tv Newsmakers Steven Law Senate politics CSPAN January 26, 2020 10:02am-10:41am EST
coverage of the presidential candidates continues today at 5:15 p.m. eastern with senator elizabeth warren in iowa. on-demand or, listen with the free c-span app. >> the first votes of campaign 2020 our days away. watch our unfiltered coverage of the iowa caucus live monday, february 3, as we follow the campaign trail and go inside caucus sites. greta: our guest for "newsmakers" this week steven law, the president and ceo of the leadership fund. thank you for being here.
also with us in the studio we have jjacqueline alemany, political reporter with "the washington post" and leah askarinam with "national journal." >> thanks for being here. let's start with impeachment, which is what everybody is talking about this week. how do you advise the most honorable senators when they are handling questions about calling witnesses? farther senators that put themselves at risk in november if they refuse -- if they vote against calling for witnesses? steven: first of all, i don't offer personal advice, that is other people's job but you've got to pay close attention to what your state, that will have an impact on how you handle the issue overall and the other thing i would say, i think impeachment in general is probably not likely to be as wall-to-wall and a shoe next issue nextwall an
november as it is right now, so you really have to vote the way you think is the right way to vote and not worry about the november consequences because at the end of the day, a lot of this will be washed out. if anything, people will be thinking about a lot of other things and if they look back at impeachment, they will think what was that all about in the end? i think people have to vote the way that fits their state and fits the way they view the situation. >> you mentioned senators should be watching the president's numbers in their states. would you say this president has carte blanche to do what he pleases? foreign policy to his personal lawyer, withholding military aid against congress's wishes, so long as his approval rating is above 85% among republicans? steven: the president has tremendous strength of goodwill among republicans, but at the end of the day, my organization is focused on the senate and for us, one thing that makes senate races uniquely interesting to me is that senate races exist in
part on their own. this will end up being a choice between two candidates. in arizona, between martha mcsally and martelli, and each race will be like that. how the president is doing in a particular state, whether he wins or loses will have an impact, but each candidate also has an opportunity, the necessity of defining themselves and defining their opponent and that will be a key issue that drives voter decisions at the end of the day. the president, they will make a separate vote on whether to retain the president under that depends on who the democrats nominate, but the choices of senate will also be between two distinct individuals. it is very different from the house where house races tend to be very affected by what is going on at the top of the ticket. leah: one of the effects of impeachment, even if it is not top of mind for voters in november, even if something else happens between now and then that is more pertinent to
voters, it does seem to be driving polarization in the electorate, which does make it seem like there could be less ticket splitting than there was in 2016 when there wasn't a lot of ticket splitting in 2016 or 2012. steven: i don't think you are going to find 20% of the electorate changing votes, but there is a significant group that does look at individual races and cast votes based on differences between the candidates, but at the end of the day -- you could say impeachment surrounding polarization, but i think polarization drives impeachment, the nature of the process and the way people are lining up on the issue is impacted by how people view the president come -- view the president, how they view the other side. the democrats do have some risk going into this. if you look at the electorate, i haven't seen pulling on it, but i would guess the vast
majority of voters already have a second view of president trump. they like him or hate him, they have a strong sense of what happened in these issues and facts and allegations around impeachment. they may be right or wrong, but they have a very set view and probably a view about what should be done about it. i do think at some point, the electorate will say enough already, you've had enough time to think about this, now let's move on to a -- to quote a phrase that was used by william jefferson clinton. it seems to me that particularly chuck schumer and democrats in particular think their best gambit is just to roll it out as long as possible, and i think at some point, voters say that's enough. let's get to other things we care about. that could end up being a factor, as well as it was for republicans after the impeachment of william jefferson clinton. leah: given those dynamics, which republican senator do you think is most vulnerable in november? steven: i think we care about
