreme Court ruled today — actually didn't rule.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    They sent it back to the states. Both Wisconsin, Amy, and Maryland had come forward with these cases challenging redistricting, gerrymandering.

    What does all this mean? What is the effect longer-term here?

  • Amy Walter:

    I think the longer-term reality is that the Supreme Court is not really interested, or at least they haven't found the right case to be able to come out and definitively say this is OK when you are redrawing lines, this is not OK. Here is the standard that the Supreme Court now endorses.

    Instead, we're going to see states do what they do, legislatures do what they do, which is, they are going to draw district lines. They may get sued. It will go to a lower court. A lower court is going to decide. And then the lower court's decision is the one in which we move from, rather than the Supreme Court.

    Or I think, more likely, we're going to see these lower court decisions find their way back up to the Supreme Court. We may see North Carolina, for example, come out next year, a debate over the North Carolina lines.

    So I think it means we're in a constant flux on this. But, fundamentally, if you are Democrats, your number one concern right now has to be winning enough legislative and gubernatorial seats so that, when the next round of redistricting comes around in 2020, you have the necessary number of members who can draw these lines.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes. My question is, what is the precise political fallout from all this?

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    Well, I think Amy and I and others have been assuming that the lines that we have now will be the lines that we have in November.

    We have been handicapping races based on that. So I think we don't have to change our analysis. So the trajectory of the election isn't changed. If the court had acted and recognized political gerrymandering, that would have caused us to reassess all these lines.

    But, right now, it's — the way we look at these races yesterday is simply the way we're going to look at least for the next six months, and maybe for the next 2.5 years.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, does that benefit Republicans more or Democrats?

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    Well, if the court had recognized that there was partisan gerrymandering, it would have almost certainly helped Democrats in states like Ohio and Michigan and Wisconsin, so it would have probably helped the Democrats, although it would have helped Republicans in Maryland and Illinois.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, it's kind of a mix.

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    So, depends on which state. Right?

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

    And I don't think any of this would have occurred before the 2018 elections, because we're so late in the process. So, it really would have been looking forward to 2020.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we're always looking ahead, to 2018, to 2020, even beyond.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Amy Walter, Stu Rothenberg, thank you.

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    Thank you, Judy.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

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