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Hurricane Florence's Path; Residents Prepare for Florence; Evacuations Orders ahead of Florence; Trump Approval Falls. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired September 11, 2018 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: It's a 93 foot high tower with one wind chime for each of the 40 victims.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Sarah, thank you so much and thank you so much for being there.

Thank you all for being with me this hour. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Kate.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing this busy day with us.

Florence now a category four hurricane with the Carolinas in her sights. More than one million people are being told they must evacuate.

Plus, our new CNN poll exposes a giant Republican problem. President Trump's approval rating is falling, now well below the line at which GOP strategists believe they would have any prayer to keep the House.

And America remembers 9/11, 17 years later.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Your tears are not shed alone, for they are shared grief with an entire nation. We grieve together for every mother and father, sister and brother, son and daughter who were stolen from us. We honor their sacrifice by pledging to never flinch in the face of evil.


KING: That's the president -- the president there earlier today in Shanksville. We'll come back to that throughout the hour.

But we begin with the reality of what's coming. What's coming. It's just getting a lot more urgent now for millions of people along the East Coast. Hurricane Florence bearing down and new evacuation orders now in effect for nearly every coastal county in South Carolina, along with portions of North Carolina and Virginia. South Carolina officials, just a short time ago, imploring those in the danger zone, get out of the way. This is a monster storm.


CHIEF LUTHER REYNOLDS, CHARLESTON POLICE: This is a serious storm. And somebody is going to get hit significantly. There's communities that will be affect and devastated by the impacts of this storm. So it's critical that we continue to communicate regularly, which is what this is about.


KING: People in North Carolina and Virginia, as we mentioned, also being told to pack up, head inland. Still not clear exactly where this major hurricane will hit land, but many are heeding the warnings, evacuate Hurricane Florence now. Packs winds -- packing winds, Hurricane Florence is now at at least 130 miles per hour.

But as forecasters stress over and over, the storm surge and the flooding Florence is expected to bring to the shore will be just as life-threatening, if not more so, than the winds.

We have reporters up and down the coast tracking this storm as it approaches.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung will join us in just a moment from North Carolina.

First, though, let's check in with Chad Myers, our meteorologist, with the latest from the Hurricane Center.

Update us on the path, Chad, and what to expect.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: What we should expect, John, is overnight tonight this storm to get back up to a strong four, maybe 150 miles per hour. Right now we're 130. That doesn't seem like much, but it is.

This storm is going to get a brand new eyewall in the middle of where it was last night. We lost that eyewall. A bigger eyewall started and it generated into a round circle. But not quite round yet. We're going to wait for that roundness to get perfect before we really start to blow this thing up.

You see it's just a little bit oblong on one side. That's just enough to not allowed it to breathe properly. It's kind of like having a stuffy nose. But it's going to breathe tonight and it's going to get much stronger. One hundred and fifty miles per hour by 8:00 a.m. That is the official track, the official forecast.

Now, the reason why people are starting to breathe a little bit easier is because the cone is getting smaller because the storm is getting closer. A wide cone, because the storm is far away. As the storm gets closer, this cone is only now all the way to about Kill Devil Hills, maybe almost all the way down to Charleston, but not quite. The center of the cone, always the most important part. We don't want

to watch it, but the chance of something hitting in the center part, about 30 percent. You move away about 50 miles, 20 percent. You move all the way out to the edge, about 10 percent. And then if you get outside, there's still a slight chance of it moving away from that cone. It's never a perfect cone. But with this storm, the models have been doing absolutely stellar work.

The problem, John, is from here, when it makes landfall probably Friday 8:00 a.m. as an 120 mile per hour storm, to Sunday, it's only about 200 miles. This thing is going to stop and it's going to rain, and it's going to rain and people are going to say, OK, enough with this, let's no more Harvey with this. Stop raining. And it's not going to stop raining. We could see three feet of rain.

KING: Oh, three feet of rain.

