Web Video: Can either party achieve unity after contentious primaries?

Jun. 08, 2016 AT 5:22 p.m. EDT

Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Stuart Rothenberg of The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report join Gwen Ifill to discuss the latest in politics, including Donald Trump’s racially charged standoff with a federal judge, how a diverse electorate could hurt Trump in the general election and whether the Democrats or the Republicans are in a tougher spot

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

GWEN IFILL: And that brings us to Politics Monday with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Stuart Rothenberg of The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report, and now columnist for The Washington Post’s Power Post.

Welcome to you both.

So, Stu, we seem to be going through a series of turning points. WE just — let’s talk about the Democratic turning points first. Hillary Clinton could be making history tomorrow night.

STUART ROTHENBERG, The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report: Right.

Well, she — I’m quite confident, Gwen, that she’s going to get at least 23 more delegates. Probably New Jersey will put her over the top. That will be a historic event, remarkable. She will continue to build up delegates throughout the rest of the evening.

She is going to be the de facto nominee. The only question is when Bernie Sanders and his supporters accept that, and then how she pivots to the general election. She’s actually already started to pivot.

GWEN IFILL: Amy, do you begin to see Bernie Sanders pivoting in any way? We heard today that he took a phone call yesterday on the side of the road from the president of these United States. Who knows what they talked about, but we can guess.

AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Yes, we can.

And I think we also saw today that the president is eager to get involved into this campaign, reports today in The New York Times saying that he may be making an endorsement by the end of the week.

But it’s been very clear for some time that Bernie Sanders’ decisions are going to be important in this race, but the next most important person is President Obama, when he decides to come out and basically hug Hillary Clinton and say, this is the nominee, everybody needs to move on.

I’m also going to be watching very closely for what other progressive leaders in the party, like Elizabeth Warren, do after Tuesday. Maybe they give Bernie Sanders a couple of days, but then I think the wagons start to circle around Hillary Clinton.

STUART ROTHENBERG: Well, Gwen, I think that Bernie Sanders has to get on board. It’s all well and good…


GWEN IFILL: How much time does he have to do that?


Well, look, running for president is a grueling job. And he’s been doing it for months, and he’s exceeded expectations. And he deserves some sort of victory lap, even if he loses. So I think everybody would give him a few days to recover and lick his wounds.

But the reality is, he doesn’t merely need to stop the campaign against Hillary Clinton. He doesn’t merely need to acknowledge that she’s going to be the nominee. He needs to embrace her. He needs to bring his supporters along, particularly those 18-to-29-year-olds who are not enthusiastic about her.

GWEN IFILL: Let’s talk about the party which already has a putative nominee, and that’s the Republican Party. Donald Trump is undergoing some backlash because of his comments that John Yang was talking about, about the judge from Indiana who happens to be of Mexican descent and whether he’s fair and whether he thinks a judge who is Muslim would be fair.

There seems to be real pushback this time from Republicans.

AMY WALTER: Well, I mean, I guess the question is there really pushback, Gwen, or is it really just playing defense?

And I think that’s where Republicans are stuck here. We have this balancing act for so many Republican officeholders, folks who have come out and endorsed him, those who are on the ticket with him, who say I’m going to support him, but I’m going to try to keep my distance from him.

But as this week exposed, it is a very difficult thing to do. No matter what Donald Trump says, especially the more incendiary things he says, you as a candidate or an officeholder on the Republican side are going to have to answer for those things, for as much as you would like to distance yourself.

And I think this is what they’re going to have to deal with day after day after day on this campaign. I think it’s quite remarkable that we’re on day — I don’t know what we are, day four or five of this story, and Donald Trump continues to put — to stoke the flames of this, rather than trying to pivot himself under the other issues that we know he would have a much easier time going and focusing on.

GWEN IFILL: Meantime, if you’re Mitch McConnell, if you’re Paul Ryan, if you’re any other number of — or any of the number of other Republicans who have already endorsed and kind of embraced Donald Trump as the nominee, you’re going to be asked every time you show up somewhere, is he a racist?


And, Gwen, I don’t know why we’re surprised by this. This is Donald Trump’s M.O. This is the way he’s behaved for months. And there is no reason that he’s going to change. So, I expect similar incidents between now and the first week in November, where Donald Trump says things that are controversial and explosive.

And you’re right, and microphones are put in Kelly Ayotte’s face and Mitch McConnell’s and Paul Ryan’s each and every day. He said this. Do you agree or disagree? And that’s a problem with a campaign like this. It’s, the campaign isn’t set the agenda — well, actually, Donald Trump is setting the agenda.

AMY WALTER: I was going to say…

STUART ROTHENBERG: But that’s not the normal campaign agenda. He just refuses to act like any other politician.

GWEN IFILL: So, that’s where I wanted to go, actually, Amy.

Is this a campaign, or is it a reality show with Donald Trump in the driver’s seat and everybody else, including surrogates, including endorses, including anybody else who might — may be a future vice presidential running mate, they all have to kind of go to sleep every night not knowing what they’re going to wake up to?

AMY WALTER: Absolutely.

I mean, what you saw in the Republican primary was a candidate who upended the traditional norms of campaigning. And I think a lot of folks assumed that that was the way that he could win a general election as well, except for the fact that people forgot a couple of things.

One, a Republican primary electorate is not a general electorate. This is especially important when you realize how much more diverse a general electorate is than the Republican primary, which is overwhelmingly, like 90-plus percent, white.

The second thing is that Donald Trump is now under a greater amount of scrutiny and press coverage even than he was in the primary. And, as we see, he doesn’t do very well when he is forced to answer for his positions, when he’s put on the defensive. He lashes back.

And so for all the folks who said, isn’t this so fun, he’s changing the rules of the game, the reality is, the rules are there for a reason. And he can try to change the rules of the game, but it’s going to cost him with the folks who didn’t vote in the Republican primary.

GWEN IFILL: Which party is in a tougher spot right now, the Democrats trying to figure out what to do with Bernie Sanders or the Republicans trying to figure out what to do with their own nominee?

STUART ROTHENBERG: Well, I suppose today the Democrats have the immediate problem. They have two candidates running for their party’s presidential nomination.

But, in the long run, I think it’s very clear the Republicans have the bigger problem, because they have a deeply flawed nominee, or de facto nominee. They have a divided party. The Democrats are divided now, but they will get together. Sure, Hillary Clinton has some work to do among younger voters and the most progressives, but, no, I think the Democrats are more likely to coalesce, have a tighter bond than the Republicans.

I think that division is going to continue all the way to November.

GWEN IFILL: Stu Rothenberg of The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report, Amy Cook of The Cook Political Report — Amy Walter, that is — whatever your name is — thank you both very much.

AMY WALTER: Whatever.


AMY WALTER: Thanks, Gwen.


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