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More Republicans To Jump Into GOP Presidential Mix

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right, just trying to keep track of all the names here - Carly Fiorina getting in the race on the Republican side. Pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson also set to formally announce his candidacy for president in Detroit today. This seems like a good moment to talk political news with Cokie Roberts. She's on the line. Good morning, Cokie.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi, David.

GREENE: So Fiorina, Carson, Mike Huckabee maybe later this week. This is a long list.

ROBERTS: (Laughter) And both John Kasich and Lindsey Graham have said that the likelihood of them getting in is north of 90 percent, so it's going to make for a very interesting primary season. One person who seems less likely to make a go for it - or at least a successful go for it - is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who had the George Washington Bridge issue back in the forefront after a guilty plea from one of his aides and indictments of two others. Nothing has pointed to his personal involvement in the - in closing down the bridge - or the access lane - but the issue has deflated his campaign, but you never know. This year, anything could happen.

GREENE: It sure seems that way, and what does this mean, Cokie? I mean, we've talked about this potentially being a battle for the soul of the Republican Party. Does this just mean there are a lot of different opinions out there about the soul of the Republican Party?

ROBERTS: Well, yes, but it's also a question of no - nobody's next in line, which is often the case in the Republican Party that there is somebody, you know, waiting in the wings. And so people who might otherwise think that wait their turn, like the Rubios, Pauls and Cruzs of the world - or of the Senate - say to themselves this is the time to go for it. And then that sense, the more experienced people, like Lindsey Graham and John Kasich and Jeb Bush, saying wait, hold on. If he thinks he can do it then I can do it. And there are all these strategies that they game out. You know, they'll say, well, Cruz, Santorum and Paul can kill each other off in Iowa. And then Bush goes to New Hampshire and you can see where Lindsey Graham says, well, the next one up is my home state of South Carolina, and there's still no front-runner. So each candidate thinks that if the dominoes fall just right, he or she could take it.

GREENE: Well, let's look at the Democratic side. We have Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders who announced late last week, and, I mean, some very specific criticisms of Hillary Clinton we're hearing now.

ROBERTS: Yes, he says she's been part of the political establishment for many years, and it's time for a shakeup; that trillions of dollars, he says, are going from the middle class to the top 1 percent. And, of course, that's a very appealing message of supporting the little guy. And part of his message is to push her on issues where she hasn't declared herself yet, especially the Trans-Pacific Trade agreement, which becomes not just a problem for her, but a huge problem for the president, who is having a lot of trouble anyway convincing Democrats to give him fast-track authority on trade. And now, if Bernie Sanders makes this a big issue, that makes it even harder. Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner said that Secretary Clinton needs to help the president on this, not leave him swinging in the wind. So he's trying to push her to do something that's unpopular inside her own party as well.

GREENE: You know, Cokie, I'm struck at those rare moments when the political world kind of seems to come together. You're seeing a lot of people from both parties on the same page it seems in terms of criminal justice reform, which seems to have taken on, you know, more urgency after the events in Baltimore recently.

ROBERTS: Yes, and other police issues, and we are seeing that. Hillary Clinton yesterday, South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott, are all - Rand Paul - are all talking about reform of the criminal justice system and cutting down the long incarcerations, particularly for drug offenders. This is one place where the events of the past several months could work to actually bring about some action that would be entirely, I think at this point, bipartisan. And that is something, as you say, we rarely see these days. But on this issue, people do seem to be coming together.

GREENE: All right, that's Cokie Roberts. I always enjoy talking to you, Cokie. Have a good week.

ROBERTS: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.