On this “Face the Nation” broadcast, moderated by Margaret Brennan:
- Sen. Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas
- Rep. Jamie Raskin, Democrat from Maryland
- Anita Dunn, senior adviser to President Biden
- Ashley Etienne, Joel Payne, Leslie Sanchez and Brendan Buck
Clickto browse full transcripts of “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m Margaret Brennan in Washington.
And this week on Face the Nation: Five days after the 2022 election, control of the House of Representatives remains undecided, while Democrats keep their Senate majority. How will this midterm muddle change life for Americans?
Democrats braced for defeat last Tuesday, but they breathed a sigh of relief after their better-than-expected showing.
SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D-New York): A victory and a vindication for Democrats, our agenda and for the America — and for the American people.
JOE BIDEN (President of the United States): I’m not surprised by the turnout. I’m incredibly pleased.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Here’s how Republican’s Senate campaign chief described the outcome.
SENATOR RICK SCOTT (R-Florida): Here’s what happened to us. Election Day, our voters didn’t show up.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What do the results mean for Washington and the rest of the country for the next few years?
We will hear from a senior adviser to President Biden and key members in Congress from both parties.
It’s all just ahead on Face the Nation.
Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation.
We begin this morning with a CBS News projection. Democrats will keep their thin Senate majority for two more years, after Senator Catherine Cortez Masto’s narrow win over Adam Laxalt in Nevada last night. It was Democrats’ second victory this weekend, following Senator Mark Kelly’s projected win over Blake Masters out in Arizona.
But we are still awaiting results in key House races on the West Coast that will determine the shape of Congress. CBS News estimates that Republicans maintain an edge in clinching control of the House of Representatives. But Democrats still have a shot at the majority. President Biden called it perilously close.
At this hour, CBS estimates the GOP will win at least 214 seats and Democrats 210, but a majority requires 218 seats, and neither party will reach that number until a handful of closely contested districts finish counting.
CBS News senior national correspondent Mark Strassmann has more from Atlanta.
MARK STRASSMANN (voice-over): For days to come, many states will still tally ballots. But the biggest midterm winter is already clear: democracy. It held, without mobs in the streets, without violence, despite all the election denialism out there.
KARI LAKE (R-Arizona Gubernatorial Candidate): Are you ready to take this state back?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MARK STRASSMANN: Arizona’s gubernatorial race between Republican Kari Lake and Democrat Katie Hobbs could still go either way. Lake, a Trump protege, accuses elections officials of slow-rolling returns.
Reality check: No state counts all ballots by midnight Election Day.
BILL GATES (R-Maricopa County, Arizona, Supervisor): We’re not doing anything wrong at all. And that someone from here would suggest that we are doing something wrong, that’s frustrating.
MARK STRASSMANN: On the same ballot in Arizona, Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters has yet to concede. He tweeted: “Voters decide, not the media. Let’s count the votes.”
And although nearly 60 percent of GOP election deniers are projected to win their races this year, none were top election officials in critical battleground states.
Democratic candidates nationwide defied expectations, despite Republicans beating them up on inflation and the relentless GOP drive to yoke them to an unpopular president.
But another worry drove many voters.
WOMAN: Abortion, you know, just the right to have autonomy over one’s body.
MARK STRASSMANN: And take John Fetterman’s narrow win as Pennsylvania’s next senator, flipping a key swing state seat to Democrats.
JOHN FETTERMAN (D-Pennsylvania Senator-Elect): I never expected that we were going to turn these red counties blue.
MARK STRASSMANN: In rejecting Republican Mehmet Oz, Pennsylvania voters ranked abortion as their number one issue. Oz also had the Trump seal of endorsement.
Among disappointed Republicans, Trump’s impact on races has led to a finger-pointing election postmortem, complaints about unelectable candidates with extreme positions.
SENATOR PAT TOOMEY (R-Pennsylvania): If fealty to Donald Trump is the primary criteria for selecting candidates, we’re probably not going to do really well.
MARK STRASSMANN: Focus on the Senate now shifts to Georgia’s run-off next month, Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker squaring off December 6.
Democrats want a win here to build a stronger majority and create leverage for Senate leaders — Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mark Strassmann, thank you.
We turn now to CBS News elections and surveys director Anthony Salvanto for more on the trends that influenced the midterm election results.
Anthony, I know you haven’t slept…
ANTHONY SALVANTO: Nope.
MARGARET BRENNAN: … at all.
And you’re still tabulating here. But, big picture, Democrats defied history. How did they do it?
ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, this was a turnout story, first and foremost, in my mind, and it was sort of as we expected.
The people — our viewers may remember, a couple of weeks ago, when we were talking about the effect that turnout could have, and how Republicans were on path to a narrow majority, but that the House could become even if younger people especially turned out in force.
And what happened, they did. Their numbers started approaching the 2018 record levels. There was a particular group subset we called the young and restless that we were watching. And not only did they turn out, but they even shifted a little bit more Democratic, almost two-thirds of them voting for Democrats. So that certainly helped the Democrats in a lot of states, a lot of districts.
