Special: Who are Trump's most die-hard supporters? And is this election about change or status quo?

Oct. 28, 2016 AT 9:38 p.m. EDT
While Donald Trump has threatened lawsuits against the women accusing him of sexual misconduct, his most loyal supporters have not left his side. Many of the supporters New York Times reporter Ashley Parker spoke to in recent days have called for a revolution if Trump loses and view a Clinton win in apocalyptic terms. Plus, Michelle Obama hits the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton, and Paul Ryan weighs his post-election plans as the Republican majority is likely to shrink. Also, Amy Walter asks an existential question: is this election about change or just the status quo?

Get Washington Week in your inbox


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

AMY WALTER: This is the Washington Week Extra . I’m Amy Walter, in for Gwen Ifill.

Last week, Trump went to Gettysburg to lay out his vision for the first 100 days of his presidency. He muddled his message when he announced his plans to sue the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct. Then, a few days later, he congratulated one of his most loyal surrogates, Newt Gingrich, for getting into an on-air fight with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. Let’s watch.

FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA): (From video.) You are fascinated with sex, and you don’t care about public policy.

MEGYN KELLY: (From video.) Me? Really?

MR. GINGRICH: (From video.) Now, that’s what I get out of watching you tonight.

MS. KELLY: (From video.) You know what, Mr. Speaker? I’m not fascinated by sex, but I am fascinated by the protection of women, and understanding –

MR. GINGRICH: (From video.) OK.

MS. KELLY: (From video.) – what we’re getting in the Oval Office.

DONALD TRUMP: (From video.) And by the way, congratulations, Newt, on last night. That was an amazing interview. (Applause.) That was an amazing – (applause) – we don’t play games.

MS. WALTER: Ashley, Donald Trump needs women voters, do better with women voters. Is this really the way to do it? Is this helping?

ASHLEY PARKER: You’re saying – you’re saying a thrice-married adulterer isn’t the best surrogate to speak to suburban women, Amy? (Laughter.)

MS. WALTER: I don’t – I don’t know. I’m just asking questions. That’s what I do, I ask questions.

MS. PARKER: No, this is probably not the best way to do it, to declare that your first 100 days will involve a lawsuit. That’s not a good strategy. Newt is not the best voice, getting in a fight with Megyn Kelly, a female anchor who’s very respected on a news network, respected by conservatives. None of those are particularly good strategies. But I will say I spent the past week out with Trump voters, and they are incredibly loyal. And my colleague and I, we talked to – not about this particular issue, but we talked to over 50 voters in six states, many of them battleground swing states, about what they would do – this is when Trump started trailing in the polls – in a possible Trump loss. And it was very striking what they said. A lot of people – or not a lot, but a significant, striking number of people spoke of, you know, if Trump loses, this would be the next Revolutionary War; there would need to be bloodshed, people would take up arms. And again, I don’t know that everyone I was talking to actually had a – had a plan to grab their gun and march on the capital, but that sentiment, it was basically that they believe a Hillary victory is sort of – they see it in apocalyptic terms, and they are speaking in the language of the apocalypse. So he may not be approaching women with the best strategy, but he sort of has a built-in base of loyalty that doesn’t seem to care.

MS. WALTER: And do you think it’s going to stay there post-Trump – I mean, that this energy is going to be transferrable in 2017 to something else?

MS. PARKER: I mean, that is the key question, and these voters themselves didn’t seem to know. I mean, some spoke, again, of revolt and of riots and protests and disobedience. But others, you know, said, look, I would – one woman who we ended our story with said I would pray for the next president no matter who he or she is. You know, I have one vote, I would try my best, and then I would go back to my life. So I think it’s an open question. And a question of if another leader has to come in to sort of take over the movement or if there’s enough organic energy for it to kind of morph into something else.

MS. WALTER: Into something.


MICHAEL SCHERER: The two most remarkable interviews until all this stuff over the last couple days were the Kellyanne Conway interview on CNN I think it was Monday or Tuesday, in which she says I went on the plane with Trump after that rally at Gettysburg and I said I’m going to fight with you for the next three weeks because I think you can win. She’s basically saying to CNN and the American public that her candidate is trying to lose, which was just like a remarkable thing to hear a campaign manager say. And then the Steve Bannon interview with Bloomberg, in which he talks about how Trump is a great entrepreneur and we’re building a new business while the campaign’s still going on – his campaign CEO. It’s just a remarkable thing to watch those dynamics play out in public.

MS. WALTER: But is he running for something else besides president, is the issue.

REID WILSON: Let me – let me add a third interview in – that was also in Bloomberg Businessweek , in which a senior Trump campaign official openly said that they were aiming to suppress the vote, which, again, to Ashley’s earlier point, is not generally a good political strategy.

MS. WALTER: A good idea to help you broaden that base.


MS. GEARAN: And certainly not to admit it, proudly.

MS. WALTER: (Laughs.) Right. Proudly, yes.

All right. Well, Anne, this week Hillary Clinton campaigned for the first time with Michelle Obama, and it was unusual because Secretary Clinton spoke first and then came the first lady. Tell us a little bit about that.

MS. GEARAN: Yeah, that’s exactly usually the opposite.

MS. WALTER: Right.

MS. GEARAN: But it was – from the Clinton campaign’s perspective, there is no better spokesperson, no better surrogate, no better advocate than Michelle Obama – better even, although they wouldn’t say it out loud, than the president or the former president, and certainly in many cases better than Hillary Clinton herself. And so they were thoroughly delighted. Anything Michelle Obama wants to do, they will be happy to have her do. And they have said that they are surprised and delighted that she wants to do as much as she does.

MS. WALTER: Yeah, because she doesn’t love campaigning. Let’s be really clear, she dislikes it.

