Mark Alderman, Howard Schweitzer and Blake Rutherford discuss the Pennsylvania presidential primary results and other key state races for Senate, Attorney General and more.

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Call Transcript:

Blake:All right. Mark, Howard welcome back. We are now less than, well a full day removed from the closing of the polls in Pennsylvania and in other state in the primary. I thought we could just spend a few minutes talking about what happened last night and what it means. Whether we have seen any dramatic change in the landscape for either party as we look ahead to some future states. I thought since we spend some time on our last call talking about Pennsylvania, I thought that's where we would start today. Howard, I thought I would start with you and just get your reactions on the republican side to what happened in Pennsylvania on the presidential level. It was a good night for Donald Trump.

Howard:Very good night for Trump, Blake and Mark. He dominated the evening. He dominated the day. He outperformed even the high expectations that people had for him going into the day yesterday. He came out depending upon how you count on pledge delegates, 15-16 delegates ahead of where most people thought he'd be. In a race where every delegate counts, that's significant.

Blake:You know Howard, from a perspective of what it means for the race going forward, we had talked about on previous calls this notion that Trump just may not get to 1237 and what that means but it seems that the narrative this morning has shift a bit. I thin partially for the reason that you described which is he out performed his polling and did better among pledge delegates than all the pundits thought. The narrative seems to have shifted a little bit to the point where I suppose any minute now Ted Cruz is announcing potentially his running mate to try and hashtag stop Trump. What do you make of the narrative this morning, Howard? Do you feel it's different than where it was 24 hours ago?

Howard:I do for a couple of reasons. Cruz in theory I think he's trying to disrupt the news cycle which is very strongly in Trump's favor coming out of the day yesterday. I think Trump is in a much better position although for reasons that are being reported and I think some reasons that haven't yet really been reported. Most specifically, there's an expectation in Trump's camp that he's going to do very well on unbound delegates in Pennsylvania. As our listeners will recall, there are a large number I think 54 delegates in Pennsylvania that are unbound that don't have to go to Cleveland and vote for any particular candidate.

Based on the elections last night and the head counting that the Trump campaign has been doing, I'm hearing that they are very, very bullish on how they did on the unbound delegates as compared to how they've done elsewhere. Maybe our partner, Jim Schultz gets some credit for that. I certainly want to give him some. It's huge. It's like winning another state. It's like winning Indiana. If they end up doing as well as it looks like on the unbound delegates yesterday, that's a total game changer. I think desperate times call for desperate measures and Cruz' move today, his move the other day with Kasich teaming up, his move today with Fiorina. I think it's a bit of desperation.

Blake:Mark, looking at the dynamic of Trump today versus just where we were yesterday, I we making too much of Trump's success last night to sort of argue a counterpoint? Are we making too much of it?

Mark:I don't think we're making too much of it but then again I have thought that Trump was the presumptive nominee since South Carolina. I think what is happening is the ratification of the trend that has been unstoppable and unbroken with very rare exception, Wisconsin being an outlier but a singular outlier. I think he's the presumptive nominee. I don't think we're making too much of last night except in the sense that I think it was over even before last night.

One thing that happened last night that I think is very significant is another unstoppable and unbroken trend line is that Donald Trump is Donald Trump and Donald Trump intends to be Donald Trump and nobody is going to tell Donald Trump how to be presidential. He stood up there last night after maybe the biggest night yet of his presidential campaign when he clearly is turning to Hillary Clinton and forgetting about lying Ted and 1 for 46 Kasich. Surprise, surprise, he was still Donald Trump. He ended the evening with his declaration that if Hillary Clinton were a man, she wouldn't be getting 5% which is what we are now going to have awaiting us for the next 5 months. This is just going to be brutal.

