Web Video: How will super PAC money mold the race for 2016?

Jul. 14, 2015 AT 10:44 a.m. EDT

Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR join Gwen Ifill to discuss super PAC campaign fundraising, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s entrance into the 2016 race and how Hillary Clinton is speaking out on immigration in the wake of comments by Donald Trump.

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Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

GWEN IFILL: And then there were 15 — Republican candidates for president, that is.

So, as the 2016 campaign begins to take final shape, we look at the personalities, the policy, and of course, the purse strings this Politics Monday with Tamara Keith of NPR and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

Let’s start by looking at the money, the most important part of this, right, in some respects.

AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Yes.

GWEN IFILL: The top four candidates in terms of money raised, super PAC money as well as nonprofits in one case, and just regular money over the transom, Jeb Bush with $114 million. This is just since they announced for president. Hillary Clinton with $60.6 million, Ted Cruz $47 million, and Marco Rubio with $43.8 million.

Of course, as we just mentioned, there are 11 others now in the race. But as these four line up, where is the money coming from and what is this telling us about the race?

AMY WALTER: In almost every case, the super PAC is more than the candidates actually raise. In fact, Hillary Clinton is the only candidate who has raised more as a candidate than her super PAC raised.

It’s going to bring up a couple of issues. The first is, there used to be the thing in politics where you dropped out of the race after your money ran out, and your money would run out because you weren’t winning enough, you didn’t have enough momentum. Now there are super PACs very flush with cash that can keep candidates going long after maybe their expiration date.

GWEN IFILL: Individuals, they can keep…

AMY WALTER: Absolutely.

TAMARA KEITH, NPR: Ted Cruz has really three good friends or three super PACs that can keep him going.

And, you know, it used to be that there was the dollar primary and you could look at, well, whose fund-raising dollars were the highest? It’s hard to even know what to make of these numbers, because some rich person could come out of nowhere, create a nonprofit, we wouldn’t even know where the money came from, and blow everybody else out of the water.

AMY WALTER: But there is one really interesting component to this, and that’s why 2016 will be fascinating to watch.

The amount of money that Jeb Bush has coming from his super PAC is about $103 million. That’s where — the bulk of that 114 is coming from super PACs. They cannot coordinate with Jeb Bush. They are going to be making decisions that normally a campaign will be making.
Now, super PACs have been very good at doing one thing, which is they’re a destroying machine. Right? They’re there to like eat up their opponents.

Can they be a pro-Bush entity as well and do the sorts of things that a campaign normally does? We don’t know yet. We have never seen it.

GWEN IFILL: Well, let’s talk about someone who is not in the top four, but could well be because of the beneficence of at least a couple of very rich people who are keeping an eye on him, and we just reported earlier that Scott Walker, even as we speak, has announced he’s running for president.

Let’s listen to a little bit he said today in Waukesha, Wisconsin, his hometown, introducing himself to voters.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER, Republican Presidential Candidate: We need new, fresh leadership, leadership with big, bold ideas from outside of Washington, the kind of leadership that knows how to get things done, like we have done here in Wisconsin.


GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Since I have been governor, we took on the unions and we won.


GWEN IFILL: Scott Walker, king of the Midwest, another governor getting into the race. What do we know about him and how does he fit into this field, Tamara?

TAMARA KEITH: He’s definitely here pointing to his executive experience. He won three elections in four years in what he likes to remind everyone is a blue state.

Although, right now, he is gunning for Iowa and he’s all about winning Iowa, he also likes to paint himself as someone who could bring people together at some point, though, right now, his message in the speech is very, very conservative, a red meat kind of speech.

GWEN IFILL: Yet his wife and his sons have been giving interviews in which they have been sounding a little bit more moderate, at least on one key social issue that we have been talking a lot about lately, which is gay marriage.

AMY WALTER: Gay marriage. In fact, his sons gave an interview where they said, we have talked to our father about the fact that we’re in different places on this issue.

GWEN IFILL: Which a lot of American families are.

AMY WALTER: Well, that’s exactly what I was going to say, is that that is exactly where the American family is right now, where you have younger generations saying, this isn’t a big deal, older generations still saying they don’t really particularly like the idea, they’re not comfortable with it.

It actually mirrors very much where America is on this issue, even though he personally, Scott Walker, is to the right of the majority of Americans on this issue.

GWEN IFILL: Another big issue which has completely consumed this race in the last week or so is immigration, but immigration as seen through eyes of one Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton gave a big speech just today about the economy and what she plans to do as president, but she also spoke this afternoon to the National Council of La Raza, an activist Hispanic group, and this is what she had to say about Donald Trump’s — Donald Trump’s words on immigration.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, Democratic Presidential Candidate: I have just one word for Mr. Trump. Basta. Enough.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: And to all the other Republicans running for president, why did it take weeks for most of you to speak out? You’re normally such a talkative bunch.


AMY WALTER: She’s just loving it.

GWEN IFILL: She is loving it. And that’s the point, right?

AMY WALTER: She is loving it. Right.

Her campaign had said early on, long before she announced her candidacy, that part of the reason they were holding out on announcing was they said, we want the Republicans to fight amongst themselves, the attention won’t be on us, it will be on them.

Well, that didn’t happen until now. And Donald Trump has become — he’s a powder keg, and the closer you get to him, the more likely it is that he is going to explode. And she’s hoping that he explodes and does some collateral damage to the…

GWEN IFILL: Powder keg. Loose cannon.


TAMARA KEITH: Lindsey Graham called him a wrecking ball for the Republican Party.

GWEN IFILL: Yes, wrecking ball. The euphemisms are just flying.

TAMARA KEITH: There are many terms that are being used.

GWEN IFILL: But what does that say for Republicans? I mean, we know the Democrats love this, but are the Republicans loving it?

TAMARA KEITH: Well, I think the people who showed up for Donald Trump’s event in Arizona, 4,000 people packed into an arena — he said it was 10,000 — but, you know, they support him.

He is speaking to, certainly, an undercurrent that is very concerned about illegal immigration, and he is saying exactly what they want to hear. I don’t know what it means for the Republican field. I think that this is this identity crisis that they’re dealing with, where they want to win Latino voters. There are some that want immigration reform, there are some that absolutely don’t want it, and he is just, like, putting that family feud right out into the open.

GWEN IFILL: Does that affect the behavior or the immediate actions of new candidates like John Kasich or like Scott Walker, who we saw get in the race today? Do they have to calibrate their introduction to the American voter based on this loose cannon piece?

AMY WALTER: Well, it sure doesn’t seem like Scott Walker did. He came out making the case that he’s been making and wants to continue to make for the campaign, which is, I’m an executive, I have won in a blue state, and taking a very conservative position on almost every social, cultural and economic issue.

So they’re hoping just to ignore him, because the problem with Donald Trump is, if you engage him, it will only make things worse. It’s like — it’s a little bit what you were taught as a kid to not engage the bully, because they will continue to pick on you.

GWEN IFILL: And immigration, however, is going to continue to be an issue. It’s how the party deals with it.

TAMARA KEITH: Absolutely.

And Democrats feel like this is an issue where they have strength. And certainly Hillary Clinton very early on in her campaign came out strongly in favor of the president’s executive actions, in part because she was trying to set a trap, trying to get Republicans to have to talk about thing that they don’t really agree on, whereas on the Democratic side, it’s pretty well agreed there is a Democratic orthodoxy and move right ahead.

GWEN IFILL: Well, we’re going to watching all of that and also what the labor unions do now that Scott Walker is in the case. That is going to crystallize that issue.

But we will talk about that next week.



GWEN IFILL: Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both very much.

TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.



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