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INSIDE POLITICS

GOP Narrows Dems Lead on Generic Ballot; White House Promotes USMCA As A Win For Everyone; Stormy Daniels Story Continues. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 2, 2018 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Some brand-new Quinnipiac poll out just moments ago shows 49 percent of voters say they'll back the Democratic candidate in their local congressional race. Forty-two percent said they'll back the Republican.

That's a drop from last month. A seven-point Democratic advantage now, last month though, it was double that. That's the race for the House. That shows the Democrats are within reach but weakening position a bit anyway in that one poll than where they were a month ago in taking back the House.

But what about the Senate. The Senate is also in play as we head into the final weeks. The CNN rankings right now have 49 Republican seats as a solid Republican, likely Republican or lean Republican. Forty- five seats solid Democrat, likely Democrat, lean Democrats.

A new polling out changes the map. For one, we moved New Jersey to likely Democratic. That used to be a solid Democratic state. But look at this, the Democratic incumbent Bob Menendez in a horse race. That is a statistical tie with his Republican opponent. That would be an unlikely opportunity but a welcome opportunity for Republicans. So watch that one in New Jersey of all places in the final weeks.

A brand-new CNN poll out in Nevada shows the Democrat ahead of the incumbent Republican. Republicans are fighting. Dean Heller perhaps the most vulnerable Republican incumbent. Now that's within the poll's margin of error so statistically a dead heat but maybe a slight Democratic advantage heading into the final days in one of our tossups states that is critical for control of the Senate.

Here's one more. Republicans entered the year convinced they could get Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill. Well, this is a dead heat. Again, within the margin of error perhaps a slight McCaskill edge heading into the final weeks but another race that is neck and neck and it will affect -- it's one of our tossups will affect whether the Republicans keep control or the Democrats take control.

Last block, we talked about Phil Bredesen. He has this tough vote. Former Governor Bredesen does about whether how he would -- whether or not he supports Brett Kavanaugh. Marsha Blackburn, Republican congresswoman, she's running for Bob Corker's seat. She's the Republican nominee, she says, I don't know what's going to happen nationally but she's promising voters back home, Tennessee will not go blue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE SENATE CANDIDATE: I know that the Democrats keep saying that there is a blue wave coming, but let me tell you something. Mr. President, when that blue wave gets to the state line, it is going run smack dab into the great red wall and that ends.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That is one of the more fascinating races there in the sense that you have a full Trump Republican, Marsha Blackburn and more centrist Democrat, the former Governor Phil Bredesen.

A look at these new Quinnipiac numbers. Number one, we just showed from a month ago, never invest in any one poll. But a month ago Quinnipiac had Democrats plus 14. That would be a blowout. That would be Speaker Nancy Pelosi or speaker Democrat anyway. We'll have the fight about whether it's Nancy Pelosi or not. Seven points makes it more of a battle. Makes it more a race by race.

Here's the Senate. Look at these Senate numbers, the new numbers, Quinnipiac has 50 percent of voters say they want the Democrats to control the Senate. Forty-three percent say Republican. So plus seven on the Senate too.

Now, again, I want to caution you, if you're a Democrat, that's a good national number, plus seven. Senate races are state by state. The map overwhelmingly favors the Republicans because we're talking about Democratic incumbents on defense in West Virginia, in North Dakota, in Indiana, in Missouri.

So we head into this final five weeks. Wow.

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: That's a reminder that things can change drastically in just a couple of weeks. I mean, going from a double-digit lead to just seven points, you know, Democrats are looking at that and saying, oh, this isn't over, we got to keep working and Republicans have a little hope there. But what we have consistently seen throughout all of these polls is the Democratic edge here. And that is because Republicans are in the sort of impossible place where they're trying to drive Republicans out to the polls, try and get the Trump voters out. But in order to sort of rally these guys and get them out there, they're alienating those independent voters that they need to show up to vote for them.

