Return to Transcripts main page


Presidential Election. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 21, 2016 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] JEFF PAYNE, CNN HERO: Just don't think twice about throwing them the car keys, and we just throw the kids out there on the road and expect them to be prepared to handle every situation. And that's just not the case. We're just doing our job so we can make a difference out there and make the roads safer for all of us.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: "Inside Politics" with John King starts now.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing some time with us.

Donald Trump was in battleground North Carolina this hour. Another must-win for him as he tries to mount a comeback. Also, a major battleground in the fight for control of the United States Senate. We'll drop in live on that event when it gets going.

Eighteen days out from the election and even the jokes at an iconic charity roast have an edge to them.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Hillary is so corrupt, she got kicked off the Watergate commission.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: People look at the Statue of Liberty and they see a proud symbol of our history as a nation of immigrants, a beacon of hope for people around the world. Donald looks at the Statue of Liberty and sees a four (ph).


KING: Plus, Trump backs down, sort of.


TRUMP: I would accept a clear election result, but I would also reserve my right to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result.


KING: And Hillary Clinton's deep bench crisscrosses the country, looking to help win the White House well before Election Day. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you vote early, you can kind of do it on your lunch break. Starting Monday, you can reject somebody who proves himself unfit to be president every single day in every single way. You can reject his dark, pessimistic, fear-mongering vision of a country where we turn against each other and turn away from our role in the world. And, instead, you can choose as qualified a person who has ever run to lead this country.


KING: With us to share their reporting and their insights, Amy Walter of "The Cook Political Report," CNN's Manu Raju, Glenn Thrush of Politico and CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson.

Now let's be clear from the start, the deck is stacked against Donald Trump. No, no, no, not rigged, stacked, and it's perfectly legal in Florida.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Had just been pumping out all kinds of toxic, crazy stuff. I mean, first of all, there was the whole birther thing. Then they start saying climate change is a Chinese hoax. And, according to them, I'm power enough to cause these hurricanes and I'm about to steal everybody's guns in the middle of the night and declare martial law, but somehow I still need a teleprompter to finish a sentence.


KING: In Arizona.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Hillary has comprehensive policies to help people. Her opponent has tweets. You decide.


KING: And in New Hampshire.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The things that Donald Trump is saying and doing are genuinely a threat to the democratic process, which is based on trust.


KING: Early voting is underway in Arizona and New Hampshire, and starts Monday where the president was there in Florida. We count them on November 8th. But in truth, the outcome could be all but settled by then. And that is where I want to start the conversation. If you look at where she is deploying the Democratic bench, in states

that have begun or are about to begin early voting, that is, I think, we're underestimating how important this is for Hillary Clinton. And you look at the team Trump, and we'll get to some numbers in a minute, but where's their bench?

AMY WALTER, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Well, and if you even look at a state like North Carolina that they have early voting starting, but, remember, they've had absentee voting already and the Republican ballots that have been turned in are way behind where the Republicans were at this point in 2012. Florida, same thing. Absentee votes are where Republicans build up their lead and hope to keep that to win a state. You start losing those absentee votes, you're going to get killed on in-person early vote and then on Election Day. That's another tough climb.

KING: And this is playing out at a moment, if you're Hillary Clinton, this is the perfect storm in the sense that Donald Trump is in trouble.

WALTER: Exactly.


KING: He's tanking in the polls. You have a Republican morale crisis. You have him fighting with some of the state parties that are critical to getting this done. And she's rising up. Not only is she rising up, but she inherits the Obama organization, which was very good at this.


KING: And she's got this team to send out here.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Pushing out the surrogates everywhere.


RAJU: I mean it's - it's amazing to see the difference between the Trump campaign and the Clinton campaign. I mean this stage in the campaign, two things are important, generating enthusiasm from your base, so that's why you have these big rallies. You have big surrogates like President Obama and - who can do that, and then you also have a ground game. You have the mechanics. If you get your voters out to the polls. Where is Trump on the ground game? There are a lot of questions about whether the RNC can match up with the DNC on that. We'll see. And he clearly does not have the surrogates who can generate the enthusiasm that the Democrats can.

[12:05:11] HENDERSON: Yes. And perfect surrogates, right, in the Obamas. They can talk about the race piece, the gender piece. You saw that speech by Michelle Obama in New Hampshire. Last go-round she was in Arizona, Seven thousand people showed up. They are deeply offended by Trump-ism, right, in Donald Trump and what he represents. It is antithetical to everything that the Obamas have come to represent and their idea of what America should be, this place that's inclusive, that's diverse. And so they are so, I think, pitch perfect in terms of getting that Obama coalition together, and Republicans, who have always seen in Obama, they don't agree with his policies but they think he's a decent guy, they think he expresses the best of America in terms of family values and being a good father and being a good husband.

