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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on Beto O’Rourke’s campaign kickoff

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report talk to Judy Woodruff about the week in politics, including Beto O’Rourke’s entrance into the 2020 Democratic presidential field, candidate discussions of “process” issues on the campaign trail and poll numbers reflecting how Americans feel about the Mueller investigation.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that brings us to Politics Monday.

    I'm joined by our regular duo Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and host of "Politics With Amy Walter" on WNYC Radio, and Tamara Keith of NPR. She co-hosts the NPR podcast.

    Hello to both of you.

  • Amy Walter:

    Hello.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Hello.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, it's Beto time. He was out, Tam, on the trail, as we just saw, raising $6.1 million in the first 21 — 24 hours.

    Has that become the new measurement as to whether you are going to make it as a candidate or not?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, it definitely is a way of sending an early signal about your strength and your potential grassroots energy.

    And what Beto O'Rourke did that was pretty smart is, he didn't announce that on Saturday or Sunday. He announced it on Monday, which is when people are paying more attention to the news, so he got a bigger, better news cycle.

    And what he showed over the weekend — I mean, he had some stumbles, and we can talk about those, but the stumbles were also part of his somewhat remarkable ability to get attention, in a way that some of the other candidates haven't been able to.

    He did this when he was running for Senate in Texas. He is able, somehow, to get people to pay attention to what he's doing and talk about him, even back when he was just like on his weird vision quest when he was driving across America and blogging between the campaign.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Between the campaign.

    What does he…

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes. People are wondering, right, is the phenom that we saw in 2018, can he recreate that?

    And one of the phenomenal things he did in 2018 was, he raised $80 million. That is…

  • Tamara Keith:

    For a Senate race in Texas.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    For a Senate race.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Amy Walter:

    In Texas. It's just an unbelievable amount.

    So, to have $6.1 million, what he's definitely saying, as Tam pointed out, is, look, it's still there. It didn't go away because I left Texas or I left the Senate race. I still have this core group of people who support me and are willing to write me these checks. And you all better get ready for more of this potentially to come.

    The thing that is really going to be tested in these next few weeks is his durability on the trail. He was tested in Texas. He ran against Ted Cruz. There was a lot of national attention there. That's very different than running for president of the United States.

    In some ways, this reminds me a little bit about the Obama — when he first — the Obama campaign when he first started his campaign. The same criticisms being leveled were — questions being leveled at Beto came to Obama. He doesn't really have much experience. Obama won his Senate race. Beto totally lost it.

    But that was the only experience that both had had. They don't have real depth of experience legislatively. Can they last in a field that has a lot of really experienced people?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Obama overcame those questions.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, as you say, there are a number of them.

    And, Tam, you mentioned some missteps. He made a comment about his wife and children that didn't go over so well in some quarters.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes.

    He made this joke a few times, and then realized maybe he should stop making this joke. It was something to the effect of, I help my wife sometimes while she is raising the children.

    And one of the questions that female candidates get a lot is, how do you do it? How are you going to do this? What about your kids?

    And Beto O'Rourke has young children. And he acknowledged over the weekend that maybe that joke isn't the best joke. And he also at another point talked about being someone who has white privilege.

    So it seemed in some ways to be sort of the education of Beto O'Rourke over the course of a few days of the campaign.

  • Amy Walter:

    It also shows the limit too of getting everything through very quick Twitter headlines.

    If you watch the entirety of that town hall, about one second after he says that about his wife, he says: And I miss my kids terribly, and I sure wish I could be with them, but this is really important. And so many of us wish we could be with our kids, but we know that this journey to be president is so much more important.

    The other thing I wanted to point out about Beto and where he is this week, it's not just that he was an Iowa, but he's going to three very important states. They don't have early primaries, but they were critical in the 2016 general election, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania.

    Every Democrat going back to 1992 won those states, but for Hillary Clinton. Those states are the ones Democrats want to get back into their column.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And getting attention from the media and everybody else by going there.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Right.

    And candidates like Amy Klobuchar, some others have also made these trips to the Upper Midwest to these to — the — they have gone to visit the formerly blue wall.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right. Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, and then just quickly, the other thing he and Pete Buttigieg and some of the other candidates, talking about the Supreme Court.

    It's interesting some of the subjects, Tam, that the candidates are already addressing.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Electoral College, the Supreme Court, whether it's packed, which it's been moving in that direction under President Trump.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Right.

    And also add to that they're also talking, some of them, about the filibuster in the Senate, the legislative filibuster, and whether that is something that, as president, they would encourage doing away with, if they could get Medicare for all or some of these other more progressive policies that Democrats are campaigning on, but that there's no way it would get through if the legislative filibuster is still in place.

    The candidates are pretty mixed on how they feel about that, though.

  • Amy Walter:

    Which I think is going to be pretty consistent throughout the campaign about how far you want to go on a lot of these issues.

    Process isn't usually something we talk about a lot on the campaign trail. Candidates don't talk about process a lot. But after the last eight years, between the fights over the Supreme Court, the popular vote going the opposite way of the electoral vote, and, of course, the reality in 2018 that, even when Democrats have a great year, they still aren't winning control of the Senate, makes those issues more important.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Just quickly, a polling question I want to ask Amy and then Tam about.

    And that is this Suffolk/USA Today poll showing — 50 percent answered said they agree with President Trump that the Mueller investigation has been a witch-hunt.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Amy, you look at polls all the time. What do you make of this?

  • Amy Walter:

    You know, not surprisingly, if you look underneath those numbers, overwhelming majority of Democrats say they don't think it's a witch-hunt. Overwhelming majority of Republicans think it is a witch-hunt. And independents are somewhat divided.

    The number of that I thought was fascinating, though, in that poll is, it asked a whole bunch of questions about the president, about this process, of Russia. And while Democrats overwhelmingly think that the president is not telling the truth about collusion, overwhelmingly think that the House Democrats should be investigating him, only 53 percent think that he should be impeached.

    So there is some, like, natural braking going on, on the part of Democrats. And that's interesting.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just quickly, Tam, no question the White House is going to be talking about this.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Oh, absolutely.

    And they have been talking about the investigation, calling it a witch-hunt repeatedly for months and months and months. And, meanwhile, on the other side, Robert Mueller, we have not heard his voice at all the entire time. He's not out there advocating for his investigation, aside from the legal filings in the cases.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But we wait. We wait.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Oh, we went.

  • Amy Walter:

    As we have.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, thank you both, Politics Monday.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

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