And so it's a no-win situation and it's a tough situation.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: We're seeing voter registration hit record numbers in several states including Texas had 15.6 million people registered or something. I mean, it's in a massive number.

Now, what does that? Is that in theory would look good for Democrats and perhaps Beto O'Rourke. But that -- it's more likely bad news for Republicans who are in those very marginal seats around Texas. So -- but again, I would look at voter registration, things like that more than I would follow polling in terms of state by state because the national polling might not give us the same picture because the map is still very hard for Democrats but in those state by state polling, you might get a clearer picture of what's happening.

KING: And the Kavanaugh nomination as we just talked about adds more uncertainty. You have a big important issue front and center in the final weeks (INAUDIBLE). But I will tell you in a midterm election, a normal midterm election and this one have looked normal for the most parts so far is the one biggest number is the president's approval rating. Here's how Quinnipiac has that.

[12:35:00] The president's approval, 41, disapproval, 53. That is a recipe for Republican disaster. That is a number that is lower than Obama in 2010. That is a number that is lower than Bill Clinton back in 1994. That is a first term midterm number that if that holds would tell you, you're going to have a Democratic blowout.

But again, the question is in the age of Trump, do the traditional rules apply?

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I was in West Virginia with the president on Saturday night at his rally and it was a reminder if you needed one, that the president isn't doing the kinds of normal things that presidents would do to try to broaden that number, right? To try to bring up the approval beyond base number and try to sort of figure out what's the calculus that we need to do to kind of expand beyond that base.

I mean, his -- the rhetoric whether it was Saturday night, whether it was in Tennessee yesterday, it's just -- it is all aimed at the intense Trump base and making sure those folks come out. And so those -- that overall approval number is not likely to go anywhere between now and five weeks from now.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Yes. And we've seen going further into the numbers that the strongly disapprove numbers are actually very high for the president he has. In some polls, more than 50 percent not only disapprove but strongly disapprove. And that may speak to the enthusiasm that's likely to impact the electorate in the turnout.

We always hear about, you know, the young vote, the minority vote during the midterms. It'll be very interesting to see whether or not there's a change in the pattern. Whether or not we see higher numbers of young people come out, more women voting than normal, more minority is coming out to vote even though it's not a presidential race. And whether or not the Trump base comes out. He's going to be doing a lot of campaigning over the next several weeks, whether or not he's able to get his base to turnout at higher level will be very important as well.

KING: Wherever you are in the political spectrum if you're watching, if you've been attention in recent days, it matters. Your vote matters wherever you are whether you're a Trump. Whether you're far- left, it matters. If you can still register, register. If you are registered, vote.

When we come back, we've been talking here about the possibility the Democrats could take back the House. If they do, who will they choose as their leader? While we've been on the air this hour, Nancy Pelosi is sitting down with CNN's Dana Bash. Some of that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:41:38] KING: Welcome back.

Playing out live this hour right here in Washington. Nancy Pelosi speaking at a Washington forum, she's being interviewed by CNN's Dana Bash. Her goal, talk about the Democratic midterm message and moments ago, this question. If Pelosi becomes speaker of the House, and if Brett Kavanaugh gets confirmed to the Supreme Court, would House Democrats try to impeach him?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So let's focus then on that.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: That would not be my plan.

BASH: What would not be your plan to impeach him?

PELOSI: I have enough people on my back to impeach the president. Now we're going to (INAUDIBLE). It's about unifying and let's hope that the -- again, with the information that comes forward, and with the demonstration of the temperament that is not judicial that the Senate will do the right thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It is an interesting answer anyway but particularly because of the moment. There are a lot of people in the Democratic caucus who think Nancy Pelosi, God bless her, we love you, your time has passed, we need a generational change. Is that the right answer?

It's responsible answer. We're not going to talk about impeaching Brett Kavanaugh now, see what the Senate does. She says, I have enough people on my back saying we should impeach President Trump. For someone who is trying to corral the votes, should the Democrats retake the House, that's a careful responsible answer, is it the right political answer?

