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New Poll Shows Declining Approval For President Biden, Auto Worker Union Calls GM Offer 'Insulting', American Caver Trapped Deep Underground In Turkey, Hurricane Lee Grows Stronger In The Atlantic, Abortion Rates Rise In States Bordering Bans, DOJ To Indict Hunter Biden On Gun Charges. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 07, 2023 - 14:00   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: New poll, persistent problem. Most voters say President Biden is too old for another term. And most Democrats actually want a different candidate altogether. Some big red flags the White House is facing from a new CNN poll straight ahead.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Insulting. That is what one of the nation's largest auto worker unions just called General Motors offer to avoid a potentially devastating strike. What this standoff could mean for the entire economy ahead.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And deeper than the Empire State Building is tall, well over times too. That's how far below the earth this American caver is now trapped after he fell ill underground on Saturday. Details on the urgent effort now to save him. We are following these major developing stories and many more. All coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

SANCHEZ: Soon President Biden departs for India for a critical G20 summit with world leaders. But back here at home he is facing a tough crowd. New CNN polling shows the President's numbers are essentially down across the board. Numbers on his handling of the economy, his age, his job approval. All of them sinking. Right now, just 39% approve of Biden's job as President.

That's down 41% in July. Covering all angles and implications of this story. With us now CNN Congressional Correspondent Jessica Dean, CNN- Cedar White House Correspondent Kayla Tausche, and CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju who is on Capitol Hill for us. Jessica, let's start with you. These numbers not looking good for President Biden. Walk us through them.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, they're really not, Boris, and let's just dive into some of them. Let's talk first about his approval ratings. You saw the big number there that you just laid out, 39% across the board. That's a low place to be for an incumbent president that's going to be heading into a re-election campaign. If you divide it out by party, if you look at Democrats, he's seen his support fall within Democrats from 80 to 74% now. Independents at 36, that is just a stubborn number that he's going to need to improve. Those independents are obviously going to be very key in 2024, and then you see the Republicans there at the bottom. Another additional data point that is important here is we asked people how his policies have affected the economy and look at that there. 58% believe that Biden's policies have worsened conditions in the U.S. economy.

Only 24% believe they've improved conditions, 18% saying they have no effect. And that worsened conditions number, Boris, clearly going up by eight points since last fall. We hear the president and his team talk about Bidenomics all the time as they are out on the road, as they are at the White House, really trying to convince the American people that these policies are actually improving the economy. And look, the economy has improved, but if you look at those numbers, it is just not something that Americans are feeling right now. They feel generally pretty sour and pretty down on things.

SANCHEZ: The number is not great, not only when it comes to policy, Jessica, but also on his age and his stamina, a big issue when it comes to the president. What do those numbers show?

DEAN: And this is something that, of course, if you talk to voters out on the campaign trail, Democrats and Republicans, his age does come up. The age of both frontrunners, or the frontrunner in the Republican Party, of course, former President Donald Trump, and then the age of President Biden. So, we ask people, does Biden have stamina, the sharpness to serve as president? Look at that number, 74% say that does not apply to him, that they don't believe he has the stamina and sharpness. That's a very high number. It is hard to get to 74% on anything, get 74% of Americans to agree on anything. So that is certainly a troubling number.

And then let's take it down, even still take it down even more narrowly. Let's look at Democrats and voters who lean Democratic. When we ask them what their biggest concern is about the president, 49% cited age. And that was the number one thing, by far, age, 49%, everything else right there at 7%, Boris.

SANCHEZ: So, put it in the context of 2024 Republican candidates. Where does he stand compared to them?

DEAN: So, I think what's important to note, and we have been talking about this as we cover the Republican side of this and also go into the election season, this is a deeply divided country. And that bared out. We saw that bear out in this polling.

The only GOP candidate that was -- outside of the margin of error in this race would be Nikki Haley with 49% to Joe Biden's 43%. Again, this is among registered voters. It is a national poll. Of course, we go state by state with the electoral system, but that is worth noting. Everyone else that's running is within a margin of error. That shows us this is going to be a very tight race. And one more thing, Boris, covering Capitol Hill the last two years, we saw a lot of legislation that Biden and the Democrats got through, bipartisan legislation and, of course, their Inflation Reduction Act. They --you can go down and tick through what they've done, -- the Infrastructure Bill, the CHIPS Act, gun legislation. These are things that the White House and the campaign want to be talking about, but it's not things that people seem to be absorbing in terms of success.