But the other thing it did was it offset, in a relative way, the impact of the MAGA Republicans, we would call them, the Trump true believers. And they certainly turned out and had impact, but not as much in that relative way, again, because the Democrats and the younger people had turned out.
MARGARET BRENNAN: At this hour, Republicans still hold an edge in gaining control of the House. It’s a slimmer majority, if they get it. What broke in their favor?
ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, let me start with another group that you and I talked about throughout this campaign, and that was the pressure parents.
These were folks who said that the COVID pandemic had been stressful, stressful on their kids. Also, their finances were under stress. Well, they actually voted narrowly Republican by three points, really reflective of the way the country overall did.
And then the other part of that I should mention are the restoring Roe voters. These were women for whom abortion and abortion rights were a priority in their voting.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And that momentum had slowed.
ANTHONY SALVANTO: That momentum did slow during the campaign. And then it seemed to come back, because we saw them move in the end, when we did our Election Day polling, move even more for the Democrats, going from eight in 10 to nine in 10 voting for Democrats, which suggests that the Democrats’ messaging there in the closing, that that definitely helped the Democrats as well.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What do we watch for next?
ANTHONY SALVANTO: OK, there’s a handful of congressional districts that are going to be the sort of center of political universe. We’re all going to watch out West in the Central Valley, California, Southern California especially.
And we’re probably going to have to go district by district until somebody gets to 218. Going to be a couple of days, maybe a couple of weeks. This is typical. These places, I should say, often count their ballots over days and weeks. But that’s we’re watching.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Anthony Salvanto, get your coffee going.
ANTHONY SALVANTO: Indeed.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you.
We go now to Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton, who was a regular on the 2022 campaign trail boosting GOP candidates. He’s out with a new book called “Only the Strong,” and he joins us this morning from McLean, Virginia.
Good morning to you, Senator.
And on this Veterans Day weekend, I do want to thank you for your past military service.
SENATOR TOM COTTON (R-Arkansas): Well, thank you, Margaret. That’s kind of you.
And thanks to all our veterans for their service in all of our nation’s wars.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Let me get to the story of the moment.
Democrats faced historic headwinds. Eight out of 10 Americans said they felt it was out of control. Republicans had issues like economy and crime really break in their favor. President Biden has a low approval rating.
How did Republicans end up with this complete disappointment?
SENATOR TOM COTTON: Well, Margaret, I wouldn’t say it was a complete disappointment.
On the one hand, we had strong Republican leaders running on positive records of accomplishments who won very big victories, if you look at governors like Ron DeSantis in Florida, Brian Kemp in Georgia, Mike DeWine in Ohio, Kim Reynolds in Iowa, Greg Abbott in Texas. We had senators with the same victories, like Marco Rubio in Florida and Tim Scott in South Carolina, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin.
But, on the other hand, obviously, we hoped that we would have won more seats. I think the lessons in our victories can be applied to some places where we came up a little bit short. We need to focus on serious substantive accomplishments and issues like crime, like our wide-open border, like addressing runaway inflation.
Even in places where we came up a little bit short, like Lee Zeldin’s race for governor in New York, he performed very well, compared to Republicans in recent elections, and he probably helped save the House of Representatives by bringing four new Republican congressmen-elect across the finish line in New York.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But…
SENATOR TOM COTTON: So, I think we have lessons in the places we had victories…
MARGARET BRENNAN: Sure.
SENATOR TOM COTTON: … that we can apply to places where we were disappointed.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Sure, but you lost the ball game in the Senate.
Karl Rove blamed candidate quality, and specifically put the blame on former President Trump. He said: “Mr. Trump turned what should have been a referendum on Mr. Biden’s terrible record into a choice between himself and the current president. As in 2020, lots of voters chose Mr. Biden.”
Should Mr. Trump remain the leader of the Republican Party?
SENATOR TOM COTTON: Well, Margaret, when the party — when any party is out of power, as Republicans are now, we don’t have a single leader.
The former president is obviously very popular with many of our voters.
MARGARET BRENNAN: He’s the center of gravity.
SENATOR TOM COTTON: But we also have important other leaders as well, like some of those victors I just mentioned earlier, like Brian Kemp in Georgia, Ron DeSantis in Florida.
Last year, you had Glen Youngkin have a great victory in a bluish democratic state like Virginia. I hope to remain a leader in the United States Senate as well, in addition to people like some of those I just mentioned who were reelected, like Tim Scott.
So, when you’re in opposition, you don’t have a single leader. That won’t be the case until we’re through the ’24 — ’24 nominating season, and we have — and we have a new nominee.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You said you’re not going to run for president in 2024.
The former president says he intends to announce he’s running on Tuesday. Should he be the automatic nominee, or should he face a primary?
SENATOR TOM COTTON: Well, Margaret, since I opted against being a candidate in 2024, I — I don’t plan to be a pundit or a strategist in 2024. I will say that…
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you just throw out a whole bunch of names of guys who might be running for president, Senator.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you endorsing them?
SENATOR TOM COTTON: And I — and I know almost — I know almost all of them personally. And I respect their accomplishments, not just their big victories on Tuesday, or last year in Glenn’s case, but also their accomplishments in office.
