tv Newsmakers CSPAN October 30, 2016 10:00am-10:31am EDT
mitt romney speaks to the u.s. chamber of commerce about the economy and ways to make the u.s. more attractive to business. clarence thomas and elena kagan each discuss their lives and careers. >> with just over a week to go until the elections, newsmakers is pleased to host stephen law. he also has the american crossroads and a nonprofit called one nation, all of which aim to keep the republican senate in the majority. thank you so much for being with us. as we started out, i should tell folks that you have been chief of staff of mitch mcconnell. and still have a great relationship with him. you bring all of that experience to our discussion this way. let me introduce our guests who will be asking questions. eric wenner is chief congressional reporter.
ladies, thank you for being back with us this week. as we start out, you gave an interview to political last week talking about the prospects for keeping the majority and you acknowledge a tough road ahead. it you said you were going up with guns blazing with more money at attached to the tight races, and a few more days, do you feel differently at this point? mr. law: we have a lot of challenges. they have been with us for the last six months. the top 11 most competitive races, we have been doing battle. i think that continues to be that way. in addition to that, we have a ticket that is not totally unified the way that we typically go into presidential election years where everyone is galvanized and pushing in the same direction. in many other races coming, they are in tough states where
president obama won and where hillary clinton is likely to win. our candidates have to outperform. host: these are the ones that are closest. missouri, indiana, nevada, new hampshire, north carolina, and pennsylvania. are you focusing on any in addition to those? mr. law: florida. we are finishing our work there. otherwise, the focus is going to be very heavily there. i would say that just of hours ago, we heard that the senate majority pact was looking at wisconsin. they are worried about that race tightening. we need to look at that race as well. >> speaking of tightening, to what do you attribute the last minute shifting in the polls? suddenly, we are seeing some shifting in new hampshire where kelly ayotte has fallen behind, missouri where ray blunt is tied
up with his democratic challenger. how do you explain these last-minute shifts in the polls? mr. law: what makes this cycle interesting and challenging is that there is no one-size-fits-all way to look at these races. the variations are being caused by unusual circumstances. kelly ayotte took a tumble with republican voters when she publicly announced she would no longer support donald trump after earlier acknowledging him as a role model. i think that is coming back. i think that race will stabilize in at least a competitive direction. that was a unique circumstance. for roy blunt, his race is getting cross pressured by both the presidential election and the gubernatorial election in his state both of which are dominated by talk about outsiders and senator blunt has been a great senator for missouri but i think the democrats have attacked him for someone who is a washington insider and that has hurt him.
>> how would you measure the impact of donald trump on these down ballot races? he is not your typical republican nominee. he is having an impact on on individual races. what has the impact been of donald trump? mr. law: six months ago, democrats predicted a senate blowout because we had donald trump at the top of the ticket. what we have seen is fairly marginal impact. in our polling, in most of these states, the republican candidate's position on donald trump, is a relatively negligible impact on how voters deal about the senate candidate. the other thing we often forget is that there is roughly a quarter of hillary clinton support -- hillary clinton voters who do not really like her they just dislike donald trump. they could impact themselves
with diehard republicans who are also supporting donald trump but they will pick up some independents who are currently for hillary only because she is not donald trump. >> to be clear, do you anticipate that on november 9, republicans will have retained majority in the senate? mr. law: i would not predict how things will turn out. but what does concern me is the breadth of the battlefield. in addition to that, very significant challenge we have is in typical presidential years, whether you love your presidential candidate or not, there is a tremendous amount of cross the board ticket unity. everyone is doing what they should be doing. voter turnout is being handled by this group and every thing is working seamlessly. we do not have that this time. there is a lot of division in
the ticket. the machinery in the things that need to be done to make sure that we get out the vote are less and down than they typically are which gives me a good deal of concern. i will say that six months ago, democrats that they were going to win florida, ohio, and arizona. those have been taken off the table all the completely. three months ago, they thought they were going to win indiana. i think we have thought that to a tie and in the end i think we will end up winning that race. even in the states where clinton is likely to win, all of our candidates are running against donald trump somewhat narrowly. we will see if they can outperform him enough to hold those seats. we have a lot to defend so how it all turns out i am not able to say. >> you mentioned florida. that is where senator rubio is running for election after mitch mcconnell coaxed him into doing
so. there has been some reporting lately about democratic dissension about the decision to abandon their candidate there, patrick murphy. and a senate majority pac may be dipping their toe back in. if democrats were able to come up with $10 million to put it behind murphy at this point, when it gave senator move -- rubio more of a contest? mr. law: the number one problem patrick murphy has is somewhat analogous to what carlos threw had in the primary. murphy is not well known. he doesn't have enough root -- resources to fully make a case against marco rubio. he could drive up the negatives by spending a lot, but could not make himself a viable. if you look at our polling, most public polling shows the same thing, patrick murphy is not well known, and has fairly even
favorable and unfavorable ratings. that gets very hard to push out in the last week of elections. it was a tough choice for the democrats to cut their losses, but probably from their vantage point, it was the right choice. they would have to spend $5 million-$10 million to even make it competitive, and even then, marco rubio would win. ms. ferrechio: can you ask -- explain your last-minute expenditures? you are revving things up and putting more money into races i most unexpectedly. can you talk about that decision and what was behind it? mr. law: absolutely. typically, this time of the election cycle is agonizingly slow, because we have banked everything, we cut all the ads, now we just sit and look at the polls. the silver lining of this activities, we are able to thrust ourselves into the work that still needs to be done. but what we have seen for
