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Benjy Sarlin: Wake up to Reality

January 24, 2024
Notes
Transcript
As we pivot from primary season to the general election, Biden is telling Democrats to accept that Trump will be the nominee. Meanwhile, the ex-POTUS is doing ‘peak Trump’—talking about Jan 6, his legal cases, and calling E. Jean Carroll a liar. . Semafor’s Benjy Sarlin joins Charlie Sykes
This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:08
    Well, it’s the morning after the New Hampshire primary. Welcome to the Bulwark podcast. I am Charlie Sykes. So you know how it turned out. We’re joined by Benji Sarlan, Washington Bureau Chief for semaphore who’s previously covered elections and their consequences at NBC News.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:22
    Kind of an early night wasn’t Benjie.
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:25
    Yeah. I mean, the call was within minutes from the associated press. The networks weren’t that far off. It wasn’t like the same kind of blowout margin of Iowa where, you know, Trump was winning by, like, thirty. But it was clear that Nikki Haley wasn’t getting what she needed within the first literally five minutes of return.
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:41
    So Yeah. In that sense, early night, I was Charlie, we were just talking. I was prepared to be up till, you know, two, three in the morning, you know, pouring over exit polls and county numbers. And Got a great night of sleep.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:52
    Yeah. I mean, spoiler alert here. This is pretty much the end of the primary season. We’re now pivoting to the general election. Now, you know, Nikki Haley put on a brave face that she’s not leaving the race, but she’s about to crash into the wall in in Nevada and in South Carolina.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:06
    So I suppose if we were calling the NFL game, it’s like fifty six to three, and we’re in garbage time right now. So a lot of the punditing that pretends that there’s still a Republican primary, you know, feels like will be another mixed metaphor. Like, riding a bicycle as slowly as possible without falling off, but the minutes thing is done. Isn’t it? I mean, it’s cooked.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:25
    It’s baked. Put a fork in it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:27
    Whatever I’ve been asked about, like, does anyone have a chance to beat Trump? I’ve given the same answer for months, which is, well, Nikki Haley looks pretty competitive in New Hampshire. If she can get it down to a one on one race, which she did, you know, and bring in a bunch of independence and beat him there, then that might provide a shock to the system that gives her of attention, busting momentum. And so based on that standard that I myself have been saying for months, yeah, she fell short. Now I was just on a call with her Super PAC SFA, their case is still that, like, look, she might be down thirty in the polls in South Carolina, but it is still her state.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:02
    It is now finally a one on one race, which it’s only been for days. She’s not pulling her punches against Trump. I mean, she’s throwing her best material out now. That was apparent in her non concession speech yesterday, which, you know, really angered Trump. And so their idea is at least you give it, you know, another month to see if there’s any appetite for, you know, a true one on one.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:22
    But it’s gonna be extremely difficult because there’s just no sign of weakness in South Carolina. It’s an especially strong state for Trump. It has been from the start unlike New Hampshire. We’ve never talked about talked about it as especially competitive. There’s not the same pool, like large pool of independence, at least effectively, you know, who actively debate in these primaries and and are true, you know, trump’s skeptics the way they are in New Hampshire.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:50
    It’s just going to be very difficult So I don’t wanna just prematurely say, like, it’s over. Get out of here, Nikki Haley, but yeah. I mean, like, we’re in a scenario that no one plausibly argued as recently as a week ago was one that ended in a Haley victory.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:05
    There’s two really interesting narratives that I think came out of of last night and they’re pretty obvious. I wanna get to those in just a moment. No. One, Donald Trump’s obvious dominance among Republican voters, but also the obvious evidence of weakness among moderate and independent voters, which is going to become more and more significant. Before we do that though, could we just talk about what happened last night?
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:26
    Because I and maybe we’ve gotten numb to all of this, but the New York Times described Trump’s victory speech as a crude bitter victory speech. He attacked Nikki Haley as delusional for saying that she was still in the race. And then he has this weird kind of veiled mobster like threat. Let me just play that little sound bite from Donald Trump’s typically ungracious victory speech.
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:52
    And just a little note to Nikki, she’s not gonna win, but if she did. She would be under investigation by those people in fifteen minutes and I could tell you five reasons why you’re Not big reasons. A little little stuff that she doesn’t wanna talk about, but she will be under investigation with minutes. And so would Ron have been, but he decided to get out. He decided to get out.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:23
    Okay. So, I mean, it’s obviously making reference to the fact that Democrats will investigate anybody, but but then he throws in that for, like, you know, five little things that she just doesn’t wanna talk about. I mean, what’s going on here? I mean, other than the, then the sort of, you know, John Gotti, like, hey, picky, it would be a pity if anything were to happen to you.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:41
    I mean, this is what Trump always does. Right? I mean, when we go back to the famous Ted Cruiseman and when he threatened to spill the beans on his wife, there’s always some veiled thing. There’s something that doesn’t talk about gonna have a big problem. So you could write thousands of words about that one passage and the many aspects of Trump and the way he operates and what happened in this primary just off that passage So one is, yes.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:04
    Like, Trump is completely shameless and unconstrained about just making things up or alluding to things about his opponent. I mean, it’s months ago, and he dropped it. But do you remember early on briefly when DeSantis looked slightly competitive?
