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tv   2017 Conservative Political Action Conference  CSPAN  March 2, 2017 4:10am-4:46am EST

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you log onto our web site to view all 150 winning documentaries at be sure to watch the announcement of our 2017 grand prize winner wednesday at 8:00 a.m. eastern on c-span. next, political analysts discuss what donald trump's victory means for potential realignment for republican and democratic parties. speakers include byron york and susan page, washington bureau chief of u.s.a. today. the discussion was part of the annual conservative political action conference. ♪
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♪ >> well, that proves you really can't tell -- >> did you see this? it is pretty simple directions. you go to the right. this person goes to the left. >> i have an excuse. >> how are you enjoying it so far? is anybody a wee bit tired? no. all right. good. coffee, liquid courage. everyone on this panel is someone i have a special relationship with. ralph is married to millie who we call the little general. she is telling us all what to do. she is our vice chair of the foundation. she is like the right hand
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person. so it is an honor to have you with us here today. susan page and i grew up today in the same town, a little different years, but she went to one rival high school and i went to the other rival high school. we both traveled to wichita from time to time. all of my family -- much of my family from wichita is here. let's shout out from kansas. come on. come on. and rick unger is little more left wing than i am. we know the audience will be polite even with a guy who is a little off on issue frs time to time. i kind of want to know what the heck is going on with the democrats. and byron york, someone i get to
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talk to several times a day. byron and i have a very special relationship because we go to the same hair stylist. he has this perfect beautiful hair and i'm trying to make mine like that too. >> a great job with that white color. >> yeah. >> it is really cool to be confused with mike pence. i'm really enjoying that. >> yeah. >> this is a question about realignment. there is a lot of realignment going on in politics. if you like politics 2016 would have been the year you chose to be covering politics. there is so much change on both the right and the left. i want to start with ralph who has been covering politics and other papers far loor a long ti. have you ever seen a year like we had in 2016? >> none of us has ever seen anything like this.
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i usually get elections wrong. i don't think i have ever predicted the outcome, but this one is unbelievable. i didn't think trump would run. i thought that was a joke. he couldn't be serious. when he started to run i really didn't think he could win anything. after a while i realized everything that i had learned over 50 years in journalism out the window. i didn't understand what was going on. it was fun. >> yeah. it was. >> it made it fun. >> trump said a lot of things that many of us either thought consciously or thought unconsciously. so some of us found ourselves cheering when he said some of the most things. >> some of us weren't cheering
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so much. >> susan, that's lot of realignment. susan, let me ask you. i think that's lot of realignment going on, a lot of change. do you agree with that? >> i do. i think it's an election we'll be seeing as a realigning election. i think you saw it here yesterday with the president's speech describing the republican party in different terms than we have heard it described before, a party of the working man, a party of the rust belt. remember states that had been part of the blue wall, michigan, pennsylvania and wisconsin unexpectedly went for president trump. >> i think spl there is somebod here from michigan, wisconsin and pennsylvania there. [ cheers and applause ] >> you can see repercussions of that. democrats trying to figure out
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where the party fits in a world where they will be more koetsal and where they will have more trouble in the midwest. the south has been republican for some time. >> okay. you know, what is going on with this election to be the dnc chair and just generally in the democratic party. i am kind of enjoying it. >> it's a mess. >> it's really interesting. you talk about the elections. i remember in the early days of the election all of the conversation was about the dysfunction that's going to exist in the republican party. every now and then i would pop up and say, you know, we are not talking about it but let me tell you what's happening in the democratic party. it is worse. it is worse. it didn't really come to light until the republicans won the election. it is the factionalization right now is stunning. i cannot tell you as we are
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sitting here that voting has begun who will be the next chairman. >> are there super delegates? [ laughter ] >> there are no super delegates. >> hold on. that was good. >> it's not rigged, is it? >> it is democrats. of course it's rigged. no. it's not rig rged. don't anybody quote that. >> it is just between us. >> we don't know what's going to happen. >> if it goes -- >> we like that. that's not a good sign. if it goes six or seven you could have strange things happening. >> trump won the republican nomination by challenging or blowing up republican orthodox. trade being one of them. entitlements being where he sat going to touch your social
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security. you paid for it and you're going to get it. foreign entanglements. his criticism of george w. bush was brutal. and he also exploited a republican division that exists on immigration. and doing all that, he won. so it told you i think that a lot of republicans, people who vote republican, are just not as orthodox as perhaps some people in washington said. and then susan mentioned the blue wall. i was a big believer in the blue wall. it was the idea that if you look at the states that have voted for president, democrat in the last six elections and at that point it meant '92, '96, 2000, '04, '08, and '12 that was 246 electoral votes. so we thought the democrats started without 242 electoral votes, they only had to get 28 and they win. and trump blew it up.
