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Transcript: Sen. Gary Peters on "Face the Nation," May 19, 2024

Peters: Take every poll with a "grain of salt"
Democratic Senate campaign chair Sen. Gary Peters says he takes polls "with a grain of salt" 06:27

The following is a transcript of an interview with Sen. Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan, that aired on May 19, 2024.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to Michigan Democratic Senator Gary Peters. Good morning to you, Senator.

SEN. GARY PETERS (D-MI): Good morning to you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you just heard us run through a whole bunch of these statistics with our polling data and you are in charge of helping to defend the slim Democratic majority in the Senate. Are you still confident that you can pick up a seat in Florida? And are you bullish that you will actually be able to pull off a win in Arizona?

SEN. PETERS: I am. I'm still very, very, confident. We have all the pieces in place to be successful. And basically it's very similar to how we were successful in the last cycle, when folks thought that that was not possible in a midterm with a- a party in power in the White House. We did, we made history last cycle. We're going to do it again. And it's primarily because of candidate quality. We have outstanding Democratic candidates, outstanding Democratic incumbents who have served their state against deeply flawed Republican candidates. So I'm confident we're gonna be able to win.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. So just to put up on screen, because I don't think we did that. The candidate in Arizona I was talking about, Ruben Gallego, is leading Kari Lake by 13 points. That's- that's pretty stark. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: So should- are you confident?

SEN. PETERS: It is. And here's- here I- the lead is great. But I- you know, I take every poll with a grain of salt. We're still going to have a tough race. We're going to still be focused on Arizona to make sure that Ruben wins. But if you look at the contrast, his service to the- the state of Arizona through his work in Congress, versus Kari Lake, who's been an election denier. She's been traveling around the country, not in Arizona. People of Arizona want someone who's gonna be there fighting for them. And that's what they have in Congressman- there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. But that is what's happening down-ballot, but President Biden in the state of Arizona is down five points versus Donald Trump. So what is- what are they missing at the top of the ticket here?

SEN. PETERS: Well, I- I'm still confident that Joe Biden will win in Arizona as well. The- the election will continue to play out. These are going to be close races. As I said, with his lead, you know, I- I always take these polls with a grain of salt, in the fact that these are competitive battleground states. By definition, they're gonna be very close. We're going to win because- not just because of the candidates, but also because of our ability to run better campaigns, reaching out to our voters, getting them engaged, getting them to the polls. That's how you win these close races. It's what we did last cycle. It's what we're gonna do again, this year in election time.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well in Florida and Arizona, we polled in both of those states, by almost three to one, voters say President Trump would be better for their finances than President Biden. In Arizona, Trump has a 10 point advantage on the specific question of, "Who cares about people like you a lot?", and the economy again, and again, number one issue. What can President Biden do to fix that?

SEN. PETERS: Well, President Biden has been focused on the economy, and actually if you poll folks about their individual view about themselves, polls are pretty consistent. They feel good about what's happening in their family. And it's about focusing on that aspect, ask people about yourself and are you better off. But certainly President Biden, as well as Democrats in the Senate have been looking to reduce costs. For example, prescription drugs, bringing down the price of prescription drugs for families. It is a focus of the president that will continue. And, you know, you have to look back on the previous administration. It'll- folks forget that when the former president was there, we were in a pandemic and he just mishandled the- that pandemic in a spectacular fashion--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, that is- that is why it is--

SEN. PETRES: --that caused so many hardships for people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. And that is why it is so stark when people say they think he's going to be better for their finances. It's pretty stunning, frankly. On the issue of the border, we know, just on the facts, the number of migrants crossing the Southern border has actually been declining for the past few months. And the Biden administration has talked about, you know, new efforts underway here, but it's not showing up in any sort of better reviews for the president's border policy. That is so essential for support in the state of Arizona. He's trailing by five points. What does he have to do on the border that's gonna help stop the bleeding?

SEN. PETERS: Well, as you said, the numbers are getting better, they'll continue to get better. And- and President Biden, his administration has been focused on that. We also, as Democrats--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does he need to talk about it more?

SEN. PETERS: --he- absolutely. And that's what a campaign is about, and the campaign to make sure people have that information. As you also know, Democrats worked with Republicans to have the most comprehensive border security bill that would've been passed in decades. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: And it didn't.

SEN. PETERS: That would've made it even better. And yet Donald Trump said, don't vote for it, because it's gonna be a political win for Biden. He'd rather see problems on the border. American people don't want that. They want solutions. They want folks who roll up their sleeves, get things done. We were on the edge of doing that. And Donald Trump tanked that effort and Republicans just listened to him. They- they're- they're basically hypocrites on this issue.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But he consistently talks about immigration. President Biden very, very, very rarely discusses the things that you were talking about. And on immigration, we just see that these policies here, 13% of Biden- say Biden's policies benefit U.S. citizens over immigrants. Trump policies overwhelmingly are viewed as more positive. I mean, there's just a perception issue here. How do you battle that?

SEN. PETERS: Well, it- that- it is a perception issue. It's not a fact issue. The facts are clearly wrong when it comes to that. President Biden has been addressing this issue, the numbers show it. And that's what a campaign is about. That's what we do, is to make sure that there's a very clear contrast painted. When voters go into the voting booth in November, they will know the facts, they will see that there's a clear contrast and they're gonna vote for the person who's actually delivered, which is President Biden as well as Senate Democrats across the country as well. That contrast will play out as the- the campaigns get into full gear.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. And we know President Biden is headed to your home state of Michigan shortly. Thank you very much.

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