all our races, and a number of them i think will be competitive and we will have to fight hard in them, and they each depend on several variables, which is the quality of the candidate, the quality of the opposition, and the nature of the state. if you look at the nature of the states that are most difficult for republicans, you put colorado and maine in that mix. in maine, you have longtime incumbent susan collins who is iconic in the state. she is like joe manchin in west virginia. the state has changed but that person is so well regarded as someone who delivers for the state, viewed as an independent. you have a strong incumbent in a tough state. colorado, also a tough state. not as tough as main, but also a tough state. you have another incumbent who is tremendously strong, though not as well-known, cory gardner. great campaigner, good legislative record against a
incumbent --k ex-incumbent who has a good brand. the problem with hickenlooper is that he has not been tested in a long time and you saw his performance as a presidential candidate outside of colorado, it turned into a dismal performance. that is a race where i see a tough state. not a stronger candidate as he appears in john hickenlooper, so how do you game that out? i still like where we set. those would be the two, based on the terrain, those are the two i would be most concerned about. jacqueline: susan collins caston anstoed collins unpopular vote to confirm brett kavanaugh. are you concerned if she sweeps the impeachment under the rug, votes for the president's
acquittal and not support calling witnesses, it will be more problematic for an already competitive race? steven: i'll be interested to see -- at some point, she will have to cast complex votes on processes as well as acquittal itself. i think at the end of the day, the real battle in maine -- and i think it is a battle she is well-suited to win, is still the same susan we have always known. someone who at her core is independent-minded, moderate, fights for her state, fights for her kitchen table like diabetes -- kitchen table issues, like diabetes and health care and jobs, so she's that person or is she somehow changed to someone else? i think at the end of the day, there will be a lot of evidence -- we have seen it in advertising from the campaign, that she is the susan collins people have long voted for. i think it is interesting that very few people in maine, whenever i go up there, they never call her senator collins. they call her susan, and that speaks to the fact that she has a personal connection with mainers that any individual vote -- she'll have to work through that, but any individual vote is not going to disrupt her
fundamental identity and connection to the voters in the state. leah: we have seen over the last two years that susan collins may be entering the senate race in a strong addition -- strong position compared to most senators. she does seem to be in a weaker position than previous years, at least in terms of favorability. she has won some difficult races with double digits over and over again. it seems this year will be at least a little tougher for her than it has been previously. steven: the word you mentioned earlier, polarization, affects everybody. take chuck grassley. an icon in iowa, probably used to have 80% approval ratings. his approval rating is probably in the 50's. i haven't seen any polling on that, but the entire political ecosystem we all know and look at has changed dramatically and certainly as you mentioned, the kavanaugh vote was something that shed voters away from her, but it is a further hardening of the larger electorate. you are wearing this jersey or that jersey and that is all people want to know. the available electorate is
small and that is what has impacted her race more than anything else. leah: is it possible susan collins and cory gardner do everything right and still don't make it through 2020? steven: it is possible for any candidate -- a little of it will depend on the president's performance and the larger environment. what voters are thinking about in those last few months of the race, but typically -- i've always felt in general one of my axioms of life is the candidate who does the most things right day after day usually wins. there are few exceptions to that rule but generally, if you've got a good, disciplined, hard-working candidate whose -- who knows the matters and is able to focus on it, and both are able to do that. and the chance of them flubbing at the end is pretty small. there are other races. i think -- to me, the most vulnerable candidate running the cycle in the senate is doug
jones in alabama, where he is somebody who at the end he could do every thing right politically and may run a flawless campaign, but his voting record will be impossible for him at the end of the day to overcome. jacqueline: what does that mean doing the right thing for their voters in the era of trump? does that mean holding him accountable? what is doing the right thing? steven: i think at the end of the day, particularly in senate races where people tend to look lly, whatates holistica voters want to see is that that senator is effective, they care about the issues and concerns of that state, they are getting things done that matter, and depending on the state, i don't think you can be wildly out of tune with the overall ideological environment of the state, and i think that is the area where some states are harder than others and doug jones is a perfect example.
