Politics chat: Biden's presidential run; abortion in the 2024 race
CAMILA DOMONOSKE, HOST:
The frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination is declared candidate Donald Trump. On the Democratic side, there technically is no frontrunner. That's because President Biden isn't officially a candidate yet. Mara Liasson, NPR national political correspondent, joins us now. Good morning, Mara.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Camila.
DOMONOSKE: So is President Biden's status as a candidate about to change?
LIASSON: Yes, it is. He is expected to announce that he is running for reelection on Tuesday, which is exactly four years from the day that he announced his last presidential campaign.
DOMONOSKE: Right. And, you know, in Biden's case, it's not like he's going to be treated differently by the press after he declares. So is the timing of this announcement a product of fundraising or bookkeeping about who pays for travel or what?
LIASSON: Well, yes, once he announces as a candidate, he can raise money, and he's going to have to raise a tremendous amount of money. And yes, there will also be bookkeeping issues because the campaign will start picking up some of President Biden's travel costs. But you're right. He's not going to be treated that differently. There's no surprise that he's running for reelection. But once he's a candidate, it will remind voters about all the things they like and don't like about Biden.
He has a 43% approval rating - pretty low. Fifty-two percent of people disapprove of the job he's been doing. That's been very, very steady. And he's also 80 years old. And Democrats are very worried and nervous about that. Even though they support President Biden, they know how risky it is to have someone that old running for president because a lot can go wrong.
DOMONOSKE: Right. Keeping on the president for another moment, he's meeting at the White House with the so-called Tennessee Three this week. Can you remind us who they are, and tell us why it's significant that Biden's hosting them at the White House?
LIASSON: Yes, the Tennessee Three are two young, Black male Tennessee legislators and one white female legislator who were all expelled for protesting gun violence by the Tennessee state legislature. And they represent really three different important issues for the White House. The two young, Black legislators represent a very important constituency for President Biden. The White House feels that what happened to the Tennessee Three represent an abuse of power, the undermining of democracy by supermajority, mostly white legislatures mostly in red states. And also the issue that this - they were protesting, gun safety. This protest came right after another horrific school shooting at a Christian school in Nashville. And gun safety is a big dividing line in the 2024 elections.
DOMONOSKE: Right. And that female legislator wasn't expelled - right? - which was part of the...
LIASSON: No, she was - I'm sorry. I misspoke. She was not expelled. Only the two young Black legislators were. And she was not, which introduces a racial element into this whole episode.
DOMONOSKE: Yeah, absolutely. Going now to the Republican side, I mentioned that former President Trump is officially a contender for the nomination. There are a few more like Nikki Haley and Asa Hutchinson, but not Ron DeSantis.
LIASSON: Not Ron DeSantis yet, although he is expected to jump in. He had a pretty rough week last week. He came to Washington trying to get some endorsements from Republican congressmen. Instead, 9 out of the 20 Republican Florida congressional delegation have endorsed Donald Trump. In another instance, he met with a Texas Republican congressman who came out of the meeting with DeSantis and promptly endorsed Trump. So you can see how dominant Donald Trump still is in the Republican primary, despite his indictment - maybe because of it.
And for a while, DeSantis was beating Trump in a lot of polls in primary states. Now that trend has been reversed, and the Republican establishment, who wants to move on from Trump, was hoping DeSantis would emerge as the main alternative to Trump. He might still, but he's had a really hard time figuring out how to take on Donald Trump. He's tried ignoring his attacks. He's tried tentatively pushing back against them. But none of that has worked. Trump's numbers have continued to go up. DeSantis' have gone down.
And also, as long as there are multiple candidates running against Trump, he could win the nomination the same way he did in 2016, which is with 30%, 35% of the vote in state after state.
DOMONOSKE: Right. Now to an issue that is very real to real Americans but is also a political football - mifepristone. On Friday, the Supreme Court blocked restrictions on the abortion drug that had been mandated by a lower court. So for now, it is still available where abortion is legal. But that doesn't make the issue go away, does it?
LIASSON: No, it's going to the Supreme Court. And if they let the ruling of this Texas judge stand, it would amount to a national ban on a very common type of abortion. The Supreme Court, when it overturned Roe, said that courts and judges should not be in the business of deciding abortion issues, that legislators and voters should. So this case really flies in the face of that. And also for Republicans, again, the political incentives are misaligned - disaligned because their base wants a national ban, but the majority of voters do not.
DOMONOSKE: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, thanks.
LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.