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Tamara Keith and Lisa Lerer on Biden behavior and 2020 fundraising

Tamara Keith and Lisa Lerer on Biden behavior and 2020 fundraising

And what better time than now for Politics
Monday, of course, with NPR’s Tamara Keith, co-host of “The NPR Podcast,” and Lisa Lerer,
politics reporter for The New York Times. Now I get to ask the questions, ladies. It’s exciting. Let’s start with Joe Biden. It’s interesting, because, last week, I know
you both reported on he had a mea culpa about Anita Hill, an emotional moment for him. And now he has got yet another question about
how he treats women. It’s a large cultural moment, but it’s also
a politically tricky one. What does this say about Joe Biden and how
important is it for his chances, and is there a chance of backlash from conservatives, who
say there’s no knowable standard anymore? So, what’s it mean, Tam? TAMARA KEITH, National Public Radio: Right,
there’s no knowable standard anymore. Democrats have taken the position of zero
tolerance, but zero tolerance for what? And this is, as with so many of these things,
complicated and nuanced. Lucy Flores in her description of it is nuanced,
saying that she didn’t think it was sexual harassment, didn’t think it was assault, but
she felt uncomfortable that he put her in an awkward position. And then, when you go to Mrs. Carter saying,
well, in my case, it wasn’t, I didn’t feel uncomfortable, there is a difference between
the two of them. Joe Biden was close, with friends with the
Carters. Lucy Flores is somebody he was campaigning
with just that moment. But I have been — I have covered him out
in the wild over the years where I did a story in 2014, it wasn’t anything remarkable at
the time, where he kissed a 100-year-old grandma and went in for a hug. But times are different now. LISA DESJARDINS: Politically, what’s it mean,
Lisa? LISA LERER, The New York Times: I think it
actually speaks to the larger, really central question facing Joe Biden, should he decide
to enter this race, which is, is a political figure who has been in office for 40 years
— I mean, he entered the Senate in 1973, before abortion was legal, before the Watergate
hearings, before people had VCRs. This was a long time ago. And political mores in the country, and particularly
in the Democratic Party, have shifted on a number of issues, bussing, abortion and certainly
standards around gender and consent and this whole national conversation we’re having around
those topics right now. So I think the central question he’s facing
is, can he get right on those issues with where the party is now? And that’s what we are about to find out in
the next couple weeks. LISA DESJARDINS: What does this mean for other
presidential candidates? Anything? We have got Kirsten Gillibrand and also Kamala
Harris, who have overseen staff members in the past that have been found to have to pay
recompense for sexual harassment. They have had trouble with that issue. When does this matter to voters? TAMARA KEITH: Right. And add — then add Bernie Sanders to that. His campaign in 2016 had issues with sexual
harassment. He has apologized for how those things were
handled, not his issue, but people he supervised. This is — this is a conversation that didn’t
happen four years ago in the presidential campaign, though it was a conversation that
did get kicked off in a way by President Trump. LISA LERER: And I think we are having this
cultural moment surrounding the MeToo, but there is a real political risk here. And the political risk is that the Democratic
primary electorate is expected to be a majority female. So these topics will — may resonate more
with female voters. And that is what all these candidates are
playing too. And they’re also very cognizant of what happened
in the midterms, which is that women’s work powered the Democratic Party’s gains. Women were these groundbreaking candidates,
but they were also the volunteers. They were the campaign managers. I’m sure you two, like I, went to those rallies
and met several PTA moms who were totally engaged politically. LISA DESJARDINS: And for the first time, a
lot of them. LISA LERER: For the time because of the Trump
administration. LISA DESJARDINS: Yes. LISA LERER: And everyone running the Democratic
field is very aware of those new political dynamics. LISA DESJARDINS: All right, let’s talk to
this weekend’s dynamic. It was actually a pretty big weekend in politics. And we will start with the man, the myth,
Beto O’Rourke, who had his formal announcement — there it is — in El Paso, of course, standing
on top of something. (LAUGHTER) LISA DESJARDINS: It was also another important
weekend for Mr. O’Rourke and all the Democrats running, because this was the end of the first
quarter for political fund-raising. We won’t get the total numbers. They are not due until April 15. However, I want to ask you all, how important
is political fund-raising for this expanding group of Democrats and who’s doing well? TAMARA KEITH: Well, it is important. It always has been, but when you’re in a field
