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INSIDE POLITICS

New CNN Poll: Warren Surges in Iowa, Neck-and-Neck with Biden; Iranian FM Says No Meeting Between Rouhani and Trump; Bittersweet Washington Departure. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 23, 2019 - 12:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:31:46] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Elizabeth Warren is surging in Iowa. In a new CNN/Des Moines Register poll, that Massachusetts senator is now at 22 percent while Joe Biden is at 20 percent. So they're essentially tied if you factor in the margin of error. A tie that puts both well ahead of the rest of the Democratic pack.

Now, the story here is, of course, is Warren's rise. Part of what's filling it is the fact that she is 32 percent from those who caucused for Bernie Sanders in 2016. That is seven points over Sanders himself right now. Over the weekend, most of the field visited the annual Iowa steak fry. Here's how the top contenders rallied the crowd.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Elizabeth Warren, I know it's broken, I know how to fix it and we're building a grassroots movement to make it happen.

JOE BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was labeled and I got elected as a senator as a 29-year-old kid as an optimist and an idealist. I'm more optimistic about America's chances today to lead the world than I've ever been.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Always fun to see a steak fry. Those who don't know what I'm saying, look it up. So, Elizabeth Warren, let's just dig deeper on the rise that we're talking about in this poll. If you look back to March, she was at nine percent. June, 15 percent, and now she is at 20 percent. I mean, you can see it right there.

Joe Biden, you know, he's lost seven percent which isn't that much considering the fact that he came in with a huge name and idea and now people are getting to know him so that's why we are at this statistical tie.

ALEX THOMPSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: This is a huge danger, though, for Joe Biden. Ann Selzer said that his numbers have been just going in the wrong direction since he got into the race. And so his problem is that if you base an entire campaign on electability, what happens when you lose Iowa. And then since Warren neighbors New Hampshire, what happens if you lose Iowa and then New Hampshire? And what does that do to his electability argument if he's relying on South Carolina to be the firewall?

It's not clear if we'll still be there if he loses both Iowa and New Hampshire. So, this should be -- I think this set up a lot of red flags in Biden's orbit. They've been saying that they're going to put at least 115 staffers in Iowa by the end of the month. That's going to put them on par with the round where Warren's campaign is at least according to my reporting.

So, it'll be interesting, you're going to see a real -- just a huge investment of resources from both camps in these last five months because I think Biden realizes that's an existential threat.

BASH: And you mentioned red flags. These are flags that the Biden campaign, they have seen coming for a long time which is why they have been doing background discussions with reporters, saying, well, Iowa and New Hampshire, they're important, but we've got the money, we've got the resources, the name I.D. It's not as important as it is in --

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. I mean, now they're sort of essentially saying the best of -- you know, if they won two out of the first four

states they'd be in a good position, Nevada and then South Carolina. We'll see.

I mean, other red flags I think in this poll not just for Biden, Bernie Sanders, my goodness. I think the conventional wisdom about Bernie Sanders and his supporters was always like, you know, they're essentially ride or die Bernie Sanders, right? They're always with him no matter what and you see --

BASH: He was 25 percent in March --

HENDERSON: Yes. I mean, they've essentially flipped, right, and you see -- yes, you see Warren just essentially taking his supporters, running with his supporters.

[12:35:08] She's good on everything in terms of raising money, the crowds, the enthusiasm, a lot more enthusiasm there among her supporters than the other folks. I think if you're Bernie Sanders, if you're Pete Buttigieg, you've got to worry as well and certainly for Biden. But I think we always knew that Iowa is going to be a problem for Joe Biden. We'll see if he's somebody who thinks he can win this on the nomination.

Can he actually win it by losing Iowa, possibly coming in second in New Hampshire or losing and then just relying on this African-American vote and older voters as well and moderate voters?

