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Trump Focuses on Immigration; Trump's Top Choice for U.N. Ambassador; Tight Races in Tennessee and Florida; Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired November 1, 2018 - 12:00   ET



[12:00:18] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

Five days out and fear. Trump's facts. The president tweets a racist video as part of a campaign closing focus on illegal immigration.

New CNN polling shows shifts towards the Republican Senate candidates in Tennessee and Florida. The odds of Democrats retaking the Senate are getting longer. But the House is clearly in the Democrats' reach, and Florida among the states with dead heat races for governor.


RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Maybe we should impeach Gillum as mayor of Tallahassee.

MAYOR ANDREW GILLUM (D), FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: The president again is attempting to use scare tactics, fear mongering. Again, this is a race to the bottom. The kind of politics they're used to. I just happen to believe that they are sorely under estimating the people of my state. That's not the brand of politics that we want.


KING: We begin the hour with politics and a president returning to his roots and his reflexes in the final days of a consequential midterm campaign. For President Trump, that means returning to illegal immigration as his top issue and to fear, exaggerations, and sometimes outright lies as his tools.

In just a few hours we're told the president will speak at the White House about immigration and asylum, according to several sources. He would prefer you focus on immigration, not health care, or jobs, or the strong economy, as you decide how to vote.

This from a new interview with CBN.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's a lot of feeling about the horrors of the illegal immigration problem, when people think they're just going to come into our country and take over our country and it's just not going to happen. We're not going to let that happen. But the Democrats want to let that happen. It's crazy.


KING: And then there's this race-baiting ad. Tens of thousands of the president's followers have now retweeted or replied to a video shared by the president of the United States on his Twitter account. The message, anything but subtle.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't (EXPLETIVE DELETED) regret that (EXPLETIVE DELETED). The only thing that I (EXPLETIVE DELETED) regret is that I (EXPLETIVE DELETED) killed two. I wish I (EXPLETIVE DELETED) killed more of those (EXPLETIVE DELETED).


KING: With me today to share their reporting and their insights, "Politico's" Eliana Johnson, CNN's Phil Mattingly, Toluse Olorunnipa of "Bloomberg," and CNN's Kaitlan Collins.

We know immigration is his reflex. Why can't you be for strong borders, even your wall, even for deploying the troops, without race baiting? Why? Why does he have to do that?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "BLOOMBERG": This is all about enthusiasm. He realizes that his base is not as enthusiastic about coming out to vote for, you know, x senator or x congressman as they were to vote for him in 2016 and he's trying to recreate some of that magic that he created in 2016, where we saw people come out, specifically rural voters, voters that were part of the Trump base that carried him to election. He realizes that he needs to give them something. The tax cuts are not doing it. They're not really popular. They're seen as sort of, you know, tax cuts that are a giveaway to the wealthy and he see immigration as this one-trick pony that helped him get elected and he thinks that it can happen again if he just dials up the rhetoric a little bit more, does a little bit more than what we've gotten used to in order to get the clicks in the headlines and the coverage by going a little bit further than he's gone in the past.

KING: It's the little bit further part that is the question to me.


KING: You can say, I'm for a strong border. You can say, I think I need to send the troops. You can say there's a caravan coming and I don't think I want to let them in. But the Democrats want them to come. George Soros is paying for it. And then, yes, yes, that illegal immigrant in that ad committed a heinous murder and deserves to be prosecuted, but to suggest Democrats want more of them?

JOHNSON: You know, talking to a smart Democratic political strategist this morning who pointed out, this is really part and parcel of the tabloid news culture that the president came out of where he takes an issue that people are familiar with because it's in the news and finds a way to push it forward every day with something new. Whether it's sending troops down to the border or telling people that the caravan is bigger than people think, or saying we're going to seal off the southern border, deny these people asylum. Whether those claims are true or not, taking a familiar issue and keeping it in the news day after day because he knows it's politically useful. And I think that's what we're seeing here.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's also along those same lines, taking something that might have a strand of truth or a strand of something that people agree on is a problem around the country and then blowing it up and turning it into something that's far more dramatic, far more hyperbolic and potentially far more not truthful at all.

