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What Are Voters Thinking in 2014?; Good Omens for Democrats?

Aired January 2, 2014 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, a new year with new challenges. What are the voters thinking?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do what's right, now what's going to get you reelected.

ANNOUNCER: And which party needs to start worrying?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They fight too much.

ANNOUNCER: On the left, Van Jones. On the right, Newt Gingrich. In the CROSSFIRE, Margie Omero, who polls for Democratic candidates; and Kellyanne Conway, who polls for Republicans. Who should fear the election more? Democrats? Republicans? Or the voters? 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 CROSSFIRE tonight, Democratic and Republican pollsters.

As we start the new year, the biggest question is whether either party can get its act together enough to win a decisive victory, or whether we stumble through the year and have a series of localized elections with no national meaning, leaving us in the doldrums until 2016.

I know where your vote is.

JONES: Yes. Well, I hope that the Democrats can get their act together on some of these economic populist issues and get a wave going, but we could blow it. Republicans are hoping that Obama care works for them. We've got to bring this thing out. We've got some of the best minds in the country right now to help us think this through.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, we've got Democratic pollster Margie Omero and Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, who actually worked for none other than our own Newt Gingrich during his presidential run. So welcome to both of you.

Now, listen, you have to look at these numbers and take them seriously. I am imagining, from the Democratic point of view, we're hoping Obama care fades a bit, and we can start going after you guys on minimum wage, on the unemployment insurance issues. Why don't the Republicans just vote on this stuff right now, get it out of the way and stick with Obama care? Why are you guys going to stay on the wrong side of these economic issues?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Whoa. I mean, Obama care has just started to be implemented in full yesterday. So we didn't cause that, Van. Actually, not a single Republican supported Obama care, so he owns this. If not is all right with Obama care, not is all right with the Obama legacy. And there are certain dates that are already fixed in the system. They're going to keep rolling it out. We hit a really sad milestone today, where we have more people in this country who have had their plans canceled than have actually successfully enrolled in Obama care. I don't think those are the numbers the president was expecting. In the CNN poll, women are the real detractors to Obama care. They're the chief health-care officers, and they don't like Obama care.

JONES: You see? This is it. You guys want to beat this Obama care drum, which is great...

CONWAY: It's the law...

JONES: Sure, but I'm asking you a sophisticated question. You're a sophisticated pollster. Don't you want to be able to keep doing this? I don't understand. You know we're coming after you now.

You guys are standing in the way on the minimum wage increase. America deserves a raise, very popular. You guys are against it. We want to do something about our active job seekers who need to have their insurance extended. You guys are against that. Aren't you just handing us the economic tools to beat you up?

CONWAY: No, I don't think so, and I think it's really overbroad to say an entire party or an entire population is against big things. It makes a great sound bite, but substantively, it's also false.

What we're for is not unemployment benefits so much as employment. I think all those people have unemployment benefits extended would prefer to have employment.

JONES: No argument (ph) there.

CONWAY: That's the path. Hold on. Obama care is an economic issue. And I think that's where the president and his proponents really, really underestimate the American population, and turn this into Obama care.

They look at this as higher premiums, canceled plans, lack of quality, not being able to keep your plan or your doctor. And now for many women, they see that you're trying to insinuate Big Brother and Uncle Sam between them and their doctors, and they don't like it. That's not beating Obama care as a political issue. This is the law of the land now.

JONES: All that sounds great. I'll get on that later. Go ahead.

GINGRICH: I want to get into the economic stuff you want to get into.

JONES: Good enough.

GINGRICH: And Margie, let me ask you to take a look at a map that we've got here from the U.S. Census, which shows you how to create jobs. And if you'll notice, the green counties are the ones that have had a dramatic increase. The purple counties have had a substantial drop. The rest are sort of in the middle.

North Dakota has doubled its per capita income since 2000. Doubled. In North Dakota today, they don't talk about minimum wage, because you get paid $18 at McDonald's, and they will pay you a bonus.

Now, it's very interesting. On that map -- and I know it's hard to see on the screen like this -- there are counties in Pennsylvania that have gas and are producing jobs and creating jobs. Right across the state line in exactly the same geography, the New York Democrats refuse to allow their farmers and their rural New Yorkers to earn the kind of money that you're earning in Pennsylvania.

