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Voters and Impeachment; Thanksgiving in War Zones; Joe Biden Leading Presidential Polls. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 27, 2019 - 16:30   ET




JEAN GANNON, CHAIRWOMAN, POWHATAN COUNTY REPUBLICAN PARTY: The majority of the district is rural, and it's very conservative.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Virginia's Seventh Congressional District is a wildly unpredictable place politically.

It was home to one of the Tea Party's biggest wins when one of the faces of the Republican establishment was defeated in the 2014 primary. President Trump went up by six points in 2016.

(on camera): What's going on the Seventh District?

GANNON: It's a highly densely populated area. And, unfortunately, they come out and they vote for non-conservative values.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: (voice-over): As the House prepares for another round of televised hearings next week, Spanberger conducted a two-day tour through her district focused on health care. She didn't mention impeachment at all.

(on camera): So I figured when I went out to go hang out with the Democrats the week after last week, the topic would be the president. But I'm looking at your schedule. It doesn't seem to be the topic. Why is that?

REP. ABIGAIL SPANBERGER (D-VA): The topic is health care, because that's -- I mean, it's a top issue for people within my district.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): While she's out in the district talking about kitchen table issues, her Republican opponents are throwing the impeachment kitchen sink at her.

NARRATOR: Their partisan impeachment is a politically motivated charade.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: A GOP-allied group is putting TV ads like this one in 18 districts like Spanberger's, hoping that impeachment will trigger a red wave in 2020. Can that theory work here? Virginia Republicans have had a bad month.

In statewide elections, Democrats gained total control of the state government for the first time in nearly three decades. The GOP faithful here see impeachment as a political winner.

(on camera): What would you lead off with to flip this district back to the GOP?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would talk about how Abigail Spanberger has not met up -- has not made good on her promises to be a moderate and to -- she votes -- she said she would not vote lockstep with Nancy Pelosi.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): On Tuesday afternoon, Spanberger talked to constituents in Henrico County at a forum about prescription drug prices. No one talked about the president.

(on camera): Your opponents think that the more we're talking about in peace men, the better it is for them, and the worse it is for you.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Are they right?

SPANBERGER: I don't know.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: You sound like you don't know how things are going to go with this.

SPANBERGER: No, the thing about is...

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: You're in risky waters.

SPANBERGER: I mean, I have been in risky waters before.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Look, I have been out with voters a lot during the impeachment process.

And Spanberger is right. It's not at top of mind for most of them that I talk to, which is not a surprise. Our own polling shows that people -- public opinion is locked in on this impeachment issue.

But the problem with people like Spanberger is, it's still in the news over and over, taking over all the headlines, and it's going to be hard for her to make her message come through, when that's the dominating conversation -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: We will watch and see how she does with that. Evan, appreciate it. Thank you.

The big question here and one that is certainly getting a lot of attention is, are Democrats hurting themselves politically here, Toluse?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It's hard to predict what's going to happen, but what we have seen over the past several weeks is, with the elections in Louisiana, in Kentucky and Virginia, the Republicans tried to nationalize this. President Trump tried to nationalize it.

And Democrats actually did pretty well. So I don't expect a number of the Democrats -- we have already had 200-plus that have voted to open this inquiry. I don't expect them to retreat from that now, especially with all the evidence that's come out so far.

So I do think that Democrats will be relatively united on this. Republicans also seem united as well.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think going back to something Jackie said, keeping it simple when you talk to those folks who are talking to voters about this issue is really the way to go, because I will tell you, one of the things that I keep hearing in focus groups is people are just exhausted.

Even Trump supporters are exhausted. So there is something of this idea that the impeachment represents more drama from Trump, and that's part of what people are really thinking about going into voting next year.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: If they're thinking about it at all or about impeachment at all.

I mean, she was -- health care, climate change, things like that are what you're hearing around the country, which is incentive for some of these Democrats to get this over with as fast and quickly as possible.



