SHANNON: This is Shannon (ph) and Shayna (ph) in Petaluma, Calif.
SHAYNA: We are writing letters to unlikely voters in key states to encourage voter turnout.
SHANNON: And we're doing it with a little song in our hearts.
(Playing harmonica, singing) Well, the POLITICS PODCAST sure is good. If you're not listening, then we think you should.
This podcast was recorded at...
TAMARA KEITH, HOST:
2:06 p.m. on Wednesday, the 14 of October.
SHAYNA: Things may have changed by the time you hear this.
SHANNON AND SHAYNA: OK, here's the show.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE BIGTOP ORCHESTRA'S "TEETER BOARD: FOLIES BERGERE (MARCH AND TWO-STEP)")
KEITH: So much going on.
SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: We haven't had a musical intro in a while.
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: That was some good harmonica.
KEITH: Petaluma, thank you. Hey. It's the NPR POLITICS PODCAST. I'm Tamara Keith. I cover the White House.
DETROW: I'm Scott Detrow. I cover the presidential campaign.
DAVIS: And I'm Susan Davis. I cover Congress.
KEITH: As Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation hearings happened on the Hill, the presidential campaign churned onward. And we are the NPR POLITICS PODCAST, so we are glad to get back to those politics a little bit. President Trump has returned to in-person rallies, beginning with one Monday in Florida and Alabama.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And now I'm immune, they tell me. I'm immune. I could come down and start kissing everybody. I'll kiss every guy, man and woman, man and woman. Look at that guy, how handsome he is.
DAVIS: Tam, the visual of this is so striking. I mean, this is a president who just got out of the hospital. We're still in the middle of a pandemic. And he was, like, celebrating.
KEITH: He's back. There's a new campaign ad that they have that says, President Trump has recovered from coronavirus and America will, too. He is not changing a thing. In fact, he is not wearing a mask more often. He is not adding social distance to his rallies. It is - it's basically like he disappeared for 10 days and he's back and the same as ever. And last night, at a rally in Pennsylvania, he even polled the crowd to see who else has had coronavirus.
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TRUMP: Who has had it? Who has had it here? Who's had it? Yeah, a lot of people. A lot of people. Well, you're the people I want to say hello to because you are right now immune.
DETROW: First of all, I feel like we should point out that he's kind of distorting the scientific view on this. There's a lot still unknown. And experts are urging people to be careful about assuming they have immunity because they don't want people to get sick again as we learn more. But more importantly, for this conversation, I mean, it's just so interesting to me that all year polls have shown that one of the reasons why the president is in such a deep hole is because people do not approve of the way that he has handled the coronavirus. And he has chosen to just speed up all of those instincts after he went to the hospital himself for this.
KEITH: And, in fact, his campaign is sort of making a point of saying, look at these big, huge rallies that we can hold. And Biden can't even get a crowd, that like - you know, trying to compare crowd sizes in the middle of a pandemic. And, Scott, you've been out on the trail with Biden.
DETROW: Yeah, I've been with him a lot lately. He's been doing a lot of campaign events. He has continued to make a conscious decision to keep them very limited, very spaced out and often has taken to speaking with a mask on still after the president was diagnosed with coronavirus and Biden had that scare of being so close to him on stage, even though he has repeatedly tested negative. And I think the window is now closed where Biden would have had to worry about that.
He has been doing a lot of events in states that really reflect the idea that the Biden campaign feels incredibly confident about where they are right now. He's been doing a lot of events in the Great Lakes states that we've talked so much about as his path to the presidency - Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin. But he's been spending an increased amount of time in places like Ohio, places like Arizona, places that are on that second or even third tier of states that Democrats need to win back to win back the White House.
But not only is Biden spending time campaigning there, his campaign is just pouring a lot of resources into these states and really putting the president on the defensive in the final days of this race. One interesting counterpoint to what we were talking about at the top with the president's return to the trail and how he's talking about this, Biden went to Florida yesterday and held an event specifically targeted to seniors. And he talked to them about the fact, you know, we know a lot of older Americans are terrified of this virus. And that's something Biden talked a lot about.
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DETROW: While he throws super spreader parties at the White House where Republicans hug each other without concern of the consequences. How many of you have been unable to hug your grandkids the last seven months? I got six of them. Two of them, my deceased son's boys, they live not - children, boy and a girl - live not far from me. They can walk through the woods. The only way I can see them, I stand on the back porch, and they stand down. And we - I bribe them with Haagen-Dazs bars.
DETROW: And I think that contrast is a really big reason why Biden is leading by such a wide margin in national polls and seems to be ahead in a place like Florida, where if President Trump loses Florida, that basically erases any chance he has of a second term.
DAVIS: It's so fascinating to me that in this homestretch, Biden is spending time in Florida. It really tells you that the campaign feels confident about sort of what its firewalls are, and they're looking to expand. I wonder what y'all both know about where Trump and Biden are going to be spending their time. And sort of what does it tell you about the state of this race?
KEITH: Well, I am going to be traveling with the president tomorrow and Friday. And one stop in particular really stands out to me. He is going to Macon, Ga., on Friday. Macon, Ga., is deep red. But now the president is, you know, actively working to defend the state of Georgia? And, you know, multiple trips to Florida, multiple trips to Georgia - it's a different map. He is spending a lot more time in the Sun Belt than he probably would like to be. Also, going to Iowa, maybe even Ohio - those are states that he won by 8, or 9 points.
DETROW: If Joe Biden was deeply concerned about his chances right now, you would see him in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, just like on a constant loop of those three states. He's certainly spending a lot of...
