Monday’s CBS Mornings welcomed in newly-minted CBS News chief election and campaign correspondent Robert Costa (former of National Review, PBS, and The Washington Post) with a strategy session for the table to diagnose how President Biden and their fellow Democrats can weather the storms of bad polling, a tough economy, and the crisis in Ukraine.
Most of all, it concluded presidents have little control over the economy and Democrats haven’t talked enough about how much they’ve improved the lives of the American people.
Co-host Tony Dokoupil said in a tease that Ukraine represents “not just a foreign policy challenge for President Biden” but “political risks as well,” so they would talk about that with Costa as well as “other big challenges facing the President.”
After a break, Dokoupil noted that new CBS polling painted a grim picture for Biden and began by asking Costa about “the stakes here for” Biden, given the situation in Ukraine is “a potential international crisis” to match up with his “trouble at home.”
Once Costa noted Democrats feel “pretty good” about how Americans view his handling of the crisis, Dokoupil sought Costa’s counsel on how their party can address “Ukraine without losing sight of problems at home” seeing as how “two-thirds of Americans disagree[d] with the direction of the country.”
Costa replied that Republicans won’t be running entirely on Biden’s foreign policy, but instead by focusing on the economy, inflation, and any possible “variables” “still...out there” like abortion.
This led Dokoupil to sound like a Democrat in the run-up to the 1980 presidential election that sought to make excuses for Jimmy Cater:
[F]ocusing on inflation is an interesting thing — a challenge for the President in its own right because there's limited tools in the President's toolchest for dealing with inflation. He doesn't control the Fed, what can he do?
Fill-in co-host Michelle Miller (of CBS Saturday Mornings) briefly turned away from Democrats to touch on the Republicans via — who else — Donald Trump. But very quickly, it was back to Democrats.
Fill-in co-host Vladimir Duthiers put it plainly:
So, let's talk the Democrats. Which when it comes to the direction of the country, 33 percent of the country — only 33 percent think things are going well. So, what can President Biden do? Still a lot of time, but time is drawing near before the midterms.
Citing Democratic sources, Costa insisted they want Biden “out there...to sell what they did on infrastructure” and the American Rescue Plan because “they feel like too few people are talking about” how much both did to improve the country.
Duthiers doubled down on that classic argument made by liberals and their media allies about how they’re not wrong but instead insufficiently heard: “Is that a problem generally with Democrats? I note that President Obama has even called Democrats out for not bragging about things that they're winning on.”
Costa said that squared with his White House sources, adding: “They want Democrats on Capitol Hill to champion what Biden has done, not just complain about what hasn't been accomplished.”
Miller — who’s married to Marc Morial of the far-left Urban League — concurred, but also knocked Obama: “Hindsight’s 20/20 because Obama was criticized for not doing the exact same thing.”
This unofficial meeting of the Democratic National Committee was made possible thanks to advertisers such as Allstate and Consumer Cellular. Follow the links to see their contact information at the MRC’s Conservatives Fight Back page.
To see the relevant CBS transcript from February 14, click “expand.”
February 14, 2022
7:21 a.m. Eastern [TEASE]
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Ahead; Biden’s Big Challenges]
TONY DOKOUPIL: Ahead, a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine is not just a foreign policy challenge for President Biden. It also carries political risks. Our new chief election and campaign correspondent — maybe you've heard of him — Robert Costa, is in our Progressive Green Room. We will speak to him in just a minute about Ukraine and other big challenges facing the President. We'll also tell him where the cafeteria is. Hello, Robert.
ROBERT COSTA: Thank you.
DOKOUPIL: This is CBS Mornings.
7:30 a.m. Eastern
DOKOUPIL: As tensions grow over a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine, fresh CBS News polling finds that just under half of Americans think that President Biden's approach to the crisis is about right. When it comes to events here at home, only a third believe things are going well right now. That compares with 26 percent last month. So what's the political impact of all of this? Who better to break it all down than our new CBS News chief election and campaign correspondent, Robert Costa. Robert, thank you for joining us.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: High-Stakes Politics; Robert Costa on Impact of Russia-Ukraine Crisis & Upcoming Midterms]
COSTA: Good morning. Great to be here.