And the Democrats who were elected 2018 -- and I like a lot of them -- they sort of think it's like an off-year election. It's not. If Trump is weak, they will be fine. If Trump has a very good 2020, these Democrats in marginal districts will be in trouble.

But the idea that they're going to save themselves by triangulating on impeachment is ridiculous. And they're all going to vote for it, I think, at the end of the day, because I think the evidence will be there.

HILL: And they will be saddled with it no matter what.

KRISTOL: Well, they're not going to be saddled with it. I think it will be fine for them.

HILL: Well, no, but that's what I mean.

(CROSSTALK) KRISTOL: Yes, exactly. No, I agree, yes, yes.

HILL: Well, we will see how that all plays out. Appreciate you getting at your crystal ball.

Among the many things that Joe Biden may be thankful for this Thanksgiving, his family and the newest CNN poll. We will show you the breakdown next.



HILL: In our 2020 lead, a brand-new CNN national poll shows former Vice President Joe Biden with a solid lead over his Democratic rivals; 28 percent of voters support Biden, 17 percent for Senator Bernie Sanders, 14 for Senator Elizabeth Warren, and 11 president for Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

No other candidate in the Democratic field gets more than 3 percent support.

As we look at all of this, we have the president, we have Republicans, who have seemed to believe for sometime that Joe Biden is the guy they need to beat, he's the biggest threat for them in 2020.

And yet we have more Democrats jumping in and saying, we don't really see a viable candidate here, there's nobody who can be -- go up against Donald Trump.

What do you think it is, Karen, that Republicans are seeing here that Democrats are missing?

FINNEY: Well, I think it's a little bit of spin on the part of the Republicans.


And what we're seeing is something that we have seen usually around this time, which is to say in our poll, it's still pretty fluid. Voters continue to say, I'm supporting this person, but I still kind of like this person, right?

And I think we're seeing that both in Iowa and New Hampshire, where there's this sense that people are still sort of dating, trying to figure out who they like.

And I thought it was also interesting on our poll when you take a look -- and I think this goes to Biden's stability. When you then ask the questions about, who do you trust to handle education, the economy, guns -- health care, he's about even with Bernie -- Biden still is at the top.

So that also suggests he's in a really secure spot, unless somebody can really undermine that confidence in him. HILL: Speaking of Bernie, he's been pretty solid. Bernie Sanders has been a pretty solid second place, hasn't really broken into number one, but the fact that he is really remaining level there, what does that say about him?

KUCINICH: Bernie Sanders has some very, very loyal -- a loyal bloc of voters.

They waited. They were with him the last time. They're with him this time. And they're not going anywhere, because they are very -- that's why they're out there. That's why there knocking on doors. It's because of Bernie Sanders.

His challenge is expanding that. But he does seem to have this -- this level, where he will have that and probably throughout the contest. And he has the money to stay in.

HILL: Right. And money is key, because, as we know, that is a challenge for the Biden campaign.

As we look at this, compared to our October polling, it's interesting to note Joe Biden down 6 percent, Elizabeth Warren down 5, Pete Buttigieg, up 5, and Bernie Sanders essentially flat. We're looking at the difference of a point there.

That bump that we saw for Pete Buttigieg, he's seeing it in some early state polls. The question, of course, is, can he capitalize that 68 days now until Iowa, and can he expand it to more of the population?

KRISTOL: I mean, if you step back six or nine months, though, basically, I think we all might have expected that Biden would be the front-runner, Sanders and Warren would be jostling for second.

The one thing I don't know that we would have all agreed upon is that Buttigieg would really be in a pretty solid fourth place, and maybe first or second in Iowa, and maybe second or third and New Hampshire. That's impressive.

And, sometimes, momentum continues. Sometimes, it stops. Howard Dean had a great 2003, and 2004 didn't work out quite for him. Still, I think that -- for me, that's the story. I mean, just step back and say, what's the story of 2019? It's Buttigieg.