Chad, keep in touch. And anyone watching, listen to this, we're two days out so you think, I don't need to worry about this. Listen to Chad Myers and the rest of our team over the next couple of days as they adjust the track. It's that rain. Remember Harvey. That rain. Listen. Listen in.

Chad, appreciate it. We'll check back.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung, as we noted, watching evacuations along a stretch of North Carolina that could be, as Chad just outlined, right in the path. She joins us now from Wilmington.

[12:05:04] Kaylee, you understand how this works. People look at the skies behind you, they say, I've got a couple of days. Officials say, don't do that. Get the urgency now. Who's winning?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, John, it is a tough call and it sure depends on who you talk to. Time on a lot of people's sides here, but officials really hoping people take advantage of that and get far ahead of this storm.

Now, there are two ways out of Wilmington, North Carolina. We are at the food of one of those bridges. That city, voluntary evacuation. But the barrier islands or the beach towns, as people around here call them that protect them from the ocean, those under mandatory evacuation.

It's been a mixed bag of sentiment. You can always bet on finding those folk who say they want to try to ride out the storm.


JOHN MCGOWAN, COMPASS POINTE, NORTH CAROLINA, RESIDENT: I'm gassed up. I'm ready to go. But I plan on sticking it out. I will -- I will make an evaluation tomorrow afternoon. If that thing's still coming at us at about 120 miles an hour, I may change my mind. But right now I'm planning on riding it out.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARTUNG: That man, a resident of Brunswick County, says he believes his brick house that was built about five years ago could easily sustain at least 100 mile an hour winds.

Now, this gas station that we're at, the pumps are staying busy, John. I talked to two young men earlier who said they had to drive 25 minutes from their homes in Delco to find a gas station that even had gas. But they've got it stocked up here and people are here fueling up, whether they plan to stay or go.

KING: It's always the fascinating debate.

Kaylee Hartung in the center of it. Kaylee, appreciate the reporting. We'll keep in touch in the hours and days ahead.

Also joining us now live from Wilmington, Bret Adair. He's a field meteorology and a storm chaser.

OK, Bret, you've been doing this for quite some time. You just heard Chad Myers in the Weather Center. You're on the ground there in Wilmington. You've been at this for 15 years. What are you looking for when you hear Florence and how it is described as it comes, what are you looking for now?

BRETT ADAIR, FIELD METEOROLOGIST AND STORM CHASER: Well, John, Chad's dead on. This thing's a very serious threat. And when we're looking at the impacts of Florence, I'm going to tell you, right now it looks like a beautiful day. Do not let that fool you. You can see behind me, they are taking the lifeguard stands now down here on Wrightsville Beach off the pedestal. So they're getting prepared for Florence as it begins to move towards the coastline.

We've probably got another 24 hours of pretty good weather here, but don't let that fool you yet again.

We spoke to the mayor a little bit yesterday and he mentioned mandatory evacuations would likely either come late this afternoon or early in the morning for this area. And what we've been stressing to everyone is this is a very serious storm. Since Hurricane Hazel hit in '54 and Hugo in '89, this is the most serious potential impact to the Carolinas. So everybody needs to take this thing very seriously.

KING: And in our most recent memory, you've been part of both of them, Harvey down in the Houston area, Maria in Puerto Rico. No one is ever the same. But as you prepare for Florence, what comes to mind? And to that point Chad was just making, he made the Harvey comparison about all that water. Where you are, what would that water do if it's anywhere near that size and scope?

ADAIR: Well, the biggest difference between this storm and Hurricane Harvey is the size. Overall, the size of Florence is much, much larger than Harvey. It could have some of those same impacts here in the Carolinas, but it could potentially be over a larger span. So that's absolutely what we're looking for, those hurricane force winds to gust well over 100 miles an hour, potentially be sustained well over 100. And then the storm surge here. One of the largest storm surges in history was around 20 feet with Hazel and Hugo. And this area couldn't take 20 feet. There's a lot of inundation that would take place right along the coastline.

KING: Bret, appreciate your help. Again, keep in touch over the next several days as you do your work and help us as much as you can. We appreciate it.

