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Possible 2020 Candidates Travel to Key States; O'Rourke Says Sorry For Channeling Trump; Sen. Heitkamp Begins Debate with Apology; Cramer Touting GOP Positions in Red-state Senate Race; Haley Jokes and Strokes 2024 Presidential Speculation. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 19, 2018 - 12:30   ET



[12:30:00] SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: They blew a $2 trillion deficit in our tax, in our budget, and now they want to cut Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. But we've got to respond to them, not just with our voices saying hell no. We got to respond to them at the ballot box.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: It is -- again, there are candidates on the ballot there, but when you see these 2020 potentials out there, overlay where they are with the 2020 primary map and you'll get some coincidences.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They have to figure out who's going to be capable of leading the party. And honestly, they're not even sure what they want to lead their party. So everybody is just kind of out there trying to see what catches fire, what catches on, and who catches on. And I'm not sure that they've made a whole lot of progress, but they have to start trying at some point, because they're running out of time. I mean, 2020 literally starting in maybe like three months if not yesterday.


KING: Bless you if you can pull that off.

PHILLIP: You have 20 people and you must lead the Democratic Party and Republicans are taking advantage of that. They, for good or for bad, have a party leader in Donald Trump and they are running with him in 2020 and right now.

KING: To the point about how the crowd feel, remember, we had 17 Republicans or so and the guy no one thought was a Republican or could be the nominee emerged and he's now president of the United States. So when you have a big open field, interesting things can happen.

Let me add this. Let me add me this to this, quote, it is somewhere between highly unlikely and zero, but it's not zero. That is longtime Hillary Clinton adviser Philippe Reines about the possibility of Hillary 2020. It is somewhere between highly unlikely and zero but it's not zero. Did Philippe just need to see his name on the (INAUDIBLE) there?


MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It's zero. It's zero. She will not run for president. I think it's not possible. She will not run.

PHILLIP: It's also somewhere between zero and highly unlikely that I will run for president but -- and John too, you're running.

SHEAR: But to your point about the large field, it reminds me -- this reminds me on the Democratic side of where the Republicans where -- which is to say lots of different kinds of people, lots of different approaches, lots of different politics, lots of different sort of personal, you know, kind of dynamics. That's what we're going to have for a long time. As journalists we're all going to be racing around a million different directions trying to chase after people, not of whom we know how much of a chance they really will have until there's some voting.

KING: Let me sneak this in. If Joe Biden does run, and all indicates (INAUDIBLE) that he wants to run, you might see a very brand-new Joe Biden. Look at this. It's called restraint.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump says that you're his dream candidate. It would be his dream to run against you.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I tell you what -- well, I shouldn't say anything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please. We've got the cameras rolling.

BIDEN: No, no, no. Age has given me some wisdom.


KING: There you have it. All right, we'll keep an eye on that as well.

Up next for us here, Texas Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke says he went too far by borrowing a nickname from the president.


[12:37:35] KING: Topping our political radar today, Paul Manafort could find out when he'll be sentenced at a hearing next hour. President Trump's former campaign chairman could face a decade or more in federal prison. He was convicted of eight tax fraud and banking charges by a Virginia jury back in August. Since then, he's been cooperating with the special counsel's Russia probe.

Pentagon says the United States and South Korea are suspending another major military joint exercise to, quote, keep the diplomatic process with North Korea going. President Trump has been a critic of those exercises, calling them expensive and provocative. He suspended several others after his June summit with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

A new government watchdog report says the interior secretary Ryan Zinke and his wife may have violated government travel policy. It says Zinke allowed his wife to travel with him in federal vehicles and considered listing her as a volunteer at the agency to allow her to travel at taxpayers' experience. Zinke denies the allegations and says he's reimbursed the government for his wife's travel when required.

Florida now easing voting rules in the counties hit hardest by Hurricane Michael. The eight counties, home to more than 200,000 voters and they have a solid history of voting for Republicans in state races. Governor Scott who signed the executive order is challenging Senator Bill Nelson in a closely watched race for the United States Senate. Watch this.


GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: NELSON says President Trump should be abolished. Really? Abolished? As for me, I'll work with President Trump when he's doing things are good for Florida and America. And when I disagree, I have the courage to say so.

SEN. BILL NESON (D), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: If President Trump asks for something that's good for him and bad for Florida, I know what I'll do, I'll say no. And we all know what Rick Scott will do. He'll say yes.


KING: Big race as we're watching.

Texas Democratic Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke said to a CNN town hall last night he still supports impeaching President Trump. O'Rourke also faced off against Senator Ted Cruz at a debate earlier this week when he thought -- brought back President Trump's favorite nickname from 2016, lying Ted. It's a move O'Rourke now says he may regret.


REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D), TEXAS SENATE CANDIDATE: It's not something that I feel totally comfortable with. And perhaps in the heat of the moment, I took a step too far.


O'ROURKE: You know, I don't know that that's the way that I want to be talking in this campaign.