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:17
    Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:17
    Like, yeah. Trump was, like, throwing out, like, rumor references. And alluding to, like, hidden gay sex scandals that were gonna come out. Yes. And, you know, he dropped it pretty early because DeSantis quickly stopped being competitive, so he didn’t even really feel the need to do more than just like mock his height This is what he always does.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:32
    But the other thing that I thought was interesting is Trump was making a substantive point here that his rivals really failed to rebut this entire race. And I think explains a lot of what happened and the kind of box he put them in, which is Trump’s argument was you have to vote for me because the deep state is indicting me to stop me from, you know, fighting on your behalf. And with all this partisan law fair, And none of this is about me or the details of my cases, it’s about this conspiracy that stole the last election and is trying to stop me from winning this one. And because that conspiracy is the problem, the same thing will happen in Nikki Haley. The same thing would have happened to Tim Scott.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:14
    The same thing would have happened to Ron DeSantis.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:16
    Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:17
    Nikki Haley has gone pretty hard at Trump lately. She has never ever rebutted that. Never. DeSantis didn’t come within a million miles of it. Her whole campaign line was chaos follows Trump, but she would not quite explain why chaos follows Trump.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:32
    She
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:32
    would not quite say Yes. Trump has a bunch of legal problems because he’s personally corrupt, gets into weird sex stuff and has a shady business. And we knew this before he was even involved in politics. When he had the same problems. And lo and behold, you know, that’s what’s happening now.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:49
    And she never she never brought herself to make that case. Rhonda Sande has actively avoided it. You know, he alluded for one little bit when that first indictment was coming that, like, hey, maybe don’t, you know, involved with a porn star and pay hush money. He just, like, indirectly, and then he backed off immediately. Like, never back down fast enough.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:06
    Never back down, pretty silly as a slogan in that moment. And he never came back to it even in his final days when he was, like, making this electability case that you can’t elect Trump because the whole election will be about January six, legal issues, you know, courtroom dates. This was his words. Like, Ron DeSantis was saying that. But even as he was saying it, he was qualifying it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:27
    But these charges are all, you know, partisan cooked up nonsense, and even the juries will be partisan cooked up nonsense. Even if he’s convicted by a jury, don’t trust it because they’re in DC or New York. If you accept the premise that Trump is the victim of some deep state conspiracy that stole the last election and is going to steal this one. I mean, I don’t even know why you’re bothering running against him at that point.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:50
    This is so key. Then, I mean, you’ve just nailed this big unknown unknown of this campaign. I mean, here’s a known. The the known is that When the indictments rolled around Republicans rallied around Donald Trump, his rise can be traced to the the indictments, but the counter narrative is that all of the people allegedly running against Donald Trump then embraced Donald Trump’s narrative. Now, so the unknown unknown is What if they would have said, no.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:17
    I’m sorry. This is disqualifying. I’m sorry. You cannot have a presidential nominee who behaves in this particular way. Now Chris Charlie Sykes said that sort of thing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:25
    Clearly, Ron DeSantis thought that this would be disqualifying if he said it. And I think it was Chris Christie who said that the key moment in this campaign took place here in my hometown in Milwaukee during the debate. When all the candidates were asked, would you still support Donald Trump for the presidency if he was a convicted felon? Do you remember that? And all the hands went up, and they all said yes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:45
    And at that moment, when they’re all saying he didn’t really do anything wrong, I don’t think it’s disqualifying to be a felon, and I will pardon him. They provided the ultimate cover for Donald Trump. This was the people who were running against him. So what a shock that Republican voters would have accepted that trumpian narrative? So the unknown unknown is what if, what if they would have said, I’m sorry.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:12
    This party, the party of Lincoln, you know, the party of D White Eisenhower cannot be run by somebody who is under multiple felony indictments. You know, this conduct is disqualified. What would have happened? Would would they have been exiled? Would they have been liz chaney?
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:27
    What do you think, Benjie?
