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Republican Narrowly Wins in North Carolina; Weakness in NC Suburbs; Bolton Out at National Security Adviser. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 11, 2019 - 12:00   ET



BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And you can feel that down here at the memorial site. Again, this will wrap up soon. But then members of the public will be able to pay their respects as well throughout the day.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Brynn, thank you for bringing that focus. I really appreciate it. It was lovely.

And thank you all so much for joining me on this day and every day. I really appreciate it.

INSIDE POLITICS with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Kate.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

Republicans celebrate a win in a close House special election in North Carolina. But with victory comes more proof the president's unpopularity in the suburbs is a drag on Republican candidates across America.

Plus, debate, round three for the 2020 Democrats. Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren share the stage for the first time, and new numbers show the Massachusetts senator, at the moment, is a rising threat to the former vice president.

And on this September 11th, 18 years later, a pause to reflect and remember.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My brother, Firefighter Paul Hanlon Keating. Paully (ph) lived right down the street and ran into the fire house, ran into a burning building and never came out. We're proud of him, but we miss him every single day.


KING: We will have more on those 9/11 ceremonies and remembrances throughout the hour.

We begin, though, with the day after take on a big, special election in North Carolina. The bottom line is the Republican won and President Trump has every right to claim a piece of the credit for that. But it was close, very, very close, in a district built for Republican dominance. And because of that, both parties studying the results for any clues about the 2020 terrain.

Let's take a look. Here it is. We'll stretch it out a little bit. It's the Ninth House District in the state of North Carolina. You see the Republican, Dan Bishop, winning. A win is a win, right? A two point win, 3,860 votes, 100 percent of the vote in. But, yes, the Republicans won this district. However, they've held this district since 1963. It was drawn by Republicans for Republicans. So that it was that close has some Republicans a little bit nervous.

How did it break out? Well, remember, the president's claiming credit, and he should. He visited this part of the district late. In Cumberland County. That's not a big win. But Dan McCready, the Democrat, knew to win the district he needed the Fayetteville suburbs, he needed this to be blue. It is red today. The Republican wins.

Move over here. Dan McCready was on the ballot last year. That election never certified because of some fraud injuries. He won Robeson County again last night, but he won it by a bigger margin back in 2018. A problem there.

Where the Democrats are saying, hey, you know, this is not a total loss for us is over in this part of the district, near Charlotte, the district touches Charlotte, moves out into the southeast suburbs of Charlotte. Look how well the Democrat, Dan McCready, did there. We have seen this throughout 2018, early 2019. The president's problems in the suburbs extend to other Republican candidates.

Here's the conversation today. It's a win. Dan Bishop will be the congressman from the Ninth District. But, if you're a Republican on the fence about retiring next year, is there a clue here for you? A two-point race.

Just go back to the presidential election. Not apples and apples comparing a presidential year to a special election, but President Trump won this district by 12 points not that long ago, so there's something happening in North Carolina Nine, something happening in the American suburbs. On this day, though, the Republican, Dan Bishop, says, I won, and thank you, Mr. President.


DAN BISHOP (R), NORTH CAROLINA CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: I've only been in six months and really just six weeks did we have a level playing field financially with a -- with a campaign on the other side that was running with, you know, $10 million -- $12 million of outside money seeking to flip the seat blue. So we were -- we were far behind. We were making progress, but the president and Vice President Pence coming in, I think it put us over the top.


KING: Here with me this day to share their reporting and their insights, Seung Min Kim with "The Washington Post," Oliver Knox with Sirius XM, Catherine Lucey with "The Wall Street Journal," and Laura Barron-Lopez with "Politico."

Two things can be true at once in that Republicans won and they should be happy they won and how they won in the end. They were behind in this race not that long ago. And, if you look deep into the numbers, it's not all good news for Republicans.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a -- I mean, you're right, a win is a win. But if you just look at the numbers, it's not the greatest signs for Republicans right now. He won by -- Bishop won by two points. That is a district that Trump won by 12 points in 2016. And so it should have been in the bag. The president and the vice president shouldn't necessarily have to have done this major get out the vote based turn out operation at the end of the day. And I think that's what Democrats are pointing to a lot, that this is a district that Republicans should have kept easily in control.