doug jones has tried to sell himself as fighting for issues that matter for alabama but he is so far out of the mainstream of alabama voters just because it is hard for him to make an appeal to the majority of people casting votes in november. leah: i think we can agree doug jones is the most vulnerable senator in the country. part of the reason he's a senator at all is because of his 2017 special election opponent roy moore who is running again. are you planning on getting involved in any primaries where he weak republican candidate could jeopardize the general election in places like alabama or in kansas now that mike pompeo is not running? steven: we were involved in the alabama senate race in 2017, which totally ruined my summer that year, and as you know, he is a candidate again. i don't think i'll be and don't
foresee he'll require any intervention from us. we've got to, maybe three people in that primary, all of whom are running ahead of him at this point. i don't think it will be roy moore so i don't bequeath have -- so i don't think we will have to get involved there. kansas, i'm not certain just yet, but i think there is a primary field that has to get sorted out. we've said publicly we are concerned kris kobach as a general election candidate. he threw away a very winnable race. he didn't campaign well and didn't connect with voters on things that they cared about. -- it is also publicly known that we've sat down with roger marshall and he is part of the state that grows republican politicians. he's a capable guy, and would have what it takes to compete, both in the primary and general. whether he would need outside
something we will have to evaluate but it is a field that has to get when no doubt and we look to the committee. jacqueline: what are your latest fundraising numbers? where are you going to spend money? steven: some of that is still being worked out and once we do, we put it in a black box and don't tell anybody, but the top priority race for us is the ones that will be competitive or -- competitive are obvious. arizona and colorado, north carolina. we may need to engage in iowa. democrats have an overconfident view of their chances in iowa. we will see whether that develops into a real race or not, and it is one we keep an eye on. we have said that if kelly loeffler needs our help, we will be there. she has significant resources of her own, and i don't know how that race shakes up.
if we need to be active in alabama and we may well need to be because doug jones has raised a lot of money and i expect we will be active there. we will look at states like michigan. we will look at a state like new mexico. meteorologist mark ro roncetti is an interesting candidate and people assume new mexico's deep blue. it is a little more complex than that so we will look at that race and leader mcconnell, he certainly knows how to run his own races, but he is running against potentially running against amy mcgrath, who is raising huge amounts of money and for lack of resources, we don't want that one to slide off. i think we should be in good shape there, but that is another we engage in if we need to. jacqueline: your overall numbers? steven: in november, we said we would raise $50 million and our total budget for the cycle is
200. we announced the other day we raised $68.3 million, which is an all-time record. we've got twice as much cash as we did in 2018, partly because of the alabama misadventure, but i think we are starting to cycle in good shape. i am not ready to say that we would raise and spend more than 200. are what theyt have an appetite for. it will take that much. one thing that makes our jobs exciting and nailbiting is this could be the mother of all elections. democrats have been accessed with driving donald trump out of office since the day he was inaugurated. they will spend billions of dollars. the progressive left really wants to take over the senate , because if they win the white house, they would be able to hold the house and taking the senate, they would be able to pass a breathtaking array of legislative issues, so this will be one of the more consequential
elections of our lifetime, so donors are excited. that's one of the reasons we blew past our fundraising goals, but it will be a lot of work for all of us. >> do you think democrats have a better chance of taking back the senate if joe biden becomes the nominee as opposed to someone like bernie sanders or elizabeth warren, who is much more to the left? steven: i don't know for certain. certainly if it were warren or sanders, they would be harder for the democrats to win the white house. both of them would be harder general election sells then joe biden and if trump wins reelection and the so handily, i -- and does so handily, i don't think there is any chance the democrats win the senate, but even if it is biden, he's already advocating a number of positions he needs to to secure
the nomination that are pretty far to the left and you have candidates like mark kelly, cal cunningham in north carolina who have tried to hide out on virtually everything. they don't talk to reporters, they don't fill out questionnaires, they don't want to let anyone know what they think. one of our missions will be to make sure whoever the nominee is, their agenda is tattooed to the political resume of whoever the nominee is, whether mark kelly or cal cunningham or teresa greenfield or whoever. at some point, the presidential election -- we all know president trump's favorables and unfavorables and weaknesses and strengths and record and all of that will be imputed to the republican nominee to some extent. but what i think has not been focused on yet is the degree to which the agenda and perhaps the personality of the democratic
nominee will impact the democratic candidates who have avoided trying to be defined in any way other than a nice person. leah: because of the map, it does seem like democratic challengers, many of whom are not facing competitive primaries, places like north or -- north carolina with cal cunningham, sarah gideon in maine, they've been able to separate themselves from the national party in a way republican incumbents haven't been able to because they are literally voting on removing the president of the united states. it seems like democrats are going to have an easier time distancing themselves from the party than the republicans would. steven: they have up until now and you bring up a fascinating point. i envy democrats. they managed to wield this ironfisted discipline in their primaries. that has helped in some of these races. not all of them.