Isn't it a fact that we do know how to create jobs, that a pro-growth party, creating jobs, lowering the cost of energy, getting everybody a chance to have cheaper gasoline and cheaper heating oil, actually is -- trumps things like minimum wage?

MARGIE OMERO, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: You mean if I can't frack in my backyard, then I'm out of luck? I mean, there are plenty of states on that map that don't have that ability. There are plenty of people who don't have that ability. There are plenty of people who don't have that ability.

And ultimately, we should be looking at this from a political perspective when we think about this. Which party is sounding like they care about people's jobs? Like they care -- they understand where people are coming from? That they want to make sure that people feel that their anxieties and concerns are taken seriously?

And I think for a lot of people, wherever they are in that map, they're not sure if any of their leaders in Washington feel that way. And when you hear these fights over the minimum wage or income inequality or unemployment or SNAP, food for hungry children, it leaves a lot of people wondering, well, maybe people in Washington don't feel the sense of urgency. It leaves a lot of people wondering, "Well, maybe people in Washington don't feel the sense of urgency." The Republicans...


CONWAY: Margie, here's what I'm wondering. Here's what I'm wondering. Why would it take this president five years to utter the phrase "income inequality"? And then he said it's the issue of our times? Five years later, it's the issue of our times? I thought Obama care was the issue of our times. I thought Gitmo was the issue of our times. I thought Afghanistan was the issue of our times. There's always a new issue of our times. If it's so important to him, and he says, you know, if you don't have a good education, then you'll -- we'll never bridge income inequality, why is he -- why is Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, why are all these leading Democrats against charters and school choice? Ninety- two percent of charter school students in New York City today are black and Hispanic. Why would we be against expanding those educational opportunities for those children, which ultimately helps bridge income inequality? I don't understand it.

OMERO: There are plenty of Democrats around the country, leaders and voters who support charter schools.

CONWAY: Not the president and not the mayor of New York.

OMERO: This is something -- that, look, you're right, there are Democrats who get split on this, but ultimately, lots of people are focusing on investing in public education. Not just in education, infrastructure, all of these things to -- that Republicans say we shouldn't be spending this money. We should be cutting funding the public schools. You see this in states around the country. Well, Democrats want to improve that and increase that fund.

CONWAY: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) not the answer.

JONES: Listen, charter schools, all of those issues you guys like to come -- I think you have a party that has a branding issue. I don't think that people believe you when you say that you care about them, you care about ordinary people.

Let's take an issue like immigration. Here's an issue that the majority of Americans are saying, they desperately want to do something on that. Fifty-seven percent of Americans say right now, let the people who are here who are not documented apply and become citizens. A very small number don't agree.

And yet your party is still struggling and stumbling. Maybe they'll do something. Do the smallest thing you could possibly do. Why is it so hard for Republicans to be with the rest of America on immigration?

CONWAY: Well, news flash: we control one third of the -- of Washington. Where is -- excuse me, where is the president's leadership on immigration? Why is it...

JONES: We just passed the Senate -- just passed a great bill through the Senate with bipartisan support.

CONWAY: It's not a great bill. It's not a great bill.

JONES: Well, there are Republicans who voted for it. You're saying they did a bad thing?

CONWAY: No. It's not a great bill. It's not a perfect bill. That's for sure. And it also doesn't really get at what many Americans look at when they look at immigration policy. Which is fairness. They want fairness to those who are here. They want fairness to those who are going through the proper channels, the standing in line and filing the paperwork and waiting to come here. And they want fairness to those who are here under the Obama economy and can't find work and are being squeezed out of jobs that they need to feed their families by people who are here illegally. That's fairness.

JONES: But listen. I think everybody in America is for fairness. Help me understand, though, honestly. I think Republicans seem awfully tone deaf. We're tearing families apart. We're deporting moms away from their kids. We could do something about it right now. Why won't Republicans do something about it? If you want to win votes, here's a way, since you care so much, to look like you care.

CONWAY: Well, Speaker Boehner just today said that he's committed to immigration reform. So I expect you will see something.

I was for Newt Gingrich for president, who had the best immigration policy. No, seriously. I think a lot of what cost - cost Mitt Romney votes, but also the compassion vote, if you will, the "who cares about people like you," which he lost 81-18. That means Republicans agreed. By the way, he lost 81-18, exit poll in "The Washington Post," which candidate, Obama or Romney, cares about people like you. It's because he talked about self-deportation.

