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NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Lisa Desjardins to discuss the latest political news, including immigration measures in the Biden budget plan, the spread of COVID-19 misinformation and how it affects vaccination efforts, and voter polling for 2022.
As we begin another busy week in Washington, Lisa Desjardins checks in with our Politics Monday team about the political calculations around immigration, vaccine misinformation and even polling accuracy.
Judy, for all of that, we turn, as always, to Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.
Ladies, our first in person reunion.
Very happy to do this.
Complicated times though. High stakes.
And I want to turn to an issue that might get lost, but is part of this large budget reconciliation package Democrats are talking about, immigration. Democrats are talking about attaching immigration reform to that. They don't know the details yet. They are working it out.
But, Tam, I want to go to you. How does the Biden administration handle this idea of perhaps adding some legal status, pushing for that for some undocumented illegal residents, at the same time as we see on the border, more and more undocumented immigrants entering and Republicans criticizing him?
In June, 188,000 people were apprehended on the Southwest border. That is a 21-year record. So the numbers are very problematic for the Biden administration. And polling reflects that.
But in terms of the reconciliation bill, the budget bill, what happened is, a federal judge in Texas said that DACA, the dreamer program that was put in place during the Biden administration, that…
The Obama administration.
Oh, yes, sorry, the Obama/Biden administration.
That program needs to pause and may get thrown out.
And so President Biden in his statement saying that they would appeal. Also, they don't have a lot of options left. And so he said, yes, Congress should do something. Well, Congress has been trying to do something for 20 years. So, then he adds they should put it in the reconciliation bill.
Well, today, he was asked about it, and he essentially said — and it's true — well, whether it can actually be put into that bill or not depends on whether the Senate parliamentarian deems that this is related enough to the budget.
And the same thing happened with the minimum wage. In a way, President Biden is essentially saying, Congress, please do something. But he isn't putting a lot of his personal political capital into it.
Amy, the politics here?
Yes, the politics are very interesting.
And you are right. The administration is in a very tough place. They are not only trying to move beyond Donald Trump, the President Trump administration, their policies and their positioning on immigration, right, which they argue was too harsh.
At the same time, their advocates, especially on the left, are pushing the administration to go farther than Barack Obama did, right? They want to see a very different kind of Democratic administration handling immigration. Remember, there was a lot of criticism of the Obama administration and what they thought were too — was too punitive on immigration.
So, as Tam pointed out, you have this big reconciliation bill. You have a lot of pent-up demand. It has been since 2009 since Democrats have had full control of Congress. There is a lot of stuff they are going to try to put on the train. The train is leaving the station.
This is their shot to put it on.
But, as you know better than anybody, the person who decides what baggage can get on is somebody who is not elected…
… who is the parliamentarian. And that is going to be a little more complicated.
I know they are having talks about it now.
I think this is not the last time you will be talking about that issue.
Another quandary for the Biden administration, of course, is vaccine and vaccine hesitancy. It's a real issue right now in this country.
President Biden had to walk back something he said about misinformation. He said Facebook is killing us. He walked that back today. He said he meant people on Facebook spreading misinformation is a problem.
Tam, what is the Biden administration doing here? And is it working?
So, they have keyed in on a message in the last few days that this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.
Now, part of that is to try to convince people to get vaccinated. But part of it also seems to be a distancing, as if they have tried all of the things, and they are will keep trying all of the things that they can to get people vaccinated, but there is this large well of hesitancy or resistance or whatever you want to call it.
And they are quite frustrated with the misinformation that is at cross-purposes with this effort that they are trying to do.
Just one little thing. July 4, the president had a goal, 70 percent of American adults would have their first vaccine shot. They are at 68 percent. It's been two weeks since July 4. It is — vaccination rates are stagnating. And you talk to people trying to get folks vaccinated, hospital directors and others, and they constantly reference things that people tell them that they learned on Facebook.
How is Biden using the bully pulpit?
Well, that's the thing. He is trying to use it to sort of shame, not necessarily the unvaccinated, although there is a little piece of that, but also to shame the — Facebook and other social media companies to basically take people off more quickly who are spreading misinformation, to basically say, you all should be doing more to police misinformation.
But I think the reality is, we have hit a plateau, and a big piece of it is, there are very complicated reasons why people may not want to take a vaccine. It is not simply about politics. It is not simply about conspiracy theories or misinformation. There are a lot of folks who do honestly feel like, I don't really know what's in this, and I don't want to try it.
In about a minute or so that we have left, there was a new report out in the last day about polling in the last election. Guess what? It didn't go so well.
The report found really this was some of the worst results in terms of what the actual election told us in decades.
And, in fact, overall, nationally, polls were off by four points in terms of underestimating former President Trump.
Amy, what do we know about what happened, and what can pollsters do to fix it, if anything?
Well, the short answer from pollsters was, we don't really know how to fix this.
But the one thing we know that happened in 2020 was, we had a record turnout. And when you have record turnout, it means a whole bunch of people are coming in to the system who may never have voted before, or maybe voted 20 years ago, this is the first time they voted in a long, long time. That adds a lot of uncertainty.
And so, even though the samples that the pollsters were getting on paper looked great, they looked accurate, the kinds of people who fit into those demographic categories were actually different, because many of them were very new to the process. So, we were making assumptions about voters based on how past voters had voted, but these were new voters.
The other thing, very quickly, is, the two toughest times for polling also happened to coincide with the two times that President Trump was on the ballot. So, the question we're all watching for is, what happens when he's not on the ballot? And, in 2018, the polls were really good. 2017, the polls were good.
Let's see about 2022.
Quick reminder. How long until the congressional midterms?
Either 16 months or we're already there. I don't know.
We're always already there.
You all make it engaging every time.
Thank you so much, Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, Cook Political Report.
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