And to Toluse's point, look, this is -- it's a midterm year. In a midterm year you need your base to come out. And in a midterm year with you're facing the enthusiasm they're facing on the other side, they need their base to come out. And this is the president going back to his gut and saying, what is the thing that I think excites my people the most? What's the thing that gets just the rally enthusiasm rolling like nothing else? It's immigration. His tact of getting to that point, though, I think everybody is kind of watching, wondering what on earth is going on.

[12:05:21] KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He's kind of throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks.


COLLINS: I mean he's unveiled so many new proposals just in these last two weeks before the midterms. And of course everyone thinks his base loves this. His base loves the immigration talk. It's red meat, et cetera, et cetera.

But I do wonder what true conservatives think about what the president has said lately because what he said yesterday to justify his decision or his claim that he wants to undo birthright citizenship, justifying it by saying, well, President Barack Obama used executive action to do DACA, so why can't I use an executive order to undo this? Of course those aren't even at all the same thing because one is in the Constitution, one is not.

But it does raise the question, conservatives railed against Obama for doing DACA through executive order. They said it was an abuse of power. It was overreach. It defied federal law. President Trump echoed all of those same lines on the campaign trail. And now he's trying to justify that to do this. And during that interview that you just aired, he talked about the wall and he said, oh, well, we're building the wall. It's a little bit different of a wall. We're using barbed wire. A lot of people who wanted the wall do not see barbed wire as a wall. So it's interesting that it's not -- he's not just making these arguments about immigration. But it's curious to see what even the conservatives, the true conservatives, not just the Trump conservatives, think of these policies and if they're real.

KING: And -- and the speaker of the House did stand up to the president on birthright citizenship saying, no, you can't do that with executive order. If you want to do that -- if you want to do that, send legislation to Congress. We'll have a debate about it. But crickets -- crickets. I'm sorry, this ad is racist. My first presidential campaign was '88, Willie Horton. That was done by -- Al Gore brought it up in the Democratic primaries as an issue. It was run as a Republican ad. It was not run -- George H.W. Hush didn't tweet it out. There wasn't Twitter in those days. But he didn't put it -- put the ad out himself. It's the most racist thing you've seen forever. Where are the Republicans on this? Where is somebody this morning asking the president, look, make your case about having a strong border. We agree. We'll give you your wall money. We agree. But don't do this. Where are they?

MATTINGLY: Well they're -- right now they're thrilled they're not on Capitol Hill. They're thrilled they're all at home and they aren't being chased around by reporters with cameras.

I think that kind of to that point what --

KING: They have put power, power. They've put keeping power ahead of principle and their pride.

MATTINGLY: And I think to some degree that's been a story for the better part of the last 18 months on certain things and they put power in the ability to get things done that conservatives really want to get done ahead of other issues here.

I think, to that point though, one of the bigger issues here is that this might work in certain Senate races, and not all Senate races, but for House races, those House lawmakers who would be forced to respond to this if they were on Capitol Hill right now and probably will be asked on the campaign trail. I don't know many House Republicans who are making this a key issue in New Jersey, or in certain parts of Pennsylvania, or down in southern Florida. Like this is not necessarily an ad that helps them in any way, shape or form.

KING: But you're right, you're right, we do see evidence -- we've got some polls later in the program, some of these races are moving towards Republicans, and part of it is the immigration issue, but the broader part of that is the president's approval is coming up a little bit and that helps Republicans. So the president thinks it's going to work. We'll see where. It may work some place and not others.

Listen to this. Alisyn Camerota, our colleague on "NEW DAY" this morning, sitting down with a group of suburban women to ask them about this very issue.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": How many of -- a show of hands -- feel that the president is trying to gin up fear or gin up this story before the midterms?

DEBORAH DEWEY, NEW JERSEY DEMOCRAT, SUBURBAN VOTER: Fear motivates people. And I think that is the basis for anything that he does.


CAMEROTA: At the border. Do you think that this is a crisis?

RUGGIERO: At the border, do I think there's -- is there an issue? Yes. Is there a crisis? No.

How can we pay for their education, their health care, when all of us on this side are paying more and more and more. And if somebody loses their job here, shouldn't we be taken care of first?


KING: The woman at the end there clearly echoing the president's view that these illegal immigrants are coming in and they're taking your resources. They're taking your jobs. They're taking your health care money. They're taking government services and the like.

Interesting, four out of six women raised their hands when Alisyn asked the simple question, is this fear.

