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GOP & Trump Still In Sync On Judicial Nomination; Michael Strengthens To Category 1 Hurricane; Taylor Swift Breaks Political Silence Endorses 2 Democrats; Trump Arrives In Florida With Deputy AG Rosenstein. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 8, 2018 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If you think Mitch McConnell is not going to take that opportunity, I don't know what movie you've been watching over the course of last three years.


MATTINGLY: And look, Democrats have every right and all the grounds in the world to say that this is unfair and this shouldn't have happened, but this is the reality. They control the majority. They control the White House.

As Lindsey Graham said to paraphrase, win your elections and you can do something differently. And that's just the baseline kind of cold- blooded facts on the ground.

KING: Right. And I said at the top, the majority leader is feeling his oats right now and he is because in his view Democrats are outraged, but in his view, held the garland seat, got Neil Gorsuch. They got Brett Kavanaugh though after what we all lived through the past few weeks. We'll see what happens, the fallout part of it. But they got Brett Kavanaugh starts his work tomorrow.

Just look at these numbers. This is what Mitch McConnell wants to be remembered by. Here is a guy who's often reviled by the Trump base, reviled by the conservative base. This is what he wants you to think about.

And so we see Trump in the GOP. You have to add McConnell almost to that graphic as well. Two Supreme Court confirmations so far, 26 confirmations in the first two years of President Trump to the US Courts of Appeals, 41 district courts and there were 39 other federal judgeships.

The nominees have cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee. That won't happen before the election, but after the election, they could add 39 more to what is a pretty impressive list. They are reshaping.

Whatever you think of President Trump, whatever you can say, "They haven't passed much legislation this year," and they haven't, that our grandchildren will be talking about. They are reshaping the federal judiciary and there's more to come. RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes. I mean, I just think back a couple of years ago when McConnell was booed at the Republican presidential convention. Yes, absolutely, Republicans have him to thank for totally changing the structure of the courts.

And he is not done. His work is not done. Right now, he is threatening to keep the Senate in for the next couple of weeks, which keeps Senate Democrats who are vulnerable from going home to try to save their seats because he wants to get a number of court judges confirmed to different courts on various levels.

But in order to get home, he is saying "You Democrats need to help us get these confirmed," which helps him, again, reshape the bench. And so he's holding that over their heads. He's probably going to get some more in the next couple of weeks.

PERRY BACON, SENIOR WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: There's more thing about him compared to John Roberts who is leading the branch of the government. John Roberts is conservative too, really, but he's not. You can say McConnell is succeeding in moving the country to the right. You can also say he's breaking norms and making the country even more divided than it was. You could probably say Roberts is handling a little bit differently.

It's worth thinking about McConnell maybe -- there's a movie came out about Dick Cheney soon. McConnell had argues way more important than Dick Cheney. He's been a transformational figure in American politics, but I'm not sure saying we're going to not work with a President for, you know, so he can lose and this will be great for the country's democracy.

KING: Yes, it's a great point. But if you think about the relationship, remember Mitch McConnell was on the receiving end of some Trump tweets and some Trump talk about what happened to Repeal and Replace, some other -- what happen to border wall funding and other issues. Now they're buds.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Absolutely. I mean, it's been a fascinating marriage of convenience and it's been a pretty rocky road to get there, no question, given some of the legislative bumps in the road that they had on health care and on other issues. But we did see that as Mitch McConnell -- I mean this is-- as Phil said, if you've been watching Mitch McConnell, not just for the last few years, but for the least several decades, you know this is how he works. He looks around.

There are not very many rules that are actually true rules in the Senate except for the filibuster rule and some of these other, you know, technical rules that he knows very well. But he will look around. He counts his votes. He figures out what the traffic will bear.

And in this case, he knew that if he led the conference down this road towards pushing these issues at this time about the court that that was going to work for him, that that's what Donald Trump wanted, that that's frankly what the base wanted, that that was the one thing that united the base that helped to elevate him and so many of his colleagues and the base that elevated Donald Trump to the presidency. And now they are so closely aligned.

I think the interesting question is going to be now that Kavanaugh is been confirmed, how much longer does that continue? And does it translate to something other than the court because it's going to have to, particularly if the Democrats take one chamber of Congress?