Blake:It's going to be something. There's no doubt about it. I sense though from both of you that not a few weeks ago we were talking about if Trump was one delegate short that they might take it away, not take it away from him, he wouldn't get it and therefore, the second ballot potentially could coalesce around Cruz. Then we have the Cruz/Kasich odd couple thing, whatever that was which certainly hasn't proved to be much yet but it's not geared toward any of the states last night, it's focused on Indiana, New Mexico, and Oregon. That partnership isn't as strategic as I thought, which I'll admit some surprise but I wanted to get your reaction to that in light of the Fiorina announcement.

Mark:Trump is the nominee. However, two things. One he is not going to be the nominee until after California. This isn't over in the process sense yet, it's just over in the result. He is the nominee but he can't possibly arithmetically become the nominee until California and maybe post California when he picks up some of these unbound delegates from Pennsylvania and elsewhere but this is going to continue. Cruz at least and probably Kasich are simply not going to go away. There's more of the same yet to come.

Blake:Howard, I wanted to get your reaction both to the sort of Trump delegate dynamic today versus where it was a few weeks ago. I also wanted to get your thoughts about tactically to kind of build upon the point Mark made about Donald Trump is going to be Donald Trump, tactically what that looks like for the Republican party as it heads toward the general election. Let's start first with the delegate dynamic and how you see that playing out and then what's the relationship between that and the Trump persona which is dominant and not going away.

Howard:First, on delegates. To me as I said the other day on our call, this is math and I don't necessarily agree with Mark, in fact I don't agree that if he's close but short, he'll still be the nominee. He's got to get the votes and every vote does count. That's why getting 15 more delegates than even he expected last night is significant. He dominated New York, he dominated last night. He's got strength from the south to the north and east to the west and it's impressive but he's got to go out and continue to accumulate delegates. He's still several hundred shy of where he needs to be.

Mark:I just want to clarify. I'm delighted to be disagreed with on all matters republican but I don't believe that if he doesn't win on the first ballot, he will still be the nominee. He needs 1237 delegates to vote for him on the first ballot or he will not be the nominee even if he falls one short. I just believe that he will show up with 1238 or more delegates.

Blake:Howard, you had alluded to this and it's funny our partner Jim Schultz who is very involved in the Trump campaign was quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer today on what this dynamic looks like for Trump in terms of his organization, in terms of making sure that this pool of unbound delegates in Pennsylvania and elsewhere are better organized for Trump. We've talked about on our previous calls how Cruz has done a very good job but Howard, I think you remarked earlier that the Trump campaign is pretty bullish on its outlook as it pertains to these delegates. I think Jim would certainly agree with that as well. He couldn't be on our call today but I'm hoping he'll be able to join us for all things Trump as we head toward the general election if in fact he is the nominee.

Howard, in terms of Trump being Trump, I can't help but start to think about what a general election looks like between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Every time I turn on the television, I think there's nothing Trump can say that will surprise me more and then something happens and I am just a bit more surprised. What do you think about the Trump being Trump persona and what do you think it means over the course of the next month.

Howard:I think the most significant thing is the impact on candidates for the House and the Senate and for me it's more than his persona, it's the lack of predictability. If you're Pat Toomey, running for Senate in Pennsylvania and you're on the ballot with Donald Trump, you're obviously very concerned about some of the inflammatory things he's said from time to time but I think you're even more concerned about not knowing what the next thing that's going to come out of his mouth is going to be and the questions you are going to have to answer about the things he's saying and the positions he's saying. It's the unpredictability that's the problem and I think it really makes it hard for the down ballot candidates to run and effective campaign.

Mark:I want to underscore that. I agree with that entirely. The balance of control in the United States Senate hangs in the balance here. The Democrats with the president 4 without the president 5 net seats. There are 5 seats I can think of off the top of my head, Wisconsin, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and I'm forgetting one where Barack Obama won two times and where there is a republican incumbent who is now going to be running with Donald Trump and exactly as Howard says, not knowing what to expect from day to day.

Mark:Ohio, right. Thank you, Rob Portman. It's going to be very interesting, very interesting to see when and if Toomey, Portman, Iad, Johnson, Kirk, what are they going to do with this? That's just going to be fun to watch.

