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INSIDE POLITICS

Warren Aims At Biden: We Can't Win If We're "Looking Backward"; Trump Courts Latino Voters At New Mexico Rally; Benjamin Netanyahu's Future At Stake As Israelis Vote; Sanford: GOP Fears Trump's Support Is "A Mile Wide But An Inch Deep". Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 17, 2019 - 12:30   ET

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


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[12:30:00] SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- to do anything else. And Democrats can't win if we're scared and looking backward. I am not afraid. And you can't be afraid either.

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JOHN KING, CNN HOST: CNN's MJ Lee is live for us at that event in New York. MJ, what was the Warren campaign trying to do last night with the speech in which you don't have to be a rocket scientist there? That was going after Joe Biden.

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I mean, first of all, John, this was a big moment for Elizabeth Warren's campaign. Her speech last night was all about anti-corruption and she talked about Donald Trump as being corruption in the flesh, and she explained a couple of times why she chose the location of Washington Square Park to deliver this big speech. Around the corner from that park is a former factory, the site of a famous fire that led to dozens of workers dying in that fire. And she said that that is the result of corruption (INAUDIBLE) obviously had been a defining theme of her presidential campaign.

But the speech last night was so much more than just corruption politically speaking, right? Elizabeth Warren made a forceful and a sharp pitch about her general election argument, essentially saying to voters that might be worried that she might be a risky candidate to back but they really shouldn't be. And here's more what she has to say.

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WARREN: On day one of my administration, I love the thought of what a president can do all by herself. The time for holding back is over. I know what some of you are thinking. I do. Whoa, too much. Too big, too hard. I know this change is possible because America has made big structural change before.

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LEE: Obviously, this is Warren making the electability argument, saying to voters, don't go with what you think is the faith choice. And really saying to supporters vote with your heart, not your head. And the four words that we heard her say earlier, I am not afraid. Those are four words that we have been hearing increasingly from Elizabeth Warren these days.

John?

KING: MJ Lee, appreciate your dealing with this from a loud circumstance there in New York. Appreciate it. It's tough to be on the trail.

You come into the room. Look, she has been gross stock of the summer. She has said the (INAUDIBLE) approach to this race essentially don't criticize your other rivals, build yourselves on the ground in Iowa, build in New Hampshire, build in other states, do as well as you can in the debate. Sort to keep -- almost keep a low profile while you build up like this. That speech, don't pick a candidate we don't believe in, don't pick a candidate who looks backward, and directly addressing the -- you know, am I proposing too much. Is this too big? Is this too bold?

That strikes me as a campaign that understands as it tries to get to the next phase. It needs to deal with this -- the big question.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: In some ways, that's the Elizabeth Warren I think people thought was going to show up at this last debate when she was there with Joe Biden. At the previous debate when Delaney was on the stage, she did essentially say the same things. What's the point of running for the presidency if you're not going to do big things and fight for big things. So we'll see.

I mean, what happens. Does this open up a new phase where she does dig -- take it directly to Biden when he's standing right next to her on stage.

KING: A candidate we don't believe in.

HENDERSON: Yes.

KING: A candidate who looks backward. Every candidate now is trying to do the math of the race, right? Normally people think, well, Bernie Sanders is the other progressive, Elizabeth Warren can get that. Bernie is not going anywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

KING: He's not going -- whether he grows or no matter how well he does, he's not going anywhere for a while.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Don't criticize your rivals until I'm ready to criticize my rival, and then I will own the criticism of the rival. And this is going to play very well for her with the base, with donors, with young people nationally. But how does that play in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and maybe Florida? That's still the question that the Democratic Party is grappling with. HENDERSON: And South Carolina, right? I mean, that's one of the issues though that she's had. She can't get African-American voters and that is the big pot of voters that Biden has been sitting on.

KING: And it's been frustrating to the other candidates in the sense that they look at Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and Elizabeth Warren, all 70 years older. And Pete Buttigieg today, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana saying, no, that's not what we need.

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PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- in the last 50, 60 years, every time we've won, it's been when we put forward somebody with a new set of ideas. Typically somebody who stood for a new generation. Every time that we have tried so hard to play it safe that we've put forward the person with maybe the most familiar face but also the most time in Washington, the most kind of established figure, every single time we've done that, going back to Hubert Humphrey, we've come up short.

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[12:35:00] KING: Now that's mostly about Biden in the sense that, you know, the traditional -- the establishment is the same. But the generational argument is about everybody above him in the polls. The question is -- you all laugh at me but 138 days until people start voting in Iowa. You're seeing the candidates are starting to try to -- they're getting a little sharper and a little bit more aggressive because 138 days which is 20 weeks may seem like a long time. With the holidays, it's going to go like that.

