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Shields and Brooks on Trump’s primary sweep, Clinton’s ‘woman’s card’

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including the increasing likelihood of Donald Trump as the GOP nominee, how Hillary Clinton’s is playing off one of Trump’s remarks and how Sen. Bernie Sanders can still influence the race.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Meantime, Ted Cruz grabs a key endorsement in the Hoosier State, Donald Trump addresses foreign policy, Hillary Clinton wins four of the five primaries this week.

    That is just some of the political news in a week that brings us to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks, who is in Pittsburgh tonight.

    And welcome to you both.

    So, Mark, we just saw John Yang’s report on what they’re doing in Virginia, these delegates who are hoping it’s going to go, at least some of them, to a second ballot. Where does this Republican race stand? What is the likelihood of it going past the first ballot?

  • Mark Shields

    : Judy, I think the likelihood of it going past the first ballot is less than remote at this point.

    Donald Trump had a victory this week, in the past two weeks, actually, in which he not only carried the five states. He carried every congressional district in those five states, and he carried every county in those five states, including New York. Those states have amounted to 213 delegate votes John was reporting on.

    Ted Cruz, the alternative, the establishment alternative, collected three delegates in those six states. It is — essentially, Indiana is Alamo. I think the Republicans have gone from resistance to — from maybe rebellion to a sense of resignation. And, in short order, we will see revisionism. People will start to — Republicans will start to discover virtues in Donald Trump that they hadn’t seen before.

    Victory will do that.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : David, where do you see this race?

  • David Brooks

    : Pretty much the same way.

    Maybe there were small neighborhoods or districts or townships where Cruz won, but, yes, it was a convincing win for Donald Trump. And if he doesn’t hit the majority number, he’s going to be close enough, so it will be super hard to deny.

    And one of the things we have seen in focus groups among Republican voters, even those rank and file who support Cruz or Kasich, they don’t really like the idea that if Trump comes so close, that their man would be superseded over him. And there is not much willpower among the Republicans, either at the elite or the mass level, to deny Trump if he’s close, which it looks almost certain like he’s going to be close.

    The second thing that has happened is not only Trump is strong, but Cruz looks a lot weaker. And flailing about with Carly Fiorina and the alleged Kasich deal, that looks like the acts of a drowning man. And so just in terms of the moral rigor, the motivation force, the morale, Cruz is collapsing, and Trump is surging.

    So, I agree with Mark.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Drowning man?

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Yes, go ahead.

  • Mark Shields

    : Yes, just one thing with David’s point, and that is, Bill Cohen, who was a United States senator, won three elections, never lost an election, for city council, mayor of Bangor, the House of Representatives, had a very simple formula that he — he said, I don’t care how great your ideas are, how brilliantly you articulate them. Before people vote for you, they have to like you.

    And what people — we have learned is that people don’t like Ted Cruz. And I think you saw an example of it in John Boehner, the former speaker of the House.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Ouch.

  • Mark Shields

    : Ouch — is coming out in just — at Stanford University, and saying what a miserable SOB. Never met a more miserable sob.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lucifer in the flesh.

  • Mark Shields

    : And Lucifer in the flesh.

    And I just think that there isn’t. And what you saw was Ted Cruz got 10 percent of the voted in Rhode Island, 12 percent in Connecticut. Those are wipeout numbers. And then he compounded the problem by going into Indiana, where basketball is king, and talking about the ring.

    Now, you can call a basket a hoop, but nobody calls it a ring. It’s comparable, Judy, to someone going to Cooperstown, New York, to the Baseball Hall of Fame and saying, I love Babe Ruth because he hit so many touchdowns.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Mark Shields

    : And I just — I think it — you could almost feel it end at that point.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : David, you think the ring comment — let me ask you about the governor of Indiana, Mike Pence. He came out and today and said he’s voting for Ted Cruz. Now, he did compliment Donald Trump at length before he said he’s voting for Cruz. What did you make of that?

