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INSIDE POLITICS

Joe Biden to Officially Enter Presidential Race Tomorrow; Biden's Frontrunner Status To Be Tested As He Jumps Into 2020; MA Rep. Lynch Throws Support Behind Biden; Trump to Attend Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta; Some States Push For 2020 Tax Returns Requirement; O'Rourke Vs. Buttigieg: Do Both Candidates Appeal to the Same Base. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired April 24, 2019 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Now we know this, the Trump campaign already -- the president of the United States, excuse me, let me get rid of that, the president of the United States already paying attention to these states. Since elected president, six times to Pennsylvania, seven to Ohio, three to Michigan where Mike Pence is today, two to Wisconsin. The president loves his map. He wants to keep it.

Joe Biden thinks I can take this away. Can he? Listen here to David Axelrod, a CNN contributor now but the architect of the 2008 Obama campaign, he says Joe Biden next November might be a strong candidate. He got that primary thing first.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID AXELROD, FORMER OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: If you were to reverse engineer this race, you would maybe pick Joe Biden to be the nominee because he more than any of the other candidates has to reach into those swing voters who will determine the outcome of this election. And particularly in the upper Midwest in Pennsylvania, in Michigan, in Wisconsin. Middle-class Joe, roots in Scranton. That's what Republicans fear.

Can he navigate his way through the contemporary Democratic primary? And that's going to be the big question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And it's the first question. You don't get to reverse engineer an election and say, hey, it's me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

KING: You know, Jeb Bush, for example. Rudy Giuliani if you go back a cycle. You know, I'm just going to sit in Florida. It doesn't work that way.

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Here's the good news for Biden though, there's not been a cycle where primary voters are so fixated on -- when -- into the general election like this. I mean, it comes up so often on the campaign trail. Just want to beat the guy and -- but the guy means Trump. That's the good news for Biden that voters are focused on electability, and they do broadly see him as electable.

The downside is that the expectations of campaigns have proven to be so wrong for so many cycles now. And the assumption that Biden somehow was the most electable candidate is disproven by two people, Barack Obama and Donald Trump who were both thought to be long shots themselves at some early stage and obviously proved that to be wrong. So, the conventional wisdom on Biden could be challenging given the recent history but he does benefit from the fact that his party, more than any ideological issue just wants to get Trump out of this.

KING: Is this fair to Joe Biden? You know, he can, he's the elder statesman of the party, he's been around the track. He ran in '88, he ran again in 2008. He didn't win the nomination, he lost two times. And --

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Didn't come close.

KING: -- New York Magazine -- didn't come close. New York Magazine says, "Biden's shock-and-awe strategy smells a lot like Jeb in 2016."

MARTIN: Yes.

KING: Mike Murphy who worked for Jeb's super PAC, this is a quote from February 2016 after Jeb got out of the race, our theory was to dominate the establishment lane into the actual voting primaries. That was the strategy, and it did not work. I think it was the right strategy for Jeb. The problem was there was a huge anti-establishment wave. The establishment lane was smaller than we thought it would be. The market place was looking for something different.

Is it any different among Democrats now where Joe Biden wants to be, he'll hate the term, but he wants to be the establishment lane? How big is it?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: You know, I think -- I mean, if you think of the sort of the early states and what the map looks like, I mean, there is a pretty moderate lane and a centrist lane that he could go through. It's basically, you know, South Carolina, states like that, African-American voters very much looking to see who can win this White House. I mean, they tend to be conservative voters in terms of their choices and sometimes conservatives voices in terms -- voters in terms of their views, as well.

So I think, listen, I mean, there's obviously going to be a fight for the African-American vote. Kamala Harris is doing some work obviously in South Carolina to shore up some support there. But sure, I think there is a real case that he can make that he can assemble enough voters, older white voters, older African-American voters to win.

MARTIN: Real fast, I have -- I just have to point this out because it's not mentioned enough. Iowa is one of the oldest states per capita in the country. The Democratic caucus there is going to skew older. I think that's an understated, I think, value for Biden whose base -- you know, as Nia points out if you look at the polling, he does much better with voters over 60. That is a whole lot about Iowa voters.