you mentioned north carolina and democrats are having to spend fairly heavily in north carolina to make sure tell cunningham becomes the nominee. -- sure cal cunningham becomes the nominee. an undefined candidate. eddie morrow is spending personal money and he is owning the media in the state compared . texas is more of a mess as the first georgia seat. you are right. democrats up until now have avoided taking positions in this race because they are not being compared to anyone else. it will be our mission and potentially the mission of the republican candidates to say wait a minute -- candidate x stands for these things. you are not going to tell the american people they are not going to vote against all these things. that will be part of what we need to do to add definition to people like mark kelly and if cal cunningham is the nominee. leah: is that a problem for john james in michigan who has been
able to fund raise pretty effectively so far, but not been under the national spotlight, been asked tough questions about president trump at this point in the cycle. has john james hit his ceiling? steven: i don't think so at all, either fundraising or in the polls. it is a really interesting candidate. i have not run across anyone like him in quite a while. here's a guy who bested his incumbent opponent the last two quarters, out raised him by a million dollars, running more or less even with a guy who has been in office for five years and has made zero impression at all, and john james's image is about as strong as i've ever seen a statewide challenger in a big state. at some point, there will be a fight and both sides will try to define each other and the biggest challenge we face there is not the quality of the
candidate, who i think is fantastic, but the difficulty of the state. michigan is not an easy state. the last republican candidate for the senate was spence abraham, a long time ago. that is the challenge. if the president wins michigan or even gets close to michigan, john james has a tremendous shot. jacqueline: i want to go back to arizona again. we saw martha mcsally last week test out an unorthodox fundraising trick, calling a cnn reporter a liberal hack and blasting the video on foxnews and raising a bunch of money on it for her reelection race. is this a tactic you endorse for your vulnerable candidates and your candidates running for reelection? steven: it depends on the race and the circumstances, and i have to separate out my personal feelings because i like and admire martha mcsally, and the reporter who i've always liked. as i looked at that incident,
i thought this is a much morning , nimble and aggressive campaign than the 2018 campaign where some people assaulted them for being slow on the uptake but the thing that was interesting and really you can apply it to the larger political environment's -- political environment, is that campaigns often make the mistake of trying to fix what went wrong in the last election. in arizona, we've got to get a lot more of those doug ducey voters and be a county moderate for the next few years. a lot of people in arizona voted or you could say for president trump in 2016, they didn't show up in 2018, they are coming back in 2020 and we need to own them. it seems to me that maneuver apart from fundraising was oriented toward locking down a segment of the electorate that is going to come roaring back in this upcoming fall. i thought it was an interesting point, and the larger dynamic -- in some ways, it reminds me of
2012. we were active in 2012. we came up short just about everywhere, but what the obama campaign decided that some point was there weren't enough voters in the middle for him to win and they decided to focus on completely driving turnout and getting people engaged at the -- at their various bases. they did it successfully and that was a reason why he won. you can see in this polarized environment that may end up being the verdict for a lot of people across the spectrum. the people in the middle will always be in the middle so i need to make sure i turn out my base and get them enthusiastic. it seemed to me, obviously, i don't talk to the campaign about it, but it seemed to me what that maneuver was. you can agree or disagree with the personalities, but at the end of the day, there is a larger strategy at work that people are trying to figure out. greta: we have time for a couple more questions.