And as you've heard, more than 1 million people now facing mandatory evacuation orders. Two of those people are Randi O'Sullivan and her husband Blake. They're currently on the road, heading from Hatteras Island, North Carolina, to family in Maryland. Randi joins me on the phone now.

So, Randi, this is your house. You just decided to leave it behind. I understand some of your neighbors have stayed. How did you make the decision, not this time, I'm out of here?

RANDI O'SULLIVAN, EVACUATING BEFORE THE STORM (via telephone): Once we heard that it could -- it hit category four at landfall and then also when they called for the mandatory evacuation of (INAUDIBLE) happened, we decided to go ahead and head out of there.

KING: And any conversations with the neighbors who were staying?

O'SULLIVAN: Um, not really. Just that they were staying and doing the same kind of thing as us, preparing, you know, batten down the hatches, bringing things inside and hoping for the best.

KING: And you've got your husband with you. You have Bertha, I think, is your dog.


[12:10:01] KING: Are you -- are you worried at all about what you left behind? How well have you prepared what you left behind?

O'SULLIVAN: We prepared as best we could. We tied everything down that was outside, brought things in, boarded up the windows, which we've never done before. And, you know, we have all of our important paperwork with us. I had to leave -- I'm an artist, so I had to leave all my artwork and supplies at home. So, again, we're just hoping for the best, but we're definitely nervous.

KING: And I -- you mentioned that you're an artist. You're also pregnant. Is that one -- a, is that of the reasons you decided this time I'm not going to take the risk? And we understand you used your artistic license, I shall call it here on family television, to leave a message for Florence.

O'SULLIVAN: Absolutely, yes. Being pregnant is definitely one of the big reasons we decided to leave. And, yes, I did leave my mark.

KING: You left your mark. We're not going to show it in the noon hour here, but it is, shall we say, a pointed message to Florence. And, Randi, we appreciate that. Best of luck to you. Please, keep in touch. Make sure you make it up with your family. If you see anything interesting along the way, touch base with our team. Again, appreciate your help today. Best of luck.

And we're going to continue to keep an eye on the storm, obviously.

And as we go to break on this September 11th, let's listen to President Trump. This is earlier today in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, honoring the Flight 93 passengers who took on the terrorists, sacrificing their lives to save many others.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They boarded the plane as strangers and they entered eternity linked forever as true heroes. A piece of America's heart is buried on these grounds, but in its place has grown a new resolve to live our lives with the same grace and courage as the heroes of Flight 93.



[12:16:06] KING: Welcome back.

Our new CNN poll shows a significant drop in the president's approval rating and the timing of that drop potentially catastrophic now for the Republican Party and its shrinking odds of defending its House majority. The numbers first and why this drop is so worrisome for the president's party.

Let's just look at the numbers. This among registered voters. The president's disapproval at 57. He's way under water. Approval, only 37 percent of registered voters in our new poll approve of the president's job performance.

Let's take a closer look at how this has played out overtime. And you watch as the numbers come through the year. The president generally hovers right around 40 percent. A little up, a little down, a little up, a little down throughout the year, but it's the timing where 56 days from the midterm election and, boom, you see that drop from just last month and the approval rating. Disapproval spiking up in just the last month.

In a polarized election climate, how does this break down by the party, well, only 5 percent of Democrats approve of the president's job performance. You know what Democrats are going to do when they get a chance to vote come November.

Republicans, strong support for the president, 83 percent, although he'd like that number up closer to 90 in this polarized environment. If the Democrats are so against, he needs Republicans to be completely for.

This is what gets troubling for the president, his numbers among independents. If you have all the Democrats against you, most of the Republicans for you, this could be the swing vote. It usually is in big wave election years. Which way will the independents go? The president's in trouble right now. And let's take a closer look at that as it plays out because, again, it is the timing here. Don't invest in any one poll, but there are several recent polls out that show this happening right now. The president's overall approval rating down, his support among independents, dropping, as we get closer to the election.

