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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on Biden’s win, upcoming challenges

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Amna Nawaz to discuss the latest political news, including presidential election results and how they differed from expectations, President-elect Joe Biden’s upcoming challenge in working with Republican lawmakers and whether Biden will earn trust from supporters of President Trump on the coronavirus pandemic.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    From the results of the presidential election to the beginning of the presidential transition, Amna Nawaz is here with Politics Monday.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That's right, Judy.

    What a difference a week makes.

    To talk about it all, I'm joined by Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and host of public radio's "Politics With Amy Walter," and Tamara Keith of NPR. She also co-hosts the "NPR Politics Podcast."

    Welcome to you both. It's great to see you.

    Now that you have had a moment to breathe, hopefully get some sleep. I just want to get briefly from you, both of you, your biggest takeaways from the election.

    Tam, let's start with you.

  • Tamara Keith:

    What stood out to me is that President Trump did not do as well in the suburbs, and Joe Biden really did do better in the suburbs than Hillary Clinton had.

    It was like the revenge of the suburbs, part two. That's what stood out the most. Also, a little bit surprising was that as the Trump campaign was saying they were going to do better with Latino and Black voters, and there was a lot of skepticism. Well, they did better in areas. They did better in cities. They did better in South Florida.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Amy, what about you? What is your biggest takeaway, as you're reflecting on this day?

  • Amy Walter:


    So, both parties had a theory of the case. The Trump theory all along was that, despite the fact that he didn't win the popular vote in 2016, that he failed to get a majority of the vote in key battleground states, he won those states in 2016 with a plurality, he still counted on winning by division, rather than addition, by focusing on the polarization, by talking almost exclusively to his base.

    And, as such, he came up short, that you still have to win over the folks in the middle, independent voters and swing voters, to win an election.

    On the Democratic side, what I thought was also interesting, their theory of the case was that Trump was going to be so toxic, he was going to bring everybody in the Republican Party down with him. That didn't happen. And, most specifically, it didn't happen in Maine, a state that went overwhelmingly for Joe Biden.

    But Susan Collins, longtime senator there, very well-known in that state, ran as an independent candidate, was able to outperform President Trump in Maine by about eight points.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, Amy, pick up on that point that then.

    In terms of the incoming Biden/Harris administration, the control of the Senate is still up in the air. House Democrats actually lost seats in the House. Republicans picked up some seats there.

    What does that mean for the dynamics that the Biden/Harris team will face coming into office?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, it's not what they had hoped. They really had been counting on Democrats being able to not only get control of the Senate, but increase their numbers in the House.

    So, Joe Biden becomes the first Democratic president since Grover Cleveland to come into office without having a majority in the House and Senate.

    What it's going to put a premium on is something that Joe Biden talked about a lot on the campaign trail, we will see if he can deliver, which is being a bipartisan dealmaker. This is a man who does like the act of compromise. He has spent his career in the United States Senate. He's a creature of the Senate and has a decent relationship with Mitch McConnell.

    Now, is that going to matter? Is that going to be enough at a time when we know we are still so deeply polarized, and Republicans are looking at taking control of the House in the midterm elections and expanding their margins in the Senate too?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Tam, what about that?

    Those same Republicans that Mr. Biden said he can work with and he knows and he's had relationships with, some of them are now backing President Trump's refusal to concede.

    Will they work with the President Biden?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, a vast majority of them have not acknowledged Biden as the president-elect.

    I don't know if they're ultimately going to end up working with Biden. I think it — certainly, he has that relationship with Mitch McConnell, but we just don't know what will be in their political interests, though we do know that there will be a midterm in 2022.

    And, certainly, some Republicans I have talked to, not elected Republicans, but sort of Trumpian Republicans, say that they see 2022 and 2024 as a chance to strike back and to really strike a blow for Trumpism and elect candidates that are in the mold of President Trump.

    I think a bigger challenge for Joe Biden will be that the coronavirus has gotten so polarized. Some of it is stuff that he can work on in the transition. It has become so polarized, so politicized. Is he going to be able to convince people who voted for President Trump that he deserves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to dealing with coronavirus?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Amy, what about that?

    Very briefly, before we go, clearly, the pandemic is going to be issue number one, based on the fact that the team is already talking about it. They held a briefing today. Does that sideline the rest of the Biden agenda for the time being?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, I think that has been the top of the Biden agenda from day one.

    And it was what — for people who voted for Joe Biden, they said that was their number one issue. But for — to Tam's point, a majority of those folks who are Republicans voted for Donald Trump. They — it's not simply that they didn't think coronavirus was as important of an issue, but they think a lot of it has been overblown.

    And so, again, it's one thing to say the two sides have to come together to come to a solution, and the problem is that they can't come together to solve a common problem. In this case, the two sides don't see the same problem at all.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And we know there is still great uncertainty ahead about what the pandemic's effect will be in the weeks and months to come.

    That is Politics Monday with Amy Walter and Tamara Keith. What a week it was.

    Thanks so much for joining us.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

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