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michigan and wisconsin, pennsylvania, he just -- >> [ applause ] . >> it's never going to happen again. >> and he destroyed this democratic idea, and they believed it with the obama coalition, that democrats are going to be elected from now on, ever and ever, because of demography. and that idea is just gone right now. so he changed so many things that we thought about -- [ applause ] >> they kind of like you. >> there you go. >> i was out taking the train from washington to new york to be there on election day. mercy and i were heading up. we were on a train just filled with clinton campaign operateives. and you all know that pit you get in your stomach on election day. you don't know what's going to happen. this election day more than most. what's going to happen. well, all the chatter from the clinton people, they had their laptops up and their tablets and everything and it was not good from my perspective, right? i felt good the day before.
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then i started getting that pit in my stomach and like i just didn't know. let me ask each of you, you guys are such experts. at what point -- i'm not going to ask you -- >> you guys are -- >> i'm not setting you up. i'm not going to ask you for your predictions going into that election day. but at what point in this process did you realize it was going to be president trump? was it literally early that morning or the next morning? or was it somewhat earlier? ralph. >> i don't want this to go any further than this room because this is really inside information. the night of the election i had written and prepared to run on page 1. an analysis of the election. and the lead was why donald trump lost. it doesn't mean i wasn't for him. by that time i was hoping he'd
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win. but i agreed with everyone else. there's that blue block you that really can't make a significant dent in. and certainly not if your name is trump and you're saying the absurd things that he's saying. i like most of the absurd things he's saying but nobody else -- >> actually, ralph, you say some of the absurd things -- >> yes. but it's not going farther than this room, right? >> actually, i think ralph was maybe channeling and helping trump before trump decided to do this. because if you read your columns through the years you can see some of these things. >> there was a re-alignment, right? did we say that? >> i believe there is a re-alignment. that is my next question. but i was going to get through letting them answer these questions. >> the re-alignment is the republican party is no longer the party of adam smith and free markets. once it was a religious tenet that conservatism meant free markets, un- --
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>> unimpeded. >> thanks. he's good with words. that word at least. and then along comes pat buchanan, and he tries to change that. he's talking about fair trade instead of free trade. and he gets nowhere. and then along comes somebody else who talks about america first -- oh, that was pat buchanan. america first. doesn't get anywhere. and then donald trump somehow manages to win an election running on things that republicans historically oppose. and the republican congress amazingly is not beating the bejesus out of him on these issues on which every member of that republican congress has run. >> although there's a lot of time on the clock. susan, what about you leading up to the election? >> we even had the fights over the details about what you do over entitlements, what you do over some of these other issues. those fights may come. but election nights are humbling things i think for people who cover politics because it doesn't matter what you think
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and it cults matter what the polls show, it only matters what voters actually do. and i've covered several election nights where it's been a surprise. and i think this last election night was a surprise. i did the analysis for "usa today" for a series of editions. the first deadline i had was i don't know, 6:30 or 7:00. >> oh, my lord. >> so that was one that did not predict who was going to win. >> that's one for the ages. >> it's like trying to look at exit polls, what does it tell us about what people are thinking. but as the night went on the analysis i wrote for each subsequent edition became a little friendlier to the prospects donald trump was going to be the next president. and by the last deadline we had president trump -- we had donald trump being elected president. but it was not until, i don't know, 8:00 maybe that i thought he's going to do this thing that we said he could not do. >> rick. >> i was covering the election in youngstown, ohio. i think nungztown remains -- >> what was first prize?