KING: Yes.

DAVIS: Then they're going to really need a lot of Republican sort of alliance to hold back some of them.

KING: Suggest a small test will come after the election when they're trying to keep the government open and the President wants that aforementioned of border wall funding again and Senate Republicans say, "Eh."

DAVIS: Right.

KING: We'll see how that one goes. Up next for us, an emotional first day back on the job for Meghan McCain.


[12:38:47] KING: Welcome back. The National Hurricane Center now upgraded Tropical storm Michael to a category one hurricane. So far, the storm seems to be on track to hit the Florida Panhandle, Wednesday. It could be, get this, a category three by then.

Florida Governor Rick Scott telling residents start preparing, as he puts it, right now.

CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Gray is in the weather center. Jennifer, what should people be expecting?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, this could make landfall as a major storm. It has intensified very quickly and now that it's going to enter the Gulf of Mexico within the next 12 hours or so, it is going to intensify even more. It's entering very ripe conditions favorable for more intensification.

Right now, it has winds of about 75 miles per hour, gusts of 90 and then creating some pretty rough conditions across the Yucatan Peninsula and western portions of Cuba. So this is going to continue ahead to the north and you can see already getting some moisture being drawn up through the keys, also the west coast of Florida. That's going to continue, if not intensify, over the next couple of hours.

Possibly a category two by tomorrow morning and then making landfall as a possible category three. A major storm. And then look at this track possibly across the Carolinas once again.

Of course, the model comparison, they're in a pretty good agreement but there's one scenario, this red line, the GFS, that would be a worst case scenario because with this scenario, you're impacting more populated areas and you're getting the messy side of the storm across the Carolinas, which could bring a lot of rain.

[12:40:16] Now, this is going to be very different from Florence because this one is moving very, very quickly. But still, major concern when you have a category three making landfall across the Panhandle.

KING: Jennifer Gray, appreciate that. We will keep on top of this over the next few days.

Of course, turning to our political radar now. Meghan McCain under the bright light in ABC today for the first time since her father's funeral. She returned to her role as co-host of "The View" this morning six weeks after the late Senator John McCain's death.

She thanked the network and her co-stars for their support and said she's seen only the best of America since her father passed.


MEGHAN MCCAIN,CNN HOST: And it made me so inspired that the ideals that my father espoused through his career are the ideals of America. And I think there was a lot of talk about what died with him. And I am here today to tell you, it didn't. It was a lie.


KING: Wedding bells over the weekend for the former First Daughter, Barbara Bush. She married screenwriter Craig Louis Coyne at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Bush's father, the former President George W. Bush, escorted her down the aisle at the small private service. Twin sister Jenna Bush, the matron of honor, the grandfather, former President George H.W. Bush there, to watch it as well. Another First Daughter, Ivanka Trump, chiming in just moments ago to congratulate the couple on Twitter.

Former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks has a new job. She's joining Fox as Executive Vice President and Chief Communications Officer, a role that puts her in-charge of the company's public relations. Hicks, of course, was one of the President's closest and longer serving aides before leaving the White House back in March.

And Bill and Hillary Clinton plan to increase their visibility in the coming month. Late this year and to early next year, we're told, the former President and the Secretary of State will headline a series of public live events together to focused on issues facing the country.

Mrs. Clinton reemerging in a big way with another prime time cameo appearance. This time Sunday night, she and two former secretaries of state shot a scene together for the CBS drama, "Madam Secretary." The show's fictional secretary of state played by Tea Leoni seeks the advice of Clinton, Colin Powell, and Madeleine Albright after a terror attacks carried out by white nationalists.


COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: You bear a heavy burden, Elizabeth. The whole world will be watching you.



MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We all unified to depend on each other.

POWELL: America, Americans.

CLINTON: All Americans.

ALBRIGHT: All Americans.

LEONI: All of us.


KING: Up next, big news from a big name you probably never expected to hear on this program. Taylor Swift.


[12:47:08] KING: You see the number right there, 112 million. That's how many people follow Taylor Swift on Instagram where she just made her first ever political endorsement, the millennial icon backing two Democratic candidates in Tennessee where Taylor is registered to vote.

