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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on Biden’s win before Super Tuesday

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including the resurgence of former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign after the South Carolina primary, the exits of Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, the strength of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ base and what to look for on Super Tuesday.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that brings us to Politics Monday.

    To help us dive further into the Democratic primary, I'm joined by Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and public radio's "Politics With Amy Walter," and Tamara Keith of NPR, co-host of the "NPR Politics Podcast."

    Hello to both of you.

    It's almost here, just hours away.

    So, Amy, Joe Biden said it himself, we heard in our reporting earlier. A few days ago, the pundits were writing him off, asking why was he still in the race. Was he going to get out?

    Today, he is — they are announcing endorsements practically by the hour every few minutes.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What happened? We know South Carolina. What happened?

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

    South Carolina happened. And for the very first time in this race, the one thing that has happened which hadn't before, which is the race finally narrowing and coalescing around a candidate who has been talking about electability and his ability to be the most electable of all the candidates.

    And it's funny. As we have gone through this process, we have seen momentum become so important, because, again, electability has been on the forefront of voters' minds. And Joe Biden electability sure didn't look that set when he was losing in Iowa and Nevada and New Hampshire.

    But to come back so resoundingly in South Carolina, at a time when the rest of the voters who don't want to support Bernie Sanders, Democratic voters who don't want to support Bernie Sanders, are desperate to find someone to rally around, it was actually the perfect timing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    One state did this for Joe Biden, Tam?

  • Tamara Keith:

    And with one state, he surpassed the delegates that Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren had.

    He's right behind Bernie Sanders. Now, of course, Joe Biden hasn't had the money. He has not had the infrastructure. And so you have Bernie Sanders preparing to compete in all of these Super Tuesday states, spending a lot of money, all of this.

    And what Joe Biden has is free media. And his campaign had kind of been betting on this. And a lot of us were like, really, this is your plan?

    But — right. So they figured, if he wins big in South Carolina, that will give him a boost. People will be talking about him. Now they're keeping it going with these endorsements rolling in, trying to create this air of inevitability, like he's the one.

    There's the Bernie Sanders' lane, and then there's Joe Biden. And that's particularly important in trying to convince people who are maybe considering voting for Michael Bloomberg to say, OK, let's just consolidate this. Let's go for Joe Biden.

    Now, of course, as we also saw, a lot of people have voted already.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, but, Amy, again, Tom Steyer, dropped out, then Pete Buttigieg, and then today Amy Klobuchar.

    All their votes, do they absolutely go to Joe Biden? I mean, what happens?

  • Amy Walter:

    Absolutely not. And that's — right. We can't assume that.

    (LAUGHTER)

    But we do know that those folks, Tom Steyer aside, that, especially with Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, they're in this part of the party, or they represented a part of the party that really was focused on this electability.

    Who's a candidate that we can support who we think is going to beat Donald Trump who's not named Bernie Sanders? We're not interested in supporting somebody like Bernie Sanders.

    So that support could also go to Elizabeth Warren. So, there's not…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Who is still in the race.

  • Amy Walter:

    Who is still in the race.

    And Tam makes this point about Michael Bloomberg. And I think that's really important as we go into Super Tuesday. The biggest hurdles still for Joe Biden, the early vote that we have talked about and that Amna talked about in California, and then Michael Bloomberg.

    He is still — he's spent a ton of money. He's still on the ballot, obviously, in states like California, Texas, North Carolina that have a lot of delegates.

    And every delegate he pulls, he's pulling from Joe Biden. He does especially well or has been in the polling among African-American voters. That is obviously what got Joe Biden his success in South Carolina.

    So — but Michael Bloomberg needs to do less well than he was doing in the polls before South Carolina in order for Biden to really get the sort of coalescing that he wants to show with this endorsement by Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg.

  • Tamara Keith:

    And I think an important thing to say about polling right now is that polls are a snapshot of a moment in time, and things are changing very quickly right now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    They are.

  • Tamara Keith:

    For so long, this race felt like it wasn't moving very quickly, that there were so many candidates.

    All of a sudden, there are not so many candidates, and a poll that was done a week ago or 48 hours ago is not going to reflect the reality on the ground now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And so people — voters — you heard it in both of these reports, but with Amna especially in California, where voters who are wrestling with this, now the moment has come.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    They have to make a decision.