TALEV: And yet, Biden is very late to the game in Iowa. Everybody (INAUDIBLE) -- many people are snatched -- sort of snatched up in the talent pool in Iowa in terms of operatives. And Iowa has always been his downfall in the past. I mean --

MARTIN: There's a little bit of history there, yes.

TALEV: You cannot wait, you cannot wait until -- he could (INAUDIBLE) if he is to win Iowa but he can't get wiped out, he can't come in fifth in Iowa, you know --

MARTIN: Agreed.

TALEV: -- even if it's 22 people.

KING: If he starts losing, that's --

TALEV: There's two states that I think will be really important in the next few days to watch. And one is Pennsylvania where you expect him to make his in-person roll out right on Monday, and that's important because the Trump campaign is really concerned about their ability to hold Pennsylvania and it's a potential area of strength for Biden. We might see that post in those numbers if we see Biden's numbers in the first couple of days.

And the other is Iowa. This is going to be a really important test about whether he can show up late in a place that is always been terrible for him before and do OK.

KING: And part of his strategy is -- and this is another test, and it's part of the establishment is how strong are the labor unions.

[12:35:04] Joe Biden says his first public event will be in Pittsburgh. That's the home of the United Steelworkers Union. He's going out there because he knows the union -- his union buddies are telling him he can get a big crowd. This is the guy, Karoun knows this guy from Dorchester, he's from the southeast, Stevie Lynch as we call him, Stephen Lynch, Congressman Stephen Lynch, we call him Stevie back home, he's a big union guy. He's a big labor guy in Boston, and listen to him here. He says, if Joe runs, I'm with Joe.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. STEPHEN LYNCH (D-MA): If Joe Biden is in, I'm with Joe Biden. We need a candidate who can win in Michigan or Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. And as I look at the field, other than Tim Ryan, who has a, you know, he has a base there in Ohio, I'm not sure there are -- maybe Klobuchar? Yes, she's a possibility, but I think Joe has the best chance of winning against Trump. That's the bottom line for me.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KING: This is to the point you're making earlier. If you just read Twitter or the internet, the Democratic Party has gone way, way, left. There -- you know, he is a conservative Democrat, Stephen Lynch, a pro-life Democrat from Boston but it's Klobuchar with an A, H -- that's how you say -- (INAUDIBLE) even saying a name around all this year. But, are there enough of them? Are there enough of these, you know, labor working class Democrats and the unions themselves to make Joe Biden a surprise?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, potentially. But look, labor unions don't look like they did 20 years ago. They're getting a lot more people in them because there are immigrants that are coming in, there are a lot of service industries. It is a much more colorful labor union profile. So yes, traditionally, it's Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, so you could make the argument for a Biden or a Buttigieg or something like -- somebody who knows middle America but a labor union vote has not predicated just on that. It's a lot more diverse than it used to be, and it's a lot more diverse in terms of its opinion that used to be.

So there's a lot of Stephen Lynches, yes, but are they going to speak for the entire party? Probably not. And that's why you may see even like a debate among the union folk about who is going to be their --

MARTIN: Just 10 seconds, if you asked Stevie Lynch in April of 2007, do you think that Barack Obama can win the heartland, Stevie Lynch probably would been pretty skeptical, right? The point being that the future is just uncertain in politics more than ever. And I get the assumption about Biden's strength out there but there's a lot of (INAUDIBLE).

KING: He is trying to put a machine that has worked before on the field that has the terrain -- has the track changed. We shall see. That's what makes it fun.

Up next, the president headlining a summit today on perhaps the most important public health crisis facing the country.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:42:06] KING: Topping our political radar today, the Trump administration ignoring another subpoena issued by House Democrats. The Justice Department now telling the House Oversight Committee it will not allow John Gore to testify about a citizenship question being added -- or being proposed to be added to the U.S. census. The administration telling the chairman Elijah Cummings that Gore should be allowed to bring a DOJ attorney. Congressman Cummings denying that request.