If you are Republicans, again, don't invest in one poll. You look at this data. You look at the calendar. You're getting very, very nervous, especially in those districts where Trump was already trouble for you.

Listen here. This is Ryan Costello, Republican congressman, who decided not to run for re-election because of the Trump effect, which he says, as we get closer to the election, seems to be getting worse.


REP., RYAN COSTELLO (R), PENNSYLVANIA: As the party continues to be more and more defined by Trump, especially when he wades into primaries and the Trump-backed candidate wins, that is not a recipe for long-term success (INAUDIBLE) a political party. It's just simply not. And in the suburbs you are seeing the real acceleration of independents move to Democrats, either voting or in party registration.


KING: So let's talk it over. Joining me here in studio to talk about it, CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Sahil Kapur with "Bloomberg," Carl Hulse of "The New York Times," and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, also of "The New York Times."

Again, don't invest in any one poll, but there have been several now in the past week or so, more than a half dozen, that show the president's numbers going down. Bill McEntire (ph) is one of the smartest Republican pollsters, if not the smartest Republican pollster in town. He has a slide show that he shows to his clients. And here's what they say if you look at this. If you look at the past, big midterm election waves, the Democratic wave in 2006, the Republican figures in 2010 and 2014. He analyzes all that, makes the point that you can predict congressional vote based on presidential approval. That is always the magic thing there.

And as Bill says, if the president's at 45 percent, then maybe. Maybe the Republicans can hold their House majority. If -- there would be a Democrat plus four vote he projects. If the president's below 40, he puts them at 39 percent. At 39 percent, he projects the Democrats would win by 13 points on Election Day. We have the president at 36 or 37. That's a catastrophe in the making.

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "BLOOMBERG": It's eight major polls right now that show the president slipping. And it comes at exactly the wrong time, John, as you pointed out, for the Republicans at about 56 days before the midterm elections. Just some historical numbers, in 2006, President Bush was also in the high 30s when his party got decimated in the midterm elections. President Obama, in 2010, was in the 40s when his party got decimated. Bill Clinton was also in the 40s in 1994 when his party got wiped out. So these are historically very troubling numbers.

There are other things in the CNN poll that were also devastating. I think on the issues of cares about people like you, the president was at 36 percent. Honest and trustworthy, two to one under water. Two- thirds say he's a divider, not a uniter. Two to one say they're not proud to have him as president. This is a lot to overcome for his party.

[12:20:09] JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, and he keeps on talking -- making the case that, you know, he's going to defy history and this is going to be the one midterm after a big presidential win that is not going to cost the Republican Party the Congress, or control of one chamber of Congress. That could be true if, as you pointed out earlier, the Republican number were holding firm enough to offset what is clearly a drop among independents.

And that's the real issue, not just for him, but more -- more immediately for Republican congressional candidates in some of those places who absolutely need the turnout of the very conservative, core Trump supporters who are going to be activated by him going out on the campaign trail and him talking tough and him tweeting. But they also need those middle people to come out. And they're not, if you look at the polls right now, there are not enough of them that are on the president's side, that are on the side of things are going in the right direction and it's fallen. You know, as he said, exactly the (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Right. And we can show the numbers as we go through this. This is the job -- overall job approval numbers. We'll get to independents in a minute. But the overall job approval number, 57 percent disapprove. Fifty-seven percent disapprove of the president of the United States. Only 37 percent approve.

Now, again, you've got 56 days, but I've been through a few of these and it gets harder and harder as you get closer to the election to change the fundamental dynamics. The frustration for Republicans is, these numbers are going down as the economic numbers nationally are going through the roof gangbusters and they have reached the conclusion, most Republicans, that they can't change them.


KING: That there's something about this president, among independents, and in the suburbs, as Congressman Costello noted, this -- we've got to ride this horse and be in trouble.

COLLINS: Yes, they're not running on what they thought they were going to be running on. And for all the talk about the president's base and how no matter what the president does, his base is going to stay with him no matter what he tweets, what he says, anything like that. The big issue of course is those independents, those people who weren't going to vote for Trump but they voted for him because they didn't want to vote for Hillary Clinton.

