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NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including restrictive new state abortion laws and whether they align with public sentiment, evolution within the Democratic Party on education policy and Rust Belt campaign efforts by 2020 candidates.
And now that brings us to the analysis of our Politics Monday duo, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and host of "Politics With Amy Walter" on WNYC Radio, and Tamara Keith, NPR's White House correspondent and co-host of the "NPR Politics" podcast.
Hello to both of you. It is Politics Monday.
So let's start with where Amna started in her reporting, Amy, and that is with abortion. We are seeing state after states, red states, conservative-leaning states, pass restrictive laws on women's access.
Clearly, human consequences to all this, but I want to ask both of you about the political calculus. I mean, we are hearing the candidates out on the trail. We are hearing the president. What do we see developing here?
Well, what you saw before the Alabama case were Republicans on the offense saying, in states like — that were run by Democrats, New York and California, they were passing laws that were overly — what the president had called at one point infanticide, that they were supporting laws that would allow women to have abortions well into their third trimester, and arguing that Republicans were way out of the mainstream.
He was very comfortable with that line of attack. He used it a lot at his rallies. Now we go and we see a number of states who now have these six-week bans, and now Alabama, of course, the most extreme of these, which is no exceptions at all, except for the life of the woman.
But it really comes to the heart of it, Judy, when it comes to abortion politics, where most of the country is, not surprisingly, is in the middle. They don't want total access, with no restrictions, but they also do not want it to be illegal in all circumstances. And this actually hasn't changed much.
Gallup has been polling opinions about abortion since 1976, and opinions have been pretty similar, that only about 20 percent say abortion illegal in all circumstances, about 25 to 30 percent legal under any circumstance. The rest say there should be some restrictions, but they don't want to see either extreme.
And increasingly, Tam, eyes on the Supreme Court or a federal appeals court. You have more Democratic candidates now saying this is going to be a litmus test for them. They want to — they'd only nominate judges as president who would promise not to overturn Roe v. Wade.
And these laws in Alabama and other place were written expressly with the idea that they would get to the Supreme Court. Activists want these laws to be taken up by a Supreme Court that is now more favorable, they believe and hope, to their viewpoint. They're hoping either these cases, these laws or some other way will lead to the repeal of Roe vs. Wade.
So the Democratic candidates, several of them in the last several days, have come out and said, yes, we will have a litmus test, we will not pick a justice that wouldn't uphold Roe.
I interviewed Pete Buttigieg at the end of last week and asked him about a litmus test and he said that it would be absolutely clear in his interviews with nominees that they would have to agree with him on this significant issue.
It's interesting. When you talk to those who are nominated for the court, though, later, they always say there was no litmus test, but…
They always there is no litmus test.
Even President Trump, once he was in office was, like, oh, no, I didn't ask about that.
Litmus test, but it…
I think the wall has been broken now in this era with — we have broken one wall, which was the filibuster.
And now the idea of asking or just openly discussing the issue of abortion with a justice, given how intensely Democrats feel about this, but also that, by the time the new opening could happen, we may be in a very different place in where the states are on this issue.
So, another issue, Tam, that was coming up — and we just heard it there at the end with Bernie Sanders — and that is on education. He's talking about charter schools and how he would like to do away with all for-profit charter schools, no more federal funding.
It's interesting, because Cory Booker, as the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, was known to be in favor. And this was back in an earlier era, you could say. But there's an interesting divide maybe going on between some of the candidates over this.
Well, there's sort of an interesting divide between Cory Booker now and Cory Booker when he was the mayor of Newark.
He has not embraced charter schools in the same way now, as a candidate and as a senator, as he did when he was a mayor. And, in part, this is a reflection of an evolution in Democratic politics about education and their views, especially on charter schools.
And one reason for this is that a key constituency for Democrats are teachers, in particular teachers unions. They're very powerful. They're some of the remaining very powerful unions in America, and teachers unions do not like charter schools.
And, Amy, you talked last week to the head of the AFT, the American Federation of Teachers.
It was really fascinating. I said to her, to this point about Democrats, at one point, were really embracing a lot of these reforms. This was going on during the Clinton administration, Cory Booker in Newark, the Obama administration with Arne Duncan as the head of the Department of Education, really embracing reform.
And I said to her, well, in 2008, what would have happened if there were teacher strikes then? Because she was noting to me how pleased she was how many Democratic presidential candidates were tweeting out support for the L.A. teachers.
I said, would any Democrat have tweeted out support for the L.A. teachers in 2008? She said, absolutely not.
This is — there's definitely been a change. And when I talked to — I did a show about this last week, talking to a political scientist, who said, you know, what we have seen over the last 10 or 15 years is, unions were back on their back feet, even with — among Democrats.
And the bloom has sort of come off the rose in the last few years, as charters have not lived up to their promise. And, also, the teacher strikes, I think, put the focus back on teachers and the real consequences of what budget cuts mean to most schoolchildren.
So, a question about where some of these candidates are campaigning, the Rust Belt.
So, we saw Joe Biden, Tam, over the weekend in Philadelphia, a big rally, talked about the importance of unity, bringing Democrats together. Lo and behold, President Trump, late today, is headed for Pennsylvania, a different part of the state.
But it looks as if these Rust Belt states that the president won in 2016 may be up for grabs. Is that what's going on? Or we don't know?
Well, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, those three states, President Trump won by a grand total of 70,000 votes.
So they were — it was very close, very tight then. And those states are not like optional for President Trump as he runs for reelection. They are a critical part — in talking with his campaign, they're a critical part of his plan for reelection.
And so expect him to be back in those states a lot. And that's why you also have Democrats going to states that don't have early primaries to prove that they can get a big crowd in one of those states in the Upper Midwest, the Rust Belt.
And it's really fascinating where the president chose to go. So he's going to a county that he won overwhelmingly last time and where Republicans have consistently done very well. But it's right in between Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, places where Democrats, going all the way back to John Kerry, have done really well.
And I looked back at where — in the county that Wilkes-Barre is in. Obama carried it with 52 percent. Hillary Clinton carried it with — only took 39 percent. Obama won 63 percent in the county that Scranton is in. Hillary Clinton lined up 50 percent.
We talk a lot about the president — or the vice president, Vice President Biden, was in Philadelphia. There was a lot of consternation among Democrats that there wasn't enough turnout in Philadelphia in 2016. But that really wasn't the whole story.
The real story was, in smaller counties, Northeast Pennsylvania, where Democrats used to be able to do, at least, if not win, not lose by as big of a margin. Hillary Clinton lost significantly.
Donald Trump needs those people to be as committed to him in 2020.
And so what are the arguments that they need to make, that he needs to make?
He is making the arguments that he is going to continue making.
And President Trump is not mixing up his message very much. He is speaking to the base. And, really, the Trump campaign believes that the voters that were Obama-Trump voters are going to stay Trump voters, that these sort of unlikely voters will continue to support him. And polling would indicate that he's been able to hang on to his base pretty well.
Scranton is Joe Biden country.
That's right. And that's what the hope is. You don't have to win a lot of those people, but we need to hit the margins even that President Obama did, but we need to do better than — this is a Democrat making this argument — than 39 percent. Even if you just get to 45 percent, that's enough of an improvement, when it was a 20,000-vote.
And the other difference, when you look at 2018, the suburbs around Philadelphia critical, and they turned out big for Democrats.
Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you.
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