A bold call from John Delaney's campaign for president today. The Democratic hopeful says the president should step aside and let the vice president take over. Delaney's press secretary releasing this statement this morning, "If the president is not concerned with the continued threats posed by Russian hacking he should step aside and let Mike Pence perform the duties expected from the president of the United States. The idea that the president can spend all day tweeting racist conspiracies but can't spend five seconds standing up to Vladimir Putin should trouble every single American regardless of party." That from the Delaney campaign today.

Congressman Steve King telling Iowans he can relate, get this, to the suffering of Jesus Christ. He said this just a few days after Easter. Congressman King equating the recent controversy surrounding his racist remarks with the hours before Christ's crucifixion. Listen for yourself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVE KING (R-IA): For all that I've been through, it's -- it seems even strange for me to say it but I'm at a certain peace and it's because of a lot of prayers for me. And when I to step down to the floor of the House of Representatives and look up at those 400 and some accusers, we just past through Easter and Christ's passion and I have a better insight into what he went through for us partly because of that experience.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: President Trump and the first lady will be arriving in Atlanta this hour to attend the drug abuse and heroin summit. The president will talk about his administration's progress to raise awareness of the opioid endemic and to save lives. However, stat shows that in 2017, 68 percent of all drug overdose deaths involved opioids. There's been a 400 percent increase in heroin-related overdose deaths from 2010 to 2017. West Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire having the highest death rates from synthetic opioids.

At that summit, joining me now live, CNN's Sarah Westwood. Now the president is touting progress, Sarah, but.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, John, this is one of the Trump administration priorities that has gotten the least amount of attention even though it has the most bipartisan support. Now the Trump administration has been touting the fact that opioid prescription levels are falling, that there's been a reduction in the increase in the growth rate of overdose-related deaths. But there hasn't been a lot of specificity about the data that backs all these up.

But for example, the president as he was leaving the White House today told reporters that the opioid problem is down 17 percent. White House officials aren't responding to our inquiries about what is down 17 percent. That could be any number of metrics.

[12:45:00] And when it comes to opioid policy the president has been focused primarily on the law enforcement equation in his public remarks in the past. For example, he has floated the death penalty for drug traffickers, he's praised China for imposing the death penalty on Fentanyl distributors and he's usually framed his argument for a border wall around the fight against drugs claiming that a wall could reduce overdoses -- reduce drug trafficking although we said many times, John, that most of the drugs coming over the southern border are coming through legal ports of entry.

Critics, John, have also accused the administration of working across purposes with itself by going after ObamaCare because that's how many patients get access to addiction treatment.

KING: It'd be interesting to hear from the president. You see the first lady there. Sarah Westwood live in Atlanta. Sarah, appreciate that.

When we come back, the fight over President Trump's tax returns not just here in Washington. What some states are proposing? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:50:05] KING: The fight to see President Trump's taxes is loudest here in Washington but it's not confined to Washington. This, from the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are now -- is now legislation in 18 states that would require a candidate's for president and vice president to release their tax returns as a condition for being placed on that state's ballot. Now, none of these bills has reached the finish line yet, and if one of them did, a court challenge would likely follow.

But let's take a look at where it's being proposed. And if you look at the map here, you look at the slide, the asterisk on these states, this is three of the 18 states where they have tried to advance the legislation and it's actually failed already. So there have not been successful. You see a couple of red states on here, few red states on here, there's a Republican governor there. The Democrats run these -- have some power in these states, it's unlikely to happen, I think (INAUDIBLE).

But is this real? Or is this another way for Democrats to vent their frustration and to make a point that they think is important. I don't want to make it sounds it's just a joke but to make an important point that everybody has to release their taxes or you're not going to be on our ballot. Is it real or is it symbolic?

MARTIN: Both, right? I mean, it's certainly politics. I mean, they're taunting the president and trying to poke him. But, you know, they would say that they have a substantive agenda here too, they believe it's in a spirit of transparency, the sort of right thing to do.

