Return to Transcripts main page


Latest Headlines in the Presidential Race. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 28, 2016 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Kate and John, thank you.

Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing some time with us today.

Three quick questions to frame a busy day on the campaign trail and the shifting terrain after the first presidential debate. One, is Donald Trump dumping the scripted teleprompter approach in favor of a more raw attack mode?


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: For 90 minutes I watched her very carefully, and I was also holding back. I didn't want to do anything to embarrass her, but i watched her and she was stuck in the past. For 90 minutes, on issue after issue, Hillary Clinton defended the terrible status quo.


KING: Question two, will help from important friends help Hillary Clinton fix her enthusiasm gap with millennials and African-Americans?


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We're seeing spikes in early voting. And we're seeing voting rates among African-Americans, Latinos and young people going up. And for the first time, the estimate is that young people could represent 25 percent of the vote. Now, I would love to see that.


KING: Here's question three, will Trump's insults of a one-time beauty queen come back to haunt him now?


ALICIA MACHADO, FORMER MISS UNIVERSE: We can't accept, we can't accept more insults for my Latin community. No more. No more insults for the women. I know very well Mr. Trump, and I can see the same person that I met 20 years ago.


KING: With us to share their reporting and their insights, Mary Katharine Ham of "The Federalist," Dan Balz with "The Washington Post," CNN's Manu Raju and Abby Phillip of "The Washington Post."

It's a very busy hour ahead. Michelle Obama on the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton. She's in Philadelphia. That's the first of two stops in Pennsylvania today. We may dip in on that event.

And on Capitol Hill, yes, Congress actually meets in an election year. Several important moving parts, including a Senate vote scheduled this hour in an attempt to override President Obama's veto of that legislation that clears the way for families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia.

Plus, candidates for president very busy. Just 41 days now before election day. For Donald Trump, the goal is to deliver a stronger performance in the second presidential debate. That's one week from Sunday. He says he may get more personal and it's very clear he wants to sharpen his case that a veteran insider like Hillary Clinton won't and can't change Washington.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: She's been there for 30 years and hasn't fixed anything. It's all talk, no action. Typical politician. In fact, her only experience has been a failure. Look at everything she's touched, it's been failure just about. One failure after another, after another. What has Hillary Clinton accomplished for your family in the last 26 years that she's been doing this? Nothing. Nothing.


KING: Pretty effective there. A case for Donald Trump that you need change. You don't want a Democrat to follow a Democrat. That, Mary Katharine, was actually one of the better moments in the debate as well. he made the case for change pretty effectively. Now, he has publically kept a straight face saying, I won all the polls. The polls he won were the sham polls. He won the Breitbart poll. I'm shocked. But if you talk to his campaign insiders, they think there were a lot of missed opportunities. They think a lack of preparation hurt him. Do we expect that Trump gets that? Will he prepare better or is it just his aides saying we need to get him to prepare better?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, "THE FEDERALIST: Yes, look, I think that was an effective line, the 30 years line. I think it was his best moment maybe of the debate. And the problem is for really they were for short periods of time. Whether he can sustain that is the question.

I think it's possible he can get better in the next debate. I also think I've watched Donald Trump throughout the year revert to being Donald Trump every time he sustains something for a short period of time. So I think that's more likely. He may even get on stage in the next debate and say, let's talk about the last debate, since he tends to go back to these things. But this message is a decent one. People want a change election, they're just not sure about him.

KING: And, Dan, you've been through this before in the sense that, you know, President Obama bombed in his first debate against Mitt Romney, came back, won a pretty convincing, did well in the second debate, had a pretty convincing Electoral College landslide. But for Donald Trump, you had momentum coming into the first one. Can he afford two in a row bad?

DAN BALZ, "WASHINGTON POST": No, obviously he can't. And I think the situation he's in is far different than what President Obama faced four years ago. President Obama's problem in that first debate against Mitt Romney was a lack of energy. I mean he just seemed to be kind of out of it through much of that debate. That wasn't Donald Trump's issue. Donald Trump was aggressive in this. He tried to make points. But - but, as Mary Katharine said, he has trouble with focus, he has trouble sustaining that. So he has to calibrate it. And it's going to be more difficult in a town hall setting than in a straight setting with a single moderator, the way the first debate was. So it's a - it's a more complicated comeback for him than President Obama had.