KUCINICH: Yes. Listen to your friend, Nancy on this one I think. Because of what else are Democrats going to do if they're running around impeaching everybody. What else did they have to tell voters?

BADE: They want to save their fire power, right for Trump? And if they go after too many people then they undercut themselves --

SHEAR: It threatens to miss potentially the mood. The mood and the fury that might be in the base, that might be in the left. And it's unclear, but it is -- it's one of those things that you could sort of see coming back to, you know, be a problem later.

KING: It's a risk she takes by doing interviews. Number one, she wants to raise her profile to prove (INAUDIBLE) to lead you. Number one, you get questions like that and some of the more aggressive Democrats are not going to like that.

Up next for us, the reviews are coming in for President Trump's new and improved trade agreement for North America. But calling that new trade agreement by its name might take even in the West Wing a lot of practice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISER: If you're a car dealer, you got a better deal out of NAFTA. There's more -- I shouldn't call it NAFTA, never again, USMCA. I got to get that down.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:48:11] KING: Welcome back.

The Trump administration today painting the president's new and improved trade deal with Canada and Mexico as a promise kept and a victory the White House says for all parties. But, as with most complex multilateral trade deals, Christine Romans says, it's not that good cut.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: John, you will hear from all three sides this was a win-win-win, but there was an awful lot of give and take to get there. Canada gave in on wheat and dairy. Some American wheat is now worth more when it's exported to Canada, and Canada opened up its access to its protective dairy industry. But just a little bit, opening up Canada's dairy market was a big sticking point. U.S. farmers are calling this a win, Canadian farmers are angry but experts say the change won't mean much to most farmers on both sides of the border. It opens up the Canadian dairy market by just about 3.6 percent.

But Canada prevailed on a mechanism to resolve trade disputes, that was a red line for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. There was haggling over timing Canada wanted this to be permanent, the U.S. wanted to be revisit this agreement after just five years. In the end, NAFTA 2.0 or USMCA is (INAUDIBLE) in 16 years unless renegotiated.

On tariffs, call it a draw. Cars can be sold duty-free in the block if they contain 75 percent North American made parts, and 40 to 45 percent of the labor to make the car is at $16 an hour or higher. Now, this is good for Canadian and American auto workers, and in Mexico it could lift wages and embolden labor unions.

But this new free trade deal did not lift U.S. tariffs on steel or aluminum imports. As a national security issue, the White House says those will be handled separately. Expect Canada and Mexico to aggressively push to resolve that before this agreement is signed.

Now the focus shifts to China and a president who vowed to keep up the pressure with tariffs to pressure China.

John?

[12:50:05] KING: Christine Romans breaking down the numbers. Appreciate that.

What has been fascinating is the response. Republicans are normally the party of free trade but this really depends on where are you from. Where are you from, what do they grow, what they make or what are you trying to sell in the state you're from.

Joni Ernst this morning, she was in the front row yesterday when the president had his event. He said anyone who supports tariffs are babies. Anyone who criticizes tariffs, I'm sorry, are babies. Joni Ernst (INAUDIBLE) criticize tariffs.

Joni Ernst on television this morning saying I like most of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JONI ERNST (R), IOWA: One of the things that I stressed to the president was, make sure that (INAUDIBLE) comes out as good if not better as we move into the new agreement. He was able to succeed in that area and believe me, it is a wonderful win for our dairy farmers. It's very important to them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So she is OK for now. You have other people like Heidi Heitkamp, the Democrat in North Dakota saying it's great for some of our farmers, not so great for others.

Trade is complicated.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes, it's very complicated and you had the president, he was asked yesterday, what did you give up, what did you concede. And he basically said, I conceded by making the deal itself. And I think for some senators, they're just happy that there is a deal and that Mexico and Canada are part of a deal and we're not pulling out of NAFTA which would have destroy the number of different farms and farming businesses in a number of the states.