GLENN THRUSH, POLITICO: And the other thing about it is, having covered him in 2012, this is a much better surrogate than he was a candidate in 2012.

RAJU: Right.


THRUSH: He is loose and funny, and he's really at his - at his best. And his wife, by the way, if we're going to kind of look at who emerges from this 2016 swamp with the best reputation -


THRUSH: Michelle Obama is the only rock star currently on the stage.

RAJU: But the main thing -


KING: I was just going to say, if Hillary Clinton wins the election, Michelle Obama should just come up to the White House and say, I will be the global ambassador to every island with a really cool name.


KING: I will take that job right now.

Let's look at the numbers as we go through this, because you have the conversation, but it's the numbers that matter. And again, many people think we vote - we do vote on November 8th. That is Election Day. But the election is being won or lost actually today and next week in the lead-up to - look at these numbers, 40 percent of Americans, by the way, will vote, it's estimated, by election day, vote early. It's 3.3 million so far, 43 percent Democratic ballots, 36 percent Republican ballots, 13 percent no party affiliation, 8 percent other. Now, some parties don't - some states don't require, you know, don't keep track of your party ID when you pick. But you see there, more Democratic ballots out. Democrats are better performing, their 2012 performance, in those states right there, North Carolina, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. That doesn't mean they're returning more ballots in those states. Some of those are Republican states. But Democrats are doing better this cycle than they did the last cycle. And it's interesting to note, North Carolina, a swing state. Nevada leans blue, but a swing state. Those other two are Republican states. And the Republicans are performing better in Iowa and Ohio, which are probably two of Trump's best states in the traditional battlegrounds, older, whiter.

THRUSH: Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, Robby Mook, is a Geo-TV (ph) get out the vote ground organization analytics guy. He is somebody who won her the narrowest victory in Iowa. He really engineered that. And he was her Indiana and Ohio guy in 2008. So that's who is heading the Clinton campaign. Kellyanne Conway, the campaign manager for Donald Trump, is a pollster who spends a lot of her time as a TV surrogate.

KING: Right. And so this matters. It's an excellent point of, what are your strengths inside the campaign? What lessons did you learn from the last campaign? How professional of an organization you are.

When you see the Clinton surrogates out there, their view is that Donald - a, they know a lot of Democrats aren't thrilled about Hillary Clinton.

WALTER: Right.

KING: They know that true. They know that's true. That's a big piece of it. B, they know that in this negative campaign, a lot of people might say, eh. They also know that Democrats might see these polls and say, my vote doesn't matter.

THRUSH: Right.

KING: She's way ahead. It doesn't matter. It's raining. I've got a child care crisis. I'm not that into Hillary Clinton. So listen to Michelle Obama saying, do not think that way.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: So when you hear folks talking about a global conspiracy and saying this election is rigged, I understand that they are trying to get you to stay home. They are trying to convince you that your vote doesn't matter. That the outcome has already been determined and you shouldn't even bother to make your voice heard. They are trying to take away your hope.



KING: I don't care whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, you're trying to sell something, you're trying to sell something, hire her.


RAJU: One thing that you're not hearing there is the case for Hillary Clinton. I mean that just shows the enthusiasm or the reason why you're getting the voters, Democratic voters, out to the poll. This is an anti-Trump electric that's coming out. They're a real problem for Trump. But it shows that this is the most effective argument Democrats can make to drive their voters out to the polls.


HENDERSON: Yes. And strategically smart for Hillary Clinton to hug both Obamas from the beginning of this campaign. You saw in 2014, for instance, Democrats didn't really want to talk much about Obama. Of course, in 2000, Al Gore didn't want to have anything to do with Bill Clinton. He had baggage. He also had very high approval ratings. So it's smart of her to, in many ways, let the Obama outshine her and be much better surrogates for her than in some ways she can be for herself.

KING: Although she returns to the trail today. A lot of people - before the debate, she took the time off. Her campaign says time well spent because she was scored the winner in the debates. But she's back today, Hillary Clinton, Ohio, for an early voting event. It's the same - it sounds like a broken record -


KING: But this broken record part is critically important right now.

