On January 20th, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States, and security will be unlike any in modern American history following last week’s riot and siege at the U.S. Capitol. Biden takes office amidst a turbulent transition from the Trump administration and a COVID-19 pandemic that gets worse by the day.
Connecting Point’s Ray Hershel spoke with political consultants Anthony Cignoli and Ryan McCollum for their perspective on where the country is headed during a Biden administration and what the future holds for Donald Trump and the Republican Party.
Read the transcript
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: On January 20th, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the forty-sixth President of the United States and security for the event will be unlike any in modern American history following last week’s riot and siege at the U.S. Capitol. Biden takes office amidst a turbulent transition from the Trump administration and a COVID-19 pandemic that gets worse by the day.
So, what can we expect on Inauguration Day? And will President Biden be able to unify the country and move it forward in a more bipartisan way?
Connecting Point’s Ray Hershel spoke with political consultants Tony Cignoli and Ryan McCollum for their perspective on where the country is headed during a Biden administration and what the future holds for Donald Trump and the Republican Party.
Anthony Cignoli, Political Consultant: It’s an important opportunity, it’s a necessary opportunity, for Joe Biden to make it very, very clear what’s going to happen under him as President of the United States, the difference between himself and Donald Trump, laying out what the agenda is going to be.
But I believe it’s already begun. The fact that Joe Biden spent twenty-five minutes on national media, national television, etc. on Thursday of this week, laying out–in that twenty five minutes — here’s the initial aspect of what the Biden Administration that Biden-Harris Administration is going to do was important. Laying out that one point nine trillion dollars in expenditures to deal with job one, war one, which is COVID. I think he’s already begun.
It’s messaging, right? This inaugural it’s all about messaging, not the pageantry and the pomp, much of which is gone because of COVID. It’s really a massive message to all of America.
Ray Hershel, Connecting Point: And Ryan, as you look forward to the Inauguration speech and Tony talks about this message, what would you like the President-elect to say on Inauguration Day in terms of trying to bring the country together and heal this country, which has been so divided?
Ryan McCollum, Political Consultant, RMC Strategies: Yeah, I mean, it’s an overused term around this time and it’s unity. Um, and we’re hearing it from both sides of the aisle, which is great after what happened. There are some folks on the Republican side who, who are talking about unity.
And you know that the cliche “I’m not the President for the blue America or the red America. I’m the President for all of America.” We’re going to hear a lot of that.
But it is really important, back to the security piece, that–that nothing happens. We can’t — we can’t afford to have anything happen. My fear of having a constant insurgency in our country, of folks who who — who want to change our government is a fear. And so, my first hope is that that nothing happens while — while Biden is trying to make a speech.
Ray Hershel: And Ryan, as Tony alluded to, President-elect Biden has unveiled his $1.9 trillion dollar economic stimulus package, including $1,400 dollar checks for most Americans. Why don’t I get your thoughts on whether or not you feel this entire package is going to be approved by Congress now?
Ray McCollum: I think so. I think I think Senate and Mitch Mitch McConnell has shown that he wants to play some ball. He’s now going to be the minority leader. But even so, they could still there’s so many different ways where Republicans can still obstruct Biden’s agenda.
But I think we’re going to go back to a place where, you know, not everybody loved it, but where Congress was somewhat functioning and there was deal-making and things were going on. And so, I do think they will. I mean, it might not be exactly what the President wants or the Democrats want, but I think something will happen.
Ray Hershel: Tony, not only is Joe Biden, of course, facing all these issues coming up, but the problem with COVID, the economic problems in the country, he’s got Donald Trump’s second Impeachment to deal with in terms of distraction and what’s going on in Congress.
How do you feel that impeachment trial is going to impact his ability to get bipartisan support in Congress to get his agenda passed?
Anthony Cignoli: Well, a lot of that depends on what Mitch McConnell actually does or not, as the minority leader of the Senate at that point in time. How much does he ride hard on the members of the Republican Senate to do what they have done in the past and be partisan?
Because he released a few of these folks, does he let them vote their conscience? You know, it’s a difficult question to prognosticate on for a whole bunch of reasons. This one is just on 12 boards at one time. But I do think it’s going to be problematic.
As we’ve already heard, the Vice President, the President-elect, say definitively that he’s hoping that this is something that they can do at the same time that they are getting through his nominations, approving his nominations for his cabinet. America has no time to wait in that regard. And the Biden Administration has no time to wait for all these folks to be in the positions we need them to do what they need to do for America.
Ray Hershel: Ryan, do you think it’s going to be any easier for Joe Biden, when he is President, to gather more bipartisan support in Congress now that President Trump is out of office?
Ryan McCollum, Political Consultant, RMC Strategies: Absolutely, absolutely. I think Trump is not going to be as powerful as he used to be.
Now, he’s still going to have a huge impact. And there are Republicans who got elected on Trump’s coattails, who are Trumpist, for lack of better words, right? And so those folks aren’t really going to change, right? So — so a congresswoman who is who ascribes to QAnon, she’s not going to change. There’s not going to be any bipartisan work with her.
