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Politics chat: Democrats open campaign offices in purple states, Haley supports Trump

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

It's Memorial Day weekend, which means we have about 5 1/2 months to go before the presidential election. That might seem like very little time or an absolute eternity. We know this much, though. When it comes to American politics, a lot can change, and it can change in a flash. We're joined by senior White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Good morning, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning, Ayesha.

RASCOE: So you just got back from reporting in North Carolina, my home state. What did you find?

KEITH: Yeah, I was there working on a story about the challenges that the Biden campaign has with Black voters. And there's a lot of disillusionment along the lines of, I always vote for Democrats, but my life doesn't get better. And talking to the Biden campaign about this - they acknowledge they have a lot of work to do, but they say they've started early, like the campaign office opening that I covered on Thursday in the majority Black community of Rocky Mount. The Biden campaign now has 13 offices in North Carolina, which could be a swing state. And Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison was there in Rocky Mount.

JAIME HARRISON: On the Democratic side, we're doing the work. We're opening the offices. What are the Republicans doing? They're closing offices. They're paying legal fees. But we are doing the work, reaching out to the American people.

KEITH: The Biden campaign now boasts more than 150 campaign offices in battleground states around the country and more than 500 staff.

RASCOE: And what are Republicans doing?

KEITH: They're not telegraphing. In a statement provided to NPR, Chris LaCivita with the Trump campaign that they feel no obligation to discuss specifics with the media, but they say they're deploying operations fueled by passionate volunteers. That said, there are no obvious signs of campaign office openings in key states at this point.

RASCOE: OK, so Nikki Haley announced that she will vote for former President Donald Trump, a man she called, unhinged, unstable, and confused during her failed campaign, saying he shouldn't be allowed to vote, let alone be president. Given everything that she says about Trump, does her endorsement really have much credibility?

KEITH: Well, it's not even an endorsement. She's just saying that she'll vote for him. She's not yet telling her voters to vote for him. Also, it's not really about Haley's vote. It's about her voters. And many I met in New Hampshire earlier this year weren't as much pro-Haley as they were anti-Trump, and they saw her as sort of their last remaining vessel for their angst. The zombie Nikki Haley campaign has been getting about 15 to 20% in some states where they're still holding primaries, and Trump is really the only Republican left in the race.

RASCOE: OK, I said that he shouldn't be allowed to vote. That should have been he shouldn't be allowed to drive, Haley said, let alone be president. I want to clarify that. Is the Biden campaign trying to woo any of Haley's voters?

KEITH: They are. This week, they held a Zoom with a group of Haley supporters. And in April, the Biden campaign spent more than a million dollars on an ad trying to appeal directly to Haley voters, microtargeting the digital ad to zip codes with the highest share of her voters, mostly in suburbs. How many can they get? That's not even clear to the Biden campaign.

RASCOE: Well, let's talk about Trump. He spent the last several days wooing non-traditional Republican voters.

KEITH: Yeah. First, he held a rally in the Bronx where he tried to boost the idea that he's gaining support among Black and Latino voters. And then this weekend, he spoke to the Libertarian Convention in DC, where he tried to convince delegates to nominate him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: Only do that if you want to win. If you want to lose, don't do that. Keep getting you 3% every four years.

(CROWD JEERING)

KEITH: And with a pitch like that, let's just say it wasn't an entirely friendly crowd. But giving a primetime speech in another party's nominating convention does show that there's some thinking of a commitment to try to expand his base.

RASCOE: And in the last few seconds, they're closing arguments in former President Trump's criminal trial in New York. How's the trial affected his campaign?

KEITH: Broadly speaking, the trial hasn't really moved the needle in the campaign, and even if he's found guilty, it won't stop Trump from continuing to run for office. There will be appeals, and the trials for his January 6 and classified documents charges don't have a start date and are looking less and less likely to happen before the election.

RASCOE: That's NPR senior White House correspondent, Tamara Keith. Thanks, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.