  • David Brooks

    : Yes, that set new levels of lukewarmness.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • David Brooks

    : So he’s sort of for Cruz, maybe, if you hold a gun to my head. But, yes, it wasn’t the sort of ringing thing that’s going to turn the momentum.

    And, yes, I agree with Mark. Cruz had a bad week. The ring thing. The Lucifer comment really resonated with a lot of people. I thought it was a nicely understated, generous comment.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • David Brooks:

    But, yes, it’s funny. When you go up to Capitol Hill. And I was up there two weeks ago. The senators, they still think — one of them told me Cruz has more fascistic tendencies than Trump. So, that level of unpopularity is undermining Cruz.

    And Wisconsin, where he did so well, turns out to be the outlier. That was the freakish case where he had all the talk radio people, he had everybody on his side. And that looked like the breakout moment, but it turns out to have just been a parenthesis.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : So, if that’s the case, Mark, does this mean that the Republican Party is coming around, Republican voters are coming around to Donald Trump?

  • Mark Shields

    : Yes.

    And I’m surprised, as David wrote about today, the lack of resistance. There is a sense almost of — that Donald Trump has tapped into something, and I, as a Republican candidate in 2016, sharing the ballot with him, either running for Congress or the Senate, don’t want to risk alienating. I know what a problem Donald Trump can be. He’s controversial. He’s a lightning rod. But he has tapped into something. And I don’t want to alienate his voters.

    That’s what it seems. It’s almost like they’re bargaining, even though it’s with alarm in many cases, certainly with apprehension in virtually every case.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : What is going on, in your mind, David? And if you can talk about it — you’re in Pittsburgh. You said — you told us you’re talking to some Republican voters there. What are you finding out?

  • David Brooks

    : Well, a lot of things I’m finding out are related to why poverty is so endemic even among the white working class and what is going on with drug use.

    But with Trump, I guess what I find out is a lot of economic resistance. And I regard Trump as a sui generis candidate, as a candidate who said a whole series of appalling things. And at least the people I spoke to in the last day, they don’t see him as sui generis. It’s like, yes, he said some bad things, he said some good things. To them, he’s just a normal candidate.

    And that’s true for some of them who are supporting Cruz, by the way. And so they don’t see him something as outside the category of normal politics. And the politicians, to fight a strong force against someone as compelling or aggressive as Donald Trump, you have to believe in your cause. You have to believe in what your belief system is. You have to believe in your standards.

    And Republican self-confidence has collapsed. And so what’s striking to me is, they are disgusted personally. They feel he’s going to be disastrous for the party in the long term, but, for some reason, they’re incapable thinking in long-term reasoning.

    And the argument I made in my column today was that this is a Joe McCarthy moment. For 20 years after, you are going to be remembered for where you stood at this moment. And Republicans should be saying I’m — even if it’s out of self-interest, I will not be on the side of that guy. I will register my disgust with that guy, so 20 years from now, my grandchildren will be able to say, he was on the right side.

    But so few are doing that.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Well, Mark, we know a lot of Republicans are happy with the way Donald Trump is going after Hillary Clinton.

    But he made a statement this week I think that got a lot of notice, where he said the only thing she has got is the woman’s card. And he said if she were a man, she would be getting just 5 percent of the vote.

    Is this something Donald Trump needs to be careful about, or is this an effective line of argument for him?

  • Mark Shields

    : I find it hard to believe it’s an effective line of argument for him, Judy.

    He has got 69 to 16 unfavorable rating among women of both parties, so he’s got a real problem running against Hillary Clinton. He’s now in the Wall Street — Washington Post/ABC News poll, he’s running 70 percent behind her among white women.

    Why do I say white women? Because every Republican — Ronald Reagan carried white women twice. Mitt Romney carried white women by 12 percent over Barack Obama. John McCain carried white women over Barack Obama. George W. Bush carried white women twice.

    And so this is a real problem. I have to think at some level, because Donald Trump, whatever else he is, is not an unintelligent man, and he’s shrewd — and he’s certainly been shrewd to win this — that it must be some subliminal message he’s trying to communicate, that she’s a woman, she’s not strong, she doesn’t have the stamina.