But the folks who are Republicans before Trump, who are worried about being primaried by people who were Trump allegiants, they’re not going to have that concern as much anymore. They still will have the concern.
And so I think we’re all sitting back to see what what Trump’s next moves are. Does he start a news network? Does he start a PAC? Does what — what is — what is — do they split off and start their own party?
We’re all kind of sitting back and waiting to see what happens. But with all that said, I think the traditional Republicans, for a lack of better words, who Joe Biden has dealt with in the past and has relationships with, are going to play ball.
Ray Hershel: Tony, why don’t you get your thoughts on the impeachment trial as it goes forward? Of course, the House has impeached President Trump for a second time. He’s going to be tried in the Senate. Is there any likelihood you see any scenario whereby the Senate could, in fact, convict Donald Trump of the charges against him for impeachment?
Anthony Cignoli: There’s a lot of politics at play here, and nothing is ever what it seems. It’s always the tip of the iceberg that you see in politics, that top 20 percent with the other 80 percent below the water. There may, in fact, be members of the Republican United States Senate who are thinking about “Here’s our opportunity, here’s our chance. Let’s get him gone. Let’s add to the piling on of Donald Trump to remove him as a political powerhouse.” Amongst Trumpers, not so much just the Republican Party.
What Ryan and I would both be familiar with right now is that 2022 is already on. We’re polling already in congressional districts. We’re looking already at next — uh next competitions in the United States Senate.
Well, that’s something that’s going on in the minds of a few of those senators as well. Does it benefit them to support Trump as things unfold in the next week or two? More video, more facts, more more to be known about what actually just happened at the Capitol, who may have been involved? Could there have been Republican members of the Congress involved in what happened, et cetera.
As all that rolls out, that narrative is going to drive what’s on the minds of a lot of these United States senators who are Republicans. It may be a situation where the party, their party, benefits by impeachment, by the taking the indictment of the House and making it a conviction in the Senate.
Ryan McCollum: I’m going to say, you know, just as important as the conviction is, getting these folks on record, right? So maybe now maybe they might not have enough votes. But, you know, I think that a lot of folks also think “we don’t know what else Trump has done.”
And over the next few years, more stuff is going to come out. And so now if you have if you decided not to vote to convict this man, and two or three more devastating things come out, they’ll- – they’ll run an ad against you.
And so, Republican senators have to really think about what their vote is going to mean, regardless of whether or not there’s as many to get them removed or convicted, ’cause he’s going to be already gone at that point.
Ray Hershel: Gentlemen, why don’t I get your thoughts on what the future of Donald Trump is, in terms of being a player in the Republican Party as we go forward or as a potential candidate in 2024?
Do you see any kind of scenario where that could come to fruition? But what is Donald Trump’s role going to be now over the next four years? Tony?
Anthony Cignoli: Sure, I think it continues to be the role that he’s had, trying to be more so Disruptor-in-Chief, even as a political force. He has a following, no question. What that following is, after the events of last week, we’re not sure.
I would be not taking a wild prognostication to say that I don’t believe that if we were running for office today, that he’s going to get 71 million votes as he did in the November election. I think there’s been damage there.
Well, what role can he play, especially at a time when there’s something else in mind? You’ve got a lot of huge corporations, big, big Republican donors. The gentleman who owns Home Depot, Charles Schwab, announcing that done, no more contributions to anyone that was involved with what went on last week.
And by that I mean not the insurrection, but more so those who voted not to say “yes” to the fact that Joe Biden was President of the United States. Those who do not vote to ratify the election, they are the ones right now being targeted by some of these large corporations.
They become a powerhouse, completely separate. Donald Trump, you may have a following. He may be powerful, but I don’t think he can make up that kind of money that all of a sudden is coming out of American politics, as we roar towards 2022.
Ray Hershel: Ryan, how about you? Has Donald Trump been mortally wounded in terms of his political future?
Ryan McCollum: I don’t know if he’s been mortally wounded, but one of the things we have to remember is, is he going to get charged with crimes? Whether federally or by SDNY, by New York State?
And so if he’s charged with crimes and he’s not pardoned, I mean, we have we’ve been talking about pardoning, Trump being pardoned, whether he pardoned himself, whether he resigns and Pence pardons him. That’s going to that’s going to hurt to if he has some charges and he has to go through a trial.
But there’s going to be a fraction of America that is going to be allegiant to him, no matter what. Now, how much that — how much of that fraction does the Republican Party calculate they still need to keep? That’s the question, right?
And so, you know, the Republican National Committee reelected a chairman or chairwoman who is who is a Trumper. And so those things, you know, there’s going to be an internal fight within the party until either they break off or not. I do also think that it’s going to be hard for Donald Trump to resist starting, not starting up, some type of media company.
