Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on Biden’s agenda and Republican primaries

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter join Laura Barrón-López to discuss the latest political news, including the Democrats' race to pass the $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act before the campaign season heats up and how competitive Republican primaries are pitting candidates loyal to former President Trump up against those who voted to impeach him.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's a busy week on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail, with Democrats working to pass their $740 billion economic agenda and five states heading to the polls for primary elections.

    Laura Barrón-López brings us up to speed.

  • Laura Barrón-López:

    There are just 99 days left until the midterm elections. And Democrats are racing to pass the Inflation Reduction Act before campaign season is in full swing.

    And in competitive Republican primaries, candidates loyal to former President Donald Trump and his election lies are running up and down the ballot, in some cases challenging Republicans who voted to impeach the former president.

    Here to analyze all this and more are Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report With Amy Walter and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    Amy and Tamara, thank you for being with us today.

    Tamara, I want to start with you.

    Democratic Senator — Democratic Senator Jon Tester said that he's not sure if the Inflation Reduction Act is ultimately going to pass.

    But, Tamara, how much of an impact could this bill ultimately have in motivating Democratic voters, as well as undecideds?

  • Tamara Keith, National Public Radio:

    Right.

    He said in that interview that Judy just did that he's still reviewing the measure. But it seems pretty likely that all Democrats in the Senate are going to get on board for this, because it is such an important — it would be such an important accomplishment that Democrats can tout heading into the midterms.

    In particular, one of the problems that President Biden has had in his approval rating is that Democrats are frustrated. Particularly young progressive Democrats are frustrated that his administration and Congress, controlled by Democrats, hasn't accomplished enough.

    And this Inflation Reduction Act both has the P.R. value of literally being called the Inflation Reduction Act, when people are worried about inflation and rising costs, but also has a really big component of climate and energy-related spending that is something that President Biden campaigned on. And it's a big share of what he was asking for all along.

    That was sort of the big surprise, is that this climate element was in there. And so that — politically, that kind of thing can certainly help with the president's challenge among Democrats

  • Laura Barrón-López:

    Right.

    And, Amy, Republicans have been coming out very forcefully, trying to label this as a bill that doesn't necessarily meet the inflation concerns that are front and center for voters, like groceries and other consumer goods. So what's the Democratic response to that?

  • Amy Walter, The Cook Political Report:

    Well, look, I think Democrats have had a pretty good last couple of weeks here on Capitol Hill, or maybe we can take it out to the month, the last month or so, beyond the potential for getting this bill passed, which would really put so many of President Biden's priorities into law.

    You have also had two bipartisan pieces of legislation pass Congress and get to the president's desk for his signature on semiconductors, the so-called CHIPS Act, which is incentivizing more semiconductor manufacturing in the country, and the gun legislation.

    So it's been actually, as I said, a pretty productive time for Democrats. This is exactly, as Tamara said, something they would like to be able to talk about going into the midterms. But Republicans want to talk about the here and now and what's going to matter not in necessarily the future. A lot of these bills that we're talking about, or this one specific, talking about improvements and changes over the course of a period of time, especially when it comes to climate.

    What Republicans are going to argue is, let's talk about the here. And now in the here and now is, gas is too expensive. Food is too expensive. One party's in charge of Washington, and one party is in the White House. They're all Democrats. If you want to get things under control, you have got to put Republicans in charge and punish Democrats for just this moment that we're in. They don't seem to have a solution for the immediate term.

  • Laura Barrón-López:

    And before Republicans can talk about the here and now, they need to get through those primaries.

    And tomorrow is a big primary day, Tamara. There are five states holding elections, Kansas, Missouri, Michigan, Washington, and Arizona. And across those states, President Trump has endorsed a number of election deniers, including gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon in Michigan and Senate candidate Blake Masters in Arizona.

    Do these candidates look poised to win?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Certainly, a Trump endorsement doesn't hurt. It's not clear yet.

    In the Michigan primary, it was kind of a wide-open field, because some of the sort of leading establishment and well-known previously elected candidates were knocked off of the ballot before even getting on the ballot due to a scandal involving signature gathering.

    One other thing that I'm watching also is further down the ballot in a state like Arizona, where two of the candidates for secretary of state are election deniers. Secretary of states in primaries for secretary of state already in five states, election-denying pro-Trump candidates have gotten the Republican nomination.

    So this idea of election deniers isn't just at the top of the ticket. It is also further down in offices that could actually decide how votes are counted or which votes are counted. I mean, that might be slightly overstating the case, but the secretary of state can be a very influential position, depending on the state law.

  • Laura Barrón-López:

    Right. They control the election apparatus.

    And that brings me to, Amy, Mark Finchem in Arizona is running for secretary of state. He's a QAnon adherent. He also is an election denier. And so what is the impact on small-D democracy of these candidates running, not just right now, if they win their nominations for — their Republican nominations, but also looking forward to their general elections in 2024?

  • Amy Walter:

    Right, and 20 — right, to the 2024 election, and will they actually win a general election?

    Arizona has been ground zero in so much of the election denialism. And, of course, there was that so-called audit that something called them Cyber Ninjas initiated that dragged out the process in Arizona. No fraud was ever found. In fact, after that, so-called the audit, President Biden actually gained votes from Maricopa County.

    But, look, Arizona is also a place that is ground zero between the so-called establishment, whatever is left of the Republican establishment, and this Trump wing or election-denying wing of the Republican Party, in both the secretary of state's case. And we also have at the gubernatorial level and at the attorney general level

    You have the governor, Doug Ducey, who the president — former president doesn't like very much, because he certified the election in 2020 for Joe Biden, but Doug Ducey coming out in support of the candidates who are not taking the hard-line position. Mike Pence has also come out in the gubernatorial race for the candidate not taking the hard-line position.

    I'm spending a lot of time watching that gubernatorial race, because governors, obviously, secretary of state's important, but, in this case, one of the gubernatorial — leading gubernatorial candidates, Kari Lake, has been incredibly outspoken in her belief that this election in Arizona was stolen and rigged.

    And we're also going to be paying attention to the fact that we have three Republicans who voted to impeach the president facing their own primary challenges, one in Michigan, two in Washington state. The Washington state primary process, where it's a top two vote — that the top two vote-getters go on to the general election, probably helps to insulate those Republicans from defeat.

    But, in Michigan, freshman Congressman there Peter Meijer is in a very difficult race for his political livelihood.

  • Laura Barrón-López:

    Right. Right. There's a number of House incumbent Republicans that are facing challenges.

    Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, thank you so much for joining us for Politics Monday.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

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