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Stu Rothenberg and Domenico Montanaro on 2020 gun policy, Democratic debate takeaways

Stu Rothenberg and Domenico Montanaro on 2020 gun policy, Democratic debate takeaways

JUDY WOODRUFF: The crowded field of Democratic
presidential candidates has new dividing lines this week, from preventing gun violence to
impeaching Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh. Here to look at the Democratic field midway
through September, I’m joined by Stu Rothenberg, senior editor of Inside Elections, and Domenico
Montanaro. He’s senior politics editor from NPR. Hello to both of you. Thank you for being here for Politics Monday. Let’s talk about guns first. We saw, Stu, at last week’s Democratic debate,
some real division. We saw Beto O’Rourke stake out some territory
we hadn’t seen Democrats speak about recently. STUART ROTHENBERG, Inside Elections: Yes. (CROSSTALK) STU ROTHENBERG: Everything seems to be about
the Democratic divide, doesn’t it, between the various wings of the party? And it’s showing up on guns, as it showed
up on impeachment and other issues. You have the Democrats who want to go as far
as they can, and those who are thinking more about the general election. And that’s a division in the party that they’re
going to have to figure out how to deal with this, to keep the progressive populists enthused
and excited and behind the party’s nominee, and yet also reach out to — remember that
the general election is about swing voters. JUDY WOODRUFF: So — and his talking about
buying back assault-style weapons, again, this is a place that even Democrats haven’t
gone. DOMENICO MONTANARO, Political Editor, NPR:
Yes. I mean, the fact is, you have someone like
Beto O’Rourke, who had to reboot his campaign, right? So, of course he’s going to go on the campaign
stage and want to be on the debate stage and be as bold as possible. So he says, hell, yes, we’re coming for your
guns. Well, maybe pump the brakes for a second,
because when you look at the polling on this, something like mandatory buybacks is one of
the more divisive issues in our NPR/”PBS NewsHour”/Marist polling. The country is split on whether they approve
of those things. Much more in favor of things like those red
flag laws, universal background checks, even high-capacity ammunition clips, banning those
and assault-style weapons, majorities of people overall in favor of those, but not Republicans. And that’s where the big difference is and
why Congress isn’t acting on them. JUDY WOODRUFF: So this is a risk for somebody
like O’Rourke? STU ROTHENBERG: Well, look, he needs to take
risk because where he is in the race. So, yes, it’s a risk. But more it’s a risk for the Democratic Party
in the general election if they appear to be too extreme, too radical, too — too liberal,
frankly. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, one other thing that
we’re hearing now from the Democrats and is weighing in on a story that came out over
the weekend, The New York Times reporting, Domenico, that there is a new accusation of
sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who, of course, went through
hearings. A lot of information or allegations were aired. He was ultimately confirmed. He’s sitting on the court. Here we are many months later, this story
comes out. We should say the woman who is cited, not
by name, reportedly doesn’t have a memory of what happened. So the whole thing is a little muddy. But, having said this, you have already got,
what, several, a half-a-dozen Democrats running for president, saying that Brett Kavanaugh
should be impeached. DOMENICO MONTANARO: And there’s the key phrase,
running for president, because they know that the base very strongly is in favor of impeachment
generally. The rest of the country, not so Much. independents have tracked with Democrats all
throughout the Trump presidency on almost every issue, except for impeachment, when
you look at it in the polling. And this is another one of those areas. We don’t have specific polling on Kavanaugh
himself. But when it comes to President Trump, independents
think it’s not a great idea to go and do that. So that’s why you see a lot of these Democrats
going and doing this, because three-quarters of Democrats said they’re in favor of impeaching
President Trump, for example. And, by the way, a lot of these Democrats
think the FBI did a very cursory investigation of Kavanaugh, didn’t vet him very well. In fact, one of these allegations was sent
by Senator Chris Coons of Delaware to the FBI, with the name redacted, that was then
named in this New York Times essay. That was October 2, and he was confirmed October
6. So, you have a lot of Democrats still upset
strongly about Kavanaugh, not really, they feel, being vetted very strongly. But instead of moving on from that, they — you
have some of these presidential candidates trying to rile it up, something that President
Trump loves to have front and center. JUDY WOODRUFF: Because he’s now — it’s given
him an opening, Stu, to take his own position and saying, it’s all lies, and painting them
as extreme. STU ROTHENBERG: And you have one impeachment
inquiry. And are you going to have a second one? And then does it not look like Democrats want