WALTER: Right, and the discipline that goes with that campaign. I mean Glenn's right, you have two very different campaign structures, but you also have a very disciplined candidate.

KING: Right.

WALTER: And we know that that matters on the edges. Now, Ohio's a state that's going to be won on the edges.

The other thing about what Michelle Obama does when she is on the trail, she goes in every one of these states where I've heard her give that same pitch, she talks about, in this state, Barack Obama won by 66 votes, or 37 votes, per precinct, right?

[12:10:06] HENDERSON: Per precinct.

WALTER: And so she makes a very detailed, very smart case.

The other thing I will point to is, this rigging of the election thing, I think it's as problematic for Republicans because i you're already a sort of apathetic Republican, you don't like the choices in front of you, can't vote for Hillary Clinton, you're, ah, on Donald Trump, ah on everything on top of the ticket but you like your Senate or your House candidate, you have the top of your Republican ticket saying it doesn't matter if you vote because it's already rigged? Well, I'm going to stay home and you're going to depress Republican turnout.

KING: Yes.


KING: And then I'll ask you - you may have just pointed the ah election. Let's get - copyright that for your book right this minute.

And you mentioned the discipline of the Clinton campaign. Look, you know, I don't think even Hillary Clinton might not push back that she's not the best candidate. A, she's, you know, in an election where people are looking for change, she's an established brand. But, b, she's not the dynamic politician that you see in President Obama, that you see now in Michelle Obama, or even that you see in Bill Clinton when he's on his game. But they have run an incredibly disciplined campaign. Even - even if you talk to the Republican pros, they think, wow, these guys, boom, boom, boom.

And the campaign is an arc. You know, it starts at every word you say, and every event that happens matters. Coming out of the conventions, the big story was Mr. Khan and the Khan family, talking about their son, Muslim-American hero, jumped on a suicide bomber, protected his men. For the Clinton campaign, it was a big story around the convention. Guess what, as we head into the final time, they're trying to get people motivated to vote, Mr. Khan is back.


KHIZR KHAN, FATHER OF CAPTAIN HUMAYUN KHAN: My son was Captain Humayun Khan. He was 27-years-old. And he was a Muslim-American. I want to ask Mr. Trump, would my son have a place in your America?


KING: It -

WALTER: I mean, I -

HENDERSON: It's emotional. It's emotional.

WALTER: Yes, you tear up. It's touching.

KING: It's powerful stuff.


THRUSH: And here's the thing. You have a - you have a candidate in Donald Trump who has great strength in making the pitch that he's for the regular person, right, yet for the past six to eight weeks he has done nothing but attack individual, regular people. When you have - Hillary Clinton made that mistake once with the basket of deplorables thing and pulled it back within a half an hour. This guy keeps going after individuals, whether they're vendors at his casinos, whether it's the former Miss Universe, whether it's Khans, that is a big problem. When you are fighting for the regular guy, yet seeking to attack regular guys and girls.


RAJU: And that is geared towards Republicans as much as it is Democrats. That moment with the Khan family, you saw Republicans jump all over Donald Trump. They did not like the attack that he had against him. So this is all a part of that effort to flip red states and have a huge margin of victory.

KING: Right. Well, when you're winning, your tone can be very different than when you're losing.

WALTER: Yes. Yes.

HENDERSON: And Hillary Clinton picking up on this idea of what America is. Who are we as Americans? She did that in her first response in the debate. In Las Vegas she did that in her closing remark saying that she wants an America where everyone is valued, everyone has a seat at the table. And it is - it's like the Obama-ism as well. This appealing to our better angels, hope and change, we all matter in America.

KING: Interesting times ahead. Eighteen days. Everybody sit tight.

Trump/Clinton and an iconic charity roast, but the jokes, oh, they had an edge. That's next.


CLINTON: Come to think of it, it's amazing I'm up here after Donald. I didn't think he'd be OK with a peaceful transition of power.



[12:17:42] KING: Welcome back. Still waiting for Donald Trump in North Carolina. We'll watch that as it plays out. He has landed. We'll see if he gets to that event in this hour.

The annual Al Smith Dinner is a New York institution, and it's a big challenge. The goal is good fun, roast your friends, foes, and especially yourself, all in the name of raising money for catholic charities. Self-deprecation is a must.


CLINTON: This is such a special event that I took a break from my rigorous nap schedule to be here.


KING: Now the challenge then, once you pick on yourself, is to dance along that fine line between funny and rude. And the crowd, well, listen here, clearly thought Donald Trump crossed it a few times.