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:28
    I mean, the answer is probably like, I wanna be clear here. Like, the reason they did not do that is because they would have been booed in that debate. And all the research they had was telling them, this is a dead end. They didn’t imagine that. Okay.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:41
    Like, there’s a reason they didn’t do it. But if you don’t have some kind of, yeah, I said it moment where you start inserting some kind a counter narrative, the inevitable happens. It just completely runs over you. Like, you have no possible rebuttal when these indictments, but which, by the way, everyone knew were coming, you might not have known in, like, say, November twenty twenty two the exact combination of which ones was gonna happen and which circumstances I think a lot of people were surprised, for example, like the degree to which Jack Smith went hard on January six and election interference, but you knew he had this open and shut classified documents case hanging over him that seemed incredibly troubling at the minimum, even if he wasn’t. You knew the New York stuff.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:20
    You knew his business was already facing all the stuff. I think Eugene Carol’s, like, defamation case had even started at that point, you know, when we’re getting close to a jury, like, there were you knew there were going to be legal issues throughout. And I do wonder, like, I’ve been thinking a lot about whether Trump was inevitable. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:35
    And that’s why so many of these guys got in the race. Right? Yeah. This is what they were respecting. I mean, I I’ve said this before, and I people have kind of looked at me funny and said, no.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:43
    Rhonda Sanders, I think it’s as shocked as anyone that Republican voters you know, rallied around from. I think he was just assuming I will, you know, check all the Maga boxes. Then once the indictments come down, Republicans will look for an Graham, I’m going to be right there. They thought that, in fact, Republican voters would turn against him. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:02
    I mean, so they all made that miscalculation.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:04
    Yeah. I mean, at a minimum, they didn’t assume that he would get this guaranteed surge.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:08
    No.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:09
    Even though at the time it happened, by the way, I mean, commentators were used to I mean, like, it was actually not such a shock that his poll numbers went up. You saw if you, like, I was going back and reading, like, the columns from, like, back with that first indictment. Like, Yeah. A lot of people were predicting that would happen. But, again, you gotta be prepared for it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:27
    There was a sense that maybe he would, quote, unquote, collapse under his weight as, like, further in further indictments came, like, oh, well, the Manhattan one, that one, like, even a lot of Trump critics don’t like, but the other ones will do it. But, yeah, it just didn’t come. I mean, the scenario I always wonder about is By the time the Manhattan indictment came, like Trump had largely recovered. It had been months since that low point in the midterms had been four months, his polling had largely recovered. He was already on an upward trajectory.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:53
    DeSantis was already starting to stumble and run into, you know, some problems and questions about his political abilities. He had chosen not to engage Trump for months. But I wonder what would have happened if he had started laying the groundwork for that attack, like, in November. When he could have gotten some buy in from other Republicans. Well, there’s timing, but there’s
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:10
    also and I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, the herd mentality in in politics. You know, collective action. So we’re seeing the herd mentality right now that everybody is like, okay, look, everybody else is doing it. We gotta get on board. But the alternative that would have been early on, and I don’t know whether I’m talking about twenty fifteen, twenty sixteen, or whether we’re talking about twenty twenty one.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:30
    But watching Republicans, you can tell that they’re kind of always looking over at their shoulders. You know, that moment when when they raise their hands on the stage in Milwaukee, member how Ron DeSantis is gonna look to see what other people are raising their hands. If at some point, any point there would have been this collective action of the not just Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney over here and Mitt Romney over here, but if if a lot of Republicans who had credibility join hands, and said, I’m sorry. This is too much. We have to move on.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:01
    I don’t know whether that would have changed it, but it was never tried. What we do know is the individual voice is speaking out. It was easy to pick them off. It’s easy to pick off a Jeff flake. It’s easy to pick off Liz changing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:13
    You know, But if there had been a critical mass, because you’re seeing right now the power of the critical mass, right, that everybody has decided that You know what? You don’t wanna be the last person. You know, all the cool kids are going into the gymnasium. We have to follow them in there. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:30
    Yeah. You only get these rare moments where Trump looks weak enough that you could potentially flip some Republicans against him at once. And what usually happens is everyone kinda looks at each other like you said, and, you know, just a handful of people. It’s only been just, like, two or three moments throughout his political career. Point.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:47
    Right? Like, one of them was obviously January six.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:48
    Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:49
    Like, it was a serious question whether he would be impeached for a brief moment. A serious question whether Mitch McConnell would lead the effort, you know, and whether there would be stain the opposition to him, even if impeachment failed, you know, even within a week after January six, like, you’d missed that moment. And already, he was recovering through predictable needs. So fast. And in this case, you had another moment.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:08
    Like, they were gifted, I think kind of, and probably another moment after the midterms, which is for whatever reason for, like, a brief moment, Republican rank and file voters seem to think maybe something is wrong here. Maybe we misread something. What else have we been lied to if it turns out there wasn’t a red wave? And, you know, this wasn’t just being speculating. Like, there were lots of polls showing DeSantis leading.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:30
    People were
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:30
    already in.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:30
    Like DeSantis was leading in New Hampshire. By the gold standard poll there as of January of last year. One year ago from, like, today. It’s insane to imagine now. He dropped out before, but he was pulling it, like, four or five percent in some.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:42
    When he dropped out. There was a brief moment where there was at least a sign that they were willing to listen and also separately that some Republicans were willing to come out and join them. So, like, I looked back at some of the quotes from this period. It it was fascinating. I was digging through some of the things senators were saying then.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:58
    So this is an interesting thing. Not a single senator endorsed DeSantis during this entire race. There’s not a single one endorsed Haley either.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:05
