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INSIDE POLITICS

Forecast for Hurricane Dorian on Florida; Florida Braces for Direct Hit; Vero Beach Mayor Talks Hurricane Preparation; Gas Shortages in Florida; Biden's War Story; New Poll Numbers. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired August 30, 2019 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00] SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Because of the pending litigation. The baby and the baby's mother are doing fine says the lawyer.

Fredricka.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Wow, that's something else.

All right, Scott McLean, appreciate it.

All right, thanks so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with Dana Bash starts right now.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Dana Bash. John King is off today.

Hurricane Dorian makes its way towards the U.S. East Coast, while Florida gas stations are starting to run dry.

President Trump's personal assistant is out of the White House after telling some reporters a little too much about the life inside the White House.

And Joe Biden is brushing off media coverage after facing criticism over a war story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Folks, here's the deal, we're in a situation now where you realize there's very few school psychologists left. The fact of the matter is, I think the number is somewhere between one school psychologist for every 15 to 1,700 children. I don't want to set an exact number because the press will say Biden is losing his mind, he didn't remember.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Floridians this hour are hoping the forecast is wrong because if the forecast is right, Hurricane Dorian will bring a lot of rain and a lot of pain. President Trump signed an emergency disaster declaration minutes ago. Urgent storm preparations have been ongoing this morning and overnight.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is about to give an update right now on the storm. We will watch for that. DeSantis already announced this morning he is calling up 2,000 plus National Guard troops and that the state is clearing roadways and stocking emergency fuel. Nearly a million gallons of bottled water and nearly 2 million meals are stashed in Orlando at a distribution center.

As of this moment, there are 79 counties across two states under states of emergency, and right now there is no mandatory evacuation in place. But the governor says that might change. Forecasters expect the slow-moving storm to get stronger as it trudges through the Bahamas and then heads towards Florida and the coastline there.

Some residents are franticly prepping, emptying grocery store shelves, clearing out home improvement stores of plywood.

This woman in West Palm Bach explains the stakes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBRAH THOMAS, WEST PALM BEACH RESIDENT: I live in a mobile home, so I stand to be homeless. But that's not really that's worrying me. I have animals.

I can replace my home, but I can't my animals.

I've been through this a couple times in the last 15 years, and this is the worst so far.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Let's get straight to Chad Myers in the CNN Weather Center.

Chad, how bad is it going to get at this point? What are we -- what are we seeing?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Still 140-mile-per-hour storm making landfall. Now, depending on the size of the eye, Dana, that could be plus or minus 5 percent. So 133 to 147 would still be a 140-mile-per- hour storm technically.

It is 661 miles from the Florida east coast right now moving to the west at 10. So, do the math, that's 66 hours. But I think it's going to slow down some and so does the Hurricane Center, so it will take longer than 66 hours to get there.

The first effects of tropical storm force winds, though, will start on Sunday. You need to get all of the preps that you're going to do before Sunday afternoon. Then the wind is going to get over 40 or 45 and you can't handle a sheet of plywood outside -- certainly not. You wouldn't want to be on the roof at that point either.

One hundred and forty Monday morning. Landfall somewhere not that far along the road, maybe after dark on Monday, before Tuesday. And then it turns to the right and heads on up toward the middle part of the state. And for the entire time it will be 100-mile-per-hour storm before it finally rains out in Georgia and maybe turns out to sea before the Carolinas.

This is a big storm. It now has an eye. It's 110 miles per hour. Hurricane hunter flying through it right now. Thank goodness for them. And hurricane watches are posted for the Bahamas. Nothing yet for the U.S. simply because it's not time yet.

But overnight they flew the hurricane hunter mission back and forth, dropping almost like inverse weather balloons into this model. And the models really agreed. I can't get my parents to agree for 72 hours. And for 72 hours, the European model and the American model are right on the same spot. So that is very good agreement. They may change a little bit as the opinion gets a little bit closer, but for right now the only other option for this, Dana, that I could see is that it gets really close and as it begins to stop, it could turn sooner and stay offshore. That would be the best possible option because coming onshore at 140 anywhere in Florida would be a devastating hit.

BASH: Well, it sounds like it's bad news because yesterday at this time you were saying the European models had the storm mostly in the ocean and now they are marrying up, as you --

MYERS: Yes.

BASH: As you said, in a very interesting way, as always, Chad.

MYERS: All right.

[12:05:05] BASH: Thank you so much. We'll talk to you soon.

And joining us now is the mayor of Vero Beach, Florida, Val Zudans.

And you have lived through three hurricanes in Vero Beach. This is your first as mayor. When people come to you in your city looking for guidance, what are you saying?