[12:05:23] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: In some ways, John, I think that - the town hall format may actually be better suited for him because he will be - necessarily be able to interrupt Hillary Clinton as often as he did when voters are asking a direct question to her. You know, that was, I think, one of the things that probably, at the end of the day when we look at the polls, I would not be surprised if that hurt him. People don't necessarily like someone constantly interrupting. They want someone to wait their turn. And when I talked to a lot of Republicans about this afterwards, that was one of the things they pointed out as well. Not thinking that he just did not - as one Republican congressman said, that was Mark Sanford, told me that he looked a little sophomoric by making those - by constantly interrupting Hillary Clinton. So perhaps that format could be a little better for him.

KING: Mark Sanford says that. The House speaker, Paul Ryan, who went through this as a vice presidential candidate, reiterating today, over prepare, over prepare, over prepare, trying to be gentle in his criticism, but implicit that you get the hint. He's trying to say Donald Trump was (INAUDIBLE).

Inside the Clinton campaign, do they take seriously this Trump talk saying, in the first debate, I was going to go after Bill Clinton's character, I was going to go after Bill Clinton's indiscretions, I was going to say that she was an enabler of Bill Clinton's, but I pulled it back because Chelsea was in the room. He said after the debate, maybe in the second debate that's where I'm going to go. Do they take that seriously or do they think it's Trump bluster?

ABBY PHILLIP, "WASHINGTON POST": I think they were prepared going into this debate for all of that, but coming out of what happened on Monday night, it seemed pretty clear that the - that Trump didn't prepare for Clinton needling him and trying to set him up and he fell for it a lot of the time, towards the end with the beauty queen stuff and also at the very beginning when she started talking about his wealth. And so they recognize that Trump may fall into all of those sort of - actually quite risky insults about Bill Clinton -

KING: Right. PHILLIP: And all of that other stuff. But it actually just leads him to kind of spiral out of focus and out of control, and that helps them. So in some ways, you know, if Trump does what he did on Monday night, that's to their advantage.

KING: Right. I remember Chelsea Clinton, I think she was pre-teen, Dan - oh, we're going to go to - Michelle Obama's campaigning in Philadelphia. She's taken the stage. Let's dip in for a little bit.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: You all are too. Let's give her a round of applause. Yes!

I also want to recognize your U.S. state - U.S. Senate candidate, Katie McGinty. Katie's here. Your U.S. House of Representatives candidate Dwight Evans. Your candidate for attorney general, Josh Shapiro. Your State Senator Art Haywood. And City Councilwoman Cindy Bass. I know you all heard from them earlier today. So let's thank them for being here, and let's wish them luck on the future. We're going to get a lot of things done.

But most of all I want to thank all of you here at La Salle University. Yes. Well, I have heard some great things about this school, and about the students and staff, so I am so proud and honored to be here.

Now, whoo, it's hard to believe - hey! I - I see you all over there. I love you all, too. But we've got work - we've got work to do here today because it is almost one month to Election Day, and I cannot believe it. And it's about time for my family to end our time in the White House. It's all right! It's all right. Two terms. It's a reason. It's a good thing. It's a good thing.

But I have to tell you, even though we've had a great - this is a bittersweet time for me. I mean, because we're engaged in a time of great transition, for me, for Barack, for Malia, Sasha, even Beau and Sunny. I mean, what are they going to do when we leave? My husband's got to find a new job. I have to find a new job. We've got to move to a new home. We're going to need to pack. We've got to pack up the old house, get it cleaned up so we can get our security deposit back.

But, of course, this isn't just a time of transition for my family, but for our entire country, as we decide who our next president will be. And transitions like these can be difficult. They can involve a lot of uncertainty. And we saw that back in 2008 when Barack was first elected.

