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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on Trump campaign kickoff, Democratic debates

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including President Trump’s Tuesday rally in Florida, campaign stops and strategy among 2020 Democrats and what to expect from the first Democratic debates.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now it's time for Politics Monday.

    I'm here with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and host of public radio's "Politics With Amy Walter" podcast and "The Takeaway" from WYNC. And in Orlando, Florida, gearing up for President Trump's rally tomorrow, Tamara Keith of NPR, she also co-hosts the "NPR Politics Podcast."

    And hello to both of you.

    So, Tam, since you are in Orlando, let's talk about what the president is expected to do tomorrow. What are you expecting? And why Orlando? Why Florida?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, already, they have the roads shut down around the arena where this rally is going to take place.

    It's going to be sort of a big classic Trump rally, like the ones that he held toward the end of his campaign where he filled arenas all over the country. And there will be tailgating, because Trump rallies are in some ways like going to see the Grateful Dead. You get to hear the songs you want to hear. And he always plays the greatest hits, if you will.

    So why Florida? I came down here a day early to do some reporting. I went to The Villages, which is this area that is this very fast-growing community outside of Orlando. Lots of political reporters visit The Villages. About 100 — more than 100,000 people live there.

    And they're all — they're all senior citizens, pretty much, and most of them are Trump supporters. The Republican population is strong there, and they're high-turnout voters.

    And what is here in the Orlando — The Villages is going to send five busloads of people to that rally. What is here is, it's a state that President Trump needs to win if he wants to get another term. And they use these rallies to organize people, to register people to vote, to get names and numbers, so they can follow up later.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Amy, we have known — I mean, it's not a surprise the president's running for reelection. He's been — I think he announced it on the day he was inaugurated.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But what — does a day like tomorrow make a difference?

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, well, I think it does, for the president's supporters, give them something to rally around.

    And the focus has been so much on the Democrats and their opposition to the president, that he now gets a chance to sort of reset the argument, make it about the case that he's going to make.

    But it is really notable that Joe Biden kicked off his campaign in Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, a state that Democrats have to win if they're going to win the Electoral College. Tam is right. If Trump is going to win reelection, he has to win Florida.

    And it is fascinating when you look at that central corridor where the president's kicking this off, the so-called I-4 Corridor between the Orlando and Tampa area. It is the fastest growing, not just in this — in the state, but in the country, The Villages.

    These are folks who are coming in from places where Trump is really popular, like Ohio, and Michigan and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. So think about where The Villages are and where at some of these voters are coming into Florida. They're basically the Midwest.

    That has been snowbirded, I guess if that's a term, into Florida. So don't think of Florida for the president as Miami, when people think about Florida. Think of it as really much more of a Midwestern battleground state in the middle of a state that it also happens to have palm trees and is on the ocean.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, just quickly, Tam, one or two reporters showing up for this tomorrow?

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes, this is the thing. The president is doing a grand re-re-re-re-launch of his campaign.

    And Joe Biden had two bites of the apple with his launch, the video and the rally. Kamala Harris, all of them have gotten attention at least twice on the Democratic side.

    And so President Trump is looking for a little bit of that attention as well.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Amy, let's go back to where — what we were talking about, or at least what Yamiche was reporting on, and that is the Democrats.

    They are campaigning all over the place, but a number of them were in South Carolina over the weekend.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And there's a new poll out in South Carolina, which has some pretty interesting numbers. We're going to show all of you. We try not to overemphasize polls, but this one is kind of striking.

    Joe Biden, yes, he's still in the lead at 37 percent, but he's dropped nine points since the last poll. The other dramatic change, Elizabeth Warren up nine points. She's at 17, still far back.

    But looking at these numbers and these candidates, what do you see, Amy?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, what we see is a continuation of a trend we have seen for the last week or so in national polls and other state polls, which is Elizabeth Warren and, to a certain extent, Pete Buttigieg rising, and Bernie Sanders starting to see a little bit of a slide, and even Biden starting to see a little bit of a slide.

    There was a national poll out by NBC/Wall Street Journal over the weekend showing that the enthusiasm for Biden has slipped a little bit since the earlier poll this spring, while enthusiasm for Elizabeth Warren has gone up.

    So I think we had been hearing from folks on the trail that, boy, Elizabeth Warren is getting a lot of second looks. I'm hearing from a lot of people in these early states saying they want to hear more from Elizabeth Warren.

    So that sort of — the discussion that people were having on the ground starting to show up in the polls. It's not huge movement. But it's — Joe — Joe Biden remains the front-runner. But when we're now seeing about where that next tier of candidates, who's shaping up to now challenge Biden, who's shaping up to be the leader in the left-of-center debate for the Democratic Party, I think Elizabeth Warren now has really made a significant move.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Interesting.

    And, Tam, I know you're following these candidates as much as you can.

    At the same time, you're following the president, who belongs to the other political party. But South Carolina is a different — it's obviously its own state. But there's — it's going to say something different when South Carolina voters vote.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes, I think that is what all of these candidates are looking to do. Not only do they want to win the — South Carolina, but they want to be able to say, look, I won South Carolina. South Carolina represents a more diverse version of the electorate, more closely reflects the Democratic voters nationwide that will be voting in November.

    And they are looking to be able to show that they can garner excitement among African-American voters, who will be critical in states like Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Meanwhile, Amy, we did, at the end of last week, learn which candidates are going to be debating on which nights; 20 of the 23 were chosen, made the cut.

    And we're going to show everybody again what that lineup looks like. On Wednesday night, June the 26, these 10 candidates, Elizabeth Warren being certainly one of the more prominent names.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But they're all — they all have a shot. The next night, it's these 10.

    Do we see something about this lineup that tells us what's going to happen?

  • Amy Walter:

    Anything about what to expect? I know.

    Well, I mean, I — from night two — as you can see, Joe Biden is sitting in night two, along with the other top-tier candidates, all of them, except for Elizabeth Warren, who is in that first night.

    And I think we're all watching to see how Joe Biden will do. He is the front-runner in large part because people see him as the most electable and the safest choice in this. The way that that lead of his slips as if he suddenly doesn't look as stable or if he has a moment where he looks not quite as rugged and able to continue in this front-runner path.

    For Elizabeth Warren, the question is, is it a better thing to be in the first debate, where you're not going to have a whole bunch of people firing on you, where you don't have to mix it up with the other top tier, you get this whole night to yourself? I don't know.

    But I think, for political reporters, what they want to see is some — to see if they will be any movement in a race that's been incredibly stable. And that is going to be tough to do, when you have so many people on stage all trying to get their quick little bite in that's going to get picked up by national news.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right. We're going to — we don't have time to have you say this. But, Tam, you told us today it's going to be like speed dating. We will see.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will see if that bears itself out.

    Tamara Keith in Orlando, waiting for the president's rally tomorrow, Amy Walter here in Washington, thank you both.

  • Amy Walter:

    Thank you.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

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