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Democrats Win Across County; Trump talks Election; Maine Votes for Medicaid Expansion; Trump Warning to Pyongyang; Trump Urges Russia and China on North Korea; Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired November 8, 2017 - 12:00   ET



[12:00:35] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

Reject, rebuke, repudiate, you pick the word. Voters in Virginia, New Jersey and elsewhere delivered giant wins for Democrats and for diversity. And along the way, send President Trump and his Republican Party a thundering message.


RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA GOVERNOR-ELECT: This message was yesterday that Virginia sent not only to this country but to this world is that the divisiveness, the hatred, the bigotry, the politics that is tearing this country apart is not -- that's not the United States of America that people love. It's certainly not the Commonwealth of Virginia.


KING: Now, amid all the spin here are three morning after facts. Number one, Nancy Pelosi now has reason to believe she just might it be speaker again. Two, any Republican hopes of significant Obamacare repeal are dead. And, three, Republicans worry the president's deep unpopularity will be impossible to escape next year and believe their only hope now is a big policy win on tax cuts.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: If anything this -- it puts more pressure on making sure we follow through.


KING: Plus, the president is in China as all this plays out. He's tweeting, despite the so-called great fire wall, and his focus, trying to get Beijing to put even more pressure on North Korea.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every step you take down this dark path increases the peril you face. North Korea is not the paradise your grandfather envisioned. It is a hell that no person deserves.


KING: We begin with the big fallout from elections across the country and fresh Republican fear the unpopular Republican president could trigger a Democratic wave in 2018. Democratic candidates won up and down the ballot in contested races across the country yesterday, in mayoral contests in New Hampshire, Florida, North Carolina, in New Jersey, where the governor's mansion changed parties, in Washington state, where Democrats took back control of the state house.

A slew of firsts last night too. Fayetteville, North Carolina, will have its first female African-American mayor. The nation's first transgender representative will have a seat in the Virginia house of delegates. It's the depth of that Democratic sweep in Virginia that has Republicans so panicked about the Trump drag.

Let's take a closer look and let's stretch out the map. Yes, Virginia is a blue state. Yes, the Democrats is supposed to win and supposed to win in places like Fairfax and in places like Arlington. But look at this margin. Supposed to win, but 80 percent to 19 percent? What does that tell you about Democratic turnout, Republican malaise? Intensity was here for the Democrats yesterday.

It was here as well, 67-31. Yes, the Democrat's supposed to win. It is those margins that are so stunning.

Then, let's move over here. This is what Speaker Paul Ryan is worried about today. Lowden County, once a reliably Republican suburban county, look at the margin of victory, 20 points there. The same Ed Gillespie ran for Senate three years ago. He won this county. Last night, it swung the other way.

Move down this way as well, pull out the map, come down here. Prince William County, Virginia, right here, again, a suburban area that used to be Republican, now people call it a swing county. Forget about it, it's a Democratic county, 60.8 percent to 38 percent. Again, just a few years ago, Ed Gillespie ran competitive here. Republicans, look at this, they see house districts like this all across the country and they think this could be a problem for them, which is why today you have in the Republican Party a bit of a panic.


REP. SCOTT TAYLOR (R), VIRGINIA: I think that last night was a referendum. I don't think there's any way that you can look at it in a different way, to be honest with you, and be intellectually consistent.

I know Virginia. I know the precincts. And I will tell you that there were some folks that, you know, that were talking about the issues. Those issues weren't at play last night. Some of those -- you know, those issues -- individual issues were absolutely overshadowed by the national scene.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: With us on this big day to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Dana Bash, Michael Shear with "The New York Times," "The Weekly Standard's" Michael Warren and CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson.

It is a remarkable deja vu in a sense that the morning after 2009 we were having the same conversations. Then it was early in the Obama administration. Nancy Pelosi was the speaker of the House. It's -- we should be careful. We should not overstate the importance here. But when you look at the depths, especially when you go through not just the suburbs, but you go through the exurbs, even places Ed Gillespie won last night in the exurbs where you can take that and say, here's a congressional district in New York, here's a Republican congressional district in New Jersey, here's a Republican congressional district in Michigan. That's what's Paul Ryan is worried about today, that if that carries over, they've got a problem.