Blake:Yeah and it's a nice pivot because we got some clarity on what some of these senate races are going to look like tomorrow night and one in Pennsylvania. Mark, I thought we might pivot to talk about the Senate a little bit. I think this is a dynamic that to me becomes far more pronounced the closer Trump gets to 1237, the more likely that he is the nominee, we're going to spending a lot of time talking about this. I know we are following these races very closely. I thought we night talk about the Pennsylvania senate race a little bit and what happened last night here in our state.

Mark:The most important thing that happened here in our state last night was that our moderator, Blake Rutherford was elected a Clinton pledged delegate in the first Congressional District which is a big deal. We have talked on these calls from the very first one all the rhetoric and drama not withstanding, it's about delegates and now we have a delegate on this call itself. Congratulations to Blake on his election.

Katie McGinty of course beat Joe Sestak last night here in Pennsylvania, beat him by a lot, 10 points in a race where 3 weeks ago she was 20 points behind. It was a very good night for the establishment in Pennsylvania. It was a very good night for Hillary Clinton, plainly the establishment candidate. It was a very good night for Katie McGinty, the establishment candidate endorsed by the President and everyone else. A very good night for Josh Shapiro who won a difficult attorney general race pretty handily all things considered. He too was endorsed by the President and was the establishment candidate there. In Maryland, Chris Von Holland beat Donna Edwards again easily in the senate primary. This was the establishment fights back, strikes back last night.

Mark:If the establishment isn't going to well in the Asella primary, it isn't going to do well anywhere. Congratulations to the establishment. The Pennsylvania senate race is very, very interesting. Pat Toomey, if Jeb Bush were the Republican nominee would be very, very formidable. He will still be a very formidable candidate but with Trump on the top of the ticket running against a Clinton/McGinty ticket where were they both to be elected we would have the first woman president in history and the first woman senator from Pennsylvania in history. There's a lot going on in that election after last night's results.

Blake:The dynamic of that race to your point, is what the establishment wanted, it's what the President wanted, it's what the DFCC wanted. It got everything it wanted in terms of Katie performing very well. It was a big win, I think surprising to both of us in terms of the margin of victory although we had predicted yesterday her trend line or a few days ago on our call. Her trend line was really, really sort of appeared to be that skyrocket, turned out that was exactly right. The general election shapes up as well as the democrats could have hoped and Toomey to your point, is not catching a break at the top of the Republican ticket with Trump.

Mark:Toomey made a point yesterday of telling the world that he had voted to Ted Cruz. He pretty clearly was rooting for a ticket topped by someone other than Donald Trump and I think it's for the reason Howard gave a minute ago. The thing about Trump on the top of the ticket and I have heard a senior United States Senator from Pennsylvania say this, there are only two so you can guess which one. The thing about it is that Trump is going to do things that don't hurt Trump but are going to hurt the down ballot candidates. Nothing seems to hurt Trump. He's going to be Trump and he's going to do things that don't damage his candidacy and other people are going to pay the price for it.

Blake:Howard, I wanted to get your thoughts looking at the Toomey/McGinty race through the lens of the republicans and kind of from the outside looking in, the beltway perspective on that race and give any insights you might have about that particular senate race

Howard:One interesting thing before I comment on the race in particular and I should have mentioned this earlier, republican turnout has been dwindling as the race has gone on and it's much lower than it was in the early primaries. There may be lots of reasons for that including maybe people are now thinking about Trump as presumptive and inevitable on the heels of New York. I think that also has to concern not just Trump for the general but I think if you're Pat Toomey that in and of itself is a concern. Less republicans coming out to vote for whatever reason, I don't think we know exactly what the reason is yet, maybe you guys have some thoughts but that's a concern. I don't know that ... Toomey is obviously staunchly republican and staunchly conservative and in a Senate with a thin majority, just like every delegate counts for the convention, every republican counts for the majority in the Senate and even the House.