But, you know, I know everyone already wants to focus on 2024. I just want to remind everyone that we’re still in the middle of the 2022 midterm, because we’re in overtime in Georgia.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
SENATOR TOM COTTON: And the most important thing we can do is elect Herschel Walker to make sure that we can keep the pressure on Democrats in the Senate not to veer far to the left, as they have over the last two years.
That’s where I think everyone should remain focused for these next three weeks.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Should leadership elections in the Senate be delayed until December, and should Mitch McConnell remain as Republican leader in the Senate?
SENATOR TOM COTTON: Well, I don’t see why we would delay the election, since all five or six of our leadership elections are uncontested.
You know, the great wrestling champion Ric Flair used to say, to be the man, you got to beat the man. And, so far, no one’s had the nerve to step forward and challenge Senator McConnell. So, I support Senator McConnell. I support the other slate of candidates for our leadership elections. I think it’s better that we move forward with these elections, so we can focus, again, on the Georgia run-off.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right.
I want to ask you as well about what will be a consequential meeting tomorrow between President Biden and President Xi Jinping of China, their first to face — face-to-face of the Biden presidency.
Mr. Biden says he wants to talk through red lines to understand critical interests. Can the U.S. avoid conflict with China at this point?
SENATOR TOM COTTON: We want to avoid conflict with China most certainly in the military sense. I don’t think we can avoid conflict and tension in terms of diplomatic and economic and political competition. I would urge the president to be very firm in drawing those red lines.
We don’t want to see a repeat of what happened last summer in Russia, when Vladimir Putin walked away from their summit in Europe tempted to go for the jugular in Ukraine, especially a month later after the collapse in Afghanistan, or a replay of something I write about in my new book, “Only the Strong,” of the disastrous Vienna summit in 1961 between John Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, which encouraged Russian leaders to rampage all around the world for the next year.
So I hope the president is very clear in drawing red lines, for instance, saying that the recent rule against China using American semiconductor technology is only the first step. I hope he’s very clear about Taiwan, that we will continue to arm Taiwan so it can defend itself, and, if China goes for the jugular in Taiwan, then we will come to their aid.
That’s the simplest way to avoid military conflict, is to be clear and firm up front.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But what would you recommend in terms of China not going for the jugular, but a slow strangulation to take over Taiwan, which I know you know is one of the scenarios national security officials are concerned about?
SENATOR TOM COTTON: Well, the simplest thing we can do for Taiwan is what we should have started doing for Ukraine before Russia invaded Ukraine, is to provide them with the weaponry that they need to stop an invasion.
It’s urgent that we do so now, because, unlike Ukraine, Taiwan is an island, which means China could blockade it, and we might not be able to resupply them once China might start military conflict.
So, it’s urgent that we accelerate arms sales to Taiwan, the kind of anti- ship, anti-aircraft missiles and sea mines that they need to fend off a potential evasion from the communist Chinese.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
With China, it’s a hard problem set because, as you know, our economies are so interlinked; iPhones are made in China. We learned during the pandemic how dependent we are on the supply chain. They own an enormous amount of us debt.
You’re arguing to separate the two economies, but people like Hank Paulson of the Bush administration have said that’ll end up with a less stable world with really dangerous economic forces here. How do you possibly do that?
SENATOR TOM COTTON: Well, Margaret, as I write in “Only the Strong,” it was a bad mistake by leaders in both parties going back 30 years to allow China to get itself so entangled in the United States and to allow us to become so economically dependent in so many ways, whether it’s things like high-tech electronic equipment or low-tech basic pharmaceutical ingredients or medical equipment.
What I say in “Only the Strong” is that we should try to decouple in a strategic sense, so we don’t harm our own people, but we’re no longer dependent on those critical sectors that we depend on to keep ourselves safe — safe, healthy and prosperous.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
SENATOR TOM COTTON: It’s one thing if Americans buy, say, children’s toys or plastic Christmas trees from China. It’s another thing if China has the market cornered on things like basic pharmaceutical ingredients or the rare earth elements that are so vital to all modern electronics.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. Well, we will watch.
SENATOR TOM COTTON: We have to do so in a smart way, but we have to be aggressive and quick about it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll watch to see if there’s congressional action on any of that.
Senator, thank you for your time today.
And I’m joined now in studio by Maryland Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin, who also serves on the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Democrats still have a shot here, although Republicans have the edge in taking the House. What do Americans need to be prepared for what the next two years looks like?
REPRESENTATIVE JAMIE RASKIN (D-Maryland): Well, first of all, don’t count us out, the way we were counted out from the very beginning in this election.
They were saying the Republicans were going to pick up 40, 50, 60 seats But the party of democracy and freedom and progress for the people held. And so we’ve had a very impressive election. And we’re going to continue to fight for social progress. And we’re going to fight for the political rights of the people, which means against gerrymandering, against voter suppression tactics, against manipulative use of the filibuster and the Electoral College to thwart the will of the majority.
So, we’re going to continue to fight for a strong democracy program.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes, it’s going to be hard to legislate though, any way we look at it.
I want to ask you about what you’re working on with the January 6 Committee. Former President Trump’s basically going to defy the subpoena you issued. He’s planning to announce he’s running for the presidency on Tuesday.
