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tv   Washington Journal Charlie Sykes  CSPAN  May 21, 2021 4:39pm-5:26pm EDT

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announcer: c-span is your unfiltered view of government. funded by these television companies and more, including charter communications. >> broadband affords empowerment. that's why charter invested billions, building infrastructure, upgrading technology, empowering opportunity in communities big and small. charter is connecting us. >> charter communications support c-span as a public service, along with these other television providers, giving you a front row seat to democracy. ♪ host: joining us from wisconsin, outside of milwaukee is charlie sykes, founder and editor at large of the bulwark. thank you for being with us.
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guest: my pleasure. host: we have not talked to you since the developments of house gop, liz cheney, voted out. what does that tell you about house republicans? guest: it tells me that doing donald trump's bidding is the alpha and omega of their political strategy, morality. the extraordinary thing about liz cheney is she is one of the most conservative members and the house of representatives. she voted on the trump agenda more than 90% of the time. whatever scorecard you look at, in terms of policy she is a solid and reliable conservative. she was thrown out, canceled from her leadership position for one reason only. she refuses to go along with the big lie about the election and
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whitewash january 6. with all of the fallout from the insurrection, the only republican member to face any sanction is the one person who was willing to tell the truth. that says something about kevin mccarthy's big tent which is toxic. host: 35 house republicans rebuking kevin mccarthy, voting in favor of this commission. after leaving mccarthy said he would not support it. did that surprise you? guest: if i had to bet, i would have gone with 10 and 20. i had dave jelly on my podcast the day before. he was walking through what it meant to with a vote, the threat of loss of support that republican members would face. that is going to strengthen
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number. it was a significant review -- rebuke. in part because he was an unreliable leader, he threw one of his own members under the bus who had negotiated this deal in good faith gotten significant concessions from the democrats. to have 35 republicans voted against leadership was significant. -- voting against leadership was significant. we need to look at the fact that 170 five republicans, 84% of the republican conference voted against a commission to look at the events of january 6. they should have been noncontroversial, -- this should have been noncontroversial. 84% of the republican caucus
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voted against it. that is a greater number than who voted to overturn the election results on january 7. it is a glass half-full, half-empty situation. the number of votes willing to go along with the directives from the orange versailles is going up. host: let me get your reaction to what leader mccarthy said yesterday, speaking to cap -- reporters outside the capitol. [video clip] >> this commission that we have tried to work on, in that timeframe a officer got killed on good friday. she did not want to have the scope to include that as well. we are going to have four things happen. you have two committees doing the investigation, in two weeks
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we already have a report back. yet the architect of the capitol -- you have the architect of the capitol giving $10 million to study it. we have the department of justice already arresting 445 people with probably another 100 coming. that is the work we want him to make sure that it never happens again. that those who participated should be held accountable and that we secure the capitol. the pelosi commission is politics. host: how do you respond to the house later -- leader? guest: he is incorrect. the scope of the commission was broadened to deal with the death of that other officer. kevin mccarthy knows what he is doing, he has made a calculation that he does not want to antagonize donald trump even if that means we might not get to the bottom of this.
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all of the other investigations are good and proper and should go forward aggressively. on the eight nonpartisan, independent commission with subpoena power can answer the other questions. congressman carico -- katko walk through some of them. what did the president know and when? what were the decisions and actions the day of the insurrection? why was their late -- why was there a delay? until we get those answers, we do not know. the other thing that is interesting is how kevin mccarthy renovate when he was asked whether any of his members might have been responsible for this. the questions about the conduct of republican members who may
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have given tors. congressman mo brooks spoke on january 6 and seemed to be fomenting the uprising. these are awkward and embarrassing for republicans. they have decided they are going to take a short-term political hit voting against a commission that the vast majority of americans support because they think they go along without it will come up with things that will be embarrassing to them and donald trump. which seems to be a perfect definition of putting your partisan agenda over your oath of office. and your responsibility to fend democracy and national security. host: our guest is charlie sykes, his work has been found on the new york times, los angeles times, other publications. he is the author of nine books
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including, "how the right lost its mind." let me get some historical perspective, you look at two or one term presidents, jimmy carter on the democrat side and george h.w. bush on the republican side. what is different about donald trump and the influence he has within the republican party? guest: excellent question. there is no parallel for a former president to have the kind of a death grip on the political party. jimmy carter was not a kingmaker in the democratic party after he was defeated by ronald reagan. george h.w. bush was not a kingmaker. his son was later elected president. people did not go to kiss the ring. what is extraordinary about this, the republican party had a chance to take an offramp after the election.
