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Amy Walter and Tamara Keith on the Pennsylvania election, Trump’s gun safety plan

Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR join Judy Woodruff to discuss a special election in a traditionally Republican district and President Trump’s evolving stance on gun control measures amid the latest push for greater school safety.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    For all of the money and attention on this Pennsylvania race, will it be a bellwether for the 2018 midterm elections coming this fall, or will it be more of a one-off?

    Our regular Politics Monday duo will pick it up there. That’s Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    All right, before I ask you both about the difference between Bud and Bud Light, memorable line there, Amy, are we paying too much attention to this race? Does it deserve this kind of attention, and money, for that matter?

  • Amy Walter:

    Judy, you know how much I love every congressional race. They all deserve this much attention.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Amy Walter:

    This — the reason this race is getting this much attention is that it shouldn’t be getting this much attention. This is a dark red district that should easily be in Republican hands.

    The fact that this race is close at all is the reason that we’re talking about this. The fact that it is this close, given how much Republicans have spent, win or lose, they will have spent over $10 million to try to hold on to a district that has been reliably in the Republican camp for years.

    So, this is — we’re looking at this race also in context of the races that we have seen previous special elections this year, where Democrats have been overperforming even in dark red districts.

    So, that’s what we are looking for is the trend and also the fact that this is even in play.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What are you watching for here, Tam?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, it certainly is another race where President Trump has put his name on the line. He has tweeted about Rick Saccone. He campaigned with him. He called him up on the stage.

    Meanwhile, there are stories that are running that say things like, people close to President Trump say he doesn’t really think Rick Saccone is a great candidate, which is a little like working the refs in advance, working the expectations game, trying to say well, you know, if he loses, it’s because he wasn’t a great candidate. It has nothing to do with President Trump’s mojo.

    But President Trump has put so much into this, it will be interesting to see how this goes. And either way, I mean, the polling indicates it’s very close. And, either way, it looks like Conor Lamb is going to outperform what a Democrat should do.

    I mean, they haven’t even had Democrats in this district for the last two races.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So what does it really tell us, Amy? Say, Conor Lamb, whether he comes close or wins, the Democrat, what is it really going to tell us about…

  • Amy Walter:

    So, I think we’re going to learn a couple of things. If Conor Lamb wins, it is going to tell us a little bit about Republican messaging, right?

    They have spent a whole bunch of time talking about the fact that, because the economy is improving, because the tax cuts have been implemented, that voters are going to reward Republicans, not just the president, but, of course, Republicans in Congress.

    They have been making that message in this district, but it has — obviously, it hasn’t really stuck. The attacks on Nancy Pelosi, trying to attach Nancy Pelosi to Conor Lamb — now, he purposefully distanced himself from Nancy Pelosi, saying he wasn’t going vote for her.

    But are they going to continue to use that if it shows not to work in a district as Republican as this? If Conor Lamb narrowly loses, they can make the argument that, OK, well, maybe we can try these other things in other districts, but, gosh, if it narrowly puts your candidate over the line in a district that is this red, what are you going to do in districts that are a little bluer?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A lot of money — many money decisions will be made based on what happens.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes, this is a great testing ground, or it is a testing ground that has — it has people that are more suburban. It has really true deep red Trump voters, working-class, white working-class voters.

    It is a good place to test a lot of these messages. And like President Trump has said, oh, that line, that thing that Nancy Pelosi said about crumbs, that the tax cut is just crumbs, he is like that is going to be the deplorables of 2018.

    Well, they’re testing it. They’re running a lot of ads about Nancy Pelosi saying the tax cut is crumbs. We will see what it does.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just quickly about the tariffs on aluminum — steel and aluminum, Amy. There has been a lot of speculation, reporting that part of the reason the president did this was this one congressional district.

  • Amy Walter:

    This one race in this one state.

    Look, the thing about this district is, there is a big chunk of it that is suburban. So, this is not all just steelworker country. But even there, the poll that came out today tested the question about how you feel about tariffs, not overwhelmingly supportive in that district. And most voters there, almost all voters there actually, saying it has no impact on how they are going to vote tomorrow.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, let’s turn now, Amy, to this announcement by the White House of how they are going to deal with school safety going forward in the wake of these Parkland, Florida — Parkland, Florida, school shooting.

    The president had talked about doing more, it seems, to put some kind of controls on gun, the age at which people can buy guns. But the proposal is less than that. It has a lot of layers to it. We talked about it a few minutes ago.

    But what does it tell us about the president’s commitment here?

  • Tamara Keith:

    So, what it tells us is that when President Trump does these bipartisan listening sessions, he with saying a whole lot of stuff that he’s not going to stand behind two or three weeks later.

    And we saw that with immigration, where he said, just send me a bill, whatever you guys work out, I will sign it, and then, all of a sudden, the White House was like, actually, we have these four pillars, we need all of these different things.

    And, I mean, the president said a lot of things in the bipartisan televised meeting on guns that no adviser of him would have advised him to say, including that we need to take guns away from people who are deemed a danger to themselves and others without due process.

    The White House in their explanation and description of what he wants mentioned due process and court orders multiple times, which is to say not exactly what the president said when he was just sort of speaking off-the-cuff.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It’s almost a pattern, or a pattern of two, in the way they talked about, and then what they did on immigration, and didn’t do.

  • Amy Walter:

    What they talk about publicly, right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now guns.

  • Amy Walter:

    That’s right.

    And it says a lot too that they’re actually was a pathway, theoretically, on both immigration and guns to get something done that wasn’t very sweeping. Right?

    Had there just been a DACA, plus border security, that probably would have passed. It wouldn’t have been as dramatic.

    Guns, do something, as John Cornyn, senator from Texas, is talking about, really just updating the background check system. That could have gotten passed. Again, it’s not as dramatic.

    But when the president added and the White House added those elements on immigration, they were poison pills on chain migration and on the diversity lottery. And adding arming teachers in schools is a poison pill on this.

    So — and the pivot always seems to be to go to the — not only the most conservative, but also the most controversial.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But it’s interesting — or and it’s interesting today, Tam, that the White House is saying, well, we still are looking at other measures we could take with regard to guns, raising the age and so forth.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, they don’t typically like to say, what the president said when he was live on national television, he didn’t mean that.

    So this is like part four of the Trump White House walk-back, where they are like, well, you know, he is supporting things that he thinks can pass. And other stuff, well, maybe states could do it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Hasn’t ruled it out.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Tamara Keith:

    Hasn’t ruled it out. But we may never hear about it again.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we’re definitely going hear about the two of you again.

  • Amy Walter:

    Thank you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, Politics Monday, thank you.

  • Amy Walter:

    You’re welcome.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You’re welcome.

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