MS. IFILL: Hello, I’m Gwen Ifill. Because one half hour could never be enough, we pick up now where we left off on our regular weekly broadcast. Joining me around the table are Sue Davis of NPR, Michael Duffy of TIME magazine, Alexis Simendinger of RealClearPolitics, and John Harwood of CNBC.
Let’s start by talking about the also-rans. At any other moment in this campaign, John Kasich’s debate performance may have been considered a breakout. Here is what he had to say about how he believes you can – he believes you can oppose gay marriage but not gay people.
OHIO GOVERNOR JOHN KASICH (R): (From video.) If you’re not going to sell to somebody you don’t agree with, today I’m not going to sell to somebody who’s gay, and tomorrow maybe I won’t sell to someone who’s divorced. I mean, if you’re in the business of commerce, conduct commerce. That’s my view. And if you don’t agree with their lifestyle, say a prayer for them when they leave and hope they change their behavior.
MS. IFILL: And then there was Ben Carson, also onstage but for an unclear purpose. This was his much-remarked-upon description of what he is looking for in a Supreme Court justice.
DR. BEN CARSON: (From video.) As president, I would go through and I would look at what a person’s life has been. What have they done in the past? What kind of judgements have they made? What kind of associations do they have? That will tell you a lot more than an interview will tell you. The fruit salad of their life is what I would look at.
MS. IFILL: The fruit salad of their life, John. What –
MR. HARWOOD: Here’s the one thing he didn’t say: Is there any fruit in that salad that would be a litmus test to – (laughter).
MS. IFILL: We just looked at John Kasich and Ben Carson. Is the field about to shrink again after Super Tuesday?
MR. DUFFY: Well, I don’t think Ben Carson’s long for this world, although –
MS. IFILL: He thinks so.
MR. DUFFY: He’s been in for longer than a lot of people expected.
MS. IFILL: Including Ted Cruz.
MR. DUFFY: People disagree about this, because it gets quickly into game theory about whether Kasich is better off by staying in and whether his chances to be vice president are better if he says in and maybe collects more delegates or not. Who knows? I tend to think people tend to stay in longer than not. So I would guess, other than Carson, we’ll still be four, unless Cruz gets beat so badly in Texas – not expected – that he is in a different position going into that second group of Tuesday primaries.
MS. IFILL: Well, all three of them – Cruz –
MR. DUFFY: Rubio.
MS. IFILL: – Rubio and Kasich – all want to stay until their home states, right? So that – when is Ohio?
MR. HARWOOD: Ohio’s on the 15th.
MS. IFILL: Right, with Florida.
MR. HARWOOD: But I think Kasich – the more relevant date for Kasich is the 8th of March, which is Michigan, neighboring state.
MS. IFILL: Right.
MR. HARWOOD: I think he will use that as a marker of his progress and gauge whether or not it’s worth the risk to stay in to fight in Ohio when you could lose and be embarrassed. But if he has – if he’s making progress, if the field is shrinking and he thinks he could win and he’s running close to Trump in his home state of Ohio, then I think he would stay till the 15th.
MS. IFILL: Let’s talk about Lindsey Graham. (Laughter.) He dropped out of the race. And last night at a – at a congressional press dinner here in Washington, he – I think I can say this online. Can I say this online? I’m going to try it and you guys can bleep me if I can’t. He said that he thought his party was “batshit crazy.” And he also said this.
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): (From video.) John Kasich needs your help. (Laughter.) He’s the moderate – (laughs, laughter) – with a good heart. (Laughter.) The nice guy is Ben Carson. He tried to kill his cousin – (laughter) – and hit his mother in the head with a hammer. (Laughs, laughter.) He’s the one we all like. (Laughter.) How did I lose to these guys? (Laughter.)
MS. IFILL: It’s like the old Jon Lovitz thing on Saturday Night Live: I can’t believe I’m losing to these guys. Now, of course, he was supposed to be comedic, but he was also making a serious point, Sue.
MS. DAVIS: Yeah, I was there for that, and he was very funny. He also made a funny joke where he said, I got in the race, I lost; I endorsed Jeb, he lost; so tonight I’m endorsing Donald Trump in the hope that maybe he can lose. (Laughs.)
