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Susan Page and Stuart Rothenberg on Trump’s core supporters, GOP’s immigration options

As the immigration crisis continues, recent polling finds Republican support for President Trump is as strong as ever. Susan Page of USA Today and Stuart Rothenberg of Inside Elections join Judy Woodruff to discuss what’s behind those numbers, plus the chance that Congress will pass an immigration bill, and outbursts of public anger against members of the Trump administration.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As the immigration crisis continues, recent polling finds Republican support for President Trump is as strong as ever.

    It's Politics Monday, and Susan Page of USA Today and Stuart Rothenberg of Inside Elections are here.

    Welcome to you both. It is Politics Monday.

    Susan, polling in just a moment, but first this whole debate about immigration continues to rage, the president doubling down on his zero tolerance policy.

    Yes, he backed off on separating children from parents, but he's talking at this point about just sending people back from the border without a legal procedure and other very tough steps.

    What does this portend, as Congress prepared to figure out whether it's going to support one direction or another?

  • Susan Page:

    Well, we know Congress is going to debate what to do, but we are pretty certain Congress will not decide to do anything.

    We think we will have a vote tomorrow or the next day in the House. Unlikely that they get anything through. Impossible that something gets through the House, the Senate and signed by the president.

    So this is an issue we're going to be living with this area. It may take — maybe it would take a decisive election in November to try to sort out where Americans want the country to go on this issue.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Stu, how do you see the calculus from members of Congress. We talked to Leonard Lance, a moderate Republican, a little bit earlier in the program.

    He said he's for the so-called compromise bill, but then he's not for this notion of permanently — allowing children and families to be permanently detained.

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    Well, for Republicans, they're between a rock and a hard place, because they want to be loyal to the president. They know their voters are supporting the president.

    At the same time, many of them are in swing districts and they understand that certain sorts of voters, particularly suburban voters, suburban women, are concerned about the issue.

    So they're trying to fudge it. I think the Democrats believe they have the upper hand on these issues. And they're going to press them.

    Let me just add one thing, Judy. This is classic Donald Trump. He doesn't care about process. He just cares about the outcome. He doesn't want judges and juries. And he doesn't care about the rules. We have too many laws. Let's just take them and get rid of them.

    And that is a problem for many voters who dislike the president, and it reminds them what they don't like about him.

  • Susan Page:

    But it is classic Donald Trump in another way, in that what was the first issue he talked about almost precisely three years ago today, when he came down that escalator and announced he was going to run for president?

    It was immigration. It was characterizing immigrants in the worst possible way. So we shouldn't be surprised that this is the issue to which he has returned now, as he is facing midterm elections.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we're bringing up the Democrats.

    And I can pull the Democrats into this next part of the question here, Stu, and that is new it polling showing the president's support among Republicans is higher than it has ever been, I guess. It's nearing 90 percent. In some polls, it is 90 percent. His support is up among independents.

    And some are suggesting that this is because, as opponents lambaste the president for what he is doing on immigration and other issues, his supporters are saying, wait a minute, you have gone too far. I'm going to hold to Donald Trump even more closely.

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    Two things, Judy.

    I would say, on one hand, his support among Republicans may reflect the fact that some Republicans have already left the party and they no longer I.D. as Republicans. And so they're — kind of they're out of…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Identify as Republicans.

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    They no longer identify, I.D., as Republicans, right.

    The other part is, it reflects the deep division in the country. I can only say that. For Republicans, they have doubled down in support of the president, because they think he's right in terms of public policy and ideology.

    But, also, there is a sense among Republicans that the system is frozen, and you needed someone to come in and just rip it apart. You needed someone to destroy the establishment. And so they still see him as the person who is taking on the national news media, liberals, the Democratic Party, and even the political establishment in the GOP.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How do you see this, Susan?

    Some are saying it's a phenomenon, that the angrier his opponents are, the more people who like him — or originally like him are clinging to him?

  • Susan Page:

    We have been saying the nation is polarized for years. We have gone beyond that. I don't think we have the words to describe the way people view one another on the two sides.

    It's like not only don't talk to each other. We don't listen to each other. We have such drastically different responses. But the 90 percent approval rating Monday Republicans, what a big safety net that is for Donald Trump, because, for one thing, it makes congressional Republicans very leery about challenging him on anything.

    This has been a huge advantage for him, that he has been able to hold these core supporters.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And in connection with that, and picking up, Susan, on what you are saying about this incredible division that we see right now, which gets even farther, the polls get even farther apart.

    Stu, what we have even over the last few days is people who are identified with the president are being set upon when they go out to dinner, Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of homeland security, in a restaurant in Washington.

    Over the weekend, the president's press secretary, Sarah Sanders, she was asked by the owner of a restaurant to leave.

    Maxine Waters, the Democratic congresswoman from California, was — it's noted that she was telling Democratic supporters to go out and confront people who support Donald Trump.

    And the president today tweeted, watch out what you wish for, Maxine Waters. And we're showing here part of his tweet.

    He said, this may — he said, "Be careful what you wish for."

    So, in other words, we have got — the fight, the language gets tougher, and it gets rougher.

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    Susan and have I been doing this a long time, and you have been doing it a long time, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A long time.

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    And I have been thinking back.

    And I thought back to the Clinton era, Bill Clinton. And we all thought, oh, that was — what a deep division there, because there was a cultural division, "I didn't inhale," "I didn't have sex with that woman."

    And Hillary Clinton running the health care plan. And what a deep division. Republicans really had all this anger.

    And then we had George Bush, and hanging chads, and Katrina, and Iraq, and on and on, and Obama.

    Each time, I thought it couldn't get any worse. I thought, this was it, this was the deepest split.

    And yet, every day, it seems to get worse, and there is no sign that it will change, because we will have the midterms, and then we will be in a presidential race, and it will — so, both parties will be playing to the base again.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What does it say, Susan, about our political discourse, and our ability to talk to each other?

  • Susan Page:

    I worry that we're just becoming frayed in a way that will be very hard to knit back together, because the nature of a democracy is that you come to some kind of compromise, that you may disagree with someone, but you can reach some kind of middle ground to move forward on big issues facing the country.

    And we seem to have lost the ability to do that. And I'm not sure there is a way out of that, unless voters decide they want to go in some other direction.

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    Certainly, there won't be a way out of it with this president. I think that, we can be sure of. Maybe the next president will decide that he or she — number one goal will be to bring the country together again. But that is quite — that will be quite a challenge.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, for now, you're saying compromise is just unimaginable with this president? Is that what…

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    Well, I can imagine it, but I can imagine a lot of weird things. In this case, no, it's not a realistic possibility, I'm afraid.

  • Susan Page:

    No, I don't think you can see it from now until the midterms.

    Now, let's see what happens in the midterms. If there is some decisive outcomes, if Democrats win the House and the Senate, does that lead us to more common ground maybe, or does it just mean that the two branches of government will be more at odds with each other, and investigating the White House, the way they aren't now?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We are all struggling to understand what is going on right now.

    Susan Page, Stu Rothenberg, thank you both.

  • Stu Rothenberg:

    Thanks, Judy.

  • Susan Page:

    Thank you.

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