Is the prime achievement of the January 6 Committee simply going to be this written report? You’re not appearing to stop him from running.
REPRESENTATIVE JAMIE RASKIN: Well, in a democracy, the people have the right to the truth.
And what we withstood was a systematic assault on democratic institutions and an attempt to overthrow a presidential election. So we have set forth the truth in a series of hearings. And we’re going to set forth the truth in our final report, along with a set of legislative recommendations about what we need to do to fortify American democracy against coups, insurrections, electoral sabotage, and political violence, with domestic violent extremist groups involved.
So, we’re going to put all of that out there. Look, when — when I was over in the Senate with the impeachment team, I told the Republicans there that this was our opportunity to deal with the problem of Donald Trump, who had committed high crimes and misdemeanors against the people of the United States. And they needed to act on behalf of the country and the Constitution, but, if they didn’t, he would become their problem.
And, at this point, Donald Trump is the problem of the Republican Party, and he may destroy their party.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Can you get an Electoral Count Act passed in this lame- duck session?
REPRESENTATIVE JAMIE RASKIN: I think we can.
That’s the bare minimum of what we need to do. It’s necessary. It’s not remotely sufficient to the task because what we saw in — in 2021 and earlier, in 2020, was a systematic assault on the right to vote and an attempt to steal a presidential election by Donald Trump, an attempt to overthrow the constitutional order.
So, I think we can reform the Electoral Count Act, passing the legislation that Zoe Lofgren and Liz Cheney have proposed. But that’s just one small part of what needs to be done…
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
REPRESENTATIVE JAMIE RASKIN: … needs to be done to protect American constitutional democracy.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Election deniers didn’t prevail in the key battleground, but CBS tallied it, and at least 155 House Republicans in the new Congress have raised unfounded doubts about the validity or integrity of the 2020 election.
These are going to be your colleagues that you will be working with. What change is that going to affect in the working?
REPRESENTATIVE JAMIE RASKIN: Well, that’s a statement about the political contamination of the GOP by Donald Trump.
And, again, Kevin McCarthy and other leaders within the Republican Party are now required to make a decision about whether they’re going to try to rid themselves of Donald Trump and his toxic influence on the party.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But these 155 House Republicans are his constituency. Kevin McCarthy, if he wants to be leader, will need to consider the views of everyone.
REPRESENTATIVE JAMIE RASKIN: Yes.
Well, it’s a real problem for Kevin McCarthy now, because there are certain pro-Trumpists within his House caucus who refuse to accept that he’s really with Trump, and they want to get rid of McCarthy. And some of them, they have names very early in the alphabet, like Biggs. And they might just vote for Trump when they, you know, take the roll call for speaker.
So we know that the — the hard-right Freedom Caucus people are in search of another candidate. And one potential candidate whose name has been floated is Donald Trump himself, because the speaker of the House does not have to be a member of the House. And they are talking about putting Trump right there.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s not a real option, though.
REPRESENTATIVE JAMIE RASKIN: Well, they talk about it repeatedly.
And if Trump decided he wanted to do it, it would pose a profound problem for their party, because they refused to do the right thing early on. I mean, today, it seems like the spell has been broken. It’s begun to dissolve. We don’t have Republicans around the country claiming that they really won when it’s been certified that they lost their elections.
And yet there is still this big lie dogma, which, as you say, has been embraced by 150 members within their caucus. And so that is going to create profound cognitive and political dissonance within the GOP. Is it really Trump’s party? Or does it stand for something else?
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
REPRESENTATIVE JAMIE RASKIN: And Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are going to force that question. They’re going to force the Republicans to choose.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you urge President Biden and the White House to comply with all these House Republican investigations that have been promised?
REPRESENTATIVE JAMIE RASKIN: Well, the — obviously, everybody’s got to comply with the law, such as the law is.
You know. We would hope that they would feel chastened by the voters of America, who dealt them an historic repudiation. I mean, they were talking about picking up 40 or 50 or 60 seats. We — the Democrats may indeed win the House, the way, yesterday, we won the Senate.
So it is a repudiation of that kind of right-wing big lie, election- denying, character assassination politics that Donald Trump brought right to the heart of the Republican Party.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman, thank you for being here and joining us today.
We’ll be right back in a moment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: If you can’t watch the full Face the Nation, you can set your DVR, or we’re available on demand, and you can watch us through our CBS or Paramount+ app.
We’re also replayed on our CBS News Streaming Network throughout the day on Sundays.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We will be right back with President Biden’s senior adviser, Anita Dunn.
Stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.
We turn now to Anita Dunn. She’s a senior adviser to President Biden and she joins us this morning from Chevy Chase, Maryland.
Good morning to you.
I assume it was a late night for you given that Democrats have defied expectations. You still will have only a thin majority in the Senate. Republicans still have a shot at gaining the House. What becomes possible now?
