Democratic, GOP strategists on problems Biden and Trump face with undecided voters – PBS NewsHour

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Democratic, GOP strategists on problems Biden and Trump face with undecided voters – PBS NewsHour

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Correction: In this report, a graphic misspelled the last name of Sen. Bob Menendez . The NewsHour regrets this error.
While President Biden and former President Trump earned enough delegates to win their respective party nominations months ago, the primary season is only now officially coming to a close. The two swept states that voted Tuesday, but both still saw opposition from some primary voters. Amna Nawaz discussed more with Democratic strategist Faiz Shakir and Republican strategist Kevin Madden.
Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.
Amna Nawaz:
While Joe Biden and Donald Trump earned enough delegates to win their respective party nominations months ago, the primary season is only now officially coming to a close.
The two men swept the handful of states that voted yesterday, but both still saw some opposition from primary voters.
We now turn to our regular contributors Democratic strategist Faiz Shakir and Republican strategist Kevin Madden.
Great to see you both, as always. Thanks for being here.
Let’s talk a little bit about what we can take away from these contests last night and what matters to voters right now. If you look at the results from just one state in New Mexico, on the Republican side, this is two weeks after Nikki Haley said that she would support Trump. We are still seeing her pull votes in primaries. You see Mr. Trump there with 84 percent of the vote, Nikki Haley with 9, and uncommitted getting 3 percent.
Meanwhile, for the Democrats, Mr. Biden with, yes, an overwhelming win there, 84 percent, but uncommitted getting 10 percent of the votes, and Marianne Williamson getting 7 percent.
Kevin, what does this say to you right now about the level of discontent with these two major party candidates and whether or not that’s going to change come early voting?
Kevin Madden, Republican Strategist:
I think, well, one of the things that the deciders of this election are coming down to the double haters. The candidates are — I think the voters out there who really just don’t like either one of these candidates. But I think the other thing that we have learned is that there’s still a lot of unfinished business.
Joe Biden definitely still has a problem with his base. He has a lot of younger voters, a lot of disaffected progressive voters that have not yet come home. Donald Trump, on the other hand, still has a Nikki Haley voter problem. Here he is probably three months after the Republican nomination has essentially been decided, and he still has a hard time uniting the party.
And if those voters stay home in November, that’s going to make or break whether or not Donald Trump is able to win the election. So these candidates have very clear challenges ahead, but neither one of them have really come up with a strategy or a message to confront and solve those problems yet.
So that’s what the next couple of months are going to be all about.
Amna Nawaz:
How do you see it, Faiz?
Faiz Shakir, Democratic Strategist:
Picking up on that point that Kevin raises, I think that I see Joe Biden trying to address what he knows to be concerns within his base.
So if you look at the efforts of the last week or two, saying to Black voters, specifically Morehouse and then an event in Philadelphia with Kamala Harris to say, hey, I need Black voters to stay with me, and here’s the problems with Donald Trump. On Gaza, I’m going to go out there and talk about Israel. We need to end this war. Here’s the plan. Here’s how we’re going to do it. He’s making efforts.
So he’s not unaware that he’s got a problem. You can see, though, that the uncommitted vote is down from Michigan and Minnesota from before. You can see a bit of the consolidation. He needs that number amongst Democrats to be well up over 90 percent if he’s going to win this general election. That is to say, that base has got to come in very strongly.
The number of voters that are going to show up in a general election way outnumber than the ones in the primary. But if he can fix this primary problem, it suggests that he can also try to bring back the enthusiasm he needs to win a general election.
Amna Nawaz:
Let’s take a closer look at some of the key races we have results from that will help decide control of the Senate this fall.
In New Jersey after last night, Democratic Congressman Andy Kim is officially the Democratic candidate there. But the incumbent Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who’s now in the middle of his corruption trial, is now running as an independent, making it a three-way race there between Kim, you see the Republican candidate, Curtis Bashaw, and Menendez.
So, Faiz, how should Democrats be handling this right now?
Faiz Shakir:
Well, I think Menendez, his independent campaign is really just an effort to maintain his legal defense costs. I don’t think he’s running a real campaign. There’s no staff. There’s no real effort.
Amna Nawaz:
Could he still siphon votes, though?
