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Ads Paint Dems as Angry Mob; Texas Showdown with Cruz and O'Rourke; Several Still Missing After Hurricane; Trump on Climate Change; Leaders Back out of Saudi Conference. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired October 16, 2018 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00] HARRY ENTEN: And I'm just not sure that type of strategy necessarily works in a midterm election because, historically speaking, voters have not voted about how they feel about the opposition party, they vote upon how they feel about the president's party. And so that, I think, is why we're seeing in polls across the country that Democrats are still ahead of Republicans.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: OK, let's look at some of these key races because this is a graph showing congressional districts that currently have a Republican representative but have at least 50 percent Hispanic citizen voting age population, which you might imagine, in light of the president's rhetoric, that's a good space for Democrats.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.

SCIUTTO: And this is a -- help -- let's hold this up for here for a bit because it's a busy graphic. Tell us what we're seeing here.

ENTEN: So essentially, as you pointed out, these are -- Republicans hold these districts. There are a lot of Latinos in these districts. Hillary Clinton tended to do pretty well in these districts. She won all but one of them. And the one she lost, she only lost by a little bit.

But what we're seeing here is that Republican representatives, or the Republican candidates in these districts are vastly outperforming how Donald Trump did just two years ago on average. They're outperforming by 14 percentage points how Donald Trump did just two years ago. So if Democrats were hopeful that Latinos could drive them to victory in the midterm elections, my forecast, which is what you see on the left, indicates otherwise.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: So why is this happening? I mean is that because lack of enthusiasm among Hispanic voters or is it that some of them support the president's agenda?

ENTEN: I think it's two things. Number one, we know from the polling that Latinos are less likely to turn out in this midterm election than they were two years ago. That fits a historic trend. But the other thing I'll point out is that the Republican incumbents in these districts, who are running for re-election, tend to be very, very modern. Even the most conservative of them, Will Hurd in Texas, his 23rd district, is still a pretty moderate representative. So they're able to distance themselves from the president.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and Poppy's going to speak to one of them coming up.

HARLOW: We will, yes, next, Carlos Curbelo.

Texas, big debate tonight, Beto O'Rourke, Ted Cruz, 60 minute debate. Trailing in the polls, Beto, a Democrat, is trailing in the polls there, but raised $38 million.

ENTEN: That's a lot of money.

HARLOW: Last quarter. It's not only a lot of money, it's the most ever raised by a U.S. Senate campaign. How do you see this? Because if he has a good night tonight, could that put Cruz in real danger? Or is this Democrats pouring a ton of money into a state that they're just not going to win, but also forcing Republicans to pour a ton of money into a state to defend Cruz that they shouldn't have to.

ENTEN: I think it's a few things. Number one, historically speaking, money raised is actually a pretty good indicator of how a candidate's going to do. So perhaps O'Rourke will outperform his polls. He's still an underdog. In my forecast he's down by 4 percentage points, for example. But I'll point out one other thing that I think is very important is, if O'Rourke does well, or better than a Democrat -- the average Democrat in Texas --

HARLOW: Yes.

ENTEN: Could lift them in some swing congressional districts, like the 7th, the 32nd district in the Houston/Dallas suburbs and it could get Democrats to (INAUDIBLE).

HARLOW: Can I just tell you, they -- I was at the park with my daughter -- this story actually ties to this -- in Brooklyn and they -- there was a fundraiser about to happen for Beto O'Rourke in Brooklyn. It just shows you all this money coming from --

SCIUTTO: How many Texas voters in Brooklyn I guess is the question?

HARLOW: I'm just saying.

ENTEN: Some might argue is barbecue is better in Brooklyn than in Texas, but I disagree entire with that.

HARLOW: I just thought it was fascinating to see sort of the national attention on this race there.

SCIUTTO: It is.

ENTEN: Or as my mother calls him Veto (ph). How's Veto (ph) doing?

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: All right. All right, there you go. And for everyone, you should check out Harry's forecast. He has done a ton of work on this. It's fascinating to dig into the numbers, "The Forecast with Harry Enten" online at cnn.com. Every day an update there as we head to the midterms.

All right, so Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo is in the political fight of his life. His district, one of the most at risk of rising sea levels because of climate change, he is betting voters will pick him, a Republican, to fix it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:37:42] SCIUTTO: Finally, some better news for the small Florida town nearly destroyed by Hurricane Michael. Residents will be allowed back into Mexico Beach starting tomorrow, though a curfew will continue. And authorities now say they have a much better handle on the number of people still missing. That estimate, thankfully, down to three.