  • Amy Walter:

    They have been desperate for so long. They have been saying to us for so long, just tell me which candidate can beat Donald Trump.

    And, in fact, I think we got to this place where we are today because Democrats, Democratic voters, Democratic candidates who weren't named Bernie Sanders were so obsessed with this question of electability, that voters themselves got wrapped around this, right?

    How many voters did you talk to who said, I mean, I like this candidate, but can they win in Wisconsin? And do you think they will do well in enough battleground states?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Exactly.

  • Amy Walter:

    And I don't know against Trump. I saw them on the debate stage.

    And so that issue became so — it was — it became paralyzing for so many voters.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    For sure.

  • Amy Walter:

    And so they were dispersing their votes among a whole bunch of people, instead of just focusing on, here's the candidate we think is the most electable. I may not love this person, but they can win.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I was still hearing it from Virginia voters in Virginia. I was out able to talk to some of them over the weekend, Tam.

    But just quickly, on Mike Bloomberg — and I did see him Saturday morning in Virginia. Some of the rationale, if not the main rationale, for his candidacy was, Joe Biden may not make it.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And so now, with Biden having momentum, what happens?

  • Tamara Keith:

    It's a big, giant, open question.

    You know, he — Michael Bloomberg has spent more money than God. I mean, he has spent — he has spent more money certainly than Barack Obama spent in his entire 2012 reelection.

    And it's not clear yet what it's going to buy. Is he going to be like a Tom Steyer, who people seem interested in, and then the support actually melts away when it comes time to voting, or is he going to get a certain amount of support?

    Will he be viable in some states? But, like, the thing is, do you spend that much money, do you run that hard, do you — is your whole strategy, I'm going to go out on Super Tuesday and show them? Does that become — like, what if you only are just viable in a few states and you aren't winning states?

    How long can you maintain that?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And there is Bernie Sanders, Amy, who has a very loyal — and, again, I was able to see him over the weekend.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Talk about an enthusiastic crowd. Thousands were out, Springfield, Virginia. It doesn't get any…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Amy Walter:

    That's what been fascinating.

    As I said, with this focus on — so much of the field, so many of the voters focused on electability, what so many candidates were doing was running not to lose, not to lose to Donald Trump.

    Bernie Sanders I saw as the only candidate who was running to win, right? He didn't care about all these other things that people were wrapping themselves around. He has been very committed to his message, to his ideology, to his narrative throughout this campaign. It hasn't budged. It hasn't changed.

    So there is an attractiveness to that. That's what a lot of voters are attracted to. And he was able to coalesce those voters. He hasn't lost them, in the way that the ones who were focused on electability have been diverse — dispersed.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Excuse me.

    As we have been saying, Tam, he does seem — appear to be ahead in the polls in California.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Way ahead.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    He's supposed to do well in Texas.

    That's one reason Joe Biden is having this mega-event tonight with endorsements.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Mega-rally.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But he could end up doing — I mean, he could either end up cleaning up tomorrow or looking less than inevitable.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Absolutely. Those are the options. And there's some muddle in between that could happen.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In between.

  • Amy Walter:

    But one of the things that I will be looking to see is, will some of these states be more like Nevada, where he won super handily, won — he won African-American voters, he won Latino voters especially — or will some of these states be more like South Carolina, where Joe Biden was able to really consolidate the African-American support?

    The question is, Bernie Sanders has been able to expand his base well beyond what it was in 2016. Does that hold up in every state or only some of the states?

  • Amy Walter:

    Right. And Nevada, of course, was a caucus. The rest of these are primaries.

    Joe Biden, yes, did very well among African-American voters and among white voters in South Carolina, but South Carolina doesn't look even, as you well know, like North Carolina or Virginia.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Right.

  • Amy Walter:

    The African-American population that votes in South Carolina is bigger than any other state that's going to vote on Super Tuesday, maybe with the exception of Alabama.

    But the — California and Texas, the two states with the most delegates, they also have a tremendously large Latino population. That's where Bernie Sanders has also done very well, Joe Biden not so well.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Targeting those voters.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we can't wait. The voters get their say, a lot of them — what is it, a third of the delegates being chosen by tomorrow.

    (CROSSTALK)

    We can't wait.

    Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, thank you both.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome, Judy.

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