Newt talked about not allowing, you know -- lots of Republicans, smart Republicans talk about not allowing a grandmother who's been here for 25 or 30 years, who you see in the grocery store, at church, and in the library, the coffee shop, to somehow go back home? It makes no sense. It's against the American ethos.

GINGRICH: Let me ask you, Margie. Speaker Boehner, who a couple of times in the last two weeks has indicated he wants to move immigration forward. I think Chairman Good is going to move six or eight bills, a series of building blocks and then basically work with the Senate on this.

If by this September, the Congress has actually passed substantial immigration reform, isn't that in a sense the Democrats' worst nightmare? Because we will have taken off the table the one issue you were counting on to attack us about?

OMERO: Well, a few things. First we want to see immigration reform. If it passes, that's great, because we want to get things done. Or at least I want to get things done. Democrats I know want to get them done. Van is nodding. He wants to get things done. And that's what voters want to see: people in Washington actually working.

The second thing is it's going to take more than immigration to solve Republicans' issues with Latinos, because Latinos care about more than immigration.

And the other thing is voters who are not Latino also care about immigration. There's, I think, this myth here in Washington that this is a Latino issue that only Latinos care about, that will solve problems for Republicans if they check some box on immigration. And neither of those things are true.

Because even Republican -- even Republican voters, a majority of them say they support a path to citizenship with a variety of requirements.

GINGRICH: So if we pass that by September, hasn't that eliminated one of the major talking points in your campaign?

OMERO: Well...

CONWAY: and then we're back to Obama care, of course, which they don't want to talk about.

GINGRICH: Which Latinos also care about, because they can't get it.

OMERO: Well, they don't actually have it. They're experiencing going to the doctor. But...

JONES: Actually, we have a lot of things we can talk about beyond immigration, including the economy. And I was happy to see two special guests at Mayor de Blasio's swearing-in. Next what Bill and Hillary Clinton already know and why it should make Democrats very, very happy. When we get back.


JONES: Welcome back. In the CROSSFIRE tonight we've got pollsters Margie Omero, and Kellyanne Conway.

Well, here we are at the beginning of a big election year. One good omen for the Democrats. The year started with Bill de Blasio being sworn in as the mayor of New York.

I love this guy! He is not afraid to say that America's middle class deserves a bigger share of the economic pie, which I think is awesome. Plus, the Clintons were there front and center. Now, those two can read the polls as well as anyone alive. This is the bottom line.

Progressive economic solutions are hugely popular with all voters, and the Clintons know it. So raise the minimum wage, grow America, not from the rich down but from the middle class out. If Hillary Clinton sticks with those themes, it could be a very happy new year for her and for the Democrats.

So to you, I think if you are a Republican, you are the big Republican pollster here, you've got to be looking at this Democratic Party coming together. We're becoming united, left, middle, right of our party, standing now with the kind of ideas that Bill de Blasio ran on. And then we're coming against your party.

You guys are split all over the place. You can't pick between a Ted Cruz, between a Chris Christie. I mean, aren't you concerned that your divisions are going to give us an opportunity to run right up the middle and get a majority now?

CONWAY: You call them divisions. I see it as diversity. We actually have a party that welcomes Ted Cruz and Chris Christie in the same party. Can you -- either of you name for me five prominent Democratic pro-life women in this country? There are none left. In 2007 -- there are none left. You pushed them out. JONES: Well, because the pro-choice position is the majority position in the United States, what the majority of women in the United States...

CONWAY: You're not unified. Van, the Democratic Party is not unified; the Democratic Party is monolithic. There's a difference between being unified and monolithic. You've squeezed out pro-life Democrats. There are no more boll weevil Democrats. There are 12 blue-dog Democrats. You can count on two hands and two fingers the number of blue dogs. In 2007 there were over 50. There are 12 left. You're not unified; you're monolithic.

JONES: So now you're saying that your party is welcoming of...

CONWAY: No, no, what I'm saying -- this is not -- this is not -- the new agenda...

JONES: The welcoming party in the United States?

CONWAY: Yes. Yes.

OMERO: Everybody's worried about a primary challenge. Anything they do leaves them open to a primary challenge. For voting -- people who are the most conservative senators in the country, they get primary challenged. I mean, to say that that's a diverse party.

