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Final Days of Campaigning for U.S. Elections; Missouri Senate Race Could Swing Balance of Power; Iran to Face Renewed U.S. Sanctions. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired November 4, 2018 - 03:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): U.S. president Donald Trump is on a campaign blitz ahead of Tuesday's midterm elections in the U.S.

A look to the past to predict the future, the lessons we can learn from Trump's 2016 win and how they apply to this midterm election.

Plus people in Iran take to the streets to protest the new U.S. sanctions. This as the country's supreme leader sounds a note of defiance.

Live from the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Cyril Vanier. It's great to have you with us.


VANIER: So U.S. president Donald Trump is making a full court press to get Republicans to the polls on Tuesday. The outcomes of the 2018 congressional elections will be widely interpreted as a referendum on his presidency and potentially shift the balance of power in Washington.

The president has no fewer than five rallies scheduled between now and Election Day. That's a frenetic pace. Mr. Trump clearly is energized as he makes his case to preserve the Republican majority in Congress.


TRUMP: This is one of the most important elections of our entire lives. This election will decide whether we build on the extraordinary prosperity that we have achieved or whether we let the radical Democrats take control of Congress and take a giant wrecking ball to our economy and to the future of our nation.


VANIER: President Trump has two campaign events on Sunday, one here in Georgia in the afternoon and another later in Tennessee. CNN's Boris Sanchez is traveling with the president and has this report from a campaign stop Saturday in Florida.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Trump kicked off his rally in Pensacola, Florida, on Saturday on a bit of a different note, joking about coverage he had watched on television of some of his previous rallies and dismissing criticism he heard that he spent too much time talking about immigration and not enough time talking about the economy.

The president went deep discussing jobs numbers and how a booming economy who ever would help Floridians here in the Panhandle who had recently been affected by Hurricane Michael.

He talked about rebuilding those parts of Florida that were hard-hit by the hurricane, said that the entire country was with those hurt by the hurricane. The president then went after Democrats, suggesting the Democrats would take a wrecking ball to the booming economy and turn Florida into Venezuela. Listen to this.


TRUMP: They'll impose socialism on the state of Florida. Welcome to Venezuela. And they'll erase America's borders. We have to have a border if we're going to have a great country. We have to have a great, strong, powerful border.


SANCHEZ: Of course, the president did go back to the issue of immigration yet again, calling members of the caravan moving through Central America toward the United States "invaders," though there are indications that most of the caravan is made up of women and children seeking refuge from political and economic crises in Central American countries.

Trump was joined on stage by Representative Ron DeSantis who is running for governor here in Florida and by the current governor, Rick Scott, who's running for Senate. High praise among those three. Of course, the president is popular in the state of Florida. He has a 47 percent approval rating. He calls it his second home.

Ultimately, whether those candidates succeed in Tuesday's election or not may be a referendum on how well the president is doing in the Sunshine State -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, traveling with the president, in Pensacola, Florida.


VANIER: The U.S. Senate race in Missouri is one of the tightest in the country. Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill is trying to fend off her Republican challenger, Josh Hawley.

This is a state that could swing control of the entire Senate. It is so important, the U.S. president jetted to Missouri on Thursday for a rally to support Hawley and Mr. Trump will be back on Monday. Dana Bash has more.


DANA BASH, CNN SR. U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democrat Claire McCaskill rolling deep in rural conservative Missouri in search of every possible vote to send her back to the Senate.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: I mean, we're realistic about this. It's not that anybody believes I'm going to be able to win Jasper County.

But you know what we can do?

We can win a few more votes because I've got news for you, it's close.

BASH (voice-over): in many ways it's a political miracle this two- term Senate Democrat even represents this red state President Trump won by nearly 20 points. She first won in 2006, a Democratic wave year and again in 2012 after GOP opponent Todd Akin talked of "legitimate rape."

MCCASKILL: Health care is on the ballot.

BASH (voice-over): Like many Democrats in tough races --


BASH (voice-over): -- she tries to stay focused on health care and preserving ObamaCare's protections for preexisting conditions. Her GOP opponent, Josh Hawley, says he supports them, too, but he's part of a lawsuit that could strike down those protections. He's casting the race as a clear choice.

JOSH HAWLEY (R), SENATE CANDIDATE: We don't like the Washington establishment. We think that there needs to be a shakeup in both parties. And, you know, voters were very adamant about that. And this campaign is really about that.

BASH (voice-over): Hawley is a staunch Trump supporter, elected Missouri attorney general just two years ago. The blunt McCaskill regularly launches one-liners at her 38-year-old Ivy League educated challenger.