And that does say something, I think, about generational change. I defer to the younger people on this panel, but there's something a little crazy about three 70-year-olds jostling for the Democratic nomination.


KRISTOL: Now, maybe someone under who's not on Social Security could be the nominee against Trump.

And that's why I -- I do think a lot of Buttigieg -- he's impressive personally, but I think a lot of the appeal is that. I know you...


KUCINICH: ... struggle with voters of color is real.

HILL: Yes. Yes.


KUCINICH: Latinos, African-Americans, I mean, that is a problem. And they know it.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes. He is trying to be the Obama-type candidate. But he can't really put together the Obama coalition, at least not yet. He does have some support from younger voters.

But when it comes to voters of color, he's really struggled to put together that broader coalition. And that would help him beyond Iowa and New Hampshire in more diverse states. And if he can't do that, he probably won't be the nominee, based on history.

If he can, then he could be sort of this history-making nominee, like Obama was in 2008.

FINNEY: But here's the thing.

And so, when I was at the DNC, we added South Carolina and Nevada to that sort of pre-window, the early four states, specifically for this purpose, right, because we looked at how the country was changing, and wanted to make sure that, when we were nominating our nominee, finding our nominee, two states that are mostly white would not be the deciding factor.

And I think it's working as it's supposed to, which is to say, you cannot win the Democratic nomination without demonstrating you can win in a diverse electorate. That was a challenge, frankly, that Bernie Sanders had a little bit last -- in 2016.

And certainly, for as much as we like Buttigieg and he's interesting and intriguing, he comes out and has a bad day in South Carolina, a bad day in Nevada, I think voters are going to start looking at him a little differently.

HILL: The other thing that really stood out here is that 56 percent of respondents said they want a candidate with policies that are likely to become law, right?

Contrast that with 36 percent, who say they want someone who's going to lead to big changes. This is very clearly, to me, do I want a super progressive candidate who's pushing for a lot of big ideas and big changes that could be tough to get through, or do I want someone who's going to offer stability and necessary change, but accessible and achievable?

KRISTOL: And who can win.

HILL: Yes. KRISTOL: I do think the Democratic primary electorate may turn out to

be more conservative, with a little C. I don't mean ideologically conservative, but cautious about taking a risk and wanting someone who can win and who can restore normalcy.

A little more of that than we expected when everyone six months ago was talking about who was more progressive than who. And I think Elizabeth Warren fell into a little bit of a trap, though, if you think of that, where she wanted to prove she really was progressive, and let's just do Medicare for all. And so what if it costs $32 trillion?


KUCINICH: Not only her.

Kamala Harris. I mean, anyone who tried -- who had been hooking their wagon to the Medicare for all who are not maybe had that -- that position before has really seen their numbers drop.

HILL: It has not worked out very well, as you point out.

Thank you all.

As we look ahead to Thanksgiving tomorrow, nearly 5,000 turkeys, 27,000 pounds of sweet potatoes, some 40,000 pies all shipped overseas to the thousands of American troops who will be spending Thanksgiving this year in a war zone -- their reality next.



HILL: In our national lead, for the last 19 years, America has been at war, which means, for nearly two decades, thousands of U.S. service members have celebrated Thanksgiving far from their families in combat zones.

This year, some 13,000 service members are in Afghanistan. "The New York Times" is taking a special look at how American troops celebrate one of the most cherished American holidays.

Joining me now, "New York Times" at war editor Lauren Katzenberg and the founding editor of "New York Times Cooking," Sam Sifton.

It's great to have both of you with us. And this piece is fantastic.

And, Sam, as I understand it, a lot of this came from you. Why was it so important? Why did you want to solicit these memories of these moments from service members?

SAM SIFTON, FOOD EDITOR, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, as you said, we have been at war for a long time.

And as the food editor at "The Times," I have presided over a lot of Thanksgiving coverage. And it has for years now bothered me that absent from that story was the story of these service members working under horrific conditions abroad.