And I think a lot of people are seeing that though the president isn't on the ballot this fall, it's going to be a referendum on him, from those people who do not like what he's been doing and don't like what he's tweeting and don't like what he's saying. And I think that's going to be a really big issue for them, that it may not even come down to who's in the actual race. It's a referendum on the president.

CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, their whole strategy, and this is what Republicans are finding so frustrating. Their whole strategy was tax cuts. We're going to run on tax cuts. That's really the only thing they did last year. And they thought, you know, Mitch McConnell says, if we can't win on 3 percent growth, we shouldn't be able to win anyway.

And so here they are. Now they've hitched themselves to Trump and he's diving down in the polls right at the last minute.

And this hurricane could play into this right now. If they don't have a good response to this, if this hurricane is a real disaster, it's just going to figure into it more. So a really bad place for the Republicans right now.

KING: Right.

And if you look at it, if you -- again, as the very thorough analysis -- I was going through it last night and this morning, if the president's above 40, Republicans have a chance. If he's at 45, they think they can hold the House. If he's below 40, it's over.

And if -- right now we have him at 36 or 37, whether you're looking at all adults or registered voters. If he's down there, then it's not just the House. If he's down there, the House is gone. That is 30 seats. That could be 40 seats.

But what about Senate races?

HULSE: Well --

KING: This is where you start to get nervous if the president's that low. The map favors the Republicans --

HULSE: Right.

KING: If you look at the Democratic incumbents on defense. The places where Republican incumbents are running, like Texas, Mitch McConnell, just moments ago, speaking in Louisville, says, yes, Ted's got a competitive race by all indications. We certainly expect a win in Texas, McConnell went on to say, but he does have a competitive race.

This is -- this is Texas. And if the president -- but the president's going to go there to help his good friend, ha ha, Ted Cruz. But if the president of the United States is at 37 percent, of the president of the United States is at 33 percent approval among independents, then even a Senate race in Texas, maybe Tennessee, maybe Arizona?

HULSE: Yes, and Nevada.

KAPUR: And it increasingly --

HULSE: And Nevada.

KAPUR: Right, and it increasingly sounds like Republican hopes in places like that are going to hinge on that 37 percent super changing turnout. Now, this is a key dynamic that did not work for President Obama. He was excellent at turning out his base when he was on the ballot. He failed to do it when he was not on the ballot in 2010 and 2014, then again in 2016.

Now, Trump is trying to mobilize his voters by talking a lot about immigration and crime and kind of hitting on the same issues that worked for him in 2016. Are those people going to show up to vote for a down ballot Republican who they hold in lower regard, according to pretty much all the polls we've seen, than the president when he's not on the ballot? That's going to be the question that I think determines whether Republicans hold on to both the House and the Senate.

HULSE: Well, it cuts both ways in the Senate too. So it makes it a little harder for Republicans to win the places that they think they should win. Indiana, we've seen some improvement for the Democrat there being one.

KING: Right.

HULSE: And then it makes it harder for them to win in a place like Tennessee, where there's a real Democratic threat.

I think that people are saying right now, the Senate's in a little more play than we thought it was going to be.

KING: Right.

HULSE: Still uphill. And -- but if the Senate and the House flip, that changes the entire dynamic for the next two years.

KING: Right, agenda-wise, investigation-wise. And, again, 56 days out. A president at 36 or 37 percent, that is a recipe for a catastrophe for the Republican Party. Fifty-something days, but those numbers don't lie.

[12:25:06] Up next for us, back to the top story, Hurricane Florence lurking off the East Coast, but we've heard little so far from crisis communication, the commander in chief.


[12:29:58] KING: We're turning now to our top story this hour. Hurricane Florence barreling toward the Carolinas, threatening more than 20 million people now in its projected path. The eye of the storm due to make landfall in North Carolina sometime between Thursday night and Friday morning, either as a category four or perhaps a category five storm.