Trump 'united the opposition and divided' GOP with emergency move: Matthew Dowd

The "This Week" Powerhouse Roundtable debates the week in politics, including the president's national emergency declaration and the 2020 election.
11:35 | 02/17/19

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Transcript for Trump 'united the opposition and divided' GOP with emergency move: Matthew Dowd
And the round table is here ready to take on the week. ABC news political analyst Matthew dowd, Molly ball, national political correspondent for "Time" magazine, chief congressional correspondent for "The Washington examiner," and the Washington bureau chief for "Vice" news. Welcome to all of you on this Sunday morning. Matthew, I'll start with you. You heard the arguments from both sides on this national emergency. So what's the political impact here? Who are the winners and losers? Well, as you listen to all this and you kept hearing, ignore all the facts and pay attention to what you might feel in this. Of course, that's where the president is on this. I think the president, you normally -- presidents if they do something in the country, they usually want to unite their party and divide the opposition. What the president just did was unite the opposition and divided his own party in the midst of it. There is a question of whether or not we should explore changing the way presidents do this, which I believe we need to do. There has been much too much movement to an imperial presidency in the country, including the war powers of the president and the decisions that have been made, and every president for the last 50 years has made more and more steps. It's a big step, and it's a political loser for the president because he hasn't defined the problem in a way Americans understand and a majority of Americans one, are opposed to the wall and two, are opposed to executive action. Many are worried about the constitutionality of this, and many have not opposed the president on anything. We have a couple of names of people who will. Will this time be different in a bigger way? It's a real question of whether it will. We have seen Republicans quietly begin to defy the president, particularly on foreign policy in the senate. There have been a number of votes taken that have gone against the president on the Saudis, on Syria and so, you know, but they haven't wanted to defy him openly, and particularly not on his signature issue. So while you do hear Republican senators publicly and privately voicing their discomfort with this mood, whether they will actually do anything, number one is in question, and number two, it's a really big moment for the party because if there is a point where president trump begins to lose his hold on the Republicans in the senate, there is really a lot of other things that could happen that could be damaging for him. The president says this isn't about the 2020 race, but it sure seems to be about the 2020 race when you are talking about campaign promises. Yes. How will he fare with his base do you believe? That's a great question. Where will we be on the wall by the time he's out there running? Can he say, look we're already building parts of the wall? $4.5 billion of the $8 billion is outside the sphere of the national emergency. It is less subjected to a rigorous court challenge that the drug interdiction money, that is harder to challenge in court. Not impossible. He can get going with some of that wall building with targeted areas along the border where there is drug smuggling happening, and he can say, look. We're building the wall. We're making progress. We're doing what the border security professionals want us to do to stop some of the migration over the border and try to cut down on 50,000 illegal immigrants a month being intercepted at the border right now. That's a pretty big number. So he can talk about that while he's campaigning even though the national emergency money we're talking about, the $3.6 billion, that will be held up in court a little more easily. And this was such a huge issue in 2016. The wall, the wall, the wall, the wall. So that does seem like it's going to carry right into the 2020 race, and this is part of it. Well, this takes that entire argument out of congress and it puts it in the courts but also in the political realm of 2020, and I disagree. I don't think this is totally a political loser for the president because while he is using some of that money you were talking about if he is able to use it, he can also say, look. The Democrats are challenging me in court. They are obstructing me. They aren't allowing me to be able to finish the wall, and so then you have the same kind of thing that genned upped his base. He continues to be able to play on that. And the fear factor which worked for him very well. Exactly, but the 2020 Democrats also get to say, look. We are trying to stop the president. They both get to use this as a political target. The problem the president has and he has had since inauguration day is the president is not appealing to enough voters in the country to win a general election in 2020. Absent some crazy thing happening obvious parties and all that. He doesn't appeal to them, and the problem with the wall is first of all, he broke the promise. He promised he was going to build the wall -- Mexico. That, yeah. If he stated in 2016, I want to build a wall and you Americans are going to pay for it, and by the way, we're going to take money from defense and put it in the wall, that wouldn't have gone over well, and the other thing people keep saying is, all his voters voted for him because of the wall. That's fundamentally not true. The reason why Donald Trump won the election in 2016 wasn't because of the wall. It was because he was not Hillary Clinton, and his campaign was primarily about, don't vote for her. Vote for me. Part of that was build the wall. When you go and talk to voters, part of that is true. There were a lot of voters out there who said, I don't want to vote for Hillary Clintons but there is a lot of voters out there and his base who said they would vote for Donald Trump no matter who the opposition is. Of course. Every president has a political base. There is a segment of the country. The question is whether it's a majority, and the wall is