Presidential Campaign Update: Sanders Rises In The Polls, Trump Leads GOP

Aug 12, 2015
Originally published on August 13, 2015 1:29 pm
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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The presidential election is more than a year away, but the campaign continues at full speed, even in the dog days of August. A crowded field of Republicans is still figuring out what to do with the rise of billionaire Donald Trump. Meanwhile, questions about Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server continue to dog the Democratic frontrunner. Yesterday, she agreed to turn that server over to the Justice Department. Today, Republican candidate Scott Walker had this to say.

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SCOTT WALKER: Hillary Clinton would be a good deceiver in chief, but she cannot be trusted to be the commander in chief. And I think it's about time that she dealt with the consequences.

BLOCK: NPR's Ron Elving joined us to discuss the current state of play. I asked him why Clinton changed her mind about handing over the email server after initially refusing to do so.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: You know, she may not have. She may feel just the same way about this as she did five months ago, six months ago, when all of this first was swirling about. But she has run out of maneuvering room to some degree. The inspector general from the State Department has said that there are at least a few top-secret emails on the server. Now, she says they were not so designated when she got them, and there does appear to be a dispute over whether or not they should've been classified at all. But it now looks as though this is going to have to be dealt with by FBI, the Department of Justice. We assume that it will all come out in the wash, and I think we can look forward to several months of rinse and repeat.

BLOCK: Is this really a problem for Hillary Clinton outside the Beltway? I mean, reporters who are following her on the campaign trail say this is not what voters are asking about at her events.

ELVING: Not at her events. The people who come to those events are not obsessed with this. But people in the Congress are and there have also been declining numbers for her in terms of honesty and trustworthiness. And this particular controversy has played into that.

BLOCK: Now, at the same time, Clinton is under pressure from Senator Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont. He is drawing huge crowds and is rising pretty dramatically in some polls. What's happening there?

ELVING: There's genuine enthusiasm for Bernie. You know, feel the Bern. You've probably heard this.

BLOCK: Yeah.

ELVING: Big crowds in Portland, Los Angeles - huge crowds, really, for this early in the process and for someone who was really obscure until he got into this particular contest; somewhat reminiscent perhaps of Howard Dean in the run up to 2004 or Jesse Jackson in his heyday in the 1980s. He ran twice. There is a genuine concern, as well, among many Democrats that Hillary Clinton could be a wounded standard-bearer. If not yet, then perhaps further down the road if more things emerge and a general sense, too, let's not forget, that the Democratic nomination should just be contested and not handed off.

BLOCK: Let's talk about what's going on on the Republican side. We continue to see aftershocks from last week's debate on Fox News; some candidates rising, some falling and one candidate who still seems to be defying gravity.

ELVING: Donald Trump clearly rewrites the rulebook. We'll see whether or not that includes the law of gravity in the long run. He has survived at least two PR crises that would have put an end to most candidates by now - the John McCain controversy and the Megyn Kelly-Fox News controversy. And they may yet have a cumulative effect on his trajectory. But for now, if you line up all the candidates' poll numbers as a kind of vertical bar chart on the Republican side, Trump's numbers are the tallest tree in a short forest.

BLOCK: And, Ron, we have still how many months to go?

ELVING: It's still six months before the Iowa caucuses.

BLOCK: And 15 months till November 2016.

ELVING: So far, over the horizon, you really can't glimpse it.

BLOCK: NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving - Ron, thanks.

ELVING: Thank you, Melissa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.