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How the Alabama race could reflect future Senate fights

What are the national implications for the outcome of Tuesday's special election in Alabama? Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR join Judy Woodruff to explore the impact of President Trump and the RNC getting back into the Alabama race, Trump’s accusers coming forward to demand action and a fact check on some of the president’s remarks at a political rally.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, now let's turn to the national political implications of the Alabama Senate vote and look at the facts that are or are not behind some of the president's recent statements.

    That's with our Politics Monday team, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    Thank you both for being here.

    Amy, so, how does this Alabama race look to you?

  • Amy Walter:

    It is a coin toss.

    You talk to folks who are down there in the state or who are looking at it, pollsters, et cetera, up here, and they will tell you they just really don't know what to expect.

    We have seen polls that range from Roy Moore up by nine points to Doug Jones up by 10 points. Really, it comes down to what pollsters think the electorate is going to look at, their modeling. And that's very hard to model.

    Not only is it an off-year election. It's a special election. And you have all these national implications. It's getting an outsized amount of attention. And, of course, you have all the controversy surrounding it.

    But I think we know it's going to be very, very close. And the package piece set it up quite well, which is, it really is coming down to the influence of the African-American vote, which is going to be critical, how many Republican voters either stay home or, like Senator Shelby, write another name in.

    That could be worth two or three points in a race that could be decided by the narrowest of margins.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    There's a lot, Tam, that both sides see in this outcome.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Indeed.

    For President Trump, here he has endorsed Roy Moore. He went and, almost as close to Alabama as you can get without stepping foot in Alabama, and although it was billed as a rally for his own reelection, it was clearly — clearly also became a rally for Roy Moore.

    So he is putting his name, he is putting his political mojo and muscle behind getting Roy Moore elected.

    For Republicans in Congress, it's kind of a mixed bag. For some, they don't really want to have to serve with Roy Moore, but they don't really have that much say over it. And, in fact, you know, Mitch McConnell coming out against Roy Moore could well help him with some voters in Alabama.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, it's another reminder just of the rift within the Republican Party and that what they see as the stakes in this election.

    For folks like Senator Shelby, for Republicans here in Washington, they're worried both about the impact on Alabama and its brand and the impact on the Republican Party brand by having Roy Moore there.

    Donald Trump's objective is, he's not as concerned about those two issues. He's concerned about his own brand. Did he pick a winner? Can he bring somebody across the finish line because of who he is, and, of course, having a short-term win, which is holding on to a seat which gives him the margins that he needs to pass legislation? Having one fewer vote is tougher.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Is it possible, Tam, to tell how much difference the president has made? And now he's gotten involved. We have been talking about it.

    The Republican National Committee got re-involved a few days ago, put some money back in this race. Any sense of how — whether that's tipping the scales?

  • Tamara Keith:

    It's not a coincidence that the RNC would start sending money back into Alabama basically right when President Trump made it official that he was endorsing Roy Moore, that he was letting go of the, if these charges are true, he should step aside, and going straight in and saying, I endorse him.

    And then, of course, the RNC fell in line, because President Trump is the leader of the Republican Party. He sort of dictates where these things go.

    I don't think we know whether he is going to push this over. You know, there have been polls, and they are so vastly divergent that the good news is, this will all be over tomorrow night.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Amy Walter:

    The other reality about Alabama is, it may be over, but we know that we're going to continue to litigate this, especially if he wins, for a long time.

    It's also a reminder of how volatile and fluid the race for the Senate is. A year ago, Judy, we wouldn't be talking about Alabama in the mix. But we have to remember we're now also talking about a special Senate election in Minnesota because of Al Franken's resignation.

    We don't know where — if we're going to see any more sexual harassment allegations, maybe more retirements or resignations.

    And then you have Steve Bannon in the mix, who is actively going after Republican incumbents and the so-called establishment candidates. This is making the race for the Senate, as I said, much more volatile than we thought it was going to be just a few months ago.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A lot of question marks.

    So, into this mix, the president made some comments which I want to quickly ask both of you about in that Pensacola rally, Tam, in which he's being called out for making claims — for things that, frankly, cannot be backed up by the facts.

