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INSIDE POLITICS

Drudge Report Calls Clinton "Grandma Hillary;" Family Split on Jeb Bush Run; Obama With Low Red State Approval Numbers; Red State Dems Hang Tough; Boehner Mocks Colleagues on Immigration

Aired April 27, 2014 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hillary Clinton offers advice to women of all ages and maybe to herself.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLINTON: There are times in all of our lives when we're either given an opportunity or we see one that we could seize, and we get nervous, we worry.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Does she worry about mounting conservative criticism she's too old to be president. And if she's grandma Hillary, why didn't anybody label this guy grandpa Mitt. And don't cry for me, Speaker Boehner.

In Washington, the House Speaker blames President Obama for the immigration gridlock.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOEHNER: What's the Democrat's plan?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: But back home, a candid Boehner says, the real problem is cry- baby fellow Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOEHNER: Oh, don't make me do this. Oh, this is too hard.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Mocking his colleagues endanger Boehner's hold on the speaker's gavel? "Inside Politics," the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, now.

Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your Sunday morning. With us to share their reporting and their insights, Maeve Reston of "The Los Angeles Times, Manu Raju of "Politico," Jackie Kucinich of "The Washington Post," and CNN's Peter Hamby.

Hillary Clinton was busy again this past week, including an appearance in Boston, in which she gave a shout-out to women who juggle raising a family with career pressures.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLINTON: A lot of women who drop out of the workforce in their late 20s, in their 30s, they raise their children, you know, their brains have not atrophied.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Now, maybe that's just an innocent and a heartfelt tribute to women like my mom who was home for years raising seven children -- that wasn't easy, and then went back to work. Or maybe, it was a deliberate response to things like this. Take a look.

Growing course of words and images from the right that Hillary Clinton who is 66 years old as we speak today, is too old, they say, to assume the presidency in 2017.

Maeve Reston, that's two months younger than Ronald Reagan when he assumed the presidency. And he's the hero of most conservatives. If it was good for Ronald Reagan, why is it suddenly not good, too old for Hillary Clinton?

RESTON: Well, I think it's a ridiculous argument. You know, as reporters, what we look at is in those considerations is the health of a candidate. And those are the kinds -- the questions that -- that would be raised about any candidate running.

But you look at John McCain who was 71 when he was running. He made a lot of jokes about his age. And that factored into voters' calculations sometimes. But -- but the idea that just because she's, you know, now going to be a grandmother that that suddenly put her into a different set is -- is just ridiculous.

KING: Grandmother who will have one grandchild, we assume, maybe Chelsea's going to be busy, but we assume one grandchild by election day 2016. Mitt Romney had 18. He's got more than that now.

Nobody said Grandpa Mitt.

But Manu, I guess the question -- look, age is fair. Everything is fair when you run for president. You know, Ronald Reagan was asked about it. Democrats were critical. Bob Dole was asked about it.

Democrats were critical. John McCain has made note of it, asked about it. Democrats are critical. But where is the line? Everything is relevant when you run for president, not only what you think about taxes and spending but who you are, how old you are.

And she will be asked Like every candidate is, give us access to your doctors. Give us your medical records. Where is the line?

RAJU: You know, I think that these are all fair questions. I mean, why -- why this was an issue for McCain was not necessarily just because he would be 72, but also because a heartbeat away from the presidency was Sarah Palin. There were a lot of questions about whether or not she was qualified to become president after she stumbled out of the game, had some uneven answers in a lot of our interviews.

People questioned her fitness to become president. If Hillary gets in a situation where she has a vice presidential candidate who is someone who -- there's a credibility question involving him or her, number two on the ticket, then people will start looking and saying, hey, you know, can she serve out her term.

Will she be healthy enough to serve out potentially two terms? That's going to be a question.

HAMBY: This narrative isn't coming out of nowhere. There (ph), she did have a little bit of a health scare last year. But the last time she ran for national office in 2008, she consistently lost younger voters in that -- in that primary against President Obama. So that's sort of where this is coming from a little bit.

KUCINICH: Well, but I think Republicans have to be careful about the age issue with Hillary, is when it starts getting personal, when they start talking about appearance, when they start talking about plastic surgery, it's already happened.