HENDERSON: And in some ways, you saw Democrats in sort of state legislatures not necessarily be as active in the Obama years. I mean, you think about all the folks who got wiped out during the Obama years. So the fact that they're sort of reactivated and echoing what the national party line is on tax returns I think it's a good thing for the Democratic base particularly, I mean, in a state like Arizona. I mean, do Democrats have a chance in Arizona to win? They certainly hope so and think so as, you know, kind of the demographic shifts are taking hold.

KING: So you do things to engage your voters even if you're not necessarily going to get to the finish line. I mean, let's just say Illinois is probably one of the most Democratic states when you look at this. Let's, you know -- does the president care? He is likely to lose Illinois anyway. So do you fight it if it happens or do you just skip the Illinois ballot? Do other Republicans in Illinois care if their president is not on the ballot?

TALEV: Well --

MARTIN: You got to have (INAUDIBLE).

DEMIRJIAN: If the president loses we know that he's going to say the results might be not legitimate, right? So this creates problems if he actually decides not to go on the ballot someplace unless there's like a really long term political strategy there. So there's -- it could be a double-edged sword in that way. But you also don't see that many swing states on this list so how hard are you going to fight for a certain win is a fair question. I don't know.

TALEV: Yes, but if it become -- look, if this were to actually become a standing precedent it's one to be much easier for other states to follow. And I think until now since the Nixon era it's been custom for presidents to release their tax returns. It's not necessarily been -- I mean, there's -- you can't look to a statute and say like you got to do it. And so, if you're a state that is trying to make the point that this is not just about Trump, it is about the principle and something that will last beyond the next president, you know, there's very -- there's not much downside to it, and it does allow you to take the fight out of Washington into state and localize it.

MARTIN: But they have to fight it though because the Republicans need him on top of the ticket in the state to drive turnout for the rest of their ticket. You cannot have the top of the ticket in your state and like expect to be competitive. A congressional race, a state House races all the way down to the town and county level. That's disastrous.

KING: We'll watch as it goes forward. We'll see if it goes. We'll keep an eye on it.

Up next for us, who's up and who's down in the ballot of the fresh faces among the Democrats running for president.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:58:06] KING: Mayor Pete Buttigieg moving up in the Democratic race for president, offering himself as a next generation face. That's the same lane Beto O'Rourke wants to carve out in this crowded Democratic field. There's no doubt Buttigieg's boomlet is at the moment at least an obstacle to the former Texas congressman's path. Both are under 50, both are charismatic, both are highly quotable. In these early months of campaigning have shown both men can appeal to the same types of both voters.

You wrote a piece to this, Mr. Martin.

MARTIN: Yes, sir. KING: Now --

MARTIN: Nytimes.com available, all your audience, check it out.

KING: That's very good. We don't know how long the Buttigieg boomlet last. You know, sometimes, it is just candidates and their moments but there's no question that Beto had this big launch, he got a lot of attention and then.

MARTIN: And then enter the young, charismatic mayor of South Bend, Indiana who, by the way, has more individual donors than every U.S. senator combined in the first quarter. That just shows you how politics is so impossible to predict. Who would have guessed that in January?

Look, they come from a sort of a similar background in terms of their age, obviously their gender and their race, but also in terms of the sort of not ideological branding. They want kind of a better politics and a better country. This is not a new song in Democratic races, John. As you know, there's typically a candidate who was kind of like this who is not terribly ideological who wants to make a better politics and create a better country.

You know, Gary Hart, for example, comes to mind. Bill Bradley a little bit although in a more of a reformer (INAUDIBLE) from Arizona. The question is, in today's Democratic Party, how big is the sort of space for somebody who is preaching this and is there space for two of them? It seems unlikely in the long run. But for now, though, they definitely are catching on in the early stages of this primary.

What both of them I think face is a challenge of scaling up beyond younger affluent heavily white liberals were just kind of (INAUDIBLE) right now.

KING: It's a great piece, you say NY Times style.

MARTIN: Nytimes.com from the granite state.

[13:00:00]