OLORUNNIPA: That's what the president won -- that's how the president won his election in 2016. He has openly said that fear is a powerful motivator for a number of different people. In the Bob Woodward book, he talked about how fear is true power and how he believes that, you know, using fear to, you know, increase this political advantage is something that will actually work and it works for him in his view in 2016 and he's trying to do the same thing in 2018. And they're not --

KING: And use 2018 I think also as a test track for 2020 if you look at some of the big states he's going to.

COLLINS: Right. But it's not all just a political stunt. President Trump does cares about immigration. It's not just, oh, I can get voters out with this. He truly does care. That's why, we are told, he's giving this speech today because he's been waiting to give a speech on immigration. It got postponed because of the tragedies that have happened over the last week.

But this is really something he does care on. He does think that the way that people apply for asylum need to be changed. He has talked about birthright citizenship for several years. It's not just something he came up with in the last two weeks.

[12:10:08] So it's not -- it is a political stunt in some ways. Well, I guess a better way to say it, it is a way to get voters to turn out. But it also is something President Trump genuinely cares about and thinks needs to be changed.

KING: Well, let me just put this on the table. He has a really good job. He's president of the United States. If he cares that much about it, he's been president for almost two years. There's this thing called paper. You write legislation. You send it to Capitol Hill. Or, if he wants to sign this executive order, sign it today and let it get tested in the courts. Do something if you want. Propose things. Demand your party and the other party vote on them. Don't just talk about things.

We'll come back to that story in a little bit. Just a little speech there.

This just in to CNN, two sources say President Trump has told advisers the current State Department lead spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, is his top pick to be the next ambassador to the United Nations. We're told by sources he could offer her the post as soon as this week. That's according to these sources who are speaking to this -- Kaitlan Collins right here at the table.

It's a big deal for the president. It's a big job to fill. Nikki Haley was a star in the administration. What does he see in Heather Nauert that makes him this, this is my top choice?

COLLINS: He's always liked Heather Nauert. She has a history in television. She came to the State Department. He likes watching her State Department briefings. He thinks she did a good job. And she's always had a relationship with the West Wing.

When Rex Tillerson was the secretary of state and she was the State Department spokesman then as well, he grew skeptical of her as his relationship with President Trump deteriorated pretty publically because he, Tillerson, and his confidants inside the State Department thought she was much more loyal to the West Wing than she was to him. They often referred to her as a spy for the West Wing.

But with Pompeo, she's been really close with Pompeo, and Pompeo is very close with Trump. So she's had a really good relationship with the president. And he's sorted through these people. At one point he briefly considered Rick Grenell, the ambassador to Germany, for this job, but he was insistent time and time again he wanted it to be a woman because he saw what Nikki Haley did. He liked the way that Nikki Haley had that position, how much power and influence she wielded, and he really wanted to have another woman in this position.

So he's been telling people she's his favorite. He's expecting to offer her the job. And so she would leave the State Department. But it's going to raise questions, not only does she have the diplomatic experience for this job, because typically people come to this position with years of diplomatic experience, and some critics have said they don't feel that she has that, but, also, who is going to be the next press secretary, because she was widely seen by people inside the White House as the next person to replace Sarah Sanders. So -- and they don't exactly have, you know, a heavy lineup of people waiting to take that job. So it does create a few problems for people inside the West Wing if she does get this job.

KING: That's fascinating. We'll keep an eye on it. A big personnel decision for the president. There will be many in the next few weeks for the president.

Up next for us here, brand new CNN polling in two key states. Just five days before an election the president says is pretty important, but maybe not the most important.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In less than one week, Americans will go to the polls in one of the most important elections of our entire lives. Although I will say, not as important as 2016, right? (INAUDIBLE). I'd like to say, but not really.



[12:17:13] KING: Welcome back.

We're now five days out now. And as you can see right here, the CNN House map tilting in favor of the Democrats. The Democrats lead when you look at our CNN race rankings. More than enough opportunities in all the yellow. Maybe it looks gold to you at home. Those are the toss-up races. More than enough opportunities for the Democrats there to gain at least the 23 seats they need to seize control of the House.

But, let's switch over to the Senate map, because it is very different. When you look at the Senate map, for all this talk of a big Democratic year, we currently have the Republicans leading in the race rankings here. And we have some brand-new CNN polls releasing right now that show movement towards Republicans in two races critical in Senate control.

Let's break out the polls and take a look.