    Hardly, anybody in Washington endorsed either.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:07
    There were some for Scott who they all liked. He was their colleague, you know, but it was, like, not not a single one. I was reading back, like, Cynthia Lummus from Wyoming. You know, she was giving quotes then, like, Ron DeSantis is the leader of our party now when she was asked about her endorsement. Okay.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:20
    DeSantis announces six months later, did Cynthiaamas endorse him? No. Because by then, he looked like a loser, and everyone was like, why stick my neck out when I’m just gonna get killed on a lost cause? Similarly with Fox News, right? We reported that Trump was so called soft banned from Fox News for, like, you know, basically through the midterms.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:41
    And Ron DeSantis was, like, one of the reasons people thought he was plausible is, like, wow. Look, conservative media is lining up behind this guy. Once he, like, gives a signal, they’re all gonna charge with him. Right. But you had a brief fleeting moment.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:51
    It was gone within a, you know, a month or two. And then by the time you announced, they was like, maybe not. You know, it’s They’re already trying to get back on Trump’s good side. You only get these little moments. If you go individually, you always get mowed down.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:03
    I understand it’s made so many mistakes hard to pick out one miscalculation. You know, well, I’m I’m making all of them. But I do think it’s interesting that, you know, in terms of the timing, that rather than leap in to the presidential race at the moment when people were ready for him. He made the calculation. No.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:20
    I’m going to go do some legislating. I’m going to spend my time doing government stuff because he thought that’s what the Magabase wanted. You mentioned Tim Scott in passing. Before right, we we get to sort of the bigger picture number crunching, which I wanna do with you. And also what’s going on with the business community right now because I was listening to an interview this morning that I wanted to share with you.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:42
    But Tim Scott, who was widely liked And, you know, again, for five minutes, people thought, he’s a kind of a plausible guy. He’s dropped out of the race, endorsed Donald Trump. In the most slavish way possible. He puts the cringing cringe worthy. And last night, he was there standing behind Donald Trump.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:04
    And, you know, Donald Trump is insulting and threatening Nikki Haley. Just a reminder to everybody Tim Scott is a United States senator because Nikki Haley appointed him to that position. He was subsequently elected, but He owes her his seat in the United States, said that he’s a fellow South Carolina Republican, but listen to this This is sort of typical Trump, the fact that he just enjoys humiliating his opponents, but he also kind of has kink about humiliating the people who have come to his side. So let’s play this little sound button.
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:41
    Did you ever think that she actually appointed you, Tim. And think of it,
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:47
    appointed and you’re
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:47
    the senator of his state, and she endorsed you must really hate her. No. It’s, it’s a shame. Tricia. Uh-oh.
  • Speaker 3
    0:18:02
    I just love you. No, that’s good. That’s why he’s a great politician.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:07
    Okay. I don’t wanna say anything bad about Chris Christie, but it it’s like he’s the twenty twenty four Chris Christie without the self respect. You know? It’s like, okay. So that picture of Chris Christie, you know, doing the shine box thing from twenty sixteen became kind of iconic.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:21
    And Tim Scott’s saying I can top that. So what did you make of that exchange? Don’t something you must really hate her. And then Scott just slurping it up, like, no. I just love you, big man.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:34
    Daddy? It’s all recognizable.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:36
    Trump, he doesn’t just want endorsements. He wants surrenders. He loves humiliating people they endorse it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:41
    It’s not
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:42
    a two way deal. It’s a one way, you know, agreement. You know, I remember when he, chose Mike Pence as his running mate. And, you know, reportedly, like, at the time, he was, like, not happy choosing Mike Pence. You know, he wanted someone who ironically Chris Christie then, was seen as, like, more loyal and more his type.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:00
    And he spent, like, this is Mike Pence, the greatest day of his life. Right? He is, like, you know, the pinnacle of his very, very long rise in Republican politics. He’s gonna be VP. His family’s all there, everything.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:12
    And Trump just, like, ranted for, like, thirty minutes about whatever before even letting Penn speak, and is part of it very notable He started bragging about how he beat Ted Cruz even though Mike Pence endorsed him and how Mike Pence gave a weak endorsement And it wasn’t, like, a good one. And, like, really wanted me to win. And it was just, like, and saying terrible things about Ted Cruz along the way. You know, it’s, like, it’s the same thing. It’s not just enough to be in his endorsement or even agree to be his running mate.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:37
    He Will Saletan humiliate you immediately. It’s very important to him.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:41
    Well, this is the price. You know, you see it in people like Lee Stefanick, who I think like Tim Scott wants to be VP. By the way, do you agree? I mean, this is part of this this audition. And and if you’re auditioning to be Trump’s VP, you have to go beyond groveling.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:55
    I mean, you you have to go, you know, for the straight sniffle But that’s what’s happening here. Right? Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:00
    At the very least this time, I think it raises the stakes because, like, a lot of the appeal of Mike Pence as a VP then was that he was not seen as a specialty.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:07
    Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:08
    Trumpy. Then it was at, like, okay. Trump’s weak flank then was ironically now because they’re his biggest supporters, was, like, religious conservatives. And, you know, especially people who doubted him on abortion say, which is much less an issue now for him after he appointed, you know, a bunch of judges and has administration and also the evangelical movement has, you know, changed in certain ways to accommodate his personal style. Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:30
    This time around, this is after, you know, a bunch of supporters tried to hang Mike Pence that he is now, you know, promising departed and celebrating at his at his rallies. I think it’s possible he wants to sort pre screened for someone who was more loyal this time. And, you know, it was like, Mike Pence, the joke about him before January six was that he was incredibly loyal. It would never say a bad word about Trump. Or break from him on anything.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:55
    So someone who is more dependable than even that. And, obviously, you see the way it’s being done. At least Stefanic in her cases, you know, referring to January six prisoners as hostages was like the thing that really hostage. It’s interesting you see that and you go, oh, someone must be running for vice president. But it’s a big competition.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:10
    It’s the reason why, for example, I mean, like Marjorie Taylor Green has talked openly about wanting to be considered as a running mate, for example. It’s a very open campaign. Is it possible to be too crazy for Trump?