MCCASKILL: As Ronald Reagan said, I'm not going to try -- I'm going to try not to hold his youth and inexperience against him. He may be a Yale educated lawyer but I'm a Missou educated lawyer and I can keep up.

BASH (voice-over): She's running on her experience yet running from the left wing of her own party.

MCCASKILL: It may irritate some of you in this room that I am proud that I'm a moderate. There may be people in this room that think I am not liberal enough to carry the banner of this party.

BASH: You have a radio ad out saying that you're not one of those "crazy" Democrats.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): And Claire is not one of those crazy Democrats. She works right in the middle and finds compromise.


BASH: What does that mean?

MCCASKILL: Well, the crazy Democrats are the people who are getting in the face of elected officials in restaurants and screaming at them. The crazy Democrats is whoever put a swastika on one of Josh Hawley's signs in rural Missouri. That's the kind of stuff I'm talking about, the extreme stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Claire McCaskill and the radical Left from passing their social agenda.

BASH (voice-over): Tying her to liberal Democratic leaders is the centerpiece of Hawley's campaign, seizing on her votes against both of President Trump's Supreme Court nominees.

BASH: That was a big deal?

HAWLEY: Big deal. Very big deal.

BASH: Like that could make the difference?

HAWLEY: Yes, I do. Very big deal.

BASH: In what way?

HAWLEY: Because I think voters were so appalled by what they -- just appalled by the smear campaign.

BASH: She did say how she would vote before the hearing and all of that.

HAWLEY: Right. She was honest in saying that she was voting against Justice Kavanaugh because he was a conservative.

BASH (voice-over): She said she voted no because Kavanaugh has supported unlimited campaign cash.

MCCASKILL: And I would be a big hypocrite if I voted for Kavanaugh because of dark money.

BASH (voice-over): She's making an effort to connect with Trump voters she needs to win in other ways, like on immigration.

MCCASKILL: The impression he's giving Missourians is somehow the Democrats are in favor of our border being overrun. I am not. I support the president 100 percent doing what he needs to do to secure the border.

BASH (voice-over): Rallying supporters to get out the vote, the Democrat reminded them she's beaten Missouri's odds before. MCCASKILL: And because of all of you and your commitment, they're going to say, that Claire McCaskill, she's done it again.

BASH (voice-over): Dana Bash, CNN, Kansas City, Missouri.


VANIER: With the U.S. midterm elections around the corner, what lessons can we learn from the last election?

How did Donald Trump defy all the odds and make it to the White House in 2016?

If we can answer that, we might get some insights into Tuesday's votes.

Now fortunately there is a new book out that looks at all the polling data from 2016 and asks that very question. It's called "Identity Crisis." That should give you a clue.

"Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America." Joining me is one of the co-authors, Lynn Vavreck.

Lynn, there are competing theories on what exactly got Trump elected.

What did you find?

LYNN VAVRECK, AUTHOR: So the book is called "Identity Crisis," because the argument we're making is that the campaign discourse, that both campaigns engaged in but Donald Trump raised about what kind of country America was going to be, going forward, an exclusive country of people who were different or an inclusive country.

That question was central to people's decision-making in 2016 and that was the driving dimension on which this choice was made.

VANIER: So OK. Define that for me, then.

How do you define identity?

What's the fault line, the in group and the out group?

VAVRECK: Well, for Donald Trump, as many of your viewers will know, there are many in and out groups. He's always characterizing politics in us and them. In the book and during the election, the groups that he was really highlighting had to do with race, religion, ethnicity.

You can remember all those moments from the 2016 campaign, where he was raising differences based on those dimensions. Gender is also in there.

VANIER: All right. So you have, on the one hand -- this is not an entirely new theory but there were competing theories. And you come down firmly on the side of this theory, that it is identity, that it is race, culture, religion, all those things that Donald Trump managed to activate.

There is one very interesting thing about your book I thought was a little counter intuitive. It's not that --


VANIER: -- these times were beneficial to Donald Trump, that racial animus was on the increase and he managed to exploit it. You find that it was always there but he tapped into something the previous politicians hadn't tapped into.

VAVRECK: That's exactly right. And I think that is one of the more interesting things about the 2016 election.

Lots of politicians, lots of people who have run for office, people who study public opinion and attitudes in America and around the world have known that these attitudes exist in both parties for decades and decades in the United States.

But they're not always a dimension of choice in elections. And the reason that they get activated or they light up in 2016 isn't just that this was the right time for that to happen. There's nothing magical about 2016 and these attitudes.

Now there are some changing demographics in the country. But that's been happening and will continue to happen. The reason the attitudes get activated or turned on more in the Republican primary in 2016 than in previous primaries, more for choices about Donald Trump instead of other Republican candidates and more in the general election in 2016 than in previous contests is because that is what Donald Trump wanted to talk about.