She backs Jim Cooper for Congress and Phil Bredesen for Senate. She also took a swipe at the Republican congresswoman running against Bredesen. "As much as I have in the past and would like to continue voting for women in office, I cannot support Marsha Blackburn," Taylor Swift wrote. "Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me."

Here's the question. Can the previously apolitical celebrity motivate younger voters? In the last midterms, look at these numbers, the younger generations, voters age 18 to 53 became the majority of eligible voters but, look at the numbers, were still significantly outvoted by the 54 and older crowd. A new ad aimed to Democrats hoping to motivate, especially millennials and change that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe you could go to one of those little marches.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You might share this video on Facebook.

UNIDENTIFIEDE MALE: But you won't vote.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You young people never do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll be in there, but you won't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because we're a generation of doers. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not whiners.


KING: Who wasn't fighting to take the lead on this Taylor Swift? Was it you, Phil? Was that you?

MATTINGLY: I'm pretty sure Bade is going to revving up for this. Let's go --

KING: You know, we're making light, but number one, whether you're Democrat, Republican, far left, far right, all hands on deck is great. Everybody should vote. Everybody should vote, everybody should care, everybody should try to be active.

There are those who think sometimes these celebrity endorsements backfired.

DAVIS: Well, I think they can backfire and already we see the Republican Senatorial Committee, you know, coming out against the fact that she did this. You know, she came down from her ivory tower and told people to vote for Phil Bredesen. So they're ridicule and they're certainly hoping that Republicans will come out to sort of counterbalance this.

I don't think any of us or at least I'm not under the illusion that a celebrity endorsement, even a giant celebrity like Taylor Swift, is going to make a break Phil Bredesen's chances or Marsha Blackburn's chances in this race. I do think, though, that Democrats know that if they want to have the impact that they need to have in this election, they need to get younger voters out to the polls. We saw Barack Obama make a huge push on that when he was president and it made a huge difference for his reelection when younger voters did not show up as much. It made a difference for Democrats who were not able to get over the line.

They are going to need as much help as they can get motivating younger voters throughout the country, including in places likes Tennessee to come out. And this could have a marginal effect on --

KING: I'd never thought I would speak on television in defense of Taylor Swift as the Republicans attack her. Her statement is actually a lot more balanced in that. She explains her views and her vote and she encourages everybody, especially young people do your homework, do your research, and vote, period. Vote.

So she's not as partisan even though she makes her own partisan views clear. I'm sorry.

[12:50:00] BADE: Oh no. She's trying to turn out young voters, but too bad, most of her followers are probably, you know, 12 years old and can't vote. Look, I do think there was something interesting in what she put online and that was her targeting of Marsha Blackburn, a female Republican who's very conservative. Again, speaks to the fact that right now, even though there are record numbers of Democratic women running again, the movement, the momentum is for Democrats. [12:50:22] When it comes to Republicans, they are in really awkward situations because they don't back things like equal pay, that's something that Taylor Swift specifically mentioned. And again, it's just an awkward environment to be a Republican woman right now. And again, you're seeing a young female leader come out against Republican woman.

KING: Here's just the pictures you're watching as we continue the conversation. The President of the United States along with his Deputy Attorney General, speaking of awkward, arriving on a flight together there on Orlando, Florida now. The President -- You see the Governor Rick Scott there, he's running for Senate, the Republican Governor of Florida, Rick Scott.

The President is about to address a law enforcement convention in the state of Florida, which is why we're showing you this pictures of Governor Scott who has not been too close to President Trump during this campaign, in part because he's worried about the suburban backlash with the President at this arrival right here. The Deputy Attorney General is not going to shake hands in a political line on this and he went straight for the motorcade. But you just see Governor Rick Scott and the President of United States shaking hands.

So let's shift gears to what we're watching to this very point. We talked earlier, Rick Scott is in one of the closest Senate races in the country. He himself, Governor Scott, Republicans wanted him to be their candidate.

He has just barely won his two elections for governor in big Republican years against weak Democrats. And now he's in what we all assume as a Democratic year. Bill Nelson, a very vulnerable Democratic incumbent.

Rick Scott has not invited the President, say, to have a big rally but he has these pictures, say, it's polite. We also have a big -- the hurricane we just talked about heading towards your state, we want to talk to the President about making sure FEMA is ready. So there's a governor role here, but what about the politics of this?

