Return to Transcripts main page


Some Elections Today Have 2016 Implications

Aired November 5, 2013 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, an election with 2016 implications. Is Chris Christie the Republicans' best chance of broadening their base, or alienating it?

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: After four years of me, if they don't know me, then they haven't been paying attention.

ANNOUNCER: And what does it mean if friends of the Clintons win in New York and Virginia?


ANNOUNCER: On the left, Van Jones. On the right, Newt Gingrich. In the CROSSFIRE, Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist, and John Brabender, a Republican strategist. What message are the voters sending today? And who will listen? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


VAN JONES, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Van Jones on the left.

NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST: I'm Newt Gingrich on the right.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, political strategists Donna Brazile and John Brabender.

We're just a full half hour from the first poll closings of this election night. CNN's political team is standing by to bring you the results. And if the pre-election polling turns out to be accurate, there will be two big winners tonight, Chris Christie and Hillary Clinton.

The fact is the Democrats who might win in New York and Virginia -- and certainly seem to be ahead in New York and Virginia -- are both allies of Hillary's, and in the case of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe could hardly be closer to the Clintons. So I think she may have as big a night as Chris Christie.

JONES: i I think that's possibly true. And I think if Chris Christie has a big night, he should enjoy it, because my view is, this is his high watermark. And I am very happy to have people here that can help us get into this.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Democratic strategist, CNN political commentator Donna Brazile along with Republican strategist John Brabender.

I want to go to you first, John. You were Santorum's guy. Are the Republicans going to fall for this stunt that Chris Christie has pulled off?

is going to come to you. He's going to come to you and say, "I'm the guy that can get the women. I can get the young people." But the way he did it, he ran up the numbers by ducking Cory Booker, making sure that they spent millions of dollars that Cory could win his own little race so that no Democrats can turn out. Are you guys going to join the cult of Chris Christie, based on this stunt?

JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, first of all, Chris Christie's going to win almost unanimously in New Jersey. So let's be clear: He's not barely winning; he's going to win by huge numbers.

But there's a couple of other things, too. What -- what a lot of people are going to try to write tomorrow is that it was a moderate that won. And the Republicans, aren't we going to move to the center? I don't think that's what happened here. I think what happened is a reformer won in New Jersey. Somebody who said, "I'm going to bring fiscal sanity back." Someone who knew that cutting taxes actually meant jobs. All those things.

The ultimate paradox, though, as people start talking about 2016, is what sometimes makes you a national candidate doesn't necessarily make you somebody who can win in places like South Carolina or Iowa or...

JONES: We'll get to that. But I just want to press you on this stuff. I think that there's a big myth about Chris Christie. This guy has the worst bond rating of almost any state. The jobs are down. Probably taxes are up. He's got this big personality. There's not much behind it. He's never been in a real heavyweight fight. Do you think that he's going to be able to trick Republicans into supporting him and then possibly collapse in the general?

BRABENDER: Well, first, I think -- I think it's premature to talk about anybody. I mean, we went through this. Anybody who talks about President Michele Bachmann, President Herman Cain, President Kerry, I mean all these things, we see this.

But I will say this: There's a legitimacy to Chris Christie, because he went into a very tough situation and actually did what he said he was going to do. Take the pension issue, things like that. Delivered three straight balanced budgets without raising taxes. At a time -- at a time when it's not a great time to be a governor. Believe me, they're all looking for revenues. So in a very tough time, he did a great job.

GINGRICH: Let me ask you this. You're a professional. You've been a professional for a long time. Isn't it a relatively impressive achievement by Christie to have gone into Trenton, to have taken on the unions, to have done the things he has done but then to be winning by what looks like to be 18 to 25 percent tonight in a blue state which has not given a Republican a majority, I think, since 1988. DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Look, Governor Christie is very charismatic. He's comfortable in his own skin. There's no question that he's benefitted from the fact that national Democrats did not challenge him. And inside the state of New Jersey, the Democrats were divided. There were a lot of Democrats that he cut deals with that have supported him now that will not likely be with him if he runs for president.

So Chris Christie tonight will have a very big victory. I don't know if it's going to be as big as he thinks it will be. It will be a good victory, but I don't believe it will be transferrable to the Republicans in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or any place else.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, on the other side of the Potomac, Terry McAuliffe has a unified Democratic campaign. He used the same playbook that President Obama used to win Virginia, increasing the electorate, bringing out young people, bringing out minorities, bringing out women, and he painted his opponent, Cuccinelli, as somebody who was right-wing, a fringe candidate, an extremist and unacceptable to a moderate state, which is Virginia now.

JONES: Is that your view, John? Sounds good to me.