ANITA DUNN (Senior Adviser to President Biden): You know, the precedent and the Democrats accomplished a huge amount with a 50-50 Senate and an extremely narrow House majority in the first two years of President Biden’s term. So, you know, the president’s been clear, as he was in his press conference this week, Margaret, which is, he’s going to reach out his hand to work with the Republicans. And the question is whether they will reach out their hand to his. But given these narrow majorities, you know, obviously the Senate, we — Democrats will control. The House is still up in the air. Voters in this country are going to expect their leaders to work together.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The president has said he wants to take it slow in terms of defining priorities over the next few weeks in this lame duck session. What’s the business you need to get done?
ANITA DUNN: Well, Margaret, as you know, we have to keep the government open and funded. That is obviously priority number one. Then — and it’s going to take a little while still for lame duck priorities to really be set given the uncertainty about the outcomes of the elections still. I don’t think anybody would have predicted that we would still not know who would control the United States House of Representatives the following Sunday.
But other lame duck priorities will certainly include additional funding for Ukraine, which has been, and the president has said, he hopes will continue to be a bipartisan issue in the United States Congress. You know, obviously, emergency funding for the natural disasters that Florida and Puerto Rico suffered earlier this year. And additional priorities for the administration as well. But keep the government open and running is the number one priority.
MARGARET BRENNAN: It looks like Democrats owe a big part of their better than expected performance to young voters who turned out. About 26 million Americans are now stuck in limbo because they’ve been promised student debt relief. Now it’s caught up in the courts. If you lose in court, I know you’re waiting for that, will this just be a broken promise?
ANITA DUNN: So, Margaret, we believe we’re going to prevail in court because the arguments that — and the law are on the administration’s side. And make no mistake about it, the administration — you know, President Biden made this commitment to people in America. It’s not just young people. It’s also people of every age. We’ve gotten letters at the White House from people who have retired, who are talking about what a difference loan forgiveness is going to make. And we’re not going to give up and we’re not going to back down.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But is there a plan b if the court strikes it down?
ANITA DUNN: We believe we’re going to prevail in court. And, at that point, we will swiftly move to make sure that the over 26 million people at this point who have — whose information this administration has, then we’ll move swiftly for loan forgiveness.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Voters in key states, like Pennsylvania, rated abortion access as a top concern for them. But if Republicans take the House, what is it that the president can actually do here? And is there room for compromise on restrictions with some of the Republicans who have said they’re open to securing abortion access?
ANITA DUNN: So, the president has been very clear, he believes Congress needs to codify Roe versus wade so that it is the national law of the land. And he has said, if Democrats control the House and the Senate, that he will send a bill to codify this nationally.
He will continue to work, as our administration has, since this ruling came down, to make sure that the travel of women who want to go to states where abortion is legal is not impeded, that people are able to get reproductive health care, that women who have other medical issues aren’t denied care, which is happening, Margaret. And, at the end of the day, you know, the president said when this ruling came down it was going to be a political issue that voters needed to go to the polls and make their voices heard.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
ANITA DUNN: And there’s a huge amount of evidence that’s exactly what happened. So, the real question is whether the Republicans will listen to those voices.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we’ll see if there’s any compromise there.
On — what happens if the Republicans do get this slim majority? It ups the chances of all of these investigations that Kevin McCarthy has promised are coming. Would you say today that the White House will comply with them? The Trump administration was heavily criticized for defying Congress’ request for appearance and documents. Will the Biden White House comply?
ANITA DUNN: You know, Margaret, many of the Republicans who have been talking about these investigations, and even potential impeachment, have made no secret of the fact that they have a political agenda that they are trying to advance through these. Obviously, the White House has, and will continue, to apply with fair and legitimate oversight because we are a White House that respects norms and the rule of law.
But I think that, you know, the American people didn’t vote for Congress being used to conduct political vendettas over the next two years they voted for.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I know we’re still counting votes from this election. But as you know, former President Trump plans to announce he’s running in 2024 this Tuesday. You’ve already been involved, as you said, just being prudent, in planning for President Biden to also run. Does the Trump announcement change any part of your planning or calculus?
ANITA DUNN: You know, the president has made it clear he intends to run. And that he will make a formal decision later this year or early next year. You don’t run for president because of what the other side is doing or what another candidate may be doing. The president will run because he feels that he is the best person to continue the progress that we have made in this country.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll be watching and listening.
Anita Dunn, thank you for your time this morning.
We’ll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: For some analysis on the election and its impact, we are joined now by a panel of political pros. Ashley Etienne, a CBS political contributor and a former aide to Vice President Harris and Speaker Pelosi, Joel Payne is a Democratic strategist and also a CBS political contributor, Leslie Sanchez is a Republican strategist and also part of the team here at CBS, and Brendan Buck is a former top aide to Speakers Paul Ryan and John Boehner.
It’s good to have you all here. And I know you’re going to explain everything that happened.
But, Brendan, I want to start with you.
We were just hearing about how slim the majorities could be if the GOP does pull off this win in the House. Conservative Republicans from within the Freedom Caucus made your last two boss’ lives very, very difficult.
What is it that Kevin McCarthy would face if he steps into leadership of the Republican Party in the House?
