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The Nation: Washington Post's Senior Political Correspondent

On Newshub Nation: Simon Shepherd interviews The Washington Post's Senior Political Correspondent Jenna Johnson


One question the Democrats are wrestling with - should they launch impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump. The Washington Post's Senior Political Correspondent Jenna Johnson is covering the campaign. I asked her why the Democrats don't just get on with impeachment.

Jenna Johnson: Well, it’s— ¬You know, there’s a feeling— I mean, in Washington, impeachment is something that politicians talk a lot about. When you get outside of Washington, it’s something that most voters are just not… It’s not their focus right now.

Simon Shepherd: Right.

They’d rather see politicians focused on healthcare and, you know, issues that actually impact their lives.

These kinds of comments that the President makes, do they make any dent in his voter base whatsoever?

Well, that’s the other thing. There’s many shades of support for Donald Trump in the United States. There’s the diehard supporters — the people who show up to his rallies — and they’re not movable. There’s, like, nothing that he could do to shake that support. It’s very, very firm. But then there’s a lot of Republicans who kind of held their nose and voted for him in 2016 and really aren’t crazy about some of the things he’s doing. There are former Democrats — people who voted for Obama twice, and then switched over and voted for Trump because they thought he was ‘the lesser of two evils’, is what they often say. You know, but they’re kind of like, ‘Well, if I have another choice, maybe I’ll go to someone else.’

You were out there talking to people in those voting districts. Are they thinking of swinging their votes?

Yeah, yeah. I mean, people, they’re open to that. But it depends on who the other person is. It can’t just be someone who’s not Trump.

Well, that’s right. Let’s talk about the Democratic line-up. There’s 23 candidates. Does that play into Trump’s hands, actually?

Totally. I was just in Iowa, and I sat down with this guy who’s 40, who voted twice for Obama, once for Trump and would vote for a Democrat in 2020 but couldn’t name any of them. So we tried. He got two. I got up to 18, and I cover this full-time. I mean, there’s so many of them.

Oh, so you couldn’t name all 23.

I know. I know. I had to google the last few. It’s a big, big field. And I think there’s a lot of voters out there, they can name, kind of, some of the people who are high in the polls, but they just don’t have the time or the energy to get to know everyone. And there’s a worry that if Democrats spend the whole next year fighting with each other and trying to figure out who their nominee is, at the same time, Trump and the Republicans are targeting voters, getting them excited about the election, organising. And there’s a worry that they could be out-muscled in 2020.

You mentioned high-profile candidates. Joe Biden was out in Iowa. Those two have a long-running spat, don’t they?

They do. They do. Joe Biden has really set up his candidacy as being— He presents himself as the anti-Trump.

Yeah.

He was the Vice President to Barack Obama and has watched Trump come in and really undo a lot of the things that he and Obama did. He launched his campaign with a video that focused on the event that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, where we had white supremacists in the streets, you know, shouting these terrible, racist, ugly things. And he points to that moment as the moment that he decided he should run for president.

So it’s no wonder that Trump’s so anti Biden. I mean, he calls him one per cent Joe.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, he has just zeroed in on Biden. It’s as if there is no Democratic primary going on; it’s just the two of them dukeing it out.

Do you think it’s actually time for people like Biden and Sanders — the older whiter-male candidate? Or is it time for a more diverse range of Democratic candidate?

Yeah, this is the big discussion in the Democratic Party right now, and when I’m talking with voters, this is the thing that they talk a lot about. There’s just a general feeling out there that, you know, Sanders and Biden are just too old. You know, they’re of a different generation, and a lot of the movement and excitement that’s in the Democratic Party right now is centered around younger people.

That’s right. You can’t name all 23, as you said—

Right, right.

But who are the up-and-comers?

Other people that are— You know, I mean, there’s also Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is also on the older end of the pool but is someone who has really kind of caught fire over the last few weeks. There’s Senator Kamala Harris of California, who was the Attorney General there and has been kind of pitching herself as someone who could kind of be America’s prosecutor — has suggested that she would be willing to, you know, investigate Donald Trump. You also have former Representative Beto O’Rourke. You also have Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey.

And there’s also Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Exactly. So ‘Mayor Pete’, as a lot of voters like to call him, is the mayor of this small city in Indiana, the state that our current vice president used to be the Governor of. He’s young; he’s a millennial. He served in the military. And voters love him. When I was in Iowa, so often his name was the first that they were throwing out when they talked about people that they loved. He’s also openly gay, so a very historic candidacy.

Is there anybody on the Republican side who’s going to put their hand up to stand against Trump?

You know, there were some attempts. You know, there are a couple people who are going to do it who don’t really have much of a name and aren’t going to be much of contenders. The Governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, had thought very seriously about challenging the president, especially if the Mueller Report had been more of a bombshell than it ended up being.

But right now?

But he’s decided that there’s just not a path forward.

So right now, there’s not an alternative?

Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And again, we have months and months to go, and I think a lot of these people have said, you know, if the situation changes and they feel like there’s a pathway forward, they will try to challenge him. But they just feel like at this point, given how much money his campaign has and how popular the president is — among Republicans; not among the whole country but among his party — it would be difficult for someone to challenge him.

So can you predict it now that Trump will be running and he’ll get a second term?

So if there’s anything I’ve learnt from 2016, it’s that I don’t try to predict anything at all. You know, I mean, the president launched his re-election campaign very early after he was inaugurated president. He’s never stopped campaigning.

Transcript provided by Able. www.able.co.nz


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