to overturn the elections and overturn the Supreme Court nominations? So it just looks very messy. And, as you say, it gives the president a
talking point to talk about how the Democrats are — didn’t like the election results, and
they will try to change it now. JUDY WOODRUFF: And we should say these allegations
are part of a new book that is coming out about the Kavanaugh case. Let’s look at the — I guess you would say
the far left, Stu, of the Democratic field, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren. A lot of — there has been conversation about
the two of them, that are they fighting over the same territory? Just today, a small progressive labor group
in New York City called the Working Families Party, which endorsed Bernie Sanders in 2016,
this year says it’s supporting Elizabeth Warren. So, yes, it’s a small group. It’s in the Northeast, as far as we know,
and perhaps other parts of the country. But is — does Bernie Sanders have something
to worry about? DOMENICO MONTANARO: Absolutely. And, actually, he should have started worrying
weeks ago about this. There’s always been questions about, would
he sell a second time? Because, remember, he was the alternative
to Hillary Clinton. He was the populist. She was the kind of corporatist Democrat. And now the Democratic field is very different. Elizabeth Warren uses much of the same rhetoric,
language, and imagery that Sanders does. And I think some people think that Bernie
isn’t selling over the long haul the way he did last time. JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see it? DOMENICO MONTANARO: But you have Elizabeth
Warren is somebody who a lot of Democrats have taken to. They see her on the campaign trail. They see the way she makes the message, this
sort of left-wing populism, and she doesn’t go as far as Sanders, right? So I thought was interesting during the debate
how both Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren seemed to use Bernie Sanders as very useful kind
of foil. JUDY WOODRUFF: Foil. DOMENICO MONTANARO: For Biden, it was on socialism
to paint his politics as too extreme and tying Elizabeth Warren to that. But Elizabeth Warren was sort of able to escape
by unscathed because she was able to use Bernie Sanders as a heat shield. She doesn’t have to say that she’s totally
in favor of what he’s in favor of too. STU ROTHENBERG: Sanders doesn’t fight the
description of himself as a Democratic socialist. He will explain what that means, where, on
the other hand, Elizabeth Warren said, no, she’s not a socialist. Well, there are lots of Republicans that doubt
that. But it’s an interesting difference that appears
that I think points out differences between the two candidates. DOMENICO MONTANARO: The fact is, they have
maintained this sort of nonaggression pact, where I have had people close to Bernie Sanders
tell me that they’re not going to attack Elizabeth Warren, because they view her as an ally for
the kind of country and the kind of change they want to see. And they want to make sure that Bernie Sanders
maintains a level of at least 15 percent in the polls and in delegates, because that’s
the key threshold number to get those delegates to stick to go to convention. So then Bernie Sanders can still be relevant
at that convention. JUDY WOODRUFF: But you both — we asked you
both to take a look again at whether they are going after the same voters, I mean, considering
all this. What do we see about that? STU ROTHENBERG: I think they largely are. They are going after populist progressives,
people on the left, at the left end of the party, who are frustrated with corporate America
and big institutions. And, yes, I think they are. Now, there are differences. DOMENICO MONTANARO: Yes. STU ROTHENBERG: But look at their rhetoric. It’s very similar. JUDY WOODRUFF: When you break it down. DOMENICO MONTANARO: Yes, I mean, look, when
you look at their similarities and differences, when you look at very liberal voters, there’s
a big Venn diagram. But Bernie Sanders is very strong with younger
voters in particular, men, people who make less than $50,000 a year. Warren, on the other hand, people who are
paying close attention to the election, women, she does better with whites than African-Americans,
whites with college degrees, traditional Democrats and people who make a little bit more money. She — her deficits aren’t quite as glaring. And a lot of Democratic strategists think
that she can make up some of those deficits, particularly with African-Americans, if there
is this supposed Biden implosion that were to happen, because she has worn very well
in front of black audience, in particular in front of — with black women. JUDY WOODRUFF: And just finally, very quickly,
less than 30 seconds, are these debates helping us figure all this out? STU ROTHENBERG: Not as much as we said they
would help us six months ago, when supposedly these are — each debate was going to be critical,
do or die for everybody. It hasn’t been — it hasn’t been that way. DOMENICO MONTANARO: It’s still a big audience. A lot of these candidates have to get in front
of it. But a clear top tier has emerged. JUDY WOODRUFF: And Democrats paying very close
attention. Domenico Montanaro, Stu Rothenberg, thank
you both. STU ROTHENBERG: Thanks, Judy. DOMENICO MONTANARO: You’re welcome.

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