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:21
    What do you think? I mean, if you were ranking them, do you have a a short list?
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:25
    I think it depends what he wants. I mean, like, an obvious one is Tim Scott, you know, in many ways. Mhmm. Trump has noticeably not said anything bad about, Tim Scott this whole time. I think he loved that he was in the race just strategically, but also Tim Scott did not say much bad about, you know, he mostly avoided dinging Trump during his presidency, you know, he had some appeal to the middle.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:44
    That’s like a rare combination of traits. Our own report Shelby Talcott reported early on that, like, trumpet instructed his campaign not to attack Tim Scott, you know, like, don’t get into it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:54
    Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:55
    That’s one option if you wanna do, say, an outreach play. But if you want, say, a loyalist play, yeah, his long options there too. You know, there’s Stefanic, there’s, Byron Donald’s in the house, there’s another one who’s considered you know, very mega in a lot of ways and also as a bonus, you know, chose him over DeSantis, which was like an early big domino to fall endorsement wise. That signaled kinda where the winds were blowing with endorsements in a lot of ways. And then there’s, you know, some of the governors, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former press secretary.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:23
    She was a little slow to endorse Trump this time. But still someone who served him well. It’s like it’s hard to say. He has he has a lot of ways he can go.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:32
    There’s somebody in my comments that who said, hey, you know, don’t don’t sleep on Alina Haba. You know, I mean, this is, like, you know, somebody somebody who He thinks looks good and maybe a terrible lawyer, but might be good on TV. Okay. I’m kidding about that. Okay.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:45
    So, I mean, obviously, I think it almost goes without saying that Nikie Haley is not running for VP. There’s no chance. There’s zero chance of that. So why do you think she’s in the race? Still.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:57
    I mean, is this just sort of saving face? How long does it go?
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:01
    As I mentioned, I was just on a call with, like, her Super PAC, you know, long time advisor, Mark Harris was on there. He was trying to very much address the idea that, like, speculation about what this means for, like, Nikki Haley’s future. Like, what if she’s compromising me running mate or a cabinet or us twenty twenty eight run. Like, the case he’s making is that, like, look, drop your cynicism. She thinks she’s the best presidential candidate.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:22
    She’s in this for that. Okay.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:24
    You
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:24
    know, sure. I’d say we all have some reason to doubt that. Namely, the time she warned that Trump was the worst disaster that ever happens, and then joined his cabinet. And then the other time she warned Trump was the worst disaster that ever happened. And then said she wouldn’t run against him and then ran again.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:39
    I’m like, it’s like, I’m not gonna get on my high horse here and, like, talk about how, you know, we have no reason to doubt Nikki Haley’s, you know, calculations and intentions. Part of the way she’s got this far is that she is a very good strategic in many ways, you know, and it’s very good at tactical, you know, calculations. But, you know, Trump only takes, Josh Barrows’ quote from twenty sixteen. I always like, Trump only takes the dignity of people who give it willingly. And people talk about, like, how humiliating it might be to lose in South Sarah Longwell.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:07
    I disagree. I don’t think the idea is, like, career would suffer because she lost to Trump who was dominant there. I mean, I think it’s fine to say, like, rationalize it away being like, look, the party wasn’t ready. I did my best. And she would be fine.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:19
    There’s a million things she could do after that. So it’s kind of up to her. I don’t know if she would say yes to a VP offer or not. But she’s doing her best to look like someone who would not entertain it now.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:33
    Okay. So let’s talk about And, obviously, we’re pivoting pretty decisively shortly from the primary season to the general election. And as I mentioned at the at the time, here. There’s two narratives. I mean, number one, both in Iowa and in, New Hampshire, we were reminded about how completely Donald Trump dominates Republican voters.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:51
    He’s got loyal. He’s got enthusiastic supporters. The entire Republican infrastructure, such as it is, you know, has lined up behind him. That’s not breaking story. But there are a lot of little warning signs in Iowa and in New Hampshire and in polls elsewhere.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:09
    Which is that we know the story about the hardcore Mega Base, but there’s also indications that he’s got a real problem with the independent moderate voters and sought Republican voters who he lost in twenty twenty, who are not coming back to him, and who could be decisive in the general election. So let let’s talk about that because it almost feels like it’s old news to say, yeah. Okay. The Republican Party is Donald Trump. Alright.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:34
    Well, now we’re about a general election. Joe Biden has been very, very weak. There’s been a lot of parental collection about, you know, his age and about his bad poll numbers. The economy seems to be turning around. And there’s a lot of evidence, both anecdotal, but also from the polling data, that there’s a pretty substantial body of absolute I will never ever vote for Donald Trump among independents, moderates, and Republicans.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:59
    So give me your thought about this sort of, you know, changing narrative as we begin to focus on, you know, the weaknesses that Donald Trump has at the moment when he looks so dominant. Clearly, This is gonna be kind of his high watermark, but there’s a lot of evidence of weaknesses. Aren’t there?