KING: To that point, let me stop (ph) you (ph) just one second because Erik Erickson of Red State, a conservative blogger and activist was filling in for Rush Limbaugh this past week. And I asked a minute ago where is the line.

This is over the line and over the line and beyond.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERICKSON: She's going to be old. I -- I don't know how far back they can pull her face.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: That's just mean. It's sexist and it's mean. And my question is this, then, is the conservative venom for Hillary? Do they so fear her and so (ph) worry about her? Are they going to wander into mistake- land because their passions (ph) are so high, like they did questioning where Barack Obama was born and things like that?

It's -- do they take it too personally?

RESTON: They do. You have certain voices on the right that do that. And it causes massive problems for everybody else in the party that is not making those kinds of comments.

And that's exactly where Republicans will run into trouble, you know, especially if there are people out there talking a lot about her age and her -- her health and -- and raising questions about her health over and over again when we don't necessarily have evidence yet one way or the other.

HAMBY: And Secretary Clinton has been successful in the past when she is under attack. Remember, Rick Lazio approaching her...

RESTON: Yes.

HAMBY: ...on the debate stage. You're likable enough, Hillary, was Barack Obama's comment. And you know, she won New Hampshire, in part, because she felt a little bit victimized and showed that emotion.

KING: We'll say, if they're mad in camp Clinton, they can be mad at Republicans. They also need to be mad at their publisher. Some Issues (ph) of (ph) this image for months in promoting her book that was coming.

Once they announced the publishing date was in June, they switched to another image, a younger Hillary Clinton. So if they're wondering where this comes from, in part, they have only themselves to blame.

But we'll leave that one for you at home to think about. Adding to this debate this past week was Bob Dole, who went through this himself, as I noted, when he was the Republican candidate in 1996. Team Clinton, then Bill Clinton, was not shy about saying, you know what, nice guy but he's just past his prime.

Bob Dole said the younger Republicans, and he named Rubio -- Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul weren't ready. Is that an age question or is that an ideological question?

RAJU: I think it's both age, experience, ideology, some -- Ted Cruz doesn't really align with the Bob Dole wing of the party right now. But the question will be twofold.

One, if there is a younger Republican candidate going against Hillary, what does that mean for getting younger voters, in key states like Florida, in Ohio, where those younger voters really came out for Barack Obama in both '08 and '12, while he won -- fewer younger voters came out in '12. He still won by about a two-to-one margin.

If there's a -- a younger Republican candidate, do they have a better chance of attracting that vote, that will be the question. But hovering overall, that will be the experience question.

If these first-term senators, if they get the nomination, do they have the experience.

KING: Does she channel Ronald Reagan and turn to her younger opponent, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and say, I won't make my opponents' youthful inexperience an issue.

HAMBY: She probably should do that if she is running with someone like that. But I think what -- what was interesting about what Bob Dole's -- Bob Dole said, I see something generational here at play, and I don't mean age, I mean, politically.

Bob Dole came of age politically in a time when he became the Republican nominee and he rose in politics based on your merits and your ability to back-room deals and accomplish things. Barack Obama really exploded the notion that you need experience to become president.

If you can raise money, if you are telegenic, if you have a message, you can catch fire and you don't necessarily need experience. However, I think we are saying that it will probably be a problem for these senators, specifically, if they run because they might not have the record that governors do.

KUCINICH: Well, and Republicans -- they usually have an heir apparent. You know, there's usually someone who is going to be the next person to run for president. It was like that with Dole.

It was like that with Romney. It's been like -- and McCain. It's been like that. So right now, there isn't -- Paul Ryan doesn't really seem too interested in running for president these days.

And he would be presumably the next guy. So they have this little bit of a vacuum where you do have these less experienced Republicans that are looking...

(CROSSTALK)

RAJU: And that's why some folks are leaning on Jeb Bush, hoping to...

KING: You guys, you mentioned -- you mention Jeb Bush. We know mom is a no. She says been too many Bushes. She doesn't want Hillary Clinton to run either. She thinks it's time for a new name in politics.