leah: is that strategy dangerous in some places like arizona where base voters are not necessarily the future of arizona? what happens in two to four years when it is impossible to win a statewide election with predominantly trump voters, white working-class voters when it is one of the fastest growing states in the country in terms of young voters who are leaning democratic and people of color who are also leaning democratic? steven: it is a fascinating state. not only all those trends, but even republicans in the state are different. they tend to be more affluent, suburban. there are a lot of soft republicans and in 2018, engaged in the race, i saw a lot of soft republicans who were pro-doug ducey, they didn't like donald trump and were not voting for martha mcsally. i would say though, notwithstanding those important demographic trends, the most important election is this fall and it struck me that -- and really for everybody in this year's battle, you have to
figure out what is the electorate i am likely to be dealing with this fall and how do i unlock the key to get myself to 50% plus one? like i said, one approach would be to go after the maricopa county moderates or a huge influx of voters who weren't here in 2018, they weren't there in 2016 i need to own them and , make sure they turnout in the numbers they did last time. you are right, president trump won by probably the smallest margin in recent elections of any republican running -- i think it was three percentage points over hillary clinton, and it will be a dogfight for him to win it again this time. i would make him the odds on favorite by a small margin and if he wins, we might look back and say that hard-core confrontation, the hallway of the senate office building might have been a good move for her. maneuver for her. jacqueline: i'm curious that
texas has been a place you anticipate spending more money than you would have thought in 2016 because of the demographic shifts, and because of recent past races? steven: i actually think texas is one of the states where democrats have really fouled their own nest. i think the georgia race against purdue, montana didn't turn out the way they wanted, but texas was a place they talk it up and now they have a crowded primary field, so an indiscriminate field of a whole bunch of obvious hard-core progressives and i don't think any of the people in that primary are going to be competitive against john cornyn. in this last election you've got , a unique circumstance where you got a person no one has heard of before, he was attractive, played well at social media, later on the cover of "vanity fair" and he was running against ted cruz who was very polarizing in the state and even in texas, and some
republicans were not huge fans of his. it was a battle royale, ted cruz won. i don't think you replicate that against john cornyn, particularly with the feel of -- field of candidates the democrats have. greta: steven law, thank you for being this week's newsmaker. stephen: thank you. greta: we are back with our reporters. let's begin with impeachment, where we began with mr. law. leah, how tough is it going to be for some of the republican senators to vote against witnesses when, as steven law said, they have to vote with their state, with how their state is positioned on these issues? leah: if we are looking just in terms of how voters feel, it is really tougher republicans. -- tough for republicans. democrats released some polling in maine that showed more than 70% of voters in maine want to hear from witnesses. just because they feel that way
doesn't mean they will vote against a republican senator who doesn't. there is a big difference between folks who decide they want to hear something and an issue that moves voters. the question in maine is if a voter was turned off by susan collins after the kavanaugh vote, how much further down will she go? are there going to be folks who stuck around with her after the kavanaugh vote and are now going to leave her because of impeachment decisions? i'm not sure what the answer is and i don't think he does, either. jacqueline: it is interesting , because stephen didn't specifically mention that maine voters want to see that susan collins is still an independent arbiter as she has always been, as she is known for, so this is something that i think paints a real picture of that either way for voters. is this someone who is a rubberstamp for the president on witnesses, who just toes the party line, or someone who is maybe a little more along the
lines of taking the position of lisa murkowski has taken. i'm not a rubberstamp, i'm independent-minded and will vote the way alaskans want at the end of the day. that being said, i think he also brought up a really good point, which is something i've been hearing over and over again from republican senators in their aids in private and that is that the news cycle is so crazy and voters' metabolism is so quick and processing these events, that this might not even be an issue in a few months when we finally do get to november 2020. greta: steven law said the state of maine, susan collins is one of the most vulnerable in 2020 and after that mentioned cory gardner in colorado. cory gardner during this impeachment trial, what have you seen of him, what have you heard from him? leah: not much, and i think