several weeks is democratic money coming in tens of millions of dollars into senate races. as far as we can tell, it is because groups, particularly unions, are under the view that hillary clinton may have won the presidential race, and it is time to focus on down ballot races. that created a huge imbalance in the polls. we felt we have to find a way to overcome this, and we were able to. i was not sure we will able to, but we were able to raise a significant amount of money within the space of six days, and he played to at least even out the disadvantage our candidate had. if you subtract out the $25 million that we have put in in the last two weeks, we will have spent from labor day to election day a total of $85 million in and it raises -- senate races, on top of the $25 million at the end. we were able to expand, do more digital advertising, so we were
able to do more at the end. but it was necessary because of this title wave spending on the democratic side. >> how did you raise $25 million in six days? mr. law: we were on the phone a lot. [laughter] the longer answer is, in particular, leader mcconnell at the beginning of the cycle recognized there needed to be a correlator to what harry reid successfully built in the senate majority pack, and what both republicans and democrats have done with their them -- governors association's. he encouraged us to make the senate majority fund -- the senate leadership fund, and build a corollary. over the course of the last couple of years, he and others, including myself, have worked hard to build a national donor network that is invested in saving the senate majority. i can't imagine how many miles
he has logged, but he has worked to convince people this is important. we have gotten a lot of buy-in from that. that ended up being critical because a number of donors, particularly donors we have had in the past, have been discouraged about the presidential race. some of them have checked out. they just haven't been that involved. their ability to focus on something that is achievable, which is helping senate candidates doing something they feel is a measurable impact, enabled us to build the network. in fairly short order, we can send out the alarm, and send the bat signal, and do everything we need to do. a lot of the donors responded generously. without the legwork, it would not have been possible to do it that fast. >> how do you sell that to the donors? if they think the top of the ballot is not someone i
necessarily like, and he drags down lower ballot races, what do you say to donors about maybe the disconnect between who they favor as a nominee and the republican senate candidates you are asking them to help salvage? mr. law: sure. one thing is a number of donors had supported other candidates in the primary process. they started from a position of disappointment that whoever they invested in did not be the nominee, but a lot of the donors also had a lot of buy-in to the senate majority. we helped get a number of people in who a lot of people think are the future of the republican party. people like tom cotton, joni ernst, and other people who are aspiring, sharp leaders who are conservative, but have a tremendous amount of appeal. this is to support the future of the party, and something that i think a lot of the donors
gravitated to, at a time when they fell at the top of the ticket had not worked out the way they hoped. ms. ferrechio: can you talk about the way the different candidates have handled donald trump? we saw some that endorsed him early on and stuck with that. those that never backed him, those that endorsed and unendorsed, and then re-endorsed. which of those scenarios has been more successful in this election? [laughter] mr. law: susan mentioned at the onset, my long relationship with senator mcconnell. one thing i always admired is his ability to lock down in a position and stick with it. very often what happens if people stop asking you. if you will give the same answer today that you got six months ago, you get bored and move on
to somebody else. i think one of the challenges some of the candidates have had is they feel the need to respond to every new cycle, and everything that trump says. that has caught some of the candidates up. as i said earlier, polling indicates that where a candidate is on donald trump a relatively negligible impact on voters. if they are marginally against him, they pick up hillary clinton voters who don't like her that much, but they may affect the republican side. i think where the candidates have gotten in the most trouble is where they have taken multiple positions in short order, that makes them look like they are trying to achieve a political advantage rather than on principle. i think that is the area of candidates have gotten themselves in trouble. at the end of the day, does it matter much? i think it may not matter that much in the end, but that is a risk. ms. werner: as you say, mcconnell has locked down his position on trump, he has
endorsed him, but has kept quiet throughout much of the campaign. what do you see his role as, in the next congress, if it is a 50 finish senate, which is possible? then you will have a tiebreaker for the white house. what do you see as his role in the minority? if the remaining as the republican leader, or maybe moving on? a lot of people are wondering what the future holds for the majority leader. mr. law: i haven't talked to him about that, but my expectation is that his unique tips of leadership will be all the more necessary, regardless of where we end up, whether donald trump happens to income or hillary clinton is president, or whether we are at 50 or 49. one of the things that has stood out in this particular election is that senator mcconnell has worked probably harder than any republican leader in history to make sure that there was an
outside effort that was funded, and aggressively focused on making sure we get everything we could to the majority -- majority. i think that will matter a lot. additionally, he's a tremendous leader for figuring your way through adverse circumstances. if we are in a situation where the wind is not at our back, that will be something where people want his leadership. the other thing you can't forget post this election, is two years from now, there will be another election, where it will be the absolute inverse. many more democrats, versus just eight republicans. that's an opportunity to get the majority back, and having a four-time consiglio ringleader like senator mcconnell would be an asset. ms. ferrechio: say donald trump does not win on november 9.
