Clip: How midterms impact Trump's plan to launch campaign and will Biden run for reelection?

Nov. 11, 2022 AT 2:20 a.m. EST

Former President Trump is widely expected to announce another run for the White House next week. But some Republicans are openly criticizing him after the GOP's performance in the midterms. Plus, President Biden has also signaled he intends to run but has left the door open that, perhaps, he may not. The panel discusses the questions swirling within both parties about the future.

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TRANSCRIPT

Yamiche Alcindor: But as we discussed the midterm week that was, we also have to, of course, look at 2024. I you're your head is spinning at home but we have to do it.

Former President Trump is widely expected to announce another run for the White House next week. And President Biden also said he signaled at least that he's intending to run but has left the door open, that he perhaps may not. He's saying it's going to be a family decision. So, there are a lot of questions sort of whirling, really, within both parties about the future. And, J. Mart, you are about to jump in, I want to come straight to you here. You told our producers, I have a lot to say about. So I'm just going to let you take it away.

Jonathan Martin: Well, I can't recall a moment in American politics where the ostensible frontrunners of their parties had so many people in those parties dreading their candidacies. I think on the Republican side, it is self-evident, there's a ton of people who are ready to move on from Trump.

With Democrats, it's a little more complicated, Yamiche, because there is, I think, certainly support for Biden and certainly a great deal of goodwill for him. It is just that there is a feeling, I think, from a lot of Democrats that it's to move on, that he served the purpose of getting Trump out of the White House, he'll be 82 years old in 2024, and perhaps this thinking goes, it is time to get somebody of the next generation to run.

The exit polls the other night that we all saw show you overwhelmingly that most Americans want Biden to hang it up in '24. He doesn't seem quite ready to do that, at least as of right now.

Yamiche Alcindor: You don't say.

Jonathan Martin: Yes. It is hard. Look, it's hard for politicians to walk away, like it's hard for athletes to walk away, right? He has that competitive gene in him, and I think it's going to be difficult.

I will say real fast on Trump. I think what is happening is this is a conversation that was deferred from 2020 because of what happened in the aftermath of '20 and Trump's denialism about the election. This should have been happening then, because at that point, his party had lost the House, Senate and the White House on his watch. But he basically paralyzed, he froze that conversation in '20 because he was so fixated on saying the election was stolen, and he has now put off today that conversation.

And the last thing I will say is the GOP can tolerate a lot from Trump, a whole lot. What they can't tolerate is losing. And I think that could ultimately be, ironically, with Donald Trump, the biggest winner, he claims, his ultimate Achilles heel could be that he's actually a loser.

Yamiche Alcindor: Wow, that could be it.

Ayesha, abortion was also a big part of this midterm cycle. We saw nationally that it was the most important issue to voters only after inflation, based on some exit polling from NBC News. I wonder what you make of abortion victories. We saw five states voting on abortion-related measures. In all five states, including Kentucky, every single vote went for people who were supportive of abortion rights. What does that say?

Ayesha Rascoe: Well, I mean, it says that this is an issue that a majority of Americans support some form of abortion rights. Like, yes, they may not support total abortion rights or may support some limits, but they do not want abortion to be outlawed. And that is clear when you look at all of these races over and over again.

And I think that, really, some in the media, let's take some blame for that, underestimated how much of a role that will play. It was clear after Dobbs that there was some momentum. I think the thought was that that momentum had stalled. But, clearly, that is not the case. And that in places like Pennsylvania or other places where there was a real fear that you can have a rollback of abortion rights, you saw Democrats, you saw independents go to Democrats because they did not want abortion rights to be taken off of the table.

Yamiche Alcindor: Yes. And another big thing, Dan, that we've been talking about this is the threats to democracy. Ayesha was talking about it in terms of the president's speech and the decision to focus on that.

But there's something that's interesting that I've been thinking about, is there were some Democrats who people are saying meddled in the elections by supporting election deniers, and people were worried that that was a risk. But it turns out that all of those election deniers that were backed by Democrats, where Democrats they spent millions of dollars, they lost. What do you make of the implication of that? Is there a danger there?

Dan Balz: Well, there is a danger. And I think that there is a debate within the Democratic Party and more broadly than that about whether even if it is successful, whether that is the right thing to do in politics, whether you should raise up people who would, in fact, threaten the state of democracy. So, that remains an open question. But as a political tactic, it was successful.

Now, would it have been any less successful if they hadn't gotten involved? Perhaps not. So, I think that is an open question.

I want to go back on the abortion issue for a minute, because I agree with you. I think at the end of the campaign, there was this kind of this sense that it had faded. And I'm as guilty of that is anybody else because we saw how important inflation and gas prices and sensitive issues were to people.

But I remember conversations I had with voters in August with women voters, suburban women voters. And they were so passionate at that point. They were passionate about the abortion issue. They were passionate about democracy. And I think that when you look at what was going through their minds, there was something visceral of those issues. And when there's an issue that is that powerful, that doesn't fade away.

And I think it is easy for us to sort of look at a poll and say, oh, it is not as important as it was. In a way people think, they don't think about issues in quite that way. They don't think of them in a poll way. And so I think that ended up being so powerful in the outcome of this election.