BRENDAN BUCK (Republican Strategist): Yes, it’s a really difficult moment. You know, when we had trouble sometimes keeping everybody in line, we had a pretty healthy majority. Sometimes 10, 15, 30 seats. This is a potential situation where you could have two seats to play with. And that’s almost impossible.
Being Republican speaker of the house is almost impossible to begin with. With a two-seat majority, that means every member has leverage over the speaker of the house. That’s what they’re trying to assert. If you want to be speaker, you have to do things the way I want things done. And that makes a weak speaker. Each one doesn’t care about leadership. They get a lot of power – a rank and file Republican gets a lot of their power by attacking leadership. And it plays to the base and the grassroots.
So, we’re in this — this cycle where they’re just going to keep attacking each other. They’re going to benefit. All it’s going to do is hurt the speaker. And I — ultimately, I don’t know that much is going to get done legislatively. But these oversight investigations are still going to be going forward. All you need is one more seat. So, I still think it’s going to be a pretty active, busy House.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, Ashley, to that point, you know, one Democratic strategist said to me, because of what Brendan described, it’s going to be a knife fight for two years. And you don’t put someone untested in the leadership role on the Democratic side. That sounded to me like Speaker Pelosi, at 82 years old, is staying in Congress.
ASHLEY ETIENNE: Well, I’ll just say this, we — take a step back. I was just thinking how to describe —
MARGARET BRENNAN: Because you don’t want to say if she’s staying or not.
ASHLEY ETIENNE: No, no, no, I do. I’m happy to get into it. But I was just – you know, as a Democrat I just want to sort of absorb this moment that we’re currently in. You know, I was thinking, I’m not a linguist, but, like, there’s got to be something worse than a shellacking that happened on Tuesday.
You know, I think that the speaker is in the power position. I mean, I’ve always known the speaker to be in a power position. But after the results, we – we overperformed in the election. There was no wave. This really solidifies her legacy as the most accomplished speaker in American history, in my opinion. And I think there’s no doubt about that.
But what, you know, when she — she recently gave an interview, and she basically said this morning, listen, we’re still in this fight. Let’s not make any assumptions. Let’s hold off on it. I’m always willing to bet on the speaker. But there’s two things I know about her. One, she’s going to make her decision on her own terms and, two, she’s going to keep us all guessing.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And on her own terms after this horrendous attack on her husband recently.
ASHLEY ETIENNE: Oh, absolutely, yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Which says a lot.
Joel, we were talking with Senator Cotton about the other question of leadership over in the Senate, where Democrats have this razor-thin majority. What is going on, from your understanding, within the ranks — and I want Leslie to jump in, too — of leadership on the Senate side.
JOEL PAYNE: Well, I think it’s pretty stable on the Senate side. If you’re a Democrat, you’ve got to feel really good about Chuck Schumer delivering on that Democratic agenda, particularly in the last kind of quarter of the last Congress. You’ve got someone like Gary Peters, who ran the Democratic campaign machine to a lot of aplomb. You’ve got a really strong, experienced leadership core.
So I actually think that, you know, for maybe, gosh, Ashley, we’ve got relative peace, peace and prosperity in the Democratic leadership ranks of the Senate, which I think is —
ASHLEY ETIENNE: And in the House, by the way.
JOEL PAYNE: And – and in the House, by the way. She knows I’m a Senate guy. But, yes, I actually think it’s a time of a lot of peace. And, by the way, Chuck Schumer probably among the winners when you look at what happened this week, leaning into that kind of Democratic agenda. By the way, Biden Democrats did well. And there’s a lot of Biden Democrats in that Senate caucus.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But the best he can get done, if Republicans take the House, is to confirm some judicial nominees. Is that it for the next two years?
JOEL PAYNE: That’s interesting because I’ve – because I’ve been talking to some folks, some high-ranking Democrats, and they’ll tell you, we’re going to double down on prescription drugs, we’re going to go after insulin pricing, we’re going to try to codify Roe, we’re going to keep pursuing anti-inflationary measures.
MARGARET BRENNAN: They don’t have the votes.
JOEL PAYNE: Well, that’s why that race in Georgia becomes really important because in a era where Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema exist, and also when you have Dianne Feinstein in your caucus, who is a little older, it helps to have that extra insurance of another vote.
LESLIE SANCHEZ: I think the only assurance coming out of that is going to be judicial appointments because everything else is going to be really difficult, especially if you’re talking about an economic agenda and getting Republicans to come on board. And, Margaret, I’m just going to jump in since I started on this part.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Please.
LESLIE SANCHEZ: I want to say about Tuesday, Republicans were expecting a revolution. They got a revelation. And the revelation is a lot about the impact of women voters in this area and how they are activated.
We know from 2018 and 2020 that they’re — with a sense of urgency, you see women run, donate, you know, protest, and get engaged. Come the Dobbs decisions – the Supreme Court Dobbs decision in June, it did have that impact that a lot of Republicans are not talking about in areas that matter, whether it was a ballot initiative or something you had like Michigan or a suburban area like Philadelphia and Pennsylvania.
And the second part of that, we did see positive sides with women and the Republican Party when it came to strong governance, or when governors who looked like they were really holding the line, whether they were male or female, they were rewarded by those suburban white women and also working- class Latino and white women.