[12:05:12] MICHAEL SHEAR, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, and, look, one of the things that I look at -- I spent 15 years covering politics in Virginia -- the governors races are often dominated by a lot of interest, a lot of TV commercials. There's a lot of -- that has to do with the personality of the person that's running.

The house of delegates went from 66 votes for the Republicans to what looks like it will be 50/50. The Democrats will have picked up 16 or 17 seats. Flip 16 or 17 seats. That's incredible. And those are races that often are really affected because they're not -- there's not a lot of TV commercials, because there's not a lot of personals at stake. It's really affected by the national mood. And the national mood clearly had a huge effect.

And when you -- when you talk about those -- the congressional districts that are all over the country, that's the wave -- feeling of a wave coming over them is, I think, what's really worried the Republicans.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Historically in Virginia, correct me if I'm wrong, the governor's race is not always -- in fact, not usually a bellwether for what happens the following year in the midterms. It's --

SHEAR: It certainly wasn't in 2010.

BASH: It wasn't, right, four years ago and four years before that.

However, the point that you made about the volume and the enthusiasm and the energy that is clearly there for Democrats, that is the thing that could be the indicator for 2018.

SHEAR: Right. Right.

BASH: And, look, we've had so much discussion about the Democrats trying to find themselves. They're looking around saying, where do we go, what kind of candidate do we put up. Unclear if that is really answered here. They obviously picked a Democrat that fit the state. Whether or not that is going to replicate itself, we'll see.

But what is clear is that the resistance, the Democratic resistance, they aren't just marching. They're going to the polls.

KING: Right. And there's a lot of spin happing today. If you look at the vote totals, Ed Gillespie got more votes yesterday than Bob McDonald, the last Republican to win statewide in Virginia.

Now, the population has grown some since 2009, but Ed Gillespie did not have an embarrassing performance in a vote total, but he had a humiliating performance in the suburbs and in the exurbs as you move out. Michael, those are Republican areas.

If you look at Ed -- I know 2014 was a different climate. It was a more Republican climate. But if you look at the real Ed Gillespie, who ran in that race as the Ed Gillespie we all know, and then if you look at the Ed Gillespie who tried to adopt Trumpism yesterday, it's just an inescapable verdict that the real Ed Gillespie did a hell of a lot better than Ed Gillespie pretending to be Donald Trump.

MICHAEL WARREN, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I think some of the Ed Gillespie pretending to be Donald Trump was overstated. I mean he sort of tried to actually do it kind of halfway. He was -- he was, you know, the establishment Ed, but also kind of played with, you know, the confederate memorials, keeping that up and that sort of thing.

BASH: But that got the most attention.


WARREN: I think it got a lot of attention. I think it probably got a lot of attention from people in northern Virginia to get out.

BASH: Exactly.

WARREN: I mean "The Washington Post" was talking about it all the time. And that got a lot of people in those states. Maybe it helped him, actually, a little bit in southwest Virginia, more traditional conservative votes.

But I think it's important to remember as well that Ed Gillespie, you know, having that sort of -- that 2014 experience I think showed a problem within the Republican Party, which is, it's now split. It is so much more split than it was in 2014. Trump is a figure that the Republicans are going to have to grapple with. Are they going to run toward him? Are they going to run away from him? They're sort of damned if they do, damned if they don't.

KING: And it's almost impossible, even if you want to, even if you think it's the right thing to do, it is hard to run from your own president. He is the leader of your party. I think we learned yesterday that climate exists. The question is, does the president get it? He tweeted last night, he's overseas, he's in China now, he was in Korea -- South Korea when he tweeted this. Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for. Don't forget, Republicans won four out of four House seats. Those were the special elections. The economy doing record numbers. We'll continue to win even bigger than before. He thinks this is not about him. We could -- I could go back to that

wall and go through result after result after result and, look, Bill Clinton said the same thing heading into 1994, Barack Obama said the same thing heading into 2010, this isn't about me. Last night was about him.