So, the president actually making a deal and some way it sort of giving a number of these senators a reason (INAUDIBLE) of reason they can sort of breathe a sigh of relief. But when look at the actual text of the deal, it does appear that there are some cosmetic changes to NAFTA. It's not the major overhaul that was promised. On dairy, there are some minor changes. The president has always railed against the tariffs and the protection that the Canadian government does gives to its dairy industry. It's not clear that any of that is changing in a major significant way but the president was able to get some cosmetic wins and he's going to definitely tout that on the campaign trail. Most importantly, getting this done before the elections, getting some relief to farmers before the elections was major -- and seen as a major victory for -- KING: Reducing those tensions before the election. Because you can't

get this deal passed before the election. There's a question about whether you get it pass at all.

SHEAR: And it sort of depends I think whether symbolism and branding overwhelms the details or vice versa, right? I mean, there are clearly individual impacts in different industries and -- for different senators, there's -- as you well described, the different dynamics. But for Trump, you know, it's a branding exercise in -- I mean, you know, the rallies, it's bit of the banner that sits behind him. His promises made, promises kept, right?

And all he really wants ahead of this midterm is the idea that this fits into the promise that he made to sort of get rid of this terrible thing, NAFTA and replace it with something else, and he did that. And so if people -- if that's what people come away with and they sort of -- the details will be --

KING: Yes, a lot of economists point out, this gets lost. Mexico and Canada had agreed to some changes to NAFTA in what was the Trans- Pacific Partnership because that was done by the Obama administration. President Trump wanted to flush it away. A lot of people say this looks like a lot like TPP with a few technical changes and a few improvements perhaps but the president does want to say, I improved what Obama did. He says I want -- I got my own now. So, he's got his own.

All right, up next, you thought you had heard the last of the Stormy Daniels story? Nope.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:57:58] KING: Welcome back.

A quick clarification of something we said at the top of the program. We said then, Senator Susan Collins's office wants the FBI to interview Julie Swetnick, the woman who says she witnessed Brett Kavanaugh groped and fondled girls in high school. Collin's office says, they want the scope of the supplemental background investigation to include Swetnick's accusations but it's up to the FBI to determine who it needs to interview to do that work.

Meanwhile, some new details today further indicate President Trump was personally involved in the effort to quiet Stormy Daniels. CNN has confirmed reporting first by the Wall Street Journal that in February, President Trump directed his then personal lawyer, Michael Cohen to seek a restraining order against Daniels. It was a follow-up to the $130,000 hush agreement paid during the 2016 election in an aim to stop any interviews about what Daniels alleges is an affair with Donald Trump back in 2006. Daniels of course ignored that restraining order.

Coincidentally, Daniels' book, "Full Disclosure" is out today.

CNN's MJ Lee joins us now live from New York. MJ, what's the important new information here? MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, John, we spoke with the source with direct knowledge of all of this and they tell us that in a February phone call, President Trump directed Michael Cohen personally to take action to keep Stormy Daniels quiet about this alleged affair. And that in that phone call, President Trump asked Cohen to take out a restraining order against Stormy Daniels and that Trump said to Cohen something to the effect of don't worry, I will pay for everything.

Now the reason as you mentioned that this came about is because there were concerns that Stormy Daniels is going to do interviews with the media and start telling her story even though she has signed that hush agreement some months ago.

A couple other quick details in this story that we have also confirmed, Eric Trump, the president's son was involved, same with another lawyer based in California that work for the Trump Organization. Obviously, this is significant because all of this contradicts what several people close to the president have been saying all year about how all of this went down.

John?

KING: And contradicts the president in April saying on Air Force One I know nothing about it.

MJ, thanks for that reporting.

And thanks for joining us today on the INSIDE POLITICS. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. Wolf starts right now.

Have a good day.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1 p.m. here in Washington. Thanks very much for joining us.