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INSIDE POLITICS

Election Night Lessons in KY, VA, and PA; Republicans Face Big Losses in Philadelphia Suburbs; State Department Employees Losing Confidence in Mike Pompeo; 2020 Dems Highlight Conservative Districts That Flipped Tuesday; Biden Slams Warren's Comment As Elitist. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 6, 2019 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: -- and it tells you to watch out come next year.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. And we saw this in 2018, you know, with midterms. People excited on both sides, it was obviously a banner year for Democrats in 2018. And this in some ways is a continuation of the trends we saw there.

You mentioned the suburban sort of flight from the Republican Party to Democrats which helped Democrats secure the House. And then in these governor's races, right, also good news for Democrats who came into the Trump era with a real deficit in terms of the number of governorships they held. Now they had a net gain of eight at this point. If Beshear ends up being the winner, that will be nine.

So, listen, we saw this sort of the reverse of this when Obama was in office, losing legislative seats all up and down the ballot around the country. And now Democrats are sort of riding a lot of the discontent about the Republican brand, right? You saw Beshear there talk about the tone, right, sort of the nastiness, oftentimes embodied by this president. And Beshear obviously saw that in some ways too with his opponent Bevin. But that's I think something that you see national Democrats also seizing on.

KING: And don't think Mitch McConnell is not thinking the Obama comparison in the sense that Obama lost the House then he lost the Senate. They lost a ton of state legislative seats, they lost governor races. The Obama years were good for Obama, they were bad for every other Democrat. The Trump years so far have been good for Trump but not for other -- we'll see what happens in the re-election.

I'm going to get more into that in the 2020 map in a little bit. I just want to read this out of Philadelphia. Again, thinking of Pennsylvania critical to the Trump electoral map, right? This is Philadelphia Inquirer, "The blue wave crashes down on Pennsylvania again as voters from Philly to Delaware County turn left. Locally, Democrats will hold all five seats on the Delaware County Council, a Republican stronghold since the Civil War, and also assumed a majority on the legislative body in Chester County.

In Bucks County, Democrats also held a late lead for control of the board of commissioners in a close race. In Delaware County, the results for Republicans were catastrophic. All three Republican Council candidates and all four Republicans running for Common Pleas Court judgeships lost there."

Now if you live in the middle of the country, you don't know what a judgeship is. In Pennsylvania, you think why does that matter to me. It just tells you if you live in a suburb, you're turning blue. And look at -- go to census.gov, people in America, Kentucky is a textbook example, leaving smaller rural counties moving closer to urban and suburban areas. That is a demographic that is bad for the president heading into 2020 and potentially disastrous for his party, 2022-2024 and beyond if it continues.

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's a suburban blood bath again. 2018, we saw it starting there. I mean, Pennsylvania is interesting too because, you know, not only did Trump win it but this is an area that Hillary Clinton really had a problem turning out voters. And what this election shows is that these folks are very much fired up, people are coming out to vote. And that's going to be a big problem for Trump potentially in 2020.

KING: And look at -- you look at Virginia which when I first came to Washington was a red state actually, maybe a purple state but it leaned red. Now forget about it. If you think about it, and we don't need to get into the details but the governor has an ethical cloud over his head, the lieutenant governor has an ethical cloud over his head, the attorney general to a lesser degree maybe but still an ethical cloud over his head. All three top Democrats have had questions raised about their character and their ethics in recent years and yet, despite that, the Republicans tried to use that issue, despite that the Democrats sweep everything. Governor Northam says guess what, Virginia is blue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D-VA): This is an exciting day for the Commonwealth of Virginia. After 26 years we are officially blue. And, you know, this wave started after the election in 2016. I think Virginians woke up and said we will never let this happen again. People came out yesterday, I think they're very pleased with the progress that we as Democrats have made over the last couple of years, and they really want us to continue working on that progress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: In Virginia, it's the D.C. suburbs and the Richmond suburbs mostly that are causing this. The population growth, younger voters, college-educated women, the people who just don't like Donald Trump's Republican Party. As we end the conversation, someone jumped in but Ryan Costello, a former congressman from Pennsylvania or the Philadelphia area. "There appears to be an electoral realignment in the suburbs. Republicans aren't leaning in on the issues that affect suburban affluent voters like gun safety and the environment." Plus, he says Trump is not a benefit but a burden. An understatement.

TAMARA KEITH, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Right. Well -- and President Trump did not campaign in Virginia. He tweeted a little bit about Virginia but he kept his distance and it didn't matter. And, you know, all of these Democrats with clouds over their heads that were running that have had problems in Virginia, they were not on the ballot. This was an off, off-year. There was no big headline race. It was the legislature that was the big race and guns was the main issue in a bunch of these districts.

VIVIAN SALAMA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Whether or not you want to believe that this is a referendum for Trump moving forward, President Trump wants voters to believe this was a referendum for him. And he went out in Kentucky on Monday and said, "If you lose they're going to say that Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world. You can't let that happen to me. You can't let that happen to Kentucky."

And so, you know -- and they did and so I guarantee you the White House and also his campaign headquarters are paying close attention to what happened last night.