He went, we say in the book he went hunting where the ducks are. He went where the voters were on these issues. And the other Republican candidates who ran against him weren't going to do that. And other general election opponents weren't going to do that.

VANIER: In other words, people weren't more intolerant than in 2016 than they had been prior. It's just President Trump tapped into that and he managed to exploit it. And that is a powerful tool with which to look at these elections.

When you have that tool how do you look at Tuesday's vote and the campaign we've been seeing?

VAVRECK: So this could have gone two ways. This could have faded, so issues related to identity or any kind of issue you can refract through an identity lens, that identity component could have been dialed down or it could remain and get turned up.

And what we're finding, when we look at people's vote choice on Tuesday in 2018, is that the role of identity, again, your attitudes about race, ethnicity, religion, gender, is playing a much greater role in these 2018 midterm elections than in previous midterms and in previous general elections prior to 2016.

So this is not fading. It is remaining a dimension of choice in United States elections.

VANIER: And it is certainly clear from the way Donald Trump has campaigned and the run-up to the midterms.

I wonder if you can, then, predict this, is there a limit to this strategy?

Is there a point where you've tapped out all this feeling and it doesn't help you politically any more?

VAVRECK: I don't know that I would say there's a limit to it. As long as people hold these attitudes and someone wants to activate them, those people will be there. The question is when will the backlash come against these attitudes as the common dimension of choice?

It will come but I don't think there is any sign that it's starting now -- I can't see it happening now.

So the question is, in the next nine months, before people start declaring their candidacies for 2020, are we likely to see it happen before then?

I don't see any indication that it's going to happen before then.

VANIER: Lynn Vavreck, very useful book, great, great, great to talk to you.

VAVRECK: Thanks for having me.

VANIER: And join us next Tuesday night for extensive coverage of the U.S. midterm elections. It will start at 5:00 pm Eastern time and it will go on until all the results are in.

Now anti-U.S. protests in Iran, just one day before sanctions go into effect. That's on Monday. Why the U.S. is reinstating these sanctions -- just ahead.

Plus, heavy rainfall has flooded parts of Italy in recent days and more storms are expected. We'll have the forecast when we come back.





VANIER: Iranian leaders are holding anti-American protests one day before U.S. sanctions go into effect. The U.S. is reinstating sanctions that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal. President Trump pulled out of the agreement earlier this year and the sanctions will go into effect on Monday.

And take aim at Iran's ports, shipbuilders and crucially its oil sector, trying to strangle Iran's main source of foreign revenue. Now Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei has criticized the U.S. for renewing the sanctions, saying, Mr. Trump has disgraced America and added that the U.S. is failing to assert its dominance.


AYATOLLAH ALI KHAMENEI, IRANIAN SUPREME LEADER (through translator): The U.S. is much weaker today than it was 40 years ago when the revolution was victorious. The power of the U.S. is on the decline. This is the important point.

Most of the world's politicians and global affairs analysts believe that the U.S. soft power is worn out. It's being destroyed.


VANIER: Joining me to discuss this is CNN U.S. security analyst Samantha Vinograd.

Samantha, the U.S. plan is to strangle Iran's economy on the assumption that, at some point, Iran will have no choice but to make lots of concessions and change its behavior.

Do you think that's a good plan?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Cyril, this was our plan under the Obama administration. I actually helped work on the sanctions that are being reimposed in just a few hours now.

The idea under President Obama was to put such pressure on Iran by sanctioning its energy sector, its financial sector and more that they would have to come to the negotiating table rather than really risk state collapse.

That's what President Trump is trying to do again. He is trying to strangle their economy and assumes they'll have to come back to the negotiating table just like they did several years ago under Obama.

But something is different, Cyril. Something is different this time and that is the Iranians feel they probably can't trust our word any more. They signed a deal with us. The regime came under inordinate criticism domestically for looking like they worked with the Americans. And now it looks like they got duped.

It looks like they got played. So there are different factors at play that will really complicate the Iranians feeling like they have to come back to the negotiating table.

VANIER: But, Samantha, if you follow the U.S. logic, it's not so much about earning Iranian trust. It's about coercion, it's about strangling them and doing it so much that at some point they have no choice. So I guess the calculus here is we're going to strangle them even more than Obama did and at some point we'll get even more out of them.

VINOGRAD: It is about coercion for sure. But for the Iranian regime, remember, the Iranian regime has politics like the United States has. At this point they know they are being coerced. They know they're being bullied.

But if they come back to the negotiating table right now, in the first instance, they don't think they can trust that we will negotiate in good faith.