SANCHEZ: They do take time to take effect, of course. Jessica, please stand by. Kayla, over to you. Obviously, President Biden has not been someone that has really put a lot of stake into polling over the years. I imagine he's probably scoffing at these numbers. What's the response from the White House?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, the White House on the face of it is taking the numbers in stride and establishing its own counterpoints to public opinion, like the legislative agenda that the president was able to pass last year and then the foreign policy agenda that's going to be center stage this weekend in particular when the president travels to India and Vietnam. The White House continues to say that the policies underlying the president's messaging and his administration remain deeply popular and that it's just a matter of getting that message to sink in.

Of course, recently, the president has put that message under the -- banner of Bidenomics. That's only been about a month. And aides say, give it more time. A month is not enough time for it to sink in. And certainly, when I talk to sources and members of Biden's inner circle, they suggest that as the economy improves and as that messaging sinks in, then perhaps the poll numbers will improve, too. But those questions about age and stamina continue to get deeper from voters.

And just today, Vice President Harris answered a question from CBS trying to put some of those concerns to rest. Here's what she said.


UNKNOW: Are you prepared to be commander in chief?

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE- PRRESIDENT UNITED STATES: Yes, I am, if necessary. But Joe Biden is going to be fine. And let me tell you something. I work with Joe Biden every day. The work that under Joe Biden's leadership, our administration has accomplished is transformative. I think the American people most of all want a leader who actually gets things done.


TAUSCHE: Continuing that refrain, when people criticize the president's age, they just say, watch him. The problem, Boris, is that those concerns are getting deeper. The 74% of respondents in the CNN poll who say that President Biden lacks the stamina and sharpness to serve effectively, that's up from 51% during the last election. And that's up by seven points just since March. So, it's not going in the right direction for the administration.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, still some 14 plus months to go until the next election. So, they have time to work out that messaging as they described it. But on that question, Manu, there are Democrats on Capitol Hill that want the White House to get sharper when it comes to its message, specifically on the economy. MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, and I spoke to more than a dozen of them this morning in the aftermath of this new poll. And that has really been the consensus among a number of the members. They believe that the messaging simply has been lackluster and that there needs to be a sharper focus on this, on all the accomplishments, the legislative agenda, things that were passed in the first two years under Joe Biden. They believe that voters will ultimately reward Biden once they hear more about it, once they see the campaign really take shape.

And some Democrats also saying that they believe Biden will be bolstered by former President Donald Trump, assuming that he's a nominee, that that would energize a Democratic base. But that doesn't mean that there are some talks still about a potential third party candidate emerging from one senator, Joe Manchin.


JOE MANCHIN, SENATOR: I think the people basically have spoken loud and clear. They're not happy with the two choices and only two choices.

RAJU: And so there could be a third-party candidate.

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, SENATOR: I think that's up to the public to decide that. The more the better in terms of pushing that message and making the American people aware of President Biden's achievements. Yes, more aggressive earlier and more widely, I think, is the right way to go.

JON TESTER, SENATOR: Maybe we don't do a good enough job messaging about things like the infrastructure bill and the PACT Act and things like that.

ELIZABETH WARREN, SENATOR: I think that every time Donald Trump opens his mouth, he draws that contrast pretty starkly.


RAJU: And Manchin continued to play coy about whether he might mount an independent third party bid for the White House, something that he has toyed with all year long, saying that he simply has not made a decision yet and that it would be ultimately up to voters to decide whether there is a pathway for a potential third party challenge to President Biden and potentially former President Donald Trump.


SANCHEZ: Yeah, he had taken part in in one of those no labels events. We'll see where that heads. Manu, Kayla, Jessica, thank you all so much for the reporting. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Diplomats look at the horrors of Russia's war in Ukraine. This is Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Seeing how Ukrainian crews are risking their lives to clear landmines and other explosives from parks, playgrounds, busily traveled roads, that Herculean task will take years. This week, the U.S. has pledged more than $90 million for that effort. CNN's Melissa Bell. She's in Kyiv. And Melissa, that effort perhaps highlighted by the U.S. recently supplying cluster munitions to Ukraine, which of course have the risk of those that don't explode. They last a long time. They pose a danger to civilians. But I wonder, what did Secretary Blinken say as he toured these sites?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he made the point, Jim, that this was now the most heavily mined country in the world. Thirty percent, he said, of its entire surface is now littered with mines. And of course, as you say, that's going to take years, decades possibly to get through and lots of consequences for the civilian population, the children especially, going forward. Essentially, what Secretary -- the Secretary of State came here to announce was this $1 billion package. Now, part of that is military aid, Pentagon stockpiles that include those controversial depleted uranium munitions that should allow Ukrainians to help better get through the very formidable Russian defences we've been talking so much about these last few weeks and that are proving such a challenge to their counteroffensive.