BRABENDER: Well, first of all, I think you have to look at these races as two completely different races.

No. 1, you have an incumbent who people already knew. They had made a decision months ago who they were voting for in the New Jersey race. In this race in Virginia, the problem that Cuccinelli had was, even though he was a statewide office holder, he was down statewide and had no brand equity, which meant that the Democrats could come in very early and define him, as they did, as an extremist. And frankly, I never thought he did an effective enough job introducing himself personally to the voters and getting rid of that.

Second of all, unlike New Jersey, where Christie was seen as independent, I do think the Republicans shot themselves in the foot on some of their antics in Washington and had a much bigger impact in this race. And then the irony of all ironies, it wasn't until Cuccinelli started to make Obama care the main issue that he actually started to improve in the polls.

BRAZILE: I don't know if he's improving. Because the latest polls show that it's still -- Terry still has a strong advantage over him in Northern Virginia and also down in Hampton Roads.

But wouldn't you and I both agree that both Mr. Cuccinelli -- I mean, both Mr. McAuliffe and Mr. Christie have proudly embraced President Obama, because one thing you'll notice in Virginia -- I mean, in New Jersey, that Governor Christie did not attack President Obama, again, trying to attract some of the, what I call minority voters and others.

BRABENDER: I would disagree with...

BRAZILE: So they have that in common. BRABENDER: ... your characterization of "embrace," in the sense that, I think he was respectful. And I think, frankly, on the Republican side, that is something we should be better at.

I will tell you, we are very critical of Obama care right now. There has never been a better time for Republicans to say not only do we know it's a disaster and America believes it's a disaster, but for us to say, "But here's a better solution." Yet I don't see anybody out there saying, "Here's a better solution."

What Chris Christie has done, is he had people who don't always agree with him, at least like him because he showed some respect for the president when he came there with the hurricane and those type of things. And numbers change when that happens.

JONES: Well, look, I'm glad that he was there for the people during the storm. And I think most governors would be there for the -- for people in a storm. I don't think that makes him be qualified to be president of the United States.

The other thing that's interesting to me is your party, your -- by your own admission here, seems to be quite divided. And even Christie has to defend himself. We've got sound I want you to respond to of Christie trying to defend himself from people in your party saying he's not good enough for them.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of Tea Partiers I've heard from think that you're what they call a RINO, Republican in name only.

CHRISTIE: Listen, you know, that's -- that's some folks who will say if you ever say anything nice about a Democrat you're a RINO.

They can call me whatever they want. I don't care. My view is let people judge me by my record.


JONES: I mean, here you got this guy, your party's superstar, and he's still having this problem where he's not good enough for a big part of your party. How do you respond to that?

BRABENDER: Well, first of all, I think exit polls today showed that he got 80 percent of the Tea Party vote. So first of all, they do -- Those who see him as a reformer, they do like him for that.

Second of all, the real problem with our party is two-fold in my mind. One is we really don't have a message. He had results. That was his message.

But second of all, we do not understand demographics. And what everybody's trying to say is how do we broaden the playing field? And the one thing that he did well is he appealed to blue-collar, middle- class workers who said, "You know what? He understands my life," and he's fighting for them. One of the things I believe the president does brilliantly is about every six months trots out tax breaks for the wealthy. And we fall for it, and we fight for it.

BRAZILE: But he opposes raising the minimum wage at a time when people are desperately trying to get jobs and make a decent wage. And New Jersey, I guess the question is really to Newt Gingrich, what kind of conservative is Chris Christie? And will he be able -- you know, the Republican electorate better than anyone, I believe. Can he really find a home in the modern Republican Party outside of New Jersey?

GINGRICH: I think -- I think Chris Christie in New Jersey is very comparable to Scott Walker in Wisconsin. They're both blue states. These are both reform governors. They both took on the employee unions. They're both tough guys. They have different styles in New Jersey and Wisconsin. They don't have exactly the same style. But I think that Christie can legitimately come to the country and say that he is committed to this.

But part of what I want to get to in the second block is to ask you, Christie is going to be a candidate of change. He was a candidate of change in Trenton. If he does run for president, he'll be the candidate of change. And it strikes me that one of the senator, secretary, first lady Clinton's challenges will be that, after 20 years on the national scene, it will be a little tricky for her to run in 2016 as the candidate of change.

JONES: We're going to talk about that when we get back and a couple other things, as well. We've been talking about the Republican Party. I think that the future of the Democratic Party may be in a place that's going to surprise you. May not be here in D.C. May not be even in the Clinton family. Might be in New York City. We'll talk about that when we get back.


