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Amy Walter and Tamara Keith on impeachment public opinion, 2020 Iowa poll numbers

Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR join Judy Woodruff to discuss the criticism of President Trump on Syria and the suggestion that his resort would host the G-7, the danger for Democrats of an impeachment inquiry that drags on through 2020, takeaways from an interview with Sen. Bernie Sanders and the state of the Democratic presidential race in Iowa.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now we turn to Politics Monday with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and host of public radio's "Politics With Amy Walter," and Tamara Keith from NPR. She also co-hosts "The NPR Politics Podcast."

    Hello to both of you. It is Politics Monday.

    So, Tamara, you were listening to Senator Sanders. What did you think?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Senator Sanders did what many of the Democratic candidates have done, pretty much all of them, which is criticize the president's decisions, criticize the way President Trump handled Syria and the relationship with the Kurds, but didn't really offer a much clearer view of how he would fix the problem.

    And that's essentially been what all of the Democratic candidates have been doing, because it's much easier to criticize the president than to get into the nitty-gritty details of how you solve the morass that is Syria.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right, and the fact most Democrats, like Bernie Sanders, argued, shouldn't have gone into Iraq in the first place, want to bring troops out of the Middle East.

    Elizabeth Warren in the debate the other night said, I want to get all the troops out of the Middle East.

    So, to answer your question of well,, what do you do now about Syria, well, that gets a little complicated.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It is.

  • Amy Walter:

    It is, which is what being president is about. It's complicated.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And he went on to say — I was trying to ask him, Tam, to elaborate on what the differences are between him and Elizabeth Warren, both the most progressive candidates in the race.

    And he's been reluctant to talk about it. But this — and this time he stressed he wants a revolution; she would do it through Capitol Hill.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, and that does seem to be the distinction between them, is that Bernie Sanders has always talked about a revolution, and she talks about big structural change, but it's all within the structures that exist.

    Like, she wants to keep the house, but tear down the guts, and he kind of wants to blow the thing up and try something different. And that is sort of how they have approached the campaign.

    That said, he has been very cautious about really trying to attack her in any way. He has been very cautious about that, I think, in part, because he knows that she is the candidate in this ray race other than him that is most likely to go toward his vision.

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, plus, he doesn't necessarily have to go after her. Every other candidate is doing that for him, which we saw in the debate last week, right?

    There was a big target on top of her head, and all the candidates were coming at Elizabeth Warren, most specifically, as you mentioned in this interview with Bernie Sanders, about how she pays for her Medicare for all plan, which she said this weekend that she's going to have more details, finally, very soon, and they're working out all the details.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In coming days.

    So, how — do we agree on how much of a threat she is to him right now?

  • Tamara Keith:

    She is absolutely a threat to him. She is also absolutely a threat to Vice President Joe Biden.

    And you can sort of see how much of a threat she is in this race, how she has gained in the polls, by looking at what the Democrats on stage did with her. They were going after her. And it wasn't just that they were going after Elizabeth Warren.

    They were — many of the moderate candidates were, in a way, trying to show themselves as, well, you know, if this Biden thing doesn't work out, if he slips a little bit, hey, look, I'm auditioning to be the moderate alternative.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And they have done that, and they have continued to try to play off of that, haven't they?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, and that's what you have seen this weekend, Pete Buttigieg getting a lot of media attention.

    New poll coming out this — I guess it was this morning — from Iowa showing Buttigieg now moving into third place in Iowa.

    So, he has been trying — we have been talking about this for a while now — to be this bridge candidate between Biden and Sanders/Warren, saying he may be — he's a little bit too old, too establishment, this idea of returning to normalcy is just passe, it's not going to work. These guys over here, too far to the left. I can be that nice — I'm going to be more progressive, but not as far to the left here.

    But you're seeing now Amy Klobuchar, who also, for the first time, really came out and sort of stood her ground as the moderate in the race. What we don't know yet is if there's enough room for all of those folks in this race.

    Joe Biden has really sucked up that lane all to himself. He really will need, as Tam pointed out, to slip in order for one of those other counties to move in and potentially dominate that piece of the debate.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And particularly striking, Tam, as Amy says, that Buttigieg took over third place, beating out and knocking Bernie Sanders back to fourth in Iowa, which has to have the Sanders folks worry.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Right.

    Well, and, also, Pete Buttigieg has a lot of money. If you — we got all these campaign finance reports out over the last week, and Buttigieg has more cash on hand than Vice President Joe Biden. In fact, a lot of people have more cash on hand than Vice President Joe Biden.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let's talk about the president, Amy.

    Rough few days, as we were talking with Yamiche earlier, impeachment, Syria, the continuing blowback over that, now the discussion that hasn't gone away about his being willing to use his own hotel to host world leaders, and they pulled it back, but it's still out there.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Is this another blip, another quick storm moving through, or is this the last…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Amy Walter:

    Waiting to see if there's a lasting set of problems.

    And, again, this president's approval ratings just do not budge, good times and bad. And if you look at the average where he is right now, it's somewhere around 41 percent or 42 percent, which is where it's been for the past four, five, six months.

    What we really don't know as we're moving along, seems to me, is where we are in impeachment and how — if anything new is going to change that will change the way Americans in which view this.

    Is there going to be some amount of information that could blow this open one way or the other, either the majority of Americans saying let's not impeach or the majority of Americans saying overwhelmingly that impeachment should happen?

    I just don't see that happening right now, which means we have an impeachment vote, the Senate doesn't vote to convict. And for the very first time in American history, we have a first-term president impeached running for reelection.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But it drags on, Tam. It's going to last for weeks and weeks.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes.

    There are the mile markers that people talk about of Christmas and New Year's and whether it slips past that or whether it wrecks everybody's holidays.

    You know, it is — right now, it's all happening behind closed doors. All of these various interviews are happening. There are going to be transcripts maybe that will be released, but it's not happening out in public. There aren't these big splashy public hearings.

    And as a result, it's hard for this kind of thing to move public opinion. It's getting — this story started out very simple. It is getting increasingly more complicated.

    You need more lines and circles and things on your chart to try to understand who all the players are and what all the characters are in this growing drama.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Although Speaker Pelosi is trying to keep this focused on the Ukraine transaction.

  • Tamara Keith:

    But even the Ukraine transaction has gotten much more complicated.

  • Amy Walter:

    Has gotten very complicated.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A lot of players.

    But it looks as if there's a — I mean, there is a deliberate effort on the part of the Democratic leadership in the House to keep this as focused on that as possible, and not let it…

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, and to keep this as — keep it as focused on the issue and to keep the timeline as narrow as possible.

    I think the longer this drags out, and if we get into 2020, the conversation about impeaching a president during an election year, that becomes tougher for Democrats to defend. Thus far, they have the benefit of, at least on the process argument, the majority of Americans are with them on this idea of having an inquiry.

    But as — again, if this drags, drags, drags out and we're five or six months away from an election, are Americans still going to be approving of this inquiry?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, it is Politics Monday, so much going on.

  • Amy Walter:

    Always.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Always.

    Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

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