MATTINGLY: I mean, I think the interesting part about Florida, unlike our conversation at the very beginning of this show, which is there's a House map and a Senate map and they're completely different from one another. Florida is a state in a Senate race that more mimics what we're seeing in the House maps than we are in deep red states like North Dakota, West Virginia, Indiana, et cetera. And so you've seen him walk the line.

Now, I will say this. President Trump has allowed him unlike perhaps other allies to break with him on issues like immigration, on issues like Puerto Rico, issues there and with the acceptance and the understanding that he's the best they've got. And if they can flip Florida, they're in a really, really good spot.

And I think when you look around the state, when you look at the numbers and you look at least the early numbers right now and when you look at Bill Nelson, there's a very real opportunity to flip a state that perhaps you wouldn't think in this environment they'd be able to. But to your point, I mean, it's interesting. They've tried to kind of keep their distance from one another and they're brought together now.

KING: And it's one of the states where this is a fascinating, midterm elections are a lot more complicated than presidential elections in the sense that you had the candidate for governor -- the Republican candidate for governor, Congressman Ron DeSantis, who is one of those guys going after Rod Rosenstein who happens to be playing with the President, who's been one of the most pro-Trumpy, if you will, members of the House Republican who is more Trump than his governor, Rick Scott, is right now. So the question is does that create any dissonance in the Republican base or Republican turnout?

BACON: It's confusing because look, Scott is not running with Trump. DeSantis is like literally, you know, like running ads about how much his son wants to help build the wall. So it's like very interesting like contrast there.

I would say unlike Michigan where Trump's numbers are really bad where we he won in 2016, his numbers are not as bad in Florida I think because the population of Florida is old and then the white voters are probably conservative on racial issues I would say as well. So I do think Trump can help candidates in Florida in a way like I would not have anyone in suburban Virginia, in Michigan. I do think Trump can help DeSantis turn out the base in Florida and that race is very close, too.

KING: And it's one of the most evenly balanced states in the country.

BACON: Right.

KING: To your point there, you have an African-American Democratic candidate for governor, Andrew Gillum. Both he and Rick Scott, to their credit, have suspended active campaigning as the hurricane approaches so that they want the people to focus what they should be.

But you have one of the most competitive states in the United States of America with an incredibly competitive Governors race and an incredibly competitive Senate race. A few House districts in play there as well. But the Governors race and the Senate race will capture the conversation. It will be interesting because it was such a narrow Trump win.

Do we see him -- This was a speech for law enforcement. But do we see him? He plans to travel a lot. Will he be back in Florida?

DAVIS: Well, to me, that's an interesting question and I think it's very interesting. We're what 31 days out from the election itself and he's not there for a rally. He's there for this official event.

I don't think they've made the call yet. I think it's going to matter a lot where DeSantis is, where Rick Scott is in their race and what their people want and don't want closer to election day, whether he'll come back. But I do think it's been deliberate that he has not come and done a big arena rally yet because of what you're saying, there's a distinct there in the electorate and they want all these people to come out and support Rick Scott who may not be as onboard with DeSantis' approach. And it's hard to sort of slice and dice that when you're talking about a big arena rally.

One of the rallies that President Trump did last week, he had one of the congressional candidates in Nebraska did not show up. And that is just something that, you know, it's going to happen from time to time. And I don't think they'd want something like that in a state race in a place like Florida right now. So I mean --

[12:55:07] BACON: One interesting thing about in Florida, Hillary Clinton is campaigning for the Andrew Gillum, the Democrats. So they both have challenge that I would argue maybe are suboptimal because I don't think that's going to help either.

DAVIS: Right. Exactly. They have the same problem on the other side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say you were watching live as the Panhandle numbers came in 2016.

KING: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if you're going to send him to one place, what he did in 2016 in the Panhandle was stunning to pretty much everybody and perhaps you send him back there if you want.

KING: Right. The size of Florida and the complexity of it is essentially three different states. You have a Republican state in the north, an independent state more flexible in the middle, and then southern Florida which tends to be more Democratic.

You see the President of the United States there. Thanks for joining us today on Inside Politics with live actions at the end of the program. See you back here this time tomorrow.

Wolf starts after a quick break. Have a great day.