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we supported the president when it came to policy, let's move on. he does not have any more judges to appoint. he does not have any more taxes to cuts or regulations to cut -- to cut or regulations to cut. the republican party could have done that after the election, a much more dramatic chance right after january 6. for about five minutes it looked like they would take it. when kevin mccarthy gave his speech already suggested the president was responsible for the rioting. mitch mcconnell looked like he was prepared to take that offramp. they decided not to because they are afraid of the base. what you have in the republican party is not a leadership problem, it is a followership
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problem. the people who will lead the party have decided to keep their head down and do what the former president bids. the party is stark. and does not moving on, developing its own agenda. not figuring out a way to deal with the political moment in a creative way. they can beat reactionary into might win a election -- be reactionary and might win election but they are right now eight subsidiary of trump aide inc. -- a subsidiary of trump inc.. host: dust almost trump run in 2024 -- does donald trump run in 2024? guest: i think it does.
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-- he does. under the constitution, nothing would prevent him from running again and people said that was crazy. it is a possibility. at the moment, he is sitting down, going if i get into this race, i will get the nomination. there is no republican who will beat him. he will clear the field with the possibility of maybe liz cheney. now whether he could be elected as a more difficult question. you have the momentum. on the republican side you have the ego. why not? host: southampton, pennsylvania, john republican side you are on the light with charlie sykes -- line with charlie sykes. caller: put me in the camp that does not want trump as the nominee. i did vote for him twice.
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i like josh hawley or ron desantis as the favorites. as far as the republican party going forward, we have to make some changes. republicans have to stop -- two african americans and other minorities. we should be treating everybody equally. it wins but no extra votes and alienates the base -- no extra votes and alienates the base. host: let's get a democrat voice then your reaction. caller: hello charlie, i watch you a lot. i have my own conspiracy theory. i believe that they are following trump not only because
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of the base because of the dictatorship that i think they want to have now. is that why this is going on? do they want him to take over as a dictator? guest: ed is more complicated than that. spineless nurse as an explanation will be correct. go with the easiest, most obvious explanation. what is interesting is this duality among republican leaders. republican leaders do not want to antagonize donald trump. they do not want to be criticized by him, they want him to raise money. they will do what he wants.
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they want to pretend that they are not paying much attention. this is a flashback to 2015. republicans are always hoping that someone else would do something with the donald trump problem. i do not want to go up against him but the prospect of bringing him to the white house is nightmarish. do you think mitch mcconnell wants to deal with another four years of donald trump? given his conduct between the election and inauguration, what he wanted to do with the fbi, consider doing with the upbeat -- with the military, this is the nightmare scenario. republican leaders understand this. they are too cynical to do something about it. they are waiting for someone else to do something about it or for something to come along.
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they want power, they want to survive and they're hoping that things take care of themselves. that is a dangerous strategy. host: which leads us to a call from the american renewal, in part, "when our democratic republic forces a conspiracy -- forces of conspiracy, despotism to arrest, it is for citizens to arrive collectively in defense. we want to categorize -- catalyze an american renewal or -- to reimagine a party dedicated to ideals." what does that mean? guest: it is a group of prominent but former republican officials who say what we are facing is not politics as usual. we need to stop thinking of politics in the right and left
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continuum but talk about rule of law, truth, democracy. if cannot get that from the republican party, we need to consider forming a new party. even though i signed on to that, i think it is wonderful that they are doing this, i did write a piece that this is naive. perhaps it is tilting at windmills to think at this point the republican party can be salvaged. you asked me about the decision to cancel and purge liz cheney and what that said. what it said is that republicans who care about truth, democratic norms have no place in the party. the party could not have sent a clear message -- more clear message.
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liz cheney, despite all of her loyalty, needs to be thrown out of leadership while people like matt gaetz and marjorie taylor green and paul gosar are members in good standing. it is time for people to say that this has gone crazy. we are headed on a dangerous path. the call asked about a dictatorship, i do not know whether they want a dictatorship , but you are seeing the rise of an authoritarian if those that we have seen in other countries that is disturbing. a willingness to engage in violence that ought to be disturbing to people of both parties. that is what was disturbing about the vote about the commission. that was an extraordinary moment in american history with the use of violence to attack our congress to overturn a presidential election.
