GWEN IFILL: Hello, and welcome to the “Washington Week” Webcast Extra, where we pick up where we left off on the weekly broadcast. I’m joined around the table by Alexis Simendinger of RealClearPolitics, John Harwood of CNBC and The New York Times, Jeanne Cummings of Bloomberg Politics, and Dan Balz of The Washington Post.
Many of our panelists are hitting the road during the final weeks and days of this midterm election campaign. And while we’re keeping an eye on the candidates themselves, we’re also watching their surrogates, including Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Rand Paul and Chris Christie. Each is there representing the past, the present, the future, and sometimes all three.
So let’s start by talking about Hillary Clinton, who I know, Dan, you saw this week in Colorado.
DAN BALZ: I did. She was in Colorado on Tuesday afternoon for a rally that featured all of the heavyweight Democrats there in the state, but the two that are on the line at this point, Senator Udall and Governor Hickenlooper.
She was very interesting at this. She gave a very, very impassioned set of statements about women’s issues and women’s rights. She opened with some of the normal kind of campaign stuff that you would expect, and then she turned to the issue. Udall has been criticized for talking too much about women’s issues. And she stepped right up to it and said when he’s talking about women’s issues, he’s right on the frontier. Women’s rights are in jeopardy everywhere. The right to abortion is at risk in a way it’s not been in 40 years. She was very, very strong. It’s the strongest she’s been on that topic.
MS. IFILL: Even and maybe especially when she was running for president.
MR. BALZ: Oh, yes. Oh, I don’t remember her ever being this outspoken when she ran for president on that particular set of issues.
MS. IFILL: Let’s look to the other side. Sarah Palin has been out there on behalf – and we were talking in the regular program about how motivated tea party –
MS. CUMMINGS: Sympathizers.
MS. IFILL: - sympathizers are. And she’s part of the reason. She’s showing up. She’s working on behalf of a lot of these candidates, including, like, Pat Roberts in Kansas.
MS. CUMMINGS: She really can’t show up in that many places. She’s not being invited –
MS. IFILL: No, there she is with an alligator. I’m telling you, she’s everywhere. She’s in Louisiana, Minnesota. (Laughter.)
MS. CUMMINGS: Well, I mean, she – in the Pat Roberts case, I think they brought in everyone. I mean, they were so shocked when that first poll came out and he’s down 10 points. And they were ready to throw anything against the wall.
MR. HARWOOD: Back to back they had Bob Dole, Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz.
MS. CUMMINGS: Yeah.
MS. IFILL: And McCain?
MS. CUMMINGS: Yes.
MS. IFILL: Anybody who was – (inaudible) – Kansas.
MS. CUMMINGS: Everybody.
MS. IFILL: Well, let me ask you about Michelle Obama. Because we know that we don’t see the president out for all kinds of obvious reasons, we have seen selectively Michelle Obama when she got Bruce Braley’s name right. We have seen her out on the stump quite a bit.
MS. SIMENDINGER: She has been out on the stump. And we were – you know, one of the things that we’re all remarking on is the number of places that she is, you know, dispatched to go and the kinds of campaigning that she’s doing. She’s gotten a little bit more publicity for the range of things, like bobbling a name or not getting the – in Colorado, not getting quite the organization of someone’s lineage correctly.
But in some ways, she, as a surrogate, you know, has – it’s really interesting that she’s out there in a way that not only the president can’t be, but that she still remains as popular. She still is invited. And she is talking about – promoting these candidates in a way that, in some ways, often comes off as not quite hyperpartisan. It’s very –
MS. CUMMINGS: Is she getting good crowds?
MS. SIMENDINGER: Yeah, she gets good crowds, yeah.
MR. BALZ: Don’t you think part of it is she can go places that the president can’t, but also, in so many of these races, women are the key –
MS. SIMENDINGER: Absolutely.
MR. BALZ: - target for Democratic candidates, and she can help on that front?
MS. SIMENDINGER: And she absolutely does do that. And also, as you can see, the president himself is trying to really appeal to African-Americans. And he’s gone a little bit underground with radio interviews, which is interesting.
MS. IFILL: You know, can I say something about that? Because one of the interesting things I’ve heard on local radio here, local black radio, is that in Maryland there is an African-American who’s the Democratic nominee for governor. Both the president and the first lady have campaigned on his behalf.
The radio ad that she records, she says you should vote for Anthony –
MR. BALZ: Brown.
MS. IFILL: - Brown because he’s a great fellow. And then another voice comes in, a male voice, and says, yes, and we’ve got to get our community to the poll. And then she comes back. She never mentions race. So her voice is used to rap the racial pitch in the middle of the ad, something which goes right under the radar.
MR. BALZ: Very interesting.
MS. IFILL: So she’s not saying it. Somebody else is.
MR. HARWOOD: Alexis, is there any way under the sun – you’re talking about Hillary Clinton. Is there any way under the sun Michelle Obama becomes a candidate in her own right somewhere down the line?
MS. IFILL: No. (Laughs.)
MS. SIMENDINGER: Over her dead body. Over her dead body. (Laughter.) Many people who are very big fans of the first lady have suggested that she should think about running for the Senate in Illinois, for instance, or wherever they end up, which is likely to be Illinois, and maybe some other states with nice golf courses. But she has made it –
MS. CUMMINGS: (Inaudible) – second house.
MS. SIMENDINGER: Yeah. She’s made it clear that that is not what she pictures herself doing in the future.
MS. IFILL: You know, going back to the other side, Rand Paul has been out quite a bit. (Let’s look ?) forward to the people who are clearly laying the groundwork for 2016. He was on the cover of Time Magazine last week. Who is he appealing to? What is the point of Rand Paul on the campaign trail right now as a surrogate?
MR. HARWOOD: Well, I think, first of all, Rand Paul comes to the race as the heir to a libertarian movement that his father led. He’s trying to broaden that movement. Part of that is broadening – is building up chits with regular Republicans. Part of it is trying to reach out to non-Republicans, or at least reach out to Republicans by appearing to try to reach out to nontraditional audiences, to show – to portray himself as more open-minded; going after African-Americans, trying to make unconventional appeals. And it’s a very aggressive, very aggressive early organization of the campaign.
He’s having a summit meeting right after the election to sort of talk to his high command and finally make the decision and move ahead. And he’s somebody who is certainly getting a lot of attention. I think he would have a steeply uphill fight to try to win over the Republican Party, given where he is on foreign policy. But he’s going to make the effort.
MS. IFILL: Of course –
MS. CUMMINGS: You raise a good point, though. In Iowa, when we did the Iowa poll with Bloomberg Politics, with the Des Moines Register, we asked who are the most effective surrogates? And it’s Bill Clinton and Governor Branstad, longstanding governor there; so these sort of patron, older, well-known –
MS. IFILL: Let’s talk about the big dog. (Laughter.)
MS. CUMMINGS: The big dog is in demand, and he is everywhere.
MS. IFILL: He is raising money.
MR. HARWOOD: He’s still barking.
MS. CUMMINGS: That’s right.
MS. IFILL: Still barking.
MS. CUMMINGS: I wonder if he’s still in Arkansas.
MS. IFILL: I think that he’ll be back in Arkansas a lot. He needs to be there if he wants his guy to win.
Thank you, everybody.
For more on what our panelists are writing and reporting, be sure to check in every day on our “Washington Week” webpage to see what we call News You Need to Know. And we’ll see you next time on the “Washington Week” Webcast Extra.