And we sort of assumed that dad was a yes. But our Gloria Borger sat down with Neil Bush, another one of the Bush brothers. And he put on the record, Barbara's a no, George H.W. Bush, yes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BUSH: If you ask dad the same question, should Jeb run, he'd say yes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Now, Maeve, does that matter? In the end, it's Jeb's decision and Jeb and his family's decision, meaning his wife and his children, more than his mom and dad, no disrespect. But does it matter?

And why are the Bushs making sure we know that if mom's a no, dad's a yes?

RESTON: Well, I mean, I think it's a good thing that they're balancing each other out. And this is just -- it's a great talking point for him. He gets so many laughs when he's out, you know, talking about his mom's concerns about him running.

So I do think it's a sort of a fun thing for him to play with, but going forward as he considers this decision.

RAJU: And you always want the story line in the media to be you're considering running. You know, the media starts saying, well, he's probably not going to run.

His family doesn't want him to run. Then that's -- and if you're actually a candidate, that's necessarily a good thing.

RESTON: And he has to make it clear that he listens to his mom. That's important.

KUCINICH: I don't know, if you want to do something and mom says no, you go to dad.

RESTON: Yes.

KING: I'm no mamma's boy, if he does plan (ph) that (ph) right (ph). So everybody sit tight.

Next, the real reason the House won't act on immigration reform, it's enough to make the house speaker cry like a baby. But first, John Kerry, a dog and our winner in a very packed week of politicians saying and doing the darnedest things.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KERRY: There's one rule in show business, don't do anything with kids or -- or animals. I'm breaking those rules today. Whoops.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. Our puzzle this week is proof anyone who tells you they know what will happen come November is lying. There are too many races that are just too close to call, a hundred 91 based out to have any clue.

But let's look at a handful at some new polling. And as we do remember this, Republicans need a net gain of six to take the big prize. That's control of the Senate.

Where are those new polls this week? Now, Republicans are telling us don't believe this. But Mary Landrieu plus 24 in "The New York Times" poll, in the state of Louisiana, it's complicated because of the ballot access rules of Louisiana.

But Democrats say, maybe it's not that big. But they think that's great news. Another one Democrats are celebrating, Arkansas. Mark Pryor is the Democrat incumbent, "The New York Times" polling shows him plus 10 over his lead Republican opponent.

Again, Republicans don't buy this. But it gives Democrats a little bit of bragging rights and some momentum, a little tougher for the Democrats. But They're still happy to be on top over in North Carolina.

Kay Hagan is the Democrat incumbent. She's plus two, a hundred 91 days out, very tight race there. Look at this one, Kentucky, Mitch McConnell wants to be the Senate Majority Leader.

He's the Senate Republican leader right now. He's up just one point over his Democratic opponents. And that assumes he survives first a tea party primary challenge. We'll keep an eye on that one until the very end. And out in Colorado, a state the President carried twice, Mark Udall is the Democratic incumbent. A Quinnipiac poll shows him up just one so essentially a dead heat.

Now, some people say, watch these polls. We're going to get different polls every week. Other people say, forget the polls until you get very close to election day. Look at this instead.

Where is the President in a midterm election year? Well, in Louisiana, a majority, 54 percent disapprove of how the President's doing his job. In neighboring Arkansas, it's 60 percent who disapprove of how the President is doing his job.

Over in North Carolina, that number is 51 percent -- better for the President, but still a majority disapproval of his job performance. In Mitch McConnell's Kentucky, 60 percent disapprove again of how the President is performing.

This one surprised me. Remember, the President carried Colorado twice. Yet, 59 percent at this point disapprove of how the President is handling his job.

And so I guess that's the question, Manu, when you go state by state, race by race, and this is going to be a chess match in the very end, do you watch the polls now or is it more important where the President stands?

RAJU: It's the President. It's also where the money is going. Where are the -- how is this (inaudible)? You know, the polls are going to fluctuate week-by-week. This campaign really has not even taken off.

A lot of voters, when I go to these states and I talk to them, are not really even engaged that there is an election going on. The general election campaigns have not really started to flood the air waves or trying to define opponents on the air.

Primaries are still taking shape in North Carolina, which will have a huge impact on the general election, same in Georgia as well. Those -- and -- and even Kentucky -- McConnell's going to run away with the -- the primary, it looks like.