BASH: Right. And the thing that we all have to keep in mind is another data point in this poll which is how fluid even these numbers that we're looking at are. Likely caucus-goers are asked whether their minds are made up. Warren only has 14 percent. The person who has the best numbers in this is Joe Biden and that's only 26 percent. Elizabeth Warren, if you look at the other side there, the other side of the column, 31 percent of people who support her say that they could be persuaded to vote for somebody else.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. I mean, it's really, really early. I mean, you know, we all have been covering this campaign now for a while and feels like that a lot has happened. But yet we're still five or six months away from the first voting. A lot is going to happen and, you know, the truth is that we always -- I mean, I think you always expect it that at some point, the Sanders/Warren vote is going to consolidate.

Will it consolidate around her, will it consolidate around Bernie? Like it seems like it's moving towards her. But Joe Biden also has a path that is not only his own voters but there are other candidates that are still in the race that are also sort of taking up that space as well. So at some point, is the race going to consolidate into two large camps that are competing, and will Joe Biden kind of get some advantage from candidates that have to drop out of the race that are in that kind of wing of the party? Maybe. So far it's a warning sign for him but months to go.

BASH: All right, everybody, we're going to take a quick break, and as we do, a campaign flashback. It was on this day in 1987 after allegations of plagiarism that Joe Biden told the Washington press corps he was ending his very first presidential bid and turning his focus back to the Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: I made some mistakes. But now the exaggerated shadow of those mistakes has begun to obscure the essence of my candidacy and the essence of Joe Biden. I have no questions. I appreciate your consideration. I appreciate you being here, and least I say something that might be somewhat sarcastic, I should go (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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[12:42:46] BASH: I want to take a moment to remember groundbreaking journalist Cokie Roberts. Hundreds gathered at St. Matthew's Cathedral here in Washington this past weekend to say goodbye to a woman whom House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called a national treasure. It was Cokie Roberts' husband of more than 50 years, fellow journalist and my former professor, Steve Roberts, who articulated why his wife's passing hit so many so hard, especially reporters like me indebted to her for smashing the glass ceiling decades ago as one of the first female reporters, but more importantly, making it her life's mission to guide other women coming up behind her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE ROBERTS, COKIE ROBERTS' HUSBAND: We've heard directly from thousands of people who are mourning Cokie. But some of the most poignant notes come from young women who were helped by Cokie as they navigated their way through the journalism business. Even as she climbed the ladder of success, she always reached behind her to help others.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: He joked that Cokie has been a critical link in the old girls' network. Thank you, Cokie Roberts, for that and so much more. You are already missed.

We'll be right back.

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[12:48:45] BASH: Welcome back.

Iran's foreign minister is shutting the door today on a meeting between Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, and President Trump. Rouhani is scheduled to arrive at the U.N. today. Just yesterday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the meeting was a possibility if the U.S. dropped sanctions on Iran. And today, not so much. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you meet with President Trump?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, IRAN FOREIGN MINISTER: No!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: CNN's Nic Robertson joins us now from the United Nations. So, Nic, even if there is not a formal meeting, is there a sense that you're hearing from sources that there could be progress made on the sidelines there?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, I think it's going to be very difficult for two reasons. Number one, President Trump is under huge pressure from his allies like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf not to do anything that smacks of appeasement or at least changing a hard and tough position with Iran over the attacks in Saudi Arabia over the past week. I think that is one thing.

And I think also that the difficulty from the Iranian perspective, we have heard from the Iranian President Rouhani on his way over here saying that, you know, the reason that he's decided to come is because he says it's clear that the United States doesn't want Iranian delegations here, and that is reason to come and talk about how the U.S. sanctions on Iran aren't working at all.

[12:50:11] When you hear rationale like that, that is a rationale to a domestic audience showing the difficulty of a position that the president of Iran is in if he essentially has to give excuses for why he's coming to this international forum. So I think on both sides, it is a difficult position, but President Trump under a lot of scrutiny from his Gulf allies and others not to have any kind of rough approach right now at this critical moment in the Gulf with Iran. BASH: All politics is local for everybody, no matter where you are on the globe. But, you are at the U.N., there are leaders from around the world there, including key U.S. allies not in the Gulf. How could that play into this?