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if we do not come to grips with that we will see more incidents like that. we are seeing this undermining of democratic norms that might lead to more political violence. i am concerned about it. i would urge people to read the piece in the washington post this morning and the piece in the atlantic saying that you need to understand there are more people out there willing to use political violence to get what they want. it is time for people to say no. liz cheney tried to do that, look what happened. host: do you worry by creating this that you will create a division within the gop only giving an easier path to the democrats? guest: at a certain point you have to do what you have to do. you have to take the correct moral position. it is no longer a binary choice.
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at this point the republican party does not appear to be ready to be a responsible governing party. i say this as somebody has worked with republicans most of my professional life. you were not seeing a party that is behaving in a responsible manner. when we are talking about in our deliberations of forming a new party, the point i made is whatever i -- we come up with has to be flexible, has to be willing to support principled republicans when necessary. it needs to run third-party candidates, political orphans. there'll be occasion to support moderate democrats as well. the stakes are huge.
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host: you mentioned the piece from the former speechwriter from george w. bush of able at washington post, with that, "the threat of violence out infuses gop politics, we should be afraid." joining us from virginia on the republican line. good morning. caller: i want to know what trump knew and when. i want to know what mccarthy was told or was said. i am not only embarrassed but angry. i want to take my grandchild to the capital safely. and teacher you do not come through the windows, you go in lawfully and enjoy the capito l. host: thank you sylvia. guest: i agree. those are the basic questions. i think that january 6 was one of the most extraordinary events
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in american history. there are elements of the republican party who want to memory hole it. they want to erase the memory or engage in revisionist history. ron johnson is our senior senator in wisconsin, he is engaging in cataloging when he says it was mostly peaceful. we saw what happened. there are pictures of what happened. the points are right. kevin mccarthy has something he does not want to tell this commission. kevin mccarthy had conversations with the president. we need to know more about them. i think that would shed light on the president of the united states conduct and whether it contributed to what happened. there are a lots of unanswered questions about the delay. how something like this would happen.
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and whether or not the president was sitting in the white house, cheering it on. why it took so long for him to call his supporters off? host: sharing next, bloomington, indiana. good morning. caller: i feel all of this talk about will he run again? if he runs, will he win? it is ignoring the elephant in the room, he has multiple criminal investigations against him. can some of the run while indicted? guest: yes. caller: what if they are guilty? guest: the only thing that will stop him is a conviction. i do not think people ought to be under allusions of this. i know this sounds cynical but all of these charges will not weaken his hold on the republican party. republicans went along with everything else and see him as a
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victim. there are other things that could intervene that would make a candidacy impossible or illegal. i do not know the answer to the question, can a convicted felon run for president of the united states? serve as president of the united states? i do not know the answer. as a country, we never had to deal with that. we would always assume that there were standards. that there would be guardrails. that no longer exist with the republican party. host: dave in las vegas, good morning. caller: good morning. i would like to make a comment on douglas, i am a veteran. i served in the air force. they ask if you want to overthrow the united states government.
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trump tried to do that. i do not know why the attorney general tried to overthrow the innate states government, the attorney general should bring donald trump on charges now. he is not above the law. that is my statement. those republicans without back tim are like communists.
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a lot depends on turnout and motivation. the feedback i am getting right now, is even though the republican hard-core base likes what ron johnson is doing including the conspiracy theories and all of the misinformation about january 6 and vaccines. they are okay with that. if he does run, that is all the motivation the democrats need will -- will need to have a massive turnout in milwaukee, madison. there is a concern that if ron
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johnson runs, so many democrats will come out and mowed -- and motivated, it puts trump on the ballot. it would swamp other republicans. there was a lot a push and pull here whether or not johnson should state in the race. there are other republicans who are beginning to maneuver for running innate republican party. nobody knows at this point, nobody knows. host: joining us from kansas, good morning. caller: thank you for taking my call. i am a retired oil and gas operator in kansas. when i came home from college, i
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ran for a committee membership and when i was 20 to was elected county republican chairman. i could get into the inside track when i was young. when i got older, i decided i would be better off with someone else there rather than myself. i am looking at a republican presidential task force certificate. i would like viewers to think back and remember when we had 14 candidates on the stage. i have small hands. i am not running for government. i think the republican party will do just fine. we are going to have to take a
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fearless inventory as to how we are going to run our business. and get serious about what is going on. host: thank you for the call. let me follow-up up on your earlier point, "mr. sykes said that if trump was convicted of federal crimes, it would not weaken the control of the republican party. corporations donating to the spot it must be held accountable by other consumers of their product. that is all they understand is sums of money." guest: here is the problem, the fulcrum of political campaign cash is no longer corporations. it is a grassroots. somebody like marjorie taylor greene can raise $4 million in the first quarter.