[12:40:01] KING: Do you regret it?

SHEAR: The problem is, if part of your campaign, if part your -- the reason that you are in politics is to push back against Donald Trump and Donald Trump's behavior in office, if that's what your kind of shtick is, then, you know, lowering yourself to not only to the same level but to the exact phrase that President Trump used when he was a candidate doesn't help that.

KING: Right. Another story we just talked about, they're calling this a coincidence, called it serendipity. I was just doing my evening reading last night, I looked up to see the president in Montana with a drain the swamp sign behind him, I was reading the Zinke story. Uh-huh.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: I mean, the Zinke story, the EPA, I mean, we could go on and on and on. And the swamp just has different creatures in it. And what the president has said is that, oh, the swamp is strong, the swamp is -- it -- the swamp has maintained itself and I just haven't been able to, you know, fix it yet. Well, again, different creatures.

KING: Paul Manafort in court, read the Ryan Zinke report, reinforced the swamp is what he has done so far.

Up next for us, Senator Heidi Heitkamp says she's sorry and uses some very colorful language to describe her feelings about the president's trade policy.


[12:45:41] KING: Plenty of attacks? Yes, but last night's North Dakota Senate debate began with an apology. Democrat Heidi Heitkamp trying to make amends for a newspaper ad that named sexual assault survivors without their permission.


SEN. HEIDI HEITKAMP (D), NORTH DAKOTA SENATE CANDIDATE: The last thing I would ever want to do would be to cause trauma for any victim of violence. My parents taught me that if I made a mistake, my obligation was to take responsibility and then to try and make things right.


KING: Heitkamp is trailing, and a lose will significantly hurt, probably -- likely kill any Democratic hope of seizing control of the Senate. Her Republican challenger is Congressman Kevin Cramer.\


REP. KEVIN CRAMER (R), NORTH DAKOTA SENATE CANDIDATE: I think the whole world got to see what mob rule would look like. And so we're fortunate that Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed. I do support the border wall. With regard to pre-existing conditions, this was a failure prior to ObamaCare. It's why it's one of the two most popular items in ObamaCare that everybody that I know, that I worked with has pledged to maintain.


KING: Let's start with him and then come back to the incumbent, her. That's the Republican playbook, try to get the Kavanaugh energy keeping, and then in the end there though, I'm not for taking away coverage for pre-existing conditions. That's what all the Republicans are saying. However, they have the House and Senate majority. They didn't pass anything -- as they were trying to repeal ObamaCare, they didn't pass anything to preserve the pre-existing condition coverage, and the Trump administration is trying to let insurers sell policies that don't have pre-existing condition coverage.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, it's hard for me to see this flying really. I mean -- even if you haven't been paying attention to politics, you understand the basic contours of the healthcare fight for the last six years which is repeal ObamaCare on the Republican side and preserve ObamaCare on the Democratic side. And a key part of that is pre- existing conditions.

This revisionist history on the Republicans' part, I think it's -- truly, I don't think voters are stupid. It's not going to be difficult for them to understand. However, if they do change their position, that's a different story. But I think Mitch McConnell would have to get on board, they would have to pull back on some of these lawsuits that are currently pending. They would have to change their whole approach to this, and we haven't seen that yet.

KING: But does it matter in the case that now she has -- Heidi Heitkamp had a very difficult climate anyway. North Dakota is a very red state. The president is popular out there. She was hoping like (INAUDIBLE) in the last midterm election which was really bad for Democrats, say you know me. You know me, I'm Heidi. You know me, send me to Washington.

This unforced error, this campaign ad, the newspaper ad naming women as victims, survivors of sexual assault without their permission, listing some women who say they were never involved in sexual assaults. When you're already losing, can you recover from that?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I don't know because she even seem to acknowledge when she took that Kavanaugh -- announced her Kavanaugh vote that she needed to do what she wanted to do to be (INAUDIBLE) based on her own sense of self, right. And acknowledged that she might lose because of it or -- to then basically -- when you do that, you put a lot of (INAUDIBLE) in the people that (INAUDIBLE) turning out because they really respects the move that you made on that front. You need to maintain that high ground. If you lose it, you potentially lose some of those voters who might have voted for her because of this, because they're the ones who are going to see this, they're like, how does this happen?

And it also doesn't square with what she did with Kavanaugh. I mean, she -- I mean, that's the issue. The very people she was appealing to because of that vote.


KUCINICH: I'm not saying he did too (INAUDIBLE) but (INAUDIBLE) what appeal to. Those are the people that what happened with that ad could really elevate it.

SHEAR: I just would say really quickly, I agree with all of that. I think though that this is one of those things that can be looked at as more of an operational mistake as opposed to an ideological mistake. It's not like the people who -- she's trying to appeal to are going to suddenly believe that because of what she did, she is somehow thinks differently or fundamentally supports differently of those people. So, can they excuse it, because it sort of looks like --

KING: So she smartly -- I don't know if it worked, she smartly trying to move on to other issues saying a lot farmers here getting punished by the tariffs, I fight the president although she used different language.