MAYOR VAL ZUDANS, VERO BEACH, FLORIDA: I'm saying assume the worst and be prepared. And you'll only be -- you'll be -- either be prepared or you'll be satisfied or happy that it didn't happen.

I think Vero Beach, because we've had experience with hurricanes, I've had three actual hurricanes go through since 2004 when I've been here, and we've had a couple of near misses as well, more recently with Irma and with Matthew. And I do have a little bit of concern about the fact that we were -- we went through all the preparations for Irma, Matthew, and some people may not have -- may think that that's what a hurricane is. But I know from being here for Jeanne, for Frances and Wilma in '04 and '05 that hurricanes can be much more serious, much more problematic. And I hope people remember exactly what happened back then and treat this like those hurricanes.

And I think we will. I think our city -- I think we're going to be the most prepared city in the state of Florida for this hurricane because people do take it seriously. People do understand how serious -- how much damage can happen and the loss of life that can happen. BASH: So --

ZUDANS: We had someone who passed away back in 2004 in our county from Frances related to -- I believe it was related to storm surge.

BASH: Well, your town is now under a local state of emergency. Shelters open Saturday morning. But statewide the governor has not issued an evacuation order.

Do you think that that is the right move right now? What are you telling your constituents about whether to stay or go?

ZUDANS: I think it -- I think based on the way hurricanes are managed and have been managed very successfully in the past, this is -- it's not yet time for evacuations. But people should have their plans in place in case that does come up. If you're on the barrier island or you're in a mobile home or you're in a flood-prone area, you have to be ready.

The thing that worries me most about this hurricane, back in 2004, with Jeanne, we had an eight-foot storm surge. At our National Weather Service briefing yesterday afternoon at 5:30, they were telling us that storm surges could be up to 10 feet this time. And on top of that, we're in a time of year where we have what are called king tides where the high tide can be four, four and a half, five feet high. And if you put an -- if the storm surge happens to come in right when you're at high tide and then you have large ocean waves from these hurricanes on top of the high tide and the storm surge, that's a recipe for disaster. Most people who die in hurricanes die related to things from the storm surge.

I'm also particularly concerned, based on things that happened in other places down in south Florida, where the nursing homes do not have sufficient backup. I have actually personally talked to some of these people at the nursing homes locally and we're -- today our city manager is going around and contacting all of the city -- the nursing homes within the city limits to make sure that they have the right plans in place. I'm also --

BASH: My --

ZUDANS: Yes, go ahead.

BASH: I was just going to say, we're out of time, but I just -- I want to say thank you for your time. Thank you, obviously, for the prep that you are doing.

ZUDANS: Oh, my pleasure.

BASH: And stay safe. We'll be reaching back to you for sure.

ZUDANS: Yes. Everyone should just pretend like the worst and prepare for it.

BASH: Very good advice.

Well, elsewhere in Florida, gas is already in short supply and some stations are out.

CNN's Rosa Flores is in West Palm Beach.

Rosa, there is still some gas at the station where you are, but how concerned are the Floridians you're talking to that they're just going to be stranded because they can't get gas?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're very concerned. I've talked to multiple people today who have said that they've tried to find gas at multiple locations and then they finally make it to this gas station.

Take a look, the line is short, but it's steady, Dana. It has been steady for the past hour and a half since we've been here. And most of the individuals who I've talked to have said that they're pumping gas just in case an evacuation order is issued to make sure that they can hit the road and not have to stop at any point.

Now, Governor Ron DeSantis has announced that there are shortages across this state. Here's what has been helping. Because he declared a state of emergency in all 67 counties in Florida, that eases the rules that allows more gas to flow into the state.

The owner of this gas station tells us that his family actually owns four gas stations. Three of them are out of gas. This is the only one that has gas that his family owns. And so we asked, of course, how is that? He says that the gas is coming in on queue and so he hopes to have gas at least at 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. tonight and then he has his fingers crosses that he will be next on queue and he will get a refill so that people in this area can get gas, Dana.

[12:10:21] BASH: Wow, that is definitely adding to the stress, understandably.

Rosa, thank you so much for that report.

And, up next, Joe Biden defends telling war stories that have inaccuracies.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:15:11] BASH: Joe Biden is facing questions, again, and today pushing back about a pattern of gaffes. This time it's a story that he told embellishing and conflating an emotional encounter with a U.S. service member.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Four-star general asked me whether I'd go up into the fob (ph). Now everybody got concerned, a vice president going up in the middle of this, but there was -- we can lose a vice president. We can't lose many more of these kids. Not a joke.