DOKOUPIL: So glad to have you.
COSTA: Thank you so much.
DOKOUPIL: We should dive into it because the polling numbers are not good for President Biden. He's got trouble at home, but meanwhile, he's dealing with a potential international crisis. What are the stakes here for him?
COSTA: The stakes are very high for President Biden. But also for the party in power, the democratic party. I spoke to several Democratic senators and House members over the weekend, to ask how they see it because they have to face voters this fall and for now, they feel pretty good because they believe President Biden does not want to actually be interventionist in sending U.S. troops to fight on the ground. For now, it's about sending arms, maybe sending troops over to Europe, working on energy issues, but not having an all-out U.S. intervention.
DOKOUPIL: Ukraine is taking a lot of the political attention in this country. And meanwhile, you've got probably two-thirds of Americans disagreeing with the direction of the country and giving the President poor marks on the way things are going here. How does he handle Ukraine without losing sight of problems at home?
COSTA: He's facing scrutiny from voters and his political opponents on all fronts, but talking to Republicans, they're not going to run against President Biden only on foreign policy. Talking to House Republicans in particular, they want to focus more on inflation, but they also know that there's still some variables out there. How does this really play out on policy? What does Putin actually do? And you have issues like social issues, abortion could come to the fore later this year with the Supreme Court decision, in addition to the economy and foreign policy.
DOKOUPIL: I mean, focusing on inflation is an interesting thing — a challenge for the President in its own right because there's limited tools in the President's toolchest for dealing with inflation. He doesn't control the Fed, what can he do?
COSTA: We'll see what the Federal Reserve does in the coming months. Do they raise interest rates at all? And that's something both parties are prepared for, for a little bit of a different economic climate.
VLADIMIR DUTHIERS: So, let’s —
MICHELLE MILLER: But the —
DUTHIERS: I’m sorry, go ahead.
MILLER: Go ahead. I was just going to say, President Trump is still trying to exercise maximum control over the party, but you had some breaking of ranks here. Both Mitch McConnell and former Vice President Mike Pence have stood out and stood apart. How do you think this is going to move? Do you think they're going to get any traction with voters?
COSTA: We're going to have to watch these early primary races to see if President trump's political capital is still there. I'd pay attention to the Alabama Republican senate primary. An establishment fundraiser, Katie Britt, running goes Mo Brooks, who is endorsed by Trump. If Katie Britt can pull off a win against a Trump-endorsed candidate in a red state, that may say that President Trump's endorsement doesn't mean everything, though it still means a lot to Republican voters.
DUTHIERS: So, let's talk the Democrats. Which when it comes to the direction of the country, 33 percent of the country — only 33 percent think things are going well. So, what can President Biden do? Still a lot of time, but time is drawing near before the midterms.
COSTA: I asked some Democratic senators and House members about this. They want the President to be out there — and he is — to sell what they did on infrastructure, over $1 trillion in spending and they feel like too few people are talking about the American Rescue Plan from back in March of 2021. $1.9 trillion. For the Democrats, if they can't get voting rights done at this point, though something may be done on the Electoral Count Act, some kind of reform, they want to sell the spending they've already passed.
DUTHIERS: Is that a problem generally with Democrats? I note that President Obama has even called Democrats out for not bragging about things that they're winning on.
COSTA: Certainly that's a view inside of the Biden White House, talking to some of my sources there. They want Democrats on Capitol Hill to champion what Biden has done, not just complain about what hasn't been accomplished.
MILLER: Hindsight's 20/20 because Obama was criticized for not doing the exact same thing. So we thank you so much for joining us, Robert Costa. And welcome to CBS Mornings —
COSTA: It's an honor to be here.
DUTHIERS: Welcome to CBS News.
MILLER: I know.
COSTA: I couldn't be more excited to be with all of you.
DOKOUPIL: Yeah. I was going to tell you where the cafeteria is in the Washington bureau but, actually, there is no cafeteria, you have to go off site, which is fine — which is fine. Quite a few good restaurants in the area.
COSTA: Go meet a source at a coffee shop.
DOKOUPIL: There you go.
MILLER: We're good people here. Robert Costa, again, thank you.