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:14
    Well, it depends on how you look at it. I can see multiple ways. One way to look at it is, that problem is totally overblown. Trump is leading Biden polls now. He’s significantly improved on his performance since twenty twenty.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:28
    I mean, if anything, the, you know, the shock there that Democrats are using was is that they assumed a lot of those independence of democratically voters were, you know, forever gone. And that’s after January sixth, you know, that happened after the twenty twenty election.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:40
    Which is kind of mind blowing.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:42
    And after the midterms where Trump candidates got killed everywhere, You know, so it’s like, yes, it’s driving them kind of crazy on the democratic side to see that. So that’s one reason I would not read too much into, you know, his performance with this or that voter in Iowa or New Hampshire. Now the reason you might consider otherwise yeah. Independence seemed like they could not wait to vote against Trump in New Hampshire. And, like, that’s a state that often has kind of, like, true independence, you know, compared to independence and name only, you know, unaffiliated voters as they’re called there.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:11
    An interesting thing is that, you know, Trump has looked very strong in some states he lost in some recent polls. That’s not been true in New Hampshire. Mhmm. There’s a poll just this week that had him down seven to Biden. It look in just like twenty twenty, basically.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:25
    Based on exactly what you named, And, you know, I’ve seen some people suggest one way to look at is, like, maybe New Hampshire is just kind of unique. Another way is that, unlike the rest of the country that has not been thinking about Trump, that has not been assuming he’s the nominee even, you know, at the margins. You know, a lot of people are still really waking up to the idea that he’s actually going to be officially the nominee. In New Hampshire, because it’s the first in the nation state, they’re well aware of Trump. They’ve been hearing from him.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:50
    They’ve been seeing him talk about all the things you’ve been talking about every week. And they are reverting to twenty twenty form in independence or remembering. Oh, I don’t like that. And even some Republicans at the margins. So you might look at that and think, well, that is a warning sign for Trump possibly.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:06
    That yeah. He may look you know, improved in, say, Georgia, Arizona or Michigan or wherever now, but that’s before there’s been a whole high profile campaign where people are seeing Trump’s speeches, you know, seeing people react to his true social posts every day, seeing a billion dollars of advertising, reminding them about things they don’t like about Trump. Maybe it’ll look more like that. But the truth is we just don’t know. I mean, like, we’re ten months out, polls are not very predictive, partly for this reason.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:34
    And I would say at best, it’s it is ambiguous right now whether Trump should be encouraged or discouraged by these results.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:40
    Well, I mean, obviously, you’re gonna be encouraged in the short term. I mean, the the the Biden folks of course, are also noting that it seems like a lot of voters are in denial about whether or not it’s going to be Trump versus Biden. I mean, that’s the conversation that I have all time, people saying, oh, it’s not gonna be those two. Right? I mean, it’s something’s gonna happen.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:56
    It’s, you know, we’re not gonna have to do this. So there has been a slowness to lock into that binary choice that we’re going to face. And the Biden people think that that’s that’s wheat in the field for them to go and harvest.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:10
    Yeah. And you noticed Biden had a statement out last night just straight up saying Trump is gonna be the nominee. Like, that was Biden’s response to the results. Like and what he’s saying is exactly what you’re saying. The message to Democrats is, like, wake up.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:22
    Like, this is This is actually happening. There is no outside force. There is no, you know, ballot lawsuit or court case or sudden surge from another candidate that is going to keep Trump from being the nominee, like, you guys have to wake up to the reality. And not only that, like, you see what he’s talking about while he’s winning. He’s winning while being at peak trump.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:42
    He’s talking about, you know, January six stuff more than ever. Right. He’s talking about his legal issues more than I mean, like, his literal closing message, if you went by his social media posts, was, like, Eugene Carroll is a liar. Like, that is that was his closing message in New Hampshire, in Iowa as well. You know?