KING: They have the time, the money and no hard primary challenge so they have some -- they can learn lessons. They are trying to learn lessons.

[12:35:05] Before we go to break, the first lady is facing some protesters today. She's up in Boston. Some hospital employees are protesting Melania Trump's visit to the Boston Medical Center. She was there to survey a program that helps treat babies exposed to drugs while in the womb. The organizers of the protest said they're worried the visit sends the wrong message to patients, especially those who also happen to be immigrants.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:40:27] KING: The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo under heavy scrutiny at the State Department as the impeachment inquiry marches forward. Several witnesses have testified Secretary Pompeo was unwilling to defend career employees who were under sharp political attack, some from the president of the United States. Multiple sources telling CNN this has damaged the secretary's reputation at his own department and devastated morale there.

CNN's Michael Warren and Kylie Atwood have been doing the reporting on this. They joined our discussion. Secretary Pompeo now oversees at his side an aide who was supposed to testify in the impeachment inquiry. We talk about how central Rudy Giuliani is to all of this but wow, so is the secretary of state. The first three witnesses announced for the public hearings next week, State Department officials. How is he handling this?

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: Well, you know, there are a lot of multiple officials in the administration who are telling CNN that he's not handling it well and they're certainly not grading the way he's been handling it well. This is from one senior administration official who's actually been defending Pompeo for the last several months who said, morale in the building is always bad but this is different. I think part of it is Ukraine. It is a game-changer.

So, you know, we're hearing all of these things for the past several months and several weeks leading up to the impeachment inquiry and now after the impeachment inquiry. Now, these transcripts coming out from senior State Department officials are really sort of undermining his credibility within the building. That's certainly what we're hearing whether it's from former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch or Michael McKinley who was a senior advisor to Mike Pompeo contradicted something Mike Pompeo said just a few weeks ago. This is just having a devastating effect on morale at the department.

KING: And that's interesting because when Secretary Pompeo came in he was viewed as a Trump guy and so -- Tillerson was not. And a lot of people at the department would say well, this will be good at least, we will have the president's ear. That balloon has popped.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, and even we saw in the transcript from Michael McKinley who is the top State Department official who quit because Pompeo did not voice any support for Ambassador Yovanovitch. We saw him say that this wasn't always the case at the State Department. Things were good. Pompeo did come in and boost morale to a degree because Tillerson had really done some things that State Department officials were super frustrated by, whether it was cutting folks or if it was cutting the number of people that were actually put into more senior positions. But Pompeo was really behind the people, so it seemed.

And now the problem is that the morale has been devastated because they're seeing that the person who's leading their department isn't able to defend them when he's speaking with President Trump. And I spoke with one senior State Department official who pushed back on this characterization today and essentially said, you know, this is isn't true, this isn't morale across the department really hitting an all-time low but did say that people in Washington are worried about what's happening right now. And the problem is that Pompeo, if he wants to keep his job, isn't able to stand out and publicly defend Yovanovitch.

KING: It will be fascinating to watch. Again, the first three public witnesses will be State Department employees. We'll see how the secretary reacts. We'll see how the president reacts. And I guess he has, what, six and a half to seven months to make a decision on whether he runs for Kansas Senate, so.

ATWOOD: A long time.

KING: It is a long time, a very, very long time.

Up next for us, what last night's election results say for the president's path to re-election come 2020.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:48:25] KING: It is risky to read too much into last night's elections when we look ahead to 2020. But if you talk to smart people in politics, there are some emerging lessons. Some things they point to, to suggest a little bit more about what next year will look like.

One thing a lot of Republicans say, this is going back in time here, this is the Clinton/Trump race obviously. President Trump wins the White House, Hillary Clinton by a healthy margin wins the popular vote. If you look at 2017, 2018 and then again last night especially in the suburbs, it is hard -- you'd be hard-pressed to find a Republican who does not think no matter what, no matter who wins the presidency next year, Donald Trump will again lose the popular vote. And most smart Republicans think probably by an even bigger margin next time because of the coast, they're Democratic but also because of the Republican revolt against this president in the suburbs. That's one lesson.

Then you look at the map and you think what has happened here. Kentucky, you know, the president won Kentucky by 30 points last time. So just because the Republican governor loses last time, don't get it in your dream Democrats that Kentucky will be in play in 2020. There are some suburban lessons there, some turnout lessons there but Kentucky is a red state and likely will be next year.

But, look at what happened in the Philadelphia suburbs. We talked about this a little bit earlier in the program, if you look here at a state the president just barely won, key to his electoral victory, one of those blue states he flipped red, Pennsylvania is a huge thing to keep an eye on as we go forward.

I want to move out here to Arizona, we saw what happened last year in 2018 there. In 2016, this was closer than you might think if you didn't have the data in front of you. Democrats think given what's happening in the suburbs, the Phoenix suburbs, for example, Tucson suburbs, maybe Arizona can be in play.

Virginia? Well, it was blue in 2016 and it wasn't all that close.

[12:50:01] The Trump campaign did try for a bit but the suburbs up here just said no. So Virginia, will the Trump campaign spend some money? Maybe. But it's a blue state now so don't think about that as a big battleground.

