Alcindor: Meanwhile, this week, the nation`s economic challenges deepened. Inflation hit a new 40-year high.
President Biden traveled to Iowa and North Carolina to talk about what his administration is doing to address rising prices.
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Biden: Our economy has gone from being on the mend to being on the move. I know that we are still facing challenges of high prices, inflation. We need to address these high prices, and urgently, for working folks out there.
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Alcindor: In the meantime, many Republicans are focusing their midterm election strategy on culture wars -- issues like abortion, guns, and medical care for transgender young people.
Eugene, I want to come to you to talk about this strategy by President Biden, but there was eye-popping reporting in "Politico Playbook". Of course, you`re a co-author. I want to read it because President Biden`s campaign pollster said this is possibly the worst politically environment I have lived through in 30 years of being a political consultant. That is striking to hear.
I wonder what you are hearing from your sources about the challenges that Democrats face and their strategy for navigating them.
Daniels: I mean, they are just as concerned as John Anzalone is, right? When you talk to them, especially on background, they will be a lot more blunt because they see the same things we see. They see inflation. They talk to their family members around the country who have higher gas prices all of a sudden and people don`t see a way out of this.
But I will say, Anzalone also talked about the importance of the administration and members of congress, Democrats, in passing some form of the social spending bill that was promised, right? We have seen that stalled since last December, and fits and starts throughout. When they get back in just about a week, they will apparently start negotiating this more and negotiating this in earnest.
If they are able to do that, if they are able to pass some kind of bill, the hope that Democrats have is that that will blunt some of this. If they don`t keep the house and the senate, at least stem some of the bleeding so it is not as bad as it looks.
But when you talk to Anzalone, he feeling that way, it tells you how the administration is feeling and possibly even how -- what President Biden is hearing from folks that he talks to consistently.
Alcindor: I want to ask you about what President Biden is hearing from fellow Democrats because the Biden administration has announced it`s going to restarting selling leases to drill oil and gas on federal lands. What is your feeling on the tension between Democrats on climate change? On the one hand, activists want to see less reliance on fossil fuels, but, of course, you have a White House trying to make sure gas prices don`t go any higher.
Daniels: Yeah, the climate community is split, like Democrats typically are on these kinds of issues. You have one camp that understands that what President Biden is trying to do is address what they think is a short-term problem, getting gas prices to a better place, especially because you have the midterms so close. On the other hand, you have a lot of activists who say, wait, you promised us to work on climate change and here we are talking about drilling more in the United States.
There is a huge concern that the administrations promises on climate are not going to come to fruition because of where we are. Who knows how long this war is going to continue as the administration figures out how to blunt some of that. And when you talk about gas prices, and the administration calls it the Putin price hike, that inflation was going on before the invasion, right? That is something folks should remember.
And one of the things I have heard a lot from climate activists over the last week is they are frustrated with the White House because they felt like this was opportunity to say to the American people consistently in every single speech, this is why we need to get away from fossil fuels in this country. Look at the other ways we can bring energy to America by focusing on other aspects of this and not focusing on oil, and they have told the administration this.
So, we will see how this plays out going forward.
Alcindor: And, Marianna, there is, of course, what`s happening on the GOP side. We see Republicans passing all sorts of laws focusing on culture wars. You talked to a Republican from Florida who`s saying they are not shying away from these issues.
What is the significance in the strategy here up the GOP leaning in on these culture war issues?
Sotomayork: Yeah. You know, when I talk to Republicans, it is pretty interesting to have them explain, ok, we are getting attacked by Democrats, sure, with how we are framing these things. For example, the "don`t say gay" legislation that Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law last week. That isn`t good for them, and they acknowledge that.
They also acknowledge that, you know, you actually played that ad by Kay Ivey, the governor of Alabama who says, we will start speaking Spanish and that is not ok. They don`t like to see that kind of extremism too much because they know that can alienate certain bases. In terms of "don`t say gay", that could be suburban women. In terms of what Governor Ivey was saying, that, of course, is the Hispanic vote, that Republicans are making inroads.
However, if you explain those issues, that is where they see a lot of turnaround. In terms of that one congressman that I actually spoke to from Florida, a Republican, they were saying that when they are back home talking about that legislation, not saying that it is "don`t say gay" but the fact that we want to make sure that you as parents know that kids are being taught this at a very young age from pre-K to third grade, that gets a better reception from parents.
And Republicans, for the most part, have been looking at a number of culture issues and turning it back to the issue of choice.
Alcindor: It`s a strategy that has been working for them. Eugene, just a couple minutes left. I want to try to split it with you and Peter, but I want to come to you, Eugene, for a minute and talk about the strategy. I was in Alabama talking to transgender children who say some of these laws are detrimental to their health. What do you make of this strategy?
Daniels: It`s a strategy that Republicans think is going to work for them if they are able to explain it in the right way and couch it in some parental rights, what are we teaching your children?
But when you actually look at the kinds of things that are being taught in schools like with these "don`t say gay bills" are talking about, not talking about gender identity in schools, kids are being taught that, right? It is not like kids are being taught about sexuality.
So, that is something that when you talk to parents of transgender kids, when you talk to advocates, their concern is the effect of that, of kids effect of that, of kids pressing within themselves when we know the rates of suicide among that community are very high. So, the concerns about how this plays out in the long term and short and medium-term is the concern.
Alcindor: And, Peter, in the last 30 seconds here, you told our producers that Democrats are in desperate straits, but we saw the president go to Iowa and North Carolina. In just 30 seconds, what can you tell us about the politics here?
Baker: Yeah, look, he has two real missions. One is to try to do what he can to get inflation under control, two, to be seen doing what he can to get inflation under control. There are limited tools that can impact that on a short-term basis, and that is a frustration for this administration. They don`t have a lot of time left, as we just talked about with the midterms coming up.
So, what you need to have or the White House feels like it needs to have an image of a president who understands the concern is out there and trying to address them as aggressively as possible.
Alcindor: Yeah. Well, a lot to talk about. Thank you so much, Peter, Eugene, Marianna, for joining us and for sharing your reporting.
We`ll continue our conversation on the "Washington Week Extra." This week`s topic, new text messages reveal just how far some Republicans wanted to go to overturn the 2020 election. Find it on our Facebook, on our website, and our YouTube. Tune in Saturday to "PBS News Weekend" for the latest news from Ukraine.
Thank you for joining us. I'm Yamiche Alcindor. Good night from Washington.