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Cruz Now Relying on Trump Effect for Senate Race; Manchin Takes Aim at Opponent's ObamaCare Lawsuit in New Ad; Racially Charged Accusations Dominate Florida Governor Contest; Pelosi: "I Won't Quit Leadership As Long As Trump's Around". Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 10, 2018 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: If you are the Republicans you are happy with this. North Dakota moving from a toss up, that's a Democratic incumbent to lean Republican, a race moving right. New Jersey, steeper for the Republicans but from solid Democrat we move it to likely Democrat. A Democratic incumbent there.

Here's where Republicans need to be nervous. Tennessee, from lean Republican to toss up. A competitive race, that's Republican-held right now. West Virginia, moves from toss up to lean Democratic. Joe Manchin running an effective campaign even though Trump won his state by 42 points.

Here's the one causing a lot of alarm in Republican toll picks. Texas, Ted Cruz's seat. From likely Republican to lean Republican. Still light red but moving towards the Democrats. Can that really happen?

Ted Cruz says no. But listen to him, Saturday campaigning. He is clearly alarmed and well, this is interesting.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: We are seeing tens of millions of dollars flooding into the state of Texas from liberals all over the country who desperately want to turn the state of Texas blue. They want us to be just like California. Right down to tofu and silicon and dyed hair.


KING: Tofu, silicon, and dyed hair.

KING: Well, you make -- you know, it's -- you make a joke, but you make a key point. Is Ted Cruz running now in the Texas that exists now? A lot of people say, one of the reasons he's in trouble, it's not just a strong candidacy by Beto O'Rourke, the Democratic congressman but that the Dallas suburbs, the Houston suburb, that Texas is slowly perhaps but becoming a different place and maybe tofu and silicon and dyed hair might not carry the day.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Where he was -- he was in Katy, Texas. That's a suburb of Houston. Yes. So -- and it is -- it tends to be more, you know, conservative part of the state.

That said, the idea that the hippies are coming in to take over Texas is not going to be his biggest problem. It's going to be Hispanics, it's going to be women who are not pleased with what's going on in Washington and perhaps in the Trump administration. That's who he needs to worry about not as much as the hippies.

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: It'll be fascinating to watch Texas. You know, Texas is like the great white whale for Democrats.


PACE: We're talking about it cycle after cycle as they watch these demographics shift. Now they've got the demographics, they've got the national mood and they got a Democratic candidate who's running a good race. So if all the forces come together, they think this is one that takes him over the finish line.

What I think we should be watching in Texas is to Jackie's point. You're seeing Republicans watching these suburban districts around the country and they're seeing independents and women just flee Republicans. I mean, there's no way Republicans feel like they can get those voters back in this cycle. Does that also play in the same way in a Republican state like Texas? That's the question.

KING: The concern of Republican leaders (INAUDIBLE) Ted Cruz. A lot of them don't like Ted Cruz, let's be honest but they want that seat. It's 51-49 right now in the Senate so even a Mitch McConnell who doesn't like Ted Cruz and that's legendary, will send money into there because he needs the seat. They need to keep it in Republicans.

But what they worry about is a couple of congressional seats, also state races. Because a lot of times in mid-term years, Democrats don't turn out in Texas because they think it doesn't matter. And yet if you have a candidate like Beto O'Rourke who's signing up people, who's spending his money smartly, who's organizing the Pete Sessions in Dallas could go.

And so, now, they're going to send in President Trump. President Trump is going to campaign for Ted Cruz. Go to the internet, remember 2016, lying Ted, said desparaging things about Heidi Cruz, said that Ted Cruz's dad was somehow involved in the assassination of President Kennedy. Donald Trump is now going to go help his new friend, Ted Cruz who, remember, responded to the president.


CRUZ: It is no surprise that Donald is throwing yet another temper tantrum or if you like, yet another Trumper tantrum. It seems his reaction to everything is to throw a fit.

I don't get angry often, but you mess with my wife, you mess with my kids, that will do it every time. Donald, you're a sniveling coward and leave Heidi the hell alone. Why is the media so desperate to get conservatives to give up our principles and support Donald Trump? And the answer is very simple. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are both rich New York big government liberals.


