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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on Republican support for Trump and vaccine politicization

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Lisa Desjardins to discuss the latest in politics, including President Biden's ambitious plans for American families, the status of the Republican party and its support for former President Trump, the fate of Democrats in upcoming elections, and the politicization of COVID-19 vaccines.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now it's time for our regular Politics Monday duo.

    Lisa Desjardins is in charge.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Thanks, Judy.

    President Biden traveled to Virginia today to pitch his American Families Plan, all while negotiations around his other large plan on infrastructure and climate continue.

    For more, I'm joined by Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    It will be another great Politics Monday, ladies.

    And let's start with you, Tam.

    President Biden is pitching these large concepts, like reworking childcare in America by raising taxes on the wealthy. What are the political risk and rewards here for him and for Democrats?

  • Tamara Keith:

    He is pitching not just big government, but a big idea, the idea that government can work for people, that, in a democracy, that government should function and should work for the people.

    And he is putting out what are generally, in isolation, quite popular ideas. And the risk is, though, that there are disagreements about how big it should be, what it should be — how it should be paid for, whether it should be paid for at all.

    And the issue is that they probably — there is about bipartisanship, but they're probably going to get to a point where at least part of this is going to have to be Democrats going it alone. And he's going to need to keep Democrats together. And the way to do that is — it's challenging, but he needs them, particularly because there are moderate Democrats who are going to face difficult reelections in the not-so-distant future in 2022.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Let's talk about the other party. Let's talk about Republicans and the tensions within their own party.

    Today, after former President Trump issued a statement again saying that the 2020 election was fraudulent — he offered no evidence of that — we saw a fellow Republican House Congresswoman from Wyoming Liz Cheney issue her own statement on Twitter.

    Listen to these words. She wrote: "The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading the big lie."

    Now, there's talk of whether Cheney can again survive as the number three leader in the House Republican Caucus. My Republican sources were even texting with me about this. And this is at the same time as we saw this similar kind of reaction in Utah at the Utah Republican state convention, when senator And former Republican nominee for the presidency Mitt Romney took the stage.

    Here's what happened.

  • Sen. Mitt Romney:

    That I wasn't a fan of our last president's character issues. And I'm also no fan…

    (BOOING)

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes, those are boos.

    Amy, where are we for the battle — in the battle for the Republican Party?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, the battle is over, Lisa, and Donald Trump won. It is Donald Trump's party.

    There are some strugglers who have continued to speak out against the president, as you pointed to Congresswoman Cheney. But they are a very rare commodity right now. Many of them are already facing primary challenges.

    Many of them are — there aren't that many, but the ones who are there are — could lose their primaries or get redrawn out of their districts in redistricting. And we saw, most recently, there was a special election this weekend in Texas to fill a Republican seat, not an overwhelmingly Republican seat, but still a Republican-leaning district outside of Dallas.

    Donald Trump's endorsed candidate did take the most votes. The candidate who was campaigning as the never-Trumper, who had gotten support from Congressman Adam Kinzinger, who, as we know, also voted for impeachment, has been outspoken about the Republican Party moving beyond Donald Trump, that candidate got 3 percent.

    So I think it's pretty clear that this is a party now that has decided to line up behind President Trump. The only question is what happens in 2022, especially in these battleground districts, where Trump may endorse a candidate, and you may see Democrats using that endorsement against them in a general election, right?

    It may work in a primary. It's good to have the endorsement of Donald Trump in a primary if you're Republican, but it may not be a great badge to wear in a state that's leaning more blue.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Tam?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes, the former president really thrives on these sorts of feuds. And you saw him put out multiple statements today going after all of the people who Amy just mentioned.

    And part of this is, he's trying to maintain relevance. He's trying to maintain control over the party. It's clear that the never-Trumpers don't control the party, but it's not clear that Trump will ultimately be the standard bearer or if they will find someone else to sort of lead the path forward.

    And, today, he put out this statement where he said, the big lie shall now forever be known as the election fraud, making a false accusation about the election being stolen from him. He's now trying to rebrand the concept of the big lie, just like he tried to rebrand and successfully rebranded fake news back in 2017.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Amy, on that battle for the House of Representatives, the census actually brought some good news for Republicans in general. They may pick up a few seats because of population changes.

    And, also, Democrats, we saw a key Democrat, Cheri Bustos of Illinois, say she's not going to run again. She's a rural Democrat. That's who they need. What do you make of all that?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, you're right. She's one of the handful of Democrats who represent a district that Donald Trump carried.

    But I think what — the bigger challenge for Democrats, as you pointed out, is the fact that, when it comes to redrawing these lines, Republicans have more opportunities to draw themselves good lines, or, on the flip side, to draw out Democrats.

    And so we're hearing a lot of names, Lisa, of members right now, especially in places like Florida, who they know, if you're a Democrat, that the line-drawers are coming for you. And so we're likely to hear folks there announce their retirements, potentially running for governor, rather than for other statewide offices.

    And that's the real issue here for Democrats coming into 2022. They have got history working against them. Traditionally, it's almost impossible for the party in the majority to pick up seats. They only have a five-seat margin as it is. They don't have the control of redistricting, as many of these big states, as Republicans do.

    So I think the retirements are really a reality check. Many of these Democrats know that their districts are probably going to be a lot unfriendlier in the next election.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Tam, finishing this up, I want to talk about the politics of vaccines and vaccinations.

    You have been reporting on a focus group held by Republican consultant Frank Luntz, who was talking to people who were vaccine-hesitant, but then ended up deciding to get the vaccine. I want to play some of what those people said about why they changed their mind.

  • Woman:

    I shifted my focus from myself to other people, to herd immunity, to a bigger picture outside of just this bubble. And that was when I decided to get the vaccine.

  • Woman:

    I came around because people are going to want to do things that they're not going to be able to do without the vaccine.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Tam, briefly, as we wrap up Politics Monday today, what's the message that politicians like President Biden should get about how they encourage people to vaccinate?

  • Tamara Keith:

    These are really, truly personal decisions.

    And for Lauren there — and I watched a previous focus group where she was a part of — that she was a part of, where she was very hesitant — for her, it came down to things that she wanted to do in her life, including going to Yankee games.

    So, for some people, it's about what opportunities vaccination opens up. For other people, it's about overcoming fear. And what I heard again and again is that doctors, your personal doctor, was important for many of these hesitant folks to come over and get vaccinated.

    And the Biden administration is well aware of this. And I talked to a top official who says that they are working hard to get vaccines into doctor's offices, though that continues to be a bit of a logistical challenge.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    All of this touching so many important topics.

    Thanks to both of you, Amy Walter, Tamara Keith.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Interesting about getting vaccines into doctor's offices.

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