    At one point, he said he won the election last year by a landslide. We know that he compared himself to a number of other winners, and we know that it was one of the narrowest wins in modern history.

    He also said this — I want to show our viewers this — to group of African-Americans who were in the crowd watching him in Pensacola.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Look at these guys, "Blacks for Trump."

    I love you.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • President Donald Trump:

    I love you.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • President Donald Trump:

    I love you.

    By the way, now that you bring it up, black homeownership just hit the highest level it's ever been in the history of our country.

    Congratulations.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, Tam, actually, that's not the case.

  • Tamara Keith:

    No, it — black homeownership has not recovered from the great recession.

    But here's the thing about that. President Trump — this is becoming like a regular feature of his rallies, where he sees a sign or he sees someone with a shirt that says "Blacks for Trump," and he sort of calls them out and calls attention to them.

    You know, in this arena that is full of largely white voters, he wants to sort of bring focus to the people of color who are there to say, like, look, I am not those things that you say I am.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    There's more diversity among my supporters.

    Another comment he made, just quickly, Amy, he spoke about the number of bills that he has signed as president. Let's listen to that.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Working with Republicans in Congress, we have already signed 88 pieces of legislation. We get no credit. They always say, well, you know, President Trump really needs this tax bill because he hasn't passed any legislation.

    Well, so far, in 10 months, we have passed more during this period of time than any other president in the history of our country. And the second, let's call runner-up, is Harry Truman, was second.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Amy, he has signed 88, 89 bills since he's been president. But that's less than President Obama, President Clinton, President George H.W. Bush, President Reagan.

    It's more than President George W. Bush, but the claim he made…

  • Amy Walter:

    But clearly isn't…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right. Right.

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, he's lashing out what he sees he's not getting enough credit for the following things.

    One, the economy is doing really well, and that's not reflective in his overall job approval rating. And the second is, he's actually done a lot, his administration has done a lot through executive orders that have had a very and will continue to have a very big impact. And he's nominated a record number of judicial appointments, which will have a longer-term influence on policy.

    But when it comes to legislation, especially big overarching legislation, the kind of that you would expect a Republican House and Senate and White House to pass, no, they have not been successful.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, again, we should say, the number is correct. It's just that, by contrast to other presidents.

    Finally, Tam, the story we reported earlier, three women spoke today at a news conference, three of the dozen or so who have accused President Trump of sexual harassment. They're calling for congressional investigation. Where does this go from here?

  • Tamara Keith:

    It probably doesn't go to a congressional investigation.

    I think that, particularly on the left — and I'm not saying that these women are on the left, though they — I think they actually are Democrats — on the left, there's a lot of frustration that Al Franken was forced to resign, and that people aren't calling on Donald Trump to resign.

    Now four Senate Democrats have called on President Trump to resign, but there's this sense that, you know, justice is not being equally meted out and that, on the left, there's a lot of frustration with this.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, I think we should expect calls about resignation to continue to be part of the rhetoric going into 2018.

    And this idea that just because the president survived these allegations in 2016 and the "Access Hollywood" tape, that they're no longer important to voters, I think is incorrect. I think now we have a different focus. We have seen powerful men who, in 2016, wouldn't necessarily have lost their jobs over sexual harassment charges have lost their jobs.

    And I think that this is going to be part of an overall, as we're talking about how much have things changed in this country on the issue of sexual harassment, the president's name is going to be brought in there.

    And if Roy Moore wins, the connection between a president accused of sexual harassment supporting someone who is accused of sexual misconduct is going to be really an important discussion.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

    So — and, but, Tam, should we see this purely through a political lens, or is it that bigger MeToo conversation?

  • Tamara Keith:

    I think that what these women are saying is, you know, we — they're saying they came forward before the election, and it didn't have an effect.

    President Trump is President Trump. But they feel like the conversation is in a different place now than it was in the fall of 2016. There are people like Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer who have lost their jobs.

    And that's why they're coming forward again, to try to keep this conversation going, because they feel frustrated by the fact that they were just sort of passed over.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that came through at their news conference.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes.

  • Amy Walter:

    Absolutely.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, we thank you.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Politics Monday.

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