[12:10:14] I don't know if you all remember. Especially that little one there, you weren't even born. But back then, people had all kinds of questions about what kind of president Barack would be. Things like, does he really understand us? Will he protect us? And then, of course, there are those who questioned and continue to question for the past eight years whether my husband was even born in this country. And let me say, hurtful, deceitful questions, deliberately designed to undermine his presidency. Questions that cannot be blamed on others or swept under the rug by an insincere sentence uttered as a press conference. Let me take a moment. But during his time in office, I think Barack has answered these

questions with the example he set and the dignity he's shown by going high when they go low. And he's answered those questions with the progress we've achieved together. Progress like health reform, passing health care, creating millions of jobs, slashing the unemployment rate, lifting millions of people out of poverty, expanding LGBT rights so marriage equality is now the law of the land. I could go on.

But even after all this progress, it's understandable that folks are feeling a little uncertain as we face this next transition. So the question is, how do we sort through all the negativity, all the name- calling in this election, and choose the right person to lead our country forward? Well, as someone who has seen the presidency up close and personal, let me share with you what I've learned about this job. Lessons that seem even more relevant, even more critically important after watching Monday's debate.

First and foremost, this job is hard. It is the highest stakes, most 24/7 job you can possibly imagine. The issues that cross a president's desk are never easy, and solutions to persistent systemic challenges are never black and white.

I mean just think about the crises this president has faced these last eight years. In his first term alone, Barack had to rescue our economy from the worst crisis since the Great Depression. He had to make the call to take out Osama bin Laden. Respond to devastating natural disasters, like Hurricane Sandy and so much more.

So when it comes to the qualifications, we should demand in a president, to start with, we need someone who will take the job seriously. Someone who will study and prepare so that they understand the issues better than anyone else on their team. And we need someone with superb judgment in their own right, because a president can hire the best advisers on earth, but I guarantee you that five advisers will give five different opinions, and it is the president and the president alone who always has to make the final call.

We also need someone who is steady and measured, because when making life or death, war or peace decisions, a president just can't pop off, or lash out irrationally. No. We need an adult in the White House. I guarantee you.

And, finally, we need someone who is compassionate. Someone who will be a role model for our kids. Someone who's not just in this for themselves, but for the good of this entire country. All of us.

See, at the end of the day, as I've said before, the presidency doesn't change who you are, it reveals who you are. And the same is true of a presidential campaign. U.S. presidential campaigns are very long. Nearly two and a half years, or half of one presidential term.

[12:15:02] Just think about that. So if a candidate is erratic and threatening, if a candidate traffics in prejudice, fears and lies on the campaign trail, if a candidate thinks that not paying taxes makes you smart - or that it's good business when people lose their homes, if a candidate regularly and flippantly makes cruel and insulting comments about women, about how we look, how we act, well, sadly, that's who that candidate really is.

KING: Well, that's Michelle Obama on the campaign trail there in Philadelphia. One of two stops in Pennsylvania today, both on college campuses. Pretty tough language for Donald Trump there. If a candidate says - thinks not paying his taxes is smart, she talked about that, if he says unsensitive things about women, and she also said, she in an earlier college speech a few weeks ago, talked about him raising - being part -- without mentioning his name, saying he was part of the birther controversy. But she said today, you can't get away with a, quote, "insincere sentence uttered at a press conference." So that a reference to the very short, it was 39 seconds, in which Donald Trump finally said, OK, fine, you know, Barack Obama was born in the United States. Tougher language from the first lady who used to say she didn't like campaigning. Seems like she's having fun there.

PHILLIP: This is personal for her for sure. I mean this is exactly the kind of thing that she really wants to get out there and have a say about because I think she's offended by it. It's about her husband. And I also would say that the campaign has - it's amazing to watch the way that they're handling the surrogates here. Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are doing such sort of intense campaigning and surrogate work on their behalf, almost as if it's Barack Obama's campaign all over again. I mean, we have a straight to camera ad from Michelle Obama where she is sort of doing what you would expect from like, you know, a Senate candidate on behalf of Hillary Clinton. It's because of how effective they can be for millennials and African- Americans.

