JOHN YANG: So, how much does organized labor matter in modern-day presidential campaigns? Are Donald Trump’s efforts to court African-Americans winning voters, black or otherwise? And what to expect, if anything, when Congress returns to Washington tomorrow?
With all these questions and more, it’s the perfect time for this Labor Day edition of Politics Monday.
And for that, we are joined by Stu Rothenberg of The Washington Post and The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report, and Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief for USA Today.
Susan, Stu, thanks for joining us. Welcome.
Coming out of that conversation about labor unions today, Susan, what is the influence of labor in a political campaign like this year’s?
SUSAN PAGE, USA Today: Well, labor leaders are pretty influential in the Democratic Party, but they may or may not be able to deliver many of their actual voters.
Labor union members, especially white men, are the target group for Donald Trump. He’s had a lot of success in getting their support. So, it’s not at all clear that labor unions will be able to do as much as they once could to get their members to actually vote for the candidate the union itself supports.
JOHN YANG: So, Stu, what does an endorsement mean these days?
STUART ROTHENBERG, The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report: Well, not as much as it meant in the ’70s or ’80s certainly.
Back then, the endorsement was a big thing, whether it was Walter Mondale or Howard Dean. I think it brings some money and it brings the stamp of approval from organized labor.
But, look, the Democratic coalition has changed. It includes environmentalists and women’s groups. It’s a very different party. And so labor is still a part of it, but it’s not the dominant part that it once was.
JOHN YANG: Donald Trump this past week went — this past weekend, went to a black church in Detroit. What do you make of this? What — his outreach to black voters, or apparent outreach to black voters?
SUSAN PAGE: I would give him some credit for going to speak to African-American voters. He hadn’t done that before.
It’s not an audience that he would expect to be particularly friendly to him, so I think that’s a good thing that presidential candidates sometimes do.
That said, I don’t think his real target are African-American voters. It is hard to imagine that Donald Trump gets into double-digit support when it comes to African-Americans.
But I think he has found that, in order to reach college-educated white voters, he needs to address some of the concerns that he has had racist appeals, racist and provocative language about Mexicans and Muslims and about African-Americans. And I think that’s more of what he’s trying’s to do with these events.
JOHN YANG: Stu, there was an interesting point in The New York Times this morning talking about focus groups in Florida and Ohio among African-American voters. We know the historical connection between Bill Clinton and black voters.
But they found that younger black voters have reservations about Hillary Clinton.
STUART ROTHENBERG: I think younger voters across the races have concerns about her. They don’t see her the way older African-Americans see her or her husband.
So, you know, she’s going to have to try harder to get younger voters of all races. And I don’t think she will do as well as Barack Obama, but that’s a pretty high standard.
But I think her advantage still is not her strength and her appeal, but it is the fact that Donald Trump has no standing in the community. And he can go to African-American churches from now until next Thursday, and it’s not going to change that. He really has never built any sort of fundamental base with that community. And that’s a big problem.
You know, we’re two months away from the election, and voters know that. White voters know that. Asian-American voters know that. And African-American voters know that. And they have become cynical, as they should.
SUSAN PAGE: But you think about younger African-Americans not being as supportive of Hillary Clinton as they were of Barack Obama or even of Bill Clinton.
It’s the same problem she has with younger women, women under 35.
STUART ROTHENBERG: Yes.
SUSAN PAGE: And I think experiences of the millennial generation is just different from the experiences of their parents and their grandparents.
And so some of these political distinctions are going to change. And I think you see fewer differences on race with voters under 35 than you do with older voters.
STUART ROTHENBERG: But it’s not as if younger voters are going to be attracted to Donald Trump either.
SUSAN PAGE: No.
STUART ROTHENBERG: He has shown no ability to get that electorate either.
SUSAN PAGE: But to Gary Johnson maybe or to Jill Stein, I think their highest levels of support, even though they’re not that high, their highest levels of support are among younger voters.
JOHN YANG: Is there anything she can do, Hillary Clinton can do, to get try to those younger voters back? She had trouble with them when she was competing with Bernie Sanders in the primaries, but is there anything she can do?