KING: But as they say in literature, that was then, this is now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was forever ago.

RAJU: I mean, remember, the Republican National Convention when he refused to endorse the president in that high profile speech, he was booed, he was hissed, Heidi Cruz had to be escorted out because of her concern about her safety. The next day, Ted Cruz said I'm not going to be a servile puppy dog and just endorse this president.

And I talked to Texas Republicans afterwards and they are warning that he could face his own primary challenge in 2018 because of the way he handled the president. But clearly, this is what he needs right now. The president's supporters are crucial to his base but people have not forgotten that and that's probably one reason why he maybe in the position that he's in right now.

[12:35:01] MICHAEL WARREN, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: And Trump is not dumb, he knows he needs that seat and Cruz is the guy, however imperfect from his perspective that is. What I think is really interesting with all the changes (INAUDIBLE) sort of how the states are all kind of shifting. The whole map is kind of shifting.

I mean, on the federal level, at least Florida I think, we can now maybe even say it's a red state. It's a light red state where for decades it was a swing state. I mean, this is a state that's getting older, it's very, very Trumpian and pro-Trump in sort of modern Republican Party. Some of the states like North Dakota that have always elected Democrats on the federal level for a long time. Missouri -- oh that 2006 and 2012 class of Democrats in red states, they're in some trouble but then you have in these red states Republicans that are in trouble as well. It's a shifting.

KING: There is a shifting in the map. There's continued volatility across the board, the same volatility that got us Trump -- the Trump presidency still exists out there. You don't think President Trump likes the idea that Ted Cruz needs him?

WARREN: Oh yes.

KING: Uh-huh.

Up next, a big announcement from the Trump administration this hour with big implications for the Middle East.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Topping our political radar today, the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says he didn't know about a male advertisement accusing his primary challenger, former "Sex and the City" star Cynthia Nixon for being soft on anti-Semitism. Nixon regularly attends synagogue and is raising her children in the Jewish faith. A new and ugly flashpoint in the race comes as the poll shows Governor Cuomo with a huge lead over Nixon.

The Trump administration announcing new measures the Palestinians now say represent reckless kowtowing to Israel. The State Department says the United States will close the PLO's office in Washington and right now, the National Security Adviser John Bolton giving a speech outlining other new measures. They include a crackdown on countries and people who prosecute the United States or its allies before the international criminal court.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, we just mentioned his race a little bit ago in West Virginia, dusting off his shotgun for a new ad targeting his Republican opponent's position on ObamaCare.

[12:40:05] Patrick Morrisey is among the 18 attorneys general who sued the government saying the Affordable Care Act is unlawful. But one popular provision protects people with pre-existing conditions, excuse me, that's what Senator Manchin zeroing on right here.


That's me shooting cap and trade bill because it was bad for West Virginia. Now the threat is Patrick Morrisey's lawsuit to take away healthcare from people with pre-existing conditions. He is just dead wrong and that ain't going to happen. I'm Joe Manchin and I approved this message because for me, it's all about West Virginia.


KING: A little lightning round here. Let's start with that. This is one race of many where Democrats say healthcare is helping them in the close.

I've talked to Republican strategists of the week and they said our party has no answer on healthcare and Democrats think it works, right?

RAJU: Yes. And the decision by the Trump administration to reverse course and support that lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act and the pre-existing conditions protections is given the Democrats in these red states an issue to run on. It's been very helpful for Manchin in particular. And remarkable how the politics of the ObamaCare law have shifted. The same Democrats were running away from this law, now they're embracing it as a key to the election.

KING: Closing the PLO's office in Washington, you can't take that as anything other than the administration getting even closer to Israel. There is no peace process.

PACE: There's talk about this Kushner plan that -- Kushner (INAUDIBLE) that still exists and no one that I have talked to thinks that there's a realistic possibility of that moving forward if the administration is going to continue to put off the Palestinians. They seem to be only pushing the Palestinians further away from the table --

KING: Andrew Cuomo is the Democratic governor of New York, he says he didn't know that his own party put out this reckless smear against Cynthia Nixon. He's responsible though, right? And he's the head of the party.

