In an exclusive sit-down interview with The Bottom Line, national political correspondent Mark Halperin discussed the Trump administration, if the Democrats could put up a successful candidate for president in 2020, the status of each political party and more.
Halperin, the creator, executive producer, and co-host of Showtime’s The Circus, an author of two New York Times’ Best Sellers, senior political analyst for MSNBC and Bloomberg Television, sat down with The Bottom Line ahead of his keynote address at the Kentucky Chamber’s Annual Meeting on July 20 to discuss federal politics.
When discussing the Trump administration so far being a repeal of policies from the Obama administration, Halperin said this cycle from presidency to presidency is part of what leads a country to become so polarized.
“I think if you took the politics out of it and the Democratic leaders and the White House and the Republican leaders sat down, I think they could do things like taxes, infrastructure, health care, even immigration. But because the politics dominates and overrides a lot of policy considerations, it’s very difficult for anyone in either party to run for office to say anything but ‘elect me and I will destroy the other side,’” Halperin said.
When asked what the next president could look like and who it could be with that trend of constant Democrat-Republic turnover in mind, Halperin said he would expect a Democratic nominee to be the opposite of Trump in nature but said the Democratic Party is currently facing a dilemma when it comes to candidates.
“It’s the most wide-open field I’ve seen in either party. Typically at this time in the cycle, I could say here are the five Democrats I think are most likely the nominee. It’s wide open right now. And two people, Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts, they take up a lot of space in the party right now,” Halperin said. “So it’s super wide open. As much as Democrats are salivating to try to beat Donald Trump in 2020, I don’t see the horse right now that is most likely to be nominated and frankly today I don’t see anyone who could beat him.”
Discussing the changes seen in the Republican Party under a Trump administration, Halperin said he doesn’t believe the shifts will last long term and noted the success the party has had in recent years.
“The reality that’s often overlooked is the Republican Party has been doing great over the last eight years, and was not in crisis except at the presidential level. They got someone who called themselves a Republican elected although he was not a normal Republican in 1,000 different ways. The Democratic Party has been in serious crisis. Barrack Obama’s political skills allowed him to get elected twice, but they control very small numbers of governorships, legislative bodies, they don’t control the House or the Senate. And so if you’re looking to see the confusion in the Republican Party, the failure to pass health care, the Republican Party has got its share of problems. The Democrats right now have a lot bigger set of problems and that’s obscured by all the attention that goes to the president,” Halperin said.
When asked if he believes the GOP will put up an alternative to Trump in the next election, Halperin said he thinks there will be another Republican candidate who could have a shot. However, Halperin noted Trump’s approval ratings and popularity could make him hard to beat.
“I’m certain that someone of some significance will run, and if you look at recent history, incumbent presidents who have nomination challenges have lost—Bush ’41, Carter, both had nomination challenges and they lost. The last three presidents, all three two-termers, first time since the founding of the republic, that we’ve had three straight two term presidents, they didn’t have nomination challenges because their teams worked really hard to ward that off. Let’s see if the president’s team tries to do that. I doubt he’ll be able to avoid some sort of challenge. We’ll see how serious it is,” Halperin said. “But he’s, I believe, the most popular president, a Republican, with Republicans in the modern era, more popular with Republicans than Reagan by most polling. As so, his ability to win a nomination fight I think is understated, but he’ll be challenged.”
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