of a busload of people, it’s particularly important to be able to show through your
fund-raising that you have some amount of grassroots support. It also is important in terms of getting on
stage at that — those Democratic debates. So, Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend,
Indiana, came out early, saying, I don’t have the full numbers, but I have a preliminary
number, raised $7 million in the first quarter. And he got out early on this, because, presumably,
there will be other candidates with much bigger numbers to come, like Mr. O’Rourke, or Bernie
Sanders, who’s expected to have a really big number. LISA LERER: And I also — I don’t want to
bust up any trade secrets here, but these political — these fund-raising numbers are
really one of the few actual facts we have right now in this race. I mean, polls at this point really measure
little more than name recognition. So a lot of how we’re measuring who’s up,
who’s down, who seems to have some energy has been around media coverage or Twitter
or where they are in these polls that don’t measure much. So this is a data point that shows us accurately
how much money they’re bringing in, how many small donors they have. That gives us some sense of the field. Now, of course, as we learned in 2012 with
the Republicans, this could be a race where everyone gets their little moment, and Pete
Buttigieg has his boomlet. And then the question is, do you have the
moment at the right time? But this at least gives everyone watching
this race a sense of where these candidates stand in terms of actual support compared
to each other. LISA DESJARDINS: And I don’t want too much
angry e-mail. Obviously, Beto O’Rourke is a fund-raising
juggernaut. And I’m being respectful toward him. And so is Bernie Sanders, that seem to be
the top of the heap right now. But let’s get away from money. And let’s talk about issues. I know you were on the campaign trail. And you were in Michigan with the president. TAMARA KEITH: And I was in Iowa right before
that. LISA DESJARDINS: You were in — what are voters
actually talking about in this, sort of as D.C. is all obsessed with the Mueller report
a bit. Obviously, it’s an important report, but what
are voters talking about? LISA LERER: So, I was struck by two things
when I was in New Hampshire. The first is that voters are not talking about
that report. At least, they’re not asking candidates about
it. They’re asking about health care and climate
change and school shootings and big issues that are facing the country that resonate
particularly with the Democratic electorate. But the second thing I was struck about — was
struck by was that, I asked them about it. And what I found was that it didn’t seem to
make a difference, what the report actually found, that the Democratic primary electorate
was convinced that the president had done something wrong. And wherever the results of the investigation
were, that wasn’t really going to change their minds, which made me think that that issue
is sort of baked in the cake, at least for the primary. General, of course, it’s a different ball
game. But that’s real — it’s a really long time
away still. LISA DESJARDINS: Tam, you were with two different
core groups of voters. TAMARA KEITH: Right. So it was fascinating. Out with the Trump voters talking to you waiting
to get into the president’s rally, all of them said they wanted the Mueller report released,
because they think it’ll be exonerating to the president. And they were there to talk about the Mueller
report. The day before, I spent an hour hanging out
with about — or interviewing 10 young voters in Iowa. They never brought up Mueller. They never brought up Russia. They never brought up getting — booting the
president out of office. They were very focused on — not so much on
issues, though climate change is something that they brought up, income inequality, criminal
justice reform, things like that. They talked about that. But the most important thing to them — and
you hear this time and again — is they just want somebody who has that quality that they
can’t quite name that will allow them to beat the president, that will let them go head
to head with him on the debate stage. LISA DESJARDINS: The magic dust, I call it,
magic political dust. Now, here’s the point where I was going to
attempt an April Fool’s joke. I was going to try and say to you, hey, did
you hear about this crazy candidate that’s going to run? April Fool’s. I couldn’t think of anyone crazy enough for
it to be… (LAUGHTER) LISA DESJARDINS: It seemed like really anyone
can run right now. So I guess I will just close by saying, hey,
did you hear Congress and the president have put aside their differences? (LAUGHTER) (CROSSTALK) LISA DESJARDINS: Thank you, guys, so much,
Tamara Keith, Lisa Lerer. Thank you. TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.

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