ROBERTSON: It plays in this way. Saudi Arabia right now believes very firmly that Iran had a hand behind the attacks on those two refineries, Saturday, a week ago. They firmly believe that they have the evidence that can show their allies particularly European allies, Britain, Germany, and France, and they've invited them to join the investigative teams and Germany -- Britain and France have agreed to do that, that they can show them that Iran was involved. And therefore, they hope that these important European allies who are still signatories to that multi-national nuclear deal, the JCPOA that the United States was pulled out of, that they can help firm President Trump's position, a position that they hope won't vacillate or change.

And this is a huge worry in Saudi Arabia, that one day they wake up and President Trump and his administration says one thing, and the next day they may say another thing. And they, right now, the Saudis and the Gulf allies, partners there believe the United States must be very clear and very firm with Iran because if it doesn't, they believe that Iran will strike back again at Saudi Arabia or take other military opportunities and that very quickly would lead to an escalation. So they need a strong consistent diplomacy from President Trump.

BASH: Nic Robertson, thanks as always for that great reporting and analysis. Appreciate it.

And up next, one retiring House Republican has some salty language about why he's leaving Washington. That's next in our lightning round.

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[12:57:00] BASH: Time now for a quick lightning round. Rachael, you've been all over the House Republican retirements. They are growing. You have this great quote from Paul Mitchell.

"We are here for a purpose, and it's not this petty, childish (INAUDIBLE)." He said in an interview early in September. Pence's office declined to comment.

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, so I dug deeper into the numbers. We've seen reports, 18 House Republicans retiring but if you actually go back for the past three years since Trump was inaugurated, 40 percent of the House Republican conference has left Washington either being defeated in election or they're just hanged up -- hang it up because they're sick of this and they know they can't speak out against the president.

Mitchell, you know, he, in particular, said that he was really disturbed by Trump's tweet saying that four congresswomen of color should go back to their home countries even though they were U.S. citizens and three of them were born here. He tried to get a hold of the president through to Mike Pence, through Pence's chief of staff, nobody would let him through. And literally, 10 days after the tweet, he said screw this, I'm out.

BASH: Unbelievable.

OK, Michael, you were at an event where Modi, the head of India was praising the president. Let's listen to that and talk about it on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARENDRA MODI, INDIAN PRIME MINISTER: We have a very special person with us. His name is familiar to every person on the planet. Very popular, friendliness, warm, energy. A strong resolve to make America great again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Know your audience. Know your audience.

SHEAR: Modi apparently does not speak in English very much, he -- so that was rare, and it was clearly a big wet kiss to Trump. He's known for hugging politicians, Modi does, all the time. He didn't, I don't think, give Trump a bear hug but he went on and on and on. And I had thought earlier that Trump's going to that was because he wanted the love and adoration of the 50,000 people that were in the stadium. Actually, it turned out the love and adoration of the one guy standing next to him was more important.

BASH: So there's requited love today because the president stopped by briefly at the climate summit which is a huge summit at the U.N. while Modi was speaking and he didn't stay for very long. He wasn't going to go in the first place. Pete Buttigieg on the campaign trail is already jumping on this. I think we have a photo there saying, "This is what the end of American global leadership looks like."

Nia saying, wait a minute, this guy just stopped by, he doesn't speak but he did it because Modi was speaking, probably.

HENDERSON: Yes, yes. And you got Pete Buttigieg who isn't doing so well in some of these early polls, the Iowa poll, he's got to make some noise. He has been pretty good at sticking it to Trump, sticking it to the vice president. He's very kind of quick on his feet. So there he is trying to take advantage of this moment and bust out of the pack.

BASH: All right, everybody, thank you so much. Thank you for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. Brianna --

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