CNN correspondent Scott McLean joins us now live from Panama City.

So, Scott, I mean really just beginning to pull themselves out of this. What's the latest today?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Jim.

So the president was able to see the destruction here for himself. He flew over the Mexico Beach area and the Panama City area and he was able to get on the ground in Lynn Haven, which is not far from where I am right now. And he said that it was very tough to see the devastation because literally you can look in any different direction and see damage and destruction.

Case in point, I spoke to one gentleman yesterday in Mexico Beach who had actually evacuated prior to the hurricane hitting. He drove more than 50 miles inland to Mariana, Florida. It turns out, though, that still wasn't far enough. He came back with a badly damaged trailer and truck and then comes home to see his house is flooded as well.

And there are a lot of people in the same boat. You mentioned people are going to start getting back in today actually to see what is left of their homes and search through the rubble. They won't be able to stay, obviously, because it's simply not safe and there's no place for them.

Search crews, they are all but finished with their search -- with the cadaver dogs. They went through yesterday. They did find one more fatality. We don't have details on that though.

And then here in Panama City, they are still very much in search and rescue mode. I actually just got off the phone with the leader of one of the search crews comprised of 40 men and women, and they -- and he told me that, look, they searched more than 3,000 homes. Their priority right now is checking on any residences where people haven't been seen by the neighbors for a couple of days, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, than rebuilding begins. And that hasn't even started. Scott McLean, thanks very much.

HARLOW: There is a larger discussion going on about storms like this one and what role climate change plays in them.

Joining me now, Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo of Florida. His district includes southwestern Miami, the Florida Keys, the Everglades, all at severe risk of rising sea level.

Congressman, thank you for being here with us.

And I want your reaction first to this from the president just yesterday. Listen.

[09:40:02] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is something there. Manmade or not. I mean there's something there. And it's going to go and it's going to go back and forth, but there is something there. But, again, 50 years ago, it was brutal. 1890s were brutal. You have different times. And the main thing is we have to make sure things get put back in perfect condition. That's what we're doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: What is your reaction to the president there?

REP. CARLOS CURBELO (R), FLORIDA: Poppy, good morning from Miami and thank you so much for this opportunity.

Look, it's disappointing because we know that human beings contribute significantly to climate change. We know that warmer global temperatures are related very directly, are caused by increased carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gas emissions, and we're starting to see the consequences of that in parts of the country like south Florida.

I had this conversation with the president in April when he visited Key West. I told him what a big issue it was for us down here. I told him that this required a response from the Congress and from the government and the president listened respectfully, but he lacked that sense of urgency. I think that complete understanding of what exactly we're facing and what we need in Congress is Republicans and Democrats who will work on this issue in a sincere and in a focused way to deliver the kind of solutions that are necessary.

HARLOW: So you say the president lacks a clear understanding of the science here.

Marco Rubio, your fellow Republican senator from Florida, said just two days ago on this network with Jake Tapper, he talked about the importance of mitigating the impact that we're seeing here, says we don't know what percent of climate change is driven by humans. But then he said something that really struck us. He said, I'm also not going to destroy our economy. That's a quote from him. He's arguing there is a line to walk here, to address the impact of climate change, and policies that can help curb it, but also not to destroy the economy at the same time.

Where do you fall in that? Is he right?

CURBELO: I think that makes a lot of sense. We're not proposing -- or I don't -- I hope most people in this country aren't proposing, for example, confiscating people's vehicles, gasoline powered vehicles, which most of us drive. We don't want to displace millions of workers, you know, in a year.

What we need to have is a balanced approach. And I filed legislation in Congress a few months ago, it was called the Market Choice Act.

HARLOW: Yes.

CURBELO: It actually delivers tax relief to drivers, to people who fill up at the gas pump, but it also prices carbon and it trusts the American consumer to fix this problem.

HARLOW: Right. You basically -- you basically replaced the gas tax and you -- it pours money into infrastructure spending, which is sort of a carrot to your fellow Republicans. You replaced that with a tax on carbon, which is anathema to many of them.