And they also are under crazy pressure domestically because, again, it looks like they got a raw deal by agreeing to do something with the United States the first time around. So coercion for sure. But the state of play is entirely different.

The question really is, how much is the Iranian economy going to suffer going forward?

The imposition of sanctions and the knowledge that sanctions were being reimposed has already taken a toll on the Iranian economy.

How long can the regime go?

Is it several months, is it several years?

With 25 percent youth unemployment, rampant inflation and a real currency -- excuse me -- that has suffered dramatically the last few months, how much breath do they have left before, to your point, they just have no choice?

And it's a better option to come back to the table and to look --


VINOGRAD: -- quote-unquote "weak" in certain ways rather than just try to hang on.

VANIER: Let me send that question right back at you.

What do you think the timeline might be for something like this?

Do you think the U.S. can expect results?

Assuming this whole plan works in the first place, do you think the U.S. can they expect results within months, within years or more?

VINOGRAD: We saw results relatively quickly when we imposed these sanctions under President Obama several years ago because they were so coordinated. Every country around the world was on board except for a few bad actors.

This time around, the Iranian economy is already under pressure. Since May, the Iranian currency I think has dropped 70 percent since President Trump announced he was withdrawing from the deal.

So I think they are definitely feeling significant downside pressures. But I'm reticent to really give you a specific timeline based upon the fact that the Iranian economy has been at serious low points ever since the history of the Iranian regime. So it's hard to make a guess. I would say it is quite significant

that several countries, including Iran's largest buyers of oil -- China and India -- appear to be winding down their purchases of Iranian oil. That is a factor that makes me think that the Iranians will be under even more pressure.

And, you know, this assassination attempt they tried to pull off against Denmark a few days ago or that was uncovered a few days ago may start to change the calculus of the European Union, who had said the Iran deal should stay in place --


VANIER: I was going to ask you about that, the E.U.

The E.U. Is not on board with the U.S. plan, right?

They want to keep the Iran nuclear deal. For the moment, at a state level, a European level, they are not reimposing sanctions.

Does that weaken the American hand?

VINOGRAD: It does and it doesn't. It does because, obviously, to have another signatory say they disagree with us and an ally is never a good thing. The Europeans have announced they are creating a special purpose vehicle to continue conducting transactions with Iran. It does weaken it.

And the fundamental disagreement is the Europeans, by the way, the IAEA, the international inspection agency, no one thinks that Iran actually violated the deal. The United States really hasn't put forward firm evidence about violations.

What we said is that we didn't think the deal wasn't broad enough. That's something different. I think the factors here really is going to be what the Europeans say, again, in light of this assassination attempt in Denmark.

An assassination attempt in Denmark is not a violation of the Iran nuclear deal. But I do think it is starting to lead European countries to kind of wonder why they are carrying Iran's water diplomatically and perhaps financially when this kind of behavior is ongoing.

VANIER: All right, Samantha Vinograd, great to get your unique insights into this. Thank you so much.

VINOGRAD: Thanks, Cyril.

VANIER: One week has passed since the deadly synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Jewish communities around the world held services this weekend honoring the 11 victims.

In a sermon on Saturday, a Pittsburgh rabbi slammed politicians for divisive rhetoric which he believes led to the attack. He said he delivered that message to President Trump when the U.S. president visited the site Tuesday. Our Alisyn Camerota spoke with the rabbi recently.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Are you scared when you see this building?


How dare you defile our holy space?

I'm a witness. I'm a victim. I'm a survivor. And I'm also a pastor but I'm also a human. And I stand here and I'm in pain.


VANIER: Meanwhile, mourners in Israel held a vigil on Saturday in a show of solidarity for the victims. Several people there had personal ties to Pittsburgh.

OK, I want to take you to Europe now. Sicily is under alert for severe weather, including flooding after a week of similar conditions that killed at least 17 people across parts of Italy.



VANIER: Britain's Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall are in Ghana. The royal couple are touring commonwealth nations in West Africa. It is the prince's first tour since he was named the next head of the commonwealth. That was back in April.

The British royals are taking part in several cultural events. So here is Prince Charles, playing a calabash along with a dance performance on Saturday. Before that, the couple had visited Gambia and they will be wrapping up their trip in Nigeria.

One more thing to show you. This comes from the streets of Southern France. It's like a scene from a monster movie, two 40-foot mechanical creatures. There's a spider and a minotaur as well.

They paraded through the streets of Toulouse on Friday. This was all part of a new art show from French street theater group La Machine. The creatures of "The Guardian of the Temple" show are based on Roman ruins found near the Garonne River.

That's it from us. Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment.