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Two Roles in One for Mike Pompeo; Trump Wants to Ban E- Cigarettes; Joe Biden Still on Top of CNN and Other Polls; New CNN Poll: Biden Leads Among Black Democrats At 42 Percent; Mark Sanford Launches Primary Challenge Against President Trump; Republican Primary Cancelled In Four States; CBO Predicts Average Budget Deficit Will Hit $1 Trillion In 2020. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired September 11, 2019 - 22:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: -- appreciate and make the most of what we have been gifted here in this country together, the freedom and the accommodations that some hate elsewhere we must always embrace. With so many so determined to take us down, we must always remember that us as a nation depends on us protecting one another. Nine/eleven, never forget. Always remember.

Thank you for watching. CNN Tonight with D. Lemon starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Well said. Well put. I flew today, and I thought about it as I was getting on that plane this morning. It was just an ordinary day for me, right? I had to fly and come here and do work -- how many people on that day thought it was just an ordinary day. They were getting on an airplane, or they left their loved ones and then all of a sudden that happened.

So, it made me think about it much, you know, harder because I was actually flying into New York. And I just thought about it -- every year of course you do, but it just -- I just tried to put myself in those families' shoes and say an extra prayer for them and just be mindful of the day today and not have it be about negativity but about positivity, concentrating on those folks how to be better as an American, how to do my job better, and how to honor those people and everyone in America who were affected by this.

CUOMO: I'll tell you what. One of the things I love about you is you are one of the people who remembers how lucky you are.


CUOMO: And remembers that it's easy -- it's just as easy to be nice as to not be nice. And that you embrace people for what they are even when they don't embrace you for what you are.

And the more we can do that, the more we can remember what makes us special, why some hate us, they want us to be divided. They want us to when you see a split screen like this, that it's a hard split.

And this country represents the positive opposite of all that animus. And that's what we got to remember on a day like today because obviously we do forget.

LEMON: Yes. Well, you know, just what you said. It's always easier if someone says -- because, you know, we get now people say rude things to us or do rude things. And I just smile and say, thank you. It was a pleasure meeting you.

Many times it defuses the situation, but other times it makes them angrier because I'm not buying into it, right, because they want to lash out and see me as something that I'm not one or I'm making fun of them or whatever. And it's really, it's like, I don't have time for that. You're a person just like I am. Let's just move on, right?

But, you know, on a day like today, it just makes you wonder what the heck happened since 9/11. We came together as Democrats, Republicans, independents, conservatives, liberals, black, white, Hispanic, Jewish, Muslim, we came together, right, just as Americans.

And I don't know what has happened since then, but especially over just the last couple of years that we have become so divided that we can barely even talk to each other or look each other in the eyes or give each other some leeway or say, you know -- everyone has a bad day every once in a while. Everyone is not on their best behavior every once in a while.

Does that mean that I need to be rude to you? Does that mean that I need to see you as an enemy? Does that mean I need to lash out at you? No. We all have bad days. We're all humans, and we should not be judged on our worst day by our worst action. It should be a culmination of things, of the entirety of our lives.

CUOMO: Your -- what you're saying is exactly right, but it also benefits from a very benign perspective, and people can lose perspective. I mean that's what we're struggling with in this country right now is that we're making trouble for ourselves.


CUOMO: We're teasing the fabric. We're pulling at the fabric, at the threads of what holds us together almost out of sport, for political advantage, opposition being rewarded because negativity is so intoxicating in this culture.

But when you get a real shock to your system, you remember what it really is that separates you. You remember how pointless petty disputes are and animus. When you see that somebody really wants to kill you --

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: -- that they'll take 2,977 people for no reason, it reminds you that what we have is precious. And I just hope that we don't need that kind of tragedy to reinforce what we could recognize every day.

LEMON: Man, you just took the words right out of my mouth. I hope we don't need it. Listen, there have been a number of many terrible things that have happened to me. Not once have I ever wanted -- you know this -- to lash out at someone personally or to anything.

Usually what I do is a pray for people or hope that they can be better, and I reach out to them even if they dislike me, even if they think I did -- I wronged them in some way. I will reach out to them to figure how we can make it better.


I've never once wanted retaliation or revenge for someone who I thought wronged me because it's more about the other person than it is about me. And on this side of whatever interaction, how do I make this situation better, and how do I make both of us better people rather than coming at it from a negative perspective.

And I wish that everyone could do that, not that I'm, you know, a saint or whatever. But I wish that people were -- instead of being judgmental, that they would be curious about other -- what someone else is about and about other people's actions.

CUOMO: You know, that day and for the weeks afterwards, this was such a quiet city, and a little bit of it was trauma. But also people understood that certain things are worth bumping your horn and telling somebody to get out of the way, and certain things aren't.


CUOMO: People were holding open the doors on the subway.


CUOMO: You were crossing the street and whatever time -- and I remember the day that I heard the horns again, and we started hearing these ugly stories about people attacking Sikh cab drivers thinking that they were Muslims, like that would make it OK.

And we started to see the reaction formation of the anger. And what wore off was this idea that hey, let's just hold on to what we have and remember how precious this all is. And then anger took over. Anger is a really, really strong force, and especially in political persuasion. And we're seeing it at play right now.

But on a day like today, you know, I hope people listened to the president this morning, what he was saying about the fragility of life, what he was saying about the need to remember precious moments between people because that was the right message.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: He was giving.

LEMON: Yes, I agree.

CUOMO: And I don't know who wrote it, and I don't care. He delivered it, and he delivered it well. And I hope that --

(CROSSTALK) LEMON: It was the right sentiment.

CUOMO: Yes, and I hope people who believe in him remember what he said today and see if it's consistent in what happens in the days ahead.

LEMON: Yes. Always remember.

CUOMO: Always remember.

LEMON: I'm going to pay you back for that whole Instagram bit.

CUOMO: You know I love you, D. Lemon.


LEMON: Just for you to see.

CUOMO: You know I love you. I was just jealous because it wasn't my boat you were jumping off of.

LEMON: You think I could even come close to a -- it was some very generous friend.

CUOMO: Someday, brother. Someday.

LEMON: One day. Thank you, sir.

CUOMO: All right.

LEMON: I appreciate it. See you soon. Always remember.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

And I got to tell you that CNN has learned that the president is considering -- this is important news. He's considering naming Mike Pompeo to replace his ousted national security adviser, former national security adviser John Bolton.

So, Pompeo, who is Bolton's chief rival by the way -- or was -- would simultaneously hold two full-time jobs, the secretary of state and the national security adviser at the same time, simultaneously. That's what that means obviously.

That as tensions with North Korea and Iran are heating up. The trade war with China is still going on, and the president is discussing a drawdown of forces in Afghanistan, and yes, Russia.

The president could really use a full-time national security adviser right now. Think about everything that is going on in the country and in the world.

But I have to call your attention to something else. I want to call your attention to this. There was also some actual governing going on today, really. The administration moving to ban flavored e-cigarettes after reports of some 450 cases of dangerous lung illness. At least six people have died.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We have a problem in our country. It's a new problem. It's a problem nobody really thought about too much a few years ago, and it's called vaping, especially vaping as it pertains to innocent children. People are dying with vaping.


LEMON: Well, the president is right to take action on e-cigarettes. Did you hear what I said? I said the president is right to take action on e-cigarettes. Six people have died, and that is a tragedy.

We need to know more about all of this, but we cannot ignore what we know about other threats to the public as well. Thirty-eight people died in mass shootings in this country just last month. What about them?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you prepared to do on guns, on background checks? What are you prepared to announce?

TRUMP: So I just spoke with Senator Toomey and Senator Murphy and Joe Manchin, Senator Joe Manchin. Just had a long time with them just before this meeting. Just hung up, and we are working very, very hard together, all of us, and we're seeing if we can come up with something that's acceptable to everybody.


LEMON: Something that's acceptable? OK. And how about this? How about something that actually does something to protect Americans from the next enraged person with a gun?

The House judiciary committee voting today to approve a red-flag bill and a ban on high capacity magazines, but those still have to be voted on by the full House. And the chances that the Senate will take up any gun legislation are pretty slim given that Mitch McConnell has said that he won't put a bill on the floor unless the president assures him that he'll sign it.


And then there is the unending effort by the White House, by this White House, to do whatever it takes to cover up the president's repeated false claims that Alabama was in the path of Hurricane Dorian.

A White House official is telling CNN the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, spoke with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross about that tweet from the Birmingham, Alabama, office of the National Weather Service contradicting the president. Mulvaney urging Ross to, quote, "fix the problem." The New York Times reports that Ross called NOAA's acting

administrator and told him to fix the agency's contradiction of the president, threatening to fire top NOAA employees if they didn't. An unsigned press release from NOAA did disavow that tweet last week.

The agency's chief scientist fighting back with a statement last night, including this, and this is a quote. "The content of this press release is very concerning as it compromises the ability of NOAA to convey life-saving information necessary to avoid substantial and specific danger to public health and safety. If the public cannot trust our information or we debase our forecasters' warnings and products, that specific danger arises."

But think about this whole thing for a minute. The acting chief of staff telling a member of the cabinet that it was a problem that anybody would contradict this president when he made false claims. False claims about a hurricane.

The problem that had to be fixed, even if it meant top employees losing their jobs -- losing their jobs if they refused to cover up for the president, who, not at all surprisingly, denies knowing anything about any of this, all of it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you tell your chief of staff to have NOAA disavow those forecasters who said that Alabama was not in the path of the storm?

TRUMP: No, I never did that.


LEMON: Let's remember, he even whipped out a map with a now famous sharpie scrawl over Alabama, a scrawl he reportedly put there himself. And I've said this before, but it bears repeating. Americans rely on information from NOAA and from the president to make what could be life or death decisions when a hurricane is threatening.

So, the facts are more important than this president's apparent inability to admit that he made a mistake. But there's one more thing that I want to say tonight. I want you to look at this. Please take a look at this.

The tribute in light here in New York City. The memorial to those who died when two hijacked planes crashed into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center, September 11th, 2001.

Solemn ceremonies also taking place today at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. So much has changed in the 18 years that have passed since that awful day. Then we came together as Americans in the face of almost unspeakable evil, and the world was with us.

Now we are more divided than we have been in decades. We're at odds with our allies. Our enemies are our friends. We have a president of the United States who tweeted today complaining about polls and news coverage just before he spoke at a 9/11 commemoration.

I have taken issue with his lack of solemnity on this day before. But that's not what I want to talk about tonight. All of it is out there for the world to see, and if that's what you want, you can easily find it for yourself.

If we want never forget to be more than a hashtag, we should be able to agree not to politicize 9/11, not on the day we remember 2,977 people who were murdered by terrorists here in New York, in Washington, and in that field outside Shanksville. They deserve so much more from us.

And in the face of all this, 10 of the Democrats vying for the chance to run against the president will take the debate stage tomorrow night. And we've got a new CNN poll on the tightening race. We're going to discuss it with Frank Bruni, Abby Phillip, Ryan Lizza, next.



LEMON: It is a big night tomorrow night for 10 of the Democratic candidates. They're going to face off in the latest debate, that as a new CNN poll released just hours ago shows Joe Biden holding on to his lead.

Let's discuss now. Frank Bruni is here, Abby Phillip, Ryan Lizza, as well. Look at those attractive faces right there. And you should see their brains, really smart people.

So let's see if they're as smart as we think they are, as I just said they are. Good evening to all of you. Frank, I'm going to start with you. The 2020 Dems on the debate stage tomorrow night. Tell me what's at stake.

FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean a lot's at stake for all of them because for starters, Joe Biden's lead, you mentioned, endures.


BRUNI: You know what I mean he's ahead in your poll. But it's not the lead he once had, and I think it's a soft lead. I think a lot of eyes will be on Elizabeth Warren because she has had a great last couple of months. She seems to have a lot of velocity, and the question is whether she can convert that into actually catching Joe Biden and what their exchanges will be like.

This is the first time that Warren and Biden have been on the stage together.


BRUNI: You know, because as we've gone through this, there's been a split group. Now we have the 10 leaders all on the stage together, and it's the first time that Warren and Biden have met each other, and nobody knows how that's going to go.


LEMON: Yes. And it's also really Democrats' chance, Abby, to grab some of the headlines back from the guy in the White House, right?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and it's their chance to really try to capture the attention of voters who frankly seem to be a little bit underwhelmed by this field. I mean, I do think it's quite early, and a lot of people are not paying attention.

But, you know, when you think back to the 2016 election at this point in 2015, it was really Donald Trump and all the rest of the Republicans. It was something people could not turn away from.

I think the Democratic primary really has not been that. But at the same time there's been a pretty substantive debate about ideas and about ideology within the Democratic Party.

For a lot of the candidates tomorrow, I think it's going to be about seeing what these dynamics shape up to be. I think a lot of eyes are going to be and targets are going to be on Elizabeth Warren. A lot of the campaigns, not just Joe Biden, see her rise as something of a threat because it's been so persistent and so steady, and she's been moving up so much. I think a lot of people are looking to see how much incoming she can take tomorrow night.

LEMON: You're right. Around this time, we had already had the heroes -- I like heroes who were not captured. We have had I think around blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of wherever. We've had who's doing the raping done. Somebody is doing the raping.

We had all these things happened around this time. So, Abby, you're right. This is -- it doesn't feel the same. The intensity doesn't feel the same and the interest.

And I got -- I want to talk about that similarly, because, Ryan, I am fascinated by your piece in Politico. Biden's team doesn't think their campaign is treated fairly, right, because Trump always says that. Right. And he's always in that.


LEMON: And you said, "What is clear is that the critics who are louder and more visible online and on cable TV have had absolutely no impact on changing Biden's status as a steady front-runner in the race."

What is the source of Biden's support? What does the Biden team think the media and the loud folks on Twitter are missing?

LIZZA: Well, they think that there's a mismatch between the elite political conversation on social media and Twitter. Remember, only a tiny, tiny percentage of Democratic voters are even on Twitter.

So, the conversation there tends to be much, much further to the left Democrats, much younger, and Biden's voters are older. They are more working class, and he has more people of color in his coalition right now.

And if you were -- you know, if you follow the conversation online, you know, Biden is sometimes treated by Democrats only a little bit better than Donald Trump whereas, you know, there's lots of enthusiasm for progressives like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

So that's just a mismatch in our, you know, in the media environment. You know, the Biden campaign, as this piece makes clear, there's a lot of frustration over there about this but also a sense of it doesn't matter. They ignore, you know, the Twitter warfare, and they, you know, went through the series of negative stories about Biden and invading women's personal space.

They went through the series of stories about Biden and his long and complicated history on race. And nothing really changed the polls.

So, I think, you know, there's a little bit of gloating in that camp perhaps that they understand the Democratic electorate and that Biden's voters are more solid than a lot of his opponents and frankly us in the media believed when he got in this race. And that's -- you know, that's largely what the piece explores --


LIZZA: -- is the source of his resilience.

LEMON: What is that look, Frank? And my sense is that pensive? What are you, are you disagreeing?

BRUNI: Well, I think Biden's advisers are right and they're wrong. They are right that we've been a bit single narrative in the media. It's all been about his gaffes and tallying them. And I think voters were looking more than just that.

But what we're noticing is going to become more noticeable to voters as they tune as more time goes by. And a lot of those voters who are with Biden are with him because they think he has the best chance of beating Trump.

If they continue to see him stumble, make mistakes, make up things, seem unsteady on the stump, they're going to question their own judgment about him being the fiercest adversary for Trump. And then it all crumbles.

LEMON: So, let me tell you why you're so smart. Abby, and I promise I'll let you get in after this. But we can put it up too, because a new poll shows that the race is tightening. So, you know, but look at 18 to 24. He was way ahead before.

BRUNI: That's right. This lead is smaller than it was. That's important.

LEMON: I like to use my own mother as the -- to do my polling.

