On Politics With Lisa Lerer: Asked and Answered

Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.

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You asked, we answer!

Many of you responded to our call this week for questions about the midterms, 2020 and anything else on your mind. We picked a few to answer in today’s edition — and called in some friends to help.

First, Tom Nicolson wondered:

Will anyone challenge President Trump?

Tom, there’s certainly a desire in some quarters of the Republican Party to find a primary challenger to President Trump. Last month, there were reports that the conservative commentator Bill Kristol was creating a “political war machine” to take on the president, an effort that included recruiting a candidate. One of his top picks? Nikki Haley. But she made very clear in her resignation this week that she would not be running in 2020.

Some strategists took that as a confirmation of something they had already suspected: There’s little room to challenge Mr. Trump. Despite middling approval ratings, he’s kept a tight hold on his base — one that has only grown stronger since the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Of course, politics are unpredictable, particularly in this administration. But right now, it’s hard to see an electoral path for a credible Republican challenge.

John Begley posed this question on one of the biggest races of the year:

What is the likelihood that Beto will beat Cruz? Can he get out the Hispanic, minority and youth vote?

To answer this one, we called in our resident Texas Senate expert, national politics reporter Matt Flegenheimer. He said:

Beto O’Rourke started the race as a clear underdog, and he remains a clear underdog. But he’s done two things that few saw coming when the campaign began: draw enormous crowds and raise insane amounts of money. The trouble is, politicians have yet to discover a foolproof way to convert crowds and money into victory.

And while his appeal with many young and nonwhite voters is clearly strong, it might not be enough. Take Hispanic voters. In our recent Times/Siena College poll, which showed Senator Ted Cruz up by eight points overall, Mr. O’Rourke led 56 percent to 37 percent with Hispanics. A solid lead, yes, but he will probably need a bigger margin — and spectacular turnout — from such voters to have a chance.

Craig Scherfenberg asked:

Who are the writers behind Trump’s speeches? And what do they know about the historical context in which they are operating?

We threw Craig’s question to Julie Hirschfeld Davis, our intrepid White House correspondent. She told us:

The backbone of President Trump’s speeches comes from Stephen Miller, his senior adviser in the White House. Mr. Miller used to be the one who would come out at Trump campaign rallies to warm up the crowd with a red-meat introduction. He liked to pair apocalyptic language about the state of the country with over-the-top praise of Mr. Trump, leaving the audience practically baying for the candidate.

As the midterm campaign has heated up and Mr. Trump’s own re-election apparatus has taken shape, Brad Parscale, the 2020 campaign manager, has become more involved in the president’s remarks.

Do they ponder the historical context of the words they’re giving Mr. Trump to say, or the impact on the country? I would be guessing. But there is no question that Mr. Miller — like his boss — likes the kind of divisive rhetoric that outrages progressives and thrills the base.

And finally, Wendy Rosen sent us this, which is not really a question, but we wanted to address it anyhow:

Please stop using “primary” as a verb. The world is falling apart but must our language sink to such low levels?

Wendy, it can be a verb! (Editor…

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