MS. IFILL: The old – the old Graham magic, I think he said, will work.
MS. DAVIS: Yeah. You know, Lindsey Graham has been doing what a lot of Republicans want to see more Republicans doing, but aren’t willing to do, which is take on Donald Trump directly, aggressively, and say if Donald Trump is the nominee for the party, he’s going to break the party in two; and that we cannot reconcile the politics of Donald Trump and the platform of the Republican Party, and that this is a suicide mission, and if we don’t course correct quickly the White House is gone. And he has probably been the most explicit Republican. I don’t think it’s changed anything in the race. But I also think that very few people have had as much fun in 2016 as Lindsey Graham has. (Laughs.)
MS. SIMENDINGER: The other thing about Senator –
MS. IFILL: (Inaudible) – fun it looked like – (laughter) –
MS. DAVIS: He was also very sick.
MS. SIMENDINGER: Senator Graham also really wanted to have a full-throated, responsible discussion about international policy. And of course, that kind of went by the wayside in this particular context with these particular candidates, so the substance of it. He was applauded for it by some, and it just was never enough.
MS. DAVIS: This has not been a policy campaign.
MS. SIMENDINGER: No, no.
MS. IFILL: I have a final kind of theoretical question for all of you, which is, as we’ve watched this week unfold, I started thinking to myself, the difference between politics and governing, right? So how does one govern in an era of anger and obstruction, depending on – you know, one man’s obstruction’s another man’s salvation, but how does that happen? Are people really rethinking, how do we do this?
MR. HARWOOD: Well, I think you have to look at the last eight years and say President Obama has governed about as effectively as he possibly could under these circumstances. He had – in the first two years, he had a very strong majority, which often happens when a president comes in if they come in with a head of steam. He got very important, substantive elements of his program through: health care, the economic stimulus. The economy has steadily recovered through the balance of his presidency. And since then, he has been both fending off the Republican Congress trying to undo his signature achievements and using his executive authority, both in foreign policy and domestically, where he can. And when you look at the goals that he came into the presidency with, he has gotten about as much out of those goals as you could imagine under circumstances like this.
MS. IFILL: If I’m a Republican in the Senate, I would – we talked about it in the main show, it’s still a crapshoot. I don’t know that anybody wants to hear anything that an elected official has to say.
MR. DUFFY: I think one of the astonishing stories that we’re living through here is that there are the governed and the people who do the governing, and if we believe that voters are the voices of the governed, then the voices of the governed – at least in the Republican Party – are saying, well, we’ve lost five of the last six presidential elections, those guys haven’t worked, so we’ll try this new guy, Trump, who isn’t a politician, and maybe the party won’t be broken anymore; maybe we could actually win some more states.
MS. IFILL: Wow, that’s rationalization.
MR. DUFFY: But, well, how else to explain what the governed are doing? I mean, there’s – that’s what they’re doing. That’s what they’re saying so far. So whether that’s a winning strategy or not. But when I hear Lindsey say the party’s broken, it’s been broken for five cycles.
MS. SIMENDINGER: But there are lots of theories, to answer this question, that are in play in this election, and that’s what’s so fascinating. It’s the argument among the electorate, right? We want Washington to be less dysfunctional, and therefore we’re ready to blow it up. That’s one theory. There’s another theory that, for instance, Senator Sanders has articulated: We need a revolution of a different kind. We need to change the money in politics. We need to change the forces of the influencers in politics. That’s another theory. Then we have the Republican establishment, that says the best thing that can happen in Washington is let’s just have Republican control over everything. And then the Democrats are arguing this is a mess, we need to – you know, divided government worked, or let’s fight to try to get Democratic seats back, but let’s try to do it a much more establishment kind of way. I’m talking about the establishment Democrats. And that – it is exactly fascinating.
MS. IFILL: There’s a lot to be said for having everything thrown up in the air and see where it all falls. Thank you all very much for entertaining me on that.
That’s it. Stay online and watch my Facebook chat from earlier this week celebrating Washington Week’s 49th birthday. I know, I look young. That’s PBS – (laughs, laughter) – that’s at PBS.org/WashingtonWeek. And we’ll see you the next time on the Washington Week Webcast Extra.