Essentially, however controversial these munitions, the idea is that because they're much denser than ordinary lead munitions, they get through tanks, for instance. And the understanding is that this might be, as with the controversial cluster munitions that Washington announced it was sending just a few months ago, a key piece of weaponry, of ammunition for the Ukrainians as they desperately try to press further southwards. In the end, after two days of meetings with his Ukrainian counterparts and his trip here is now wrapped up, he joined their assessment that this counteroffensive is making progress and that was really now the message that both President Zelenskyy and the United States are going to be taking to the United Nations General Assembly next week, Jim, as they try to hold together this alliance after 19 months of war that has exhausted absolutely everyone and not least the Ukrainians. And of course, Secretary Blinken's visit was punctured by precisely the sort of attacks that he'd come here to talk about, a reminder that the Russians were only too happy to oblige, Jim.

SCIUTTO: No question. Well, the idea of 30% of the country is now mined, already the largest country in Europe. That is just a shocking figure. Melissa Bell in Kiev. Thanks so much. Brianna.

KEILAR: The Kremlin firing back, Moscow saying that it will continue to strengthen its relationship with North Korea, quote, with no regard to other countries' opinions. Today's comments, a stern pushback to U.S. concerns that Kim Jong-un may meet Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss an arms deal. CNN's Nic Robertson is in London for us. So, Nick, this comes amid new activity today at the Russian embassy in North Korea. What can you tell us?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah, this is very interesting. And it's information picked up from the Facebook at the Russian embassy in Pyongyang. They have 20 new staff, diplomats and staff arriving at the embassy there. In the past, they have only had 18 members of staff there. There was some talk on the Facebook post of perhaps how difficult it had been for the Russian officials that were based in Pyongyang previously during COVID times because of the severe restrictions that North Korea has placed on its citizens and any diplomats coming and going from the country.

So, this was a relief of post, it appears, but an increase in the number of staff there. And, interestingly, very interestingly, in the context that we know that there seems to be a gathering momentum for President Putin to meet with Kim Jong-un, that they said that we have new work ahead of us set by our country. There are new tasks for us. That was a message from the diplomats arriving there in Pyongyang amongst each other. So, it does seem that they are setting for a strengthening, deepening and improving of relations between the two countries. And it does seem to be very much based around the weapons that President Putin needs and --strengthening that relationship.

KEILAR: Yeah. And I suppose we're not surprised that Vladimir Putin doesn't care what other countries think about this. He certainly does not. Nic Robertson with the very latest here. Thank you. Boris.

SANCHEZ: So, a rescue operation is underway in Turkey for an American man who fell ill in a deep cave, very, very deep in the ground, like 15 hours deep. The latest on the mission, officials are calling rare and extremely difficult next. Plus, we're tracking Hurricane Lee. It's now a category two hurricane, expected to get stronger. And, of course, we'll keep an eye on its trajectory. Plus, we're tracking Hurricane Lee. It's now a Category 2 hurricane, expected to get stronger. And, of course, we'll keep an eye on its trajectory. Plus, later, American tennis star Coco Gauff and Madison Keyes both vying for a spot in the U.S. Open Finals tonight. We're live from Arthur Ashe Stadium in just a few minutes, right here on CNN News Central. Stay with us.



SANCHEZ: And now an urgent rescue mission is underway in Turkey. Mark Dickey is trapped more than 3,000 feet below the Earth's surface. The 40-year-old is an experienced caving instructor who is part of a research team in Morka Valley, the third deepest cave in Turkey. The Hungarian cave rescue service says that Dickey suffered gastrointestinal bleeding and now needs to be pulled out on a stretcher. CNN's Eleni Giokos is following this story today. So, Eleni, bring us up to speed. What's the status of the rescue right now?

ELENI GIOKOS, CNN ACHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Look, we have 150 rescuers on the ground from all around the world to try and get Mark Dickey out from 3,300 feet below ground. I want you to think of the Empire State Building, and I want you to times that height by three. That is how deep he is right now.


