What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

As Trump comes around to Roy Moore, what will the Alabama outcome mean for Senate Republicans?

President Trump called Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to endorse him in the upcoming special election, despite allegations of sexual assault. John Yang talks to Tamara Keith of NPR and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report about Moore’s rising poll numbers, how the House and Senate are hammering out tax plan details and whether Democrats are using the Russia probe in campaigns.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Miles O’Brien:

    As we told you earlier, President Trump threw his support behind Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore today.

    John Yang is here with more on the president’s endorsement and the Republican tax plans.

  • John Yang:

    Miles, to discuss all of that, it’s our usual Politics Monday team, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    Tam, let me start with you.

    The president had been dancing around this race. He had bashing the Republican — the Democrat, rather, but for the first time today really came out, endorsed Roy Moore, called him to give him the endorsement.

    What do you make of this shift?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, the president had clearly, as you say, been moving in this direction.

    And the White House justification is one that I think a lot of voters make too, which is, the president is essentially saying, I would rather have someone who agrees with my agenda than someone who doesn’t.

    Now, there’s also a moral issue in terms of the things that Moore is accused of. But a lot of people make that bargain. They make that — voters make that choice, that voters in the general election often feel that they don’t have the luxury to care about moral concerns. They have to care about their issues, things like abortion or the judiciary branch, who the judges would be that are picked.

    And it’s a very similar evolution as what happened after the “Access Hollywood” video came out right before the 2016 election. Initially, there were a lot of Republicans who were like, he should withdraw, this is over, this is terrible.

    And then, eventually, they mostly all came back home. And you also saw Mitch McConnell essentially coming back home with Moore.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, this does — it feels very similar to that trajectory we saw after the “Access Hollywood” tape.

    And now we are seeing in polling that Roy Moore, after being behind for a little while, now is coming back up in the lead. It’s a very narrow lead, only about two-and-a-half points, if you average the most recent polls.

    And, as we know, Donald Trump likes to get in front of the parade, right? And so if Roy Moore is truly picking up steam — we only have a week left in this campaign — he wants to be the one that can say, at the end of the day, not only did I endorse this guy when so many other Republicans were distancing themselves, but I was the reason that he won, right?

    And you can see him saying, see, I still have the juice after his candidate, his original candidate, Luther Strange, lost. And then, of course, he came out and endorsed over Twitter the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Virginia, who also lost.

    So this would be a needed win. The one thing also to point out for Roy Moore is it may be a win for Donald Trump, he can claim it as a win, but for Republicans in the Senate, this is going to be very complicated.

    Remember, we have at least one senator, the head of the national Republican Senate committee, saying that he should be expelled if he wins. Mitch McConnell is still saying that the Ethics Committee should investigate.

    This is going to be a real tough and awkward time for Republicans should he come in there. And, of course, Roy Moore is not exactly a team player. So how he deals with leadership and a conference that’s already trying to distance themselves from him is going to be really challenging.

  • John Yang:

    And you mentioned sort of the parallels with last year’s election, the campaign, the women who came out with allegations against Donald Trump.

    Now Billy Bush has raised that issue again with his op-ed in The New York Times. One of the president’s accusers has a hearing in court tomorrow in New York.

    In the current environment, is this issue going to come back on him, or is it the argument that the voters knew about this, like they knew about Bill Clinton, and they made their decision?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, that’s certainly the argument that the White House is making, which is voters put him in office after they knew about these charges against him.

    Of course, President Trump, then candidate Trump denied those charges and continues to deny them. But there’s not a lot of recourse after an election. Voters get to say, and voters only get to say every four years when it comes to the president, and with members of Congress, it’s every two years or six years.

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, and I think we’re fight find — I think the other answer, we don’t really know the answer, right?

    We still have members of Congress right now who are being asked by members of their own leadership to resign. And we don’t — some of them are up for election this year. Some are — next year — some aren’t.

    But will those folks be pushed out by leadership or castigated in some way by people who aren’t their voters? That’s the challenge right now for Congress, right, is to show the voters that they are taking this seriously. But they also have the limitation that well, yes, we aren’t your constituents.

  • John Yang:

    So, now, in the House, the Senate on Capitol Hill starting to hammer out the differences is between the two versions of their tax bills, so they can send one bill to the president for his signature.

    Tam, how big a deal is this for the Republicans?

  • Tamara Keith:

    They feel very positive about where things are going. Obviously, there’s still a lot to work out.

    But there’s a sense that this is sort of a dream bill for a lot of Republicans. It doesn’t just cut corporate taxes and some taxes for other Americans. But it gets rid of the estate tax, or at least modifies it. It gets rid of the individual mandate for health care.

    It does all — and — and the big selling point for Republicans is that it begins shrinking the size of government. They believe that this is going to put pressure on states and localities that have high taxes to lower their taxes, to be competitive.

    And they think that this is actually going to set up an imperative to, as soon as the spring, start cutting entitlements, things like Medicaid and food stamps.

  • John Yang:

    This will be the first big legislative win for the Republicans this year.

  • Amy Walter:

    That’s right.

  • John Yang:

    Does this change the political environment for the midterms at all, Amy?

  • Amy Walter:

     Yes, it’s a really good question.

    I have been asking a lot of political strategists that today. And here’s where you start off. You start off with the public that is already pretty skeptical about this bill. Only about 25 to 30 percent saying that they actively support it. So, Republicans have their work cut out for them in not just passing it through Congress, but they still have to sell it to voters as something that is a good thing.

    Democrats know what their — the weak points of the bill are. Tam points this out as, oh, this is great that now we’re going to force states to have to cut their budgets.

    Well, a whole bunch of people who live in those high-tax states say, wait, I can’t take the write-off anymore, right?

  • Tamara Keith:

    I was pointing out the sales…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Tamara Keith:

    … to the base, the Republican base.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, absolutely. But sales to the voters are different.

    Democrats really see this as nothing but a winner for them in 2018, because there are so many holes to poke. The real question is, if the economy continues to do well in 2018, I think that helps Republicans. They can come back and say, well, this growth is thanks to us.

  • John Yang:

    Got a little bit of time left.

    This city has been consumed by the Michael Flynn guilty plea on Friday and all the talk over the weekend. Amy, you look at races across the country. Are Democratic challengers talking about this?

  • Amy Walter:

    No.

    I sat down — it was about a month ago, but I sat down with a whole bunch of House candidates who are challengers in Republican districts. None of them talk about Russia. None of them talked about Trump. They all talked about, these are the kind of issues, health care, taxes, what’s going on in Washington.

  • John Yang:

    Amy Walter, Tam — Tam — Tam…

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Tamara Keith:

    Tam Keith.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • John Yang:

    Tam Keith, thanks a lot.

  • Amy Walter:

    You’re welcome.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You’re welcome.

Listen to this Segment

Latest News