Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on Trump Iowa rally, Biden approval rating

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including former President Donald Trump’s appearance in Iowa, and how the American public feels about the Biden administration.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that brings us to Politics Monday.

    I'm here with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report With Amy Walter, and Tamara Keith of NPR. She joins us from Dayton, Ohio.

    Hello to both of you, Tam in Dayton and Amy Walter right here in the studio.

    Amy, let's pick up where Yamiche's reporting stopped.

    What does it say about — that Senator Chuck Grassley, longest-serving Republican in the Senate, who back in February said that President Trump was irresponsible — and I'm quoting here — "encouraged his own vice president to take unconstitutional actions," now, in October, is happy to have his endorsement?

  • Amy Walter, The Cook Political Report:

    Yes.

    Well, he gave you the answer: I wouldn't say no to somebody who has a 91 percent approval rating among Republicans in this state.

    Donald Trump easily won the state of Iowa, even as polls at the very end of the 2020 campaign showed that maybe it was going to be a lot closer. The Senate race that year, also, polls showed it being very close, ended up not being close at all. So he knows exactly what he needs to do to win the nomination.

    And that's where so much of this energy that we're seeing on the Republican side is coming from, is that primary base, right, people who will show up, go to conventions, go to primaries. If you are a Republican, and you're running right now, and you have other Republicans in a primary running against you, you cannot afford to not be with the president.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Tam, what about that? Can any Republican who wants to be reelected stand up to former President Trump right now?

  • Tamara Keith, National Public Radio:

    There are very few of them out there that exists. So, I guess, if Liz Cheney is able to win her primary, then maybe that will be one case. But the reality is that this is Donald Trump's party.

    And as he continues to lie about the outcome of the election, to spread misinformation about irregularities that have already been debunked, the reason that so many Republicans believe what he says is, one, they will believe almost anything that he says, his true supporters, but because there are so many members of his party around him who are either willing to look past it, try to sort of talk around it, as Steve Scalise did, or gladly accept his endorsement.

    So, I do think, though, that these midterms will be a test. The former president has endorsed a lot of candidates. He's going to continue to endorse more. And the question will be whether his candidates come out ahead, and also whether, if they lose, they accept that they lost.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Amy, you were telling us today that, when you look at, though, the Republican voters, voters who identify as Republican, not all of them say they want him to run again.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

    That was the poll that Yamiche was referencing in that setup piece.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, 60-some percent of Republicans say, we like that Donald Trump's part of our — he's the public face of the party. We want him to stay involved in the party. A lot of them want him to run. But only 44 percent said, I definitely want him to be the nominee.

    But this is — that's today, right? They know — I think a lot of these voters know what a general election could look like, with a very — maybe it might be a close outcome. Maybe they believe the election last time was rigged, but that the president lost by seven million votes, right?

    So, it is something of a risk to put up a president who never hit 50 percent in terms of job approval ratings put up to run once again. At the same time, you say, well, who's going to beat Donald Trump in a primary? Who's going to run against Donald Trump in a primary? Who could raise that kind of money and who could withstand the Donald Trump sort of bulldozer effect, like they — like he had in the 2016 election?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So many voices weighing in on this right now.

    Tam, you spoke, I guess, in the last few days with Stephanie Grisham, who was the press secretary at the White House for a time. She's written a book.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes, she was the press secretary for about nine months, the press secretary who many Americans may not even recognize because she never once held a briefing.

    And she was incredibly loyal to Trump and to first lady Melania Trump. And now she has written this book. And part of what she said in our interview is that she is genuinely concerned, both about 2024, if Trump — if he runs and wins, she says that there are a lot of things that he wanted to do where he was held back, because, well, he had to run for reelection, and he had to worry about what voters would think.

    Well, she says, if he wins in 2024, what's to hold him back? There's no running for reelection. And she has her eyes also on 2022 and just how many of his loyalists can be put into Congress or in the secretaries of state roles and others, though, of course, we have to say that the second she turned on Trump, Trump and all of Trumpism turned on her.

    So she's a person in exile who doesn't really have a huge audience, necessarily, because, I mean, people who support Trump don't like her anymore. And liberals already hated her.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But she — but she is out there talking and making the point, making those points.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Tamara Keith:

    That's why she wrote the book.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes, that you're just sharing.

    Meanwhile, Amy, we're looking at other polls around that have to do with President Biden. And he's slipping. He's sliding.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, he's struggling right now. And it — we started to see it over the summer as the Delta variant was taking its toll.

    And then, of course, the pullout of Afghanistan and the chaos that ensued there. And now, of course, divisions with his within his own party. This is not unusual for a first-term president, right? They go through this tough time. You get a little bit of a honeymoon, reality sinks in, expectations are not met, and then you have a sort of tough slog.

    And the question is, where can you be by this time next year? Where the party needs him to be by this time next year is at least at 50 percent approval rating. Right now, he's somewhere around 44 or 45 percent. So it's not dramatic, the jump that he needs to make, but he needs to start improving.

    A lot of it will rest with, how well is the economy? How well are we at — what I think is happening is the sense of voters feeling frustrated that we're not back to so-called normal yet, that whatever normal was to you…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Amy Walter:

    … after COVID, right, that — I hear this so much from voters and focus groups, the sense of, I thought things would be better by now.

    Whether that means I thought he would be able to do more on the things that were important to me, or I thought by now this COVID thing would be behind us, we wouldn't be yelling about masks and mandates, I wouldn't still be waiting for the products that I'm ordering in shipping backlogs, and that things are still costing a lot of money.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Tam, you are there, as we said, in Dayton, Ohio.

    Have you had a chance yet to hear what voters are saying about the president?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, I am still getting my feet on the ground here.

    But I will say that what I'm looking into in my reporting is the American Rescue Plan. That thing passed back in the spring, when President Biden was still in that honeymoon period. It's this huge COVID relief legislation that a lot of people have forgotten about already because Biden and Democrats have moved onto the infrastructure proposal and the Build Back Better plan and these other things that they're pushing to try to pass and sort of struggling to pass.

    Meanwhile, this massive infusion of cash, much of it hasn't actually hit yet. Some of it has, but a lot of it hasn't yet. And the political question is whether Biden and his party will get credit for it or whether, by design, having the money sort of roll out slowly in some places, whether it is designed for sort of maximum impact, but minimum political credit.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we will be looking for your reporting and asking you all about it in days to come.

    Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, thank you both.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

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