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this is how politics has changed. that grassroots base which goes along with the sort of thing can generate a huge amount of money which can mean the corporate money is less important. one point about getting the republican party's house in order, the biggest tell ought to be that last year at the republican national convention the party decided to not have a platform. platforms might be overblown. for a political party to said that we do not have a set of beliefs we want to articulate except whatever donald trump wants. that was a telling moment. it says that we are his, we are more cold than party -- cult
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than party. right now they have a clinical idea, which is no, we will oppose everything. that might be enough to win midterms but long-term, what is the prospect of a party that has no principles? not to mention a party that seems intent on alienating minorities, women, young people, demographically long-term prospects are grim. i know republicans made some inroads with african-american and hispanic voters. long-term these trendlines are dangerous. the longer they link themselves to donald trump, the harder it will be to back out. for them to say that we are not this racial identity party that
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we have become. host: this is from our regular viewer, jody, who is saying in four years there be enough young americans who will register to vote who will learn the truth. investigations commenced to overcome any residual trump. i want to follow up on a point with the organization you're involved with, american renewal. "a much more useful approach would be for republicans to formally break from the gop and announced they will back democratic candidates. if you prioritize democracy above all, it should not be hard to back a small d democrats, even one who is a liberal. it is a waste of time to talk about small -- third-party efforts." guest: the only way a party is
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going to go, is for them to lose elections. i saw an analysis that apartheid needs to lose three consecutive elections and republicans do not think they have been crushed. i understand the argument. many of us are still conservatives. we still have the beliefs that we had before, trump came down the golden escalator. we are objecting to trump's character, his authoritarianism and lies does not mean we want to jump from one tribe to another. i think this country needs to have more than one rational party. does that mean, occasionally, many of us will vote for democrats. i voted for joe biden last november.
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i would vote for him again if it was him and trump in 2024. there needs to be a place for people who are not locked into this binary choice, democrat and republican. i understand this argument going back and forth. i think that perhaps it is time to break with the republican party. it is hard to let go sometimes. when you look at what is happening to the republican party on the state levels, it is more extreme, crazy. the crackpots, conspiracy theorists, those people have one-- won. some of the people who signed onto that op-ed letter, i applied what they are doing. they had a line where they said the ouster of liz cheney did not mean the fight was over. they said the fight for the soul
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of the republican party is beginning. i am sorry, that is wrong. that fight is over. the conspiracists won that. that is something we need to come to grips with. all of those trends are accelerating. host: as -- guest: as you and i are speaking, one republican senator after another is reversing the position on the question of this commission. these are senators who said we need a commission, i am in favor of a commission, we need to get to the truth, one after another is hacking off. -- backing off and following the lead from mar-a-lago. host: the letter he is referring to in the organizations calling for the american renewal but this is the website. mary says, "charlie there is no republican party, no gop only g
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qp." we go to summer town, tennessee, democrats line. caller: i am an old-style liberal democrat. i do not like the new neoliberal democratic party. stanford university did a study that set of over 600 riots last summer with billions of dollars in damage and looting and arson, does instead, that needs to be investigated. if you need a commission, it would not be a real commission without getting to the truth of that. a lot of those people who were arrested were being released. the one right supposedly by republicans -- riot soberly bite republicans, shut down the capital, our constitution, those people are being held in
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consignment in dce gulags -- dc gulags, solitary confinement. i used to be a democratic but i cannot support -- as far as authoritarian, the dictators are the democrats -- as far as authoritarian, the dictators are the democrats. host: let's get the response. guest: that is the marjorie taylor greene line there. tell us the reason for people who assaulted the capitals were supposedly republicans, what you mean supposedly -- do you mean supposedly? they were carrying trump flex, they were trump supporters. there were not just trespassing. they were engaging in violence. they attacked cops, used their flex to beat cops. five people died. you've seen the account of