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>> youngstown is my hometown. love going there. that to me is the center. >> anybody here from youngstown? >> why not? >> rick. >> rick. so i'm doing the radio program but we're watching local returns. i was sitting with the mayor of youngstown. and the numbers came up for mahoney county, which is where youngstown's located, and donald trump was ahead. and the mayor and i who both grew up there and know that mahoney county has never gone republican, certainly since any of us can remember, we just looked at each other with our mouths open and that's when i realized donald trump was going to be the next president. >> it's amazing. >> so i was in new york on election night. and heading toward the trump event which is the hilton on 6th avenue. i run into a very well-connected republican. and it's late in the afternoon. and they're depressed about the exit polls because the exit
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polls from florida do not look good. >> they look terrible. >> don't win florida it's all over. it's a very early night. and the idea even when trump seemed to be a little bit ahead was there was going to be this big group of voters in broward who were going to come through and win for hillary clinton. so there had been this kind of debate before election day. among some republicans. that they wanted to do trump to do better than mitt romney. romney got 212 electoral votes. and so many never trump republicans said trump was going to lead the party to this devastating catastrophic historic defeat. so if he does better than mitt romney they can say well, hey, did better than you, boy, didn't he? but then i get to the trump event and it's early in the evening and i run into jeff sessions and sessions is very circumspe circumspect. he's cautious and doesn't seem very optimistic and he's circumspect and he said the good thing about this is trump has
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shown the appeal of this message in so many important places and it was kind of like even if he doesn't win it will have done a lot of good. so we go through and "the new york times" had this meter of trump's chances -- >> mercy covered it all night. yeah. >> and it started at 2% chance of winning. >> yes. >> so later in the evening things are better. and i run into sessions again. and he said somebody just told me "the new york times" said trump has a 59% chance of winning. and i said, senator, it's bigger than that. so i pull out my phone and i show him and it goes to 89%. and sessions goes -- he's look at it. 89%? the lord is in this thing. the mood shift was unbelievable. >> yeah, we were -- i'm going to answer my own question. we were -- mercy, who's a big news junkie, covers everything i
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love, traveling with her, she's reading everything, check twitter and everything else, she was following "the new york times." and i was like they're not going to get it right. she's like no, you don't get it, if the "new york times" says there's an 89% chance that means it's really, really good. >> that's exactly right. and we were actually -- we were in trump tower election night and we were hanging out with these folks. it was actually a pretty calm environment that night. after it looked pretty promising we left trump tower and we were going to the trump celebration. and a couple things i remember, i walk out on the street and there was -- for some reason it was construction going on on the sidewalk because i guess in new york construction's happening at night. and the guy goes, he's going to do it, he's going to do it. and he did it without the party. and he's going to do it. and that was his message. >> you know, matt, my invitation was apparently lost because i was not invited to trump tower that night. i don't know what happened. >> i don't know. we can work on it. so then we go to the celebration and i somehow get stuck in with the donors.
