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How will Republicans act on Obama’s budget proposals?

Gwen Ifill gets analysis from Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and Nia-Malika Henderson of The Washington Post on President Obama’s budget proposal and the shifting landscape for 2016 GOP contenders, plus an update on the political battles over Obamacare.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Now for more on the political side of the budget debate and on the budding presidential campaign, we turn to our new weekly politics discussion, where every Monday, we will hear from Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Nia-Malika Henderson of The Washington Post.

    This ought to be fun.

  • AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report:

    Thank you. I think it will be.

  • NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, The Washington Post:

    Yes.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Let's start by asking about this budget issue. Is this a document that the president sent up for negotiation or is he just sending it up to be aspirational to Capitol Hill?

  • AMY WALTER:

    Well, you saw from both — the back and forth there that they would like — the White House says they would like it to be a starting point for negotiations.

    But when you listen to the senator from Iowa, it's pretty clear that there's not much room for negotiation in this and that, at the end of the day, yes, this is a stake in the ground for the president and for other Democrats to build on as we go into a 2016 election.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Nia?

  • NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

    Right.

    It's sort of the companion piece of the State of the Union address, where he claimed the title really I think in that address as liberal. One of the common critiques of this president had been that he would give away the store even before he would get to the negotiating table.

    And I think, in this document he's being a bit bolder. I mean, some of the things are warmed-over, you know, the tax cuts and tax hikes on the rich and trickle down to — or spread it out amongst the middle class. But he also isn't touching Medicare. He's not touching Social Security in the way that he did in other budget documents, rankling many in his party.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Yes. He seems to be being less ambitious in that respect, because it's not worth the fight, maybe being — by also being in a second term.

  • AMY WALTER:

    Well, it's not worth the fight. Democrats don't want that fight.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Right.

  • AMY WALTER:

    And let's face it. Republicans in the Senate, they don't really want that fight either.

    You have got a lot of them up in 2016 in their own races and then of course a handful of them, Gwen, happen to running for president too.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    I'm so glad you mentioned 2016, how interesting. Perfect segue.

    So, since last we talked, Mitt Romney is out of the race, lots of other moving pieces. First of all, looking at the polling that you have seen and the conversations that you have seen and the positioning that you have seen in the last few days, who, Nia, benefits the most from Romney's exit?

  • NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

    I think, broadly, the entire Republican Party sort of benefits from him dropping out.

    Remember, back in 2012, they had to write a whole document sort of figuring out what went wrong in 2012, and obviously Mitt Romney was a big part of that. If he had run, they would be rerunning what happened in 2012.

    Broadly, I think the entire party benefits. But specifically I think you have got to look at that governor's lane, people like Chris Christie, people like Scott Walker, sort of the moderate establishment lane. They are going to get some of that money that Mitt Romney would have locked up if he had run.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Relief or opportunity? We saw today Chris Christie in London, getting his foreign policy chops together, and immediately stumbling into a domestic debate over vaccination.

  • AMY WALTER:

    Right. You kind of — you can't win when you — even when you go overseas, you have to ask questions that are happening here, the question, of course, about whether or not vaccines should be considered something that parents can do on their own.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Should do.

  • AMY WALTER:

    They can make their own — should do, or should they be able to make their own decision?

    Listen, Chris Christie has a very big problem. And that is, Chris Christie has a base problem. Beyond he has to expand his horizons to bring in international experience or clean up whatever comments he made today, if you look at his numbers nationally and in some of these very important states, his disapproval ratings among Republicans are in the 40s.

    So, people know him in the Republican Party. And they're saying…

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Just don't like what they see.

  • AMY WALTER:

    … we don't like what we see.

    So I don't know how much he benefits from any of this if people at the end of the day, Republicans, are saying we just don't think he's the right guy.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The person who looked like they did the best in this polling at least — and it's just snapshots — we always say that — is Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin.

  • NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

    Very early.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Not Jeb Bush immediately, but Scott Walker, who for a lot of people, it is a brand-new name.

  • NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

    Yes.

    And he gave that barn-burner of a speech in Iowa and really I think rocketed to the top of this and that is why he was very much top of mind to a lot of these Iowa voters. He's someone who straddles really this establishment wing, because he's the sitting governor now, but he's also seen as a Tea Party guy as well, has done very well in that state, done well this terms of conservative — conservative grassroot folks, also does well in Iowa because it's a neighboring state, right, a neighboring state to Wisconsin, so he benefits in that way.

  • AMY WALTER:

    And, Gwen, you know I love polls, right. I have taken polls every day. And they make me so happy.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • AMY WALTER:

    This is — it's a year out. I'm not going to take this, where people stand in terms of the…

  • GWEN IFILL:

    OK, so let's look at another gauge, donors, eyeballs, credibility, who is shifting…

  • AMY WALTER:

    Right. I was going to even say both — I can do both of those things, which is the front top-line number I don't care so much about in this new Iowa poll.

    What I do care about is looking at the perceptions of these candidates in terms of, are they liked? Do voters think they're too moderate, too conservative? And this is where Christie, as I said, in a lot of trouble, but Jeb Bush, too.

    His approval ratings were only 46 percent, with 43 percent of Republicans saying they don't like him and 18 percent have a very unfavorable rating. That's not good for somebody who has been designed right now — or designated — I'm sorry — as the front-runner. Big problems in that state.

    For donors, I think a lot of donors, what we're hearing is they are going to be sitting a little bit on the sidelines, giving some money here, giving some money there, but not going all in for Jeb Bush.

  • AMY WALTER:

    Exactly.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And that's not necessarily great news.

  • NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

    Right. That's not great news.

    But it also is probably I think a little early to be putting so much focus on Iowa, too. Some of the conventional wisdom out of Iowa is that you don't necessarily need to win, particularly if you're somebody like Jeb Bush. There are really three tickets, winning tickets out of Iowa. And you saw that in 2012.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    One more. One of them was Rick Santorum, but didn't know it at the time.

    OK, one more question about the Affordable Care Act. There is going to be another vote, perhaps like the 60th attempt to roll back all or part of the health care law. Is that mostly dissatisfied new members who want a chance to put their handprint on it, or is this setting the Republican Party on a path that is going to affect it in 2016, not only in congressional elections, but also in presidential elections?

  • AMY WALTER:

    Well, this is a party that thus far they can't even come to consensus internally about how they want to deal with immigration, tax reform.

    I don't think they are going to be able to come to consensus on having an alternative to Obamacare.

  • NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

    And they haven't needed one so far.

  • AMY WALTER:

    They haven't needed one so far.

  • NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

    Provided a lot of energy for the party without even having any.

  • AMY WALTER:

    That's right. That's right.

    Now, the Supreme Court may make that — yes, make that happen because if they come out and decide that states that have not set up their own exchange, but set up a federal exchange, they can't give subsidies, that's going to put a lot of pressure though on the states themselves, the Republican governors there, the Republican legislatures, there to figure out what they do with that.

    Congress will have a role in it and the president will have a role in it, but a lot of that focus is going to be on the states.

  • NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

    And you have seen some of that.

    You take somebody like Mike Pence in Indiana. He has been creative in terms of how do you figure out this Medicaid subsidy and do your own thing in the state, somebody like Scott Walker, the same thing. I think the eyes are on other people, like what does somebody like Bobby Jindal do? What does Chris Christie do?

  • GWEN IFILL:

    It's all positioning and trying to put themselves in a place to be seen a certain way on certain issues for now.

  • NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

    Exactly.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    OK, Nia-Malika Henderson of The Washington Post, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, thank you both.

  • NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

    Thank you.

  • AMY WALTER:

    Thank you.

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