And those stories weren't being told. So it seemed to me it would make a nice package if we could find out what exactly goes on in the minds and hearts of U.S. service members serving in conflict zones.

HILL: You make such a great point, because we do see -- and it's heartwarming -- these moments where we see -- typically, Thanksgiving morning, you will see video of service members saying hello to their loved ones or families trying to reach out.

And in certain years, we have seen presidents go over and serve turkey. But there's a lot that we don't know about that happens. And a lot of this is what you get into, Lauren, as we look at this piece and some of the tougher moments for these service members.


So, the experiences range from service members who expressed loneliness, to actually service members who were on bases that were attacked, to even service members who were out on a mission, and their partner was actually killed. And that was the day after Thanksgiving, and her partner, she had just shared a meal with him the day before.

And so, even to this day, Thanksgiving always reminds her of her partner who she lost.

HILL: That story was so moving, as she tells it in the piece, the loss that she experienced there and how it does impact her every year, and how she thinks of those fallen service members, her fallen comrades.

There are also these great moments. There's the story of pulling out the satellite phones only for emergencies, but to give every single soldier 10 minutes to call home. Those calls means so much.

KATZENBERG: Yes, so that was a second lieutenant named Paul Wyatt Jr. And he was in Iraq in 2009.

And another officer on the outpost he was at told him to give that satellite phone to every soldier to let them call home. And then that was a period where there was really very little connectivity.

And it's interesting now, because for service members or civilians who are in these conflict areas, the connectivity is actually much better. And so they're able to -- they have Wi-Fi pretty much wherever they are. And most people have phones on them, and so they have much more of a connection with their family.

SIFTON: And those stories aren't the ones that are generally told by the media at Thanksgiving.

We see instead the big rubber turkey.

HILL: Right.

SIFTON: And everyone's on a base , and it's well lit, and everyone's happy and drinking pop.

That's not how it is for most of these people. And so we wanted to solicit their stories and bring them forward.

HILL: Food, as you know all too well, food in so many ways is this great unifier, not just in the United States, but around the world.

It can also bring so much comfort when you are away, that familiar smell, whatever it may be, that familiar side dish. And it is bringing -- the food bringing people together.

I mean, I'm guessing you expected you would see a little bit of that, Sam, but were you -- was there anything that surprised you in the way the food played a role?

SIFTON: Yes, I liked the procurement of turkeys, that, again and again, we heard about the lengths that people went to get a turkey and then prepared it.

There's one of the images that accompanies the stories of two guys deep-frying a turkey on base. And I just thought, boy, that's American ingenuity at its best. That's not an easy thing to pull off thousands and thousands of miles from home.

HILL: No, it's really not.

Lauren, what do you want people to take away from this?

KATZENBERG: I think it's just important for Americans who are celebrating Thanksgiving to remember that we're going into our 19th consecutive Thanksgiving with American service members deployed to conflict zones.

And that is an all-volunteer force who has beared that burden of that site for the last 19 years. And we're no closer to bringing them home.

HILL: We appreciate you both bringing their stories. It's so important. It's such an important look and reminding people of the sacrifices that they and their families are making.

Thank you both. Really nice to have you both here.

SIFTON: Thank you.

HILL: Happy Thanksgiving.

SIFTON: Happy Thanksgiving to you.

HILL: As the days go by, embrace the softer side of Vladimir Putin.


The Russian president shedding that tough guy image for his new calendar shoot.


HILL: In our national lead, a second explosion has rocked a Texas chemical plant where a fire is still raging, after a first explosion this morning. Officials say three employees were hurt.

Now, a four-mile radius around the plant, which is in the city of Port Neches, has now been evacuated. We will continue to follow that for you right here on CNN.

Thanks for joining us this afternoon. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. You can find me on Twitter @EricaRHill.

Have a very happy Thanksgiving.