But once that primary is over, how does that affect the polling in his race? Will Republican voters come back home? Those are all the big questions that are unanswered.

So we're going to watch those. And we're going to watch how the -- the air war really begins to take shape when these outside groups begin to spend even more money and when the candidates, themselves, start to attack their opponents on the air.

RESTON: And talking to, you know, talking to strategists on both sides, I think they're -- they're all in a very intensive research mode at this point, even about what the issues are going to be that are going to motivate these voters to get out there. I mean, they're certainly trying with the Obamacare message, but also minimum wage. And -- and it's going -- it could be a completely different set of issues as we get much closer to November. So do (ph) we know...

KING: So a lot of these early ads are tests essentially to see what is the numbers (ph).

RESTON: Yes, exactly (ph).

HAMBY: I mean, I was in -- I was in a focus group recently where they were talking about 10 voters in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Americans for Prosperity has dumped how much money -- $8 million so far?

RESTON: Yes.

HAMBY: Only one of those people could actually identify who their U.S. senator was. There was a big fight this week in Washington over this quartet of "New York Times" polls and on Twitter, all the Republicans were questioning the methodology. And Democrats were saying, these polls are blowing up the conventional wisdom.

Manu is absolutely right. We don't have nominees in many of these races...

RAJU: Right.

HAMBY: ...for the Republican Party. And regular people are not paying attention. And they're not going to until after the summer.

KUCINICH: But Maeve mentioned Obamacare. And I think that is something. The enrollment numbers are something that should be watched because that's going to, in theory, if -- if -- if they continue to get their numbers that Democrats need, it's going to put a little bit more wind in their sails and maybe undermine the Republican repeal message because the more people that are involved, that the harder it is to repeal.

RESTON: At the same time, I was in Louisiana this week talking to these core democratic voters and was really kind of amazed by the mixed reaction that you're still hearing about the health care lobby. These are the voters that wanted the health care law and got some really ardent defenders in there.

You get other people who kind of shrug and say they're still just kind of watching to see where the premium are going to go and aren't sure yet.

KING: I think the big question is do we get enough of a wave that gives the Republicans what should be there, your bit of a cushion. Or if these races were all within five points, then candidates matter.

Staff matters. Ads matter. Nimble in the end matters.

RESTON (ph): Right.

KING: So we'll watch those...

RESTON: And -- and voter contact over...

KING: Yes.

RESTON: ...and over again. I mean, that's really what it all comes down to.

KING: So John Boehner is known sometimes to cry in public. And if you're ever in private with him, sometimes he's scathingly funny and sometimes mocking of his colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, but including Republicans.

But back home this week, remember, in Washington, Speaker Boehner stands with all his Republican House members and says it's President Obama's fault -- President Obama's fault. They won't bring an immigration bill to the floor.

Listen to the speaker back home at a town hall in Ohio.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOEHNER: Oh, don't make me do this. Oh, this is too hard. You should hear them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: He's saying, fellow conservatives, Manu, don't wanted (ph) to bring this up, fellow Republicans. Now, a couple of weeks ago, even some of his guys who would vote yes on a path to citizenship, if forced to -- wanted (ph) to (ph) because they're afraid of a primary challenge.

RAJU: That's right.

KING: What's the impact of this? You already have some Republicans, Pete King of New York, who issued (ph) a press release in (ph) the (ph) moment (ph) to get attention, but also -- also says -- also says, well then let's now bring it to the floor. Here is a moment of opportunity.

RAJU: Right, right. This is -- I don't think the impact is long-term for Boehner. He's -- the bigger problem for him would be if he did bring that immigration bill to the floor, there would be a major conservative revolt.

They would divide the Party. That could reignite -- reignite questions about a speakership. I think that this kind of rhetoric and his -- his mocking of his colleagues kind of ridden (ph) off by people who know him because as you said, John, like behind closed doors, he's a pretty easygoing affable guy.

He is sometimes, you know, he -- he'll curse behind closed doors. He'll joke around with his colleagues.

KING: But the conservatives who want him out of that job... (CROSSTALK)

RAJU: They (ph) use it as (ph) an (ph) issue (ph)...

