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Susan Page and Domenico Montanaro on the decade in politics


But we will now begin with the final Politics
Monday of the year. To do that, I am joined by Susan Page, USA
Today’s Washington bureau chief, and Domenico Montanaro. He is the senior political editor
at NPR. Let’s start with something unusual, shall
we? Let’s talk about the candidates who are not
in the top tier. I want to take a look at the eight candidates who didn’t make the December
debate, Michael Bennet, Mike Bloomberg, Cory Booker, Julian Castro, John Delaney, Tulsi
Gabbard, Deval Patrick, and Marianne Williamson. These candidates are still out there doing
the work. They are still in the field. Susan, let me start with you. Could any of them see a surge before Iowa? SUSAN PAGE, Washington Bureau Chief, USA Today:
It’s possible. There are some impressive names here, people
we have taken seriously as presidential candidates. But it’s hard if you’re not on the debate
stage, because that is one to have the main ways to get attention, that you show the contrast
with other candidates. I think the candidate not on stage with the
best pathway to becoming a major candidate is Bloomberg, just because he has all that
money. And if there’s a stumble by Joe Biden, he would have the resources to take advantage
of it. DOMENICO MONTANARO, Political Editor, NPR:
I would say that Cory Booker probably is one of the candidates who has an opportunity,
anyway, to make some headway. Now, his campaign sees it sort of a triple
bank shot, where Joe Biden would have to do colossally badly in Iowa and New Hampshire,
be out of the race, and have the black vote essentially up for grabs. And Booker feels
like he could be positioned pretty well in the south and do fairly well. That’s a triple bank shot, not really seen
as a viable path at this point. But you never know. I mean, we have four candidates who are essentially
the top tier in Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg. And there are
lots of different scenarios for whether this becomes a short race or whether this goes
on for quite some time. SUSAN PAGE: You know, we could also see them
come back as the running mate. Cory Booker, for instance, Kamala Harris, Julian Castro,
those are all options, I think, as possible running mates. They will have been vetted somewhat by having
run. They will have some experience on a national stage. So even if they don’t become the nominee,
we may not have heard the last of them. LISA DESJARDINS: It’s interesting. They’re
still putting up a fight. Michael Bennet announced just today he’s going
to have the first town hall of the year 12:01 p.m. in New Hampshire, so they’re still out
there. But one thing they all face is a looming Senate
impeachment trial for this president. Domenico, I want to start with you. What does
that mean for these candidates, especially the senators? DOMENICO MONTANARO: Well, I mean, I think,
when we talk about that top tier, Elizabeth Warren obviously is one of those senators. And if she’s — the last thing she wants to
do is be shackled to a jury seat, essentially, in the Senate, when she’s really made hand-to-hand
campaigning a hallmark of her candidacy. She’s really been able to connect with a lot of
Democratic voters on the campaign trail. She touts the number of selfies she’s taken,
tens of thousands at this point. And that’s really helped to sort of help her image in
what kind of candidate she can be. If she’s stuck in the Senate in January, before
Iowa and New Hampshire, that’s really not good for her. LISA DESJARDINS: Susan. SUSAN PAGE: And the problem these senators
have is, Senate trials, impeachment trials traditionally are not a chance to make a big
“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” kind of speech on the Senate floor. You’re supposed to sit there and listen. It
makes it hard to get the kind of viral moment that might help them. It’s also not the topic
Democrats want to talk about. It’s President Trump being impeached. Democrats, however,
do not see this as big political asset for them. They would much be — prefer being — talking
about something like health care. LISA DESJARDINS: Let’s talk about someone
else who’s prominent during impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Susan, you are working on a biography of her.