Brand new poll, the Senate race for Tennessee. Marsha Blackburn, the Republican, at 49. Phil Bredesen, the Democrat, at 45. Within the margin of error, but a Republican lead and a shift from September when the Democrat, Bredesen, was in charge. Momentum towards Marsha Blackburn, the Tennessee race is critical. Now held by a Republican retiring, Bob Corker, Democrats need that state if they have any hope, any hope, of seizing control of the Senate. Momentum for Blackburn. You see that one. That's Tennessee.

Now let's look in Florida here as well. Again, you could argue here, a little bit of momentum towards the Republican. Bill Nelson, the Democrat, ahead by two points. That's a statistical dead heat. Essentially a dead heat in the state of Florida. Forty-nine for Rick Scott, the Republican governor, who wants to come to the U.S. Senate. Look back in mid-October, it was a five-point Nelson lead. So, again, we're within the margin of error here. Always a close race. But if you're the Scott campaign, you can make an argument, you're getting closer as we get closer to Election Day.

It's interesting, as you get into the final days of the campaign, who has momentum. Well, in Tennessee, the Republicans clearly do. In Indiana, the polls suggest perhaps the Democrat, Joe Donnelly, in a race that's critical, again, when you're trying to figure out who will control the Senate. Arizona's more of a question mark. Three polls in recent days all showing a very close race. Some showing it moving toward the Democrat. Some showing it more toward the Republican. So that one we're going to watch until the very end. Why do these races matter? Look where we have it right now. Forty-nine

Republican, 45 Democrats. For the Democrats to somehow take control of the Senate, if everything stayed the same as we have it on the map and you just had these six toss-up states, well, look at this scenario. The Democrats -- the Democrats -- oops, let me bring that back out here -- Democrats would have to sweep them. Democrats would have to sweep them. If they got to these 50-50, it could come down to Tennessee. So if Marsha Blackburn wins and Democrats swept everything else, 50-50 and the Republicans hold, the Democrats have to get that one if they have any dream, any dream. And the momentum clearly going the other way.

Because that momentum is going the other way, ask the president, is there a big, blue wave? He says no.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think the blue wave is dead, frankly. And I think we're doing very well. And the numbers reflect it, as you know. And I think we can do -- I think we'll win the Senate and I think we're going to do well in the House.

If you go by history, but nobody's ever had an economy like I've produced. We have an economy that's the best it's ever been. We have probably the greatest economy we've ever had in this country with jobs and everything else.


[12:20:009] KING: It is -- it is the strangest of midterm years in the sense that -- somebody tell me if you've talked to somebody who thinks differently. Even most Republicans now privately concede the House is gone and yet it's possible, if you look at these polling numbers, Democrats not only will hold the Senate, it's possibly they could gain one, two, some think even three seats.

JOHNSON: Yes, I think the chances that Republicans gain seats in the Senate is -- I think there's better chance that than the Democrats take the Senate. And so it is strange in that regard.

And what's curious to me is, what is the White House messaging going to be if there is that split where they lose the House, which means an increasing number of Democratic investigations into the White House, but keep the Senate. Is it going to be, we're going to confirm more and more judges? You know, what is the defensive messaging going to be from the White House because it's a split.

MATTINGLY: Yes, I think the fascinating thing at this moment is the divergence in the maps between the House and the Senate, which has existent throughout the course of this cycle because of the number of seats the Democrats had to defend, because 10 of those seats were seats that President Trump -- in states that President Trump won in 2016. The divergence has actually grown over the course of the last five or six days. Where you talk to Republican strategists on the Senate side who are feeling very good about where things stand right now, feel like they can pick up a seat or two based on how things are going, and you talk to Republicans on the House side who maybe 10 day ago felt like things were stabilizing, maybe heading a little bit in their direction, giving them a shot to keep the majority, over the course of the last five or six have said, OK, everything's reverted back to where it was two weeks ago and we have real problems. And I think you've seen that grow, the diversions grow over the course of the last couple of days. And I think what the problem is, is everybody's trying to use wave as a descriptor or what does this all mean. I think just because of the maps, there's no such thing as a wave between Senate and House. Maybe House and governors, but Senate and House, it doesn't exist. And that's why you see strategists on -- in both chambers right now in very different places.