HENDERSON: Yes, it was about him. I mean there's -- there's been this conversation about whether or not anti-Trumpism is enough. In part you can see it was enough here. I mean it certainly fueled the turnout. It certainly fueled the energy. I mean if you think about what Democrats did here, I mean, they were all in. You had Biden there. You had Obama there. You had all sorts of, you know, kind of the interest groups that make up the Democratic Party. Emily's List played very heavily in this race. If you look at the house of delegates, a lot of those people who were able to flip those seats were women. So they were very much kind of firing on all cylinders.

And they didn't -- the kind of fracture of the Democratic Party that we know so well, embodied by Tom Perriello and Ralph Northam, it didn't matter in this. They all came together. Tom Perriello was somebody who campaigned very heavily for Northam. So for -- I mean we sort of expect Trump to say, you know, it's not about me because that's what he always thinks, but it very much was about him.

[12:10:16] KING: Right.

SHEAR: Can I just underscore one of the things, though, that, John, you pointed out on the map, which is that if Democrats take away from this that everything's going to be hunky-dory now, that all they have to do is put somebody with a "d" by their name and as long as they run against Trump they'll be fine. Remember, this is a state that has been trending in this direction for a very long time.


BASH: That's a great point.

KING: Right.

SHEAR: You know, it's been 20 years basically that it's become -- been shifting from deep red to purple and now I think blue. And there's really only been one statewide gubernatorial candidate in the last 20 years who -- on the Republican side who won, and he had connections -- Bob McDonald -- to -- he was born in Fairfax. He was raised in --

KING: But it's -- but the depth for Virginia to be so --

SHEAR: It is a depth, but -- but we --

KING: You're absolutely right, Democrats better -- they'd better not overinvest here thinking, oh, we'll, all we just have to do is put somebody on the ballot and we win.

SHEAR: Right.

KING: But a couple of points. Number one, if you look at this, we are -- a lot of us were rolling our eyes at the idea that the Democrats could win enough House seats next year to be in contention. Even a lot of Republicans privately last night were saying, a lot can change between now and then. But this basic dynamic makes them nervous, which makes Nancy Pelosi happy.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA, MINORITY LEADER: The door is certainly open for us. In '05, right now, we had president -- President Bush down to 38 percent. That's approximately where President Trump is now. That opens the door. That means we get the fresh recruits and they get the retirements. We get the A-team and the candidate is very important in the election.


KING: Like her or not, agree with her or not, she's a pretty good political analyst and she gets this.


KING: There will be more Republican retirements out of this.

SHEAR: Right.

KING: There are Democrats coming out of the woodworks to run for office. So they had the intensity today. We'll see where it goes.

Another quick point I want to make is, that there are Republican who think they're going to come back in early 2018 to repealing and replacing Obamacare. In Maine last nice, the Republican governor did not want to expand Medicaid. Maine voters by a pretty lopsided margin, 58.8 to 41.2 percent, said, we want to expand Medicaid. That's number one in Maine. Susan Collins, Republican senator, lives in that state. Couldn't get her vote last time. Good luck, Mitch McConnell trying again.

And then in Virginia, health care was not the biggest issue if you watch the TV ads or the campaign speeches between Ralph Northam and Ed Gillespie. But what issue mattered most to you? Health care. How did those people vote? Seventy-seven percent for the Democrat, 23 percent for the Republican.

HENDERSON: Yes, and you --

KING: There is no way with a 52-48 Senate and those election results -- and I don't even think in the House you're going to be able to get moderate Republicans to vote for anything that looks like a repeal of Obamacare.

BASH: That's right.

KING: It's dead, right.

HENDERSON: And you -- and you look at people signing up for Obamacare, right? The feeling was that since this administration wasn't publicizing it, that maybe this would be another way to kind of make it crumble. But, you know, there were a lot of people who have signed up for it. Records numbers of folks signing is up for it. And you wonder if this is a trend.

