Can GOP and Democratic competitors continue to gain traction?

Hari Sreenivasan sits down with Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR to discuss the latest in politics, including last night’s Democratic debate, Donald Trump’s slowing momentum, the possibility of a GOP restructure and the stakes for Tuesday’s Michigan primary.

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    From a tough Democratic debate in Flint, and strong showing by Ted Cruz in weekend voting, it's a perfect time for Politics Monday, with Tamara Keith of NPR and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

    So, I happened to do a little program on the weekend. There was some politics. There was some news.

    Let's start with the debate last night. This was probably the first time I have really seen Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton go at each other as directly.


    Yes, it was an intense debate. They came armed and ready.

    Bernie Sanders is — he has a lot at stake. There is a primary in Michigan on Tuesday, and if he can't win and win big, he's going to have a tough time. And so he came ready to hit Hillary Clinton hard on trade. He believes that that's a really strong area for him, because she supported trade deals when her husband was president. And those trade deals, he says, led to the loss of jobs.

    Well, she was ready, too, and she came ready to hit him on the auto bailout. She had sort of a narrow argument, but basically said he voted against the bailout bills that included a bailout for the auto industry. Bernie Sanders takes issue with it. But it led to some fireworks, and it led to Sanders — during the debate, Clinton interrupted him, and he said, wait, no, I have got to finish.

    And that happened a couple of times, and Twitter blew up over it.


    All right.

    Also, Amy, besides trying to score points on social media and correct each other on what actually happened on social media, they're trying to court blue-collar workers in places in the Rust Belt. They're also trying to go after African-American votes. Are they effective about this?

  • AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report:

    Well, it's funny.

    Compared to the Republican debates, which you have no idea what's going to happen any time you tune in, the Democratic debates have become somewhat predictable. We know which lines each candidate is going to use. Hillary Clinton is going to go after Bernie Sanders on guns. Yes, it was a little different that she went after him on the auto bailout.

    Bernie Sanders is going to talk about Wall Street and attack her from the left on those issues. And the results in state after state are somewhat predictable, too, Bernie Sanders doing well among white voters, doing well among independent voters, not as well as among African-Americans, not as well as among Democrats.

    And we're seeing that. The latest poll out of Michigan shows the same lines being drawn. So, I would be very surprised if Bernie Sanders was able to do well in Michigan, and if he does lose, it will be for the same reasons that he's been unsuccessful in states going — well, pretty much every state, except for New Hampshire.


    Let's talk a little bit about this notion that Ted Cruz has made a surge over this last weekend.

    He picked up two states. Donald Trump had two states. Not all states are created equal. Not all voting processes are the same, right? But is this the Republican establishment pushing back against Donald Trump in any sort of concerted manner? And there is also some question on, is Ted Cruz the counterweight for those Republicans who are on the sideline right now?


    You would be hard-pressed to say that the Republican establishment is rooting for Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz is not a friend of the Republican establishment.

    But what does appear to have maybe happened, and we will know more after more voting has happened, is that Donald Trump's momentum, Donald Trump's, like, there is no way anybody is ever going to be able to stop him kind of momentum has possibly slowed.

    But, really, we need some more data points, and especially with Donald Trump, the landscape is littered with people who have made predictions about Donald Trump slowing down.


    Including some people sitting here.



    So, I will take that.

    We have had a lot of the theories about this race. We have had a lot of the theories. There was the Marco Rubio theory, that he was the one who are going to be able to stop Donald Trump, and he had a terrible weekend.

    Actually, it started as the Ted Cruz theory from — in the beginning because of the way the calendar was situated. Those Southern states were supposed to help Ted Cruz. South Carolina was going to be his launching pad. That didn't work. We have had a lot of theories. They haven't really come true. Michigan is going to be important, not just for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, but also to see if somebody can stop Trump in a state like that.

    The warning, though, is, the establishment candidate in 2012, Mitt Romney, barely won Michigan. Rick Santorum came up very close, Rick Santorum running as a populist that year. So I think we're going to see a very being challenge going forward.

    Look, Donald Trump has momentum right now. He doesn't have all the delegates that he needs, but the stronger he looks, the harder it is to beat him.


    There is also this tension that is playing out of the parties vs. the people. And it's on both sides and it's kind of inverted. Right?

    On the Democratic side, you see supporters of Bernie Sanders saying, what's all this business with superdelegates? We have this popular candidate and really he should be the one that is in the lead right now, not Hillary. On the other side, you have got talk of the possibility of the Republican Party maybe adjusting the rules a bit that could increase the chances for a rival of Donald Trump. Right?

    So there is this idea from both sides that maybe the parties don't represent us in the process.


    And let's just say that if the Republican Party were to step in and somehow magically make an establishment candidate come out, or if superdelegates decided the race on the Democratic side, people would go nuts.

    This election is all about the anti-establishment. It's all about telling party elites that they haven't been listening. And so it wouldn't be pretty for either party if that happened. On the superdelegates with Bernie Sanders, we have to note that he is also trailing in pledged delegates. The superdelegates, he's way behind, but if you throw out the superdelegates and just look at the pledged delegates, he's down by almost 200 delegates.

    Delegates are awarded proportionally on the Democrat side, which means you get roughly a percentage based on the percentage you get in the polls. And as a result of that, it will be very hard for him to make that up.



    No, he's done very well in caucus states and in states that are more homogeneous. Again, breaking out of that mold is going to be very important for him, and thus far we haven't seen it.

    On the Republican side, this is frustrating to many in the Republican Party, the idea that Donald Trump could be their nominee. But to thwart the process by changing rules and trying to come at the last minute during the convention with literally a change in the rules that says you don't need to get X-number of states in order to get the nomination, I think, would cause way too much havoc.

    Look, there is enough stress right now among Republicans that if they do disassociate or distance themselves from Trump, that his supporters, his voters are going to go away, they are going to lose that energy and enthusiasm. Balancing those things, people who dislike Trump immensely with the ones who are turning out in rallies for him has been something that the Republicans have struggled with, they will continue to struggle witness.

    As I have said before, I think this is a tipping point for the Republican Party, who they're going to be, what their standard-bearer is going to look like, who is going to line up behind Donald Trump, who is going to be opposed to him. It is going to be messy for a very long time, and I don't think that the nomination fight is going to make it any easier.


    All right, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, Tamara Keith of NPR, thanks so much.


    Thank you.


    You're welcome.

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