KING: And the question is, Trump has no such backup band, if you will. There are no high-powered Republicans, no - both former Presidents Bush aren't for him. Most other Republicans are tolerating him or running from him, one or the other, but they're not embrace him happily. The question is, does it matter in this campaign? Your - as you mentioned, there's a new Michelle Obama ad aimed mostly at suburban women looking straight at the camera saying, what kind of president do you want for our daughter? You see on her the campaign trail there. There you see the ad up on the TV. She's a quite effective communicator. Again, go back to 2007, 2008, she said she didn't like this. She'll be on the trail with Bernie Sanders today. And the president this morning on "The Steve Harvey Radio Show," no question, Abby's dead right, he takes this personally.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): If there's one message I want to deliver to everybody, if you don't vote, that's a vote for Trump.


OBAMA: If you don't vote, that's a vote for Trump. If you vote for a third party candidate who's got no chance to win, that's a vote for Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: That's a very strategic president, Dan, there, in the sense that, especially where the first lady is today, and in Virginia, just outside of Washington, there are no early voting. So they're worried that she has an enthusiasm problem with African-Americans. They've tried to turn them out with early voting. The president's telling the people there, you need to vote. But also a lot of millennials going for Gary Johnson, to a lesser degree Jill Stein. Quite interesting, the president of the United States, this is not just some campaign manager, the president of the United States saying a vote for him is a vote for Trump.

BALZ: We've never seen a president this actively engaged on behalf of somebody trying to become his successor, ever. It is an extraordinary effort that he's expending. Part of it, obviously, is his belief that if she is not elected, a lot of his legacy gets eroded or ended. Part of it, I think, is his deep offense at Donald Trump. His belief, which we - you know, we've known for a long time, his belief that he would be unfit to be the successor to him.

But, as I say, it is an extraordinary effort he's expending. The question is, how much of his luster is transferrable? It's not been clear in Senate races in 2010 or 2014 that he was able to do anything about it.

KING: Absolutely. Yes.

BALZ: We don't know if he can do it for her.

KING: Absolutely. The midterm election years were a boom for the Republican Party. Not just - not just at the House and the Senate level, out in the states as well. But it is just remarkable to see the president making this so personal.

Part of it is, it's Trump. I think he would do it anyway, but part of it is, it's Trump, and Trump was behind the whole birther charade. But it's also - as you see, there's a great - you can see there's a great sign of Clinton's strength. She has a president, popular with the Democratic base, a first lady who's a good campaigner, Bernie Sanders, popular with millennials clearly and liberals. She has Elizabeth Warren out there. She has the vice president out there, who's kind of her blue collar lunch bucket guy. She has her husband, a former president, out there. I mean it's a pretty impressive team with political stuff. But you could also view it, Manu, as a sign of weakness. That she needs all this help. That she's struggling to generate enthusiasm among African-Americans. That a lot of millennials are saying, now, she's an older brand, we want something new.

RAJU: Yes. I mean, at the end of the day, she has to make the case for herself. There's only so much that surrogates can do. Certainly they can provide that echo chamber. They can reiterate her points and they can speak to those audiences that are skeptical of her.

[12:20:07] The Bernie Sanders thing is pretty interesting too because I've been told that Sanders has promised that he's got to do a lot more campaigning for her in swing states that he won and also in states that perhaps aren't considered traditional battleground states, like Minnesota, for instance, that perhaps could come on the map if Trump starts to do a lot better on the ground, because they do believe he can still motivate that base even if Hillary Clinton, at the end of the day, has to make that sale herself.

HAM: And when it comes to millennials I think Hillary may be a victim of Obama's success in some ways because that generation came up feeling like voting is going to feel emotionally great for me and they look at Clinton and they go, this does not feel good and they've been told to like live their heart song and vote accordingly. And Hillary doesn't feel like she's it. So an emotional appeal from a figure they like is more likely to bring them in, but they operate on that level, looking for some sort of emotional payoff here and they're not getting it.

KING: Interesting point.

Another part of the Clinton strategy, obviously she has those high- powered Democratic stars out there trying to help her, but she's also, especially in some of the more purple states, Virginia being one of them, trending blue, but they're still a little nervous about Virginia. They rolled out today a former icon of Republican politics in the state of Virginia, the former senator, John Warner. He was - if you look at his baseball card, secretary of the Navy back in the '70s. Millennials don't know who he is. He served more than 30 year in the United States Senate. He was known as a moderate, pragmatic senator.

