GWEN IFILL: Hello, and welcome to the “Washington Week” Webcast Extra. I’m joined around the table by Molly Ball of The Atlantic, Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post, Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report, and Jeff Zeleny of ABC News; what a team.
The 2014 midterms are all over but for the shouting, which means, naturally, we have no choice but to turn to 2016. And if you think it’s too soon, you haven’t been paying attention. The candidates are already on the stump. And even though they say they are campaigning for somebody else, we know what’s up. Don’t we, Hillary Clinton? We know. We’re watching you.
Jeff, Hillary Clinton.
JEFF ZELENY: Well, she’s been out in full force. She was in Iowa just this week. She is in Kentucky over the weekend, Louisiana over the weekend.
MS. IFILL: I saw her in North Carolina.
MR. ZELENY: North Carolina. So she is fully – she’s been in New Hampshire, obviously. So I think we, you know, are seeing her debut. But this is – the midterm elections are always a time that’s sort of a prelude. I was thinking back this week to 2006, and that is when Barack Obama first emerged. He was on a book tour, and then he was the most popular surrogate for other Democrats. And his experience on the trail that fall really propelled him and convinced him he should run for president.
I don’t know that anyone else has emerged quite like that this year. I guess Elizabeth Warren is still saying she’s not running, but boy, is she popular out there.
MR. ZELENY: And she is campaigning aggressively. And she was on “The View” this week, I noticed, and she was in –
MS. IFILL: She was?
MR. ZELENY: She was, yeah – on ABC, I might add.
MS. IFILL: (Laughs.)
MR. ZELENY: And she was trying to get out the women’s vote. So –
MS. IFILL: And there she is, campaigning for Mark Udall. There’s no reason not to bring her out.
OK, let’s put the other side. Jeb Bush made a little news this week.
MS. WALTER: Saying he’s not, not thinking about that, right?
MS. WALTER: Yeah, it’s like the triple negative. I’m not, not, not –
MS. BALL (?): (Inaudible.)
MS. WALTER: The son said he’s thinking about it.
MS. IFILL: The son said he is thinking about it. He said my son hasn’t talked to me.
MS. WALTER: Look, I think that there are a whole lot of people who’d like to see Jeb Bush run. And everywhere he goes, he gets people telling him how much they would like to see him run. But he’s got – still I think some things are holding him back. The most significant is there’s talk about that his family is not particularly encouraging, especially his wife. Now you hear talk about she’s bought in.
But I think the bigger problem is not just that he has the last name Bush, but that he hasn’t been on a ballot since 2002. And so, for all the talk of, gosh, he’s going to have a hard time with the base because of his positions on issues like immigration, on education, I think it’s really just learning how to be a modern-era candidate.
I mean, he wasn’t running when they had YouTube and Twitter and trackers following every minute of your life. That is a very different – and there’s no way to – there’s no way to practice. Remember in the old days, as candidates you could go do these things where you could be on the stump and practice somewhere in Iowa. Now one of you all will be following them.
MS. IFILL: Maybe –
MR. ZELENY: And he was a good governor. But as a candidate, I don’t - I remember being down there. I don’t ever recall him being all that joyful as a candidate. He was never that smooth and –
MS. WALTER: He’s not – he’s not the glad hander in the Bush family. And let’s face it. Also running – he’s been living a pretty nice life. And running for president means staying at every one of these darn town halls and waiting for the last person to ask the last question that you’ve been asked 14,000 times before. And the question is whether he really even – I think that requires a real appetite.
MS. IFILL: You know who does that, who seems to have the appetite? I’m going to be sorry I said this, but is Chris Christie, which is he loves to shake every last hand. He doesn’t mind telling people to get out of his face. And he gets cameras everywhere he goes.
MS. BALL: He’s one of these politicians who seems to just feed on the energy of all of the humans around him. You’ve got to think that he’s one of these – not to psychoanalyze the guy, but one of these people who sort of hates to be alone, right? But people respond to that. People respond to –
MS. IFILL: They used to say that about Bill Clinton too.
MS. BALL: Right.
MS. IFILL: It really worked.
MS. BALL: Exactly. Well, it did. (Laughter.) And I think we are seeing, you know, in this season of sort of auditions, right, in this season of soft launches, where the candidates do go out to these states and see how people respond to their messages, Christie is getting a warm reception. I mean, and he is clearly overtly trying to see how far he can go with, you know, “Bridgegate” now a year behind us, to see if there is an appetite for what he is selling, and to see if the establishment feels like he has come far enough since the scandal that he can be their favorite again.