So, I think there’s a big takeaway that gets lost in this conversation, and that will be a part of the agenda moving forward.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, let’s talk about that and the governor’s mansions.
So, in addition to Florida’s governor, DeSantis, other Republican governors who signed abortion restrictions into law also won re-election. I’m thinking of Ohio’s DeWine, Brian Kemp, Georgia, Greg Abbott in Texas. They all won by significant margins. Then you look at those who won with healthy backing from women, DeSantis, Abbott, Sununu, DeWine. These Republicans won women.
LESLIE SANCHEZ: Absolutely.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And it wasn’t about abortion.
LESLIE SANCHEZ: No.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What was it about?
LESLIE SANCHEZ: The economic issue overall. I mean the economic – so single-issue voters, people that were voting on abortion, in those critical swing areas, they made the difference. But if you back up, if you take an aggregate view of a state like Florida, for example, when it was important to get people back to work, you have a lot of working class families who didn’t have the luxury of working from home, that realized their small businesses need to keep moving and tourism was a big part of Florida’s industry. Getting that going helped — he was rewarded dramatically. And you have a lot of small business owners that are women who cared about those types of issue.
So, that’s a very good model. But if it’s an extreme model, I would say, on one side or the other, is when you get a lot — mostly white, college educated women who come out against those extremes. And, in many cases, the extreme can be a Donald Trump. He – he activates women to respond. The counterresponse is visceral one way or the other.
And I’ve been speaking to some MAGA supporters, some loyalists on his side, and they say, well, they still love the former president. The thrill is gone. They are tired of the big ego and the name calling and I think it’s a caution for the Republican Party.
ASHLEY ETIENNE: Yes, I was just going to say, Leslie, I think that’s the top takeaway. The question that remains is, what — when are Republicans going to learn the lesson? The MAGA movement has been a loser since day one. You’ve lost three cycles now in a big way. You know, there’s calls inside and outside the party for Republicans to take back their party. Rupert Murdoch and all his properties are sort of abandoning the president.
And so, for me, it’s – it’s – it’s, you know, the – the party, the Republican Party is at a crossroads now. The question is, what are you going to do? And I think the challenge for them and the problem is, you can’t win with a MAGA movement, but you can’t walk away from them. As you said earlier, Margaret, there’s 150 of them that are in the House caucus and then the president — and former president is suggesting that he’s going to run again. He’s omnipresent in this whole debate.
So, that’s really the challenge. And I think in the next week it’s going to be interesting to see if the MAGA movement sort of loosen its grip on the GOP going forward. I mean it’s a big, big week for Republicans coming up in terms of their organizing. But that’s the real question, when are you going to learn the lessons?
BRENDAN BUCK: Yes, and I don’t know that we will. I mean how many times have we been given the opportunity to learn the lesson after – after January 6th. And we’ve had leaders say it’s time to turn the page. Mitch McConnell was on the Senate floor, Kevin McCarthy was on the Senate floor saying it’s time to move on.
ASHLEY ETIENNE: Sure. Yes.
BRENDAN BUCK: But every time that runs into voters. And voters aren’t ready to move on. And so we could have another moment where all the people in Washington say we don’t — we want somebody else, but if voters don’t, they’re probably going to backtrack very quickly.
I thought your interview with Tom Cotton was fascinating earlier. He was saying, as much as all of us could hear, he wants somebody else to be the nominee. He’s name-dropping other people that he wants to be the nominee, but he wouldn’t say it’s time to move on for Trump.
ASHLEY ETIENNE: Sure.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
BRENDAN BUCK: Because they can’t do that. Because you’re going to lose base Republican voters.
We have an example of this in the Senate race. Joe O’Dea, who is running in Colorado, was running a really great race, everybody thought, and he was doing it a little different than usual. He was saying, I’m not a Trump Republican. An was trying to say, like, I’m, you know, appealing to a middle. He pissed off Donald Trump. Donald Trump attacked him and he lost significantly because Trump voters ran away from him.
MARGARET BRENNAN: A Trump adviser I asked who — because they are planning this announcement on Tuesday for the former president to announce his candidacy. I asked about, don’t you need to show unity with the party since you have this Senate race in Georgia? And the answer was, it’s unity with the base that we are showing. So, is he forcing a question?
JOEL PAYNE: I just think that’s a mistake. And also like — look, I love all this, you know, deep introspection of the Republican Party but I do think you should think about Democrats here, particularly President Biden.
So, you know, talking to folks who are pretty familiar with the president’s thinking —
MARGARET BRENNAN: Because you’re saying they didn’t lose, you won.
JOEL PAYNE: That’s what I’m saying. If you talk to people who are familiar with the president’s thinking they will —
MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re bringing that curve, though, you know that.
JOEL PAYNE: I am. They will tell you that the Biden coalition is pretty durable. It showed up, obviously, in 2020. It looks like it showed up mostly here, college educated, young voters, Latinos, particularly in some of those areas where we thought they wouldn’t show up, African Americans, independents being competitive with them. That coalition showed up in ’20, showed up in ’22 and I think they think it could show up in ’24.