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:00
    So, like, reminding people that, like, you are getting, like, full unfettered Trump who if anything is on tilt, assuming everything people told him, you know, he couldn’t do after twenty twenty was wrong and now leaning into it. We’ve yet to see what happens. And we’ve really yet to see what happens when there’s money behind it. So the one last thing I’ll add in that, the midterms. The Democratic story that they’ll tell the groups that worked to elect Democrats in the midterms where Democrats had such a good year was that look, what happened is that in the battleground places where we spent a lot of money reminding people of the choice, Democrats did quite well.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:35
    Democrats got killed in all the other places. Like, the, you know, the red wave was in, like, New York. You know, in places that are, like, relatively safe Democratic where they don’t have to worry about, like, Maga and especially don’t have to worry about abortion issues to the same degree. And also, candidates got more flat footed because many of them didn’t think until very late in the race that they would even have a competitive race. There, it was a disaster
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:59
    If only, they’ve done a little bit of Apple research on George Santos,
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:02
    I mean, you
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:02
    know, you know, like, something like that. And also there was an added thing there, like, redistricting made it very confusing in Europe. But in general, Like, that is the places the red wave actually did happen were places where they did not have this infrastructure in place to make that contrast early and and really hammer it home. So their argument is that it would be very weird if the message of don’t elect this person because they’re like Donald Trump worked in every swing state in twenty twenty two, but not when literally Donald Trump was on the ballot. And, you know, we’ll find out.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:31
    But that is the case they’re making. That you have to wait until they see the actual campaign.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:35
    Okay. So I know that we live in a world in which, politics is not about the economy stupid anymore, but the economy is not nothing, and it’s been a huge sort of albatross around, Joe Biden’s neck. There’s always been a lag time between when things get better and when people think they’re getting better. And I think it’s been very, very frustrating for Democrats, very energizing for Republicans. But I’m looking at this Catherine Ramel column in the Washington Post, which I’m sure you’ve seen is saying, you know, the economy is getting better and people are seeing it at just the right time.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:07
    So, again, I we don’t know, you know, how this plays out. You know, last week, Dow Jones ends at thirty eight thousand, above thirty eight thousand for the first time. Pretty good. You’re starting to seek more important, I think. Consumer confidence begin ticking up.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:23
    The number of Americans who think that when a recession is dropping. So the perception is catching up with some of the numbers How does that play anymore? I mean, we’re not the nineteen nineties anymore. And I completely understand that. But this was, you know, one of the big headwinds for Joe Biden.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:41
    Now how do you see it? What should we be looking at?
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:44
    Well, there’s been a big debate the whole last year, basically, about why the so called vibes have been connected from, you know, the economic data of, like, rapidly improving inflation picture, you know, you know, China like growth you know, in the last quarter of five percent, you know, this fed getting increasingly confident that we’re in a soft landing where we get the benefits of getting rid of inflation without the bitter medicine of a recession. Mhmm. Certainly consumers have been spending as if they think it’s a good economy. Whatever they tell upholstery, they are not acting like people who are scared they’re about to lose their job or worried about their their savings the same way. So some of what Biden was doing with all the Bidenomic stuff, last year that was really kind of pilloried within the party as kind of out of touch.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:29
    That’s terrible. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:31
    It wasn’t as much about then. It was about laying the groundwork for a time more like now. They were betting that they may not see it yet, but a year from now, the economy is going to be discussed as a positive for Biden. And we wanna lay the groundwork for explaining that and taking credit for it. So we’ll see if that happens, but that is the bet.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:50
    It’s very future oriented. Not about just convincing them in real time. That said, I’m not sure how much the economy is what the election is about. Things have changed a lot in the Trump era.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:01
    Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:01
    I don’t think the last several elections have been too economy focused. I mean, like, we were in the middle of, like, an economic catastrophe during COVID in twenty twenty, like, I don’t see that often discussed as an economy election. I don’t really think, you know, that’s what Right. What the difference was or what the main issue was. You look at the midterms, that was a case where economic perceptions were catastrophic and also inflation was at its peak.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:26
    And objectively, there was all sorts of disastrous stuff going on. And there was a lot less certainty about whether the economy would pull out of this situation without say you know, an extremely deep recession. And what happened? The Democrats had a great midterms, like, historically good midterms. For an incumbent, especially with that approval rating.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:46
    So one thing I would ask is just how much this election is going to even be about that versus a referendum on Trump and Biden, we don’t really know yet. But at the very least, it is very clear that from, you know, measures like consumer sentiment, you know, there are even, by the way, you know, statistics that track how positive the news is on the me that are now flipping upward. You know, when people say the vibes versus economic statistics, there are economic statistics for vibes, and they are also trending upwards. It certainly would help Biden, obviously, the perception that the economy is is improved to cold.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:17
    The line that I kept hearing over and over again was, well, look at my four zero one k. Well, I mean, at your four zero k right now. It it’s actually pretty good. I wanna ask you something about something else. I was listening to, Andrew Rossorkin, who is on, morning Joe, today.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:30
    And they were asking him about the new attitude among the Wall Street elites who appear to be like, you’ve kind of capitulating to Donald Trump. They sort of it’s maybe it’s not so bad. You know, the folks in Davos who think that he’s going to be elected, and they can live with it because They don’t really see that much of a difference between Trump and Biden, at least in terms of the economy. And a lot of these are the same guys who signed those big open letters. Remember those big, full page newspaper ads about democracy and everything a few years ago.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:02
    But now we’re basically saying, you know, If we speak out about any of this, we don’t know what a second trump term might mean for us. We don’t know how he might retaliate against us. So there is a certain intimidation. There’s a certain acquiescence. Does this matter at all?