I know because I have seen you there doing the work. I’m curious what your thoughts are
now, as we have this historic speaker, Nancy Pelosi, really kind of going head to head
with a historic majority leader, Mitch McConnell, two figures that I think will be in the history
books. Right now, Speaker Pelosi has not yet transmitted
the articles of impeachment. We don’t know when she will. What do you make of this strategy
by Speaker Pelosi? Are there political risks here? What’s going on? SUSAN PAGE: I was surprised when she decided
not to send the articles of impeachment over to the Senate. It’s not really a delay yet. It’s not really
a delay until we get into next week, when Congress comes back. I think she is trying
to be helpful to Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, to try to change or
effect, at least to some degree, the rules that will come — rule during the impeachment
trial there. But it’s a weak hand in a way, because Speaker
Pelosi doesn’t want impeachment be the topic hanging over the House. She would like this
to be off her plate over on the Senate side, so that her candidates, her Democratic candidates
in the House can turn to the issues that they know matter more to voters. DOMENICO MONTANARO: If she hadn’t brought
it up, you wouldn’t have someone like Lisa Murkowski right now coming out saying that
she felt that it’s disturbing that her Republican leader in the Senate said that he wouldn’t
be an impartial juror, that he wouldn’t be — that he’d be somebody who’s in lockstep
with the White House. That’s not the role that they’re supposed
to take. So Nancy Pelosi maybe buying some time for Chuck Schumer. LISA DESJARDINS: So, you see some real gain
potential here? DOMENICO MONTANARO: I mean, I think you can’t
over — you don’t want to overplay your hand and hold it out for too long, but she’s at
least raised the issue, even though people — but people in her caucus obviously expect
that she’s going to send it over pretty shortly after the holidays. We should also say, by the way, that Bernie
Sanders is one of the — going to be one of the jurors in the Senate trial as well. And
he is somebody I think you really need to watch in the campaign, because you have seen
his poll numbers come up. And you have seen this activist base. The
volunteer organization that he has in Iowa is really unparalleled. And to see him potentially
do well in a place like Iowa, potentially in New Hampshire, you could have a Sanders-Biden
race, for example, that reflects and looks a lot like that Sanders-Clinton race in 2016. LISA DESJARDINS: 2019 has not been a fast
year, at least not for me, probably not for our viewers. But it is ending. And with it
also ends a decade in politics. I want to ask both of you, going back to the
past decade in U.S. politics, what stands out to you about where we are and where we
have been? SUSAN PAGE: You know, the thing that surprises
me is that we had the election of Barack Obama followed immediately by the election of President
Trump, two men, both of them visionaries in their way, with such different visions of
what the country should be and where the country should go. And I think that’s one reason we have stoked
these tribal — this fierce tribalism, where no one seems to see any common ground between
the two sides, because their visions of the future have been so different. DOMENICO MONTANARO: You know, I think it was
a decade of polarization and partisanship. And it really took hold in the 2010s. You have President Obama signing into law
the Affordable Care Act at the very beginning of the 2010s. In March of 2010, he did that.
And that really set off the entire decade for what was to come. And you had — as Susan notes, you go from
George W. Bush. Who could be more opposite of George W. Bush than Barack Obama in 2008?
To then the rise of the Tea Party, which was really a backlash to President Obama, and
that gave rise to President Trump and one last backlash. In all of that has been the rise of progressivism,
which has been really pugilistic, and not wanting to compromise, seeing how Republicans
and the Tea Party didn’t. And we’re at this point where you have got a lot of clashes
to come. LISA DESJARDINS: A difficult question with
just one minute left. One thing I have seen in the last decade is,
it seems sort of a fear of leadership in Washington. I don’t think we see — we see people more
coached and less willing to take hard stances. Why do you — what do you make of that? What’s
happening there? SUSAN PAGE: I think it’s a time when our politics
are so frayed that it makes people cautious. People who speak in a spontaneous way, who
reach across party lines often have gotten punished. And I think that may have made — had
an effect on people’s desire — politicians’ desire not to — to keep to the script of
their side. DOMENICO MONTANARO: I mean, people get punished
for speaking out and trying to build a bridge, rather than blowing it up, as Amy Klobuchar
said in the last debate. So, until that kind of process changes, until
the type of politics we have changes, until the type of people who participate in elections
change, until the voters vote in different ways, you’re going to see, I think, more acrimony
before you see anything of going in the way back. LISA DESJARDINS: Well, you two trying to build
a bridge in our knowledge tonight, we appreciate it, Susan Page of USA Today, Domenico Montanaro
of NPR. I wish you a happy and hopefully very healthy
new year. SUSAN PAGE: You too. DOMENICO MONTANARO: You’re welcome. Same to
you. LISA DESJARDINS: And for more on the “NewsHour”
online, you can subscribe to “PBS NewsHour”s politics e-mails to receive weekly analysis
and commentary from the campaign trail, Capitol Hill, and the White House, as well as updates
on the impeachment investigation.

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