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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on impeachment public opinion, Bloomberg’s 2020 campaign

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including whether two weeks of public impeachment hearings have shifted public opinion about President Trump and the investigation into his Ukraine policy, potential pressure on Republican lawmakers and the late entrance of Michael Bloomberg into the 2020 Democratic race.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Will the latest entrant to the crowded race for the Democratic presidential nomination shake up the standings, as the impeachment process marches ahead?

    Our Politics Monday duo are here to examine it all, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and host of public radio's "Politics With Amy Walter" and Tamara Keith from NPR. She co-hosts the "NPR Politics Podcast."

    Hello to both of you.

    So we have a little bit of news this evening on the impeachment, the tug of war between the president and the Congress. And that is, a federal district judge ruled the president's former legal counsel Don McGahn should, must testify before lawmakers, before the Congress.

    We assume there will be an appeal, Tam, but this could set a precedent for other White House and administration officials to be required to go testify before the Congress. We don't know. We haven't heard what the Intelligence Committee report is. We know the Judiciary Committee is next.

    But all this raises, again, the question of the public's perception of this and where do we go.

    So, Amy, to you. What are we seeing in terms of the needle moving at all in how the public is reading this?

  • Amy Walter:

    So, we have had two weeks of hearings, which produced a lot of fireworks and a lot of coverage, but it really hasn't produced a lot of movement in the polls.

    We're basically where we have been since, well, October, basically, since before these hearings began. If you go and you look, FiveThirtyEight.com has a great tracking measurement of all the polling that's been done on the issue of impeachment.

    And if you go back to the day before the public hearings began, support for impeachment was at 48 percent; 45 percent said they didn't prove approve of impeachment. Today, it's 46-46, which is essentially, in the world of numbers, very little movement to just sort of statistical around the edges.

    So what we're seeing, I think it's folks that — who are already deeply engaged, who are paying attention to this are paying attention to it because they were already sort of committed to whatever outcome they would like to see.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Tam, how much does this matter to members of the House of Representatives, who are back in their districts, presumably, this week, maybe heading toward a momentous vote?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes.

    I mean, if they are hearing about it from their constituents, then that could affect behavior. But what we saw right before they left town is someone like Will Hurd. He's a congressman, R retiring, is what I like to say, Republican retiring, has sort of the freedom of a retiring Republican.

    And he's always been sort of more moderate and also has been fairly outspoken about his concerns with President Trump. As the hearings were winding down last week, he came out. He's on the Intelligence Committee. And he said that he wasn't persuaded that this was impeachable, certainly proper, but not impeachable.

    If Will Hurd is there, then Republican Congress — members of Congress are not feeling pressure.

    Another example is Elise Stefanik, who at times has charted a more moderate course. She was closely allied with Paul Ryan, who had his issues with President Trump. Well, she became a star for the hearing for sort of pushing President Trump's viewpoint and position in those hearings.

    So these are two public examples of Republican members of Congress who are not persuaded. And if House members, if these sorts of Republicans are not tempted to vote against the president, then there's no way that senators are going to feel pressure.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Quickly, it just looks like the two sides are far — growing farther apart.

  • Amy Walter:

    Growing farther apart, or maybe they are just feeling more committed to their position or just as committed as they were before this began.

    The Republicans, though, who should be concerned, and probably are concerned right now, are in the Senate, on the Senate side, where you have Republicans up for reelection in blue states like Colorado and Maine and increasingly purple Arizona.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, we will see. And they'd come into play after the House voted on impeachment.

  • Amy Walter:

    Absolutely.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, to the 2020 Democratic race.

    We have a new entrant as of this weekend. He is none other than the former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg. And he's out with a splash, Tam, $31 million in ads across the country.

    Here's an excerpt of the first ad they're running.

  • Narrator:

    And now he's taking on him to rebuild the country and restore faith in the dream that defines us, where the wealthy will pay more in taxes and the middle class get their fair share. Everyone without health insurance can get it, and everyone who likes theirs keep it, and where jobs won't just help you get by, but get ahead.

    And on all those things, Mike Bloomberg intends to make good.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Tam, they're running that ad — that's just a short version of it — in something like 46 of the 50 states.

    We have got a map here. Every state that's yellow on that map, they're running.

  • Tamara Keith:

    That's the whole country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And spending 2-plus million in New York City alone, $1.6 million, I think, in Los Angeles alone. This is $1.9 million. I'm sorry.

    This is huge.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes.

    So, this is going to test some things, some ideas in politics. One idea in politics that emerged after President Trump won with far less money than Hillary Clinton was, oh, well, maybe money doesn't matter.

    I guess we will find out whether money matters, because he is in the process of trying to buy some love and attention.

    The other question, though, is, traditionally, you can't skip the first few states and think that you're going to somehow have momentum after that. Ronna McDaniel, who is the chair of the RNC, the other day was saying that people who plant their flag in states after those first few states often find that momentum overtakes them.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    He's counting, Amy, on money overcoming a lot of this.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

    He's counting on a couple of things. It's really good that you pointed out Donald Trump, because he also went against conventional thinking, because even in the primaries, he didn't spend that much money. He was counting on his name I.D. and his ability to dominate the media landscape, right?

    Every minute of every day, he was being covered by cable news. And he took up all the political oxygen. And all the traditional ways of campaigning, go and organize, host these meet-and-greets with voters, it didn't matter.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It was called free media, is what we call it.

  • Amy Walter:

    It was all — he just sucked all of that up.

    Now, if you're Michael Bloomberg, it's a little bit different. Obviously, you're not getting free media. You're paying for it, and the theory being, if you spend an amount of money like we have never seen before, ever seen before in American politics, that, by the time that we hit…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You can repeat that again.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Amy Walter:

    That we have never seen before in American politics.

    By the time we hit post-South Carolina, so the very beginning of March, the theory being the process has so just sort of obliterated the field, right, nobody's really a front-runner, everybody has all of this baggage, and they can turn to somebody who's just been on their airwaves and on their smartphones for the last couple of months telling them how great he is.

    Oh, all these other candidates look bad, say Democrats, they have gotten beaten up? Why don't we turn to Michael Bloomberg?

    That's his theory. It's a big, big gamble, but that's what he's counting on happening.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But is there any history of somebody coming in late and making it work?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Not in this particular way.

  • Amy Walter:

    Not in modern history.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Not since we have had these early primaries.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right. Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Ah, $31 million in one week, and there are a couple of weeks to go, a couple of months to go before we get to the post-early primaries.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will watch.

    Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both.

  • Amy Walter:

    Thank you.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

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