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NPR’s Tamara Keith and Leigh Ann Caldwell of The Washington Post join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including the candidates teasing runs for the White House in 2024 and a look back at what Congress accomplished in 2022.
It has been a momentous two years for lawmakers in Washington.
After tackling major legislation and surviving contentious midterm races, some are using the holidays to confer with friends, families and advisers about next steps in their political careers. And so are others who are thinking about taking the biggest step, a run for the White House.
To talk about this and much more, it's political stakes with Tamara Keith of NPR and Leigh Ann Caldwell with The Washington Post. Amy Walter is away.
And it is so good to see both of you on this Monday, the day after Christmas, the Monday before New Year's.
So let's talk about this, Tam.
We do hear politicians, some of them, saying, yes, I'm going to take the holidays to talk to my family and close advisers and friends.
Is that really what they're doing? Is that what this time is meant for some of them?
Tamara Keith, National Public Radio:
Well, what I will say is that one of President Biden's top advisers said that, if they hadn't been at least making preparations for a campaign months ago, that would be campaign malpractice.
So, even if they are all officially spending a lot of quality time with their families making decisions, they are also doing all the behind-the-scenes work of running a presidential campaign. Actually declaring, making it official on the Federal Elections Commission Web site and with the paperwork, that tends to happen later.
But if you aren't making the preparations, then you probably aren't running a serious campaign. And there are many Republicans, not so many Democrats — there are many Republicans making all those preparations behind the scenes, in addition to, like, going on book tours.
So, before I come to you, Leigh Ann, we actually have some — a few comments that we have been hearing in recent weeks. And here they are.
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ):
I'm going to listen to my family over the holidays. I have a big Latino family that's going to come in this — over Christmas.
Fmr. Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC):
We are taking the holidays to kind of look at what the situation is.
Gerald Seib, Former Executive Washington Editor, The Wall Street Journal:
President Biden has said he will have conversations with his family over the holidays.
Ron Klain, White House Chief of Staff: The president will make that decision. I expect it shortly after the holidays. But I expect the decision will be to do it.
Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH):
Whether it's Ron DeSantis, or Pompeo, or Vice President Pence, everyone will have their own timeline for different reasons, but I think people can wait.
So, we have one voice, Governor Sununu, saying, maybe we can wait, they can wait, others saying, well, I'm going to think about it over the holidays.
Is this a device, or is this really happening?
Leigh Ann Caldwell, The Washington Post:
I think it's a little bit of both.
Leigh Ann Caldwell:
Their thinking about it over the holidays also includes looking at polling numbers, talking to donors. Of course, they're talking to the family.
But they are, as Tam said, doing exactly what needs to be done to know if they are able to run a viable campaign. And so maybe, after these holidays, when they're actually not doing their day jobs, and they are trying to consider on if they're going to — consider if they're going to run or not, all these things are being taken into consideration, because what's critical here is, are they going to peter out, have — someone like Ron DeSantis, has he peaked too soon?
These are all questions that they're exploring.
So, speaking of the Republicans, Tam, it does sound like Republicans are more open now to challenges to former President Trump.
Well, and what I will say about former President Trump is that, a few days after the midterms that were pretty disastrous for his party, he announced, big fanfare, he's running for reelection or running for election again.
I guess it isn't reelection. He's running again. And then he has done basically nothing that looks like a presidential candidate. He hasn't left Florida. He sold some trading card thing, electronic trading cards, quite successfully, apparently.
But he hasn't really looked like a presidential candidate. He hasn't held the kind of rallies that would show people the excitement that exists behind him or not. Instead, he took a meeting with Kanye and a white supremacist and others. And all of that looks like weakness to Republicans who probably were going to run regardless, or at least have been putting together all of — all of the scaffolding of a presidential campaign.
And, Leigh Ann, what about for the Democrats?
I mean, are they clearing the field or not for President Biden, you think?
So, since the 2020 midterm elections, I think that the mood among Democrats has shifted about President Biden.
Leading up to it, when they thought that they were going to get a shellacking in the midterms, there was a lot of pessimism about the president. But, since then, Democrats did much better than expected, and so they're willing to give him another chance.
And Democrats on Capitol Hill are telling me they absolutely hope that he should — that he runs again. We will see if that is able to be sustained.
But, right now, his standing is pretty high within his party, at least among the Washington, D.C., crowd.
So, leaping from that to the Congress, where we know some are thinking about running for president, Tam, as they look back on this term, this past two years, what are they feeling good about? What are they feeling, well, we didn't — we didn't really get that done?
Well, so this was a democratically controlled Congress, but very narrowly controlled by Democrats.
And they actually did a remarkable amount of things that I think, at the beginning of the year, many of us would not have even predicted were possible, including gun legislation that was bipartisan. I don't think anyone had that on their bingo card. And then, obviously, passing the two major pieces of legislation that Democrats passed with Democratic votes alone, these big spending bills, one of which is a major environmental bill, even though it's called the Inflation Reduction Act.
And so, as the year went on, there were — certainly, Build Back Better didn't happen. But the Inflation Reduction Act did happen. There were a number of big, bold ideas that ended up being smaller, less bold ideas, but still more than most people would have expected to be possible.
What do you see as you — what do you see in their minds as they're thinking about how this session turned out?
I think Democrats are thrilled.
There's an evenly divided Senate. The House Democrats had a five-, sometimes four-, sometimes three-, actually just a couple of weeks ago, only two-seat margin. And the fact that they were able to pass such major pieces of legislation, no, they were not as big as they had hoped, but — and things like the care economy were not able to get passed.
But the fact that they were able to pass so many things on — some of them on a bipartisan basis, they are extremely thrilled, especially, at the end of the year, the Electoral Count Act…
… reforms to that system, is another big win for them.
And that brings up this whole issue, which we have talked about all year, Tam, and that is democracy, a lot of people going into the midterms thinking, where is our democracy?
Reflecting on it, are we stronger at the end of this year or not?
Well, there were candidates who denied the results of the 2020 election who ran in 2022 and lost and accepted the results. And so that's a win for the basic functions of democracy.
But I would say that probably any celebration would be premature. If you look at trust in American institutions, which are a critical part of American democracy, institutions like the press, like us, even institutions like the church, but things like Congress or the presidency, trust in American institutions is at all-time lows.
And that leaves the country weaker. It makes it easier for Democratic erosion to occur. When people have their own sources of information, where they don't trust that they can trust anything, that leaves Americans more susceptible.
How do you see this question of democracy as we turn the corner to 2023?
I think that Tam's right.
I think that, with — there were some big wins, I will say, in these last two elections after January 6. I was in the Capitol. I saw how divided especially the House of Representatives was. Republicans and Democrats refused to talk to each other. They finished these two years. They were able to pass something like the Electoral Count Act, like I just mentioned.
But, also, you had election deniers around the country running for office, including these critical positions like secretary of state. And, in most instances, voters rejected that. The fact that voters were paying attention and saw that this was not the direction that they wanted the country to go, I think that tells us a lot.
And so I think, moving forward, that democracy has probably been in a stronger place before, but, the last two years, they have been able to slowly crawl back and say that this American experiment is going to continue a little bit longer.
A lot to be thankful for, as we say goodbye to 2022 in a few days.
Leigh Ann Caldwell, Tamara Keith, thank you both, and happy new year.
Happy new year.
Happy new year. Thank you.
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