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November 14, 2019

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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on Booker’s background, Biden’s launch

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest news in politics, including an interview with 2020 candidate Sen. Cory Booker, current poll numbers, Joe Biden’s entrance into the presidential race and how Democrats on the campaign trail are characterizing strong economic numbers.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And with that, let's bring in the analysis of our regular Politics Monday duo, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and host of "Politics With Amy Walter" on WNYC Radio, and Tamara Keith, White House correspondent for NPR and co-host of the "NPR Politics" podcast.

    Hello to both of you. It's Politics Monday.

    You have just heard from one of the 20 candidates for the Democratic nomination.

    Amy, what are you — what's your reaction to what the Cory Booker is saying?

  • Amy Walter:

    Cory Booker, it's really fascinating, because he talked a lot in that interview with you about his time as a mayor and his time as an executive.

    But, of course, now he's a senator. And there's another young mayor who's getting a whole lot of attention named Pete Buttigieg, right?

    And there are some times when I wonder how much it would be better sometimes for Cory Booker actually to be running as Mayor Booker when he was the mayor of Newark, than as Senator Booker.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    An outsider.

  • Amy Walter:

    Being more of an outsider, exactly.

    And he's no longer the shiny young mayor of this city that he talks a lot about the success he's had there, but there's also been a lot of criticism, a lot of it from the left, on how he governed and who he chose to partner with while he was an executive there, namely folks from Silicon Valley or finance, folks in the charter school movement.

    So he is — in many ways has a similar path to what Pete Buttigieg has had, but he doesn't have the shine that Pete Buttigieg did, in part because he's now part of Washington, and also because of all the time that the criticism has had to build up for his record as a mayor.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What do you make of his message?

  • Tamara Keith:

    One thing that stood out is that he is, I think, trying to draw a contrast between himself and some of the other candidates, namely Joe Biden, by not going after President Trump in quite the same way.

    You know, he talked about some people want to fight fire with fire. I don't think we need to do that in this campaign.

    He has definitely chosen a different path, which is to be sort of a calming presence on the campaign trail, someone who — you know, his campaign launch video had the drummers and it was all about, you know, America can be this great place where we come together and we have civic grace.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we watch him, and we're, of course — you know, we hate to come around to it, but we look at the polls. There are some out there about the candidates. Cory Booker is running — sharing seventh place. You don't even see him on these numbers we're putting up here from The Washington Post and ABC, Amy.

    But, actually, that's better than about a dozen of the other Democrats. And what's interesting here is that, yes, Joe Biden is at 13 percent, but no opinion, 47 percent.

    Joe Biden just rolled out. And, granted, this poll was wrapping up as he was announcing, but what does that say about what Democrats want?

  • Amy Walter:

    One really important things to know about this poll, especially when you're comparing it to other polls, they asked you — it's an open, so-called open-ended question, where they ask, who would you support for president? And then you have to put forward a name?

    They're not reading a list of names for you to say, oh, yes, I have heard of this person, I will support that person. So this is really literally for people who have enough knowledge about the field and who's running and it gives an indication of where they are.

    But that also says to you, for somebody like Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders, who do have almost 100 percent name identification, they're not rolling off the top of people's tongues as, of course I want this person to serve as president.

    It is amazing to me, too, to think this field could still be growing. I know. I can't believe it either.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes.

  • Amy Walter:

    But there are still a number of other high-profile or at least high-level officials, Democratic officials, senators and governors, thinking about jumping in.

    So those two candidates, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, not really scaring anybody out of this race.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But Biden is in the race now, Tam. And are we getting an overwhelming sense of why he's running? Is his message coming through?

  • Tamara Keith:

    He gave a speech today in Pittsburgh. And he did have three pillars to why he was running.

    The three pillars — and I'm going to get the words wrong here. And, hopefully, I will remember all three. But the three pillars were basically taking on President Trump and, you know, returning America's reputation.

    The second was an economic message about rebuilding America's backbone. And the third was about bringing Americans together. So he came out. He had a stump speech. You know, the thing about Biden, he got into the race late compared to some of the other candidates, but he came out with a fully fledged campaign.

    He is immediately acting like a front-runner, in that he has a large staff and he had this big fund-raising push, and he's coming out, you know, acting like a man running for president.

    At the same time, he's also continued to have to deal with questions, including about Anita Hill and how he handled that hearing all these years ago. And this is not going to be the last of times that Joe Biden is going to have to answer questions about things that happened, you know, before some voters were ever born.

  • Amy Walter:

    There was something about that speech today, too, in Pittsburgh. There was a nostalgia there for a time when Biden was first running.

    But also it sort of sounded like a Donald Trump speech in some ways, obviously very different, two very different people, but the focus on the backbone of America, America's middle class, the backbone of America here in Pennsylvania, with these laborers and union members. These are the people…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And getting a union endorsement.

  • Amy Walter:

    Getting the union endorsement, basically going after those very people who have been defecting from the Democratic Party, not just to Donald Trump, but over the last 10 or 15 years have been moving more to the Republican side.

    But Donald Trump really captured a lot of those types of voters who felt like they had been left behind by the new economy and the Democratic Party that was obsessed with Silicon Valley and the coasts and not with them.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just quickly, speaking of the economy, new economy, and I asked Cory Booker about this, Tam.

    Donald Trump is — at this point, he's got a good economy going into this election. What's the Democrats' return message?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Their return message is — and you heard it in Booker's interview and you heard it from Democrats as they were speaking to union members this weekend — their message is, the numbers may look good, but does it feel good right now?

    And the fact that Democrats are talking about a $15 minimum wage, that they're talking about child care expenses and college expenses, they're keying in — and prescription drug expenses — they're keying in on aspects of American life that middle-class people — make middle-class people feel like the economy doesn't — isn't reflected in the numbers that are really quite good.

  • Judy Woodruff:

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

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

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