In Maine, you know, folks in Utah, folks in Idaho trying to figure out if they want to expand Medicaid as well. That will likely be on the ballot there in 2018. So they've got to figure out if this is going to work.

WARREN: And there's a --

BASH: And what -- what that shows us is kind of a double whammy when it comes to health care because, on the one hand, you have swing voters and moderates who are saying, we don't want to do away with Obamacare.


BASH: On the other hand, you have the true believers in the base saying, excuse me, I voted for you all for three elections to repeal Obamacare. You didn't do it. I'm staying home this time.

WARREN: Yes. I think that's absolutely a dynamic that's playing. And one of the things the White House is saying is, look, Republicans are frustrated with Congress. What they don't say is they're probably going to get frustrated with the president as well if they don't start delivering on some of these promises. That's why I think a lot of Republicans are really saying, we've got to the pass tax reform if we even have a chance now.

KING: All right, we'll come back to that conversation in a bit and the broader implications.

Up next, though, the president is walking a tight, fine line overseas in China. Can he get them on board for his plan to get tougher with North Korea?


[12:18:06] KING: Welcome back.

President Trump is in China, perhaps the most consequential stop of his big Asia tour. The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, you can see it right here, rolling out quite the red carpet for President Trump and the first lady. And we know the president, of course, loves a good bit of pageantry. They were even invited to dinner inside the Forbidden City. That is an unprecedented honor. President Trump, the first foreign leader to have an official dinner in the palace since the founding of the People's Republic back in 1949.

Now, both leaders say their growing friendship will translate into results on some very difficult issues. That's about to be put to the test. Trade, one major friction. Chinese military expansion, another. And President Trump wants more Chinese pressure on North Korea. Before traveling to Beijing, the president delivered a major speech in Seoul. And after hinting earlier in the day about some possible diplomatic opening with the North, the speech instead was a stern rebuke of the Kim Jong-un regime.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I say to the North, do not underestimate us and do not try us. We will defend our common security, our shared prosperity, and our sacred liberty.

The weapons you are acquiring are not making you safer. They are putting your regime in grave danger.


KING: Striking, the tone, number one, but especially because earlier in the day the president seemed somewhat optimistic. He said, I see some progress. We'll see. There was no sign of progress there. That was a call to arms, Russia, China, everybody else toughen your sanctions, tighten the noose. And it was a speech full of personal insults of Kim Jong-un.

BASH: Personal insults but by Trump standards not that bad. Meaning, he didn't do the rocket man thing. And I actually, for the first time that I can remember, think that he gave some context for -- I mean he was talking to the South Korean National Assembly. They don't need context for what has happened in North Korea. They've lived it. But, obviously, his audience was the American people and other -- and other allies around the world that he's trying to galvanize.

[12:20:15] You know, context for why the U.S. and allies can't allow North Korea to continue on this path. This open question that we just don't know -- don't -- still do not know the answer to because there is no answer is, how is he ever going to get to where he said he wanted to go last, which is where the president before him and before him and before him said that they wanted, which is a denuclearized nuclearized North Korea.

WARREN: And this is something --

BASH: It's impossible, you know.

KING: Right.

WARREN: Well, I think --

KING: This is especially impossible because in the speech -- in the speech he didn't say, let's sit down at the table with that as a goal. Let's sit down at the table and we'll talk about that. He said he would only sit down at the table if North Korea agreed up front that --

BASH: Right, precondition.

KING: That it was -- that it would be -- that we were negotiating a verifiable end to the nuclear program, which is never going to happen.

WARREN: Right. Yes. But this is something that the administration has been working on literally since day one since President Obama said this is going to be the most difficult task for you incoming President Trump. And along the way we've had these assurances that things were changing, you know, that China had blocked, you know, imports into North Korea, that they were taking these actions, only to find out a couple of weeks or months later that things actually hadn't changed.