Now, Tim Kaine is the senator from Virginia now, the Democrat, of course. He is Hillary Clinton's running mate. And today they appeared side-by-side, John Warner, who was once the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, takes national security very seriously, a vet - Navy veteran, as I mentioned, secretary of the Navy, saying Donald Trump simply not prepared to be commander in chief.


JOHN WARNER (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: That individual that is best qualified to lead this nation, and first and foremost to have a very firm and fundamental understanding about how this nation developed, how we got to where we are, how we became the leader of the world, and what our responsibilities are to maintain peace and freedom, not just for us, but for much of the world. And that cannot be learned overnight. You don't pull up a quick text, like national security for dummies. That book hasn't been published.


KING: You get the sense there of what Senator Warner - former Senator Warner thinks of Donald Trump's abilities when it comes to national security. The question is, again, if you're the Clinton campaign, that's great. That's a marque Republican. Once a big deal in the state of Virginia politics coming out for you. It's great. It gets attention. Does it translate to, you know, Jane and John Doe when they're thinking about their vote?

RAJU: Well, I mean, John warner is one of the more influential people in the Republican Party in - in his day on national security issues. So clearly it speaks to a certain segment. And it's a sign, too, that there's a concern within the Clinton camp that Republicans are consolidating behind Trump, at least they were before that first debate. Perhaps if they can roll out these high-profile Republicans, convince some of those other more mainstream or moderate, independent- minded Republicans not to jump on the Trump train. But we'll see if a surrogate's enough.

KING: Interesting to watch. Stay with us. Some more live events on the campaign trail could come up. We've got live events in Congress happening today, too.

And coming up next, Donald Trump once called her "Miss Housekeeping" and an eating machine. Now a former Miss Universe is looking for payback at the ballot box.


[12:27:34] KING: Welcome back. Live pictures there of the floor of the United States Senate. Some breaking news and a bit of history unfolding. The Senate now has enough votes, the vote is not finished, but they have enough votes in the Senate to override President Obama's veto of legislation that would allow families of the victims of 9/11 to sue Saudi Arabia and other countries to seek damages, if you will, after that. We'll watch this history play out. It's the first veto override - it would be if the House follows suit of the Obama presidency. After that vote is continued, we'll get back to that and discuss that.

Now, though, back to the campaign ahead of us here.

One of the problems Donald Trump aides tell you they have when they tell him he needs to be different, needs to act differently, needs to stop saying some things, needs to do more debate prep, is they say Donald Trump looks at this map, all these red states, Donald Trump wins in the Republican primaries. Donald Trump looks at this and says, hey, what's all the fuss about? I can win just about everywhere. The problem is, winning on this terrain is very different than winning on this terrain in a general election.

This is the Obama/Romney race in 2012. Some key differences here. These are the exit polls from the Republican primaries, 28 states had exit polls that held primaries and entrance polls. These are the 2012 general election. This is who votes come November. Ninety percent white in the Republican primaries. A much more diverse electorate in the general election. Majority men in the Republican primaries. Women will be the majority when we get to the general election.

Voters under 45, they tend to be more Democratic. They made up only 30 percent of the Republican primary electorate. They will be about half of the vote come November. Older voters, they're more Republican. Seven in 10 Republican primary voters were over the age of 45. Only about half, 54 percent, were under the age - were over the age of 45, forgive me, in 2012.

So the Republican primary electorate very different than the general electorate. There are more women. It is much more diverse. Latinos are critical in several of the important swing states, which is why the Clinton campaign now thinks a Venezuelan beauty queen, turned American citizen, is a great new campaign surrogate.


ALICIA MACHADO, MISS UNIVERSE 1996: He's tried to destroy my self- esteem and now I'm a voice in the Latin community. That is the point. He can say whatever he wants to say. I don't care. I'm in this moment in a great moment in my life, and I have a very clear life. And I can - and I can show my taxes.


[12:29:56] KING: After the Democratic Convention, it was Khizr Khan who the Clinton campaign, the gold star parent, they turned into a surrogate and to great effect. There are some people thinking maybe Alicia Machado can be the same thing. We talked about the president. We talked about the former President Clinton. We talk about all these elected politicians for Hillary Clinton. Does a real person help more?