He fell ill six days ago with gastrointestinal bleeding. He's already received six units of blood. He's stable. Apparently, he can walk on his own, but walking in a cave is just not good enough. I want you to think of these narrow spaces. When you're in a horizontal area, you're seeing pressure coming through on your back and your stomach. You've got to crawl.

Then you've got the vertical spaces where you need to climb. You need to be taken up by ropes. They're talking about a stretcher, but it's logistically and technically extremely challenging. It's very complex. I also want you to think about signal in terms of communications with people above the ground. It takes hours to go to a spot where you can actually communicate. We know that medical personnel have now reached him at this stage. He is, as we say, stable. On any given good day, by an experienced caver, it could take up to 15 hours to get out of this cave.

So, we're talking about days away from potentially getting him and his team out of the base camp that they're in right now. They are extremely deep. It's cold and it's wet, and we're talking about very difficult conditions.

SANCHEZ: And Eleni, we understand he was there on a research trip. What exactly was he looking for?

GIOKOS: Yeah. Look, he was co-leading a team of experts that were looking for new pathways in this cave. So, this was an expedition to discover more of this cave, of the depths and how far they could actually reach. So, falling ill was the worst case scenario here for someone that's so experienced. Over 20 years of traveling around the world and going into some of the deepest of caves. Caves are fascinating. You want to find out where the water sources are coming from.

They're very interesting from organism perspective. There's so much to discover. So, him and his team, it's something that they constantly do. Right now, Turkish authorities and the Federation of Caving have said that, and they're really worried about what this is going to look like in the next few days, but they're doing everything they can to map out how they're going to try and narrow some of these spaces or expand some of these narrow spaces and thinking about how each team at each point will be able to provide him the best care and safety out of where he is right now.

SANCHEZ: Really a delicate operation. Eleni Giokos, we appreciate you staying on top of it for us. Thanks.



SCIUTTO: We are closely watching Hurricane Lee and its potentially dangerous trek across the Atlantic. The storm is forecast to become a major category five by late tomorrow night. CNN meteorologist, Chad Myers, he is tracking everything. Chad, where's it going?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's going in the Atlantic, and then it's going to stay in the Atlantic. And then by the time it actually possibly hits something, you're going to be sick of hearing about it because we're really seven or 10 days away from this thing being anywhere. It's so far out there in the middle of the Atlantic, but the problem is even by tonight, it gets to be a major hurricane, about 105 right now. But look at tomorrow night at eight o'clock, we're looking at 160. So yes, that gets over your 157 to be cat five. And so big waves, lots of wind around the storm system, and really so far missing everything. That is the good news.

Oh, and well, my computer just crashed. (LAUGHTER) So now I can't show you the rest, but that's okay. That's just kind of what happens. So, the effect basically is that this thing is going to be in the water for the next week. And we'll be talking about it every single day. Where's it going to go? How long is it going to take to get there? And so really you have to watch this. This could be from North of the Carolinas, all the way to Nova Scotia. We simply don't know. We don't know anything about seven days, 10 days away for any hurricane, let alone this one.

SCIUTTO: I want to know if that's you swimming in that screensaver, (LAUGHTER) but you can save that answer for the next shot, Chad Myers.

MYERS: Yes, those are my fins right there. Fins up.

SCIUTTO: We'll get that graph up for the next set. Thanks so much, Chad Myers. We'll continue to follow the storm. Brianna.

KEILAR: That is totally Chad. All right, so there is a new analysis showing abortions are increasing significantly in the states that are bordering those where bans are in place. We're going to have more on that just ahead. And the Department of Justice says the special counsel is going to indict Hunter Biden this month on gun charges. What to expect? Stay with CNN News Central.


SANCHEZ: Just into New Central, another sign that thousands of autoworkers could go on strike by next week, a move that could have serious consequences for the U.S. economy. GM just sent its latest offer, but the president of the union, the United Autoworkers, called it insulting. CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich joins us now. So, Vanessa, what was the offer? What did GM put on the table?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: GM thought that they were putting a solid offer on the table. They said it was a step in the right direction, but according to the union, simply not good enough. Here's a little bit of what they were offering. Higher starting wages for temporary workers starting at about $20. More paid time off for all workers. And then a 10% raise for most of their workers. However, the union, from the get-go, has been asking for a 40% raise.