Faiz Shakir:
If he stayed on the ballot, which is an open question.
I mean, he’s got to go through a defense and see whether he can resolve that in the period of time. Then he has to decide whether he wants to be on the ballot line or not and collect the necessary signatures and go through that whole process.
That said, I think Andy Kim’s going to win this race. And he will be adding to the — contributing to a kind of pretty diverse class if you see Democrats coming in. I think Angela Alsobrooks in Maryland I think has a good chance to win. Lisa Blunt Rochester right up the road in Delaware has a good chance to win, both African American women, Ruben Gallego in Arizona, Latino male, and Andy Kim, Asian American male.
So that’s what you would look forward to in a Democratic class in the Senate.
Amna Nawaz:
Kevin, how do you see that?
Kevin Madden:
Well, I think it’s a strong Democratic state with a pretty conventionally strong nominee right now.
Amna Nawaz:
New Jersey, you’re talking about, right?
Kevin Madden:
In New Jersey, yes.
Amna Nawaz:
I mean, they haven’t sent a Republican to the Senate in, what, 50 years?
Kevin Madden:
And, look, this is — the Republican nominee that emerged last night, somewhat unknown. He has some time to get known and some money that’s going to help him get known. But he’s still running up against, I think, a strong New Jersey Democratic machine.
And he’s running that — I think Andy Kim is running against two inferior brands in the sense that Republicans in New Jersey are not as well organized as they need to be, and the Menendez brand, which is essentially an indicted — somebody who is under indictment right now, like, those provide a pretty good contrast for Andy Kim.
Amna Nawaz:
So what about Montana?
Let me ask you about this. So you take a look at the results from last night. Republicans now have their nominee to face Senator Jon Tester. There’s a Trump-endorse candidate there, entrepreneur, former Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy.
Kevin, Tester is the last Democrat standing in a deep red, getting redder state. Is Sheehy the right candidate to unseat him?
Kevin Madden:
Sheehy is a very strong candidate, handpicked by Steve Daines, the other senator from Montana, who also happens to run the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
He’s going to make sure that Sheehy has all the Montana Republican support and the monies and resources, the money and resources to take on a pretty well-entrenched incumbent Democrat in Tester. Tester is running the — one of the problems for Tester has as an incumbent, he’s actually below 50 percent.
Any time you’re an incumbent running for reelection and you’re below 50 percent, you’re very vulnerable. That’s Sheehy’s best opportunity right now.
Amna Nawaz:
Tester is outrunning Biden, though, at this point in time. But are there enough split-ticket voters to make a difference for him in Montana?
Faiz Shakir:
If anyone can pull it off, Jon Tester can. He’s one of the most populist and popular Democrats in the Senate. He’s a very good campaigner.
If you look, it’s interesting to watch how he campaigns. He’s talking about postal consolidation, right to repair, independent farmers who are getting screwed by China owning farmland in America. The kinds of issues he’s talking about should send a message to a lot of other people about how do you appeal to conservatives and Trump-aligned voters and get them to potentially look at you.
And the messages for people like Jacky Rosen and Tammy Baldwin and Bob Casey, all running in places where they’re going to need to win Trump-style voters to try to win in the general is interesting to watch him do it pretty well.
Amna Nawaz:
There’s still months to go. Obviously, a lot can change between now and when early voting begins.
But in the minute or so we have left, just give me your big picture takeaway in terms of, at this point, when you look at the races, which party is better positioned to take control of Washington this fall, Kevin?
Kevin Madden:
Well, I think — for sure, I think the Senate right now, I feel bullish about the Republicans’ chances. I think they’re going to have — they have the fund-raising in place.
Trump, I think in many of these states where the margins are really going to matter, Trump is running sometimes 20, 15 points ahead of Biden. And those type of coattails, I think, are going to be very helpful for a lot of Republicans.
Amna Nawaz:
Faiz Shakir:
I’m uneasy with the politics of the moment.
That said, I remember Kevin and many other people saying red wave of 2022. And when it came down to it in November, commonsense voters with decency and character on the ballot understood it’s Joe Biden and the Democrats who offer a better direction for this country. I think that will be the case again in November.
Amna Nawaz:
As we have all learned, the politics of the moment not necessarily the politics of the future. We will have you back and talk about it some more.
Kevin Madden, Faiz Shakir, always great to see you. Thanks.
Kevin Madden:
Good to be with you.
Faiz Shakir:
Thank you.
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Amna Nawaz serves as co-anchor of PBS NewsHour.

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