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which is fine with me. but i'm up with the donors at the trump celebration. and i'll be honest with you. i've been working republican politics for 20 years. oftentimes i know a lot of the donors. you know what? i knew one donor. very good guy. by the way, very brave guy because a lost institutional donors obviously did not jump on board. these were donors who i had never met before and i started to talk to them as the evening went on. it was awesome. then to punctuate the whole evening when the network news finally said he was over the top a woman who was not caucasian came running out of the kitchen with her kitchen outfit on and she said, in her thick accent, "he did it. he did it. he did it." so that was beautiful because i am married to somebody whose parents came to this country and it's such a beautiful thing. it's something that doesn't get
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covered which is a lot of regular joes and janes felt like their voice was heard. this goes back to your question of re-alignment. is this a permanent change in what makes up the coalition of voters who can elect republicans to the white house, or is this a temporary trump phenomenon driven by a rather unique and spectacular individual and really doesn't have lasting impact on this coalition? >> there's no way to answer that question, matt, with precision at this point. first 100 days. the next -- the midterm elections next year, there are 33 senate seats up. 23 are democrat. traditionally the party that owns the white house loses at least four seats. i suspect that if things go the way they are going that won't happen and the republicans will hold what they have or maybe add to it but it all depends on what trump is able to do.
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so far what the president has been able to do hasn't required much from congress. in fact, almost nothing from congress. he's done it by fiat and by -- >> that's the easy stuff. >> yes. >> i'm not saying it's not significant but it's not the hardest, heaviest lifting. we don't know what's going to happen. but we do know the following. this party no longer at least for the next few months, maybe for the next four years, is no longer committed to the religious belief in the adam smith view of trade. this is truly important because it means that the party -- the republican party has a real chance to appeal to working men and women in a way that never happened before, including with reagan because workmen and women got left out when free trade, or
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buchanan used to say globaloney prevailed. it hurt a lot of americans and it made america no longer a nation of manufacturing. so this has already changed. >> is this permanent alignment? >> there's not a permanent alignment in american politics. american politics are constantly shifting. i know that people in this audience agree, enthusiastic about the fact that these three blue wall states went for donald trump. but they went for donald trump by a combined total of 107,000 votes. >> tiny. just tiny. >> that's a very small number. that said, i do think we're seeing the two parties get define in new ways and the democratic party's increasingly the party of the coast, of millennials, of racial diversity, a lot of women, a high proportion of college-educated voters and that's not what the democratic party was, you know, in the
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past, decades ago. and the republican party is increasingly a party of rural and suburban areas, of whites. it's more male than female. it's got real strength in some of these industrial midwestern states that were historically democratic. i do think there are different definitions of these two parties. >> one second, rick. let me jump onto this for one anecdote i've got. i want you and byron to talk about this as well, which is i was shocked in these green rooms before you go on tv you learn so much interesting stuff because most of us are not like donald trump. we say the most interesting thing before the camera gets on. he does the opposite. in the green room -- and as the camera turns on he says very interesting things. but one of the things i heard from the democrats which i thought was so blatant, which is i said, well, why are you guys doing -- why are you for this iran deal and why are you doing so much to introduce real panic with your jewish supporters, and they're like they're not part of our coalition anymore, we're not really worried about them.
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is there change in even what we assume is the blocks of these coalitions? >> i think what's happened on my side, in my party, i've seen this movie before. we're going to move to the left. we're going to lose a lot of elections. and then we'll come back to the senate. i've seen this movie in my lifetime. what's happening in the republican party is fascinating to me. i listen to steve bannon. on your panel. and when he said economic nationali nationalism, i just went wow. and i'll pose it as a question. i'll pose it as a question. while you may agree with that approach, i appreciate that. are you still the party of reagan if you're going in that direction? i'm not answering it. but it's an interesting and intriguing question to think about. because i don't see that as ronald reagan. >> well, there are a lot of -- there was a movement called the reformacons whose basic premise was reagan was president a long time ago and things have changed, they were trying to update perhaps reagan's core
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values that were so important to people, to fit our current conditions. now, trump's successor failure is going to have a huge determination of how much the republican party changes. but the fact that he won doing it has already changed because there was this debate among -- a conversation among a lot of republicans, never in public, about after trump loses what is the post-trump synthesis going to be? so there would be some republicans if trump has sort of seized their nomination, he goes on to lose in a landslide and they go, that was close. we go back to just what we were before. and then there were other republicans who said look what happened in these primaries, look who won the no, ma'am nailgs, you're going to have to change. >> can i ask you this question? >> yes. >> this kind of throws it all on its head, but would any of the other 16 have won?
