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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on Nevada caucuses, Bloomberg’s ad blitz

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including the stakes for 2020 Democrats in the upcoming Nevada caucuses, technical concerns for tabulating caucus results after Iowa’s confusion and whether Mike Bloomberg’s advertising blitz is delivering him voter support.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that brings us to Politics Monday.

    I'm here with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and public radio's "Politics With Amy Walter." And joining us from Las Vegas, Nevada, Tamara Keith of NPR and co-host of the "NPR Politics Podcast."

    It is great to see both of you. There is so much to talk about on this Monday before Nevada.

    So, Tam, you have been out there for, what, a couple of days. Tell us what you are seeing on the ground. I know you have been spending a lot of time looking at the candidates, listening to them, but also talking to voters.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes, I have been to a couple of these early caucus sites talking to voters. People have already voted in early caucusing, and there's a real mix.

    For a while there, I felt like every single person I stopped to talk to had ranked Bernie Sanders first. Finally, today, I met some voters who have a preference for other candidates, some of them Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren.

    I have only met one voter who said he put Joe Biden at the top of the list. And there really is a sense here that this is Bernie Sanders' state to lose, and that he is not too likely to lose it.

    He invested very early in the state. He has more people on the ground than the other candidates working. And he, in particular, has put just a real emphasis on reaching Latino voters who are an important part of the electorate here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Amy, you have been talking to folks about Nevada, too.

    What are you hearing about that? What is your sense, coming out of Iowa, coming out of New Hampshire, where this race stands?

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

    So, it seems to me we're going to have two discussions about Nevada. The first is who wins, how big of a win it is, who still has momentum, who's following further behind, how many delegates. We will have that question.

    The other big debate that's happening or questions that are being raised right now are, how will the caucus actually run? Certainly, after Iowa, lots of conversations about whether or not this process is going to be more successful than Iowa, namely, the technology around it.

    Nevada was using the same app that they were using in Iowa, until the Iowa debacle happened. Now they have a new system in place.

    But, Judy, the bottom line with the caucuses, because of the new rules in place, the caucuses are now being asked to perform duties that caucuses were never designed to perform, namely, to be more transparent, to be easier to vote, to do things like early voting.

    Caucuses were designed really with — in mind for the party and the party to sort of have more control over the process. This is trying to bring a more democratic process together, but it's not really designed for that.

    It's run by volunteers. It has a spotlight on it in a way that is really overwhelming for people who are not doing this as full-time professionals.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, before I come back to you on the state of the race, Tam, let me come back to you, because you are there.

    What are folks there, Democratic officials, saying about the prospects for running smooth caucuses on Saturday?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, let me tell you what I have been seeing here in the last two days.

    So I have been to two early caucus sites, one in Las Vegas that had about a 20-minute wait for people to register their preferences. Then, today, I went out to Henderson.

    And people are waiting two or three hours in this line that snaked around the building into a ballroom, where it snaked and the ballroom. They had to set up chairs for people to sit in while they were waiting. You know, they were making light of it, having fun, saying, oh, we're going to make new friends.

    But the whole idea here was to make it easier for people to caucus, because the traditional idea of a caucus is, you have to be in a set place at a set time and dedicate as many as four hours to the caucus process.

    So, in some ways, this makes it easier, but it also makes it a lot more complicated. There are these very long waits that people are putting up with.

    And what the state party is saying is that they are doing this to make it more accessible, that, as part of that, people can go to any caucus site in the county to early caucus, so they can shop around for a shorter line. And I definitely talked to some people who were shopping around for a shorter line.

    But what we don't know is how this is all going to integrate come Saturday, when the in-person caucuses happen. They certainly have a plan for it, but, already, 26,000 people have early caucused just in the first two days. We don't know how many have caucused today yesterday. And then there's also early caucusing tomorrow.

    And then all of those preference cards have to be sorted and tabulated.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Tamara Keith:

    It's a big lift.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, complicated because of the multiday voting.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, Amy, let's talk about the state of the race coming up.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Bernie Sanders wins New Hampshire, but followed very closely behind by Pete Buttigieg.

    Where do you see the lanes that folks are in? What does it look like?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, Bernie Sanders is definitely acting as a front-runner. And, quite frankly, given his success in Iowa and New Hampshire and then the delegate totals, he is a front-runner.

    The fact that Bernie Sanders is in states like Colorado and California and North Carolina so close to the caucuses tells you everything that his campaign feels about this, which is, we feel so good about Nevada, we know we need to get a big bump going in to those Super Tuesday states, which have so many delegates. A third of the delegates are coming…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Fourteen states.

  • Amy Walter:

    Fourteen states.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Amy Walter:

    A third of the total number of delegates there.

    And the only other person who is competing at that level in the Super Tuesday states is Michael Bloomberg.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Who is getting — who is taking flak now…

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … from all the candidates, but especially, Tam, from — Mike Bloomberg, who has — who today tweeted — and I think we have a picture of this.

    It's a little — maybe it's a video. It's some pictures as well. But Mike Bloomberg is complaining, essentially, about the other candidates coming after him so hard.

    But, on top of that, as you — as we pointed out, he's not even on the ballot. And yet the stories about his past, how he ran the Bloomberg company, has moved to the forefront of this race.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Right.

    I mean, there's the sense that there's the Bernie Sanders' lane and there's the everyone else lane. And Michael Bloomberg hasn't been on the ballot in these first states, but he has been spending a lot of money. All these other candidates in the non-Bernie Sanders lane are hoping that somehow they are going to get momentum out of Nevada or out of South Carolina, and that somehow that will push them into Super Tuesday.

    And, meanwhile, Michael Bloomberg, who has not yet been on a debate stage, is, you know, blanketing the airwaves in these states and has the resources to do things that these other campaigns simply don't have.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We haven't seen anything quite like this, Amy…

  • Amy Walter:

    Ever.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … where somebody has spent 400 and, what, 20, 50 million dollars already on advertising.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right. Just on advertising.

    And he has organizations and employees in these states as well. So there's an infrastructure, not just the TV ads.

    But, yes, we are going to see where the scrutiny — there are going to be two different questions. The first, does he get on the debate stage, as you pointed out in your package, by the — before the Nevada caucus, or is it going to be before South Carolina? And how does he react in live time to that criticism coming his way and the questions coming from the moderators?

    The second piece of this is how voters are going to react to this. All right, Democrats have been telling us — we have been saying this, I feel like, every week, Judy, on Politics Monday.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes. Yes.

  • Amy Walter:

    What Democrats care about is somebody who can beat Donald Trump. That is their number one priority.

    So the question is, if winning is everything, how far does that extend? Does it extend to forgiving Michael Bloomberg for a lot of his past policies, transgressions, things that he's said? Will they look beyond that because they see him as the strongest candidate to win?

    Remember, in 2016, a lot of us, me included, said about Donald Trump, well, he can't say John McCain isn't a war hero. Republican voters aren't going to accept that. He can't say these certain things. Republican voters won't accept that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But hello.

  • Amy Walter:

    Until they did.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Until they did.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Tam, you were telling us that voters are bringing up Michael Bloomberg's name with you, even though he's not on the ballot.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Right, which is just a sign of the reach that he has.

    I did speak to voters who said they wished he was on the ballot here. But he's not. And so they registered their preference for other people, including — Amy Klobuchar has been at the top of several people's list too.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we have got still quite a — quite a list of candidates who are still in this race.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We mentioned eight of them.

    But one of them, we will find out this week whether he makes that debate stage or not.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

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

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

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