And while special elections aren't always indicative of what happens the following November, I mean you recall there was a big 2009 very closely watched special election in New York where a Republican held seat flipped to Democrats. Obviously there was a blood bath next year on the part of Democrats.


But it's a trajectory that clearly Republican who want to win back the House are not going to like. And there is a stream of retirements already. There are 14 House Republican retirements. Now there are some who are running for higher office. But some of the races -- or some of the districts where they are vacating are a lot tougher than this particular district. You look at Will Hurd's district and Pete Olson's district in Texas, and that's what Republicans are worried about right now.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and so, I mean, if you're a retiring Republican and you see last night's result, it doesn't necessarily -- if you're -- if you're thinking about retiring, I mean, it doesn't necessarily make you feel better about what happened last night. You don't look at it and say, oh, maybe I have an ability to stick around or maybe we have better prospects for winning back the House.

I was texting with consultants last night who said that it was embarrassing that the GOP had to spend the amount of money that it did, to Seung Min's point, to even win by two points in a district that has long time been Republican. And so what this means about North Carolina is that a lot of Republicans think that someone like Tom Tillis, the senator who's up for re-election there, needs to be as close to Trump as possible, that a lot of Republicans, you live or you die by the president heading into 2020.

KING: Right, that's a great point. I want to come back to the House calculation for a minute though.

If you are a Republican and you are already thinking about retiring, that's where this race kicks in, in the sense that you -- if your district touches suburbs and you've watched those suburbs drift, you now know, yes, I can probably win my race, but I'm going to have to work a lot harder. I'm going to have to raise a lot more money and I'm likely coming back to being in the minority, even if I win. Do I want to do that?

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": It's a tough calculation. I think that's absolutely right. For a lot of Republicans staring down these kinds of districts with these kinds of numbers, these are tough choices they're making. And we've seen the president express some frustration this week on Twitter with retirements and the -- you know, people leaving the House.

But certainly on the president's side, he and his advisors are taking some comfort from this result today. The campaign did a conference call a little while ago sort of touting these results and specifically making the argument that the president helped get this over the finish line. And that's really what they -- they want to highlight today is that he came in, in the 11th hour. He helped get this done. They did push back quite a bit against questions specifically about weakness in the suburbs. That was not something they wanted to talk about.

OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, SIRIUS XM: And look at the pattern of the presidential communication for the past week or two. It's been -- there's not a recession coming, the polls that show me at low popularity are not real. You know, it's been -- it's been a steady -- a steady drum beat of rejecting storm clouds, in fact. And so this helps him, to some degree. I'm wondering, if those retiring or maybe retiring Republicans, are probably sitting down now saying, OK, can I want a -- can I replicate this? Do I want to replicate this? And can I get the president on board to help me replicate it?

KING: Right. And there are at least two sides of every coin. You mentioned the Tillis race there. Dave Wasserman (ph), and this is a tweet that Steve Bullock, who's a long shot in the Democratic race, who's trying to break through with the message that, hey, look at me, I'm a guy, the governor of Montana. I can win in red rural areas. That's what he's trying to break though. And so he's trying to take advantage of this, if you look at the Bullock part of it.

But Dave Wasserman makes an interesting point. Yes, the Republicans have some issues here, but so do the Democrats. Frankly, it's easy to see a very liberal, coastal Dem presidential nominee performing much worse than McCready and Clinton among these voters. Dems underestimate how much room there is still to fall with these anti-elite voters at their own peril, in the sense that, if you look at the district, if you just were running in the suburbs, Democrats say yay. If you look at these rural areas, which 25, 30 years ago were the -- part of the Democratic base, forget it, they are getting redder, more Trump, as we watch the suburbs get bluer, less Trump.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Right. And the interesting thing about North Carolina Nine, as you just pointed out, it's a mixture of ex-urban and rural and where Democrats had their revolt in 2018 was in suburban. So if they are able to drive up turnout in those areas, McCready did drive up more turnout in Mecklenburg County last night. More than he even did in 2018. And so if Democrats are able to balance it out in 2020, then that's where they can win because rural, you see that if Trump makes a visit to those districts or to that -- to certain states, that he can help galvanize that base and turn them out.

KING: Right. And the president trying to reinforce that point with tweets last night. A big night for the Republican Party. Congratulations to all. He mentioned the other North Carolina race as a rock-solid Republican race that wasn't even close. Greg Murphy winning easily there. Dan Bishop, the president saying, was down 17 points three weeks ago. He asked me for help. We changed his strategy together. So the president taking some credit for that there.

But, to the president -- if you're a Republican, even if you're a little nervous about Trump, these elections -- if you run for him, you run at your peril, because then you deal with him coming after you as well as your Democrat coming after you.

What else are people hearing in the sense that this race, because it -- it's almost alone as a competitive race becomes a laboratory. The Chamber of Commerce, for example, didn't do any television. They normally do television ads in races. They did all digital advertising, text messages. The Trump campaign, the president has a rally like that. It's not just to put a few thousand people in a room, it's to get their phone numbers. So you text them and you see if they turned out. And if they did, then you go back and ask them, what was it? Was it the immigration text? Was it the economic text? What got you to drive out? The campaigns use this as a lab to test their 2020 gizmos.


KNOX: The thing I heard last night from a couple Republicans was, this means you can't run the same campaign that Rob Portman ran where he ran a Senate campaign where he basically declined to talk about Trump entirely, focused on his state issues and the rest of it. They said, nope, now you've got to -- you've got to hug the president and you've got to hug this -- the message from the campaign, which is, boo socialism, you know, boo elites, boo liberals, boo green new deal, et cetera. They're saying, unlike the message of 2018 and of last night is that you can't run the kind of campaign that Portman ran.

KING: To your very point, this is Dan Bishop, the Republican winner, this morning on television. Listen to Dan Bishop. You hear Donald Trump.


DAN BISHOP (R), NORTH CAROLINA CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: 2018 was a very different time than now. That was before the squad emerged. That was before the time that Democrats emerged openly embracing -- the Democratic presidential candidates emerged openly embracing socialism.

As President Trump says sometimes to people, what do you have to lose? You have an economy that is surging. You have employment -- unemployment numbers that are the best in history for multiple groups. It really is a pretty attractive picture.

And if there was a narrow margin here, the best explanation for it is, we had a lot to do in six weeks basically.


KING: We'll debate the future after this race, but it is clear in the present the president has a new ally in Congress.

LUCEY: Definitely.

KIM: Absolutely.

LUCEY: And it's Trump's, as we discussed many times on this show, it's Trump's Republican Party. You're either -- you're with -- you have to be with him in most of these races to have any shot.

KING: It is. And as we go to break today, we're going to do this several times throughout this show. We want to show you some of the ceremonies and remembrances around the country on this very important day 18 years after 9/11. This, the president of the United States at the Pentagon a short time ago.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We offer you all that we have, our unwavering loyalty, our undying devotion and our eternal pledge that your loved ones will never ever be forgotten.




KING: Today, more fallout from John Bolton's departure and debate about how it happened. Sources telling CNN two of Bolton's closest allies on the National Security Council are following him out the door.

The immediate challenge now for the administration, finding a fourth national security advisor. Sources tell CNN the list of potential replacements includes at least ten names.

The reasons for Bolton's dismissal, pretty obvious, he repeatedly doubted President Trump's foreign policy plans and tried to check what he viewed as his boss' bad instincts.

The big question, will any pick to replace Bolton be able to influence a president that increasingly ignores his advisers and governs by his own gut.

Listen to the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, right here laying out the job expectations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: The president's entitled to the staff that he wants at any moment. This is a staff person who works directly for the president of the United States and he should have people that he trusts and values and whose efforts and judgments benefit him in delivering American foreign policy. It's what as cabinet members, Secretary Mnuchin and I try and do each and every day.