HEITKAMP: I'm the chief bitcher about these tariffs because they are so wrong for North Dakota.

CRAMER: I haven't stood with China against our farmers. I haven't stood with Canada against our farmers.

[12:50:01] I haven't stood with Mexico against our farmers. When our president picks the tools that he's going to use, I think we're obligated to stand with the United States of America.


KING: The congressman there essentially making the case, sure, we're going to take a hit, but we got to stand with the president. Heidi Heitkamp is saying no, I'll kick him.

PHILLIP: I think it's the best she can do, right? I mean, if you're in a state like that, this is not a good issue for him. But I also -- I'm not sure that her phrasing of the opposition to tariffs is exactly right, either. I mean, the sort of complaining about it, the other half about is like, what you're going to do about it. And I think that's the question a lot of people are going to ask.

KING: Up next for us, a little fun. The outgoing U.N. ambassador lights up a dinner in New York and reignites rumors about a political future.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's my pleasure to introduce the next president of the United States, Nikki Haley. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I can't believe you did that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [12:55:34] KING: You might call it Nikki Haley's coming-out party. Though technically, she's still on the job with the United Nations. Haley is leaving her post as U.N. ambassador soon though, and was the headliner at the annual Al Smith charity roast in New York City last night.

Now, she hopes to be the face of the post-Trump Republican Party whenever that is. And, included a bit of advice from her boss in the comedy routine.


HALEY: He said if I get stuck for laughs, just brag about his accomplishments. It really killed at the U.N., I got to tell you.

Last year you went with Paul Ryan who's a boy scout, and that's fine but a little boring. So this year you wanted to spice things up again, right? I get it, you wanted an Indian woman, but Elizabeth Warren failed her DNA test.


KING: So? Oh, come on.

DEMIRJIAN: She's charismatic so this is her like, you know, tiptoeing out party. The party is looking for somebody who is younger and more appealing to a broader spectrum of the electorate and just, you know, white people and she is also moderating -- and moderating influence --

KING: And she is looking to be that person.

DEMIRJIAN: -- and she's ready to be that person.

KING: It's not just that the party is looking. She wants the party to look.


KUCINICH: She has executive experience of her being the governor of South Carolina and she has the foreign policy experience now. So she really -- I mean, she will be formidable when she decides to do this and I think she does.

KING: And part of it is, she want -- part of doing something like this is to show, you know, this president is very pugilistic on Twitter, in his rallies, he enjoys confrontation. Part of doing the Al Smith dinner and try to be funny and to poke fun at yourself is to try to show that you're kinder and gentler, if you will, like the speculation about running for president.


HALEY: There was a fake story that I'm actually thinking about running for president. That is so ridiculous. It is way too early for anyone to be thinking about running for president, unless you're a Senate Democrat during the Kavanaugh hearing. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Muted laughter there. A lot of Democrats in that room. She's not wrong.

PHILLIP: (INAUDIBLE) it's just sort of (INAUDIBLE) but, there you go, I mean --

KING: One of the things they get a lot of attention is -- well, let's do this backwards control room. This is the president of the United States a little earlier this month.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was a disgraceful situation, brought about by people that are evil, and he toughed it out.


KING: That's the president calling evil those who oppose now Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Evil, the president says. Nikki Haley has a different view.


HALEY: In America, our political opponents are not evil. In South Sudan where rape is routinely used as a weapon of war, that is evil. In Syria, where the dictator uses chemical weapons to murder innocent children, that is evil. We have some serious political differences here at home, but our opponents are not evil. They're just our opponents.


KING: She still works for him.

SHEAR: You know, that's one of the best examples of how she probably better than anyone else who has worked for Donald Trump over this last year and a half. Has like managed to navigate, you know, not getting tainted by the president's, you know, tone and kind of rhetorical style. And yet, somehow still maintain and get the benefits of the kind of tough approach to foreign policy, the kind of, you know, not looking like a kind of wimpy Democrat, and she's -- you know, the question will be over the next, however many years that she sort of tries to advance her own political career is, how can she kind of keep both of those pieces, the benefits of being, you know, a Trumpy and distancing herself from the bad parts of that.

KING: And part of that would depend on how much he calls on her in 2020.

SHEAR: Right.

KING: And how much she is willing. There are people who say she'd be a great campaign chairman for the Trump campaign. Someone who could be out there all the time. Does she want any part of that?

SHEAR: But there's a risk to that, right? Because the more that you're connected -- I mean, the nice part for her that she's disconnecting herself is now the biggest danger is in the rear-view mirror.

KUCINICH: And she did say she wanted to make some money, so.

KING: Make some money. It's always a good cover when you want to avoid something.

Thanks for joining us today in the INSIDE POLITICS. Hope you're checking our podcast and also hope to see you back here on Sunday morning up early, 8:00. Please.

Don't go anywhere. Wolf starts right now. Have a great weekend.