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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on impeachment vote, Democrats’ December debate

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including the two articles of impeachment passed by the House Judiciary Committee, political stakes for a potential Senate trial, public opinion on impeachment, a labor dispute threatens the next Democratic debate and how many Democratic voters have already chosen a candidate.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    For Washington lawmakers, the focus right now is on the issues of government spending, trade, and, most of all, impeachment.

    But, in Pittsburgh this past weekend, many of the 2020 Democrats were spotlighting another issue: education.

    Seven presidential hopefuls made their pitches to teachers and advocates.

    Here's a sample of what the candidates said:

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.:

    We're going to make sure that every teacher in this country is adequately paid. That means at least $60,000 a year.

  • Joseph Biden:

    If you had $10 to spend and, that's all you had to spend on education, I'd spend seven of it on preschool.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.:

    All charter schools should have to meet the same requirements that all other public schools have to meet.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    This coming Thursday should see the seven of the Democratic candidates on stage together in Los Angeles for the next primary debate, which is being hosted by the "NewsHour," along with Politico.

    But a labor dispute involving the debate site, Loyola Marymount University, has raised concerns for the candidates.

    The dispute is between food service workers and Sodexo. That's a company contracted by Loyola Marymount. The union representing the workers has said that it plans to picket the debate. All seven qualifying candidates have threatened to honor the picket line and to boycott the debate unless a solution is found.

    Some discussed the controversy over the weekend.

  • Andrew Yang:

    I think it's a terrible look for the Democratic Party to have a debate, and that runs afoul of union work rules.

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:

    I don't believe we should cross the picket line. So, I would encourage the DNC to try to work this out.

    (APPLAUSE)

  • Tom Steyer:

    I believe that they are probably trying to work with all the parties to resolve this, because having these debates is critical for Americans to see the differences between candidates.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Democratic National Committee said today that chairman Tom Perez spent the weekend urging stakeholders to take part in good-faith negotiations.

    Between this week's debate and impeachment, there's plenty of political news to digest on either coast.

    And that brings us to our politics Monday duo, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and public radio's "Politics With Amy Walter," and Tamara Keith of NPR. She also co-hosts the "NPR Politics Podcast."

    Hello to both of you. It is Politics Monday.

    So, we are going to talk about the debate, but, first, let's talk about impeachment.

    Tam, as we heard Lisa Desjardins reporting earlier, a number of moderate Democrats are starting to announce, people who were considered maybe on the fence, where they are for and against. So far, most of them say, the ones who've declared, they're going to vote for impeachment.

    But where does all of this stand, and how much does it matter how many Democrats?

  • Tamara Keith:

    So, Congressman Van Drew, who is apparently on his way out the door of the Democratic Party, is a pretty decent example of what happens when you're a Democrat who decides that you're opposed to impeachment at this moment.

    And his experience is simply that the Democratic Party of New Jersey wasn't there for him anymore. And he ran into the arms of President Trump, who has been tweeting nice things about him.

    So the problem for moderate Democrats, if they vote against impeachment, is that, you know, the sort of national Democratic grassroots money that's been flowing into a lot of their races, that would dry up, and they would lose sort of the energy of their local Democratic base, which leads to what you see, which is a lot of these moderate Democrats are now coming out in favor of impeachment.

    You know, they all but — all but two of them voted to do the…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    To go ahead with the inquiry.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Tamara Keith:

    To begin the inquiry.

    And if you voted to begin the inquiry, you're going to be brushed with that brush. You are not going to avoid this fight in your general election coming up next year.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, I think that's very fair, although — so, in the — I don't know how this is going to work out necessarily in the long term, although, as I have said before, I'm very skeptical we're going to be talking about impeachment by the time we hit the summer of 2020 and that this is going to be on the minds of voters as they go into the voting booth in November 2020.

    The short-term impact, though, let's not take away the fact that Jeff Van Drew switching parties and becoming a Republican, that's a big pickup for Republicans. Now, they're still 18 seats short of the majority, but if you're looking for who won in the short-term, literally getting a seat that you didn't have a week ago is a pretty big victory.

    But I also — I know we're going to be talking about our poll as well and what that is showing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We are.

    We are, because what — in fact, we can show everybody right now that public sentiment is still less than 50 percent for impeachment.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You can see these numbers. In November, it was 47 for, 46 against. It's about the same, even a few percentage point pickups, Amy, in opposition to impeachment?

  • Amy Walter:

    I don't know if you remember this, but when we started talking about this, the number I said I was looking at was the percent of people who said that they disliked Donald Trump or they disapproved of the job he's doing and how many of those folks end up in the I support impeachment.