I guess one thing I'd say, Blake is something we can should talk about in future calls. The reality is on a policy level that you can switch presidents, you can switch members of Congress, you can switch parties in power and yes, things change but they don't change as much as people think they do and even if Donald Trump of all people is elected President of the United States and comes guns blazing and ready to fire people and ready to be Trump, Washington is still going to operate by the same basic principles of power. That's true in the Senate as well. Yes, the Senate changes if Harry Reid or Chuck Schumer is the majority leader versus Mitch McConnell but it doesn't change as dramatically as people think it does. While this is a very significant race in terms of the republican majority and obviously in terms of their own political futures, on a policy level and a day-to-day Washington level and we see this every day and I've seen it now for years, things don't change as much as people think they do.

Mark:It's my turn to disagree. I actually agree with respect to almost everything about daily life in Washington and through Washington the rest of the country. However, the next president especially when she controls the United States Senate is going to change the United States Supreme Court for a generation. That is of all things that are consequential in this election for a lot of people, myself included absolutely at the top of the list. That will be radically different if Donald Trump and a Republican Senate are in power rather than Hillary Clinton and a Democratic Senate.

Blake:That's one thing we haven't touched on in a while which is the, one certainly builds off the other, the presidential race, the implications on the Senate reaches the Supreme Court which in my own mind makes this election historic on so many levels because we have the interplay of three branches of government directly affected by the outcome potentially, not just the outcome, the nominees that the party pick.

Mark, I want to pivot to the Democrats. Last night, relatively big night for Hillary Clinton. She won 4 of the 5, only losing Rhode Island to Bernie, getting closer and and closer to the magic number she needs to secure the nomination. My first thought is, is the wind starting to really come out of the Bernie Sander's sail?

Mark:I think so. I think it's coming out of the Bernie Sander's sail in the sense that even Bernie Sanders isn't going to be talking about him actually becoming the nominee going forward. Everyone knows he isn't going to be. Again, I haven't thought he would be since South Carolina, maybe Nevada but now everybody knows and even Bernie isn't going to be talking about it. On the other hand, he's not going away. Just like the republicans are going to California and beyond. In the democratic primaries and caucuses, more of the same.

Bernie is not going away. He's going right through California and then the District of Columbia, our side actually ends things up after California, and to the convention. I believe the race this year as red hot as it got for a day or two here or there has actually ended earlier than it did in 2008. It has actually ended with less acrimony and hostility than it did in 2008. I think putting it all back together while not automatic and not easy, it's going to require a real commitment and a real effort from Secretary Clinton but I don't have any doubt it'll happen. If it happened 8 years ago, it can happen here.

Blake:I was going to say, you were intimately involved in the Obama campaign in 2008 seeing that dynamic unfold, looking at Pennsylvania as a state where the President certainly to needed to be competitive in a general ... Putting all those pieces back together, you're optimistic the democrats can get that done.

Mark:I am very optimistic the democrats can get that done. Bernie keeps putting down conditions on his supporters cooperation, not even his own but the conditions are not unachievable. Fifteen-dollar minimum wage, if she can't bring people around and come around herself on that, I'll be very surprised. The trade agreements, he's already brought her around on, she's not going anywhere on those. Citizens United, she was always around on, it's about her. The one that's a challenge is the big banks. He keeps saying she's got to convince people she'll break up the big banks. There are two problems with that. One is, that she's not going to and the other is that he wasn't going to either. That one is going to be a little harder because it was Santa Claus.

Blake:Howard, I wanted to pull you in this big bank issue. You certainly through your work at Treasury and you're continued work with us, I mean this big bank issue, first, how big of a political issue do you think it really is as we look ahead at the general? What's realistic in terms of what either Bernie Sanders has said or may say and the necessity of needing to adhere to his narrative on the banks for Hillary Clinton to be successful at pulling the democrats together heading into November?