not a popular idea with the majority of the American public consistently in poll after poll. It gets about 40%. You can't win a two-way presidential election with 40%, but the natimergency is even more unpopular. Only about 30% support that, and that tells you that there are -- number one, there are -- a lot of people who voted for Donald Trump who don't think this national emergency is a good idea. There are even people out here who like the idea of the wall, who don't think the president should be taking this step in order to achieve it. So it is a little bit befuddling to do in order to advance a popular goal. I want to go further on 2020, and the Republicans. You just heard bill weld and what he has in mind. Is he a serious contender or does he -- is he really just trying to weaken him in the general election? Well, you made a very good point when you were doing the interview. You can weaken the general election candidate by primarying him. That's what the republty wants to avoid. They don't want him weakened by someone constantly attacking him from his own party. That's a really good point, but, you know, I don't think it's necessarily realistic that bill weld has a chance to become the nominee even though you can say, well. There are a lot of never trumpers in the Republican party. The base of the party if you look at polls is behind him. He has got very high ratings. If you look at the poll, Republicans like him as a president. They are getting behind him, so I don't see a primary challenger being very realistic right now. Let's be even more realistic.resident of the united States. It is really, really hard to beat the incumbent president of the United States in a primary especially, and even in a general to a certain extent though this president has specific characteristics that might make it a little bit easier depending on which Democrat comes up. The only thing that it does really is it would weaken the presidency, and you have to remember this president has been running for re-election since 2017. Literally he filed I believe the day after the inauguration. They have been raising money. They have raised -- last year, it was $100 million I believe, 2017 and 2018. He doesn't have that much on hand. All bill weld can really do is try to make them spend that money on each other instead of said. ING it on Democrats and I think they will still be spending it on Democrats. I think bill weld is a smart political move. There is enough Democrats in the primary that he'll get 22% of the vote. Very narrow path, but it's actually a wider path than Howard Schultz winning the presidency at this time, bill weld beating Donald Trump in this, but the main thing is he presents an argument for a lot of Republicans that defines the Republican party in a certain way that's not Donald Trump, and I think there is a lot of Republicans in the aftermath of Donald Trump that are worried about who is the Republican party. What do we fundamentally stand for and what are we going to do? I think bill weld will get in a position and have a high enough percentage of the vote that people will start pressuring Donald Trump to debate him. He'll get a high enough percentage and that would be, to me, a fundamentally interesting to debate to watch bill weld and Donald Trump one-on-one on stage. We would all watch that. I want to move to the Democrats. We have got a large field, but we also have some who aren't announced who are some pretty big names. Bernie Sanders, Joe N, Beto O'rourke. Can any of those take command of the race? It is wide open at this point, and that is what makes this unusual. Ten candidates already announced. As man0 candidates depending on the list you look at who are still deciding. That would -- if even half of those get in, it will be the largest primary field in the history of primaries, and it's the first time probably since 1988 that there has been no clear front runner. There isn't -- there isn't a Clinton in the race, and, you know, the Clintons haven't always won the democratic primaries they have entered, but not to have a perceived front runner is really extraordinary. It's going to be a free for all. I have been out on the trail talking to democratic primary voters recently in Iowa and South Carolina and they're really keeping their options open. They are kicking a lot of tires. They want to see these candidates perform and the most important thing they're looking for is someone they believe can beat Donald Trump. That's by far the most important. And the DNC, speaking of performance, the DNC announcer criteria for making it onto the stage for primary debates, it is an incredibly low bar, about if you get 1% of the vote in certain polls, certain reputable polls or some fund-raising abilities. How critical will these debates be, and especially if you have such a huge number of people in the debate? I think those first few debates, it will -- you will be able to have a moment if you are one of these people. If you try to put yourself out there for the -- for America basically, and if it gets divided into a couple of different debates, which I know the DNC was requiring, you have to do two nights for those couple of debates. Unless you're going to do a four-hour debate, there is only so much you can do. Part of the thing that will be striking is that there will be so many women on stage. I think how people present themselves with their first couple of words is about -- is about all they are going to get out of this. You take your moment and shot and see what happens. Ten seconds we have left here. The most interesting thing about this is the two front runners, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden haven't announced yet and they're leading in the polls by ten points. Once they get in, it's going to be very interesting to see how the polls shake out. I think Biden will command the lead if he joins. Immediately. Also a great prism of America because you will have a lot of women on stage and more people of color running for president than ever before. I think America is going to see a very diverse number of candidates running for president. Okay. Thanks to all of you for joining us this morning.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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