TRUMP: Hillary believes that it's vital to deceive the people by having one public policy and a totally different policy in private. That's OK. I don't know who they're angry at, Hillary, you or I. For example, here she is tonight, in public, pretending not to hate Catholics.


KING: But Trump won the online poll.



KING: Look, was it - was it a - you know, let's - let's, for a minute, you know, this is not Donald Trump's crowd, OK?

WALTER: No. Let's -


KING: This is not Donald Trump's crowd. So let's be fair to Donald Trump -


KING: That this was a packed house and this is a more Clinton crowd. Even if there were a lot of Republicans in that room, which there are, she's more of the New York establishment. She's more out there with this group and he's not. So, let's be fair.

But - but, I think what was missing watching last night is that you - this is - you gain your license to kick the other one by kicking yourself.


KING: And, you know, Trump came up and made a joke about his humility, he made a funny joke about Melania and Michelle Obama giving the same speech, why does Michelle Obama get all the credit?

HENDERSON: Funny, yes.

KING: But - but then it did seem that he got a little gratuitous with the digs at her.

HENDERSON: Because it wasn't funny, right?

THRUSH: Right. Right.

HENDERSON: I mean that was the big flaw.

KING: Is it delivery or is it the material?

HENDERSON: I think it's the material. And I think, you know, Trump has something of a mean streak and that came out I think in those jokes. So, you know, he asked there, they don't know who - he didn't know who they were booing, him or her. They were booing him because he stunk (ph). He bombed.

RAJU: You've got think that Donald Trump still is - you know, this - things are not going well for him right now. The campaign is on - on the downward slide. You know, you could sense his frustration in the debate. You heard his frustration.

[12:20:04] KING: Right.

RAJU: He called her such a nasty woman at the end of the debate -


THRUSH: Yes. RAJU: To turn around and have this, you know, light moment with her the next night, it was surprising that he even showed up.

HENDERSON: Well, it was -

KING: But a gifted -

HENDERSON: And it's a good -

KING: A gifted politician can do that.

HENDERSON: Yes, can do that, yes.

KING: And he could have done a lot for his self-image if people are out there thinking he's mean, he's nasty, he's angry, you know, this is a chance - it's a chance to get a second look.

HENDERSON: I think that's right.

THRUSH: But by the way, who is self-deprecating by insulting your wife, right? When you have a 25 percent gap, a gender gap.


THRUSH: Think about that. That was - that was funny. That was really well-aimed, but it was -

HENDERSON: Aimed at -

THRUSH: Melania's deprecating.


HENDERSON: And I think the point -

WALTER: I think we're also all - the people in that room aren't - they're definitely a Hillary Clinton crowd. But I think like so many of us, we're actually really tired of insults, whether they're funny or not, whether they're self-deprecating or not, the entire campaign has been a cesspool of insults, and it's - we're kind of done. Liked there's just nothing funny anymore about -


WALTER: This was kind of -

THRUSH: That's a great point.

WALTER: This was fun in the old days -


WALTER: When you had two candidates that ran traditional campaigns and then could poke fun at themselves. Not funny.

KING: This one - this one, we're so deep in the gutter - WALTER: Yes.

KING: It's hard to get your head up above.

This one from Donald Trump, I'm going to say this one - this one was actually pretty good.


TRUMP: In fact, just before taking the dias (ph), Hillary accidentally bumped into me and she very civilly said, pardon me. And I very politely replied, let me talk to you about that after I get into office.


KING: Now - now, he had them there.


KING: A good comedian would have known, finish.


KING: I'm done. I got - that's a - I got - I got them. I'm done. Thank you very much.


KING: But that's pretty funny and gets to the issues in the campaign.

WALTER: And the one where he said that he sent a car for me, it was a hearse, that - that was pretty cute, but -

KING: Yes.


KING: Yes, now, that's it? That's -

WALTER: That's it.


KING: We're not giving a lot of credit here, huh? They're not going to show - they're not going to take any late night shots.

All right, let's try one - let's try one here from Hillary Clinton where, you know, she took a lot of grief. And, again, this is the value of - this is how this should work. She took a lot of grief, which at that fundraiser was caught on tape saying, half of Trump's supporters are deplorables. Well, she tried a little flip.


CLINTON: Now, I've got to say, there are a lot of friendly faces here in this room. People that I've been privileged to know and to work with. I just want to put you all in a basket of adorables. And you'd look so good in your tuxes, or as I refer to them, formal pantsuits.