BRUNI: She is focused group.

LEMON: She said the exact same thing to me last night or the night before -- the night before that you said on my rode home.

BRUNI: Well, she and I --



LEMON: She said, I was watching all of them, blah, blah, blah. She thinks that, you know, we pay too much attention to the critics on Twitter because they really don't -- they're a small group and they're young people, and they just don't understand the moment we're in right now. But she said, he better stop making these gaffes. I wish he would stop making these gaffes.

BRUNI: Democrats want to put forward the candidate who is going to end Donald Trump and limit him to one term. And if Joe Biden continues to seem unsteady, their affection for him, the fact that he's the comforter, the familiar, the fact that he's tradition and we've tried this untraditional thing, a lot of those things are no longer going to help him as much as they're helping him now.

LEMON: Go ahead, Abby. Sorry.

PHILLIP: No. I mean, I think that those things are all true and valid. But I also think that there is reason to believe that the support for Biden is a little bit more durable than a lot of the campaigns wish that it were.

And some of that has to do with -- I mean if you look a little deeper into, for example, the ABC News/Washington Post poll, there was a question about who do you think would be the best president of the United States? That's a separate question from who do you think will beat Donald Trump or win this next election. And most voters say Joe Biden. They just do.

And I think so even though he outstrips his opponents on the electability question about how well he will match up against Trump by quite a bit more, he still wins the question of who do they think is going to be the best president.

So, a lot of Biden's support is actually people who think that he's actually the guy that they want running the country, Donald Trump or no Donald Trump. And I think Democrats are going to have to undermine that if they want to beat him.

And then Ryan also pointed out something that I think is important about Biden support that a lot of the other candidates have yet to figure out, which is what Biden is -- the argument he's making is I can win over working-class, white voters and a coalition of people of color that comprise the Democratic Party.

And so any person who is going to be the nominee is going to have to do some measure of both of those things, and, you know, until and unless that happens, I think it's going to be much more difficult for Democrats to just say to their own party, you know, don't even worry about electability. Don't worry about whether or not Joe Biden -- you think Joe Biden can beat Trump. We can all beat Trump.

They're going to have to actually meet a lot of other criteria too, which is why this has been a lot more difficult than many of them have expected.

LEMON: Ryan, don't get mad at me. You know how it works at time here. But if you can respond quickly, but I just want --


LIZZA: That's fine, Don.

LEMON: -- to talk about -- can we just put up the quote? Let's put up the quote and then I want you to respond to this because you talk about Biden -- Biden's campaign. They think that this smack of elitism, right?

Where you said that Warren and most of her local supporters believe that Biden's voters --


LEMON: -- that you're saying that they -- the people who are Biden's voters, they don't think that they know what is right for them, and they don't understand their support for them when they're fully aware of why they're supporting him.

LIZZA: Yes. I think this is a really interesting debate because if you talk to the other campaigns, the thing you hear about over and over again is, those Biden voters, they are just supporting him because he's the most famous guy in the race. It's all about name I.D.

When they actually pay attention, they'll realize they don't support him, and then they'll come running over to Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders or whoever. And first of all, a lot of the polling does not show that. The people who are most politically aware are -- Biden has a majority --


LEMON: Working class and people of color.

LIZZA: Yes. And, look, he has the broadest multi-racial coalition right now. And number two, from the Biden campaign's perspective, there is this sense of, you know, elitism as you say, Don, that, you know, these voters don't know why they like Biden. They're too stupid to know that. I think that's a fascinating debate. That debate is going to be more engaged as the next few weeks go on.


LIZZA: And then one final point. I do think --


LEMON: Quick, quick, please.

LIZZA: You have to look at Elizabeth Warren's numbers on electability have been going up, and the more Donald Trump looks vulnerable, the more the non-Biden candidates will do better on electability because I think Democrats will become less risk-averse.

LEMON: Fascinating conversation. Thank you all.

LIZZA: He look easy to beat.

LEMON: Yes. I really appreciate it.

LIZZA: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Thank you. We'll be right back.



DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Ten Democrats set to take the debate stage tomorrow night as our new CNN poll shows Joe Biden in the top spot of a tightening race. And African-American voters are a big part of the reason that he is the front-runner. Let's discuss now. Tara Setmayer is here, Jamal Simmons. Always love seeing both of you. Thank you so much.


LEMON: Hey. Tara, I'm going to start with you.


LEMON: Ahead of tomorrow night's debate, we have a new poll, new CNN poll that is out, it is heated Biden's coalition here it shows black voters. He's polling at 42 percent. Compare that to Sanders at 12 percent, Warren, 10 percent, Harris 8 percent, Yang at 5 percent. Why is Biden's support so strong here?

SETMAYER: Well, I mean it's clear, it's because he was -- the goodwill that he has generated with the black community as President Obama's vice president for eight years has -- is the reason why people feel comfortable with him. And plus he's spent decades in the senate. He's built up this goodwill with black leaders nationally across the country. And that translates into his support on the ground.

He's older -- the support from the older generation of black Americans is also crucial too, because they vote in larger numbers. You're seeing -- what's interesting about this number is that you are seeing a generational divide. Younger black voters are not necessarily as enthusiastic about Biden as the older, you know, 55, 60-plus voters who feel comfortable with him. It's Uncle Joe. They know him. They have that familiarity. So that is enduring, and that is why you see Biden doing so well, especially in places like South Carolina. LEMON: But, Jamal, you say that Biden support is wide, but not deep.

Explain that.

SIMMONS: Yes, I think it is pretty wide. The question is how deep is it? We may find out it's deeper than we think. We may find out that voters aren't really concerned about some of the things that a lot of us in the, you know, political pundit class are paying attention to, but it's also very, really possible that as voters get to see Joe Biden more often and more up close and they see him on television at these events, they start to ask some real questions.


Here's one thing we have to pay attention to. Right now, according to the CBS battleground tracker that came out on Sunday. Joe Biden is three points ahead of Bernie Sanders in Iowa. The Bernie Sanders are closing. He is one point behind Elizabeth Warren in New Hampshire according to that poll. What happens if Bernie Sanders wins in Iowa, Elizabeth Warren wins in New Hampshire, and then we're not sure what happens in Nevada?

And so he goes to South Carolina. Maybe he's two, maybe he's three contests down. He hasn't won a single race. You think voters then rally to a candidate who hasn't won any campaign of the first two or three states? I think that that support -- that is what we'll find out how deep that support really is.

LEMON: Didn't Obama -- didn't they do that with Obama, though?

SETMAYER: That is true.

SIMMONS: They didn't. Obama won Iowa. He had a win under his belt. And then he lost two states. And then he won South Carolina. It's very possible that Joe Biden may not have won any of them.

SETMAYER: True, but the dynamics here are so much different. I also think that voters, especially black voters, are looking at who is in the White House now. The bottom line is Donald Trump has got to go.

LEMON: That is where I'm going with this question. Let me ask you this question because I want to put up this poll number. I want what you think those numbers -- the numbers to Biden when you compare to Trump supporters, right? Trump support among black voters, 15 percent among black men, 3 percent among black women. Go ahead, Tara.

SETMAYER: Yes, and that is an interesting number as well. I mean, any other Republican president would be really happy with numbers like that because, you know, it's been such a challenge for Republicans to get any black support, never mind double-digit black support among black men. That is interesting. And that was also the case during the election in 2016. More black men supported Trump than black women, and that is a whole other dynamic --

LEMON: That is a whole another show.

(LAUGHTER) SIMMONS: It was true in 2004 also with George W. Bush. George W. Bush

got about 12 percent of black votes.

SETMAYER: Right, look -- yes, about that, but just given Donald Trump's behavior persona, it's a fascinating dynamic in my opinion. But, listen, Joe Biden is experienced. He's ready to be president on day one. And I think that voters recognize that, especially black voters. They look at him and say, he was a heartbeat away from the presidency for eight years. And Barack Obama is beloved. He trusted Joe Biden and put him in that position, so why shouldn't we?