say republicans are in the minority, or even the majority. it doesn't matter, there is talk of maybe anger or backlash against leaders, either for not endorsing him or not supporting him enough, not getting behind him, not helping prop up the top of the ticket. what do you foresee in terms of potential backlash post donald trump at the gop establishment, who has along the way, has had a lot of criticism in terms of how they did or did not support him? mr. law: some of that is kind of hard to predict. one of the things we spend a lot of time trying to figure out is whether this particular election and this particular nominee was part of a new direction of the party, or sort of an anomaly. was he able to win the nomination because he cobbled together a small but secure part of the republican base, that
while the other candidates were contending against him, had to divide up the rest of the pie, or does he represent some sort of future more populist representation of the party? the party has been pretty consistent in nominating a mainstream conservative candidate. this is a completely different direction. i think how it is resolved will essentially be the answer to that question. is the party itself changing direction, or was this an anomaly driven in part by the circumstances of this contest? ms. ferrechio: how do you think it resolves? that is the big question. mr. law: i think probably two thirds are still a mainstream conservative party. that is where we are and where we end up. you have, obviously, some defending what trump does. does he go away, does he build another building, does he make the wrecking ball to the
republican party? you also have the freedom caucus part of the party, people who are locked in very safe districts, who think we ought to be taking on battles that end up in box canyon defeats, but at least we stood for something. i think all that will have to get sorted out. but i think in the end, the party as a whole is a mainstream conservative party. incidentally, i think the democrats have their own challenge. i think the reality is the center of gravity of the democratic party is a progressive, far left, liberal party. you look at how far bernie sanders got, even though it was mano a mano against to a clinton, two people from the beginning, he came fairly close to knocking her of her perch. i think the center of gravity for the democrats is more far left than the center of gravity for the republican party is far right. the challenge for the republican party is donald trump did speak to, and energize and activate, a center of the electorate that is not strongly republican, but available to the republican
party, but i think the republican party has largely ignored them for years. i think the republican party has pitched itself more to kind of mainstream business constituents, which i think is good, but there are also a lot of blue-collar soft conservatives, typically in rust belt states, who don't like the democratic party. it is too liberal, but they have not heard anything in the republican party that appeals to them. that is the question going forward, whether the party can appeal to them without necessarily engaging in a kind of rhetorical excess we have ms. swain: we have five minutes left. ms. werner: you mentioned 2018 and the red state democrats that are going to be up for reelection. thinking about how the republican party tries to put itself together, does that argue for mitch mcconnell, who makes deals with hillary clinton,
potentially in the white house, and chuck schumer as the democratic leader, or one who tries to turn -- opposed them at any turn? mr. law: that's a great question. i like the phrase putting itself together, because we don't do that successfully. i think that success lies in the direction of finding things to get done that don't compromise our principles and our base. in addition to that, assuming we hold the house, which i assume we will, i don't think the house would allow for a shift in any kind of leftward direction anyway. i actually think whether or not we hold the senate, if we are close or hold the house, i think it is equally interesting how hillary clinton relates to that if president. there will be a desire to get things done, to show forward progress, but it could end up
being that the white house wants to stay pretty far left, and the house and majority of republicans in the senate are not going to want to go in that direction, so you could end up with potentially two years as a stalemate. ms. werner: on trump and the rhetoric from him on the rigged election and so forth, is there anything that hurts down ballot candidates? is there any evidence that that would take place? mr. law: that's an interesting question about whether that kind of rhetoric can make people think it is all for naught. hillary clinton has her own mobilization problems as well. both sides seem to be pretty motivated to vote, based on polling. i think the main concern i have is whether the machinery is
there, as it typically is, to make sure that people who are more episodic voters are still encouraged to go out and vote. that part, i don't know about it we have been watching some early voting, and it doesn't suggest democrats have an overwhelming advantage compared to past years, but there are signs we are concerned about that the machinery is not delivering the vote the way it needs to in some places. in a close race, the change of a couple percentage points could determine the outcomes of the election. ms. swain: two minutes, final question. ms. ferrechio: it's interesting talking about the future of the parties and how the white house would interact, one big topic is immigration reform and that there could be a strong push for immigration reform in a democratic white house in the early days.