Ray Hershel: Tony, given your knowledge of Joe Biden as a U.S. Senator, a vice president, now president-elect, soon to be President of the United States. What qualities do you feel he exhibits that would make him the president for this time in terms of getting the country back on track, uniting the country and getting ahead of this COVID-19 pandemic, as well as getting the economy rolling again?
Anthony Cignoli: It is a long career and life trial, literally by trial. So many real- life issues have confronted this man, from the loss of of a wife and a child, from a loss later in later years of his son, Beau. He’s been through things. He’s been there also with Barack Obama for a wide variety of things. The incomprehensible economic horror story of the 2008 recession, largely where Barack Obama put a lot of the responsibility on Joe Biden to get things done by consensus, to get things done with the other side of the aisle.
He’s been there for amazing things. I mean, he was in that situation room while Barack Obama and his team watched the taking of Osama Bin Laden. He’s been through stuff. That’s what he brings to this. He’s tempered. He’s like a sword that’s been tempered over and over and over again by fire and by the forge and the pounding of metal. He’s got that. He’s got that other thing, too, that we haven’t seen for a while in a president, a real spiritual well-being.
This guy guy’s connected. He gets it. He understands. And I don’t mean just that he goes to church every Sunday and has, as a true believer, kind of a God. It’s actually part of his makeup just to be kinder and gentler to other human beings. There’s a compassion there that’s truly real with Joe Biden.
Ray Hershel: Ryan, as we know, the Democrats will now control Congress with the victories in Georgia, in the Senate races there. The Democrats regain control of the Senate, with Kamala Harris casting that deciding vote, if need be. Democrats in charge of the House now, and we’ll have a Democratic president.
How will Democrats controlling Congress now impact the initiatives and the vision and agenda of Joe Biden as you move forward? Is he going to be able to get everything he’s proposing passed now because the Democrats control Congress?
Ryan McCollum, Political Consultant, RMC Strategies: No, probably not. But I think they’re going to they’re going to look and try to get as much done as they can.
Joe Manchin is going to be a household name soon because, you know, just like there’s Romneys on the right, there’s Joe Manchin on the on the left. And, you know, he doesn’t always vote as a Democrat votes. And so — and it’s such a razor thin margin.
So one or two Democrats here, just like a Murkowski or a Collins or a Romney there, can change the makeup of the Senate when it comes to voting. So, you know, this this idea that everybody votes lockstep all the time isn’t necessarily true.
And so, with that said, if they don’t want to repeat the problems of the past, when when Barack Obama did have a majority in the Senate and the House and didn’t get certain things done. Because chances are, you know, it tends it’s a pendulum and it swings. So we’re not they’re not he’s not probably not going to have it for all four years, where the Senate and the House are controlled by Democrats. So they’re going to try to get the important things done soon.
Ray Hershel: Tony, what are your feelings about the first 100 days in office for Joe Biden? He has indicated he wants to move the COVID vaccines forward at a much, much faster pace, try to get 100 million doses out there in the first 100 days of his office. But what do you think realistic Joe Biden’s going to be able to accomplish in his first 100 days in office?
Anthony Cignoli, Political Consultant: I think it’s an aggressive first one hundred days, and he’s already, as I mentioned earlier, begun the messaging, begun the vernacular on what he wants to do in these 100 days with the speech that he gave on Thursday night. Twenty five minutes of facts. Twenty five minutes of definitive guidelines and timelines and actions as to what he wants to do.
A little bit, reminding me to a degree of Babe Ruth kind of pointing out in the corner as to where he was going to hit that homerun. Does he hit that homerun? I think we’re at a point right now we’d be happy with a great double or triple from him.
But he is making it very clear, these first 100 days are as important as FDR’s first hundred days. I’m seeing some historical correlation there and thinking, too, from what we’ve already heard before an inaugural speech, on Thursday of this week from Biden, that it is almost reminiscent of a combination of FDR, JFK and a little bit of Ronald Reagan’s inaugural speeches.
We’re hearing that, that push that “It’s bad. I’m telling you, it’s bad and I know it’s going to get worse. But we’re in this one together. There’s hope. Help is coming.” I don’t think I’ve heard him say — say that less than 10 times a day somewhere in America in some media format. That concept that there’s hope, that there’s help, that is imperative and important. That’s great to accomplish that. But more so now, victories in the hundred days that can be pointed to, I think it’s going to be possible for him to pull some of this off.
Ray Hershel: And Ryan, what do you look for in the first 100 days of Joe Biden’s administration?
Ryan McCollum: I think politically, he’s got a great opportunity because we all have a Trump hangover. I mean, it was–it was almost chaos. And so, when we see some things getting done, we’re going to be like, “Wow, this is this is what it’s like, again, to have a president who who has a steady hand, who is just getting things done, who isn’t worried about all these other different distractions?”
And so he has a huge opportunity politically to remind people what life was like pre-Trump. And so he can’t squander that goodwill. And so I think like to Tony’s analogy, if he hits a double, it’s going to seem like a home run to us because we’ve had what we had last four years.