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:22
    Because there was a moment at which, you know, economic elites were saying, no, Donald Trump is he may give us our tax cuts. But, you know, x, y, and z make him disqualified. They appear to be making their peace with him. Does that matter
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:37
    It’s hard to say. I mean, our editor, Ben Smith, was also at Davos, and he had a funny piece last week about how that it’s indeed exactly what you’re talking There seems to just be total resignation. They assume Trump will win. But as he mentions, they’re famously terrible pundits. Like, the conventional wisdom there is as bad as anywhere.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:55
    Like, they always are continuously getting everything wrong.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:57
    What was the headline? Something like, why do they always sound so dumb or something? Yeah. It’s like,
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:00
    I think he I think he had lighted it to our newsletters, like, good news for Joe or something like that. It’s like Yeah.
  • Speaker 3
    0:37:06
    It’s yeah. It’s
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:07
    the parody version of them is not too far off. So there is that. But Yeah. I mean, I think there has been a transfer in the business community in a lot of ways from the kind of more activist approach of trying to win over, you know, more progressive, younger voters and especially employees, you know, because remember, like, we talk about the college, non college divide, which we just saw again in this New Hampshire primary. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:30
    Listen, they’re in a lot of non college people working at those institutions. Nope. Alright. Like, there’s a reason that they are trying to win over their employees and look good for their investors. By adopting at least the language of some of these more progressive things.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:43
    But there’s been a backlash to that too entirely separate from Trump. Right? That’s, that’s more of Ron DeSantis field. They’ve made, you know, d e I a dirty word. They had, you know, there there’s just, like, every day.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:56
    There’s another story of conservatives mounting some kind of backlash to some kind of involvement in politics or especially social issues from from companies it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s a broader retrenchment in general from wanting to speak out about this stuff, but I’m also not sure how much it actually matters in the actual race.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:14
    But how much is this is is just really raw and maybe rational fear that if they get on the wrong side of a Trump administration that has made it clear that retribution is at the heart of the agenda, and you have an executive in charge of the vast regulatory apparatus of the federal government unplugged Donald Trump going after with a long enemies list could do real damage to these folks. I mean, and that seems to be at least part of the thinking here.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:42
    Yeah. I mean, it wouldn’t shock me. One of the most under discussed parts of Trump because no one felt like defending Jeff Bezos, the other man in the world can, you know, fend for himself.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:51
    Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:51
    But, like, a lot of the most shocking things he did was just openly, you know, threatening Bezos because of washington post coverage, because of a paper he owned. If that wasn’t, like, you know, two hundred and seventy on the list of Trump controversies that, you know, had a bunch of finger pointing about democratic norms, it would have gotten more attention, of course. But, yeah, it’s not an unreasonable concern. I mean, Trump takes names, he holds crudges, And also, similarly, while he does hold grudges, we saw with Tim Scott. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:19
    There’s nothing he loves more than hearing someone who did you know, criticize him, turn around and praise him and say they’ve changed her mind and they love him now and they’ll work with him. And, you know, I was wrong. So it’s There’s certainly are opportunities if you wanna take him to repair those relationships as long as you’re willing to, you know, give up some dignity in the process.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:39
    Well, I think it was always naive to think that big business would somehow be the moral conscience of American society or culture. I think that there was rather naive to think that that was ever going to take place. Benjie Sarlan is Washington Post chief at Sema four, previously covered elections for NBC News. You can read his work at Sema four. Benji.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:57
    Thank you so much for coming on the morning after the New Hampshire primary. It was great. Thank you.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:02
    Charlie, thanks so much for having me. I had a great time.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:05
    And thank you all for listening to the Bullworth podcast on Charlie Sykes. We will be back tomorrow, and we’ll do this all over again. Bower podcast is produced by Katie Cooper, and engineered and edited by Jason Brown.
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