HENDERSON: No. I think that's right, and if you are Buttigieg, you're trying to I think cut in, he's in South Carolina there. He's trying to cut in to basically Joe Biden's lead. If Joe Biden collapses then he feels like he can get sort of that moderate lane. He's 37-years-old, he's the mayor of a very small town. I think people in some ways at least the poll shows they do like the idea of having people with some experience.

KING: They talk about a fresh face, but at the moment the Democratic race is not exactly. We'll see.

Up next, the other side of the race. The presidential campaign in blue territory says he can win in 2020, not only Pennsylvania, not only Wisconsin, not only Michigan but get this, New Mexico.

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[12:40:56] KING: The president says he is going to re-color this map again. Remember back in 2016, he did shatter the so-called blue wall. Pennsylvania, red, Michigan, Wisconsin. Those were the president's big wow achievements on the map in 2016. Now in 2020, he says he's going to turn New Mexico from blue to red. This is a steep hill. You see Hillary Clinton won the state by little more than eight points in 2016. You have to go back -- let's go back on the map. You have to go back to 2004. That's the last time a Republican carried New Mexico for president and George W. Bush did it just barely. If you come through time in 2008, Barack Obama won it big even though John McCain is from neighboring Arizona. You come back here to 2012, again, Obama wins it by 10 points a little more than that over Mitt Romney.

In 2016, we just had it up, again, it's an eight-point race here. And if you look nationally, if you look nationally, the president's numbers, New Mexico has the highest percentage of Latino voters in the country. These are national numbers, but 67 percent of Hispanic voters disapprove of President Trump. So you would look at New Mexico and say, really, that's a steep hill. The president says, watch me.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How do I lose New Mexico? Explain that one. How do we lose that one? And yet for whatever reason, it's been quite a while since a Republican won this state, but we're going to win this state. I think we're going to win the state easy.

No, I think we're going to do great here. And we're here for a number of reasons, but we're here because we really think we're going to turn this state and make it a Republican state.

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KING: Doable? It seems -- if you look at the numbers, you say, no way. But, of course, people look to the numbers in 2016, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and said uh-uh, and he did.

HENDERSON: Yes, I mean, we'll see. The president didn't do -- when he was a candidate, didn't do as poorly well with Latinos as people thought he would. He essentially did as well as Romney did, about as well as John McCain did as well. And you had the Republican Party look essentially look at Latinos and say -- you know, for instance, one of the phrases they used to say was, you know, Latinos are Republicans, they just don't know it yet. And so there are issues where he can attract Latinos in terms of abortion, they're social conservatives there, so we'll see.

I mean, Latinos are a gross stock, right? If you go back to 2016, 14 million eligible Latino voters stayed home. Twelve million actually came to the polls so they have a low sort of turnout rate but there is obviously real potential there for either party, and neither party has really figured it out. There supposed to be a Latino surge, Democrats were sort of banking on it. It didn't happen in 2016. We'll see what happens going forward.

KING: And it's not just, we're going to personalize these things and President Trump has a problem with Latino voters, that's an -- without a doubt. But New Mexico is one of those states. It used to be a swing state that has been trending more and more blue. They lost the governorship in 2018. The entire congressional delegation is now Democratic. He's walking in with -- he has his own issues number one, but he's just walking into a demographic headwind.

TALEV: And six of the last seven elections, my colleague, Stef Kight at Axios had a great take on this ahead of the visit. But look, this is -- here's what happened. The Trump campaign is really good at data and rallies and using that data to inform kind of future waves of support, untapped potential. He had a rally in El Paso in February, and when they looked -- when they cross-checked the attendee data, they saw this like really unexpectedly large cluster of people from New Mexico drive across the border to Texas, and they thought, what's going on here? We didn't even really try last time around, should we try?

They figured it's not that expensive to try. There's the social conservative thing. And also, even though the population of New Mexico is like one out of two Hispanic or Latino residents, they are not primarily immigrants. These are not the first generation or even second generations. These are third, fourth, fifth generation voters, and so immigration is not a top-line issue to the same extent.

So they see room for it. I would say this, like, is Trump going to win in New Mexico? Probably not. If Trump wins New Mexico, is he can win re-election? Probably. But this is a warning sign to some extent for the Democratic Party.

[12:45:02] When they look at places like Texas which is similar to eastern New Mexico in terms of Democrats who may be more conservative, when they look at places like Texas and Georgia and how to flip those kinds of states with demographic numbers that should be cresting their way, those flips depend on appealing to a certain kind of Democrat who is not necessarily a California Democrat, a Massachusetts Democrat. That's I think the lesson that New Mexico holds.