This guy climbed down a ravine, carried this guy up on his back under fire. And the general wanted me to pin the silver star on him. I got up there and stand -- this is the God's truth, my word as a Biden. He stood at attention. I went to pin him, I (ph) said, sir, I don't want the damn thing. Do not pin it on me, sir. Please, sir, do not do that. He died! He died!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: A "Washington Post" investigation found that account isn't accurate but instead is a combination of multiple stories of heroic actions by three different veterans through a wider time span. "The Post" noting that in the space of three minutes, Biden got the time period, the location, the heroic act, the type of medal, the military branch and the rank of the recipient wrong, as well as his own role in the ceremony.

Well, the campaign is not disputing any of that, but in a new interview, Biden is dismissing it as a story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was making the point how courageous these people are, how incredible they are, this generation of warriors, these fallen angels we've lost. And so that -- I don't know what the problem is. I mean what is it that I said wrong?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: And we are joined now by our panel.

So my first question is, how much do you guys think, especially those of you who have been on the trail, Joe Biden and his campaign are right, that this is -- I mean I'm told, I'm sure you all are too by the Biden campaign, this is baked in, this is who he is. At least it shows that he's authentic. People don't really care about this as much.

What are you hearing?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, in my experience on the ground, I don't -- I haven't heard about it. I think, to some degree, the baked in is the big thing there. And a lot of people say, well, that's just who he is and it's part of what makes him authentic and it's part of why we like him to some degree. They're focused on other issues, most notably that they are very cognizant, at least when I was in Iowa, of looking at the polls and seeing the fact that he could beat President Trump. And so long as he holds that, I think it almost -- it quashes anything else that comes to the table.

I do think that he should be called to account when you're going out and talking about untruths or talking about things that aren't exactly accurate. Politicians should be able to do that. But the fact of the matter is, at least at this moment, it doesn't appear to have had an impact, at least from what I've heard, and that's anecdotal at this point, I'll be honest.

LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Right. Right. But the question is, does this become a narrative for him, right?

MATTINGLY: Sure.

LERER: It's not just this --

BASH: Well, it already is.

LERER: Right.

BASH: Right.

LERER: It is a narrative and does that narrative take hold as more people start tuning into this race, right? It's still what rival campaigns will tell you, and I think they have a point on this, is it's still extremely early, he has the highest name ID. As these debates go on, as this campaign continues, this is a risk averse electorate and if they start seeing Joe Biden as someone who is risky, who could be -- those electability numbers start to fall, then he has a real problem.

MATTINGLY: Yes.

LERER: So I don't think maybe this isn't his undoing, this one story. It's obviously not. But it's not something that I think, if you're advising him, you're particularly excited about.

VIVIAN SALAMA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": No.

LERER: It's not a positive thing.

SALAMA: Right.

BASH: Yes, and so what -- and so what the campaign is doing is pushing back by a shoulder shrug as much as you can capture that in an e-mail blast. And they kind of did. They sent out an, in case you missed it e-mail from -- a story from CBS News, quoting voters in South Carolina, where the former vice president was. Polly Iyer, he's always made them. I don't think he's doing anything different than he's always done. He always has his foot in his mouth. Will Cokley, so what, I do too. He's human. It makes him real, not scripted. Dyanne Lyles, I think he's no worse than this man we got now. He's a family man and an honest man and I think he does the right thing.

SALAMA: It's interesting, yesterday "Bloomberg" had a quiz on who said it, Trump or Biden, and they put a bunch of quotes out there and we had our whole White House team take it. It was actually quite interesting to see the parallels in some of the things that they do say. I mean they're both very gaffe-prone in some ways. And to some of their voters, it may make them endearing, but, you know, obviously this is also a factual -- an issue of factuality and whether or not they're making just innocent gaffes or they're actually sort of stretching the truth. And so this is going to be something that Joe Biden has the same issue as Trump (INAUDIBLE).

BASH: And -- yes. What -- yes. And, obviously, the Trump campaign, the president himself is leading the strategy as he want to do, saying that this is an example of how he's old. Those of us who covered -- well, maybe none of you guys at this table covered him for a long time in the Senate, I did, this is Joe Biden. It is. This is not an age thing, this is a Joe Biden thing. He's a story teller, and these things, when Joe Biden tells stories, happens.

[12:20:16] LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And they -- and they were countless -- yes, that's right, Dana, and there were countless times when Joe Biden would get ahead of President Obama and kind of put his foot in his mouth because he said something he shouldn't have right at -- right at the most opportune time.