CONWAY: That makes my point for me, actually.


GINGRICH: The Republican that has gotten the most coverage in the last six weeks is Chris Christie.

CONWAY: Chris Christie, right.

GINGRICH: And it's pretty hard to argue the guy who got half the Latino vote, substantial number of African-Americans.

CONWAY: Fifty-seven percent of the women.

GINGRICH: Women --


OMERO: -- conservative gatherings.

GINGRICH: But let me give you a slightly different view than Van. I know this would shock you.

I watched the Clintons yesterday -- see, I watched the Clintons there like watching people rushing onto the "Titanic." I mean, Bill de Blasio is --

CONWAY: He's her campaign manager.

OMERO: She didn't endorse him. GINGRICH: He's a very liberal person in a very liberal city just as the other great joy of progressive Democrat, Elizabeth Warren.

JONES: All hail, all hail.

GINGRICH: It's one of the most liberal states in the country, arguably maybe with Vermont.

And what's interesting about Bill de Blasio though is he's not courageous progressive. Listen to what he said about what he's going to do to chance New York. I think this was perfect.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK: Those earning between $500,000 and a million a year, for instance, would see their taxes increase by an average of $973 a year. That's less than $3 a day, about the cost of a small soy latte at your local Starbucks.


GINGRICH: I think this gives, you know, years ago, we used to talk about sort of the Chablis and Volvo liberals in the suburbs. This gives us our brand new definition of the courage soy latte --


GINGRICH: But not just soy latte. A genuine radical like Van, who said I want to a large -- I want to hit the rich -- I want a large one here. OK. A cautious, you know, would have said, I want a medium size, and I'm not using the Starbucks terms, but I want a medium size.

But no, de Blasio's example of courageous leadership is I will change the city in New York and rich people will not pay more than a small soy latte. You know how hard it is for those of us in the business of trying to characterize liberals to have somebody jump you will and say soy latte. How do you ridicule somebody who themselves is already saying --

CONWAY: But Machiavellian (ph) business in Manhattan, he's got some serious decisions to make, whether they stay in Manhattan or go somewhere else.

GINGRICH: But let me ask you a program question -- is there a single red state Democratic senator up for reelection who could embrace soy latte liberalism without getting defeated?

OMERO: Well, he's the mayor of New York. So, of course, he's going to have a different tony and use different imagery than Mary Landrieu. I mean, that's just -- I mean, that's not -- that's just as true for Republicans as it is for Democrats.

Look, I think we can -- I think Bill de Blasio provides an opportunity for us to talk about some of these issues, like income inequality, which by the way, Republicans around the country polls show, people also support, but also it's unique to New York. I think the other thing that makes him exciting in New York is that he reflects a changing demography of our country, a changing electorate. And I think that made him very relatable.

Does that mean that progressives are winning around the country are going to look exactly like Bill de Blasio? No. But I don't think this surprise anybody.

GINGRICH: Isn't the gap between all the hype, and a small soy latte charge comparable to Obama running around saying I'm going to radically change health care, but not yours, which is now blown up in his face?

JONES: But the thing is, I think -- obviously, I see this very -- I see this very differently. First of all, I think that conservatives are overreacting what de Blasio is saying. He's saying in a city where you have literally thousands of millionaires, he's going to raise taxes a little bit to get universal pre-k for kids. That's, too, a bridge too far for Republicans? Are you against universal pre- K to poor kids?

CONWAY: Van, what I'm going is when is the last time that money that was committed for X went to X. It goes to every other level of the alphabet except X. And you know there's going to be no direct revenue stream from the taxes.

And we all -- and that presupposes these people aren't already most taxed in the country to begin with. They are.

And also presuppose that all these major companies whose tax revenues fund the poor in New York are going to stay here.

JONES: This is what I love. I love this. This is the best talking point you guys have. And it turns out when they pulled those thousands of millionaires, they're for it. They don't mind contributing back. In fact, part of --

CONWAY: I sold my apartment. I'm not going to be one of them.

JONES: Rather than help poor kids --

CONWAY: No, I help them plenty. I do a lot of work for charter schools.

JONES: Good.

CONWAY: Again, he wants to gut -- shut and charge the man to charter schools. I cannot believe a man who's saying that he wants to bridge income inequality in New York City is going to go after charter schools first and foremost. It makes no logical sense to me. If you can help me that as nonpartisan point, I'm listening, because I care about kids. I have four of my own.