KING: And for no other reason, you go out there, they don't have a serious primary challenge just yet. You go out and you build the list, you get all those email addresses from the people who are there, you can at least raise money, you sell merchandise and you test. When you -- you can test, in six months they may say, never mind, but why -- what's the harm in testing?

TALEV: It cost nothing.

KING: Right.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, especially if you're talking about a campaign that in 2016 surprised people in some states and a different part of the country is not completely out of the question that just because some state does become blue that it's permanently blue given that the way that messages change and politicians change and demographic shifts are not completely predictable just based on what the numbers show.

OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, SIRIUSXM: It's also a population they think is uniquely receptive to one of their core messages which is Democrats equals socialism. KING: Right.

KNOX: Because you have -- immigration might not be as hard it is as it would be for recent immigrants but the people whose parents and grandparents fled regimes all over Latin America to come to the United States fleeing (INAUDIBLE) as socialism, might be a good audience for that.

KING: It's an excellent point.

As we go to break, we want to note some news, the passing of a true trailblazer in broadcast journalism. Cokie Roberts passed away this morning after a battle with cancer, the family says. She was 75. Roberts is best known of course for her work at ABC News but she also worked in public radio and publishing during a remarkable 40-year career.

In a statement, the ABC News President James Goldston says Roberts made the network a better place and all of us better journalists. Former presidents Obama and George W. Bush also offering their condolences with Mr. Obama calling Roberts a trailblazing figure and a role model to young ones.

We'll be right back.

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[12:51:45] KING: Topping our political radar today, polls in Israel close in a little more than two hours. The latest test for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It's the second time in just five months, Israelis are voting in parliamentary elections and the results will determine whether Netanyahu can assemble enough of a coalition to stay in power.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is in Jerusalem for us live. Oren, a lot of finger-pointing, accusations on this final day. What do we know?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are very much accusations on this final day of election fraud, election stealing, not only from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party but from other parties as well. And in fact, Israel police says they've opened up investigations into 69 different incidents that they will look into as of this point.

Crucially, this remains a race that is too close to call, and that's what election polls have predicted over the course of the last three months. There's no claim of victory yet that we're seeing from either of these parties. Everyone is waiting these last two hours of voting, and then they'll look at the exit polls which will suggest what a possible result maybe but that's not good enough either on this night in a second ballot within five months. They want to see what the actual results are as they start coming in.

At this stage in the game, this late hour, both Netanyahu and his rival, former chief of staff Benny Gantz are employing the same strategy, warning their voters that they're getting behind, they're losing and if they don't get out there and vote, they're going to lose this election. In Hebrew it's called the gevalt campaign, a panic campaign, they try to put the fear of losing into voters. And that's the strategy being employed by not only both of these bigger parties but a lot of the smaller parties as well at this late stage in the game.

Now, that can't really be because according to the Central Elections Committee voting is up one and a half percentage points from April's election. The question is where is it up? And that may go a long way into determining who comes out ahead after the polls close and after we begin to see those results, John.

KING: A fascinating few hours, perhaps a fascinating few days ahead. Oren Liebermann, appreciate it so much. We'll watch as the results come in from Israel.

Another news back here in Washington, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao now the subject of an ethics investigation by the House Oversight Committee for what the Chairman Elijah Cummings calls, quote, troubling question about whether she's using her office to benefit herself and her family. Secretary Chao who of course is married to the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has been under scrutiny for her ties to an international shipping company run by her relatives. The Transportation Department not responding to CNN's request for comment.

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Michael Bennet making a bold push to gain traction in Iowa with a TV ad blitz highlighting his more moderate approach to healthcare reform. His campaign now running its first commercial statewide. Both ads it says aimed at, quote, pounding the truth into a campaign full of empty promises and broken politics.

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SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The truth is, a healthcare plan that starts by kicking people off their coverage makes no sense. We all know it. As president, I'll get everyone covered with a public option or keeping the health plans they already have.

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KING: The Republican presidential hopeful Mark Sanford telling CNN he's exploring, quote, any at all options to force states to hold Republican presidential primaries now that a handful has said they won't. That includes Sanford's home state of South Carolina where he served as governor and was elected to Congress. Sanford telling CNN's Kate Bolduan last hour, his party and the president supporters are afraid of what might happen.

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MARK SANFORD (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If in the world of politics you have a chance to, quote, stack in a 90 percent win which is what he alleges his lead is, you do it all day long because particularly if you're first in the south primary, it's going to have implications in other primaries.

[12:55:12] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely.

SANFORD: The fact that they're not doing, that says that somebody is worried about something. Somebody is seeing numbers that say his support is a mile wide but an inch deep.

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KING: Thanks for joining us today in the INSIDE POLITICS. Brianna Keilar picks up our coverage of the House Judiciary Committee after a quick break. Have a good afternoon.

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