DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Republicans are growing louder in their support of President Trump. About two dozen GOP lawmakers disrupted the testimony of a top Pentagon official on Wednesday. They were protesting the House impeachment inquiry by crashing a secure House Intelligence hearing room on Capitol Hill.
Meanwhile, Democrats are watching closely how the impeachment inquiry and the Republican response to it plays with the American people as the 2020 campaign takes form. Let's talk about this with NPR's senior political editor Domenico Montanaro, who's on the line. Good morning, Domenico.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Good morning, David.
GREENE: All right. So Republicans are rallying around the president and against this impeachment inquiry. They're getting, I mean, literally louder. What happened yesterday, and why now?
MONTANARO: Well, as you guys have been talking about, I mean, several Republicans made their way past Democratic staffers and got into the secure room where these depositions are being held. And by the way, these depositions are being conducted by members of Congress - Democrat and Republican - but they're on the committees undergoing the impeachment inquiry.
It's perhaps not surprising that some of these outside members tried to get in and tried to - or did get in and really tried what was a stunt after the president tweeted that Republicans needed to do more to fight and especially after the testimony from Bill Taylor, who's a top U.S. diplomatic official in Ukraine, who drew a direct line from President Trump to a pressure campaign to say Ukraine had to - you know - needed to say that it was looking into conspiracy theories that would help Trump's reelection campaign.
GREENE: So I mean, you call it a stunt. This is Republicans who are disrupting a hearing where some of their own Republican colleagues are in there actually trying to do this work. What does this tell us? I mean, it sounds like they want to focus more on process and less on substance as the substance is taking shape.
MONTANARO: Yeah. I mean, there's - they don't want to have to talk about the substance. I mean, some of the Republicans who have addressed the substance have said what they've heard so far has been troubling. They want the process to include more public information. They want this to be conducted in public - at least they say that now for what's happening with this process. But you know, I would expect that a lot of this information will become public - we've seen a lot of the information from the depositions already - and that there's likely going to be public testimony. And then what do Republican members of Congress wind up saying when they hear from these people in public? They will have to then address the substance.
GREENE: Domenico, we talked for a long time as Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders weighed impeachment - you know, about the political impact and the effect that might have on the 2020 campaign. Now that they've moved into an impeachment inquiry, how are Democrats feeling with their political chances for next year?
MONTANARO: Well, I mean Democrats are Democrats, and they always feel nervous. (Laughter) I mean, that's just the reality. And we've been seeing multiple stories this week about Democratic donors, establishment members, party leaders who are saying that they are nervous about this field in particular because they see tremendous vulnerabilities that they hope don't turn into fatal flaws.
They look at someone like former Vice President Joe Biden, and they think that his performances in the debates have been spotty; his fundraising has been alarming. I mean, only $9 million cash on hand is really not enough to run a presidential campaign. They look at Elizabeth Warren and think about her support for something like "Medicare for All" as a replacement to private insurance and just think that those are - that that's a position that's too far to the left, that people in a general election aren't going to be in favor of.
So they're nervous about that. They float these names of people who could come in. But we need to remember: The last time that a late entry really ever worked was in October of 1991 when Bill Clinton got in. And that was a very different time. I mean, I had one strategist say to me - we were carrying around cellphones in duffel bags then and didn't even have email. So you know...
GREENE: (Laughter) It was an earlier era.
MONTANARO: It's a totally earlier era. It's a completely different thing. You had several candidates in 1991 say that they weren't going to run high-profile candidates during that summer - much sleepier than what's been happening now. And as another candidate told me, this is the field. And by the way, Democratic voters are pretty satisfied with the field that they have.
GREENE: So people who are supporting people like Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton - they should not be getting too excited, you're telling them.
MONTANARO: Probably not. But you know, if Oprah got into the race, that could be a game-changer. (Laughter).
GREENE: NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Thanks so much, Domenico.
MONTANARO: You're welcome.