KING: Interesting when you listen. He didn't really say anything there, but that's the point, that if you're a cabinet member, you do your job quietly. If you've got a difference with the president, you do it one on one with no cameras in the room. And when you're standing there in the White House Briefing Room, you play nice. And the knock on John Bolton is, he didn't do many of those things.

KNOX: Yes, I mean, with -- with -- but with the exception of wanting to or not wanting to work for this president, John Bolton left the White House the same way he -- the same man that he was when he -- when he went in. I mean all this stuff is like, he turned out to be caustic. Really, guys?

KING: Yes.

KNOX: He turns out to, you know, not want to cut deals with -- not want to really negotiate with some of these rogue regimes. Oh really? That's also not new.

KING: Right.

KNOX: And so it's interesting to me to see Mike Pompeo, who now emerges as the first among equals with that national security team, it's interesting to hear -- to hear what he said.

There's some emerging reporting that the last thing was a fight over whether to ease sanctions on Iran. That would, of course, that would be one of the things that does it.

KING: Right.

KNOX: Parenthetically (ph), a list of ten names tells me that no one has any idea --

KING: Right.

KNOX: Who's going to -- who's going to do that job, who will agree to do the job, and whether they will take Mick Mulvaney's approach, the stay out of the way, don't try to influence the president, don't try to manage this president, run your own affairs over here approach to the job.

KIM: And that --

LUCEY: What's interesting too is that -- oh -- is that the president seemed to, for some time, enjoy this sort of team of rivals makeup of his advisers that he had sort of dueling -- he himself sort of vacillates between engagement and tough talk and -- and between Bolton and Pompeo and others, he sort of had that in the room a lot. And he, up until he didn't, repeatedly said he liked it that way, that he liked that he had this hawk who was, you know, more extreme than he was at times. And so it will be an interesting thing to see now is, does he want someone who offers a central (ph) voice or does he want somebody who's going to fall more in line.

KING: And it is also a textbook example of -- the Democrats have these fights too. But if the fights within the Republican Party over just about everything. Trump is not a fiscal conservative. On foreign policy, he is not John McCain. He's not John Bolton. He's somewhere in between. He's more Rand Paul most days than he is John McCain, although his advisers have pushed him to make decisions that are more establishment, outside of the president's instincts.

"The Wall Street Journal" puts it this way, John Bolton resigned as White House national security adviser on Tuesday, which must delight North Korea's Kim Jong-un, Iran's Hassan Rouhani, Russia's Vladimir Putin, and Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro.


America's adversaries lost a rare internal restraint on President Trump's inconstant and transactional security instincts. The world is now a more dangerous place.

That is the conservative "Wall Street Journal" editorial board. But among those the president listens to, whether you like it or not, are the hosts on Fox News. And one of them, Tucker Carlson, says, yay.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: It is great news for America, especially for the large number of young people who would have been killed in pointless wars if Bolton had stayed on the job. They may not be celebrating tonight, but they should be.

If you're wondering why so many progressives are mourning Bolton's firing tonight, it's because Bolton himself fundamentally was a man of the left. There was not a human problem John Bolton wasn't totally convinced could be solved with the brute force of government. That's an assumption of the left, not the right. Don't let the mustache fool you.


KING: Tucker's gone through his own pretzel as opposed to sort of where he is ideologically. The part about the left is a tad odd.

But there is a -- that's a more Rand Paul view. And, again, you remember -- you were making your point about John Bolton, really, why is anybody surprised. If you remember him from either the first or the second Bush administration, he is a strong -- he's a hawk. I also think it's wrong to say he came to work every day looking to start a war. He just did not rule out using military force or the threat of military force to intimidate people. KNOX: Right. He reinforced the president's skepticism of multilateral arrangements and institutions.

KING: Right.