republicans largely agree that the best route for him to go -- there isn't really a right way for him. he can't lose republican voters come he can't lose come states, voters, he can't lose trump's states, but he's also running in colorado which is more blue than purple at this point. it is going to be a tough balancing act for him. republicans are hoping john hickenlooper ends up the likely democratic nominee, ends up becoming somehow ineluctable -- ineluctable because of the attack ads they are launching against him and voters will make a decision between gardner and hickenlooper. you don't see that very often. it is trump driving voters at the top of the ticket. greta: any states that steven law mentioned surprise you that he is planning to spend money in those races? what sticks out to you about the
ir any surprises. he did talk a bit more about the arizona race than i thought he -- jacqueline: there weren't really any surprises. he did talk a bit more about the arizona race than i thought he was coming to, because there has been a consensus and republicans that mark kelly is not the strongest pick for democrats in the state, yet they are still clearly worried about martha mcsally's standing. i think something i would've liked to hear more from him about was the alabama race and who they are going to get behind. jeff sessions is obviously in the race running in addition to roy moore. there is some bad blood between jeff sessions and the president, his former attorney general. i was curious if he's heard from the white house or the administration's political circles about whether trump wants the senate leadership to throw their support behind sessions or not, who is probably
the most attractive candidate in the race. greta: what about roger marshall? is there a possibility of the establishment getting behind him? leah: i think we are starting to see the beginning of that. we have seen trump has met with him, tried to narrow down the race at this point, kris kobach has a base of supporters that will be really hard to overcome if all you need is a corral at a. -- plurality. if it is between marshall and kobach, marshall would probably win that but it is not likely to be a one-on-one base. kobach could win with a strong plurality, kind of like roy moore did in the 2017 alabama race. greta: where are you guys -- what are you watching for next in the senate races? leah: in arizona, we've seen
mark kelly has continued to out raise martha mcsally cycle after cycle, every fundraising quarter. we've also seen martha mcsally has an interesting track where she needs to continue to fund raise but she also needs suburban women. -- i would keep an eye on martha mcsally, where does she go next, does she keep the base strategy, or does she start moderating? jacqueline: i'm still focused on these votes next week. i think there is conventional wisdom right now that there will be no witnesses, the white house has this in a bag. -- has this in the bag. as soon as people start saying that, i think it is really going to potentially go the other way and like we saw on monday with behind the scenes pressure on
mitch mcconnell to change the resolution after there was you, -- from him i , think we could see the same monday or tuesday and that, i think will be really telling, breaking with the president on the most defining moment of his presidency, and something he has around,s entire team blocking back against these witnesses so i think it is , telling how unpopular or problematic the president's behavior has become in these battleground states. those votes are really going to cast light on that. greta: we are all out of time. thank you both for being on "newsmakers."
>> tonight on q&a, the iowa caucus a week away, we discussed the history of the caucuses with iowa public televisions david. .> it is a wide state in rural provide all, it did big boost to the first african-american president. hillary clinton son with an early victory in 2016 on the republican side. they point out that ted cruz, cuban-americans have come forward and one. in right now pete buttigieg is giving a boost to the first openly gay candidate. the feeling is that a lot of
islands think that we are white but it is not a hostile place. watch our live coverage tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span's q&a. this week, live coverage of the house debate to limit u.s. military action against iran. california democratic representatives have introduced legislation to repeal the 2002 congressional authorization for the use of military force against iraq and to block federal funding to be used against taking action against iran without congressional authorization. live coverage this week on c-span. watch on-demand at c-span.org, listen on the go with the free c-span radio app. for the next several hours,
we will show you highlights from the impeachment trial. argueimpeachment managers whether former national security advisor john bolton should testify. house managers and the president's legal team also witnesses.oenaing later, the closing arguments before senators and the first day of statements from the president's lawyers. now the debate on whether john bolton should testify. are you a proponent? mister schiff you may proceed you may reserve time for rebuttal