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A GOP Strategist On The Democrats' Week


With President Trump away in Asia this past week, Republicans on Capitol Hill wanted to focus on hashing out a tax bill. But the news intruded.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: An anti-Trump wave sweeping Democrats to power in Virginia. At least 13 seats in the State House flipped from red to blue.


ANDERSON COOPER: Shockwave tonight - Roy Moore, the staunchly conservative Republican candidate to replace Jeff Sessions in the Senate, has been accused by a woman of engaging in a sexual encounter with her when she was just 14 years old.


MITCH MCCONNELL: If these allegations are true, Roy Moore should step aside.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That last voice - Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader. He and other Republicans now must figure out how the GOP can forge ahead. I'm joined in the studio by political strategist Terry Sullivan. He ran Marco Rubio's presidential campaign. Good morning.

TERRY SULLIVAN: Good morning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. For the good of the party, do you think Roy Moore should drop out of the Alabama Senate race?

SULLIVAN: You know, I don't I think it's a question of good of party as much as just humanity. You know, I think that there's too much of red jersey blue jersey anymore, where you can only answer a question from your - whatever jersey you're wearing, what color that is. Look, what he's accused of doing is offensive, awful, disgusting, icky. And so from my standpoint, it has nothing to do with party and have everything to do with you know just being a bad human being.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. But he is denying it, and he is refusing so far to drop out of the race. How should Senate Republicans react if Roy Moore wins? Welcome him into the caucus room or expel him?

SULLIVAN: Look. Honestly, I think that I don't know how they would expel him. But I do know that - I think that across the board with any of these senators, when they do anything, like, this horrendous - that it should be denounced, regardless of whether you're Republican or Democrat. And look. Let's not forget, you know, Senator Menendez is accused of doing similar things and is in a criminal case right now about ethics. I think it's not a partisan issue. When you're accused of awful things, you should be called out for it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Let's move on to other big political news - Democratic wins in state houses, particularly Virginia. What's the lesson for the GOP nationwide here?

SULLIVAN: It's going to be an ugly 2018. It's going to be just bad.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You think so?

SULLIVAN: Yeah, I really do. But I've thought so before this. I think the interesting part about the Virginia elections isn't the top of the ticket. I don't believe that the top of the ticket is a - or a single race is a good indicator for what's going to happen in the future. But when you look down-ballot at the House of Delegates races - I don't know what the final number is. There's a few that are still for recount. But somewhere between, I think, 14 and 19 seats the Republicans lost. I mean, that's a tidal wave. And that's going to - that has - that is a really good indicator of what could happen.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is this the Trump effect, in your view?

SULLIVAN: I think it's a lot of things. I think that certainly plays a big part in it. Absolutely. You know, it is - look. Every party loses seats in their first off-year election after they've taken control the White House. But is it exacerbated because, you know, Donald Trump, you know, is doing a terrible job and kind of a buffoon? Yeah, absolutely.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What do you make of Republican congressmen who have announced that they won't seek re-election? We've seen an abnormally high rate this year - so far out from the midterms. What is that telling you?

SULLIVAN: It's not a fun job. I mean, it's not a fun job in general, but it's even far less fun now. I mean, a lot of these guys in part ran for Congress because they wanted to do something. They wanted to change things for the better, regardless of what you think of them or what their views are, Republican or Democrat, conservative, liberal. They wanted to make a difference. And right now Congress isn't making a difference. They're not accomplishing anything one way or the other. And the - I think there's a lot of frustration based on that - that they just want to go home.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, listening to you just talk about President Trump in the terms that you just did, you know, it reminds me that that the GOP is a party divided, that there is a lot of consternation about the president and also just where the party is going.

SULLIVAN: Yeah. And look. So is the Democrat Party. I mean, the difference is that we've got Donald Trump, so we're generally more embarrassing on any given day. But, you know, the Democrat Party is unbelievably divided, as well, when you see what's happening with Donna Brazile and Hillary Clinton, who just won't let it go from a standpoint of, you know, everybody who loses for their party generally shuts up for a while. And the - so it's - you know, she's on an excuse tour. And so I think that, yeah - I think it's healthy, though, to be divided. We shouldn't be monolithic. We should not be in lockstep, speaking of one voice. It's healthy for democracy that we air our differences.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. That's Terry Sullivan. He's a Republican strategist and partner at Firehouse Strategies. Thank you so much for joining us today.

SULLIVAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.