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Politics In The News: 'Brexit' Reverberates Throughout U.S.


Donald Trump appears to have slipped significantly behind Hillary Clinton over the last month. That's according to two major national polls out Sunday. But the presumptive Republican nominee takes Brexit as a hopeful sign for his campaign. On Friday, he said Britain's decision to leave the EU will not be the last display of nationalism.


DONALD TRUMP: I love to see people take their country back. And that's really what's happening in the United States, and I think you see that. And that's what's happening in many other places in the world. They're tired of it. They want to take their countries back.

WERTHEIMER: Yesterday, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook acknowledged that there are parallels between populist anger in Britain and here. But also yesterday, Clinton's campaign released an ad attacking Trump for welcoming the Brexit-related drop in Britain's currency.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Every president is tested by world events, but Donald Trump thinks about how his golf resort can profit from them.

WERTHEIMER: With me this morning to talk about this is commentator and columnist Cokie Roberts and Ben Domenech. He is the cofounder of The Federalist magazine. Welcome to you both.

BEN DOMENECH: Good to be with you.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi, Linda. How are you?

WERTHEIMER: Ben, let me start with you. If you just - as we just heard, Donald Trump hailed Britain's decision to leave the EU as a victory for the U.K. He drew a parallel to the U.S. Do you think he's right about that?

DOMENECH: I think he is right about that. There are populist movements across Europe that are parallel with the kind of phenomenon that we've seen politically that has lifted up the Trump campaign during the course of the past couple of months. I do think that Trump is really relying, though, on a phenomenon that doesn't really know what it really expects with this alternative leadership that it tries to find. It's very different from the kind of experienced politicians that we've had in the past, the people who represent the status quo. It doesn't really know what it really wants in terms of the kind of leadership that it expects next. But it's something that does represent a significant change from the kind of politicians that we've had in the past. Trump really knows that he relies on that leadership.


ROBERTS: But it's also true, though, Linda, that - and Ben - that, you know, we're now seeing fallout from the British decision to pull out of the European Union that might be useful to someone running against Donald Trump. When you see that the politicians who campaigned to leave are now saying, well, forget those promises we made to you. The money's not going to go to the National Health Service. That's not happening. And Boris Johnson today - one of the big leaders of the leave movement - saying, oh, really there's no rush to get out of Europe. In fact, we're a proud part of Europe. And then, there are all of these really awful stories of racist attacks in England and Great Britain after this. So, you know, people might look at this and say, wait - wait a minute. Maybe we don't want to go down that path.

WERTHEIMER: OK, let's talk about the polls. Two polls released Sunday showing Clinton with a healthy lead. One of them - the ABC poll - has her up by 12 points. Trump's standing now is worse than that of four previous Republican nominees by this time in the election year. Should he be worried, Cokie?

ROBERTS: Well, sure. Of course he should be worried. And - and the fact is - is that a lot of this is self-inflicted. This is - you know, these are statements that he's made or actions that he's taken in the last month or so that have just hurt him tremendously. This poll shows that two-thirds say he's not qualified to be president. A huge percentage say that his remarks about Judge Curiel were racist. More than two-thirds say that - 85 percent say at least unappropriate (ph). And - and that he - two-thirds also say that he's unfairly biased against women, Muslims, et cetera. So he's - this is all his own doing. Now, Republicans who support him think, well, that's fixable, then. If he just would get in line and stay on message and we have a good convention, then this can can be fixed. And look, we've seen other politicians this far behind or further behind win. So this is not - not - this is not fatal.

WERTHEIMER: Now, Ben, what do you think about these polls? Why do you think Clinton has this kind of overall lead now?

DOMENECH: I think Clinton has this lead because she represents a status quo that people are generally comfortable with. We see the positive rankings for President Obama in the general polls about his - his approval rating. And I think that that really is going to be the gauge that determines this election, ultimately. Donald Trump is clearly behind. Whatever that amount is, whether it's a single digit or a double digit, he is lagging. And when it comes to the kind of competitive flavor that he's going to have to follow in order to become president, he would need to not just win Florida, but win significantly in Rust Belt states that Republicans traditionally have not done well in. In order for him to achieve that, he's going to have to focus. He's going to have to send his economic message, which appeals to those states - states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. He has not done that in the past couple of weeks. In order for him to have any shot at the presidency in November, he's going to have to change the approach that he has used.

WERTHEIMER: One of the interesting things that happened over the weekend was that Hank Paulson, who was treasury secretary for George Bush, and George Will, who is a famous columnist, said they couldn't vote for Trump. George Will is a longtime colleague of yours, Cokie. Could you just briefly tell us why he's doing this?

ROBERTS: Well, he's - he's been very clear about it in his columns. He hasn't been hiding the ball here - and in private conversations as well - that he thinks that Trump is not a conservative, and he - George Will - is and has been part of a conservative movement for his entire adult life and that this is the cause of his life and that he thinks that Donald Trump is - is ruining the Republican Party and that the Republicans should just not support him this time around and, you know, sit back and grit their teeth and hope that he - that, four years from now, they can be - they can beat Hillary Clinton. That's where he's standing right now.

WERTHEIMER: Ben, briefly, do you think that the Republican Party will take any notice?

DOMENECH: George Will is a good friend of mine. I respect him immensely. And I think that he's making a decision out of principle that a lot of Republicans are going to make this fall.

WERTHEIMER: Thanks very much. That's commentator and columnist Cokie Roberts and Ben Domenech of The Federalist magazine. Thank you.

ROBERTS: Thank you.

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