JONES: Welcome back. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Donna Brazile and John Brabender.

Now look, Washington, D.C., usually misses the most colorful developments at the edge of American politics, whether it's the libertarians or the Green Party.

What you're seeing in New York City tonight is, in part, the victory of a small party that is the opposite of the Tea Party. Now you may never heard of the Working Families Party, but it had been building progressive power is New York City for two decades. It backed Bill de Blasio big-time. And if he wins the mayor's race tonight, the WFP is going to get on everybody's radar screen, and they could soon have a Tea Party-sized role in the Democratic Party.

So I want to go to you now. You've got some grassroots dynamics. On the right you've got the Tea Party. You've got the WFP that's beginning to develop. How are... BRABENDER: Sounds like MMA, doesn't it? We're going to put them onto a framed area and see what comes out of it. Let me ask you a question.

JONES: Sure.

BRABENDER: Because you said they're the opposite of the Tea Party.

JONES: They're progressive.

BRABENDER: What does that mean when you say that? What is the Tea Party to you?

JONES: Well, the Tea Party to me is a party that believes in liberty, whereas progressives believe in liberty and justice for all. And what's missing right now...

BRABENDER: You don't think the Tea Party believes in justice?

JONES: Well, I hear them talk a lot about liberty, but what I don't hear them talk about -- and look, I believe in liberty. As an African-American, you don't have to work hard to sell me on liberty. But we say liberty and justice for all. And justice means you've got to worry about low-income people; you've got to worry about lesbians and gays; you've got to worry about those have been left out. Progressives care about that passionately. I don't hear that come from the Tea Party.

BRABENDER: Well, but I think that...

JONES: I think it hurts you guys politically.

BRABENDER: And I agree that I think that is oftentimes the perception, but I think it's an unfair perception. I mean, what the Tea Party believes is very much in freedom and responsibility, as well, and -- and that means a responsibility to help your neighbors, your communities and others, and not let people fall behind. I'm going to pose this to you, Donna. What do you think the Tea Party -- what do you think the Tea Party is?

BRAZILE: I think they're the most destructive force in American politics.

BRABENDER: But describe to me what they stand for.

BRAZILE: I didn't think that in the beginning, because in the beginning, I thought that they were running against both the Republican the Democratic Party. They were running against excessive spending and Washington, D.C., being out of control.

But over the last year and a half, two years, after we came up with the budget agreement of 2011 and 2012, after we went through the fiscal cliff, the sequestration. I thought the Tea Party would declare victory because they've gotten domestic spending to its lowest since President Eisenhower. I thought they would declare victory and say, "OK, let us go on to NSA and spying and some other stuff." But no, the Tea Party is selfish, and they are insular, and I think they're a destructive force in American politics.

BRABENDER: Do you think they've done some good, then? Because you were saying before...

BRAZILE: Again, I said they did some good. I mean, they got -- they got people back to the table. I think Speaker Gingrich would agree with this. They got Washington to curb its appetite for excessive spending. There's still more to be done, but there's more investment that should be made and more job creation that would help also reduce the federal deficit.

GINGRICH: Let me ask you a question, because you mentioned excessive spending. And I think this is one of the great challenges that de Blasio's going to have in New York.

You know, for 20 years you've had Giuliani and you've had Bloomberg. And they've emphasized controlling spending, taking on the work force of the city government, and public safety. You now have somebody running whose major promise is to fire Commissioner Kelly...

JONES: Thank goodness.

GINGRICH: ... who is committed to much higher taxes. And my question is this. To what degree is this victory potentially going to move New York onto the Detroit kind of trajectory, when you start sliding -- when New York was almost ungovernable at one point. And to what extent, in fact, does this great -- I understand it's a great progressive victory to Van. But it strikes me that the history prior to Giuliani was not one that made you encouraged. And then this was bipartisan. John Lindsey was as big a problem, I think, as anybody else.

BRAZILE: Well, crime, as you well know, during that period of time was off the charts in every major American city for many, many reasons, including the so-called war on drugs.

I think Bill de Blasio is a visionary. He's a guy who sees a city that's coming apart because of the growing inequality between the rich and poor. He's a guy who said that we've got to find a way to improve education standards or all people, not just take on the teachers' union but really bring people together to fight for education -- real education reform. I think he's going to be an incredible mayor, and he's not going to be a polarizing figure. And I think he's going to be a mayor that will do a good job in bringing New Yorkers together.

JONES: I think one thing that's very interesting is when you look at his numbers, you have 400,000 millionaires in New York City alone. That's amazing. You look at...

BRABENDER: We should all move there.

JONES: Now that Bill de Blasio's the mayor, I think I should move there.