WARREN: Yes. And he's clearly scared and worried that this primary challenge from Nixon who I think he dismissed very early on is a real threat. And that's a problem.

KING: Do anything to keep your power is an affliction we find in both parties.

Up next, the race again at the center -- races is again at the center of the run for Florida governor.


[12:46:25] KING: Some more important 2018 midterm election news. This morning, Ron DeSantis, he's one of the president's loudest supporters in the House of Representative says, he's resigning his seat in Congress. The Republican now says, he's going to put all of his energy into his bid to become Florida's next governor. The decision comes amid a new test for DeSantis, a candidate already under fire for using racially-tinged language.

The Washington Post reports the congressman spoke four times at conferences organized by a conservative activist who says, this is quoting that activist from the Washington Post, African-Americans owe their freedom to white people and that the country's only serious race war is against whites.

You got that? African-Americans owe their freedom to white people. The only race war in the United States is against whites. That's what David Horowitz says.

Now DeSantis' spokesman says the congressman is proud of his record and proud of his supporters but then he's not responsible for the views of others. The Florida governor's race is one of this year's marquee contests. The Democratic candidate is Tallahassee's African- American mayor, Andrew Gillum. DeSantis was already facing criticism for this description of his opponent.


REP. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state. That is not going to work, that's not going to be good for Florida.


KING: Now the congressman says that was not racist. The Post says, only one of the congressman's four appearances that the conference organized by David Horowitz has been previously reported. Horowitz insists he's not racist and in any event told the Washington Post, it is unfair to, quote, pin me on DeSantis.

So the congressman spokesman says he's not responsible for the views of these other people. But he went four times. He went four times. So is it not fair to judge a person by the company they keep?

WARREN: Look, there are -- just like this, national, state, regional sort of in the broader conservative movement. And one of the things that a lot of conservatives have been raising the alarm for the past few years, several years is the people who come and speak at these conferences. People like Milo Yiannopoulos who was one of the speakers of one of these conferences who is actually disinvited from the big national -- NCPAC, Conservative POLITICAL Action Conference because of the straight up racist views that he espouse.

But at a certain point, you know, it's guilt by association. I mean, these views that these people have, they say them all the time on Twitter, on T.V. and on radio. These politicians ought to know better if they do not espouse these views which I don't think Ron DeSantis does, they should be doing their homework a little more.

KUCINICH: But it's not going to be starting out as race for the general election defending whether or not he's a racist. That's not a good look no matter how you play it.

KING: Now you can make the case. I'm going to show up at a controversial event because I have something to say. I'm going to show up maybe and challenge some of the people there. That would be a principal position in some politics.

Ron DeSantis is -- he didn't speak to the Post but his office says, you can't judge him by David Horowitz' views. But, here's Ron DeSantis at David Horowitz's events.


DESANTIS: I just want to say, what an honor it's been to be here to speak. David has done such great work and I've been admired to admire him. I've been to these conferences in the past but I've been a big admirer of an organization that shoots straight, tells the American people the truth, and standing up for the right thing.


KING: Shoots straight, tell the American people the truth, and standing up for the right thing.

PACE: It sounds like he is embracing those views.

[12:50:02] KING: I can -- I have to assume that Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, a man who cares deeply about diversity in the Republican Party and conservative principles has to just be pounding his head off the wall when you read something like this to think that his state could conceivably go in that direction. PACE: Well, and it's going to have the effect potentially in this contest of really galvanizing African-American supporters and Hispanic voters who -- that's who Andrew Gillum needs to turn out in really large numbers. So, you already had a contest there that had a racial element to it. Both -- because Gillum would be the first black governor of Florida but also because of the comment that DeSantis made which he did say was not -- it was not intending to talk about Gillum in that way.

But you already have this racial undercurrent in this contest, this is only going to fuel that further and Democrats believe that it will help Gillum because it turns out the exact voters that he needs to pull this one out.

WARREN: But look -- I mean, on the other hand Donald Trump went on Alex Jones's radio show. Alex Jones has said some vile, disgusting things, not simply racial, but gone after others. The terrible thing he said about the school shooting in Connecticut -- I mean -- and Trump was elected as president.

