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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on Trump’s ad messaging, Biden’s VP choice

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including what to look for in upcoming state primaries, President Trump’s campaign messaging about former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s deliberations about choosing a running mate.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    A few key states will be holding primary elections this week, while the search for Joe Biden's running mate picks up steam.

    To look into this and more, I'm joined by our Politics Monday team, Amy Walter, the national editor of The Cook Political Report and the host of the podcast "Politics With Amy Walter," and Tamara Keith of NPR. She also co-hosts the "NPR Politics Podcast."

    Hello to both of you.

    So, we heard William Brangham a few minutes ago speak about the requests that are going out for absentee ballots in a number of states for these August primaries.

    Amy, tomorrow primaries in Arizona, Michigan, Washington state, Missouri, Kansas, and then Thursday in Tennessee.

    You have been focused particularly on the Kansas Senate Republican primary. Tell us what you're looking at.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

    Well, Judy, Kansas isn't normally considered a battleground state, either at the presidential or the Senate level. A Democrat hasn't won a Senate race in Kansas since the 1930s.

    But a lot of Republicans are worried that that streak might just end and Democrats could find themselves on top because of what they see as a very contentious primary, with one candidate in particular that many Republicans are worried about. And that is the former secretary of state, Kris Kobach.

    Now, Kobach was the gubernatorial nominee for Republicans in 2018. He was endorsed by Donald Trump. He's also an immigration hard-liner, like Donald Trump. And the fact that he lost to a Democrat in Kansas spooked a lot of Republicans, who say, we can't take that kind of risk now.

    I still think Kansas is a tough place for Democrats to win, even in what is shaping up to be a better year for Democrats across the country. But I think what the concern that Republicans have about Kansas really speaks to is the reality of the Senate playing field getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and not in a good way for Republicans, in a better way for Democrats.

    Republicans are completely on defense in places that they didn't think they were going to have to be on defense, not just Kansas, but states like Iowa and Georgia. And so to have to go in, theoretically spend money and effort, to win in a state that should be, in normal times, a slam dunk, that has to be frustrating for them.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Has to be frustrating.

    And, Tam, widen the aperture for us from the Senate to the presidential race. Speaking about being on the defensive, the Trump campaign last week took down its ads, said they were going dark and they were going to retool.

    They're out with a somewhat new message. What are they saying? What was this change all about?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes, so their new message is not that different from their old message, though the ads have a slightly different look.

    What they're alleging is that Joe Biden is an empty vessel, or a Trojan horse, or any number of other things for radical leftist Democrats and people who — at the president's rally in Tulsa, he talked about Joe Biden. He delivered some attack lines on Joe Biden. And they didn't really get the crowd that excited.

    And then the president talked about the Squad or Nancy Pelosi, and the crowd was much more animated.

    So, in some ways, the Trump's campaign strategy is the same strategy it was months ago, which is to try to tie Joe Biden, who has been known as a moderate, to more liberal progressive sides of the Democratic Party.

    Now, they had pulled out all their ads, as you say. Now they're back up. And this speaks to the map that Amy was talking about. They are back up running ads in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia. They have bought about $6 million in ads for this week.

    Those are states that President Trump won last time, and like relatively easily.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I want to talk some more about this, but I got to ask you both about what's going on in the Biden campaign.

    Amy, a lot of focus right now on the vice presidential pick. At one point, they had said we're going to hear this week. Now they're saying it's going to be next week. What are you hearing? What do you make of the fact that there are still a number of women — he said it's going to be a woman — out there?

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A lot of speculation about which one.

  • Amy Walter:

    You know, Judy, in sort of the last, I don't know, 10 or 20 years, it's been pretty common for the challenger candidates or for candidates who aren't the incumbents to announce their vice presidential pick basically the weekend before the convention.

    So that wouldn't be really out of step for Joe Biden to do the same thing. We have got about two weeks before the Democrats' convention.

    But Joe Biden did say a number of times that he thought he would have his decision by this moment in time. I don't know that it does him much good to roll this out right now, as opposed to waiting a little while longer.

    I know there's some concerns among Democrats that there's a lot of elbowing going on between the camps of some of the women who are named as — who have been named as potential vice presidential candidates, but I don't really think that breaks through to most voters.

    I do think what is important for Joe Biden, he says, people around him say, is somebody he has chemistry with, somebody that he can really meld with, in the way, he says, he was able to join with President Obama. And that was very important to him and it was very important to his relationship with the president.

    At the same time, I think, for voters, what they are probably most concerned about is whether the person that Joe Biden picks is qualified to step in if Joe Biden is not able to complete his term. This is the oldest person we would elect president of the United States. Having somebody in the number two slot who voters can look at and say, you know what, I can see that person slip — taking that president's job, if need be, is going to be the more important thing when we're thinking about it politically.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Tam, there's always a lot of focus on this, a lot of guessing, of course, going on.

    How much is really riding, though, on who he chooses?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes, Judy, this is the season of speculation. It is the season of speculation that comes around every four years, staking out driveways and backyards.

    And then, in the end, you find out who the vice presidential pick is, and not much changes, because, while a vice presidential pick can sometimes do harm, it rarely does all that much good. The vice president is the vice president.

    Now, as Amy says, there is a significance in this case, or in many other cases. You might think of John McCain, for instance, was an older candidate as well, where the vice presidential pick was important. Being seen as qualified was important. And that became a factor in that race.

    And so there are potential negatives, but the positives aren't that positive.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Wow. Well, we will — that will not stop us from doing a whole lot of guessing and talking about this between now and when we know the name.

    (LAUGHTER)

    Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, thank you both.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

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