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Amy Walter and Tamara Keith on GOP support for Kavanaugh, Rod Rosenstein’s future

Amy Walter from the Cook Political Report and NPR’s Tamara Keith join Judy Woodruff to discuss how the midterm elections are shaping up, how allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh impacts Republicans and questions swirling around Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein after it was reported that he expected to get fired by President Trump on Monday.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now for more on how the midterm elections are shaping up, as well as how those allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh our impacting Republicans, it is Politics Monday time.

    We're joined by Tamara Keith of NPR and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Reports.

    So, Amy, let's start with this Minnesota congressional race. But use it as a way to look at what's going on out there on the campaign trail.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How much — let's talk about health care, to begin with, because it's an issue here. How much is that coming up in these conversations?

  • Amy Walter:

    Democrats have been talking about health care on the campaign trail now really since the 2018 campaign started.

    It's — the overwhelming number of ads that Democrats are running are about health care. This is especially true in the Senate races in red states, like Montana or West Virginia, where Democrats are talking specifically about preexisting conditions.

    They are running against in some cases attorneys general who are signed on to the lawsuit that wants to over — overturn Obamacare. And, specifically, right, if you overturn Obamacare, you get rid of good and the not-so-popular provisions like the preexisting condition.

    The great irony, as you know, Judy, in all of this is, if the 2010 election was a referendum on Obamacare and the sort of backlash to Obamacare, 2018 is shaping up to be a backlash to Republican attempts to dismantle it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's really flipped, hasn't it, Tam?

  • Tamara Keith:

    It has.

    And it's fascinating. You talk about red states and attorneys general. You have Josh Hawley running in Missouri. He has an ad up now — he's the Republican — talking about his son, who has a preexisting condition.

    Republicans see this as enough of a problem that they're having to go out and proactively message about their views on health care. And they're not talking about repealing and replacing Obamacare anymore. They are now talking about, we're going to protect your preexisting conditions.

    Meanwhile, Democrats previously hid from the Affordable Care Act, didn't want to talk about it, did — certainly didn't campaign on it. And now they are proactively campaigning.

  • Amy Walter:

    And Obamacare is more popular now than it ever was.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's turned upside.

  • Amy Walter:

    It has turned upside down, in large part because it's about protecting — voters don't like to lose something that they already have, vs. the fight over its existence in the first place.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The other thing, Tam, being discussed in this race in Minnesota, but in some other parts of the country, tariffs, the president's tariffs, some agriculture issues.

    How much of an impact, do we see, any of that having in races?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, what we know is that a couple of weeks ago, we had an NPR/Marist poll that came out that showed significant erosion in support for President Trump and in the sort of generic ballots, the generic Democrat vs. generic Republican, that erosion happening in the Upper Midwest, those states that President Trump won or nearly won in the Upper Midwest that have been affected by these trade policies.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, at this point, Amy, we're saying there may be some effect?

  • Amy Walter:

    It may be the effect of voters saying, this isn't really what I necessarily bargained for when I was supporting the president.

    What I had heard from groups that I spoke with who are involved in the ag industry — at least, this was a couple months ago — the feeling that, look, I don't really love these tariffs. They're definitely hurting my bottom line. But I still trust the president, because he's going to do the right thing eventually.

    The question is, how long is their patience? How long of a rope do they give the president on this before they say, you know what, it doesn't look like we're getting any better deal, it doesn't look like the thing with China's getting fixed?

    And they may not be supportive of Democrats, but they are not turning out in support of Republicans.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    OK, the thing we are watching, Tam, this week — and we have been talking about it at the lead of the program — is Brett Kavanaugh, his confirmation, now this second woman coming forward with allegations.

    I know it's early. The hearings are three days away — hearing on Thursday. But what do we see at this point in terms of how Republicans are playing this? They have to be concerned, because they're worried about women voters in particular.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Certainly.

    And though if you look at sort of the way this has progressed, with the way the White House and their Republican allies have approached this, early on, they were very careful. They wanted to seem as respectful as humanly possible. They didn't want to question the accuser.

    And now they have gotten to a point, the president has tweeted a few things, and sort of the proactive White House messaging is, this is a left-wing smear campaign. It has moved a long way. They are taking a different tack now.

    And as one Republican told me, the president likes a good fight, and they are now taking the fight to this — to this nomination.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Are they taking a risk by doing that, Amy, or is it — do we know?

  • Amy Walter:

    I reached out to some of my campaign strategist sources today, and they have the same impression that I did, too, which is, it's really hard to know where this thing goes.

    Sometimes, in politics, it's OK to say, I just don't know where this is going to go, especially if there is a hearing, what response the American public is going to have to Christine Blasey Ford, to Judge Kavanaugh, to the questions being asked, to the questions and the way that those questions are asked.

    And so I think it does — it is worth waiting maybe a little bit to know how this plays.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Amy Walter:

    I do think the problem that the Republicans have with women is about as intense and as — you know, the gulf, the gender gap is as big as we have ever seen, even before we had these hearings.

    So I don't know that Republicans are going to be able to repair that or make it any worse with these hearings. I think the bigger question is, what it does in terms of the intensity and the issues that the candidates want to be talking about going into the midterm elections.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, I know, initially, when they second round of allegations came out, there was quick speculation that maybe his nomination was going to go down.

    But they are doubling down right now, Tam, the White House, and Brett Kavanaugh himself. They're saying, we are going to fight.

  • Tamara Keith:

    But I would say that history tells us that they're all in, until they're not all in.

    And who knows. Maybe we will go through the hearing, and they will go to a floor vote. But it can be like flipping a switch. You just don't know until it happens.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Last thing, not as — as if there's not enough going on, Amy, the swirling speculation around the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.

    Normally, we don't pay that much attention to the number two person at the Department of Justice. But this is the person who is overseeing the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will see what happens. But right now, a lot is depending on…

  • Amy Walter:

    A lot is still swirling around.

    Of course, it's happening on Thursday. As someone has tweeted out, Thursday, for those of us in politics, is going to feel like looking directly into the sun. That's the intensity of political news that's coming in.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We may cover our eyes.

  • Tamara Keith:

    We can wear sunglasses.

  • Amy Walter:

    They have those glasses.

    But, look, if you're Republican right now, just imagine, you have five weeks unto the election. You're in a very competitive race. What would you not want to be talking about for the next five weeks?

    Chaos in the White House. What is going to happen at the DOJ? Do voters trust that the president's going to be handling this appropriately? Shouldn't Congress be passing something to protect Mueller?

    Mueller is still more trusted in handling this issue than — the issue of the Russia investigation than the president. And the intensity level — this is a Pew poll that just came out today — shows while Republicans are very supportive of the president, they're not as intensely supportive of the president on this issue as Democrats are intensely not supportive of the president on this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Twenty seconds.

  • Tamara Keith:

    There was a Kaiser Family Foundation poll from a little bit ago that showed that for voter — for Democratic voters, at least, health care is their number one issue, but so is corruption in Washington, which is sort of a stand-in for concerns about how President Trump is handling these things.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Hmm. We may have something to chew on later this week.

    Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, thank you both.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

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