Ayesha Rascoe:  And just really quickly, I mean, I think that those two -- so, you have two things. You have abortion, which Republicans don't have much room to maneuver on at all, and then you have Trump, who is not going to give them room to maneuver. So, those are two things that are going to really be hanging over Republicans when it comes to 2024. Like what are you going to do on abortion when there is really no room to negotiate, and Trump is not going to allow them to negotiate?

Dan Balz: Well, the other aspect of it is that on the issue of democracy, for a while, one could say, well, this is Trumps problem. But over a two-year period, it became the Republican brand, and that caused people to have a great pause.

Jonathan Martin: And that is the key point, that's the overarching, I think, point about this election. My co-author, Alex Burns, and I wrote a book called This Will Not Pass. And I think good news and the bad news for Democrats is that Trumpism will not pass. I think it is bad news for Democrats because Biden's hope was that the fever would break after he took office, that the Trump era would end. Well, it obviously hasn't.

The good news for Democrats is, because it hasn't faded, there are voters who are still really engaged and extremely tuned in. And, yes, independents, who can flip either side, are still voting for Democrats because they still, Yamiche, are afraid of Trumpism and they still want to reject it. Just because Trump is not in the Oval Office anymore doesn't mean that issue not animating. And I think that is what the big story this election.

Weijia Jiang: I think that Trumpism and Trump are two different things now. And so now we are in a situation where Republicans are asking who is the person who can still provide Trumpism, still give voters what they want in that sense. That is not Donald Trump. And so --

Yamiche Alcindor: And in talking about that and thinking about that, I was going to ask you about Michigan. I know you're at the White House, but Michigan saw these huge wins because, for the first time in 40 years, Michiganders are going to have a Democratic-controlled legislature and a governor's mansion. And that message was all about really anti-Trump and also all about making sure that women's rights were going to be protected, LGBTQ rights.

I sat down one-on-one with the governor of Michigan who said, we're ready for this fight nationally. I wonder what you make of sort of the people that are coming up, maybe some of the names that we are seeing, Governor Whitmer, Gretchen Whitmer being one of them, as being people who are ready to say, I'm going to fight Trumpism here, Weijia?

Weijia Jiang: Well, I mean, I think that that was brewing. I mean, look at what happened to her in particular, right? And so I think that we should expect to see much more of that. I mean, I think people are less afraid now to really confront it because they see that if you do, that doesn't mean it's not going to cost you. I mean, that means it could actually help you. And so from that sense, I think that it is not necessarily surprising. But, of course, the outcome is remarkable.

Yamiche Alcindor: I have to ask you about Sean Patrick Maloney, because, J. Mart, you're -- I want to ask you about this because he lost his race even though Democrats are doing well. What does that say?

Jonathan Martin: Well, he had this Hudson Valley District in New York, I think, ironically, because it's seen nationally as this bastion of liberalism. Democrats actually had a really rough go this year in New York, in part because of what was happening in the race for governor, where you had the Democratic incumbent, who was an appointed person -- not appointed, but someone who had taken office when Cuomo quit and who was fairly weak comparatively to that state's politics. And I think that helped down ballot and it hurt Democratic incumbents, like Sean Patrick Maloney. And I think if Democrats do in fact lose the House, it will be almost entirely because of their losses, ironically enough, in, yes, New York State.

But going to your point earlier about I think what Tuesday night also offered us, Yamiche, is a glimpse in both parties of the next generation.

Yamiche Alcindor: Yes.

Jonathan Martin: I think certainly on the Republican side, folks like Ron DeSantis, but don't forget these Democrats who were elected Tuesday too, Gretchen Whitmer overwhelmingly re-elected. If you win Michigan twice as a Democrat like that, boy, you are going to be in the national conversation immediately, and she certainly is. But don't forget Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania, who helped Fetterman a great view on top of the ticket, Wes Moore in Maryland and Maura Healey in Massachusetts. All of these new Democrats are going to be born on Tuesday.

Yamiche Alcindor: Well, Ayesha, I want to ask you about a Democrat that has an uncertain future right now, which is Stacey Abrams. She lost, and there are a lot of people who were saying this is what black women -- and I'm hearing this from experts -- this sort of what black women do. They work hard in Georgia. She was able to mobilize. Georgia is kind of purple because of -- some people say because of the work that she did, but she lost the race.

Ayesha Rascoe: And she lost the race. And, I mean, you do hear from some black women that it has been reported about the disappointment and the frustration of her coming forward, doing all this hard work, but not really seeing the fruits of that, not for herself. And I think it is a tough loss.

But I don't think that Stacey Abrams -- I don't think we need to count her out. I think that she will find a path for herself, whatever that may be. She is a political talent, my goodness. And so I think that the Democrats can find something for Stacey Abrams. It is just not clear what it will be.

Yamiche Alcindor: And in the last ten seconds here, Weijia, how long can Biden sort of hold off on 2024 if we end up seeing a Republican --

Weijia Jiang: He says he's in no rush. The party, I'm sure, is in a rush, right, because 2024 has already started. So, he said he is going to take some time over the holidays, it's going to be a family decision. And perhaps in the New Year, he will make an announcement, but not yet.

Yamiche Alcindor: Not yet, but you are going to be asking him, I'm sure, right?

Weijia Jiang: Every chance.

Yamiche Alcindor: Well, we have to leave it there. Thank you so much to our panel for your reporting. And for you all at home, thank you so much for joining us.

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