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officer michael who had heart failure as the repeating him and people were saying to grab his gun and he had to plead that he had children. that is nonsense. it is also nonsense that they are being held in solitary confinement. they are getting due process, they are being held accountable for their act of violence. whether riots -- were there riots around the country pleasure? i have no problem condemning that street violence. that is a separate issue. we need to separate it. i'm not minimizing what happened in portland, oregon. an assault on a starbucks is different than a assault on the congress of the united states and then attempt to overthrow the constitutionally mandated
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counting of electoral college votes. we can do both at the same time. to conflate the two is dishonest. one was an assault on the foundations of our constitutional republic. the other is violations of law and they need to be dealt with in that way with due process. the notion that we cannot go after the 9/11 insurrectionists because there were people who engaged in rioting in kenosha, wisconsin. that is inconsistent. it is bs to suggest that somehow the rioters on january 6 are the real victims. it is part of this revisionist history, this is being pushed by people like marjorie taylor greene and others. if it takes hold on the right,
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it will encourage more bad behavior. this is the concern that january 6 is ongoing, that is an ongoing radicalization and acceptance of violence as part of our politics. host: our guest is the founder and editor of the bulwark which is what? guest: we are and online publication, founded about two years ago. we think of ourselves as independent, center-right, centerleft place where we tell you what we think. we not tribal -- we are not tribal. we are not afraid to take on trump and trumpism. i do not think that will be afraid to take on the liberalism of the right or left going forward. even after the departure of
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trump, we realized fight against the crazy is not over. host: where does the name come from? guest: the bulwark, of democracy. it is a seafaring term, the bulwark on a shift, somebody needs to stand to thwart the waves that threatened to wash over us. we think of ourselves as able work of rationality -- able work -- a bulwark of rationality. host: in california, you are on with charlie sykes. caller: mr. jefferson was apparently crazy 30 said true liberty must be referred from time to time with the blood of tyrants and patriots. we have tyrants, a parliamentary
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system and the executive branch is supposed to have that our laws are faithfully executed. they are collecting in an invasion of people we do not recognize that letting in -- they are letting in innovation of people we do not recognize. they are globalists. host: thank you. guest: there you are seeing the normalization of violence. citing the board. whose blood we talking about? -- blood. whose blood are we talking about? we are 200 years of the experiment of a constitutional order that is not perfect but has gotten us through these conflicts. now we are talking about going back to the blood of tyrants. using immigration as the excuse.
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i favor a strong border. i thought the wall was silly. i favor immigration reform. this notion that we are being invaded. to have problems? we have a problem. we need to deal with that. we are not being invaded. we are a country of immigrants. let's make distinctions between legal and illegal immigrants. we are finding a way to regularize that. this fear mongering from the time that trump came down the golden escalator, talking about mexican rapists. all this does is stoke division that leads to the suggestion that we need to engage in violence. for people who through words along -- around like that, whose blood are we talking about? who do you want to kill?
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that is the alternative. having a process where we have elections and the loser acknowledges the legitimacy of that election because that is the way a democracy works. once the losers refuse to acknowledge that and undermined the of an election, what is the alternative? we are not a nation of -- if we are not a nation of laws and don't follow the constitution, if we try to overturn those elections, then what do we have left? force. i'm increasingly worried about it, and because like that are not terribly reassuring. host: david, you get the last word from new york city. a quick question for charlie sykes? caller: hi, charlie. i'm a democrat from manhattan. hopefully it is not because it speaks of biden and wisconsin as
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a bulwark, pun definitely intended. biden visited wisconsin in about march, i believe, and in the absence of any polling, like narrative polling, what is your sense on the ground and with -- wisconsin about how his townhall was received, and how is he being perceived in the state of wisconsin? host: thank you, david. charlie sykes. guest: i cannot tell you at the moment how he's being perceived on the ground in wisconsin or anywhere else around the country. his approval ratings are relatively robust. there are not many who wish they voted for donald trump or which she was not the president right now for them if biden 60's and is able to keep his popularity
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up, he will do well in wisconsin. if the economy turns south or if there are other controversies or perception of the democrats have radically overreached, he will be hurt in wisconsin. but we are a very polarized state, and i'm not sure things like town halls or the passing events of a new cycle really do all that much to change -- of a news cycle really do all that much to change the dynamic. we are all on the razors edge. host: charlie sykes, the founder and


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