KING: ...do they -- do they say, is this unfiltered? Is it unleashed or is it unhinged? And there's each of those is a little different.

KUCINICH: We've seen him speak out, though, particularly against conservative groups recently.

KING: Right.

KUCINICH: So Boehner has been late bit more -- he's been a little bit more assertive lately. But I think at the end of the day, his job with the House secure as it looks right now, is to first do no harm. And bringing up an immigration bill will produce some harm.

KING: I want to watch how quickly and then how often that cry-baby Boehner shows up in ads to go forth. Everybody sit tight one more time. Tomorrow's news today is next.

Our reporters get you out ahead of the big political news by sharing stories still in their notebooks including a new threat (ph) from Democrats looking to get some distance from President Obama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Time now to get you out ahead, the big political stories to come by asking our great reporters around the table to share some reporting nuggets still on their notebooks.

Maeve Reston, you first.

RESTON: Well, we have a very hot governor's race down in Florida, Governor Rick Scott and -- and Charlie Crist, who is running as a Democrat now. And this next week is the last week of the legislative session.

And this week, Rick Scott came out with his first Spanish language ad in a pitch to Latinos. And he's also come out behind a bill that would push in-state tuition for some children of illegal immigrants.

But the bill seems to be dying in the Senate. And so it will be really interesting to see whether or not he can put some real political pressure in there to pull that one out for his campaign.

And it's especially interesting because he's had such an evolution on this issue, taking a very hard line on immigration issues back in 2010.

KING: Very different Rick Scott. We'll watch that one (ph).

RESTON: Yes, very different.

KING: Manu?

RAJU: Democrats in red states probably think they've found a Way to run to the left of President Obama while getting seniors out to the polls. How? By going after the President's proposal to increase cost of living adjustments, decrease the amount of annual cost of living adjustments, Social Security beneficiaries get, a proposal known as chained CPI.

Mark Begich told me in an interview, he said, I'm going to seniors. And I'm telling them, look, if Obama and Republicans in the Senate get together, they're going to reduce your Social Security payments.

You have to watch out for this because that's what's going to happen if you elect my opponent in November. Watch this be a dynamic in Louisiana, in North Carolina, a way to run to the left and run away from the President at the same time.

KING: An appeal for the most reliable voters, the older voters as well.

KING: Jackie (ph)?

KUCINICH: Terri Lindland, Michigan Senate candidate, might have found the answer to the war on women. Her ad really, where she looked at the camera and just said, there -- my -- Gary Peters (ph) can't tell me that I'm attacking women.

I'm a -- as a woman, that doesn't make any sense. Well, I had a Republican operative tell me that that might end up being a template for other Senate candidates who are in similar electoral situations.

And they might be using that, you know, you might see it in a couple other races going forward.

KING: We'll (ph) watch (ph) that (ph). That is a fabulous ad.

Peter?

HAMBY: Let the Mike Pence 2016 boom begin. Mike Pence, the Indiana governor, former Congressman is stepping out. He recently was on a trade mission in Berlin.

He attacked President Obama's foreign policy there. He's been on Fox News a lot, talking about the Keystone pipeline, hitting Republican Party organizations in Wisconsin and Alabama soon.

He has also met privately, I'm told, with conservatives, sounded them out on a possible bid. He is thinking about it. He thought about it in 2012.

His staff is not going to discourage talk about this buzz. But he does have a fine line to walk because he has only been governor of Indiana now for a little over a year.

And he does have friends -- real friends, Chris Christie and Scott Walker, who are way ahead of him and looking at this. So he's got to walk a fine line as he sort of stirs up this 2016 buzz.

KING: We'll watch.

Mike Pence, I'll close with this. It's getting into crunch time in the tea party versus the establishment, primary wars in the Republican Party. A handful of big primaries in the next two to six weeks will determine whether the establishment candidates win or whether as the establishment says, they have some Todd Akins on the battlefield in 2014 as part of that, in five states this week, the Chamber of Commerce will announce and then unveil big new spending on TV ads.

Two of those states, North Carolina and Georgia as they try to influence the races there. We'll watch that. That's it for this week's "Inside Politics." Again, thanks for sharing your Sunday morning.

See you soon. "State of the Union" with Candy Crowley starts right now.