    He’s kind of talked about it. That’s all I can think of, because I don’t think that there is a constituency out there that says, my goodness — obviously, there are people who don’t want Hillary Clinton and some people don’t want a woman, but I don’t see that as a majority in the country.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Well, Hillary Clinton, David, has not completely locked up the Democratic nomination yet, but she is clearly well on her way.

    Is he handling this the right way? She’s already indicating — I mean, her campaign is indicating this is something they are prepared to go to fight out with Trump all the way through to November.

  • David Brooks

    : Yes, this is a home run for them.

    They have printed out these little women’s cards, things to signify they’re — how they are going to stand up to this.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Right.

  • David Brooks

    : And it’s a total winner for them among suburban swing voter women. It’s a total winner.

    I think, for Trump, it’s not subliminal. It’s just unconscious. His attitudes toward women have been entirely consistent for most of his life, and this is an outgrowth of that. His desire to build a coalition of resentments, whether it’s ethnic resentments or class resentments or any other kind of resentments, it’s his mode.

    And so resentments for men who feel that strong women somehow are displacing them in society, that’s something he’s going to play to, whether it helps him or not, because that’s his sincere moment.

    Clinton is getting ready and sort of mobilizing, and all this plays nicely into her hands.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : And, meanwhile, Mark, Bernie Sanders is still there. He’s still campaigning. He did lay off some of his campaign workers this week.

    But he’s now talking more about what is in the party the so-called platform. What does that mean? What is it that Bernie Sanders is going to end up, do you think, getting from this campaign?

  • Mark Shields

    : Well, I think, if you’re not going to win the prize, then you — and especially if you’re a movement candidate — and Bernie Sanders is very much a movement candidate — you fight for the soul of the party, is what you — you lower your — change your target. I won’t say lower it.

    So, you do that by fighting. There has to be a fight. In other words, you don’t go this far, this long, this many months with this many people engaged and committed, and then just meekly fold up your tents and leave.

    So, you go to the convention in Philadelphia, and you fight on the platform. I mean, you might lose. There will be a couple of planks. There will probably be on economic regulation, regulation of Wall Street, whatever. I don’t know exactly what they are, minimum wage.

    And Clinton will accept some, but there will probably be a fight on others, but you wanted to have stood for something.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : I know it’s early, David, but what does that mean? To win something in the platform, what can Bernie Sanders — and, again, it’s early, but what does that mean? What can he take away from that?

  • David Brooks

    : Well, he’s already got most of the planks in the ark already. She’s moved significantly in his direction on trade and on focusing on Wall Street and a series of other issues.

    I think the things that he would likely focus on are two. One is to ask her to embrace free college tuition, which has been a centerpiece of his campaign. And the millennials are a centerpiece of his campaign. I don’t know if she is going to do that, but that’s something to press for, and then something on campaign finance. He’s revolutionized the way campaigns fund themselves. And so that would be consistent.

    I would see those are the two things, and maybe to solidify her support for the $15 minimum wage. She’s sort of mushy on that one. But he’s had a big effect already, and he may just want a little — a few more pieces to add to the accomplishments and the trophies on the wall.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : All right, 20 seconds left.

    I told you both you could say something about the first woman on the coin. It was announced last week. We ran out of time last Friday.

    Mark?

  • Mark Shields

    : Yes. And you took a cheap shot at us last week, Judy.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Mark Shields

    : And I’m…

  • Judy Woodruff

    : I’m giving you a chance to either come out for it or against it.

  • Mark Shields

    : Well, I — no, I’m for Harriet Tubman. I’m also for Andrew Jackson. Andrew Jackson is getting the short end of the stick, but I want Harriet Tubman on the currency.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : One word, David.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • David Brooks

    : Jackson should go, Hamilton in, Tubman up.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff

    : All right, David Brooks, Mark Shields, thank you both.

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