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Stu Rothenberg and Susan Page on Pelosi’s impeachment comments, 2020 Democrats

Stuart Rothenberg of Inside Elections and Susan Page of USA Today join John Yang to discuss the week in politics, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent comments about not pursuing impeachment of President Trump, Democratic campaign strategy ahead of 2020, a “stumble” for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and "how liberal" Democrats are becoming.

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  • John Yang:

    And that brings us to Politics Monday.

    And with that, here's Stu Rothenberg, senior editor of Inside Elections, and Susan Page, USA Today's Washington bureau chief.

    Susan, let me start with you.

    Let me start with something that Speaker Pelosi told "The Washington Post" magazine last week, that they posted it today. She was asked whether she supported impeaching President Trump.

    She said: "Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there's something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don't think we should go down that path, because it divides the country, and he's just not worth it."

  • Susan Page:

    This is consistent with what she's been saying in the past, although it's a little blunter. It goes a step further.

    It's consistent with what Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler, two of the key Democratic committee chairmen, have been saying. But it is going to make a lot of Democrats unhappy who believe that the right thing is to move ahead with impeachment proceedings against the president.

    Nancy Pelosi, I think, is speaking from the perspective of someone who lived through the Bill Clinton impeachment, where the House was able to convict. The Senate was — the House was able to impeach. The Senate wasn't able to convict.

    And the party that bore the burden of a backlash was the party that impeached — tried to impeach the president. So I think that is the perspective. But there's — the Democrats are going to be divided on this issue.

  • John Yang:

    And members of her caucus are going to be unhappy.

  • Stuart Rothenberg:

    Right. Right. I agree, John.

    I think, basically, what she is saying is, do Democrats want to feel good or do they want to win? Many of the younger Democrats, insurgents, anti-establishment Democrats, just can't resist themselves. They really want to take on the president immediately, and impeachment is the way, the most immediate way. They just don't have any patience.

    I think the speaker has history on her side, and I think she's right.

  • Susan Page:

    But it's not — it's only a matter of being impatient.

    If you believe the president had done something impeachable, you may feel that, even if we're not going to succeed, we have an obligation to impeach him. And you could also make the point that, with Richard Nixon's impeachment, you didn't start out with a lot of Republicans in favor of that.

    It was as evidence built over time through the impeachment hearings that there was Republican and bipartisan support.

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    Yes, but, Susan, you know the Republicans in the Senate are not going to go along with the conviction.

    So, impeachment would make Democrats feel good, but I don't think it would accomplish anything.

  • John Yang:

    Susan, this morning, The Washington Post had a look inside the Trump reelection campaign. And it sounds like a lot of what he was doing in 2016, big rallies, a lot of data mining, and demonizing the opposition.

    We heard in that tape piece what the Democrats are talking about, Medicare for all, free college tuition. Are they in a way helping — by talking this debate about are you a socialist, are you a capitalist, are they playing into that in any way?

  • Susan Page:

    The Democrats are going to have to figure out what kind of coalition they think will defeat Donald Trump. And they are not in agreement on that.

    There are some Democrats, like Stacey Abrams, who came pretty close to winning a race she wasn't supposed to win for governor of Georgia, who thinks you do that by persuading and energizing your core supporters, you get young people and minorities excited about your candidacy and your bold proposals and you get them to the polls.

    But there are other Democrats who say, the way we made big inroads in the midterms last November was by swinging districts that are purple, where you have to appeal to some voters who are independent-minded or even vote Republican sometimes.

    I think this is one of the things this long primary season is going to sort out. What kind of Democrat can make the best case that they can defeat Donald Trump? Because if you — I'll tell you one thing Democrats are not divided on, and that is their fervent desire to deny Donald Trump a second term.

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    I think that's a choice Democrats don't have to make.

    I think they need swing voters and they need to turn out core voters, younger voters, 18 to 29, significant constituency that's entering the electorate now that is really strongly Democratic. Non-whites, they need to get more of those voters, but they still need to hold onto suburban voters, those swing voters and college — college — white women with a college degree.

    So I think they — I don't think they have to choose one path or the other. They need to do both.

  • John Yang:

    This is a time when the Democrats, a lot of the Democratic candidates are introducing themselves to the country.

    One of them, Kirsten Gillibrand, has had a little — or has hit a little bit of a bump. She's — one of her big issues has been dealing with sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military. And now it turns out, it's being reported by Politico, that a young woman on her staff, unhappy with how her complaints about sexual harassment and intimidation were handled, quit.

    What do you make of this, Susan?

  • Susan Page:

    We have had other Democratic candidates have problems along the same lines. Bernie Sanders has as well about his handling during his first presidential campaign about complaints of sexual harassment.

    But I think this hurts Kirsten Gillibrand more. And that's because it's been her signature issue. And for her to have responded inadequately to complaints of sexual harassment by a staffer, and moving to fire the staffer who was accused only when it was about to become public, I think, makes her look hypocritical.

    So I think it's an issue she's going to have to address in a really forthright way if she's going to get over it.

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    I agree completely, but I would add this.

    You only have one chance to make a first impression. And we know the senator. You know the senator. But most voters don't know the senator. And this could be a stumble that she could recover from easily.

    Elizabeth Warren, I think, has recovered from her Native American stumble, at least partially. Or else this could sink Gillibrand's campaign. We will see.

  • John Yang:

    We have also seen some new polling out of Iowa. We're talking about the Democrats have to decide what they want.

    It's interesting that the top two candidates are Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, who are — and they're the second choice for each first choice. You can't think of some — two candidates who are more different in a lot of ways on policy issues.

  • Susan Page:

    Yes, but I would just say we're almost a year away from the Iowa caucuses. And so I don't take the lineup, the horse race questions on the Iowa poll so seriously.

    What struck me about that was the policy questions and how liberal that the Democratic coalition is. In Iowa, there was majority support for the Green New Deal, which I bet most people couldn't define, for Medicare for all, which is a really far-reaching health care proposal.

    That surprised me. And that indicated that maybe Stacey Abrams' view of things, where you want to take bold positions, that's certainly what looks like it's going to resonate in Iowa.

  • Stu Rothenberg:


    I would say Democrats know two candidates, Sanders and Biden. If you pick Sanders, then Biden is your backup choice. If you pick Biden, it's Sanders.

  • John Yang:

    Stuart Rothenberg, Susan Page, thanks so much.

  • Susan Page:

    Thank you.

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    Thanks, John.

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