So let's try to look at this in just another way quickly as we go forward here and we come back to the map. This is how Donald Trump became president. He lost the popular vote but he won 306 electoral votes. Let's just imagine, take Pennsylvania away because it will be in play. A lot of Democrats say the numbers are similar over here in Michigan. Wisconsin was that other big surprise that he flipped from blue to red. If you took those off right there, that would put the president under 260. He thinks we'll see if he can, he thinks he can put Minnesota in play.

So let's put that in play there, and let's move over to Arizona. Democrats think the demographics, Latinos in the suburbs helped them. There are a lot of people in presidential politics, it's a year out and this will change who think the election now could come down to one, two, three, four, five, maybe one or two other states right there. And it would be very competitive. The president would be under 270 and that would be a food fight. Among the Democrats who look at this, this, this, and this and say what you want here is a centrist moderate Democrat trying to breakthrough. Joe Biden makes that case, Pete Buttigieg makes that case, so does Amy Klobuchar.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My plan is to build a blue wall around the heartland and make Donald Trump pay for it. And I think if you think I am off somewhere in a Pollyanna about this, look what happened last night in Virginia and look at what happened in Kentucky and districts that are even more conservative than some of those states that I just mentioned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It is when you try to ask people and again, it's a little bit dangerous. But what lessons can you project going forward? Striking how many Republicans say Trump will lose the popular vote probably by more, and, you know, look at -- watch Pennsylvania, those three states again, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan are probably going to be the boom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

HENDERSON: Yes. And I think -- listen, if you are a progressive Democrat, you say, well, listen, you tried the centrist Democrat before in 2016 and how well did that work out for you. So you've got somebody like Warren, somebody like Sanders who is, you know, saying big structural change not sort of small ball kind of stuff. But this is the ideological fight that's going to be played out. And Biden obviously going heavily after Warren at this point, Buttigieg doing the same thing, did it on the debate stage and he's doing it all over Iowa and New Hampshire as well. And this will be the entire fight and we'll see that play out in these contests next year.

KING: Right. And as we wait to see who the Democrats nominate will have a huge play in this. Number one, how far-left do they go? Is it a centrist?

I just want to put up on the screen the map of we know where the president is going to rally. And again, I don't think we can say this enough, with the absence of a big primary challenger at the moment, his campaign gets this. It's a smart operation, a much more sophisticated operation in 2016. They are going to the states that matter. They are building a database. They know that yes, he's going to lose the popular vote most likely but that's not what it's about. It's about who can turn out the most voters in the states that will decide the president and they have a huge head start at that.

BADE: And let's also remember that these are the states where impeachment is still underwater for the most part. I mean, impeachment -- the majority of Americans supporting impeaching the president but these are the areas where that's not necessarily the case. And so the extent that he can go to these states and do rallies and sort of rail about the Democrats and the process and say this is unfair (INAUDIBLE) that could also, you know, tip the scales in his favor if impeachment remains underwater as it is right now.

KEITH: Well -- and you look at that map, you see New Hampshire and Minnesota as places he's visited. His campaign would say oh we're just trying to expand the map, we want to win by more. It's also they're looking for insurance if some of those sunbelt states don't go the way that they want them to.

KING: Yes, they need backup if they lose one of the big ones and that's the -- Obama was elected with 365, he lost two the second time around. He had more to give if you will. Trump doesn't have a lot to give, that's what makes it fascinating.

Up next, Joe Biden's plan with Elizabeth Warren.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:58:28] KING: First in a written posting on Medium and now in an interview with SiriusXM, the former vice president Joe Biden sharpening his criticism of rival Elizabeth Warren.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you don't agree with Elizabeth Warren, you must somehow be not a Democrat. You must somehow be corrupt, you must not be as smart as she is. I mean, it's not who we are. And it's just an elitist attitude about you're either my way or the highway. You mustn't be -- you mustn't know what you're talking about if you disagree with me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, but --

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KING: Elitist, in the Medium post he called it condescending.

KEITH: This is vice president -- former vice president Joe Biden not saying the words, you know, she was a Harvard professor but that's exactly what he's saying.

HENDERSON: Totally.

KEITH: And, you know -- which is completely counter to the persona that she -- the way she has presented herself out on the campaign trail which is to tell the story about her mama's dress and to talk about being a single mother trying to get an education, and all of these things. It's a very different story than what Biden has said.

KING: But that he feels the need to do it tells you something.

HENDERSON: Right. And he certainly -- he kind of wants to get in on the Pete action, right, because Pete is doing the same thing in terms of critiquing Elizabeth Warren not because she's an elitist because he's a bit of an elitist too. He went to Harvard and he's a Rhodes Scholar. But yes, I mean, we'll see if this happens on the debate stage. He sort of -- he's fine to do it on the radio and in print but we'll see. BADE: I just feel like it totally like nullified his argument. Now everybody is focusing on his use of the word elitist but the point he was trying to make was that these candidates could really come back and hurt us if they are the nominee.

You know --

[13:00:00]