You've got 400,000 millionaires in New York City. And when you poll them and talk to them, they're not afraid to put a little more tax dollars toward universal pre-k. They don't like this stop and frisk. You know, crime was falling in New York before stop and frisk. It's falling all across the country with no stop and frisk.

So you have, I think, the opportunity to really do in New York City something pretty special where you can have rich and poor together try to solve some of these problems. I don't see that kind of leadership yet coming from Republicans. Where are your Jack Kemps and other people who used to bring us together rather than split us apart?

BRABENDER: Well, this is the big distinction that's happening in the Republican Party these days. There are still a lot of Republicans who say, "Look, I believe government can do a lot of good. The problem is, it becomes excessively good and does no good because it's so big or we don't have our priorities right."

For example, I think Republicans should care deeply about education and want to put significant dollars in education. Just like I think we should restore manufacturing in this country. We're the most innovative country in the world. Yet, we don't make anything anymore. We're not going to make anything in the future until we stop taxing and everything else manufacturing.

The problem in the Republican Party today, in my opinion is, there's too many people who are middle-class people who think we have stopped fighting for them. Something they thought Ronald Reagan did. Something they thought other people have done for them. These days, as your perception is, they think we only care about the wealthy.

BRAZILE: And that's why Newt Gingrich's book is really good. Because he talks about unleashing the potential of people to make this an innovation society. I've been reading your excerpts.

GINGRICH: Thank you for the plug.

BRAZILE: I'm giving you a big plug.

GINGRICH: Thank you. And I think "Breakout" is part of that. But one of the places we're seeing the start of breakout, frankly, is the governors. You want to dig in. Your home state, you're going to do what Bobby Jindal did. The largest experiment in trying to give every child a chance to have a school that works anywhere in America.

You go and look at what's happened with John Kasich in Ohio. You look at the number of jobs Rick Perry has created. The amount of reform with Scott Walker and again tonight's victory in New Jersey.

I do think there are a number of Republican governors who represent the kind of change that you could make a pretty powerful campaign out of. And yet, they have a really big challenge. I want to put up a poll number that will not make Governor Christie very happy from the exit polls today.

The question was asked, if the candidates in 2016 are Clinton and Christie, this is in Christie's own state now. He is currently today, after having just run a campaign for re-election, behind by 49-43.


JONES: What do you make of that?

BRAZILE: Look, that is because voters really know the difference between electing a Hillary Clinton for president versus Chris Christie, who's anti-union, who's anti-raising the minimum wage. He's anti-choice, and I don't think his brand of Republicanism will stand the test of time.

You mentioned -- you mentioned governors. We need to add Jerry Grown. California is doing a great job these days, and we don't talk a lot about California these days.

GINGRICH: Let me, if I might. Stay here. Next, we "Ceasefire." Is there anything the two of you can agree on?

We also want you at home to weigh in on today's "Fireback" question: "After tonight's results, how do you think the Tea Party will emerge?" Reply "stronger" or "weaker" using #CROSSFIRE. We'll have the results after the break.


JONES: fComing up, the answer to our "Fireback" question: "After tonight's election results, how do you think the Tea Party is going to emerge?" Tweet "stronger" or "weaker" using #CROSSFIRE. And stay with CNN for complete election results. We'll be right back.


GINGRICH: We're back with Donna Brazile and John Brabender. Now, let's call a "Ceasefire," and let me tell you all this isn't election night. We wrestled with a variety of political questions. We weren't getting anywhere, and suddenly, John came up with a great topic that our two guests could be very strong about.

BRABENDER: We -- we agreed with one of the most important events I think facing America, probably, this weekend. The LSU/Alabama game.


BRABENDER: We're both for LSU and believe that Alabama has to lose.

BRAZILE: As a proud graduate of LSU, I think this weekend LSU will take down the Alabama Crimson Tide. And forgive my red uniform, but I'm for LSU.

JONES: We'll get the purple next time.

I'll tell you what. I want to thank both of you for being here on election night. I guess we don't have to agree on anything political.

If you want to be a part of the conversation we're having, you can to go Facebook or Twitter to weigh in on our "Fireback" question. After tonight's results, how do you think the Tea Party will emerge? Right now 37 percent of you say it will actually be stronger, but 63 percent say it will be weaker.

This debate is going to continue online at, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

We also want to congratulate you, Newt, on the publication of your new book. "Breakout" is an awesome read.

I am from the left. Van jones.

GINGRICH: From the right, I'm Newt Gingrich. As part of CNN's election coverage, we'll be back at 11:30 tonight for a live edition of CROSSFIRE.

An "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" election special starts right now.