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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on government shutdown polling

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter from the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest polling on the government shutdown, which indicates that a majority of Americans blame President Trump for the stalemate, but an increasing proportion favor building his wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The first public opinion polling is out since the government shutdown began 24 days ago.

    To break it down for us and to discuss several other big developments, I'm joined by our Politics Monday duo. That's Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    Hello to you both. And happy Monday. So

    let's talk about this poll.

    We have, Tam, both The Washington Post and Quinnipiac University did some polling, wrapping up just in the last few days. And as you can see, in the Post poll, 53 percent of the public are saying the president and Republicans are to blame. Only 29 percent say the Democrats.

    In the Quinnipiac, it's 56 percent blaming the president and Republicans, 36 percent the Democrats.

    What does that say to us, if anything, about where the chips are falling after this shutdown is in its 24th day?

  • Tamara Keith:

    I think it's not entirely surprising that this is where the numbers are.

    It somewhat aligns with the way people view the president generally. And, also, it's — the president before the shutdown started said that he would be proud to shut the government down to get his border wall. He has done absolutely nothing to change that narrative.

    The only thing that is possibly working in his favor — and this is a small thing, it's a sliver — but under the hood on the Quinnipiac poll, there were a couple areas where the public opinion has shifted slightly.

    Now, the minority of people — it's still a significant minority, but more people now support building a wall along the Mexican border than did a year-and-a-half ago. It's still only 44 percent, but that's up a fair bit from a year-and-a-half ago.

    Similarly, whether they believe that undocumented immigrants contribute to crime more than American citizens, which is not true, but it was 22 percent in April of 2018, and now it's up to 29 percent.

    So the president is shifting at least a little bit, though it's a small amount, of people toward his viewpoint.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Is that contradictory, Amy?

  • Amy Walter:

    No, I think what's happening is, Republicans are shifting the most on those issues.

    But, overall, if you think about what strategies going into this debate would the president like to see happen, right, what would he like to come out of this battle over the border wall? One, that the wall would become more popular. And while there has been some shifting — that's true — and the Washington Post poll showed the same thing — it still, at best, gets about 42 percent approval rating.

    So, the wall's not really much more popular than it's ever been. You ask voters who is to blame, they blame the president. You would think that they — if you were in the White House, you want to see the blame shifted to Democrats.

    And even making the case about whether this is a crisis, so Quinnipiac also asked that question about, do you see this as a crisis? And about 45 percent of voters thought it was a crisis, but even among those who saw it as a crisis, only a third of those said building a border wall is going to fix it.

    So, if your whole strategy behind shutting the government down was to make the wall more popular, make the Democrats take the blame, and get folks concerned that there's a real crisis on the border that needs to be solved, he's done none of those things.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Though Republicans are still with us. That's basically what he's got.

  • Amy Walter:

    There's the — yes.

  • Tamara Keith:

    But that's kind of always what he's got.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right. That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, we have seen that.

    But let's talk about the other big story we're grappling with today. And that is the disclosures that the president, whether he was taking information papers away from the interpreters, questions inside our — the government about whether the president might have been working for the Russians.

    On top of everything else, Tam, what are the political repercussions of this?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes.

    So the difference between these articles coming out four months ago and these articles coming out today is now, in the House, there are committees that can act on it, can use their subpoena power to try to get this information.

    They're exploring, the Democrats are exploring how they might be able to gain access to these interpreters who were there at the meetings with Putin. Unclear whether they will make it very far.

    But this is now — the ground has shifted for the president. Now these stories come out, and he can go out on TV and stand on the lawn and shout over the helicopter and say, I had nothing to do with Russia.

    But then Democrats in Congress in the House will follow up.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right. And they have already noted as such.

    Eliot Engel, the new chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, saying, we're definitely going to hold hearings looking at the Putin-Trump relationship. Adam Schiff this weekend also tweeting, suggesting that, yes, we're going to try to get testimony from this interpreter in Helsinki.

    So we have always had three elements here. One was the news reports and leaks that had been part of the sort of milieu here for a long time about Russia and the president and the investigation. Mueller's always been there, but we don't know anything that's going on there.

    So the new thing now is Congress. And that changes some of the dynamics about this story. It makes it harder to kind of push it away by just blaming it on the fake news.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What happened in November matters. It's changing the landscape.

    So, very quickly, you mentioned tweets, Amy. The president was in the White House this weekend. There was a snowstorm in Washington. He did a lot of tweeting. I'm not going to — I wasn't going to use the term tweetstorm.

  • Tamara Keith:

    But you can.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But I could — I will say that.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But what I want to ask you about is some of the language in the president's — I mean, singling out at one point Nancy and crying Chuck can end the shutdown in five minutes.

    "If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to me by — as Pocahontas, did this commercial" — and he's referring to a commercial she did around her announcing that she's looking at running for president.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And then, finally, he talks about lying James Comey.

    He's lumping together all the stories that we're following, lying James Comey, and on and on.

    I guess we're accustomed to this — these labels, these names, but…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Amy Walter:

    What seems different now — and this, I think, started in the 2018 campaign — is that Democrats are no longer taking the bait on these.

    They don't feel any need to respond to the president doing this. You saw every candidate in the 2018 campaign focus on health care. They didn't react to the president.

    Elizabeth Warren in her opening video never mentions the president one time. She's been on the road now going to Iowa and New Hampshire, doesn't talk about the president, unless she's asked about the president. She didn't respond to this tweet.

    And what the president wants and what he's done in the past with those tweets is to engage in that battle, and then the media's focus is all about, right — it's this side. He says this. This side says that. And then we move off the bigger topics.

    (BREAK)

  • Tamara Keith:

    And it becomes a feud.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Tamara Keith:

    And if it's only one-sided, it's less of a feud.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And each one of these candidates has to calculate how they're going to deal with — the other thing that's come up late today.

    And that is the Senate majority leader, Tam, Mitch McConnell, has issued a statement, first one to come from high levels of Republicans in Congress condemning what Steve King, the Republican congressman from Iowa, who got a lot of attention last week when he had made a statement about white supremacist and, in essence, how could something like this be offensive?

    Some Republicans have made mild statements, but now to have Mitch McConnell saying this is unwelcome, unworthy, and he said anybody — if he doesn't understand why white supremacy is offensive, he should find another line of work.

  • Tamara Keith:

    And in the House, they're discussing possible censure or other ways of rebuking the statements.

    It's remarkable in some ways, because Steve King has been saying things like this for years and years and years and years. And then he would just sort of continue on. This seems a little different this time.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But Republicans haven't been — they have said it's wrong, Amy, but they haven't been full-throated in their willingness to do…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The punish him.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

    I think he was seen as sort of this fringe character for so long. Well, that's Steve King. He says these crazy things, but it doesn't matter.

    Well, now it does, because we talk a lot now about white nationalists and white supremacists. And we saw the reality of that in Charlottesville.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Exactly.

  • Amy Walter:

    And this is no longer just a kooky fringe thing. This is very, very serious and should be taken very seriously.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

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