KNOX: But the most telling thing I saw was an anonymous Bolton ally quoted I think in "The Post" saying -- saying, on John Bolton's watch, the president didn't make any bad deals. That, to me, was the number one most telling thing that anyone has said in the aftermath. In other words, stopped engagement with North Korea, stopped engagement with Iran, who knows what else.

KIM: And certainly that Rand Paul view is out there and Rand Paul literally held a press call yesterday to applaud Bolton's dismissal. But that is certainly by far not the dominant view on Capitol Hill among the Republicans that I and many other reports spoke with yesterday. You know, most of them said, look, the president should have a team that he's confident in. We like John Bolton. We trusted his council. We're sad he's gone. But the president has a right to his own team.

But a lot of Republicans, you know, you have Jim Inhofe, Mitt Romney, who were really concerned about his departure. And going back to the guardrails point, that's what -- you know, that's what gave Republicans some calm when the president had many of -- went through a tempestuous foreign policy issues once in a while. But a lot of those guardrails are gone. So there is a lot of nervousness about who his next official will be.

LUCEY: The other thing too --

KING: And as we -- as we wait to see who it's going to be, Jim Mattis just did a book tour where he said a few things that you can imply critical to the president. He essentially said, I'm saving it. I'm not going to go full -- I'm not going to tell you the full truth while the president is still in office. You know, Graeme Wood writing in "The Atlantic" today that that's not how this is going to play out with Bolton, that Bolton is not shy and if you know his history, including as a Fox News commentator, and a very effective commentator, whether you agree or disagree with his views, he knows how to communicate. I don't think we've heard the last word from Mr. Bolton either.

When we come back, it's debate night for the Democrats tomorrow night. The third round of debates. But a first, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden on the same stage.



KING: Some new numbers today on the 2020 Democratic race and they frame the stakes clearly, perfectly you might say, for tomorrow night, the third debate, yes, but the first time Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren will be on the same stage, first time they will be together.

Let's take a look at some of these new numbers. Number one, this is a question among Democrats, right? Among registered voters, I'm sorry, here. Who's best in a matchup against President Trump? Well, Joe Biden beats him by 15 points, Elizabeth Warren just 7 points. So Biden will say I'm more electable but Elizabeth Warren will say, hey, that's not so bad.

Among just Democratic -- Democratic leaners, who has the best chance to beat the president? Well, 42 percent say Joe Biden, 12 percent say Elizabeth Warren. So Biden has an advantage on the electability question. The question is, can he sustain it through the debates?

Favorability ratings as this has gone on. This is just among Democratic voters and Democratic leaners. Elizabeth Warren in January, 53 percent to 76 percent for the vice president. Now, equal if you factor in the margin of error. Elizabeth Warren, clearly, we've seen her rise in the horse race polls in the early states, in the national polls, among favorability too, the more Democrats see her, the more they like her. That's good. That makes you a growth stock as a candidate.

Let's look at some subgroups important in the Democratic race. Among progressives, Elizabeth Warren gets better ratings. That's not bad for the vice president, 66 percent among progressives. But, Elizabeth Warren beats you at the -- among the base, if you will. The vice president has an advantage among moderates. But, again, if you're Elizabeth Warren, newer to the national stage and a growth stock, that's not a bad number. They tie essentially. Elizabeth Warren has a slight lead there among voters who make more than 50 grand. Suburban women, essentially that's six points, but call that pretty close as they run together there.

And among white non-college voters, some people think of that as part of the Trump base, they run pretty even as well. What's the point there? Joe Biden, former vice president for eight years, Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts senator, she now matches up pretty evenly or pretty close to him on some big issues. That's improvement for her over the summer.

Look at this number here, favorability among all registered voters. Whoever wins the Democratic nomination has to oppose President Trump, make their case to the country. Both of them, guess what, they're politicians. Only a 45 percent approval rating overall for the former vice president, 41 percent for Elizabeth Warren. President Trump's about in this same ballpark. So for all the polls showing the president weak, eventually he'll have an opponent and then we'll have a different race.


Biden, Warren on the debate stage for the first time.