RAJU: And Trump said that he respected Alex Jones and he said positive things about Alex Jones. And I think probably DeSantis may be taking a lesson from that.

WARREN: Yes, it open up (INAUDIBLE).

KING: I just -- I'll say this all the time because some people out there don't want to believe those who do what we do for a living., maybe you get (INAUDIBLE) this November, maybe even into November, go to and study where this country is going. It's not going to work. Not a sustainable basis. Never. Shouldn't work anyway but the numbers won't allow it.

Up next, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sits down with CNN and spells out why she should become speaker if Democrats win back the House.


[12:56:35] KING: Welcome back. Nancy Pelosi can count. Even her fiercest critics marvel at the organizational skills and the tenacity at the root of her rise to becoming the highest ranking woman in American political history. She knows the depth of the generational uprising in her Democratic Party. But listen to this counter argument. She tells CNN's Christiane Amanpour that if Democrats will control the House, she will make her case she is most qualified to be speaker and most qualified to lead the opposition to the president.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: I do agree that it's time for new blood and we should move on. If Hillary Clinton had won and the Affordable Care Act was protected, I feel very (INAUDIBLE) about that. I was happy to go my way, but to have no woman at the table and to have the Affordable Care Act at risk, as long as he's here, I'm here. So 45, not to be disrespectful, but -- CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You mean

President Trump?




KING: 45 and not to be disrespectful and then she says President Trump. Can she sell that?

KUCINICH: Yes. She has the benefit -- I'm sorry.


She has the benefit of not having an apparent successor. That there's really no leader inside that Democratic caucus that could -- that can fundraise like she does and has the history that she does. But I'll --

RAJU: Yes. I mean, I think that she needs a big, massive Democratic win in November not a narrow majority, a huge majority. That's how she's going to stay to become speaker once again because there are all these members and candidates who are on record saying they will oppose her. Yes, they can change their votes when they come to Washington and some probably will, but it's a public vote to be speaker. And if they do that, probably these guys in these difficult races and districts will be hammered by that.

(INAUDIBLE) 30, 40, 50 seats, majority maybe. Then that's different than a 20 seat majority.

KING: It is stunning if we have the conversation. Here's the cover of Time from Thursday. "The Persistence of Nancy Pelosi."

She was the speaker of the House. She is the highest ranking woman in American political history. That's the first time she's been on the cover of Time. And she says that's proof of the double standard.

Well, she's right. I didn't know that was the first time she's on the cover. That is stunning. She is the most successful woman in American political history. Whatever you think of her, you have to tip your hat to her tenacity and her skills. She says in the article by Molly Ball and I must read it, "If I weren't effective, I wouldn't be a target."

PACE: And that's true. I mean, she has two things on her side that just drive Republicans crazy. One as Jackie pointed out, she can raise a ton of money. And two, she can count votes. And we have seen over and over again this Republican battles that play out where they can't figure out if they're going to be able to pass something or not and they actually can't spill on to the House floor. That doesn't happen with Pelosi and Democrats. She knows where her caucus is, she knows where the votes are going to be when they take something on the floor. She knows what she's got to do to get those votes there and she has been extremely effective when she's had that gavel.

KING: In fact she has to draw essentially to an inside straight if they win. To your point, I think the margin matters a lot. Because if it's a big margin, she can say, hello, that was my money. That was my help.

But -- and she has to cut some deal that you need me now but I'm willing to help build the plan to get me out of here.

WARREN: Right. I mean, the detriment right that she's been there -- and not just her but the entire Democratic leadership, right, 78. Steny Hoyer is 79, James Clyburn is 78, but they've been around and that her -- but her biggest asset is, a lot of her competition has kind of decided, well, I'm (INAUDIBLE) I'm going to run for Senate. Or I'm just going to get out here. Or (INAUDIBLE), I'm going to lose my mind. And so, she doesn't (INAUDIBLE) a lot of people --

KING: One of the many, many -- 57 days, this is fascinating. We'll keep an eye every day. And thanks for joining us today in the INSIDE POLITICS. Jim Sciutto is in for Wolf. Hope to see you back here tomorrow. Jim starts right now.