But I have to ask you, congressman, because it was just two years ago, in 2016, when you actually supported a House Republican resolution opposing a tax on carbon. So your critics who say that, you know, you're in a very dangerous district, you're in the political fight of your life in a district that Hillary Clinton won by 16 points, you are now supporting something and have put forth legislation to tax carbon that you opposed two years ago. Why now?

CURBELO: Well, that resolution at the time asked a very simple question, is a carbon tax good or bad for the economy Viewed in isolation, any tax, obviously, hurts economic growth. But what we did after that vote was we got to work and in over a year's time we've built this balanced approach, a price on carbon, relief at the gas pump, investment and infrastructure, a rolling moratorium on EPA regulations, as long as carbon dioxide reduction goals are being met.

Our modeling shows that we beat the reduction goals in the Paris agreement, in the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan. So we were able to show what carbon pricing in context can do and how it can actually lead to more economic growth.

HARLOW: OK. So --

CURBELO: So that's the big difference. And that's what we need in Washington, D.C. --

HARLOW: On --

CURBELO: Poppy, members of Congress who are willing to build these solutions out, rather than just take positions, yes or no.

HARLOW: And, look, and you -- you have partnered with a Democrat, Ted Deutsch of Florida, on some of these issues. So a bipartisan outreach there. But on September 12th, when you toured the everglades in your state, your district, Republican nominees for governor, Ron DeSantis in Florida, said, quote, maybe sea rise is being caused by human activity. Maybe it's not. His opponent, Democrat Andrew Gillum, said it definitely is.

You have said Florida needs thoughtful, sober leadership on this. Who gives you that, the Republican candidate for governor or the Democrat?

CURBELO: Here's my message to Ron and to anyone else out there who thinks that it's OK to continue questioning this. Human beings are affecting the environment in an adverse way. That doesn't mean that we need to stop all economic activity. It doesn't mean that we can no longer enjoy the great outdoors or visit our national parks. But if we do not take care of our environment, it's going to hurt our economy.

[09:45:23] South Florida relies on a healthy environment for its economy. We have a lot of fisherman, charter boat captains.

HARLOW: Right.

CURBELO: Obviously tourism. So to Ron and to anyone else out there who is listening, accept the science. It's real. Let's start focusing on the solutions that we need.

And, by the way, if we're going to get any solutions, we need Republicans and Democrats working together. I don't care what your priority is here (INAUDIBLE) --

HARLOW: That would be nice on a number of issues. That would be nice on a number of issues.

CURBELO: Guns, the national debt, they're only going to get solved if we work together. That's my commitment to my community and to the country.

HARLOW: Congressman, quickly before you go, on the issue of Saudi Arabia and whatever may have happened to Jamal Khashoggi. What are you prepared to do? What should Congress do if it is proven that he was murdered at the hands of or at the knowledge of the Saudi government? What should Congress do?

CURBELO: The response must be swift and it must be clear, we cannot tolerate this kind of activity. I am not accusing anyone yet. But all of the evidence that we've seen so far points to the fact that there was some ne nefarious activity here. And Saudi Arabia, although we collaborate on many issues, must understand that this is in no way compatible with our country's values and that we will respond in a bipartisan way with two-thirds majorities in both chambers. We cannot tolerate this in the world of 2018.

HARLOW: Yes. It sounds like you're saying you would support a veto proof majority on sanctioning them if this is shown to be true.

CURBELO: No question.

HARLOW: OK. Thank you, congressman. Appreciate your time. SCIUTTO: Well, it's remarkable, that those words, accept the science,

are sort of going out on a limb today in politics, accept the science.

HARLOW: Especially for Republicans.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes. And it has to be in a district that is -- has a heavy Democratic advantage.

HARLOW: Yes, that's true.

SCIUTTO: Well, some of the biggest names in business are boycotting next week's massive investment conference in Saudi Arabia. Coming up, the financial cost the kingdom could face for the disappearance of the missing "Washington Post" writer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:51:52] SCIUTTO: A growing number of top business leaders and CEOs are backing out of a high profile investment conference next week in Saudi Arabia. This, of course, in the wake of the Khashoggi allegations.

HARLOW: Right. And just this morning the heads of top European banks, you have Credit Suisse, Standard Chartered, also HSBC, all pulled out, saying they will not attend until there are answers.

Christine Romans, our chief business correspondent, is with us.

I mean this is after all the big American banks pulled out.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

HARLOW: But we -- Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, might still go.

