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Politics In The News: Clinic Shooting; Trump's Bully Tactics


The tragedy in Colorado, along with everything else at this moment in our history, obviously, has political implications, as well as practical ones. Here to talk about all that, as she does most Mondays, is Cokie Roberts. Good morning, Cokie.


WERTHEIMER: So as we might expect, the various candidates for president have reacted quite differently to this awful event. Is it likely to make a difference in their campaigns?

ROBERTS: Probably not because the voters know where the parties stand, both on the issue of Planned Parenthood and on the issue of guns, which, of course, does come up after one of these awful events. But Hillary Clinton, last night, did take the moment to give a very strong endorsement of Planned Parenthood at an event in New Hampshire. And she has talked a lot in this campaign about guns and gun control, and I think she's going to continue to do that. She's even suggested a gun buyback program might be a good idea. It's been a way of separating herself from Bernie Sanders, who's somewhat to the right of her on the issue of guns, and a way of appealing to women voters on both of those issues. The real question has been the Republican reaction. You just heard Steve saying what Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina had to say, basically blaming it on the left. But there was some criticism that they had - the Republicans had not spoken out on this issue - a sense that they might be holding back because of the support of attacking Planned Parenthood in their base of voters.

WERTHEIMER: The Republican candidates have also seemed fearful about addressing another issue on center stage right now - the candidacy of Donald Trump. We saw, over the weekend, a few candidates - Jeb Bush of Florida, John Kasich of Ohio - going on the attack. But by and large, the Republican field has stayed silent about Donald Trump.

ROBERTS: Yeah, absolutely. Bush did call the prospect of his presidency, quote, "scary," and said he wasn't a serious candidate but that he would support Trump over Hillary Clinton. John Kasich refused to say whether he would support Trump, saying that Trump has "criticized" - I'm quoting here - "and insulted women, Hispanics, Muslims and reporters." And he just kept saying that the Republican Party would not nominate him. But look, you know, Linda, that these candidates are fearful. Think Rick Perry, think Bobby Jindal - they were both critical of Trump and they have completely disappeared from the presidential contest. Now, they had other problems as well, but it certainly gives the rest of the field a great deal of pause in going after Trump, who seems to, you know - he does insult everyone, and they're worried he might insult them as well.

WERTHEIMER: So what do you think, though, is actually going on? Generally speaking, candidates and their supporters do not hesitate to go after the frontrunner, especially, as in this case, he has a big negative rating for voters.

ROBERTS: Yeah, absolutely, as you and I have seen over many, many years. But I think some of it really is worrying about the bully factor. That Trump is like the big playground bully who will just go after you and that they're fearful that he will go after them. And, clearly, the facts don't matter. I mean, that's something that's become very clear in the Trump candidacy. So that - you know, that whatever they say, he can just make something up. I think some are also worried about his voters and the prospect of him waging an independent campaign. But, you know, the real problem is no one else has emerged to challenge him. Cruz is up in Iowa, Christie's up in New Hampshire, and it's been like that, sort of seesawing around among the candidates. And, of course, with the campaign finance laws, super PACs can keep these candidates in the race much longer than they normally would be. So there's still a dozen or so in the race until those first votes are cast in Iowa.

WERTHEIMER: Cokie Roberts, who joins us most Mondays with her political insights. Thanks, Cokie.

ROBERTS: Thank you, Linda. 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.