STUART ROTHENBERG: Oh, I think it’s all about Trump and ratcheting up the risk of what a Trump presidency would mean to the country and to these younger voters, who are — tend to be — favor diversity and tolerance and they’re more open. And they’re more progressive in their cultural views. And Donald Trump, last time I looked, wouldn’t be described in those terms.
SUSAN PAGE: Although there are only, what, 64 days left until — the campaign. That’s not very long, and these are two candidates who are pretty well known.
On the other hand, we are going to have three presidential debates and the vice presidential debate. We are going to have weeks in which voters are really intensely looking at this campaign. And I think there is still room for things to change, for candidates to either do really well in debates and have people take a second look or to do really poorly and have the opposite effect.
JOHN YANG: Well, there are other races on the ballot.
Congress, for instance, will be — the entire House will be up. They will be back tomorrow briefly to try to get some business done. Do we expect anything to happen on the Hill in the next what — how long are they here? Four weeks?
SUSAN PAGE: They’re here for four weeks. They have just taken seven weeks off. These are jobs we should all aspire to have.
SUSAN PAGE: I think there are only two things you should really expect Congress to do.
One is to pass a short-term funding bill, because it’s not in their political interest to shut down the government when the fiscal year comes into effect, the new fiscal year, on October 1. The second thing, I think, is Zika funding. This has been put off and off for months and months.
The situation in Florida and elsewhere just keeps getting worse. And I think there is a bipartisan sense that they need to pass that $1.1 billion Zika funding bill, and quick.
JOHN YANG: Stu?
STUART ROTHENBERG: No, I agree. They’re not going to do anything substantive beyond that.
They have got to keep the — the Republicans have to keep the government open. They certainly don’t want to be dogged with that problem.
And Zika funding, there is significant support, but, of course, there has been support for many weeks now. And the Senate was unable to deal with it initially. So, we will see. I think it’s possible. I don’t think even Zika funding is a slam dunk.
SUSAN PAGE: We had a USA Today-Suffolk University poll that came out today, and it showed that three out of 10 Americans say that someone in their family, themselves or someone else in their families have changed their plans for travel or other things because of fear of the Zika virus.
That’s really an enormous number of Americans. And almost two-thirds said, yes, Congress should pass this bill, including most overwhelming number of Democrats, but a plurality of Republicans as well. I do think there is a head of steam behind Zika funding.
JOHN YANG: There was another poll in USA Today last week about that there is all this talk about will the Democrats take back the Senate and try to take back the House, and there was an interesting finding about ticket-splitting.
SUSAN PAGE: So, here’s what we found.
A majority of Hillary Clinton supporters say they are likely to split their ticket. So, they will vote for Hillary Clinton, but they will vote for Republicans for the Senate or governor or some other races down the ballot. But a majority of Donald Trump voters said they wouldn’t split their ticket. They’re going to stick on the Republican side.
This is very good news for those endangered Republican Senate incumbents who are fighting so hard in swing states where Donald Trump is having a lot of trouble.
STUART ROTHENBERG: I think we will see more of this don’t give Hillary Clinton a blank check from Republicans in the House and the Senate in states that are competitive.
And I think Republicans actually do have a fighting chance to hold on onto the Senate. I didn’t think so six months ago, but I do now.
JOHN YANG: We have less than a minute left.
There was a story in The Washington Post this morning that said that federal officials are looking into a broad covert Russian operation to sow public distrust in the election, the hacking and all the other things.
How big a problem could this be? Could there be questions about the legitimacy of this election in November?
SUSAN PAGE: I think this is just a huge issue about Russian actions to try to meddle in our politics.
I think it’s amazing and very disturbing. And the last thing we need in this country are people not believing that they’re getting an accurate count of the vote.
STUART ROTHENBERG: I think, more broadly, people are very suspicious about government and vote counters and election watchers on both sides of the aisle, particularly on the Trump side.
So, I imagine that, after the results are in, we will hear from some corners some complaints about, can we really trust these numbers?
SUSAN PAGE: And if you want to make it hard for a new president to govern, just let there be questions about how he or she were elected.
JOHN YANG: Right. Exactly.
Susan Page, Stu Rothenberg, thanks for joining us.
SUSAN PAGE: Thank you.
STUART ROTHENBERG: Thanks, John.
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