ROMANS: Might still go. I guess we're going to know by Friday if he's going to pull out or not.

But, look, this is the easiest decision to make in corporate America, or in the global banking right now, because everybody is basically running for the hills. You've got Ford, Uber, you just said HSBC, Credit Suisse, those big European banks. Black Rock, JP Morgan Chase, Viacom, Master Card. Now, some of these companies are being -- they're kind of trying to have it both ways. They're being very careful about not saying why they're not going, but now they're not going. They have big business ties in investments and deals that they want to do, of course, in Saudi Arabia. But they do want to send the message that this is not going to fly. This kind of behavior is not going to fly and they need some answers.

SCIUTTO: But they send a message. I mean they all do enormous amounts of business there.

ROMANS: Yes.

SCIUTTO: There's no evidence that they --

ROMANS: No.

SCIUTTO: I mean those banks are doing trades and advising the Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund. I mean other companies are selling --

ROMANS: At this point this is -- at this point this is optics.

SCIUTTO: There's been no divestiture.

ROMANS: So there's a company, a talent agency, that said it was trying to unwind a $400 million deal.

HARLOW: Endeavor.

ROMANS: Right.

Richard Branson was one of the first to step out. No surprise there. And said that he was exploring a big billion dollar project there that would explore that no more. But that wasn't necessarily a done deal.

You're absolutely right, Jim, if you start to see pressure on the Sovereign Wealth Fund, if you start to see deals being canceled, that will really send the message.

SCIUTTO: Right.

HARLOW: So to that question, who needs whom more, right? You see these -- like, JP Morgan, Uber, Ford, all pull out. Do they need Saudi more or does Saudi need them more?

ROMANS: It's really, I've got to say, a pretty symbiotic relationship because this is a big hub in the region. It's trying to diversify just from oil energy. It's been a big -- the Sovereign Wealth Fund has been a big funder of tech and technology. There's a lot of ready money there.

Remember when Elon Musk said he was going to take his company private?

HARLOW: Yes.

ROMANS: You remember, it was like, well, there's all this Saudi money. We could easily get all this Saudi money. I mean there's just this feeling that there's all this Saudi money there ready to invest. And that is, you know, that is alluring for many of these companies. But there is the public relations backlash of all this here.

SCIUTTO: And what's interesting, I mean, the U.S., though, interestingly, when you speak of dependency, less dependent on Saudi, certainly on oil, because of the shale oil revolution.

HARLOW: I'm so glad you brought that up.

ROMANS: That's right.

SCIUTTO: What is it, at about 10 percent of U.S. oil exports -- imports come from Saudi Arabia today.

ROMANS: That's right.

SCIUTTO: And could be covered by domestic producers.

ROMANS: That's right.

And, remember, we have this big great trading relationship with Canada, believe it or not, right here, which is also a big oil producer. The United States is now a net -- a net producer of oil and is not consumer, you know, and so we've -- the oil -- the oil depends is less, but it is a global market, right? So when you take some off, we've seen, because of U.S. sanctions --

HARLOW: Sure, Iran.

ROMANS: Are taking Iranian oil off the market, you've got four-year highs for oil prices. So there is still that risk that they do -- that Saudi Arabia does have a lever in oil prices that --

HARLOW: Yes, but it also doesn't mean $200 a barrel oil.

ROMANS: I don't think so, no.

HARLOW: Yes, all right, Romans.

SCIUTTO: Well, Saudi Arabia needs to sell that oil, too.

ROMANS: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: I mean they take it off the market, they're not earning billions and billions of dollars.

ROMANS: Exactly.

[09:55:00] HARLOW: It sits there. Good point. Thank you. We appreciate it.

ROMANS: Welcome.

HARLOW: Secretary of defense, James Mattis, says he is on the president's team, despite the fact that the president called him, quote, sort of a Democrat who, quote, may leave his post. More on that ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Top of the hour. I'm Jim Sciutto in New York.

HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow.

We're tracking major develops in the Jamal Khashoggi case on three fronts. The first and the most visible this morning, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the ground in Riyadh for what appears to be pretty convivial talks with the Saudi king, the Saudi foreign minister and the Saudi crown prince. Just minutes ago the State Department spokeswoman said Pompeo, quote, reiterated the president's concern for Khashoggi's fate and, quote, welcomed the Saudi's support for a through, transparent and timely investigation.

[10:00:12]