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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on 2020 Democrats’ policy proposals

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest in politics, including Sen. Warren’s campaign appearances in geographic areas that turned out for President Trump, how the candidates are balancing policy proposals with personal connections, the role of identity politics and whether Trump’s trade war with China will hurt him with voters.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that brings us to Politics Monday with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and host of "Politics With Amy Walter" on WNYC Radio, and Tamara Keith from NPR and co-host of the "NPR Politics" podcast.

    Hello to both of you. It is Politics Monday.

    Let's pick up with Elizabeth Warren.

    Tam, as we said, she's not in New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina. She went into West Virginia and Ohio, West Virginia especially, red — ruby-red country. Is that smart?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, we're talking about it, aren't we? And it certainly has helped her get on the radar more in the media in this past weekend.

    She went after that to Columbus, Ohio, which is a major media market and a major city in a state that will certainly matter in the general election in 2020. So there is strategy in going there.

    But also she has this reputation as being a candidate with the plans. And she has got a plan for this and a plan for that. Of course she has an opioid plan. But she spent a lot of time in these speeches not talking about her plans, but talking about her personal story.

    And she is known as this Harvard professor. She actually has this long personal backstory that starts where she falls in love and has kids early and has to drop out of college and work her way back through, trying to relate to an audience of voters who maybe voted for President Obama and then voted for President Trump.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So is that a strategy that can work?

  • Amy Walter:

    I think it's also the strategy, as Tam pointed out, this I'm the candidate with a plan, which is — and it's not just a plan that kind of goes around the edges. I'm the candidate that wants big, structural, major change.

    Even this opioid plan that she is proposing, this is $100 billion, a plan that passed last year overwhelmingly in Congress, signed by the president. It was about $8 billion. Right? So it is going to be bigger than anything else. And it follows also another one of her longstanding messages, which is, I'm also going to take on the rigged system by taking on the people at the very top, the people who are taking advantage of the little person.

    In this case, she's arguing the pharmaceutical companies that targeted towns like Kermit, the town that she was in, with millions and millions of these opioid drugs. They should be held accountable. And the same way, she talking about that for big banks and other big institutions that do wrong.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We hear so much in campaigns, Tam, about the candidates aren't talking enough about the issues, but they are talking about the issues.

  • Amy Walter:

    Absolutely.

  • Tamara Keith:

    They absolutely are talking about the issues.

    Now, there are still candidates where you are kind of waiting to see some of the plans.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Pete Buttigieg, you go to his Web site, there are not a laundry list of white papers yet, but he says he is working on it.

    Other candidates are sort of — the spectrum goes from Elizabeth Warren, who has a lot of very detailed plans, to other candidates, who don't have as much detail just yet.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    At this stage, voters seem to want meat on the bone. Do they?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, they're looking — they do. They say they do, right?

    But they are also kind of just taking a sense of who these people are, where they come from. Remember, they don't know a lot about these people. They have seen Joe Biden for many, many years. They have seen Bernie Sanders. But they really do not know any of these other names.

    So they all — these — the challenge for these candidates is, I have got to introduce myself and my story and tell it over and over again, as Elizabeth Warren would, that I have a story that goes just being beyond the woman with the plan or the woman that took on Wall Street.

    And — so I want to you connect with me there, but then I also have to tell you who I — what I will do, not just who I am.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And along these lines, I think, Pete Buttigieg this weekend, Tam — to both of you — was speaking to an LGBT group, the Human Rights Campaign, in Las Vegas and talked about identity politics.

    What do you think he was trying to say?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, he — it seems like he was trying to say that Republicans talk about identity politics like it is a bad thing, that identity politics is separating people.

    And he was arguing that you don't have to choose between helping people of various identities, that actually people are — have multiple identities, that you can be an autoworker and, you know, also be African-American, or you can be autoworker and gay. Like, you don't have to be just a white working-class voter in the Upper Middle West that is sort of the stereotypical idea that people have.

  • Amy Walter:

    And he also has a challenge right now, in that he is being stereotyped as being a kind of one-issue candidate.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right? He's young, he's gay, white male.

    And he's getting a great deal of support, both financially, as well as just from voter support, from the gay community. His argument there was, I can do all kinds of things. I know you look at me and you say, he is a young white, gay guy, how could he speak for me as a woman, or me as a person of color?

    What his argument is, I can do all of those things. So don't limit me — don't limit your choices on who you are going to pick, Democratic voters, just by what I look like. I understand where — that, yes, I have some privilege by being a white male, but I also want you to know that I care about your issues.

    That is the bridge that he is trying to cross, because right now if you look at how he is doing in the polls, he has definitely moved up, but really with one segment of the Democratic electorate, white, affluent voters, not doing very well at all with voters of color.

  • Tamara Keith:

    There was this remarkable poll out of South Carolina that showed him doing relatively, you know, upper — lower-mid — lower-upper tier in voters overall, zero percent among African-American voters.

    Now, this is just one poll, but he held an event in South Carolina, and you look in the crowd, and it was overwhelmingly white. And South Carolina Democratic voters are overwhelmingly African-American.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A large percentage.

    I do want to come around to the story that we are leading with tonight, Amy, and that is President Trump's — I don't think you can call it anything but brinksmanship right now when it comes to trade with China, tariffs.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We impose — the U.S. have imposed. Now the Chinese have imposed them. We are waiting to see what happens, as we heard from Greg Ip earlier.

    Politically, how does this fit?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, we keep trying to focus, will this hurt Trump with his base, especially rural voters, ag base voters. Right?

    And they — we talk to voters. I have talked to many of these folks who are farmers or live in these areas who say they have definitely felt the pinch of it. But they are not abandoning the president.

    And the challenge, I think, for the president really is, I don't think you are going to see a collapse amongst the president's base, that suddenly these tariffs mean that he is going to lose all these voters who turned out for him. They are going to stick with him.

    The challenge for this president has always been, can he reach beyond that? And where he's still alienating people are in the suburbs. These folks aren't really getting impacted day to day by what's happening to farmers, but it reinforces this image that they dislike about the president that he's sort of impulsive, that he's doing policies through tweets, and that's not really well-thought-out.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How do you see that playing politically?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, we are 18 months away from the election. And so it is a little early to know, will — today's stock market numbers were terrible and alarming for people who were looking at their retirement accounts today.

    But what will it look like in 18 months? Well, there are so many balls up in the air that he has right now with foreign policy, and it could turn out great for him and he could be campaigning on these things, or possibly not. And we just don't know. He doesn't know, though he employs the power of positive thinking.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, as we said, the markets were weigh up a few weeks ago, a few days ago, and now they are down. And we will see.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Right. As the president likes to say, we will see what happens.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And did he say that several times today. We heard him say it.

    (CROSSTALK)

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, Politics Monday.

    Thank you.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

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