Howard:I think she's going to ironically have as much pressure, not as much but significant pressure from Donald Trump on this issue as she does from Bernie. He's no friend of Wall Street and he doesn't have a huge number of Wall Street supporters and he's not a Wall Street guy despite the fact that he's a New York real estate developer. He talked about this in the last couple of days and I think may have even said something about it last night. I think Trump himself is going to be very tough on the banks in the general. I think this is a significant issue. It's still top of mind. How many times in this campaign on both sides of the aisle have we heard people bring up the bailout. I think this is the first election where there has been an opportunity at the presidential level to take the bailout out on the candidates.

Bernie is in a good position on this and Hillary has been playing catch up from the beginning. I'm not sure, to be honest with you, I'm not sure I agree entirely with Mark that she's not going to do it or that it's not going to be done. There are people in Washington and around the country who aren't satisfied that Dodd Frank adequately addressed bank risk in this country and intend to continue to fight the issue. In fact, Neel Kashkari who I worked for at Treasury who ran TARP and I was his number two, Neel is now the president of the Minneapolis Fed and he has come out and said we need to break up the banks and he's a republican. I see this issue is going to continue to percolate. The banks are only bigger than they were before and I think it's going to be accounted for on both sides of the aisle.

Mark:I think one of the fascinating dynamics here that we're likely going to see over the next 5 months is that on this issue and a couple of others, Donald Trump is going to run at Hillary from the left, not from the right. He's the only republican who can conceivably do that. As you've said many times Howard, he's actually not even a republican. He is probably to the left of Hillary, he's closer to Bernie than Hillary on breaking up the big banks. He's closer to Bernie than Hillary on trade. He's closer to Bernie than Hillary on some foreign policy issues, boots on the ground in the Mideast. This guy is going to be coming at her from every which way and it's going to get interesting.

Blake:To Howard's point about Trump's unpredictability, it will be very interesting to see what the issues are that Trump chooses to utilize to try and frame the general election. I think as we know and as our friends in the Trump campaign are beginning to make clear, this is not a robust policy shop. This is not a robust policy centric campaign. It is full of Trump ideas but the substance which I think he'll have to consider as he pivots to the general election, just isn't there yet. It'll be interesting to see what he decides are the issues that are going to frame the election and then how she manages through that.

Again, as you both know very, very well, how do these two candidates, assuming it's Trump, how do they define themselves in the context of the general election versus how do they attempt to define each other. I think it sets up to be a fascinating dynamic but we still have a race to run in terms of the Republican primary to be sure. Hillary looks like she'll cross the threshold here in the next couple of weeks although Mark, you're exactly right, Bernie will be in it through the District of Columbia. We'll have contested races through then but it was a fun night in Pennsylvania last night for us.

Blake:Quit while you're ahead, right? It was fun. It's fun to get to know Philadelphia city politics in that way and I'm certainly grateful that people voted for me, that was nice.

We've got a call scheduled here in a couple of weeks when we'll know a little bit more about these races but I did want to offer you Howard, any concluding thoughts, parting shots before we hang up?

Howard:Let's see what happens in Indiana. I think the media makes on the republican side, maybe on both sides, the medial is all about momentum and this race is all about math. Yes, momentum plays a role in terms of the public perception of the viability of candidacies. This is about campaigning and math. Two weeks or three weeks ago rather coming out of Wisconsin, the sky was falling for Trump. Today the sky is falling for Cruz. Let's see what happens in Indiana and I think that is going to tell us a whole lot more about where we end up.

Mark:I grew up in Indiana. I grew up thinking that Bobby Knight had to be smartest guy who ever lived. He's out there campaigning with Donald Trump today. I have decided since growing up there that I want Bobby Knight to coach my basketball team but not pick my president.

Blake:It'll be fun guys as always. It's a race that is never dull and never lacking in interest. When we're back together, we will have a lot more to discuss. In the meantime, certainly thanks for everybody listening to our call today and we'll talk to you soon. Thanks.

Mark: Thanks.
 
Howard: Thank you.