DETROW: ...Time in those places. But, first of all, in Pennsylvania, he's going to places like Erie, like Johnstown, like Latrobe. I talked a lot about this last week when I called into the podcast from that train tour. These are places that Republicans expect to win, but Biden is just trying to cut the margins a little bit. He's also - you know, we talked about Florida. Florida would be a great state to add on to Joe Biden's tally. He doesn't absolutely need it, but he's spending a lot of time campaigning there, trying to cut off the Trump campaign at the knees.
I think we're going to see him make a trip to Georgia soon. And there is increasing pressure on Biden to, even if it's just one token appearance, make a campaign trip to Texas, where his campaign started spending actual real money in recent weeks. I don't think, you know, unless Joe Biden is cruising into a 400 electoral vote landslide, I don't think Texas is really going to be part of the conversation. But still, it shows how much money he has, how much of a cushion he has in the polls and how much he's been able to put the president on the defensive, especially with those metro area suburban voters who are just fleeing from the Republican Party right now.
KEITH: All right. We will be talking more about the campaign soon. But, Scott, we're going to let you go for now.
DETROW: All right. Talk to you soon.
KEITH: And when we get back, more from the confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett.
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KEITH: And we're back. And the second day of questioning of Judge Amy Coney Barrett continues. And we've got Carrie Johnson back with us again to talk about it. Hey, Carrie.
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hey, Tam.
KEITH: So let's start with a moment this morning that I think really illustrates the promise of Amy Coney Barrett for conservatives. Here is committee chairman Republican Lindsey Graham from South Carolina.
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LINDSEY GRAHAM: There's an effort by some in the liberal world to marginalize the contribution because you come out on a different side of an issue, particularly abortion. So this hearing to me is an opportunity to not punch through a glass ceiling but a reinforced concrete barrier around conservative women. You're going to shatter that barrier.
DAVIS: I thought this was so interesting because there's so much gender politics around this confirmation, not only because she's filling the vacancy of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is a liberal icon in her own right, but that for so many Republicans and for Republican women, I think that Amy Coney Barrett is someone who in, quote, "normal times" would be someone they would really be rallying around and celebrating politically. I think they are doing that, but I think it's more in the context of the very kind of women that are drawn to her - center-right women, Republican-leaning women, suburban women - because she looks like them and sounds like them and lives a life similar to them are exactly the women who have been fleeing the Republican Party in this very moment because of the president. And I just thought it was so interesting that the chairman used his time to sort of pump up who she is and what she means because the way that she is getting onto the court - it's been a very, you know, controversial process to do this before the election - is always going to also be part of her story.
JOHNSON: Yeah, and even some of the Democrats on this committee, like Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy - Durbin of Illinois, Leahy of Vermont - have pointed out that they really don't have a ton of problems with the nominee. They have problems with President Trump, which is why they keep asking her about whether the president should commit to the peaceful transfer of power, whether the president has the power to pardon himself and all these other questions with respect to President Trump's statements about the kinds of justices he would choose, people who would want to overturn the Affordable Care Act and chip away at or overrule Roe v. Wade. They're not laying too much of a finger on Amy Coney Barrett. They're trying to damage her by association with President Trump.
KEITH: Yeah. Well, let's get to one line of questioning that goes there, as many times it did when the Democrats were leading the questioning. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota was asking about the Affordable Care Act and what Amy Coney Barrett knows or knew about the president's position on that.
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AMY CONEY BARRETT: I, as I said before, I'm aware that the president opposes the Affordable Care Act.
AMY KLOBUCHAR: Well, I know you're aware now, but were you aware back then?
BARRETT: Well, seems to be...
KLOBUCHAR: When you were nominated?
BARRETT: Well, Senator Klobuchar, I think that the Republicans have kind of made that clear. It's just been part of the public discourse.
KLOBUCHAR: OK. But just - so is the answer yes then that you were aware?
BARRETT: Well, Senator Klobuchar, all these questions - you're suggesting that I have animus or that I cut a deal with the president, and I was very clear yesterday that that isn't what happened.
JOHNSON: That, to me, it was one of the few moments where she - I don't want to say she got hot under the collar, but you could tell she was annoyed. She was annoyed with the tenor of the questioning. She was once again trying to demonstrate she's her own woman and her own judge and trying to argue that she didn't make any deals with the president or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The other area where she seemed to get kind of annoyed was with questions about a dissent she wrote in a big Second Amendment gun rights case and Democrats trying to argue that should say or might say something about her approach to voting rights issues.
DAVIS: Carrie, we've been watching all morning. She definitely seemed a little bit more feisty today, more pushback. I felt like yesterday she was so poised, so controlled and so calm. And it almost feels like the senators are starting to get on her nerves a little bit.
JOHNSON: Well, imagine that - almost 12 hours yesterday alone with the lawmakers. And, you know, Sue, she did make a very interesting admission to me. She said in response to a question from Senator Blumenthal about how she survived the long day yesterday that she may have had a glass of wine last night. Senator Blumenthal told her, on that, she could exercise her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.
KEITH: This questioning is going to continue for the rest of the day today. And then what do we have on the agenda for tomorrow? How does this continue to play out?
JOHNSON: So tomorrow, Thursday, we're going to hear from experts who have been selected by the Republican senators and the Democratic senators. Some of these are legal experts. Others are people who happen to know the nominee or have connections to her. And then we're expecting that next week will be the vote in the committee.
DAVIS: On the whole, I think it's fair to say that she has performed very well in these hearings. I think there was no doubt that she had the votes going into it. Coming out of it, she's on a glide path to confirmation.
KEITH: All right. We are going to leave it there for today. You can find all the ways to stay connected with us by following the links in the description of this episode.
I'm Tamara Keith. I cover the White House.
DAVIS: I'm Susan Davis. I cover Congress.
JOHNSON: And I'm Carrie Johnson, national justice correspondent.
KEITH: And thank you for listening to the NPR POLITICS PODCAST.
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