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Politics In The News: Latest On Polls, Debate News


Here's a defining fact about the Republican presidential nominating contest. Two candidates among the many have done exceedingly well in early surveys. Neither has held elective office. One of them is Ben Carson. He told NPR's Scott Simon over the weekend he is qualified through his experience as a doctor and on corporate boards.


BEN CARSON: And I think it's a fallacy that only people in elected office can come up with solutions that solve our problems. I just think maybe there's a different paradigm.

INSKEEP: That's Ben Carson. And then there's Donald Trump. An ABC News/Washington Post poll says most voters consider Trump unqualified to be president, but he's leading in that survey and others. We're joined now, as we are most Mondays, by Cokie Roberts. Cokie, good morning.


INSKEEP: What's happening here?

ROBERTS: (Laughter) Well, it's hard to say exactly what's happening when you have voters saying that they think a candidate - in the case of Donald Trump - is unqualified to serve as president and we want him to be president. And they also say he lacks the personality and temperament to succeed in the job.

Look, what we're seeing is, particularly among Republican voters, a very strong anti-insider, anti-politician attitude, although still, there's a lot of contradiction here. Also in this poll, 72 percent of Americans say they think that most people in politics cannot be trusted, but they say they want the next president to be someone with political experience rather than someone from outside the political establishment. So they're all over the map. But what you've basically seen is Republican voters feeling very strongly against insiders. Now, we're going to see a lot of attacks on Donald Trump as a result of that.

INSKEEP: Well, that is really interesting, Cokie, because there are a lot of Republicans who are experienced politicians who seem to be waiting for Trump to go away. But they're not waiting any longer.

ROBERTS: Well, that's right. They can't wait any longer because he's not going away, and his numbers just keep getting higher. And there is a big debate coming up this week, the second Republican debate, where Trump will definitely be the target. But I think they're all a little nervous about that. I mean, Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, who took on Trump early, has dropped out of the race. Now, you have Bobby (laughter) Jindal who is not even registering in the polls as the sitting governor of Louisiana taking Trump on. And when Donald Trump made disparaging comments about Carly Fiorina - saying, look at that face - Bobby Jindal said, how can he say that when he's got a (laughter) squirrel on his head? So this is where we're headed in this Republican field at the moment. Carly Fiorina, by the way, took that comment and used it to go to the National Federation of Republican Women and said, look at this face. It's the face of a 61-year-old woman, and I've earned every wrinkle. And they voted her number one.

INSKEEP: Now when you talk about this anti-insider mood, Democrats don't seem to be any fans of perceived insiders either at the moment.

ROBERTS: Well, there, there's a slightly different dynamic going on. Now in the ABC poll, Hillary Clinton has lost a third of her votes since the summer, particularly dropped among women. But the Democratic base is not just anti-Hillary. They're really pro-Bernie Sanders. And they like his message of anti-big-guys and the rich and all of that. He's going to go today to Liberty University to a conservative group, and we'll see how he does there. But, you know, the Democrats have to be a little nervous about the news coming out of Great Britain, where the Labour Party has just elected Jeremy Corbyn against all of the establishment members of their party, including former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Electability is not the issue that most Americans seem - or most voters - seem to be caring about in this election cycle on either side of the pond.

INSKEEP: Cokie, thanks very much.

ROBERTS: OK. Good to be with you, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's Cokie Roberts who joins us most Mondays. And, again, Bernie Sanders, the Democratic candidate, will be speaking at Liberty University today, appearing at a socially conservative university and attempting, at least, to make a case that he has some connection with voters - socially conservative voters - on economic issues. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cokie Roberts was one of the 'Founding Mothers' of NPR who helped make that network one of the premier sources of news and information in this country. She served as a congressional correspondent at NPR for more than 10 years and later appeared as a commentator on Morning Edition. In addition to her work for NPR, Roberts was a political commentator for ABC News, providing analysis for all network news programming.

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