He is the man of the moment now. He can bring normalcy, bring governing back, bring some type of respectability back to the White House that just doesn't exist with the current president. And the other Democratic candidates, they're unknowns. People are not really looking to go toward something they don't know. We tried that already. So I think that comfort level and experience is really important and an asset for Joe Biden.

LEMON: That's got to be the last word. Thank you both. I'll see you soon. We're out of time now.

Our new CNN poll shows 77 percent of Republicans want to re-nominate the president in 2020, but that is not stopping some Republicans from challenging him. I'm going to speak to one of those challengers, next.



LEMON: Former South Carolina governor and Congressman Mark Sanford is challenging President Trump for the Republican nomination, but the president enjoys an 88 percent approval rating among Republicans. How do you run against that? Well, let's ask him. Mark Sanford is here.

FMR. REP. MARK SANFORD (R-SC): One day at a time.

LEMON: Yes, how do you run against that? Welcome by the way. How do you run against that?

SANFORD: Well, like I say, one day at a time.

LEMON: Well, let me put this poll up as you answer.

SANFORD: Yes, but I would say this. I think you do it by talking about issues. The president is the master of the insult. He is the master of the putdown, but at the end of the day, insults and putdowns do not solve problems for people in this country. And I think that there is a thirst whether on the Republican or Democratic side for resolve to issues that matter to their lives.

And so the way I'm going to attempt to do it is talk about issues that I think have a bearing and impact in people's lives on the Republican side, and then if we make it through the primary process, in the general election side as well. LEMON: OK. So, I had the poll up as you were talking, 77 percent of

Republicans want to re-nominate the president compared to 20 percent who want a different candidate. I wonder maybe there's a glimmer of hope in those numbers for you. You said focus on the issues. Don't be an insult person, but what do you hope to accomplish with your primary challenge?

SANFORD: Well, again, as you well know, a poll is a snapshot in time. And so I think if you polled most Republicans out there and said would you rather have Donald Trump or Elizabeth Warren, they'll pick Donald Trump every time. And so I think, you know, the absent -- a choice, people would say, yes, we kind of stick with the horse we got.

I think what's important about this primary process and the beginning of a debate is to offer people a choice. And I think it's particularly constructive given the number of times the president's gone back on things that he said he would do, for instance, a linchpin of what the Republican Party supposedly was once about was the notion of financial sanity.

He was the one who said, if you elect me, I will eliminate the debt over the eight years that I would be in office. In fact, it's gone the reverse. And, in fact, the numbers are at unprecedented levels in peace time. I think that that is a conversation worth having within Republican circles though it impacts all of us as Americans.

LEMON: OK. Let me ask you a couple things. You said Trump versus Warren in your answer there. What about Trump versus Biden?

SANFORD: Well, I just listened to the last segment. What everybody seemed to be saying was --

LEMON: She is on the move. He is still ahead, though.

SANFORD: Yes. He is, but I'm just listening to what I was hearing the last segment.

LEMON: OK, let me ask you, because you said, you mentioned choice, right? You know, you think voters, especially Republican voters, need a choice. At least four states including your home state of South Carolina have canceled their Republican primaries and will give their delegates to President Trump.


Trump says he had nothing to do with that, you know, with them making that decision, but is it a sign that they're worried about challengers? What do you think of that?

SANFORD: Absolutely. Think about this for one second. If I was in his shoes and you had the first in the south Republican primary in South Carolina that has real implications in the subsequent primaries that will follow, tell me you're not going to take an 88 or 90 percent win. You'll do it all day long given its signal to the rest of the states that follow. Instead they cancel it. Now, that is pretty interesting. Why in the

world would you do that? It says that somebody in that organization is looking at numbers that tell him his support is indeed wide, but perhaps an inch deep. And I think it's particularly telling in South Carolina. We've taken great pride over the years in being first in the south in the Republican primary.

You know, all kinds of influence and voices come to this state over the years. It's just not believable to think, well, you know, we did it because it would save some money. No. We did it to protect the president, and I think at the end of the day, it gives less voice to South Carolinians and it's a harbinger just as that race up in Charlotte was of some cracks in the armor.