There's a key difference, though, between President Trump and former Vice President Biden, which is that President Trump has intentionally repeated falsehoods, whereas Biden, so far as we can tell, even with this story, he stands by that the essence of it is correct and that he did have an interaction with a soldier who did say those things to him and that he may have messed up the location and the name, but that he did have that interaction.

So I think that, to Lisa's point, yes, the question is whether or not all of these compiled together, all of these gaffes, all of these miss quotes or miss speaking by the vice president actually hurts him down the line and whether or not it wears down his support. But so far on the trail I haven't heard anything from voters about this.

BASH: Yes.

LERER: But there is a question whether -- you know, Republican have been very forgiving of Trump's misstatements, intentional or unintentional. And there is a question about whether that standard has carried over. There's no question a gaffe is no longer the gaffe it used be, right?

BASH: No.

LERER: Hillary under fire flying into Bosnia was a major thing for her campaign and it's not -- doesn't seem to be the same kind of situation here for Joe Biden.

But we don't exactly know how the new Trump rules translate on the Democratic side. And that's part of what we're all testing.

MATTINGLY: Or if they.

BASH: Or if they.

LERER: Or if they.

MATTINGLY: Or if they translate at all.

Look, I think Lisa hit the crucial point here, and that is, if this starts to have an impact, if this becomes a thing where people start getting concerned, not even necessarily in the primary, but get concerned that in a general election against President Trump, President Trump will fillet him for all of this stuff on a repeated basis and all of a sudden they get concerned that he can't beat President Trump, then it's a major problem. And that's what the campaign -- other campaigns have been factoring in as a possibility as people start to turn in, as more debates are held, as people actually start to vote.

If it doesn't, if people don't feel that way and if he's still leading in head-to-head polls, no matter if they matter or not, which they don't at this point, then I don't think it seeps in. But we just don't know the answer to that yet.

BASH: Well, we are looking at polls.

MATTINGLY: I know.

BASH: Stand by.

(INAUDIBLE) pollsters up next to tell us what to make of the numbers right now, this snapshot in time, when it comes to the president's approval on the economy and whether or not he has a problem, bigger problem with white women voters.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:27:27] BASH: As we wind down this summer, we want to just stop and take a look at the state of the 2020 race with some polling experts.

Joining me at the table, pollster on the Democratic side, Anna Greenberg, and Republican pollster Ed Goeas.

Thank you so much, both of you, for being here.

ED GOEAS, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Thank you.

BASH: I want to start with the most important issue, which is the economy, and to remind our viewers what happened this week with the Quinnipiac poll, which is -- mirrors other polls that we've seen, but it is a big warning sign for the president. You look at that there, 46 percent, that is his approval rating on the economy, which is -- was, has been the issue that has been propping him up because he had better approval rating for months and months and months. He's doing the worst that he's done in this poll.

Warning sign on the Republican side? Do you see that?

GOEAS: Certainly a warning sign, but also a reminder. I think there's many around the president that's trying to say, talk about the economy. That's what you need to really drive home. And he doesn't stay on the economy as much as he should. And I think that's one of the reasons why you see it coming down.

The other is where you see a very large number of people supporting him on his economic measures. The one question mark in that is trade. And trade specifically is hurting farmers more than anyone else out there. And that's where you have a lot of the rural Democrat, independents, conservative Republicans that are very big supporters of his but they're starting to take it on the chin because of trade. I think it's starting to raise some doubts about his economic policy.

BASH: You're seeing that in the numbers?

GOEAS: We are.

ANNA GREENBERG, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: I think the other important number from Quinnipiac is the percentage of people who say the economy is getting worse.

BASH: Yes.

GREENBERG: That's up about 10 points.

BASH: That's the first time he -- this is the first time in this poll that he's underwater --

GREENBERG: Yes.

BASH: Meaning more people disapprove than approve of how he's -- how the economy is going.

GREENBERG: Yes. Yes. And my internal polls have shown the same dynamics. And what I saw was that obviously Democrats account for a lot of the movement towards the economy getting worse, but there was a significant chunk of independents and even 20 percent of Republicans who said, I think the economy is getting worse. So it's not just that his approval numbers are underwater, it's that the perception of the economy is strong and growing is starting to, I think, be undermined. And I think -- I think Ed right -- is right, some of it is trade and the impact on the markets and people are watching the markets go up and down and they understand some of the uncertainty that's created in global markets by it.

But the other thing is, there are many economic challenges that people face that are independent of these national macro indicators like health care costs, right? So if now the economy is a little uncertain and you're still dealing with these incredible costs, it's hard to feel good about the president on the economy.

[12:30:05] BASH: Let's talk about women.