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Will hawkish Republican candidates resonate with voters?

Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR join Judy Woodruff to discuss what Republican candidates are saying about U.S. surveillance rules and the strategy against the Islamic State, plus three more politicians plan to announce presidential candidacies this week.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, the Patriot Act is one of handful of topics popping up this week in the presidential race, so no better time for Politics Monday.

    Joining me for our weekly wrap are our regular guests, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    Welcome to you both. And thank you for being here on this Memorial Day.

  • AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report:

    Thank you.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, the Patriot Act, I have just been talking to Lisa about what happened in the Congress, but it’s also something the presidential candidates have to deal with.

    Amy, how much are they talking about this, or are they talking about this out on the campaign trail?

  • AMY WALTER:

    Well, they are talking about it in relation to one person in particular, and that’s the person that Lisa brought up, Rand Paul.

    Rand Paul is sort of on an island by himself right now, the one person saying we need to get rid of this program altogether. He is a known libertarian. He’s somebody who has been taking this cause on for a good long time. And the other candidates are trying to show sort of their hawkish muscles by accusing him of being soft on terrorism.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And is that working, Tamara?

  • TAMARA KEITH, NPR:

    Who knows what is working at this point.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    Well, I will — one thing that is working for Rand Paul is that, while he was doing his filibuster, while he is doing this, he’s fund-raising.

    This is — he’s obviously — he’s being intellectually consistent here. This is an issue that he cares about and has cared about. It’s also excellent for raising a presidential candidate’s profile. And he had young people taking selfies of themselves watching him on television, and tweeting that out, saying they stand with Rand. His campaign was sending around a petition to get people to sign on to say that they supported his position on this. So he’s leveraging it.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So do most of the candidates, Amy, think it’s important for them to have a position on this at this point in the campaign?

  • AMY WALTER:

    Well, the ones who are in the Senate have to have a position.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    They do, yes.

  • AMY WALTER:

    And they have had to vote on it.

    And what you’re seeing is, it’s interesting. Of the three Tea Party candidates, they all came in, in the class of 2010, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul. Rand Paul, again, he is off by his own. Ted Cruz is somewhere in between, where he wants to reform, but he doesn’t want to completely get rid of the program altogether, Marco Rubio the most sort of muscular on this, saying — not only do you need to keep this going, but I want to keep it going even stronger.

    He’s over there with some people like Chris Christie and Jeb Bush also. They have been talking about having a very strong surveillance system, how important it is for terrorism. If you’re Chris Christie, who is governor of New Jersey, a state that obviously was impacted by 9/11, this gives you an opportunity to talk about how, as governor, you had to deal with terrorism and security issues.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, the other thing, Tamara, that — our lead story tonight, talking about what is going on with ISIS and the criticism from the defense secretary, and a little bit of what sounds like repair work done by the vice president, it does point to the difficulties the administration is having right now with dealing with the Islamic State.

    The candidates are now talking about this. How much — we’re clear that Rand — we know where Rand Paul is on all this. He’s the least excited about having American troops on the ground. But there’s an array of opinions among these Republicans.

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    Including people like Lindsey Graham, who are being very specific and saying we should send 10,000 ground troops over right now.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Right.

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    And then there are other people who sort of taking the safe position, which is just criticize the Obama administration.

    That is the safest thing that a Republican candidate can do, criticize the president, but don’t get particularly specific about what you would do differently.

    The reality is, this is tough. There isn’t a good, right answer. If there was a good, right answer, the Senate and the Congress would have already passed an authorization for the use of military force. This is something that’s just been sitting in Congress, waiting for action, because, well, nobody wants their fingerprints on it. This is tough.

  • AMY WALTER:

    That’s right.

    I think it was The New York Times that wrote that Republicans overall are hawkish, but hesitant. And I think that’s a perfect way to describe this, which is, they all want to show that they’re certainly stronger on national security than Barack Obama. At the same time, they know that, if they go too far and they get sort of over their skis on this issue, they are going to turn off swing voters in a general election.

    When you look at where the Republicans are on the issue of, should we put ground troops on to fight ISIS, 60 percent say yes. Ask voters across the board, and it’s more evenly divided.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, which makes me so curious to know, how much do they feel they have to have a fleshed-out opinion on an issue like this at this point? But we will talk about that next week.

    I want to — there are three more candidates jumping into the race this week. You have got two Republicans, Tamara, Rick Santorum and George Pataki, for those who may not remember, the former governor of New York. And then, on Saturday, the former governor of Maryland, the Democrat who is going to be challenging — running for the Democratic nomination.

    Tamara, let’s talk about each one of them.

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    Absolutely.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Rick Santorum, how does he fit into this growing roster of Republicans?

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    Well, he was the runner-up to the runner-up last time around. He actually won Iowa. He held on for a very long time, gave Mitt Romney a lot of headaches.

    He was sort of the socially conservative crusader. This time around, he’s still obviously very much socially conservative, but he’s also doing this man of the people thing. He’s very concerned. He feels like Republicans need to have a strong message on the working class and middle class and helping people out.

    So that is his new lane. He’s got a lot of competition for the people who supported him last time around.

  • AMY WALTER:

    Right.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    What would you add?

  • AMY WALTER:

    No, I think that’s exactly right. He does introduce himself by saying, you know, a lot of times, Republicans nominated the person who came in second, so look at me.

    But when I was out in Iowa, the place where he carried — he carried the caucus there, you got the sense that he’s like the used car in a new car lot. Everybody’s looking at him and saying, we liked it, but we have got all these other choices now. It puts him in a very difficult, awkward position.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    All right, just a little over a minute, and I do want to get to both George Pataki and Governor O’Malley.

    George Pataki.

  • AMY WALTER:

    George Pataki, people might not remember him, but he did serve as governor of a big state in New York, of course. He beat Mario Cuomo. It was one of the biggest upsets in 1994.

    So, he has some real credentials. And yet I don’t know — maybe you do — what his message is, beyond the fact that he was a big-state governor.

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    Yes.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And — OK. All right, we will leave it there.

    Martin O’Malley, former governor of Maryland, Tamara?

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    Yes, former governor of Maryland.

    He will be announcing in Baltimore, which is where he also was mayor. One challenge he faces are the riots that broke out in Baltimore, and some people say that his policing strategies when he was the mayor led to some of the deep-seated conflict between police and citizens.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Yes, and going up against the juggernaut.

  • AMY WALTER:

    And going up against the juggernaut.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Right.

  • AMY WALTER:

    This is a real unanswered question for Martin O’Malley. How aggressive is he going to be against Hillary Clinton?

    Is he going to be out there going full force at her, or is he going to lay back a little bit? Hillary Clinton should want and needs to have a sparring partner. She shouldn’t want to go into a general election without having any warm-up at all. She has got a lot of questions to answer. Republicans want to answer — or ask her a lot of those questions. They don’t get a chance to do that yet. Martin O’Malley will.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    We know she welcomes all this competition.

  • AMY WALTER:

    Oh, I’m sure she does.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, Politics Monday, thank you.

  • AMY WALTER:

    Thank you.

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    Thank you.

     

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