LEMON: Well, the president had a few choice words to say about you. I'm going to let everybody hear it including you and get your response right after this break.




LEMON: We're back now with South Carolina governor -- former South Carolina governor and Congressman Mark Sanford. OK, so listen, President Trump spoke about you and the other two Republican challengers the other day. Watch this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not looking to give them any credibility. They have no credibility. One was a person that voted for Obama, ran as a vice president. Four years ago and was soundly defeated. Another one got thrown out after one term in Congress and he lost in a landslide. And the third one, Mr. Tallahassee Trail or Appalachian Trail, he's the Appalachian Trail, right? The Tallahassee trail is nice, too. But I think he was the Appalachian Trail, but he wasn't on the Appalachian Trail. He was in Argentina.


LEMON: So he is dismissive of you and others. If he is not worried then why attack?

SANFORD: I would agree with that. And I think what's interesting is, again, everybody in the world seems to be a loser except for Donald Trump. And so Rex Tillerson, whether you like the guy or not, he was head of Exxon, a bog company and he was Secretary of State, but he's a loser. Dumb as a rock in the words of Donald Trump.

You think about Paul Ryan, who shepherded the tax bill, whether you like him or not, again, Speaker of the House, but a loser in Trump world. Everybody's a loser compared the Donald Trump and that I think is what is, at the end of the day undermining to his agenda, to the politics around him, and to the ideas allegedly that he stood for on the Republican side.

LEMON: The website --

SANFORD: Yes, I would just say this. Can I just say this? I mean, you know, what he is trying to point to is, do I have baggage? Yes. I have baggage. We all have baggage.

LEMON: Well, he doesn't have any. That was sarcasm.

SANFORD: But mine is -- wait, but mine is a carry on.

LEMON: That was sarcasm.

SANFORD: He needs a private jet to move his stuff around and I think that, you know, this is -- I mean, there's a reason that the Trump Tower is a glass tower. I mean, this guy lives in a glass house, but he doesn't seem to act that way and I think that is what so perplexing for many of us about the things that he says and does.

LEMON: The website Business Insider announced that -- they are going to be hosting a GOP debate later this month. The former Congressman Joe Walsh, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, they said that they're going to be there. What about you? Are you going to be there?

SANFORD: Yes. I'm unaware of this, but yes. If I can be there I'll be there. Glad to do it.

LEMON: You said that there's an economic storm coming on. I'm wondering why you say that, economic storm, particularly as it relates to our national debt and budget deficit. Starting (inaudible), the Federal budget would be at least a trillion dollars a year for the next decade. What has happened to Republicans as fiscal conservatives? What's going on here?

SANFORD: Well, that is the central thesis if you want to call it that of my campaign. And if I'm right on it the campaign will have legs and will go somewhere. If I'm wrong it will be shorted lived and the question is this. All of those thousands of conversations I had with people over my time in the governorship and in Congress where I talked to small business person, they were talking about how they struggled to make it or talks to a family, they were talking about how they struggle to balance the family checkbook.

Either those conversations were real and money matters to folks or they were not real. So I think there's a real disconnect between what you hear at the political level where nobody is talking about debt, deficit and our financial conundrum and the voter level wherein people have sort of left that issue alone. Because nobody's talking about it, but I think it is central. I think indeed the storm is coming.

And if you look at the numbers we're at unprecedented points in American history given where we are on debt and peacetime, deficits and peacetime. And what it means is, there's always a straw that breaks the camel's back and I think that we are at that point and if now we begin to go into a downturn and we're at an economic expansion that's about double the length of a normal upturn basically over the last 70 years.


If we go down, there are few tools in the tool kit to turn things around from the standpoint of fed activity, who is saying important fiscal policy given those trillion dollar deficits that we are now running.

LEMON: Mark Sanford, thank you so much.

SANFORD: My pleasure. Thanks for letting me join you.

LEMON: Absolutely.

We are going to tell you who the president is considering for his fourth national security adviser and why it could be yet another blow for John Bolton. That is next.


LEMON: This is CNN tonight. I'm Don Lemon. We are going to --