JONES: Well, good. I have two of my own.

Here's the deal. You know and I know that the Democratic Party is split over the question of charter schools. I know that Mayor De Blasio has one position, is not the position that I and others have.

But, honestly, I think you guys are missing something here. These issues, these economic themes around the minimum wage saying that Americans deserve a raise, they play in red states and blue states, too. Aren't you concern Republicans are going to get out on these ideological rant and talking about socialism and Democrats will finally break through and say, we're trying to give Americans a raise and make sure you can feed your family.

CONWAY: It's not about socialism. It's not about socialism. I can't imagine that Mark Pryor and Kay Hagan and Mary Landrieu and Mark Begich are going to be running on the minimum wage. I'm going to say that they're not going to run on the minimum wage. They're not going to run on Obamacare. So, when they -- they can go first. Then I'll follow.

JONES: Well, I hope you leave that issue for us because we've got to put it on ballot there all across the country. You're going to drive out turnout.

CONWAY: Minimum wage, you know, you're not looking at the unintended victims of minimum wage. Minimum wage jobs are predominantly people who want upward economic mobility.


CONWAY: Van, people don't stay in minimum wage job on average. Some do. On average, they tend to be under the age of 25, they tend to be part time workers.

My first job polling job --


CONWAY: My first polling was for minimum wage. That is a true fact. I worked for Ronald Reagan's pollster, Dick Wirthlin, for minimum wage. I now own my polling company. That's the American dream.

I didn't look around and say, he's got more than me. I don't look at you and say, well, you got more than me. That's not fair.

JONES: I don't.

OMERO: Minimum wage is worth more than it is now. Minimum wage was once worth 11 bucks in today's dollars.

CONWAY: We should talk there is a cost to everything. We can't just say reform and pretend that there's money -- universal pre-K and then money is going to fall from the sky.

GINGRICH: OK. If you would, stay here. Next, the final question for both of our guests.

You also want you at home to weigh in on today's "Fireback" question. Who should fear 2014 elections more? Tweet Democrats, Republicans or voters using #crossfire. We'll have the results after the break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GINGRICH: We're back with Margie Omero and Kellyanne Conway.

Now, it's time for the final question.

On my part, Margie, if the Democrats have three or four more months with Obamacare as bad as the last three, doesn't that sort of trump every other issue in the campaign this fall?

OMERO: Well, I don't think that's what's going to happen. People have been reacting to what they think Obamacare is. Now, they're actually going to have experiences with it. They're going to the doctor. They're going to have coverage they didn't have before. They're going to be -- not be prevented from getting health care because they had a preexisting condition. All those things are now changing.

And they're going to be responding to their own actual experiences. That's an easier thing to wrap your mind around than the thought of Obamacare and its discussion in the news and what they have heard it might include.

So I think you're going to have, and you already see some reflection of it in the polls and Gallup in December. But I think you're going to see voters respond better to Obamacare as the months go on.

I mean, if you look, and this has always been true. Everybody here knows this. The specifics of what's included in Obamacare have always been popular.

JONES: Very popular.

OMERO: The thought of the --

JONES: Let me get my -- let me get my question in. So, we also know what's very popular is extending unemployment insurance for active job seekers right now.

You are a pollster. You're trying to get people reelected. Is it your advice to Republicans that you don't need the votes of unemployed active job seekers?

CONWAY: It's not that linear. It's not that simple.

What this country needs is for those active job seekers to stop seeking and start working. Why five years -- no, it's been five years in the meantime, Van. The failure to really fully recover from the economic downturn, the failure for growth, for job creation by this administration has meant that we have too many job seekers and we have frankly have too many people who are no longer looking. They're discouraged.

JONES: So, you would advise Republicans to vote against it?

CONWAY: I would advise Republicans to vote their conscience on that issue and you'll see a very diverse vote.


GINGRICH: Thanks to Margie Omero and Kellyanne Conway.

JONES: You should go to Facebook and Twitter to weigh in on our "Fireback" question, who should fear the 2014 elections more?

Right now, 18 percent of you say Democrats, 32 percent say Republicans, 50 percent say the voters should be afraid.

The debate will continue online at, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

From the left, I'm Van Jones.

GINGRICH: From the right, I'm Newt Gingrich.

Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.