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Trump walks back remarks on Russia as GOP faces challenges at home

As President Trump continues to drum up controversy during a trip across Asia, the past week has seen developments on the domestic front, from the Democrats’ sweep in Virginia's elections to sexual misconduct allegations against Roy Moore, the GOP nominee for Alabama's open Senate seat. NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield joins Megan Thompson with more.

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  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    While the president has focused on foreign policy in Asia there have been developments in domestic politics, from the Democratic sweep in Virginia's elections last week to accusations of sexual abuse against Roy Moore, a Republican nominee in the Alabama Senate special election scheduled for next month. But taking the long view there may be a bigger political story worth paying attention to NewsHour Weekend special correspondent Jeff Greenfield joins me now from Santa Barbara, California. So it feels to me like this has been a really big week in politics but you say there's something else me we should be focusing on?

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Yeah there's a less dramatic story but when I think that potentially has much more significance and that is the retirements among House Republican members 25 incumbent Republicans have said they will not seek re-election. That's a very high number this early in the cycle and a lot of these Republicans come from districts that are the kind of districts filled with voters that helped give the Virginia Democrats their big margin, that is they're suburban they're educated, they're younger. And we should remember that that 23 Republicans in the House represent districts that Hillary Clinton carried.

    Why does this matter? Because traditionally it's easier for a party to win an open seat than to defeat an incumbent. And you have to wonder whether or not some of these Republicans have a couple of whom have already been critical of the more militant members of their own party are looking at Virginia and wondering whether it's time for them to think about their career move. So this could this could be a big story. Twenty-four seats are what stand between Democrats and taking control of the House.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Okay, so then a lot of open seats up for grabs in the House. How about in the Senate?

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    It's night and day for the Democrats. As good as things may be looking right now in the House for Democrats, it's bleak in the Senate. There are only eight Republicans up in 2018. Only one, Nevada's Dean Heller, is from a state that Hillary Clinton carried. By contrast, eight Democratic incumbents are running in seats that Trump carried, five in states that Trump carried by anywhere from 19 to 35 points. And a lot of these states have far fewer of the kind of voters we saw turn out in Virginia. So if you're if you're a Democrat you may be very pessimistic now. There's one cautionary note and that's Judge Moore. If he wins and the Senate can't figure out a way to not seat him, he will become a poster boy next year in every race in the country other than Alabama. I'll remind you that in 2012 one Republican nominee Todd Akin made some very ham-handed comments about abortion and that became an issue not just in his race which he lost but in a lot of other Senate races. So if you are Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, even though you may be risking the loss of a Senate seat the last thing in the world you want is Senator Roy Moore from Alabama to be in your caucus.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Speaking of Roy Moore a lot of Republicans in Washington kept their distance from him this week but Republicans in Alabama are sticking with him. How do you think that's going to play out?

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Look I think there's a broader point here and that has to do with how polarized this country has become politically. We're now at a point where 40 percent of Republicans and a third of Democrats say they'd be really upset if one of their kids married somebody from another political party. And you have actually had in Alabama State Republican official and others saying I'd rather have a pedophile than a Democrat in that seat. And on a slightly less head-shaking note you have had other Republicans and conservatives trying to see well can we postpone this election. So maybe we can have a do over. I mean that is about as unprecedented a thing as you can imagine in the way we do politics. But it just goes to show you that for some people no matter what the allegations apparently if the choice is between say an accused pedophile and a member of the other party, I don't want that or the party to win that. That's quite a sea change over the last generation and how we think about partisan politics.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    All right Jeff Greenfield thank you so much for joining us.

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