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>> you mean the presidency i? personally done believe that. hillary clinton was a terrible candidate. >> but trump was the only one who could have won. >> we had a better candidate who could have won. and that would be joe biden. >> you think joe biden would have won? >> yes. >> we have a lot of people from delaware. >> it's not about whether you like joe biden or not. if you look at how the numbers add up, he would have. i agree with byron, though. he was the only candidate who would have beaten hillary. >> i remember spending a day -- a couple of days watching ted cruz -- they went up to northern iowa around mason city. this was in cruz's -- in that phase in which he was like nobody was going to have a bigger bible than ted cruz. he was going to carry a huge
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bible around. and he would quote scripture. and then i saw the same day, it was in -- at the surf ballroom trump appeared. and he got a bigger group of evangelicals than cruz had by carrying the big bible around. and there was something different going on -- >> you don't have to be an evangelical to actually get the support of evangelicals. >> they didn't -- obviously they had elected rick santorum and then they'd elected mike huckabee in the last two caucuses, but what they were telling me was that they felt that they were under attack in the larger culture lawsuits, cake baking. all of this stuff. they felt they were under attack. and that they felt donald trump could protect them and their interests. >> i agree with that. susan, let me ask you a question. >> that's absolutely right. some of us believe that
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democratic process was not as open as it should have been. do you think the democrats actually harmed themselves by quote unquote whatever they did donald trump used to like to say rigging it. would bernie sanders have been a better general election democratic nominee? >> so i think all the democrats who were not affiliated with hillary clinton would agree that the system should have been more open. and i think there were some younger up-and-coming democrats who think maybe i should have run, maybe somebody other than martin o'malley could have done better at challenging the people there. i think it's hard to -- i think it's hard to rerun an election. but with everything you know now, if you knew trump was going to be the republican nominee, i think bernie sanders is a better counterpart because they have some overlap appeal. i can't tell you how many people i talked to in iowa and new hampshire who were trying to decide between hillary clinton and -- between bernie sanders and donald trump. >> i tell you, it's true. >> if you're going nominate -- if republicans are going to nominate donald trump, bernie sanders is a better match
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against him. and i agree that joe biden, he might have lost but it would have been a different kind of race. but i think joe biden also would have been a really formidable candidate against donald trump in places like scranton or youngstown. >> when we would go to these debates, you guys remember all the republican debates all over the country. and i would always be in an uber car and asking the uber driver who they supported. and it was interesting how many times, susan, they said, well, i can't decide between bernie sanders and trump. and for the first couple of times i was just like, what? what are you talking about? and then i realized, wow, this is a real theme, this gets back to the forgotten man and woman. and i also asked them every time if they were going to vote. and they said, "sir, i can't vote. i'm going to be driving my uber car." and i thought, well, this also tells me a lot of these sanders-trump people actually don't get -- you don't get the full amplification in the
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primaries. >> in iowa the first time was at a rally and somebody told me i'm trying to decide between bernie sanders and donald trump i thought it was so extraordinary. i sent out a tweet saying i'm at this rally -- and then the 16th time somebody said that i decided i was not going to -- >> it wasn't remarkable. >> not tweetedable. >> what would have happened to bernie sanders i think was fewfold. one, he would not -- hillary did not pull enough voters from certain democratic constituencies. bernie sanders would have really had that problem. the other problem was -- we're being honest with each other here. bernie sanders' programs didn't work. they were nice ideas, but if you actually put pen to paper they didn't work. [ applause ] >> i think unger's just playing up to the crowd. i'm not sure. >> perhaps the biggest reason hillary clinton lost was that she did not recreate the obama coalition. and black and other minority voters did not turn out in the numbers they had for president