MS. GEARAN: No. She has very publicly said many times that she dislikes it. And she has said herself that she was motivated in very, very large measure by Trump – that she wanted to go out and talk particularly to women and about women, and about what she has said is the risk that Trump poses to women. And that was the theme of her very well-received speech a couple of weeks ago, and also a pretty large theme of this week’s speech as well.

MS. WALTER: Do you think that’s the motivating factor for Michelle Obama, is the Trump piece of this, more so than the pro-Clinton piece?

MS. GEARAN: Well, I mean, she’s a Democrat.

MS. WALTER: Of course.

MS. GEARAN: She wants to see a Democrat elected. She is very interested in her husband’s legacy, and she wants to see that preserved and protected, which Hillary Clinton stands up every day and says she’ll do, right?

MS. WALTER: Right, right.

MS. GEARAN: So those two women did not have a close relationship. They have become friendly. I thought it was interesting that Michelle Obama, one of the very first things she said in North Carolina the other day was, in case you’re wondering, Hillary Clinton and I are friends. (Laughter.) Just sort of seemed a bit like an odd thing to say at the outset, but Hillary Clinton was sitting there beaming while she said it, so they certainly looked, you know, friendly. And whatever her motivation – you know, whatever she thinks about Hillary Clinton, rather, I mean, her motivation overwhelmingly is that Hillary Clinton is better than Donald Trump.

MS. WALTER: Reid, I want to get to you for some talk about – some real talk about the House. First, let’s talk about how likely it is that the House may flip. We talked about the Senate earlier going into Democratic control. Is that even possible?

MR. WILSON: Well, Anne said on the main show that it’s extremely unlikely, and she’s exactly right. The Republicans have 247 seats. Democrats have 188. That means Democrats need 30 seats around the country to make it to a 218-vote majority. As we take a look at the number of actually truly competitive seats, there just aren’t that many. And of the actual competitive seats, some of them are held by Democrats that they’ll have to be defending. So for Democrats to win back control of the House of Representatives, they would have to win not only some very conservative seats, but also some very conservative seats whose incumbents are sleeping and not paying attention to the danger that they face. The interesting thing that’s happened in the last week or so is that some of the large outside Republican groups have started spending a lot of money on some of those very races, as what sure looks like a firewall campaign to prevent any sort of large-scale loss like the Republicans suffered in 2006 or 2008.

MS. WALTER: And Paul Ryan, though, most likely looking at a diminished majority.

MR. WILSON: Certainly.

MS. WALTER: What does his future hold?

MR. WILSON: Paul Ryan – as the Republicans have 247 – I shouldn’t have taken that sip.

MS. WALTER: Yeah, I was going to say. Well, depending on what’s in there. (Laughter.)

MR. WILSON: As the Republicans have – well, we’ll get to that later. With the 247 seats, I mean, the seats that are actually competitive are the – are almost exclusively members who love and would be happy to vote for Paul Ryan for speaker. There is a small rump faction within the Republican Party – 20 to 40 members, depending on what day you’re counting – who love nothing more than antagonizing Paul Ryan. And when those members are in a 247-vote majority, that’s great. They can rabble all they want, and they won’t necessarily upset the apple cart. But if they’re in a smaller majority, they’ve got a lot more power. And you know, Paul Ryan once had a limitless future – you know, a presidential campaign was certainly on the horizon, he’d be speaker for as long as he wanted, or whatever job he wanted to do he could do that job. Now, as those rabble-rousers become a more important part of the Republican Conference, his future looks a lot more limited. And frankly, I mean, this is sort of why John Boehner left in the first place – it’s not a terribly pleasant job to have 20 or 30 guys on your team who are trying to vote you out.

MS. WALTER: At all times.

MR. WILSON: At all times, every single turn.

MS. WALTER: Yes. All right. Finally, Michael, I want to go to maybe a bigger, more existential question about what does this all mean. This usually –


MS. WALTER: It does mean love. (Laughter.)

MR. SCHERER: It’s all you need. (Laughter.)

MS. WALTER: At some level this looks like your classic change election. You had two insurgent candidacies – Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders – doing very, very well. And yet, here we are, we’re 11 days out, the president of the United States has a 50-plus percent approval rating and the most status quo candidate that you could possibly and most establishment candidate that you could possibly pick, Hillary Clinton, is in the lead. So what is this? Is this just a status quo election or a change election that went on the fritz?

MR. SCHERER: I think you got a couple things going on. I think the immediate election we’re in is not about the state of the country. It’s about these two people and who you hate more. And so Hillary Clinton – you know, it’s interesting when we watch in the last few weeks what has rallied Millennials, the groups that she couldn’t get before, is that she has convinced them that Trump is actually a real threat, you know? So she, in that scenario, looks like the – like we’re protecting you from this threat of Trump, and that just swamps the change argument.

I think the second thing that’s going on, though, is that a lot of the metrics we’ve used historically to chart what makes a change election – you know, median income growth, right track/wrong track – I mean, the wrong track number now is still – two-thirds of the country think we’re on the wrong track, compared to one-third – don’t seem to apply. I mean, if you go back to 2012, that was another year in which it was, by all those metrics, a change election year. Romney banked his whole campaign on the idea that the country was economically frustrated and that would guarantee a result for him in the end, and it didn’t happen. And I think the country has been pushed so far, is in so much turmoil, that just looking at the environmental factors don’t – doesn’t result in outcomes like it did in decades past.

MS. WALTER: In the old days. This was great. Thank you, guys.

And that’s it for this edition of the Washington Week Extra . I’m Amy Walter. See you next time.


Support our journalism

Washington Week Logo

© 1996 - 2024 WETA. All Rights Reserved.

PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization

Support our journalism


Contact: Kathy Connolly,

Vice President Major and Planned Giving

kconnolly@weta.org or 703-998-2064