    In other words, could Democrats get everybody who already says, I don't really like Donald Trump and I don't like how he's performing as president to support impeachment? If so, that would be a majority.

    But as we have seen in this most recent poll, you have 52 percent of voters in this poll, of adults in this poll saying they disapprove of the job this president is doing, but only, what is it, 47 say that they support impeachment.

    So there's that. It's a small group. It's only 4 or 5 percent, but those are the folks that Democrats needed to flip, and they never were able to do that.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes.

    And the thing that stands out to me from our poll is that when we asked them a couple of months ago how likely are you to change your mind or do you think your mind is pretty well made up, they said, our minds are pretty well made up. And guess what? Their minds were pretty well made up.

  • Amy Walter:

    They were.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    They were pretty well made up.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, and we should give credit where credit is due. This is a joint venture, this poll, Marist College, "PBS NewsHour" and NPR.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Which is why I said our.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I heard you say that. And I'm glad you didn't let me get away without identifying whose poll it is.

    Now let's talk about, Amy, the debate coming up and the 2020 candidates. It is a case that there is this labor dispute. We have just reported that Tom Perez, the chair of the Democratic Party, doing all he can.

    But it is out of the hands of these candidates and the party. Clearly, all of us want this debate to take place. It's a debate being hosted by the "NewsHour," in partnership with Politico, but the candidates have made their position clear. They're not going to cross a picket line.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right. They're not.

    And for a Democratic primary, there's absolutely no way you would see — if there's any sort of labor dispute, see Democrats going against that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Amy Walter:

    What I do think, for the folks who would really benefit from having this debate — remember, it's the last debate of the year. It's the second to last one before voters start voting in Iowa.

    And for many of these senators, it's likely they're going to be stuck in Washington through this hearing, for the impeachment hearing. We don't know how long it's going to be. Maybe it won't be that long.

    But this is sort of their last, best opportunity to get in front of voters before we get into the craziness that is another impeachment trial, or talk of impeachment, and then moving into Iowa.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What have you been thinking about this, Tam? What do these candidates need to do at this point?

  • Tamara Keith:

    You know, I think what I'm looking for, what would be interesting is drawing out some of the differences on something other than health care.

    There's been so much focus on health care. And leading into this debate, there's been a lot of back and forth, mostly between Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, and mostly it has been a lot of this fight of radical transparency that we talked about last week.

    Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden have been able to sort of hang back. And the "PBS NewsHour"/Marist College poll…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Thank you.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Tamara Keith:

    … indicates that they are, in a national poll, right there at the top. They have been very stable.

    And so one question I have is, have the debates mattered that much? But here's another one. Maybe it will.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we will see.

    And, Amy, it was striking to me that, in this Marist/"PBS NewsHour"/NPR poll, 76 percent of Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents say that they still have not made up their minds which candidate.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Is that typical for this stage of a campaign?

  • Amy Walter:

    I think it reflects two things.

    One, this is — has been a very big field, and that's unusual. The second is that this issue of wanting to find the most electable candidate is really hard thing to do before people actually start voting. So what once the votes come in, in Iowa and New Hampshire and Nevada and South Carolina, Americans see those, they see who's winning, they see who's not doing so well, and then their opinions about candidates tend to follow that.

    And, traditionally, voters go with a winner, right? People tend to jump onto bandwagon. But we have also seen, in 2008, there was an assumption after Obama won Iowa that he was just going to sweep through the rest of it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And lo and behold, Hillary Clinton…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Amy Walter:

    And lo and behold — that's right — Hillary Clinton wins New Hampshire, and it was a back and forth all the way through June.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But your point is, they're — Democrats — voters struggling their way through, figuring out who's most likely to beat Donald Trump, which is what…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … in their minds, what is important.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes. When you say electability is the most important thing, but you don't know what it means to you or anybody else, then you end up with a situation with a lot of jostling.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, thank you both.

    And, as we were just discussing, the "PBS NewsHour"/Politico Democratic debate is Thursday night.

  • Joseph Biden:

    Look what's happening to the American workers. They're being stifled.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    Because we are the only major country on Earth not to guarantee health care to all people.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren:

    They want what it takes to be part of America's middle class.

  • Pete Buttigieg:

    Proposals I'm putting forward would make me the most progressive president in my lifetime.

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar:

    People are tired of the extremes in our politics.

  • Tom Steyer:

    We have a broken government in Washington, D.C.

  • Andrew Yang:

    What we need is a new voice and a new set of solutions.

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