So now I think you're seeing frustration from the president because the results are not there from what we have been told ever since he took office were supposed to be happening. That changes were coming. Yet you do have to wonder what -- you know, that discussion that's happening with President Xi.

KING: And to that point, let's listen to the president, to that point, because he's going to be sitting down with Xi tomorrow.

WARREN: Right.

KING: He's going to see Vladimir Putin when he moves on to the later part of the trip, he moves on to Vietnam, where the big APEC meeting is taking place. The president called out both Mr. Putin and Mr. Xi saying, I need more.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All responsible nations must join forces to isolate the brutal regime of North Korea.

We call on every nation, including China and Russia, to fully implement U.N. Security Council resolutions, downgrade diplomatic relations with the regime, and sever all ties of trade and technology. It is our responsibility and our duty to confront this danger together.


KING: His rationale for not having a trade crackdown on China has been, this is more important. North Korea is more important. I think I'm getting their help. But to Michael's point, he's not getting as -- he's not getting as much as he wants. That's a big test for him going into the talks tomorrow.

HENDERSON: Right. It is. And, you know, he all along has said, and you can kind of see him hinting at it here, this idea that his friendship with the leader of China would mean that there's a different course going forward. So far no sense of that actually happening. They'll meet at some point. He'll meet with Putin. We'll see if something -- but these are all of the ways in which previous administrations have tried too, putting pressure internationally, cutting off diplomatic ties, cutting off economic ties. The thing is North Korea doesn't really care. I mean if they starve their people, they --

BASH: They already are.

HENDERSON: Yes, yes, they're starving their people and they don't really care.

KING: They already are. And to the point earlier, you're right, he didn't say rocket man. He didn't use sort of the juvenile language he uses sometimes in saying these things. But if you accept the North Korean culture from grandfather to father to now son, they treat it as a deity.

BASH: Yes.

KING: And the president's message, listen here, was essentially to Kim Jong-un, you are not worthy.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I also have come here to this peninsula to deliver a message directly to the leader of the North Korean dictatorship. North Korea is not the paradise your grandfather envisioned. It is a hell that no person deserves.


KING: Talking last night to some foreign policy intelligence types, they're all saying their question now is, how does Kim Jong-un respond to that.

SHEAR: Right. Well partly it's, how does Kim Jong-un respond. And -- and how does this -- does our president offer any sort of follow through. If you think back to the campaign, right, as he meets with the Chinese over the next 24 hours, during the campaign it was all hammering the Chinese, right? I mean we sort of would have thought that if you had gotten President Trump, what you were going to get was an extraordinarily contentious relationship with China. Instead, he sort of decided to develop this friendship and see where that got him.

It hasn't gotten him very far. You know, they haven't really engaged on the trade issue. If they do, they're going to find that's very difficult and contentious as well. And so there's no sense that -- there's no path that we can see right now that leads from where, you know, where the president is right now to where he wants to get in that (INAUDIBLE).

KING: We'll continue that part of the conversation as the two leaders meet tomorrow.

But we have to take a quick break.

When we come back, more about last night and what 2017 means for 2018.


[12:29:13] KING: Welcome back.

More now on the fallout from last night, especially the Virginia election and the blame game boomerang, you might say, in Republican circles today. President Trump blamed a bad candidate who he says did too little to embrace him. Breitbart ran this headline, Republicans swamp thing (ph) Gillespie rejected. Oh, come on, can we show people that? To state the obvious -- there we go -- to state the obvious, Gillespie did run the race and he lost. But Trump world's read of last night's results clashes with what you hear from Republicans on Capitol Hill this morning. There Republicans now have ballot box proof their president is a drag and they remember history, the big Republican wins in 2009 -- Republican wins in 2009 were a springboard to the GOP's 2010 midterm rout. Now Republicans worry the tables could be turning on them.

Listen to the House speaker, Paul Ryan, this morning. This is his take, play down the election results but --

[12:30:03] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: It doesn't change my reading of the current moment. It just emphasizes my reading of the current moment, which is, we have a promise to keep and we've got to get on with keeping our promise.