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obama twice. actually, i remember going to a bernie sanders rally at the fox theater in atlanta. he was in a southern swing trying to appeal to black voters. well, the crowd was overwhelmingly white. but he really packed the place. and when he walked out, they stood up and they remained standing for the one hour and 14 minutes that he spoke. they remained standing the whole time. but there weren't many black voters there. and i wished i could speak to each one of them there, which i did, and they were all young. and they all told me they were trying to convince their parents to vote for bernie. >> wow. >> and they said, i just can't do it. they're just with clinton. they just won't leave clinton. and it's because of bill. they don't like her that much. it's because of bill. and they won't change. and i think bernie sanders would have had a very hard time getting those voters and might have done worse with those
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constituencies which are absolutely viet toll a democratic victory. >> but a totally different dynamic. and elections do not follow the path we think they're going to follow. as evidenced last year. and that would have been a really fun election to cover. >> ralph. we have this trump victory. we have the first 30 days. you all heard what i've said about it. i can't imagine a president who knows you that, all of you are important to him succeeding doing a better job of letting you know how much he respects you. it's been a great 30 days. he's fulfilling his promises. but it's 30 days. ralph,'s what is the run or two things he must turn around in the economy and society in order to be able to go to the american people three years from now and say we're on the right path? we're talking about a lot of issues but what's the one thing?
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>> i don't know what the one thing is. there are so many that he has on the table. he's got to show there's something being done with the wall. there's a huge constituency out there for the wall. symbolic. for them it's symbolism. it's really important. he's also got to show that -- and i think he is doing this. so he's serious about, as you put it, byron, protecting evangelicals. his wife gave some public speech this week, last week, opened it with the lord's prayer. >> in melbourne. >> it showed the trump family, the presidential, his wife, actually believe that religion does belong in the public square. hugely important. remember, he took -- this man actually won a record number of
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evangelicals on november 8th. record number. outdoing george w. bush, who then held the record and who was a true evangelical. trump never claimed he's an evangelical. no one thinks he's an evangelical. but they do believe him. and they believe he's got the power to carry out what he promised. i can't think of -- almost everything that he put in the top of his must do list has got to happen and he can do it -- once people think that trump isn't magical, he doesn't have all the power that they think he has, then problems will begin to arise i think. >> rick? >> that's if -- your last statement was fascinating. because i agree with that. and the one thing trump isn't doing is sending legislation to congress. and it's because at that moment in time people figure out he doesn't have all the power. >> important point. i don't know if that's the case. but we'll find out shortly. >> well, i hope so because you've got to send something
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sometime. >> he doesn't have the wherewithal to put -- how do i put this? he doesn't have assembled the people he put together -- >> he had a transition team, and every president, go back as far as you want, within the first 30 days of their administration yes, there were executive orders, but there was legislation. >> i agree. >> they haven't sent a -- >> he has been in the executive action phase of his presidency. and i think it was okay with republicans because a lot of them were angry at obama other using it and they wanted to see their guy use it. >> did obama know there was a congress? >> he not only sent more legislation in the first 30 days, he had things passed already. >> he had a good 30 days. it's amazing what you can do with -- >> he had 265 votes in the house. >> what's the one thing he's got to get? >> i respectfully disagree with you. i think the one thing he needs to do deals with -- >> thank you for making it respectful. >> it's hard for me.
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totally respectful. i don't think he needs to check off a lot of boxes. i think he needs to make people feel like the economy's working better for them. i think that's the definition of the forgotten man and woman and that's the reason he won pennsylvania, michigan, and wisconsin. and when i talk to voters in rallies they say he's a businessman, he's going to be able to help the economy in a way that a politician can't. i think that is the fundamental test for president trump. >> awesome. what a great panel, huh? [ applause ] let's thank ralph and susan and rick and byron for being with us here today. thank you all very much. [ applause ] ♪ ♪ it's going down for real


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