what is your sense? that is an enormous and divisive issue for the republican party. how do you think that would be handled by the senate, where there's a lot of division, and there would be also a lot of pressure to try to get something done, as it has been lingering around congress for many cycles? where do you see that going? mr. law: i think the republican party is going to continue on border security as a key deliverable. democrats are very uncomfortable with that. this issue is going to be different now than it was three or four years ago, when the gang of eight was working on it, in part because there's a lot of evidence that illegal border crossing and attempts are at record levels. in addition, you have an overlay of a national security concern. in the past, we never used to
think or worry about people coming into the country who might really want to do us harm here they may be here illegally, but they are looking for their own financial benefit. i think this issue has become more complicated. i think there's a risk for democrats taking the immigration issue is the same immigration issue it was four years ago. i think republicans have a few more arrows in the quiver than they had before. that's not to say it is an issue we can be blind about. i think it's important for republicans to find a way to deal with immigration, so we are not hurting ourselves badly with immigrant communities, be they hispanic, or increasingly large groups of immigrants in the asian-american community. i think it is important we deal with that. but democrats are not at risk in this. they have their own division. organized labor is very ambivalent about reform. both parties will have to figure out if there's a way for them to not just seek partisan advantage, but to get enough done so they can hold interest
in common. ms. swain: if hillary clinton wins the white house, do you see the majority leader pushing merrick garland as the supreme court nomination? mr. law: that's not in my crystal ball. it might be moved to get it done, i don't know how the democrats would take it. at this point, above my pay grade. ms. swain: thank you very much for being with "newsmakers." mr. law: thank you for having me. i appreciate it. ms. swain: "newsmakers," is back after our conversation with steven law, who heads the senate leadership fund, dedicated to keeping the republican majority. on c-span on friday morning, we had the head of the democratic party in ohio who made a comment that this election cycle is showing why citizens united should be repealed, that it is showing that the koch brothers can buy senate seat.
we heard a lot of money going into the senate elections. is it clear where the money is at this point? ms. werner: i think we should make the point this is going on on both sides. at the end of the day, when you take everything into account, that is the republican and democratic groups, there will not be a huge amount of difference on how much each side has spent. as we heard mr. law saying, the senate leadership fund has been remarkably successful, particularly in october, raising some $43 million in the course of the month to date. a lot of big donors, writing big checks. certainly, there are those who want to get that money out of politics, mitch mcconnell is not one of those people. i don't think we will see that change anytime soon. ms. ferrechio: i would agree. both parties are big spenders. these elections have become increasingly expensive.
the campaign finance laws, when you look at public polling, you see it at the bottom of what citizens are concerned about. part of the reason they don't understand the flow of money between big donors, the pac's, the candidates, and lawmakers, it is all confusing, even to people following it daily. i think that's one of the reasons why it never moved up on the level of importance for voters. it is talked about every election cycle, but it takes a lot to get movement on campaign finance reform. it is really difficult. the last time congress did anything about it was years ago. i don't see it happening anytime soon, especially if you have the divided government that we are predicting in the fall, and in 2017, where you will have republicans likely holding the house. any effort to move campaign finance there would be
practically impossible. ms. swain: that was a good portion of the conversation, not just on mechanics and money, and senate races, but what washington looks like after election day. the prediction is that republicans will keep the house, even if the democrats win the senate, two years of stalemate. both of you cover this town. you agree with him that stalemate will be the order of the day after the election? ms. werner: yes is the short answer. once you get used to covering congress, it is like you are so used to stalemate, it becomes a matter of degrees. i'm sitting here thinking, well, they might get an infrastructure bill done with international tax reform. in our world, that would be a big deal, but i think to regular people, that is like, what is congress doing? the possibility to do something tha is really landmark legislation in any area is small. susan asked about immigration. it is hard to see a republican-led house signing onto a major immigration reform
bill, maybe something around the edges. stalemate would be the name of the game. [laughter] ms. ferrechio: it will be very hyper political. democrats are actually divided. you are going to have the bernie sanders and elizabeth warren side of the party, and all the people who backed bernie sanders putting pressure upon hillary clinton to fulfill the promises she made two win over those sanders voters. that is going to push her further to the left. nothing gets harder than i white house to the left, and a house center-right. it is a gap too wide, philosophically, to come together. paul ryan has a strong desire to do tax reform. so does charles schumer, and potentially the incoming democratic leader. that leads to maybe a sliver of compromise potentially on international tax reform, and perhaps in infrastructure bank or money.