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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on Biden’s convention performance, Trump’s RNC strategy

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest in politics, including last week’s Democratic National Convention and whether Joe Biden achieved his objectives during it and how President Trump will approach this week’s Republican National Convention in response.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now here to analyze last week's Democratic Convention and to preview what to expect from Republicans tonight and the rest of the week, our Politics Monday team, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and host of public radio's "Politics With Amy Walter." She's here in the studio with me at a safe distance.

    And joining us via Skype is Tamara Keith of NPR. She also co-hosts the "NPR Politics Podcast."

    Hello to both of hello to both of you. It is now the Republicans' turn.

    But, Tam, before we move to the Republicans, we are now, what, four days out. We have had tour days to let it sink in, settle in. What is left lingering from the Democrats' main message last week?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, and we haven't seen a lot of polling yet to see whether there was a convention bump.

    I think one question that hangs out there is, there was a lot of focus on coronavirus and tackling that. And there was a little bit less focus on the economy. So, that is one area where President Trump has more strength and where former Vice President Joe Biden tends to not poll quite as well.

    And so there are some questions remaining there. I will say that — and this is highly informal — but in my neighborhood, there is a sign — I think a lot of people have seen these signs that say "Any Functioning Adult 2020."

    And this week, the sign was replaced with a Biden campaign sign. And, you know, I think part of what this convention was all about for Biden, President Trump had put out there this idea that he wasn't a functioning adult. And Biden went out there, gave a speech that looked like an Oval Office address, had the seriousness and sobriety of an Oval Office address.

    And he proved, at least to that person in my neighborhood, that he is a functioning adult.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    He's picked up a voter, picked up a voter.

    (LAUGHTER)

    (CROSSTALK)

    So, Amy, what is your sense? Hear we are, all these days out from the Democrats.

  • Amy Walter:

    All these days out.

    And Tam is right. We haven't had any significant polling. We have had a couple of polls that came out, and I think this they suggest that Joe Biden did in some ways what he needed to do, which wasn't necessarily to increase his lead over Donald Trump. I think that is very unexpected here. He already has a pretty significant lead, especially for a challenger.

    But that he improved his image. This is the ABC/Ipsos poll that came out the other day. He improved his overall favorable rating by about five points, not a huge bump, but, to Tam's point, it's actually taking people who might have said, well, I don't like Joe Donald Trump, but I don't know about this Joe Biden guy. It sort of filled out his image.

    Now, look, Republicans argue that there wasn't a lot of specifics about policy, that this was really just all anti-Trump.

    Biden had a pretty short speech. He talked about and touched on a whole bunch of different issues. He didn't delve deeply into those. And, quite frankly, I don't think that is what the convention is really about, in the sense of deep-dive political and policy arguments, as much as it is about giving voters a sense of, who is this person, how will they govern, what are their priorities?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I think I remember you saying, Amy, a week ago as we sat here at this same table, that what Joe Biden needed to do was not hurt himself.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes. And he — exactly.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    He needed to hold onto that lead. And I hear you saying it looks like he hasn't.

  • Amy Walter:

    He did not hurt himself, exactly.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So now, Tam, let's turn to the Republicans.

    The question I ask everybody — so forgive me for asking you — but what is it that — I mean, given where Donald Trump is right now in this campaign, what does his campaign, what does he need to say, what does he need to do this week?

  • Tamara Keith:

    So, he has already given one speech to this campaign in South Carolina. It was about an hour-long. It had no narrative arc. It was a free-flowing campaign-style speech to a friendly crowd that was hooting and hollering and had all the sort of back-and-forth feedback that President Trump thrives on.

    I think that what a lot of people are looking for him to do is also, though, present his case. And I think that, in that speech today, he gave us a preview in amongst it all. He said to the delegates, think about where you were before the pandemic hit.

    And that is essentially the argument that President Trump was making, what you heard Steve Scalise say, which was, before the pandemic hit, how was your 401(k) doing, how was your life? And the president is arguing, sort of discount the coronavirus pandemic. He argues he has done a good job. The numbers indicate other things.

    But he says, discount the pandemic. Just think about how you were before. Let's make America great again again, which is what Vice President Pence said at the close of his speech at the convention.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Amy…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right, a hard sell, basically saying, forget about everything that is happening right now, and how I handled all of it, but remember before, when things were pretty good?

    So, it is a very difficult challenge for the president or any president, quite frankly, to sell that, at a time when we have 70 percent of American who think that the country is headed in the wrong direction, to say, well, eventually, we will get to a better place if you just keep me here, even though you don't like how I'm handling the current crisis.

    The next challenge then, I think, really for him, because this is a president whose never been particularly interested in broadening his base — he likes to speak to his base — is, he has got to figure out a way to chip away at what Biden did at his convention, which is improve his favorable ratings, improve the image of himself that Joe Biden — of himself Joe Biden had built.

    And so the president needs to go after that image to really make people believe that Joe Biden is not up to this challenge, not up to this job, and to motivate the people who right now may want to vote for Donald Trump, maybe didn't even vote in 2016, but he needs to give them a reason to show up.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, talk — so you are saying fill out the picture of himself, even though people have been listening — I mean, watching and listening.

  • Amy Walter:

    Oh, yes, absolutely.

    No, it's much more about taking down Joe Biden.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Biden.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, because you're right, there is very little that people don't know about Donald Trump.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Tam, is that something that we think the president is capable of doing, of taking down, or trying to take down Joe Biden?

  • Tamara Keith:

    This is something President Trump relishes doing, and, in fact, though, is something that he has been trying to do with Biden for months, though, of course, this is a much more concentrated forum for that.

    And so we will see what they come up with, how they present it. You know, every night of this convention, they are going to have people who have lived under socialist rule talking about how terrible it is, and then trying to connect those dots to Joe Biden, who is definitely not a specialist.

    But the idea, the pitch that they have been making is, OK, you know, you may be OK with Joe Biden, but — but he is just a vessel for leftist politics.

    And so that is an argument they're going to try to make.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right.

    And I just have to I say, I was listening to the president today, Amy.

    And, at one point, when the crowd was cheering, "Four more years," he said, "What about 12 more years?"

  • Amy Walter:

    Right. Make them angry. Say 12 more years.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, maybe we will hear that message.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, Politics Monday.

    Thank you both.

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