Also, candidate quality matters. Some of the folks that you referenced, those are some of your better Republican candidates.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
JOEL PAYNE: The reason why Republicans struggled, I would say, is because the candidate quality imbalance was way in the favor of Democrats.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Most of those candidates endorsed by the former president.
LESLIE SANCHEZ: And it looked — I was going to say, on the fundamentals, people would say that the Trump coalition very much, to this point, is going to show up, that it is very strong. What I’m saying is different. 2016 it was refreshing to have someone elect Donald Trump and now it is more like fatigue post-pandemic. And these are their words, not mine. That’s why I think the cautionary wind is not (ph) Trump.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But pick up, would you, on what Joel was talking about with Hispanic voters because I know you’ve been looking at this very carefully in Texas and you think Democrats shouldn’t bank on that.
LESLIE SANCHEZ: Absolutely not because what we saw is there is a transformation that’s happening with working class Latino families. They’re not necessarily on the education line but on the income line. If they’re moving out to those exerbs (ph), those suburban areas, those rural areas, in red precincts, they are breaking the way of Republicans increasingly. Married families, very traditional in that sense that feel they’re not — they may still self-identify as a Democrat but they feel the party has left them. That’s an opportunity and Republicans closed that gap by 50 percent this last cycle.
JOEL PAYNE: I agree with that. Republicans do have an opportunity there. And I think, by the way, both sides would be — they would be wise to not overcorrect to either of their kind of far bases. I think there is a — an agenda, the Biden agenda, that works, that’s proven to work. I think you’ll see a lot of Democrats who are maybe late adopters who will be a little bit more eager to jump on that Biden agenda. And I actually think there’s probably a muted Biden coalition out there that doesn’t get represented in the public opinion polling, in a lot of the public discussion that, again, I think it does show up pretty reliably.
ASHLEY ETIENNE: But, Joel, let’s talk about what actually did work for the Republicans. Tom Cotton mentioned Kemp and DeSantis. Both of those two candidates and governors ran away from Trump and ran away from the MAGA movement. So as – so I love that we’re having this debate –
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
ASHLEY ETIENNE: But it seems divorce of the reality that there was not a wave and that there doesn’t need to be some corrections on the part of the – of the Republicans in that the playbook has been laid out. And I think DeSantis and Kemp have laid it out.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Ashley, let me ask you about 2024, the Democrats’ playbook.
ASHLEY ETIENNE: Yes. It feels good.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Vice President Harris was out there talking a lot about reproductive health.
ASHLEY ETIENNE: Yes, I think –
MARGARET BRENNAN: Health. Did she deserve any credit for this? Because we don’t talk about her much in the realm of 2024.
ASHLEY ETIENNE: Yes, she actually – I mean, well, a, I will start by saying, I expect that the president will run in 2024 and I think he should. I mean he’s got an incredible record. He’s defied all expectation, all odds. You know, he’s probably the most underestimated politician in recent history.
But in terms of the vice president, she did yeoman’s work in — I think the number’s like 36 states, talking about abortion and women’s rights and reproductive rights and democracy. So, she had a really big impact on the ground that doesn’t really bubble up to Washington, but really drove people out and drove local — local stories and, you know, energy on the ground.
So, I just expect the president will run, and he should.
MARGARET BRENNAN: With the vice president on the ticket?
ASHLEY ETIENNE: Oh, absolutely.
MARGARET BRENNAN: (INAUDIBLE).
ASHLEY ETIENNE: Yes, of course.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Just have to ask. We’re talking a lot about 2024 since it starts really right now, frankly.
ASHLEY ETIENNE: Definitely.
MARGARET BRENNAN: It gets underway.
Just, very quickly, before we go, Joel, closing thought from you on what clinched it in Pennsylvania.
JOEL PAYNE: Well, what clinched it in Pennsylvania looks like was abortion. If you look at the exit polling, abortion outperformed inflation. Doesn’t mean inflation is not important but it does mean that Democrats, as Anthony referred to earlier in the show, did hit a chord with abortion that really resonated with voters.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, good to have all of you here in person no talk.
We’ll be back in a moment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: In these challenging times, we pause to reflect and thank those in the military for their service and sacrifice as we do each November.
MARGARET BRENNAN (voice over): At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, fighting in World War I stopped. The war to end all wars did not prevent a global one 20 years later. Again, and again, and again, American service men and women have continued to sacrifice. Defending against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Today, less than 10 percent of American adults are military veterans, according to the VA. Just 1 percent of adults serve on active duty. That makes it hard for most to relate to combat survivors battling traumatic stress.
Retired Army Colonel Chris Colenda (ph), who served four combat tours in Afghanistan, told me that he has lost more of his unit to suicide and substance abuse than he did to enemy fire.
MARGARET BRENNAN (on camera): How should people ask veterans about their service?
CHRIS COLENDA (Retired Army Colonel): Tell me about your service. What was the best experience you ever had? What was the most awesome thing about your service? I mean, those sort of very safe questions, very positive questions, are just easy ones that get people talking.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Simply trying to understand is one way to honor the dead and serve the living.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s it for us today. Thank you for watching.
Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I’m Margaret Brennan.