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Politics In The News: GOP Has Yet To Unify Around Donald Trump

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And so there's this pretty much tried and true formula for winning a presidential election. Step one, the party's nominee becomes apparent. Step two, the party unifies around the nominee. Step three, the nominee starts to move towards the middle in hopes of attracting voters from the other party.

Well, this week at least, it looks like Republicans might be trying to do all this without step two, the unifying part. To talk about this, we're joined by columnist and commentator Cokie Roberts and in the studio here, Tucker Carlson, editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller. Welcome to you both.

TUCKER CARLSON: Good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi. Hi David. Hi Tucker

CARLSON: Hey Cokie.

GREENE: So let me - so Donald Trump seems to have this all but locked up, which was not the case all that long ago. But we now have two former presidents - Bush 41 and Bush 43 - saying they're going to skip the convention. House Speaker Paul Ryan says he's not ready to support Trump. I mean, Tucker, is this bad for the party?

CARLSON: Well, I mean, it's a different party. I mean, Donald Trump isn't running as a conventional Republican, obviously. And a lot of Republican voters don't want him to. You're seeing the party being redefined.

And the reason the two groups can't get together is because they don't disagree simply over style or the manner of presentation but over basic ideas. And so until there's a consensus on those, you know, you can't imagine unity between people who just are diametrically opposed to one another.

GREENE: Cokie...

ROBERTS: He says...

GREENE: ...What do you make of that?

ROBERTS: He says this is not the conservative party. This is the Republican Party, and it's basically his party. And he over the weekend talked about things like raising the minimum wage, taxing the rich - things that are not particularly popular with the conservatives in the Republican Party.

GREENE: I mean, this is really interesting because I think a lot of people who have been watching this have been thinking that a lot of people in the so-called establishment aren't comfortable with Donald Trump's style. But I mean, you're both saying that there really are substantive differences and issues that are important to point out when we talk about this division.

ROBERTS: Well, absolutely, but they also don't know exactly what to think. Look, the whip of the House yesterday said we're not going to know what Donald Trump really believes until he gets in office. Well, that's a little bit risky, to put it mildly. And the fact is that, you know, he has said so many things that are hateful that the leaders of the party are, of course, quite worried about that going into the future.

GREENE: Tucker, do you - are you getting a picture for what Donald Trump believes and what kind of president he would be, in terms of policies and ideas?

CARLSON: Well, I mean, he's obviously an instinct player. He's not an ideologue in any way. He's a nationalist on a pretty basic level, a populist. The problem with Trump for the party establishment isn't simply that they disagree but that he's unpredictable.

And parties, like markets, hate unpredictability above all, which is why a number of Republicans I know here in Washington are supporting Hillary because at least you know the script. I mean, it's the 1990s again. You can raise money against her. Everyone knows his place. It kind of makes sense.

The other problem, of course, with Trump for the Republican establishment in D.C. is that he's embarrassing aesthetically. And there is a kind of snobbery in this. I mean Paul Ryan, the speaker, could have called him directly on the phone and said, you know, here are three things we disagree on. Let's come to terms on them or at least talk about them. Instead, without calling Trump, he booked an interview on CNN to basically express moral dissatisfaction and to make the point - I'm a better person than Donald Trump.

I mean, that's not an issues divide. That's something deeper. That's a cultural divide.

GREENE: Well, you mentioned that you have some Republicans you know in Washington who are supporting Hillary Clinton. We had Mac Stipanovich, a longtime strategist and lobbyist from Florida, on the program elsewhere on the show this morning saying not necessarily would he vote for Hillary Clinton but thinks that she would be a better option than Donald Trump. Cokie Roberts, how significant is it that some Republicans are actually coming out and saying they would prefer a Hillary Clinton presidency?

ROBERTS: Well, I think the Democrats have to be very, very careful about this because they think that this is much more widespread than there's any evidence to show. And Donald Trump has surprised people all the way along the line. I mean, now he is the presumed nominee.

And, you know, if you had asked anybody in Washington that question a year ago, they would have laughed at you. And so I think that the notion that Democrats think that they can bring over a bunch of Republicans and that Hillary Clinton will have an easy path to the White House is very, very foolish.

GREENE: Tucker, Donald Trump says that he is bringing new Republicans into the party. Is that true?

CARLSON: Well, it's clearly true. It's clearly true. I mean, Donald Trump has already received - and were a number of primaries from the end end on June 7 - more votes than Mitt Romney received for the entire primary season last cycle, more than John McCain received in 2008. So, you know, if you run the Romney campaign again with the same results - the demographics of the country have changed in a way that favor the Democrats pretty dramatically - you're going to lose by a bigger margin than Romney did.

The only play for victory as a Republican is to expand the pie. And there's evidence that Trump has done that. Can he sustain it? You know, can he hold his self-destructive tendencies at bay until November? You know, these are open questions. But clearly, you need to run a campaign like his in order to have any hope of beating the Democrat.

GREENE: Cokie, I heard you making some sounds there (laughter).

ROBERTS: Well, because I did try to actually get some data on this, and this is the problem with a lot of what Trump says, you know, is that he - a lot of what he says is just not true. Now, he has gotten more votes. That's absolutely true. But we - I looked at the exit polls, and the truth is that we didn't ask the question about is this the first time you've voted as a Republican.

They did ask in some states is this your first time voting? Now, some of those people were young so it was the first they were eligible to vote. But of the first-time voters, he got about 42 percent in the states where the question was asked. The other candidates - 37 percent, so that's not a big difference there.

GREENE: We've - go ahead.

CARLSON: At some point, some party has to represent the middle-class. The Democrats did for generations. They no longer do. The Republicans have the opportunity to do so. They don't want to. The party that does probably has a pretty good shot going forward.

And I think that's - if you take three steps back and sort of ignore Trump and flip the telescope around and look at his voters, that's the play. It's to win people in the middle.

GREENE: About a minute left...

ROBERTS: And of course, that's what Hillary Clinton is also trying to do, and that's why she's talking so much about things that middle-class voters, particularly middle-class women, care a great deal about - about family leave, those kinds of things. And Trump, as much as he is trying to downplay some of the things that he has been saying about women, said again recently - I think on Friday - that, you know, women really have it easier than men do. Now, that's going to be a tough one to sell.

CARLSON: It's worked in the primaries. He won the majority of women. I mean, he won the plurality of women in a number of these races against...

ROBERTS: Well, Republican women...

CARLSON: Yeah, of course. But it says something - I mean, it says that he's not having the affect that people in my ZIP code assumed he would necessarily.

GREENE: Can I ask you both in 10 seconds each, what has Trump's success so far as we look at this moment tell you about American conservatives? Tucker?

CARLSON: That they have a different view of conservatism from the people who are benefiting from it professionally here in Washington who aren't actually that conservative. Government has grown. The average Republican doesn't want to see more foreign wars, for example, or open borders.

GREENE: Cokie, a couple seconds.

ROBERTS: As Sarah Palin says, she doesn't care about the conservatism. She cares about winning.

GREENE: All right, Cokie Roberts and Tucker Carlson, thanks so much, appreciate it.

CARLSON: Thanks.

GREENE: Commentator Cokie Roberts joins us most Mondays and Tucker Carlson is editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.