KING: And it doesn't seem to matter, whether we're talking about a presidential race or a governor's race or this Senate race in Florida, if it's Florida, it's always late, it's always close. It's 50 -- it's one of the most competitive states in the United States of America.

Rick Scott was the dream candidate for Republicans. They got the Republican governor to run for Senate against Bill Nelson. They thought he was the great -- he was their best hope. He's in a very tight race. There's been a big debate in his campaign, how close do you get to the president? Because you do have a lot of suburbs in Florida. You do have a lot of people who are not Trump fans.

Listen to this ad from Rick Scott. At the end, he seems to be inching a bit closer to the president's message.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A vote for Nelson puts the radical left in charge. The kind of people who scream in the face of police officers. The kind of people who mock an elderly man they disagree with. It's disgusting. But you stop Schumer and Pelosi from taking over by stopping Bill Nelson.


KING: This comes back, I think, to a point you made in the earlier segment. After the Kavanaugh fight there was a great spike in Republican intensity some -- in some places. You see that just because that fight is in the rear view mirror now, coming down a little bit. That's all about a base gin up, come out, do not stay home.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes. And we've already started to see the numbers in early voting. I follow Florida pretty closely because I'm from there and we've seen a huge amount of turnout in early voting. Republicans are actually leading somewhat in early voting, but the numbers are way up compared to 2014. And it does show that both sides -- bases are engaged and are activated and are turning out at really high levels.

But it will be very interesting to see what's happening in the middle. There is a growing number of independent voters in Florida, and that's part of the reason Governor Scott kept Trump at arm's length at the beginning because he wanted to see if he can appeal to some of those independent voters and have them swing his way. And it would be very interesting to see, after we get, you know, the turnout numbers that show both Democrats and Republicans turning out at very high levels, whether or not there is a shift in the independent vote and whether or not it swings one way or the other. And that's why we're seeing Senator Nelson try to appeal to independents, governor -- or gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum trying to appeal to those independents as well because they're going to be the ones who determines who wins.

KING: And you mentioned the gubernatorial candidate. Let's just look. Again, we just showed you the Senate race. It's a dead heat. Maybe slight advantage Bill Nelson. Look at this in the governor race, Gillum, 49, it's -- the mayor of Tallahassee is the Democratic candidate, and Ron DeSantis, the congressman, the Republican, 48.

I mean, again, here -- welcome to Florida. It's a long night. We're counting. And the president, back there just yesterday, he thinks he can be a factor here.

And again, I would say this, I'm not saying the president's not invested in these 2018 races. He's also using this as a test track for 2020.

MATTINGLY: That's exactly right. And keep in mind where the president's actually going over the course of the next eight days or so, the 11, 12 places he's going, most of them are in states where even though his approval rating has maybe gone down from his result in 2016, he's still north of 50 percent. Florida's not that state. But where he's going is very strategic. When he was last night was very strategic. When he goes to Pensacola, that's very strategic. Those are base areas for the Republican Party.

You talk -- everybody's talking about the I-4 corridor and what that's going to mean, the suburb voters, all that type of stuff. Where the president is being sent, to the credit of his political team, is places where, if you get Republicans out, which he did in 2016, in the panhandle, in Pensacola, and you get them out in huge numbers, particularly in a midterm year, those 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 votes can make a really big difference.

[12:25:04] COLLINS: And he's going to some of these places twice, which is also really interesting to see where exactly he's picked over the last not only week, the last weeks. And we did have reporting yesterday that in Arizona and Nevada they've kind of asked him to stay away. They did not think he would be helpful in these final few days.

And we got some pushback saying that that wasn't it. He had already been there. But it does show that if he's going to certain places, he's -- I think three states twice in these last six days, starting with yesterday, it does show there are some places where they do think he's helpful, some places where they don't, and they have tried to keep him at an arm's length in Florida, it seems. But then, you know, when the president comes, you don't really have an option. You've got to go to the rally and appear on stage with him.

KING: You don't really have an option. And in the last week of a campaign, it's not about finding new voters.

At this point of a campaign, both campaigns, or if you have three campaigns, they have a list, they have a number they think they need to reach. It's all about turning out your people.

You mentioned Pensacola. I remember, 2016, one of the first texts I got was from a Democrat doing turnout in Pensacola who texted me, we are screwed. 2016 presidential election, started to see the turnout there.

Up next for us, a fact check on that caravan President Trump just can't stop talking about.