HENDERSON: You know, she's no Obama, right? I mean he - or even Mitt Romney, and they were both really funny last go-round. But, you know, to Amy's point, I think you're probably right. We've been in the gutter. This has been insult after insult and maybe it's just not so funny -


RAJU: The one problem with Hillary Clinton's delivery sometimes, it just - it just seems like that she's very well-rehearsed. You know, this is scripted. She had thought about it for a while. And this is not - she's not naturally doing this. And that's - you know, that's one of her problems with her delivery. Whereas Obama, when he does these speeches, he comes about it very natural.



RAJU: So just shows a difference in the candidate.

THRUSH: Right.

RAJU: Especially when they're joking around.

HENDERSON: And the - the timing, his timing is so good.

THRUSH: Well, when Nia says Mitt Romney is funnier than you, you know you're not funny (ph).

KING: Listen, (INAUDIBLE). That could be a whole chapter in the (INAUDIBLE) right there.

All right, let's - I want to work this in right now because if this were not - the man you're about to listen to is a man of God. He's a cardinal. He cannot tell a lie. Otherwise, this would not be believable.


CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN, ARCHBISHOP OF NEW YORK: And after the little prayer, Mr. Trump turned to Secretary Clinton and said, you know, you are one tough and talented woman. And he said, this has been a great - a good experience and this whole campaign, as tough as it's been. And she said to him, and, Donald, whatever happens, we need to work together afterwards.


HENDERSON: Shocking.

KING: Again, I mean he's -

HENDERSON: Yes. Maybe he's lying?

KING: Take - oh, no.

HENDERSON: The one time he's lying. No, I'm just kidding.

THRUSH: No, no, no. No, no, no.


HENDERSON: I know, I know, I'm going to hell.

KING: Lightening, right?

THRUSH: I've got to take a walk (ph).

HENDERSON: Donald Trump - yes, Donald Trump did say - say as much in that line in the debate, right?

WALTER: In the debate. In the debate. I think that's how he honestly feels.


WALTER: And he has, in every one of these debates - look, let's - let's back up. In all the Republican debates, his success was that he was able to bully and intimidate his opponents.

KING: Right.

WALTER: His male opponents.

KING: Right.

WALTER: He can't do that to her and he has tried and he can't get under her skin.

THRUSH: So will they (ph).

HENDERSON: It's true.


KING: I will have - I've got to give you advice from my mother - what my mom used to say. We used to walk into church on Sunday. It was, John, you go a few steps ahead just (INAUDIBLE). Watch out, girl.

Up next, a critical presidential domino effect. Donald Trump's troubles are boosting Democratic odds in other key 2016 contests.


[12:28:42] KING: Live pictures there. That is a Donald Trump rally. You hear the crowd getting boisterous. That's Fletcher, North Carolina. The Republican nominee for president on his way to that event in a must-win state for Donald Trump where, at the moment, he trails a little bit.

There's also a marquise Senate race in the Senate race in the state of North Carolina. And as the campaign heads into the final weeks, that's one of the big challenges for Republicans. Trump is trailing in the polls right now. Republicans are thinking, can we keep the United States Senate?

Every cycle about a third of the Senate seats are up. If you notice, more states with the red lines around them, these are the Senate races in the country this year. The red states are held now by Republicans. So, pretty easy to see on the map. Republicans are defending more seats, which in a bad environment gets difficult.

First thing I'm going to do is most strategies would think these ones are baked. The Democrats are going to win the ones I just turned blue. The Republicans are going to win the once I just turned red. Most of them. We'll see if there are surprises late.

Now, in the scenario I have on the map now, Florida, Missouri, Wisconsin. These ones could go to the end. We'll have a conversation in a minute about the dicey ones. But if you talk to most strategists today, they think those ones are going to go this way. A hold, a hold, and a Democratic pickup. We'll see if it ends up.

I wanted to get here to this point. Republicans now have 54. What I have on the screen now is 48 for the Republicans, 47 for the Democrats. If Hillary Clinton wins, the Democrats need 50. Then Tim Kaine would break the tie. Sure, they'd like more, but 50 would do it. So you look at these races. Kelly Ayotte, the Republican incumbent in New Hampshire, Trump's struggling in that case - in that state. Boom, Maggie Hassan is up there. Democrats think if the election were today, they would get that one.

[12:30:10] Pennsylvania, Trump is down nine or ten. Pat Toomey's the Republican incumbent. But