MS. TUMULTY: But he had another one of these moments on camera this week where he blew up at somebody in New Jersey. And I do think that the first time that happens when it’s a farmer in Iowa, it may go over a little bit differently. So the question is how well that combative Christie style –
MS. IFILL: (Inaudible.)
MS. TUMULTY: Yeah. And, you know, it’s not just –
MR. ZELENY: And they’ll be waiting for him, too.
MS. WALTER: Right. They’re going to try to bring it out.
MR. ZELENY: Right. Exactly.
MS. WALTER: And, you know, it’s not just the candidates themselves –
MS. IFILL: (Inaudible.) That’s what that guy was doing – (inaudible).
MS. WALTER: That’s right. It’s not just the candidates themselves that are doing the soft launch. I mean, I think it’s interesting that, for example, Marco Rubio, one of his top staffers has been deployed to Iowa.
MS. IFILL: And Marco Rubio was in Iowa himself.
MS. WALTER: And Marco Rubio is spending a lot of time there. I mean, that person has been there helping Joni Ernst, the Republican candidate there. You know, this is building up chit time. This is not done just accidentally.
MS. IFILL: Now, as I look at my list, I see a lot of Republicans – Rick Perry, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Paul Ryan. Even Mitt Romney is talked about. But funny that there aren’t that many Democratic names floating around overtly. Is there – is the whole story going to be on the Republican side, or are some Democrats going to –
MR. ZELENY: There’s still going to be a story on the Democratic side. If it’s not Elizabeth Warren, it’ll be someone else. I mean, Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont, the senator, he has been out campaigning. He’s been in Iowa a couple of times, Wisconsin, New Hampshire. He is going to at least spend some time doing it.
Then you’ve got Martin O’Malley, the governor of Maryland, the outgoing governor of Maryland. She’s not going to have the field entirely to herself. But as long as she’s in, it’s going to sort of block others from thinking about it.
Back to the Republicans for one second, Rand Paul –
MS. IFILL: Wait. Before you do that, the vice president. Remember him?
MR. ZELENY: Oh, the vice president. Yeah, (he may ?) run.
MR. ZELENY: But back to Rand Paul just one second. He has earned his establishment credentials in this cycle. He walks away, I would say, as the winner, because he endorsed Mitch McConnell and he is out there everywhere. He’s actually wanted on the campaign trail. Ted Cruz is not. Ted Cruz has been told don’t come to Iowa. Don’t come to New Hampshire. Don’t come to Colorado.
MS. IFILL: Which goes back to the conversation we were having in the broadcast about moderation being – (inaudible).
MS. BALL: Yeah. I just want to say about the Democrats, I want to cover a Democratic primary as badly as you do, but Bernie Sanders isn’t even a Democrat. Martin O’Malley is at 1 percent in the polls. I mean, stranger things have happened, but I will be really – it just doesn’t look at this point –
MR. ZELENY: Polls don’t mean anything now. I mean, ask –
MS. BALL: No, polls don’t mean anything now, but –
MR. ZELENY: - Senator Obama and ask Senator Clinton.
MS. BALL: - but the establishment does. And there’s not a big Democratic establishment crying out for an alternative to Hillary either.
MS. WALTER: Well, there’s nothing in the – I agree with you that there’s nothing in the polls right now that suggests that Democrats want something else. Back in 2007, Hillary Clinton was in the mix, but she was not at the place where she is now. And even liberals – you look at the percentage of liberals who say that they are excited about Hillary to run. It’s not only much higher than it was in 2007, but it’s higher than among moderates. So this idea that there’s a hunger right now from the left for somebody else, it’s not –
MS. IFILL: Well, not that there’s a hunger, but anything could happen.
MS. TUMULTY: That is very true. That is true.
MS. IFILL: (Inaudible) – what the Democrats are counting on.
MS. TUMULTY: Well, but Republicans, there is a hunger because there’s no front runner. They want something. They can’t quite figure out what it is. Democrats at least now know what they want.
MS. IFILL: Oh, joy. See, there we’ve done it. We’ve broken our rule and we’re completely in 2016. We’ll be force-feeding it on you all year long.
Thanks for watching, everyone. While you’re online, check out my take this week on why 2014 is probably not the year of the woman, for a change. And we’ll see you next time on the “Washington Week” Webcast Extra.